Book Plunge: The One

What do I think of this novel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve already interrupted one book to talk about another book and now I’m interrupting that book to talk about a third. This one will be short. It’s only going to be one entry.

I’ve been making it a point to read more fiction lately. I don’t mean Christian fiction. I just mean fiction. This is in addition to mystery novels that I’m also reading. The last book that I read in this category and finished yesterday is The One, which you can buy here.

Please keep in mind that this is not a Christian book. However, it is certainly a book that is thought-provoking. Just know if you’re a Christian you won’t approve of everything in it.

Dating is hard. I know it. I hate it. You have to go out there and find the person and then spend so much time with the person before you decide you want to marry the person. What if there was an easier way?

In this novel, there is. You can just take your DNA and send it to the Match Your DNA company and they will run it through their database and find the one person that is meant for you based on your DNA. Who is that one person that you will click with and form a relationship with?

This is something that most everyone is doing in the society. There are concerns about couples who are not “matched” and many couples sadly get divorced so they can be with their “match.” Couples who marry without a match are seen as passing up “the one” that is meant for them.

A little side note here, but before you roll your eyes at the concept, if you’re a Christian, remember that too many of us have a concept of how we have to find “the one” that is meant for us. Verse in Scripture that says this? None. We just throw it in with the same errant concept of “Finding God’s will for your life.”

Anyway, the novel follows five characters. I don’t want to use the term protagonists because you will not like all five of these characters. All of them use the Match program and while there is some good that comes of it, overall, I conclude there is far more harm. Something that was meant to lead to better relationships seems to lead to harder ones.

Really, I can’t say much more beyond that because some of you might want to read it and if you do, I don’t want to spoil it for you. The main thought I had going through this book was that we praise science all day long in our society, and I’m certainly not saying science in itself is an evil, but there are some decisions that maybe we just shouldn’t be leaving to science. Maybe sometimes we should make the decisions ourselves instead of having others do the thinking for us.

Fortunately, we’re not in any danger of that today. Right?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Atheism And The Search For Purpose

Is Atheism looking for meaning? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am reading through a book for a class now called Bulwarks of Unbelief. I am finding it quite good and the main question being asked is “What made atheism a strong enough possibility that many people now embrace it?” Now some might go the route of Richard Dawkins and say it was Darwin who made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Is that it? Is it really that we found a scientific explanation for something and then God was out of a job?

That doesn’t really fit since in the medieval period science was being done and none of it was thought to be the end of God. If anything, it was thought to be explaining and upholding God. If anyone was filling in the gaps of our scientific knowledge, it was the Christians. Yet nowhere in this do you see them saying “Does this put God out of a job?”

The writer of the book, Joseph Minich, brings up Marx and how Marx thought man felt alienated from his labor. Now I oppose Marxism through and through, but while I don’t care for the man, that doesn’t mean he was wrong on everything. Could there be a sense of alienation Marx was right to find, but that he had the wrong solution and explanation for?

Consider this as an example. Before I came here to the seminary, I worked at a Wal-Mart in Tennessee. Now when the time came that I left to come here, what happened? Did the store shut down because I was gone and obviously, no one could do the work that I did and so that was it?

Nope. Hire someone else. I was entirely replaceable. This can be in contrast to a time when a son learned his father’s trade and the business was passed on from generation to generation and there was an investment in one’s labor.

Not only this, but while I was there, did I really care about my job? Nope. I hated it. I liked some of the people that I worked with, but I hated the work that I did. I knew I was expendable and that I was underutilized and that my skills were not being used to the best of their ability.

So yes, I do think the alienation is real.

Minich thinks the main culprit here is technology. We have made the world more and more impersonal. As the world becomes more impersonal, we have a harder time seeing a person behind it all. The world seems to function like a machine.

As a divorced man, I do think there is something to the disconnect from society. I notice when I come home, I go to my apartment building and there are several other apartments. Truth be told, I hardly know anyone in my own building. I have hardly ever had guests over to do anything with me. I also suspect that I am not alone in this. Many of you probably know your Facebook friends better than people you see every day.

As a gamer, I also miss a certain time in life. That was the time of what is now known as couch gaming. Yes, I can play games online with several people and that’s fine, but really, nothing beats getting together and playing Goldeneye, Street Fighter, Smash Brothers, and other multi-player games together in person. Now I can play a game with people I know nothing about and have no investment in other than a desire to win.

Now I think technology could be a part of it, but I also think there is something even bigger looming in the background. If there is a sense of alienation from one’s work and then from the society as a whole, what if there is also that sense from the world entire? What if it seems like we have a world that because we have fostered the natural/supernatural divide, seems to work on its own?

What does this give us but a world without purpose? I find this especially interesting since in my study into game theology, I am noting that purpose is something we all long for. When we think we have a quest, a battle, a goal, we can come alive.

Now this post is a sort of thinking out loud, but it does explain to me not just atheism in that sense, but a certain kind of atheism. You probably know the type. Let’s be clear this is not all atheists as I suspect some atheist readers of this blog will be able to hear the description and say “Yes. I know someone like that. I agree with their atheism, but I don’t agree with their other beliefs about it.”

For sake of discussion, let’s refer to these as a sort of evangelistic atheist. These are atheists who think that they have been delivered from the shackles of irrationality and superstition by being embracing atheism. They now think that all theists they meet are ignorant fools who stay cloistered away from anything that goes against them, believe anything without evidence (Constantly thinking faith is belief without evidence), hate science, are sexual prudes entirely, always vote Republican, and that Christianity has done nothing but harm for the world.

These are the people you find in Facebook groups who seem to do nothing all day long but argue against Christians and other theists. I consider it something akin to many that I see on the left who have what is called Trump-Derangement Syndrome. Whatever you think of him, these are people who seem to have their lives more dominated by Trump than any conservatives that I know. As many of my fellow conservatives say, he lives rent-free in their heads.

If you are an atheist who says “I don’t think God exists, but I know that there are many Christians who do and many of them are smart people and have good reasons for what they believe”, then you are not one of the people I am speaking of. You can also say “I do agree that Christianity has done a lot of good for the world and many people are better for being Christians.” You will debate with Christians, but it is never about who is smarter than the other based on worldviews alone.

When I have seen these evangelistic atheists in the past, I have been confused by it. If you really thought this was the way the world was, why are you wasting your time here? Go on vacation regularly and hit the beach. if you think there is ultimate wrong and right, why not just go out every night sleeping around?

If I am correct, the answer now is obvious. These people are still wanting to find some sort of reading, something that they can do in the world, and they have decided they will be evangelists for atheism to set people free from the shackles of theism into the glorious light of science and reason. Dare I say it, this could be considered a cultic form of atheism.

