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: 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?


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 4

How did the universe come to be? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, Mills is asking if the origin of the universe is natural or supernatural. The problem is, he never defines these terms. As readers of this blog know, I have a great problem with this kind of classification. If natural becomes just whatever happens if there is no outside interference, the fact that there is any kind of order I find to be something that needs to be explained.

This starts with the discovery of the background radiation that led to the Big Bang Theory. What is not said is that at the start, many atheistic scientists were opposed to the idea of the Big Bang Theory. After all, if the universe had a beginning, then that would lead to the idea that it had a beginner. It’s a wonder why Mills never mentions this.

He does at least quote the philosopher Mortimer Adler with this great question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Unfortunately, from here, he goes on to the first cause argument. Again, he gets it wrong:

The traditional First Cause argument goes as follows: We observe in the universe a Law of Cause-Effect. Everything requires a cause to account for its existence. Each cause, in turn, is itself an effect that demands a preceding causal antecedent. If, therefore, we regress indefinitely through this chain of causation, we would ultimately arrive at a First Cause, to Whom we give the name “God.” Historically, secular-minded philosophers countered the First Cause argument by asking, “What caused God?” When churchmen responded that “God always existed,” secularists usually offered two points of rebuttal: 1) If we can suppose that God always existed, then why not suppose instead that physical matter always existed? After all, this non-supernatural assumption is far simpler than presupposing a highly complex series of Divine Creation miracles; 2) The ecclesiastical argument—that God always existed—contradicts the original premise of the First Cause argument—that the “Law of Cause-Effect” can be consistently applied. If everything except God is governed by the “Law of Cause-Effect,” then the First Cause argument becomes ad hoc and therefore logically impermissible. In other words, we’re right back where we started, having advanced neither our logical arguments nor our understanding of universal causation.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 68-69). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Historically, no secular-minded people argued this way against the church because no one in the church argued that way at all. Of course, Mills doesn’t cite a single person who made this argument. As to why it couldn’t be physical matter, a theist could accept that matter could be eternal, but still need a cause because in Thomistic philosophy, it is matter and thus inherently has potential. Whatever is ultimate has to be pure actuality.

It’s interesting that he next refers to the work of Newton and Mendel. There is no mention that Newton was a theist, though a Unitarian one, or that Mendel was a Christian monk. This is important since Mills consistently treats faith as an impediment to science, when if anything, it was a boon to it.

Mills goes on to say:

Likewise, it is absurd to state that the laws of physics, which are likewise written accounts of human observation, cause the outcome of the observed phenomena. Creationists loathe to admit that physical laws are human in origin.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 70). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I am unsure what Mills means here when he says that physical laws are human in origin. If he means their reality, then they are not human in origin in the sense that these laws existed before any human discovered them. If he means the formulation of them, then they are definitely human in origin, with the understanding that they are discovered. I don’t know of any one who is a “creationist” who is “loathe” to state that.

By the way, this is something consistent in the book. Mills never defines what a creationist is. For instance, I am someone who is open to evolution and have no problem with an old Earth or the Big Bang Theory, yet by Mills’s standards, I think I would be seen as a creationist. Yet at other times, he speaks of creationists as people who necessarily believe in a young-Earth.

So when the term comes up, I am unsure what he means.

So what about Adler’s question? Mills returns to it saying:

Adler’s question, however—“Why is there something, rather than nothing?”—assumes that there is supposed to be nothing: that the “natural” state of the universe is nonexistence. The fact that there obviously is something, then, is viewed by Adler as a miracle requiring a supernatural explanation. The perceived “mystery” of Adler’s question lies, not in a supernatural answer, but in his presumptive formulation of the question itself. Adler’s question is similar to presuming that grass is supposed to be red, then claiming that its undeniably green color is evidence that a Divine miracle has occurred. From a scientific perspective, though, the question is: Why shouldn’t there be something rather than nothing? What law of science claims that the universe is not supposed to exist, or that nonexistence is the “natural” condition of the universe? There is no such law. On the contrary, the law of the conservation of mass-energy leads to a radically different conclusion: that the mass-energy which now constitutes our universe always existed, though the universe, as we observe it today, did indeed have a beginning at the Big Bang.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 75-76). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

No. Adler’s question is the correct one. Why is there something that a law can even apply to? Science only works once there is something, but for the question of what would happen otherwise, it has nothing to say. Mills is not beginning to even attempt the metaphysical question of existence. It is quite likely, he has no clue about such a question.

Later on, Mills gives us this gem:

Many pre-Renaissance scholars thought it was common sense that the Earth was flat and motionless.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 79). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It is not a shock that Mills cites no such scholars. There are two good reasons. First, Mills hasn’t done any historical research and just believes atheist arguments on faith. The second is that these scholars don’t exist.

Now to get to a point I made prior, order in the universe is something that needs to be explained. Why is there a consistency between A and B? Why is it when I put a glass of water in the microwave and turn it on for half an hour, that it gets hot? Why does it not get cold or turn to diamonds or gain sentience?

If at the root of the universe there is chaos and accidents with no order at its origin or start, then why should we expect order to show up in it? Why should I expect an accidental universe to be orderly? Mills never answers this.

At this point, I am not surprised.

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






Another Bad Atheistic Argument

Does the size of the universe prove there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I check writings of atheists often and I got a blog notification this morning of an atheist blog that will remain nameless. I commented once in response to a post here and soon found my comments being moderated while my opponents got to keep going on. Underhanded movements in comments are something that cause me to ignore someone very quickly.

But today, I see a post about proof of atheism. Hey. I gotta see what this stellar argument is. As I expected though, I was gravely disappointed. This argument as not stellar at all, other than that it was about space.

The idea was about how vast the universe is and we can’t explore it all and how many stars there must be out there. Why would a being of omniscience or omnipotence do this? Now that is a good question. I leave it to the more scientifically minded to address it. However, the author made no attempt to answer and just said that we don’t know what brought about the Big Bang, but it sure wasn’t God.

Because, well, reasons I guess.

Now notice this. This argument just points to something we don’t know and assumes right off that there can be no good reason for this. Considering how limited our knowledge of the universe really is, isn’t that a hasty conclusion to make? Why should we think there’s no good reason for it?

Not only that, suppose I have several philosophical arguments for God, like the Thomistic arguments, that are deductive arguments such as the conclusion is reached with certainty from the premises. If so, then those arguments trump an “I don’t know” argument any day of the week. I can just as well say back, “I don’t know either” and still have my strong case for theism.

We’re also often told that religion stops people from answering questions and science goes “Let’s find out!” Well where is that scientific attitude here? Instead, it’s just “I don’t know” and then “It’s not God.”

The argument is also actually theological. “If there is a God, He would not create this way.” Really? How is that known? Where is this data coming about that if a god exists of any kind, He wouldn’t create in such and such a way?

Even if we granted the challenge to monotheism, couldn’t we hypothetically say that perhaps polytheism is instead true and atheism is still false? After all, the world of comic books is a world populated with several planets and universes and such, and yet it is often a world teeming with gods. Of course, I don’t think that is true, but that would still be enough to show atheism still has work to do.

If you’re an atheist, please don’t engage in such lazy thinking. If you want to make a claim about how God would or wouldn’t do something or why He would or wouldn’t, bring some data. Where do you get this knowledge of God and what He is like? Also, it is not effective to say, “I wouldn’t do it this way.” Okay, but I think we can all agree you’re far from omniscient and omnipotent and it’s just ridiculous arrogance to think you can come anywhere close to that.

A lot of self-respecting atheists would not make this kind of argument out there. They’d actually be agreeing with a lot of what I say in this post I suspect. There are bad arguments for theism and bad arguments for atheism. We should make it a point to eliminate both wherever we see them.

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

Book Plunge: Atheism: A Critical Analysis

What do I think of Stephen Parrish’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Stephen Parrish has written a book that is highly philosophical, and yet at the same time, highly readable. The book is a look at the idea of atheism. Does it really stand up to scrutiny? He looks at it from a scholarly level and from a popular level both.

At the start, one gets treated to definitions. What is meant by atheism and theism? What is meant by religion and science? What is meant by the term supernatural? These are all terms that we use freely, but very rarely do we stop and ask what they mean. I am one who never uses the term supernatural thinking it is way too vague and when I get a claim such as someone talking about the evils of religion, I ask for a definition of religion.

He also deals with popular objections. Is atheism merely a lack of belief in God? What about the idea that someone is an atheist to many other gods out there. The one who identifies as an atheist just goes one god further. Sure, these are all piddly weak on the surface and the old atheists would have been embarrassed to see such arguments, but they are out there today.