When I have met atheists like this, they are amazingly like the idea of Christians that they always go against. They refuse to read anything that disagrees with them. They have the entire side painted in an us vs. them battle and the other side is just ignorant of the real truth out there. They alone are the sole bearers of freedom and they must deliver the good news. They will often go about their personal experiences of how they were once Christians. They will not investigate any other ideas contrary to what they believe. They also love the fellowship of other like-minded atheists and seem to have a mutual admiration society going on.

When it comes to the Bible, it must always be interpreted literalistically. They will believe anything whatsoever provided it agrees with them without researching it. If anything could make the other side look bad, it is automatically true. If anything makes it look good or at least is neutral to it, it is automatically false.

I suppose I could go on if need be, but I suspect you get the idea. So, why they do it then is they do it to at least give themselves some sense of purpose. They can think that they are accomplishing something. If work doesn’t give fulfillment and pleasure doesn’t, you have to go somewhere else to get ultimate fulfillment.

Part of my study into gaming theology has been that we have a need for quests in order to find fulfillment. We want to be part of a grand story. If my theory is true, why should that be just the case for Christians? It will be just as true for atheists or any other position. Evangelistic atheists get some fulfillment then out of what they do in spreading their gospel of atheism.

This is a theory that for me is just in its opening stages. This post is a sort of thinking out loud. i do invite your opinions on the matter and especially if you are an atheist that would be not an evangelistic atheist and can say “I know some of the atheists you talk about and yes, this does seem to describe them.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Book Plunge: Improbable Issues With The God Hypothesis Part 5

Is the universe Godless? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this one, we’re asking the question of if the universe is godless or not. Brucker starts off with a clear position on the matter.

But ever since God was the most plausible option, scientific thought and exploration have demonstrably proven those archaic beliefs as false. In the past, these hasty speculations were accepted rather quickly amongst these populations because there hadn’t existed differing and testable facts.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 83). Kindle Edition.

How these beliefs have been proven to be false is not shown. Also, scientific work had been going on for quite some time. Had Brucker just read some ancient works and some medieval works, he might have learned something.

As I’ve suggested and offered as an objective criticism, I would postulate the idea that if God were, in fact, the author of truth and that the writings he inspired were literal, what has been established throughout the centuries would be an accurate representation of reality as God is the creator of all and the Abrahamic texts would correspondingly agree.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 84). Kindle Edition.

What is the hang-up with literalism? It is a modern way of thinking and certainly not the way Jews and Christians always interpreted. The Jewish people had a number of ways of reading the text as did the early church fathers.

I find it humbling that my purpose in life is what I make of it, and the reason I’m here is a miracle, not in a metaphysical sense but because of the sheer odds that were trumped for my presence to exist.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 90). Kindle Edition.

Which is a quite scary statement. We could say that any mass-murderer in history said that their purpose in life was what they made of it. On what grounds could he said to be wrong? That would assume that there is some objective purpose to life, but that’s a teleology that atheism has to deny.

Not a single article of scripture suggests that each star has its solar system, or that there are close to 1,000,000,000,000 stars within each galaxy. In our universe, it is believed to contain roughly 1,000,000,000,000 galaxies, bringing the total number of stars to an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Also, let us refer to the scale of known planetary and solar objects. A neutron star, essentially a star to have already exhausted its internal resources after a supernova has occurred, is roughly 10,000 times bigger than a human. The Earth is approximately 1,500,000 times larger than the average human. The sun is roughly 10,000 times larger than the Earth.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 91). Kindle Edition.

And why should they? What would anyone care? How could anyone find this out? What would it mean to anyone who read that?

The largest know star, VY Canis Majoris is almost 100,000 times larger than our sun, making it 1,500,000,000,000 times larger than ourselves. I find it impossible to imagine that this universe was designed specifically for us, as this star is almost 5,000 light-years away with a circumference so great that it would take a Boeing jet 1,200 years to complete a full circle, which doesn’t allude to an intentionally created universe. I can agree it is a very daunting proposition, that we are significantly unimportant and that we may not have an absolute purpose. But to arrogantly claim that it was created for us is undeniably wrong.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 91). Kindle Edition.

There is no connection between the data and the conclusion. “We live in a big universe, therefore it wasn’t made for us to inhabit.” How does that follow? He can say that to claim it was made for us to inhabit is undeniably wrong since I do deny it as do and would several others.

But what about arguments for God? We all know where this is going.

1. Everything that exists or begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe exists and began to exist. 3. The universe must have a cause. 4. The cause of the universe is God.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 94). Kindle Edition.

No one has ever defended the idea that “Everything that exists or begins to exist has a cause.” Somehow, atheists think the argument is “Everything that exists has a cause.” To this, Edward Feser’s post is still essential. As Feser says:

Here’s the funny thing, though.  People who attack this argument never tell you where they got it from.  They never quote anyone defending it.  There’s a reason for that.  The reason is that none of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument.  Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Aquinas, not Duns Scotus, not Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne.  And not anyone else either, as far as I know.  (Your Pastor Bob doesn’t count.  I mean no one among prominent philosophers.)  And yet it is constantly presented, not only by popular writers but even by some professional philosophers, as if it were “the” “basic” version of the cosmological argument, and as if every other version were essentially just a variation on it.

But now let’s get back to Brucker:

What I find troubling about this is that the essence of God is often left alone, believed that God is outside the realm of creation as he has always been. This, of course, fits well within the line of reasoning held by the monotheistic individual, but if they wish to argue such a claim they must first prove that this creator exists; and if he does exist, they must also demonstrate how he can exist without the need of a first cause.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (pp. 94-95). Kindle Edition.

So in order to make an argument for the existing of God, you first have to show that God exists. To this, I’m only going to accept arguments for atheism if Brucker can first show that atheism is true.

All of which must be answered or else the cosmological argument holds little weight. There is also nothing to suggest that if the cause was a supreme being, that it, in fact, is the God of Abraham behind the conception of the universe. When I’m faced with an argument of this sort, I often attempt to stress the fact that while the first cause for matter may hold weight, there is nothing to suggest that it was any specific deity; nothing about the argument carries any defining traits of the Abrahamic deity.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 95). Kindle Edition.

Let’s go back to Feser:

People who make this claim – like, again, Dawkins in The God Delusion – show thereby that they haven’t actually read the writers they are criticizing.  They are typically relying on what other uninformed people have said about the argument, or at most relying on excerpts ripped from context and stuck into some anthology (as Aquinas’s Five Ways so often are).  Aquinas in fact devotes hundreds of pages across various works to showing that a First Cause of things would have to be all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and so on and so forth.  Other Scholastic writers and modern writers like Leibniz and Samuel Clarke also devote detailed argumentation to establishing that the First Cause would have to have the various divine attributes.