Parrish’s work that presents problem areas mainly for atheism come in three categories and these can be broken down further. The first is the origin of the universe. This is an interesting topic in itself, but I am pleased to see that he goes even further and asks not only how the universe came into being but rather how does it continue in being. It’s not enough to ask why it came in the first place. Knowing how it remains here is something great to ask too.

The second area is the problem of the mind. How is it that the mind works? What is the explanation of consciousness? There are a plethora of different theories out there. Parrish works to explain the flaws in the other theories and gives a case for why theism has better explanatory power.

The last is ethics and morality. There is a subsection here on beauty as well. How is it that we live in a universe where there seem to be principles of good and evil that most people consider objective, binding, and authoritative? Could they all really be subjective?

An atheist reading this could think, “Ah. Those are issues, but surely he should discuss the issue that’s problematic for theists. The problem of evil.” He should and he does. He looks at this and a number of defenses and theodicies and then turns and says that on his argument, the problem of evil is more of a problem for the atheist than the theist.

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t spell these kinds of thoughts out even more. There’s a simple reason for that. You need to go and get the book yourself. I can’t help but think of the quote of C.S. Lewis.

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

A man wishing to remain in his atheism should also realize that this book is a trap as well. While I am far more Thomist than Parrish is in my philosophy, there is far more that I agree with than I would disagree with. Anyone who is a critical atheist needs to get this for a critical analysis of that view.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Rationality Rules On The Unmoved Mover

Is the unmoved mover a bad argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been dialoguing with an atheist via text message a local pastor told me about. Last night, we were talking about Aquinas’s argument for the unmoved mover. He wanted to send me a video arguing against it to get my thoughts. He told me the video was by someone who went by “Rationality Rules.” I have noticed that so many people who identify themselves by rationality or reason or logic often honor the idea with their lips, but their heads are far from it. I asked him to send it so I could see it. It can be found here.

Fortunately, it comes with a long description to show many of the main points. I found it amusing that towards the start we have Aquinas and Peter Kreeft both having dunce hats put on their heads. Yes. Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Western civilization should have a dunce cap on. It’s amazing the arrogance that these guys have.

Anyway, RR says he’s not going to deal with Aquinas’s, but Kreeft’s, because, you know, the arguments are basically the same.

No, they’re not.

But hey, apparently it would be too hard to, you know, go and look online and actually read the original argument and actually work to understand it and see what it’s really arguing. Nope. Just go for someone you think is giving the argument. Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher, but here he is also speaking for laymen and not giving the argument in its full sophistication. Unfortunately, I think he also gets it wrong, but let’s see what is said.

Anyway, this is how RR sums up the argument syllogistically.

• Everything that exists is in motion.

• Everything in motion is caused to be in motion by something else.

• Something must’ve existed without a cause.

• We call this first-cause (or unmoved mover) god.

• Therefore, god exists.

This isn’t the argument.

For one thing, we have to ask what is motion. Motion is not just movement, but movement is a type of motion. All movement is motion but not all motion is movement, at least in the physical sense. We know this because Aquinas would talk about movement in angels and angels are not physical. Your atheist friend can say he doesn’t believe in angels. Irrelevant. Aquinas does and Aquinas knows they are not physical so his argument is not limited to the physical.

What is being talked about is potential becoming actuality. Potential is the capacity for change that something has. Actuality is the way that it is. I am sitting right now as I type this. I have the potential to stand, kneel, lie down, jump, etc. If I do any of those, such as stand, then I am actualized my potential to stand and from there, I have the potential again to sit.

This is indeed caused in some respect by another. I do something because I want something outside of myself, which is what would be called The Good. My will is driven towards this. Every one of us desires what we think of as The Good. We can disagree on what we think The Good is, but all of us do want it and when we do something, we are doing it for something we perceive to be a good.

Aquinas is also talking about objects that have no will. A hand moves a stick which moves a rock which moves a leaf. Remove any piece of the chain and the leaf doesn’t move.

So what is the cause of this change? Aquinas says we have to find what it is to avoid an infinite regress. What kind of regress is he talking about? It’s either per accidens or per se. In the former, suppose mine and Allie’s parents both die suddenly. Could we still have children together? Absolutely. All things being equal, there is nothing about our reproduction that is hindered or helped by our parents being alive. That is irrelevant.

Now consider a chain that’s more per se. Each event is dependent on what came before it. Consider a Rube Goldberg machine. That is what it is like. This is the point of Aquinas. This means that everything in the chain is being used as an instrument, but if there are secondary causes, there must be a primary cause. The chain has to find its origin somewhere.

Note that this is also not saying it has to start there chronologically, as the universe being eternal is at this point irrelevant to Aquinas. It’s saying that there must be some great source, such as a gear that all the other gears have to move around and if the big gear stops, the little ones do as well. For Aquinas though, this place where the buck stops must be unmoved itself. If it is not, then it is part of the chain and the chain still needs to be explained.

If we see anything that is in motion, then we need to explain that. That would include the universe because I think it’s quite uncontroversial to say the universe undergoes change. We can all agree to that one. What needs to be at the root is something unchanging in its nature.

RR says the first flaw with this argument is that it does not prove that Christianity is true.

It would not prove that this Unmoved Mover still exists, that it’s a being, that it’s conscious, or that it impregnated a virgin, in order to sacrifice itself to itself so that it could forgive you for your ancestors’ actions… or in other words, it would not prove that Kreeft’s very specific interpretation of the Christianity is true.

This is the common silly objection that so many atheists have. You have not proven that this God is the Christian God, therefore the argument fails. Yes. What a great rejoinder, except the argument was never meant to prove the Christian God. Aquinas knew this. Every defender of the argument knows it. Aquinas could use this argument, but so could the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. So could the Muslim philosopher Avicenna. Put these three in a room together and they will not dispute this argument. They will agree to it. That’s when the disputes start. Who is this mover?

Also, to say that it doesn’t show the mover still exists is just fallacious because once Aquinas establishes God, he goes on to establish things that can be known about God from reason and natural theology and that includes His eternality and immutability among other things. People who argue against the argument like this are just intellectually lazy. Of course, we knew that when we saw the bad representation of the Trinity anyway.

The second fallacy is that of special pleading. Something must have existed without a cause. That’s not the argument though. It’s that something must have existed that is not in motion like everything else is. God is not moved by anything else. He moves all other things. Aquinas does say why as well. Special Pleading fails.

The last two objections deal with the Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately for RR, these are irrelevant. Aquinas’s argument is not about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang Theory could be disproven tomorrow and Aquinas would be unfazed. The universe could be shown to be eternal and Aquinas will still be standing. Aquinas would ask why you’re talking about all this stuff about how the universe came to be when his argument says nothing about that.

In conclusion, it will be good when RR deals with the real argument. If he wants to do so, I suggest for a good understanding he consider something like reading Edward Feser. Feser’s “Aquinas” would be a great introduction for him. As it stands, RR has dealt with a straw man and the dunce cap needs to be removed and put on the head of the rightful owner.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 8

Does the universe present a problem for atheism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return now to Evidence Considered by Glenton Jelbert. We’re now entering into the more scientific aspects here. Now I’m someone who does not really get into scientific apologetics. I don’t speak the language of science and I think it’s too often a mistake to think that science is either the final or ultimate arbiter on questions of theism, miracles, etc.

The first chapter will be the response to Robert Kaita. I do not plan on arguing against much of the science in this and other chapters, but I do plan on dealing with philosophical and historical claims that rise up. I gather this time the question is about why the universe is comprehensible. Kaita says this is a question scientists have not been able to answer.

In reality, they shouldn’t be able to, at least not as scientists. John Polkinghorne has used this kind of example. Suppose my wife goes into the kitchen and notices a saucepan of water boiling on the stove and asks “Why is the water boiling?” I explain, “My Princess, when water gets heated, the molecules in it break apart and go from a liquid state to a gas state.” Would that be a true answer? Absolutely. It would not be the main answer and that is an answer science cannot get at because it points to intentions of the will. It would be “I am wanting to make a glass of tea.”

I consider the question about why the universe is comprehensible to be not a question of science but of philosophy. Science provides the data, but many times scientists like to go beyond the data and make pronouncements on what the data means. All worldviews do this. This is fair to an extent, but it should be recognized the person is not speaking from their field.

Another question raised is the sustaining of the universe. This is an important question, and yet, it’s a secondary one. The universe can be seen as part of something else. It can be seen as part of existence. The universe does not have to be. One day, it will not be. It will die in a cold death. Existence though has to be. Existence cannot not exist. I want to know why anything exists at all. What keeps existence itself going?