Of course, an atheist might try to rebut these various arguments.  But to pretend that they don’t exist – that is to say, to pretend, as so many do, that defenders of the cosmological argument typically make an undefended leap from “There is a First Cause” to “There is a cause of the world that is all-powerful, all-knowing, etc.” – is, once again, simply to show that one doesn’t know what one is talking about.

Also, no one who made the argument ever said it gets you to one particular religion. Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas in the middle ages, the Jew, the Muslim, and the Christian, could all use the argument to establish a first cause. Then they would use other data to debate who the first cause is. What He is was not the question so much as who He is.

Now the question comes: How could energy spontaneously exist without cause for its existence? First of all, the idea of causation – as we understand it – must be erased, as Lawrence Krauss has explained that what we assume to be “logical” may not apply to the universe because the universe existed long before our brains developed the ability to decide what was logical and what was not. After years of dedication, scientists have found the evidence in our universe that suggests that the formation of energy, both negative and positive, happens without intention or guidance. All matter is consisted of positive energy as it is needed to maintain the integrity of the atoms, of which an object consists.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 96). Kindle Edition.

You gotta love it. Here we have the one saying he is championing rationality saying the universe might not be logical at its start. So God can’t be accepted if He has a logical contradiction, which is true, but if the universe has that, it’s cool. The argument doesn’t even make sense. Logic doesn’t apply until humans show up?

What a train wreck.

Next time, we’ll start looking at history.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Improbable Issues With The God Hypothesis Part 2

What about Intelligent Design? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Brucker talks about what he calls unintelligent design. Now i have no desire to defend the Intelligent Design movement. I think it can make the mistake of thinking the main answer to the questions lies in science when God is a metaphysical question and you still end up with a universe that is more a machine than anything else. I have nothing to say to Brucker about the science. If you are a supporter of ID and want to jump in the comments and reply, feel free.

Sadly, almost 46% of the American population reject the theory of evolution and support the literal Biblical account described in Genesis. I can attest for the statistic as I’ve discussed the theory with many Christians. Throughout our discourse, their facial expressions seem perplexed – it appears that the truth of evolution is just as impossible to the believer as God may be to the atheist. Perhaps it is the nature of religious faith that is to blame, convincing those willing to believe that questioning and exploration is fruitless and unnecessary. It is quite the opposite actually, and if a monotheist does find the courage to question and explore, I can promise nothing but amazement.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 16). Kindle Edition.

One of the problems with this is something I wrote about recently. A Christian can say, rightly or wrongly, that God provides much meaning and love and grace to their lives. They can have profound experiences and consider themselves a much better person for being a Christian, and in many cases, they could be right. What do they get in exchange for this? To them, a meaningless universe where at least they have right ideas but no pragmatic benefit.

An atheist meanwhile can think that if they accept Christianity, they have to abandon all science. They have to think that they have to believe in a literal flood with kangaroos coming all the way from Australia, a literal six-day creation, and that Hell is literally a blazing furnace. Also, they have to abandon any interest in science, despite everything they see for evolution, rightly or wrongly, they have to think that that is the deceit of Satan!

I can’t imagine why any side isn’t convincing the other.

Yet here’s something else odd. Both of these people have the same opinions in many ways. They both think the Bible is to be read literalistically and if you don’t do that, you’re a liberal. They both think it’s either evolution or Christianity. They both think the exact worse of their ideological opponents.

Now as to how Brucker ends, I highly encourage Christians to question and seek answers. If it turns out evolution is true, well you have to work that into your worldview somehow. If you don’t believe in it and conclude it is false, you can say you’re more informed in what you think. If an atheist studies Christianity and finds it to be true, excellent. If they are convinced it’s false, a position I definitely disagree with, hopefully, they too can at least have more information than they did before.

He can do anything because he is all knowing. “God has his reasons for doing so” is often muttered by his adherents, either out of willful ignorance or because they’ve been so carelessly deluded about the process of the natural world. If that statement were true, his actions must be flawless and without error – for an all knowing and all powerful God can only produce the most favorable outcome. To evaluate his perfection, an objective position ought to be taken.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 16). Kindle Edition.

This claim is a theological claim with no support given. What does it mean for something to be perfect after all? How tall is a perfect man? How much does he weigh? What is his IQ? We could always ask all these questions and we could say “Couldn’t that be more?” In the end, we have a super giant who fixes his meals in the Big Dipper and has an IQ in the trillions.

Also, anything God makes will be necessarily limited not because He is not omnipotent but because there are things even omnipotence can’t do. Can God make a being that has no beginning? No. That’s a contradiction and nonsense and power cannot make contradictions true.

It can also be asked if God will make a world without any flaws. It depends on what a flaw is and what the purpose is. If God knows that people are going to fall in the world He made, then it’s understandable that God would not make a “perfect world”, whatever that would be. The term is too vague.

“Isn’t Heaven perfect?”

It’s good, but never said to be perfect. After all, could it be improved if one more person had freely chosen Christ? Perhaps. Again, perfect is too vague and yet Brucker uses it so easily.

Web sites such as Answers in Genesis propagate the creationist movement through evidence – evidence that has been manipulated in such a way that it confirms a personal agenda. Scientists operate without a predetermined outcome because it could often distort the testing results. Creationism is reinforced through erroneous scripture, followed by misinterpreted scientific understanding. If one wants to believe creationism to be true, they have to believe that a vast majority of all biologists are incoherent, impotent fools because evolution is a vital part of the biological studies.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 17). Kindle Edition.

If Brucker thinks scientists are always pure in how they act and have no agenda, then he is just simply deluded. Scientists are humans just like anyone else and they can want to fudge data just like anyone else, such as to get a grant or for political clout. Piltdown man was a fraud. Why? Someone wanted something. That doesn’t mean evolution is a fraud, but it does mean someone in the scientific world committed a fraud. Today, if you are a scientist who argues against the reigning orthodoxy, like on climate change, you are immediately scandalized.

1. An omnipotent creator would only produce an equally superlative organism

2. All life on Earth isn’t superlative

3. Either the creator is lazy and clumsy and not omnipotent, or God had no part in it

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 18). Kindle Edition.

But as said before, these terms are vague. Brucker never defines them. Why should I put my trust in premises without clear terms to them? (Note to Brucker. This is where you do that thing called questioning.)

Monotheists, when confronted with such evidence in regards to our natural composition, claim that the “Fall of Man” is to blame and that our imperfection is a result of this. Of course, such a claim requires reinforcing evidence outside of the Bible, which is their ultimate point of reference while in a debate.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 23). Kindle Edition.

I don’t claim that. I claim our fall was more spiritual and while that has eventual physical consequences, the main consequence is spiritual. We fell away from God. I also have no problem with evidence outside the Bible.

Also, there are debates where the Bible should be our ultimate reference. What about the historical Jesus? There is great information outside the Bible, but even scholars like Bart Ehrman will tell you the best place to go is the biblical data. I would say if I was discussing Islamic doctrine with a Muslim, the Qur’an would be the best place to go.

In quoting the verses describing the consequences of the fall, Brucker says:

Because of this divine command, it is believed that we’ve become mortal beings – and also flawed and imperfect as well – now living within the confines of our cousin organisms. Mind you; this, however, hadn’t kept Adam from living 930 years or Moses from living 120 years, of course.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 23). Kindle Edition.

Hate to disappoint you Brucker, but I happen to think man was created mortal. If he was immortal, there would be no need for a tree of life. I also do understand there are different ways of reading the genealogies in Genesis 5. Some scholars think it goes from a base 6 instead of our base 10 which gives a quite different number. A book like this goes into that.

So what about all his critiques of ID that I didn’t cover?

Don’t care.

If you care, by all means answer them, but my arguments for theism don’t rely on that and looking at the statements that are in my area, I find Brucker following the exact same mindset. I don’t see evidence he has done the questioning in reading the best scholarship on the other side. He just holds to fundamentalism still.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Improbable Issues With The God Hypothesis Part 1

So does Brucker have a case? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I get lists of discount Kindle books and when I saw one about improbable issues with the God Hypothesis, I definitely decided to buy that one. I started it just recently and while he seems to target monotheism more than just Christianity, too often, it’s the exact same issues still. How does the first chapter go?

Pretty much anything you want to know about evolution. So what is there in the chapter to comment on?

The metaphysical explanations described by those religious institutions directly conflict with what has been discovered regarding our past, also promoting the idea that we are special; a species set apart from the rest of the living creatures by an all loving and giving God.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis . Kindle Edition.

For the first, I am not told what metaphysical explanations these are nor how they conflict with our past. This also cannot be answered by science since science deals with the physical and not the metaphysical. It can provide data for metaphysics, but it is not itself metaphysics. For the second, even if true, so what? How does that show it false?

Apologists and modern theologians have explained that Genesis may be more of an allegorical story, telling the tale of how selfish ways have the potential to disrupt the fabric of faith.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis . Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, I am not told who these apologists and modern theologians are. Brucker has the problem many atheists have of not naming who they are interacting with.

It is said that God loves all humans and wishes nothing more than for us to worship him, leaving one suitable counter: “If God does, in fact, want all of this, why would he mislead many by allowing the intelligent to identify all that conflicts with his very existence?”

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis . Kindle Edition.

It’s nice to know that “the intelligent” all speak with one voice on this. None of those “intelligent” could obviously include theists. Unfortunately for the atheist community, from what I see online, a lot of the dumb also fall into their numbers. Sadly, that’s true of Christians as well. The conclusion then? How you view the God question is not a measure of your intelligence.

As those of yesteryear, a simple answer is believed by theists who blindly accept the teachings of their most beloved priests, pastors, rabbis, or imams. The highly-regarded books of myth and fiction give them all the information they need to conclude simplicity is to blame for complexity. A much different explanation with a more definitive answer can be found within the very cells, of which one’s body is composed.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 6). Kindle Edition.

And again, blind belief rests on both sides. For instance, I saw today when reading that later on, Brucker will use the 41,000 denominations myth. The number always varies and no one goes and checks the source to see what is meant. It’s just shared blindly. I will answer it when I get there, but ultimately, there are blind followers on both sides. How many atheists immediately shared things like Zeitgeist or jumped on board of the idea that Jesus had a wife?

Those who propagate the idea of intelligent design do so without a smidgen of reason-based inquiry. If they had done so efficiently, they would not have failed to recognize the physical – modern and pre-modern – evidence that would suggest that if a God had actually brought about all living creatures, his doing so would portray a plethora of care, direction, and kindness; whereas on the contrary it portrays an ignorant, callous, and careless creator.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (pp. 12-14). Kindle Edition.

I am not here to defend the ID community. I really don’t care. That being said, if someone thinks they don’t have a smidgen of reason-based inquiry, they are wrong. You can disagree with them. You can say they are wrong. You can do all of that, but they are attempting at least to answer questions and use reason.

Now if someone like Brucker came along he could say “But in all of this, you didn’t say a thing about evolution.”

That’s because I don’t care.

Evolution is a non-issue to me and I have regularly said that Christians and atheists who think it’s a death knell for Christianity don’t understand evolution, Christianity, or both. As a Thomist, it doesn’t affect my arguments for God. As someone who holds to Walton’s interpretation, it doesn’t affect my reading of Genesis. From a historical perspective, it doesn’t affect my trust in the resurrection of Jesus. If anyone has more to lose here, it’s the atheist since they often base their atheism on evolution.

So hopefully the next chapter will give us something more to work with.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Christianity and Modern Gods

What are the gods we deal with today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am reading through the church fathers, among other things, and something I am noticing with Tertullian who I am on now is that he has a vast array of knowledge about the gods of the Roman society he lives in. I grew up reading Greek mythology which was claimed by the Romans, but there is still a lot I don’t know about it. Tertullian is familiar with the ins and the outs of the great stories in addition to being familiar with the biblical topics he knows about and the history of Christianity and the Roman Empire.

Nowadays, most people do not believe in those gods. Many people would consider themselves secularists and even many Christians are largely secular in their thinking. That does not mean we are not without gods. Not by a long shot. We have several gods today and these are gods Christians need to know about as well to interact with worshippers of these gods, as there are plenty of such worshippers.

So what are they?

Let’s start with sex. Yes. We all know about sex. A goes into B and sometimes a baby can result. We all know how it works, but what about what it is. We have plenty of debates on this topic. What is the ultimate purpose of sex? Is it something reserved for marriage? Is it to be between a man and a woman?

Then this gets into our personal identity. What is orientation? Is there such a thing? Is there a difference between sex and gender? Is this something that is assigned at birth or is it something immutable that cannot be changed? On one level, we can say the question “What is a woman?” is simple, but on the other, it is something quite deep that we need to get more to an answer on.

Christians definitely need to have a message here. After all, if we aren’t sharing our views on this with our children, the world is and the world will speak loudly. If we do believe sex is reserved for a man and a woman in marriage, how can we tell children this is a great gift while at the same time saying it needs to be reserved for that state? (Something even difficult for we adults who are single again.)

Another god is money. For this, Christians need to study economics. Many of the debates we have in this country are because people are ignorant of economics. We think with our hearts alone and think “If our intentions are good, the results will follow.” Not at all. I am not saying to avoid compassion, but I am saying that to see if a policy works, you don’t ask “How compassionate is it?” but rather “How effective is it?”

Capitalism is often seen as encouraging greed. Is it? Marxism is seen as caring for the poor. Is it? Why did we go to war with Marxism so much in our history? Is Marxism necessarily linked with atheism? Were the early Christians socialist?

As for caring for the poor, what is the best way to help people who are poor? What method has the best results? How should individual Christians care for the poor? Is it wrong for you to buy something really nice for yourself when there are poor people in the world?

Power is another one and this gets into politics. This is definitely here when an election year is going on. Christians need to learn how their government works. Can we tell the three branches of the American government? What is the Constitution? The Bill of Rights? The Declaration of Independence?

How much power should the government have? Should the citizenry be able to have guns and if so, are there any limitations to that? What should we prohibit? What should we permit? What should we promote? What role do passages like Romans 13 play?

What about science? This seems to be the reigning authority today. What is science? Is science necessarily materialistic? Can it answer the God question? Can it answer questions of good and evil? Is it the only way to know anything?

What should we accept in science and what should we not? Is evolution true? If it is, what does this say about our beliefs on Scripture, inerrancy, the existing of God, and the resurrection of Jesus? Can you be a faithful Christian and accept evolution? Can you be a good scientist and reject evolution?

What about modern issues as well like climate change? Is the earth’s climate changing? If so, is that something that would happen anyway or is man responsible? Is there anything that can be done about it either way? What about our response to Covid? What did we get right? What did we get wrong? Can we trust the science or are we even more skeptical?

Christians interacting in our culture need some knowledge on all of this. In addition definitely understand other gods if you are interacting with other systems. We need Christians who understand cults, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism and any other belief system out there.

In all of this, yes, we need to know our Bibles and our history and what we believe and why, but we are interacting with people who speak of other gods. Like good missionaries, we need to know what those other gods are and how to address them. Christians throughout history have had something to say about more than just Christianity. We need to do the same to be effective witnesses in our culture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Problem With Evolutionary Debates

Do both sides make a mistake in the debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In a Facebook group I’m a part of, someone who is an atheist posted something about evolution with an idea of evolution vs. Christianity. I replied saying that I am an evolutionary agnostic. I don’t know and I don’t care. It doesn’t affect my reading of Genesis, my view of inerrancy, my arguments for God, or my case for the resurrection.

This is not to say I don’t have some questions. I definitely do. The biggest one I have is how it is that men and women raised independently sexual reproductive systems that work together interdependently. The thing is, I don’t present this as a defeater because I am sure research has been done and I have not taken the time to look into it because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter to me.

So in reply to this post that was made, I state I am an agnostic and someone who I suspect is a Christian comes and asks me questions about how to explain XYZ if evolution is true. These could have been basic questions. I said I’m not arguing for it, but I did ask the question that I normally ask. What was the last book you read defending evolution? The answer was none, just watching debates.

Friends. I try to be consistent. Reading contrary thought is important to argue a position.

All this does it leave me thinking about similar mistakes internet atheists and a lot of Christians make when arguing this topic.

First, a reality, both sides tend to accept basic ideas in each belief system. Your average Christian has no problem going to a doctor, flying on a plane, driving a car, using electricity, etc. Insofar as these are not controversial, this is not an issue.

Meanwhile, your average atheist will accept some things about Christianity. Many will accept that there was a historical Jesus. (Although there are far too many who are mythicists.) Many will see a lot of good in a lot of the ethical teachings of Christians. They will tend to disagree on sexual matters, but they are likely to accept things like giving to the poor, loving your neighbor as yourself, not stealing or lying or murdering, etc.

The problem is when you make it either-or. You have to accept everything or you accept nothing. You have to choose which side you are on. Are you on the side of Christianity or of science.

Which buys into the idea that these are automatically irreconcilable. There are a number of devout Christians who are scientists. Historically, there has been no split between the two.

But now let’s look at your average Christian in the pew. For them, Christianity is a great blessing in their lives. They have experiences of wonder and love that rightly or wrongly, they think come from God. They have a strong ethical system, a hope of heaven someday, and a loving community. They think Christianity just explains the world. At the same time, they have no problem with the basic science activities I mentioned above.

Now the atheist comes to them and says “You are not rational if you accept all of that and you have to accept this viewpoint that you don’t understand and reject everything that is dear to you.” Add in also that in the grand scheme of things, this belief that man evolved will not really make much difference to this person likely in their day-to-day life. Do you really think a Christian will go for that? The atheist really needs to listen to the Christian on why their Christianity matters. Keep in mind, for the sake of argument, the Christian could be totally wrong in what they think, but it is still what they think.

Richard Dawkins and the rest of the new atheists often make this mistake. When Richard Dawkins writes on science as science, it is spellbinding. Even if you disagree with him, you can see the wonder he has in what he’s describing. Yet when he talks about something related to Christianity, he is speaking largely from ignorance and anyone who has a clue on Christianity rejects it. It gives a Christian a pass to say “Well, if he’s this ignorant on Christianity and speaking like he’s an authority, why should I trust him on science?” Again, Dawkins could be totally right on science, but he’s damaging his reputation when he posts on things he doesn’t understand.

Honestly, if Dawkins wanted to promote science, the best thing he could do would be to just write about science. When he makes it science vs. Christianity, he’s less likely to reach people. If someone comes in who is a Christian to the world of science and does good scientific work, why should Dawkins care if they’re a Christian or not as long as they’re producing good material?

If an atheist wants to argue against Christianity, what they really need to do is read Christians who are informed talking about what they believe and why. Read multiple views on Genesis. Read about cases for theism and the resurrection of Jesus.

Now it sounds like I’ve been hard on the atheist, but the Christian isn’t entirely innocent in this. If a Christian goes to the scientist and says “You must reject XYZ in order to be a Christian” and the scientist is convinced that XYZ is a well-established fact about the world, then we have a problem. If the Christian says, “You must accept that Scripture says this about the world” and the atheist doesn’t think that claim about the world is true, he is likely to tie that in to theism and the resurrection of Jesus. Saint Augustine said this centuries ago and yet it sounds like it could have been written today:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Timothy 1.7].” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39)

If a Christian then argues this way, he’s not going to present a case that the atheist will accept. It’s the same problem again. If you make it the Bible vs science to an atheist, he will choose science every time, and who can blame him?

Am I forbidding a Christian from arguing against evolution? Not at all. It’s not what I do, but if you want to do it, it must not be the Bible vs. science as that just feeds the idea that there is a war between the two. If evolution is to fall, let it fall because it is somehow shown to be bad science. (It is not my call if it is or not or will be or not.) I suspect most atheists would agree with this. If evolution can be demonstrated to be bad science, then it is to be rejected.

If you want to make a case for Christianity, then go with a claim for theism and then the resurrection of Jesus and get in everything else after that. If you think a person has a less robust form of Christianity, such as rejecting inerrancy or what you think is a false view of Genesis, but they hold to essential Christian doctrine like the resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, etc. then rejoice. They believe the essential matters.

So then, if you want to argue against evolution, then you need to read the best evolutionary scientists you can and learn their position and do the work to show why you think it is scientifically flawed. If you are not willing to do this, then don’t argue it. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, but treating them like defeaters is a problem.

Again, atheists and Christians both make this mistake and it sadly ends with ignorance of both science and Christianity. Let’s do better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Chapter 11

What is faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There were times doing this chapter where I was thinking “They’re almost there. They’re about to get it right.” Then the authors would, as if thinking they might get too close to something actually accurate, would pull back and go for the standard ideology in atheism.

So let’s see what all they have to say.

So, when we read books like Unbelievable? or any book making a persuasive case for a world view, we should necessarily ask to what degree the author or authors is asking us to take on faith the views offered, and we should also ask what kind of faith is being promoted. Are we being asked to accept the claims based on equal evidence, or are we being asked to cover some lack of knowledge by simply having faith?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I don’t really have a problem with this. I also think it applies to this book as well. As you have hopefully seen by now, this book does not make a persuasive case. The best chapters are by Skydive Phil and Ed Atkinson as they seem to actually research what they disagree with to some extent. The others do not.

For Christians, they go on to say:

Here, the idea is that there is some amount of empirical confidence that a Christian can have and the remainder is covered by faith.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I will try to put this in a better light. There are some things that can be known with certainty. These are things that can be known deductively from logical syllogisms that have a sound form and true premises. This definitely includes mathematics. There are some that are believed, but not known with certainty. Some are ridiculous to deny, such as Jesus dying by crucifixion or Abraham Lincoln being assassinated. Still, insofar as you have to believe something you can’t know with certainty, there is faith involved. Faith often entails an element of risk as well. You cannot know the plane will get you there safely, but you have faith it will and normally, that is well-founded.

What they will sometimes dispute is the definition of faith. We are not suggesting that there is an absolute definition of faith on which everyone must agree. But we must come to some consensus on what the bible means by faith when its writers use the word. We might also consider the fact that different writers might have used the word differently in different places.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The latter part is definitely true. We need to know what the Biblical writers mean when they used the word faith. Like I said, I started having hope sometimes that the writers might get it right.

A better way to understand the kind of faith to which James is referring is actionable trust. It is not merely agreeing with a claim. It requires taking some type of action as a result of that agreement. I can’t just say that I believe that the poor should be provided the needs they cannot provide for themselves. But the kind of faith James writes about requires that I not only believe that, but become an active participant in taking care of those needs.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Okay. This is promising. Keep going. Keep realizing faith is not just a belief statement, but also entails acting properly on the knowledge one possesses.

In the same category, inviting someone to our church is not an act of faith. That is no more an act of faith than is inviting someone to your school play. One is hard-pressed to come up with anything the average Christian does on a semi-regular basis that would constitute a genuine demonstration of actionable faith. In a place like the US, taking a strong faith-based position on an important issue is still not an act of faith. The majority of the US population claims to be either Christian or god-believing. Here, you are viewed with suspicion if you don’t have some type of openly faith-based orientation. So stepping out on a stage and saying controversial things in the name of your religious faith is not a risk. In fact, it is the best way to get your crazy idea a serious hearing. It is a good tactic even for people without faith.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I get what they’re saying, but I think going out on a stage and saying Christian beliefs is a risk today. If a famous person says they’re a Christian, they’d better be prepared. Go out in public and say you disagree with the LGBTQ squad and see what happens.

I think if we really want to understand faith as it refers to religious commitment, we have to go to the bible and see what it means there. I will start with the closest thing we can get to a definition of religious faith in the bible: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1 I like the King James Version for this passage because it uses two words that play well with secularists: substance and evidence. We understand substance. That is the stuff of the universe. We understand evidence because that is the proof of a theory. You see, Christianity is substantial. And it has plenty of evidence. But a closer look explodes that notion. The real words to watch in the verse are things hoped for, and things not seen. Your hopes are only as substantive as your faith. And unseen things are backed only by the evidence of faith. It is the confidence that your hopes will be met, and the assurance that invisible things are real.  The Christian hope is entirely in the insubstantial, invisible realm that offers no proof outside of faith. The chapter goes on to call out one example after another of people who showed confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And here it starts to go downhill. The writers don’t bother to look up any lexicons or anything to try to understand the word. I happen to regularly use my article on what faith is due to the common misunderstanding.

When it comes down to it, I believe this is the only definition of faith that matters. It is confidence in the absence of tangible proof.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

If this was the case though, then the writers need to admit everyone is a person of faith. A huge amount of what we believe comes by authority. However, a lack of proof does not mean we don’t have a lot of evidence. Court cases are not settled by which side proves their case but which side best explains the data.

Then the writers go to John 20 and doubting Thomas and say this:

Thomas believed because he saw. But the greater blessing is reserved for those who believe without seeing. Jesus was not fond of evidence. He preferred faith from his followers: the kind that did not involve seeing convincing evidence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

If Jesus was not fond of evidence, why did He do miracles? Why in Acts did He do many proofs? Why did He show Himself to His disciples at all? The writers have created a straw man here. Thomas’s fault was not asking for evidence. It was rejecting the evidence he already had.

They then think they have found a verse from Paul that tells what faith is:

It is blind faith.  Paul says it as a matter of fact: We live by what we believe, not by what we can see. 2 Cor. 5:7

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Paul is not here talking about how we make a case and evaluate evidence. He is saying that when we see ourselves suffering the aches and pains of mortal life and fear death coming, we have trust in Jesus that He will provide for us in death and take us to be with Him. Our eyes may tell us that our end has come, but Jesus tells us it has not.

Note that Paul is also the one who appeals to the Galatians to what they saw with their own eyes. Hardly someone who thinks that across the board you deny what you see. But hey, since when does biblical context matter to these guys?

Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University, defines faith as pretending to know things you don’t know. Christians do not react positively to Boghossian when he defines faith in these terms. It is easy to see why. It combines the worst implications of blind faith with an intent to deceive. At the very least, it implies self-deception. It is both definition and accusation.  Boghossian cuts to the heart of why Christians do not like to be painted with the brush of blind faith. It would actually require Christians to admit to all the things they don’t know, but espouse with the confidence of those who do. To take it a step further, is it not an act of dishonesty to promote a thing as true with more confidence than the evidence permits.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Imagine if I said this. “Christian author XYZ made a convincing case that atheism is just an excuse to engage in sexual immorality. Atheists don’t like to hear this and be painted with this brush. It would require them to admit they don’t have rational reasons for what they believe. To take it a step further, atheists care for indulging their pleasures more than they do for truth.”

Now it could be that some Christian has made that argument out there somewhere. If they do, I disagree. Are there some atheists that mainly hold to atheism to allow them to do what they want? I am sure there are. Are there a lot of Christians that really do have a blind faith? Yep.

Yet the reason I object to Boghossian is a simple one. His claim wasn’t true. Writers like the ones we have here never seem to consider that notion and say Christians react as if it means that it is true. By this standard, if I say the above and an atheist reacts, then I can say “See? That proves it’s right.”