Kaita does speak about how we’re ungrateful for the gifts of God that we have. This is certainly true and we’re all guilty to an extent, but it doesn’t answer the scientific questions. Of course, it shouldn’t. It really surprised me how much meant to be scientific here was not scientific really.

Jelbert starts by saying this argument is fascinating for showing the state of mind of the intelligent Christian. I find this quite a fascinating statement in itself. You take one writing from an intelligent Christian and that shows the state of mind of the intelligent Christian? I consider myself an intelligent Christian and my state of mind is quite different here.

Jelbert also says that Kaita has divided the world into the good and the chaotic and focuses on the good. I could not help but think about this passage from Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday describing the meeting of the man Sunday.

“Have you noticed an odd thing,” he said, “about all your descriptions? Each man of you finds Sunday quite different, yet each man of you can only find one thing to compare him to — the universe itself. Bull finds him like the earth in spring, Gogol like the sun at noonday. The Secretary is reminded of the shapeless protoplasm, and the Inspector of the carelessness of virgin forests. The Professor says he is like a changing landscape. This is queer, but it is queerer still that I also have had my odd notion about the President, and I also find that I think of Sunday as I think of the whole world.”

“Get on a little faster, Syme,” said Bull; “never mind the balloon.”

“When I first saw Sunday,” said Syme slowly, “I only saw his back; and when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. His neck and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had a stoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had at once the revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast dressed up in men’s clothes.”

“Get on,” said Dr. Bull.

“And then the queer thing happened. I had seen his back from the street, as he sat in the balcony. Then I entered the hotel, and coming round the other side of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me, as it did everyone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful, because it was so good.”

“Syme,” exclaimed the Secretary, “are you ill?”

“It was like the face of some ancient archangel, judging justly after heroic wars. There was laughter in the eyes, and in the mouth honour and sorrow. There was the same white hair, the same great, grey-clad shoulders that I had seen from behind. But when I saw him from behind I was certain he was an animal, and when I saw him in front I knew he was a god.”

“Pan,” said the Professor dreamily, “was a god and an animal.”

“Then, and again and always,” went on Syme like a man talking to himself, “that has been for me the mystery of Sunday, and it is also the mystery of the world. When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the back is only a jest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be explained. But the whole came to a kind of crest yesterday when I raced Sunday for the cab, and was just behind him all the way.”

You see, everyone has to explain the same data and it depends on how we do see it. One can say this world is mostly good and evil is the exception, or mostly evil and good is the exception, or it is evenly divided. Now based on Jelbert’s writing on morality, I have no idea where he comes from, although as I have said goodness is a lot more than just morality. I do say that he has to explain the data that we have. Christianity I don’t think has any problem with it. In fact, evil is an essential part of our worldview. If there were no evil, there would be no point in the death of the Son of God, or a death of the Son of God for that matter!

Jelbert responds to the idea that it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does a theist. Jelbert says it takes no faith to say you don’t know. Perhaps, but is that what an atheist is saying? Is atheism not a claim about the way the world really is? I know a lot of atheists say it is just describing a lack of God belief, but I frankly consider this silly. Atheism then becomes nothing more than a statement of personal psychology and nothing about the way the world is. If atheism makes no claims about objective reality, it should not be treated as a serious worldview.

Jelbert also says you can’t take the scientific data, put a few Bible verses in, and say your worldview alone explains it. I agree. However, in the book of Licona and Dembski, I am sure Kaita is well aware there are other people handling those questions and is just saying how this works for him as a Christian. It does not mean that I agree with his exegesis, but it does mean that I think leeway can be granted.

Jelbert says there is no reason the laws and constraints of physics would change with time. Perhaps. There is also no reason that they wouldn’t. I am eager to see if when we get to the question of miracles if he uses Hume’s objection since that assumes that everything works the same way always when Hume himself said that if you drop a rock 1,000 times, that will not prove it will fall when you drop it the 1,001st time. Past experience for Hume could be a good indicator, but not an iron-clad proof. The point is though that your average physicist will not do an experiment every day to see if lead still sinks when placed in water. They will take it for granted and they are justified provided they believe in a universe of order. On atheism, I have no reason to believe that is the case.

Jelbert concludes that this isn’t evidence for God since we have to split the universe, but I really don’t see this as a problem. I don’t think anyone who thinks this world is perfect. Those who think there is nothing worthwhile in this universe end up with suicide. Most of us are not like that. The question is which side are we on? Then, how do we explain that side.

It is also true that this cannot point to any one world religion, and I agree, but it can start to point away from atheism. The fact that there is order can lead one to think there is something beyond the order, and note that is not scientific. That is metaphysical. Why is there order and sustenance at all? I know as a Christian I have an answer, but I see none for atheism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 1

Does the cosmological argument stand up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve had sitting on the backburner for awhile another book besides Seeing Through Christianity to go through and that’s Evidence Considered by Glenton Jelbert. Jelbert has decided to go after Mike Licona and Bill Dembski’s book Evidence For God. Jelbert is a former Christian and it is interesting to go through what he has.

The first chapter is on the cosmological argument which was written by David Beck. It’s noteworthy that there is no distinction between what kind of cosmological argument is used. Craig uses one kind that is called the horizontal argument. This one goes with the beginning of the universe and largely relies on Big Bang Cosmology. The vertical kind does not require any science at all and is more philosophical and asks what is the basis for the existing of the universe.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow and you hear some weird music playing. You ask “What is causing this sound?” It doesn’t seem to make sense to ask “What caused this sound?” since the sound is going on in the present. The music is continually playing so you ask what is causing it.

Now another day, you wake up and you go outside to do a morning walk and you find when you open the front door a giant crystal orb is blocking your path. You ask “What caused this?” because it’s being put there is an event that happened in the past. It is often missed that you could just as much ask “What is causing this?”

Why could you ask that? Because too often, the existence of these things is treated like a given. It’s as if things can exist by their own power. One could say that we could commit suicide by our own power, but none of us can by our own power say “I don’t want to exist!” and just poof out.

Jelbert begins his response by saying we could grant the argument and it doesn’t really get us close to theism. He says that all religions are able to use this shows this, but can they all use it? For instance, Mormonism would not use this argument since matter is really eternal in Mormonism with gods begetting gods that create their own planets where the denizens can become gods.

The Abrahamic religions can use this because the vertical form definitely depends on one uncaused cause. Using natural theology and Aristotelian metaphysics, Aquinas can tell us plenty about the god that can be found. There is a false notion that to say that since natural theology alone can’t tell us what god there is, then there can’t be a god. In the Middle Ages, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian philosophers could all agree on the arguments of natural theology. They’d determine which form of theism is true by looking at special revelation.

From there, Jelbert goes on to talk about how Jeopardy recently defined atheism as “The active, principled denial of the existence of God.” Jelbert refers to this an absurd definition. Jelbert says “A definition of atheist as someone who does not believe there is a god, is the equivalent of saying that since the case has not been made, the burden of proof lies with the theist/deist.”

First off, this sentence is incredibly unclear. Thinking it was just me, I showed it to one of my friends who’s much more familiar with English and grammar only to get a similar response. My rule with the burden of proof argument is that anyone who makes a claim has a burden. If you come up and say “I am an atheist,” and I ask why, you need to back that. It doesn’t work to say “Unless you can demonstrate your case, atheism is true.” It could be that I am a theist who has terrible reasons for believing in God and yet God still exists. If I come to you and say I’m a theist, it’s not up to you to disprove theism. It’s up to me to demonstrate theism.

As for the idea about it being absurd, perhaps Jelbert would like to speak to these others.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Jelbert goes on to say that the argument proves nothing about Jesus, virgin births (Which I do affirm), the resurrection, or any creed. Indeed it doesn’t. It is hardly a fault of an argument that it does not prove what it was never meant to prove. The argument could be entirely valid and Islam is true. Either way, atheism is false.

Jelbert goes on to argue that maybe the cause is itself physical. The problem with this is that in the horizontal form, the being is beyond space, time, and matter, which means it is not limited by any of those and thus it is not spatial, it is eternal, and it is immaterial. In the vertical form, it is a being that is not capable of change from another agent. Anything material is capable of such change. This is because in Thomistic and Aristotelian metaphysics, these kinds of things have what is called potential, which is capacity for change. Matter essentially has this. Thus, physical beings are ruled out.

Jelbert also argues that an infinite chain could possibly exist. This would be a problem for a horizontal version perhaps, but not a vertical one. There are two kinds of chains. In one chain, consider my wife and I. Suppose in a tragedy our parents all died through car accidents or some other means today. That would not mean that we suddenly go out of existence. In fact, we could have our own children still without our parents. (Obviously, we don’t want anything to happen to our parents of course.)