As we get closer to the end, in a statement of irony, the authors say:

We become hardened to our conclusion and lose the ability to give contrary arguments a fair hearing. We become so invested in the belief that it ceases to be a mere true/false proposition. It becomes something more – a part of our identity without which we would no longer know who we are or how to live our lives.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, this matches atheists I meet more than Christians. I have Christian friends who love to read atheist books. When I interact with atheists, the overwhelming majority would rather commit ritual suicide than read a book they disagree with.

There is a war between faith and the forces of reason, evidence, and science. Many Christians want to deny it. They want to be seen as reasonable people with a faith based on evidence and backed by science. But faith is antagonistic with, and even antonymous to those concepts.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And this will be the last point I cover in this chapter, but no. The first Christians were scientists and saw no problem. There is none today. It is doubtful that either of these authors have ever read Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies or Tim O’Neill’s articles or even books such as Newton’s AppleGalileo Goes to Jail, and other such books.

Okay. Looks like there’s one more chapter and then the conclusion. What do we have coming?

Chapter Twelve Choosing to Live in Reality David Johnson

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

…….

Saying this will be awful is not a faith proposition definitely. It’s a knowledge proposition.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 3

What about the cause of the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I will say in his defense that chapters by Skydive Phil tend to be well-researched and better than most other chapters. That’s not saying a lot, but that is something. Unlike many other authors, he does have a copious list of notes for what he says. Seeing as this chapter is largely scientific, as you all should know by now, I will not comment on science as science. However, when we get to philosophical points, I will say something.

So let’s get to one:

When we think of causes though, we always do so in the context of time. We could say all events that have causes have prior moments in time. If the universe had a beginning then there was no prior moment of time and hence we have no right to demand there must be some prior cause. Causality may also be a consequence of the laws of physics and the arrow of time. If we had some state with no space or time, no laws of physics and no arrow of time, are we really in a position to demand there must still be a cause?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Ah, but this is assuming chronological causation. Now I fully grant that there is time in that A causes B. My hands are typing on this keyboard which is causing letters to pop up and my hands typing were caused by my willing them to type. That is all well and good. Could it be possible for something to be eternal and still have a cause?

Yes.

Imagine a mirror that has been standing for all eternity. In front of this mirror stands a man who is also somehow eternal. This man is eternally looking in the mirror unmoving. The man sees his reflection eternally in the mirror.

Is his reflection caused?

Yes, and yet it is eternal.

Hard to fathom and get your head around? Sure, but it doesn’t change reality.

The point is all of this is in the context of the Kalam and Phil deals with the modern version that is about the origin of the universe. The historical version of it is not.

In Q. 46 and article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica, it is asked if the beginning of the universe is an article of faith. This doesn’t mean blind belief. It means if this is something that is taken on authority revealed from God. Now were people like Phil correct, Aquinas would say “Of course not! Our argument shows the universe has a beginning!”

He does not.

On the contrary, The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things “that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, “I believe in one God,” etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”: in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.

Ah! But doesn’t he in his first way assume a beginning?

No. He does not. After all, the ways are built on truths that can be known from reason alone. Therefore, Aquinas’s arguments do not depend on the universe having a beginning. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t nor does it mean that were he here today he would hold the same opinion on if the universe had a beginning. We don’t know what he would say today, but we know what he said then.

Phil goes on to say:

What then caused God? Theists must agree that there is something that doesn’t need a cause. And whilst acausal interpretations of quantum mechanics are still on the table it seems they have the advantage over God because at least we know that quantum mechanics actually exist. The theistic response is that only things that begin to exist need causes. As God didn’t begin to exist then he doesn’t need a cause. An obvious question to ask is how do theists know this? It seems to me like a pure assertion. But what if the universe didn’t begin to exist? Then it wouldn’t need a cause and we will not require God.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

From a Thomistic perspective, we know this because God’s nature is to be. His nature is existence itself. What does it mean to be? Look at God. What does it mean to be limited in being? Look at everything else. Saying “What made God?” is like asking “What created existence?” It is by no means an assertion. The great classical theists gave arguments for it. You might think they were wrong, but it was by no means an assertion.

And as for the final part, I have argued that that is just wrong. Saying the universe is eternal does not mean it doesn’t have a cause. Unless the universe contains within itself the principle of its own existing, in other words, it exists somehow by its own power it needs a cause.

From a Thomistic perspective, since the universe is changing, it is limited in its being, and thus needs a cause. My formulation of Kalam in the style of a syllogism goes like this.

That which has passive potential which is actualized depends on something else for its being.
The universe has passive potential which is actualized.
The universe depends on something else for its being.

Passive potential is capacity for change and being actualized means the bringing about of that change. This doesn’t apply to God since He has no passive potential.

When the steady state theory was popular, theologians appealed to passages that describe God’s continual sustaining of creation to make the bible compatible with that too. So it seems that it is not so hard to find passages in the bible whose meaning can be molded to support whatever narrative suits.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This can be done, unfortunately, but that is not the fault of the Bible, but of modern man. It’s why I reject Concordism. The Bible is not meant to be read as a modern scientific text and Christians and atheists both make this mistake.

As for design arguments:

What about design? Well the problem here is that Justin isn’t just asking us to believe in a designer, but an immaterial one. Whenever we see design by agents we see they are physical, they need external energy to do their design work. We also see that complex creatures capable of design arise after long periods of evolution. We also see that the more complicated a designed object is, the more the number of designers are needed. Think of the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most complex objects on Earth. It wasn’t designed by one person. So if cosmic design is like Earthly design, shouldn’t we presume there are many designers? Design by a single immaterial being that didn’t undergo evolution and doesn’t need any external energy source, doesn’t seem to fit what we know about design at all. Theists merely appeal to the similarities that suit and ignore the ones that don’t.  As an atheist then it seems this type of design is the least plausible of Justin three explanations.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem here is that this is a sort of part to whole fallacy. All designers we see are material designers, therefore all designers are material. That doesn’t follow. It depends on the nature of the designer and again, classical theism argues for a God who is simple since He is not material and has no parts to Him. Were it otherwise, He would need a designer. Whether design arguments work overall, I leave to my friends who are more scientifically inclined.

In a later statement on miracles, Phil says:

If God frequently performs miracles, can we really say  there is so much regularity in the world? We are being asked to believe that God sets up immutable mathematical relationships in the world only to suspend them every time he does a miracle.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

As said in earlier posts on this, not only can we, we have to. If there is no regular order, there is no way to recognize a miracle. Miracles only make sense if there is a regular order where all things being equal, A consistently causes B in C.

There is a whole lot in this chapter I have not replied to because I realize I am not trained in the area to do so. I leave that to the more scientific among you. Next time we look at this book, we’ll discuss morality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 14

Is ID a cult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s time to wrap up this book. The last and longest chapter is on ID. I am not a fan of ID. I don’t use ID. My arguments are metaphysical, but that doesn’t mean that Mills gets a free pass. A lot of it is still the same kind of stuff.

For 2000 years, Christians of all persuasions—both Catholic and Protestant—believed in the Genesis account of Creation. Even Jews and many non-Christians affirmed the teachings of Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Historically, this verse was universally accepted to mean that God literally created the heavens (i.e., the planets, moons, stars and galaxies) and the Earth at the beginning of time. The truth and meaning of this doctrine were unambiguous and undisputed for twenty centuries.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 214). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

As has been pointed out before, Mills gives no sources on this. I have pointed out Kyle Greenwood’s book Since The Beginning. Mills has never read church history at all and has no idea on the history of the interpretation of the doctrine.

While I certainly applaud ID for moving into the 21st century on the study of astronomy,

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 214). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

This has actually been the historical Christian position. The Roman Catholic Church was heavily invested in astronomical studies at the time of Galileo. Christianity historically has encouraged scientific research.

If, as science tells us, the cosmos is roughly 14 billion years old and Earth is 5 billion years old, then Earth is only about one-third the age of the universe as a whole (generally speaking). By analogy, a football game is 60 minutes of playing time. Two-thirds of that time—or the game’s first 40 minutes—would represent the time the cosmos existed before Earth formed. Would it be fair to claim that a touchdown scored during the game’s fortieth minute—or five minutes before the start of the fourth quarter—was scored “in the beginning” of the game? I don’t think that any reasonable person could truthfully answer yes to this question. Neither can anyone honestly assert that the 14-billion-year-old heavens and a 5-billion-year-old Earth were both created together “in the beginning,” as Genesis 1:1 declares.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 215). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Saying Heaven and Earth is not a way of speaking of them as individual entities, but a Hebrew merism to say that everything was created in the beginning.

While disdainfully blaming “liberals” and “liberal theology” for every imaginable evil, ID leaders hypocritically embrace the core tenet of liberal theology—i.e., the belief that Genesis is not to be taken literally.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 215). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Some YECs might agree, though I hope not all would or even most would, but this is not the case at all. Mills, like all fundamentalists, has a hang-up on literalism.

Since I am apparently copying too much from the book as Kindle has informed me, he does state that IDists are embarrassed about their book since they don’t answer questions on Hell. For one thing, not everyone in the ID movement is a Christian. For a second, depending on what the question is, saying “It’s not for us to judge” is not embarrassment, but humility.

The Anthropic Principle is a supremely egotistical manifestation of human self-centeredness, self-delusion and self-importance gone into orbit. ID’s man-centered universe is hauntingly reminiscent of Christianity’s medieval belief in an Earth-centered universe.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 223). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Except the priniciple didn’t come from them. It came long before the ID movement came about. Also, the Earth-centered universe was not an egotistical belief. It was in the outer realms where God was that one wanted to be.

As for talking about irreducible complexity, Mills says that this would also mean divine complexity. Mills, who seems to know so much about historical interpretations, misses that historically, the church has also held to divine simplicity. It’s only been within fairly recent history that that has been seriously questioned.

He says that IDists have glee pointing out errors in historical sketches of human evolution. He responds saying:

We could of course play the same childish game by pointing out that Thomas Aquinas—13th-century architect of ID’s “First Cause” argument— believed that the eyes of a menstruating woman affected a mirror.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 228-229). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I tried to find where Aquinas says this. I could not. Mills gives no citations again.

Now a lengthy section:

Intelligent Design proponents knew that their original First Cause argument was flawed so they contrived a “patch” in an attempt to salvage the necessity of Jehovah’s existence. They changed their starting premise from “Everything needs a cause” to “Everything that begins to exist needs a cause.” Since God didn’t begin to exist (according to the Bible) and since the universe did begin to exist (according to ID’s total lie about what cosmologists “agree”), ID leaders claim they have delivered scientific proof of God’s existence. There are three transparent blunders with this so-called Kalam argument. First, the argument that God exists and has always existed is a Biblical doctrine. So ID is “proving” God’s eternal existence by constructing an argument that assumes God’s eternal existence based on Scripture. And ID knows that the Bible is true because it’s the Bible. The second problem with the Kalam argument, as we discussed above, is the utterly dishonest claim that “cosmologists agree that the universe arose suddenly out of absolute nothingness.” We can easily see here how one flawed premise quickly requires other flawed and dishonest arguments as supporting props. The third fallacy involves the identity of the god whose existence is allegedly “proven” by the Kalam argument. Why couldn’t the Intelligent Designer be Zeus, or Allah, or Apollo? There is nothing in the Kalam argument that even addresses this question. Yet, without rational explanation, ID worshippers know in their hearts that the intelligent Creator is Jesus’ Father.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 234). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

First off, the Kalam argument opening premise was never changed. Mills is just ignorant of what it was. Second, God’s eternal existing was not assumed based on Scripture but actually argued for by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Finally, the Kalam argument never by itself attempts to show who the first cause was. It is just pointing out that there is one.

It is both meaningless and slippery to feign that “God is beyond time.” What does this cliché actually mean in a scientific context? I don’t know. Before His Creation of our universe, did God have no mental deliberations, no acts of love to bestow upon His heavenly host, no heavenly chores to discharge, no actions or thoughts of any kind? If God did engage in such thoughts or actions prior to His Creation of our universe, then, theoretically, these thoughts and actions could be enumerated or itemized, at least partially. Even though Craig would self-servingly define these pre-Creation activities as “before time” or “beyond time,” couldn’t these prior events be added to a tallied list of God’s other praiseworthy attributes and actions? Wouldn’t this list of God’s pre-Creation activities—however incomplete it may be—show that an infinite regress of specific events is not only possible but indispensable if God is assumed to be infinitely old as Craig believes? In plain English, Craig claims that something can be infinitely old when it suits his purpose, but something can’t be infinitely old when it doesn’t suit his purpose.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 238-239). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It’s always amusing when someone says they don’t know what X means, and then go on to tell you what they think the position means. Well, Mr. Mills. Let me explain this. God being eternal means that God is not moving on a timeline. There is no such thing as before or after in the actions of God. We see them that way, but that is because we are in the timeline. God is always eternally doing them. The infinite regress doesn’t apply.

Also, Mills includes Hugh Ross in the ID camp. I reached out to Fazale Rana at Reasons to Believe who did tell me that he would not see himself as an “ID lecturer” as Mills says.

While there was more I had highlighted, most of it I have already dealt with. Mills is sadly the person who thinks he is educated when he instead reveals himself to be a fool in all that he says about Christianity. It’s sad atheists read books like this thinking the author knows what he’s talking about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)