If this kind of chain is what the universe is, then an infinite chain could be possible. I leave that to the mathematicians. Yet what if our universe is not like this? Aquinas gives the example of a stick pushing a rock and the rock pushing a leaf while the stick is pushed by a hand. This is a short chain, but in this chain, if you remove any part, all activity ceases. All present activity is continuously dependent on past activity. If that is the case for our universe, then an infinite chain is not possible.

A Thomistic argument gives a chain where existence depends on something else existing. If all existing depends on another existence, then you have such a chain going on as with the rock being moved, then there’s no reason to think any existing would be going on right now. This is not chronological either. If it was, it would be the former chain. Too many atheistic arguments treat existing as if it was a given. It’s quite odd to think that so many atheists who want to talk about how God doesn’t exist don’t really say much about what it means to exist.

Jelbert then says that the third point is that there must be a single uncaused or infinite being. Jelbert sees a switch between cause and being, but it’s a wonder what we’re supposed to see. If anything is causing any change, it must be something that exists in some way, that is, it is. It’s a being.

Jelbert also says that Beck says that “We cannot make sense of the universe, the reality in which we live, apart from there being a real God.” Jelbert says that this is an admission that the feeling of not knowing is something Beck doesn’t like and he heals it with the idea of God. It’s a wonder how this is read. Beck just gave a statement of fact. Nothing is said about personal feelings in the matter.

Jelbert then goes on to say that this is what has been done for millennia, but this is indeed too much of a leap. The first leap is to assume an emotional case for Beck. The second is to assume that everyone thinks in modern individualistic psychological terminology.

If we want to play this game, then we could say that many people find a God distasteful who will judge them for their sins, require repentance, or disagree with their political views. This causes psychological discomfort. The way to quiet this is to argue that this God doesn’t exist to give emotional solace.

Does this apply to some people? Sure. Are some people also Christians for emotional reasons? Sadly so. Does this tell us about the truth? Not at all. Instead, Jelbert has given a reason that cannot be known. Saying that you have an explanation that explains something is not necessarily addressing something emotional. It could provide emotional solace as a plus, but that does not mean that it is false.

We will later on look at another chapter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Deeper Waters Podcast 12/3/2016: Hugh Ross

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It used to be said that we lived on a pale blue dot. In this vast universe of ours, we are one solitary spot on the map. To some, this makes us seem insignificant. Why should there be a vast universe and yet this one tiny little planet that has life? If there is a God, why would He do something like this? Isn’t that wasteful?

Besides, is there anything really unique about our planet having life? Surely there are others out there that have life. Why should we look at our planet and see it as an exception to the rule. Ironically with the skeptics, the claim has us losing both ways. If we alone have life, well that shows that we’re just a freak accident. If life is throughout the universe, that shows that there is no creator supposedly needed.

Is our planet unique? I’m not a scientist, so I can’t say, but I do know someone who is. He is returning to my show to talk about his book The Improbable Planet. He is someone I consider a friend and I have a high respect for him also with him being a fellow Aspie just like I am. My guest this Saturday is going to be once again, Dr. Hugh Ross.


Astronomer Hugh Ross is founder and president of Reasons to Believe, an organization dedicated to integrating scientific fact and biblical faith. His books include Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job. and Navigating Genesis.

We’ll be talking about his latest book and looking at the claims that he presents in it. Why is the universe the way that it is and why is it that we have all these planets out here? Is God just creating some pretty scenery for us to look at, or is something else going on? Is there a reason our solar system is the way it is?

Why did it take so long for life to show up on the Earth anyway? Couldn’t God have done things a lot faster? Look at how many extinction events we had and how many disasters we had on this planet before we showed up. Is there really a point to that?

Come to think of it, what is the point? Why is it that God did all of this? Why is it that he created dinosaurs that we would never see with our eyes and had all these events take place for billions of years when the time that we have spent on here is just a tiny portion of all of that? Is God really interested in this time that humanity has been alive so much that He will create a universe and a planet just for that?

Join me this Saturday as Hugh Ross and I discuss these topics. We are working on getting past shows up. We had a flaw with the audio on David Sorrell’s so we are going to be working on that again and then everything should flow as normal. Please go to ITunes also and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters