Tag Archives: christianity

More evidence for Christianity from the Star of Bethlehem

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JP Moreland on the Christian worldview

[HT Brain Auten]

How should Christians relate with the culture around them?

Bruce Little – 20/20 Collegiate Conference 2011 – Session 5 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 5 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 5 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Socrates famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Conclusion

It would be pat for me to write in conclusion that I find Luke’s objections to be unconvincing. However I will say that a a finite being I am well aware that I may be wrong with regard to my current beliefs. And if I am when it comes to my Christian worldview then Luke has done me a disservice by

  1. Not offering a clear rebuttal to anything I’ve claimed
  2. Not offering a more compelling alternative view

Challenge

Now to be fair, and to be fair to any evangelical atheist who wishes to undertake this challenge, here is specifically what I’ll need to have in order to seriously question my beliefs

  1. I need a good explanation of how the world came to exist
  2. I need to know how I, a cognitive being, came to exist in this world
  3. I need to know why I should trust my epistemic faculties, including my mind, to provide me with true information
  4. I need a good accounting of things I hold to be intrinsically to be true, like altruism and self-sacrifice
  5. I need to know why I or anything I do matters, especially in view of our universe’s impending heat-death

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 4 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 4 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Aristotle famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Livable

As I mentioned in my initial article; In order for a worldview to be livable it needs to be complete in itself. It cannot borrow from other worldviews that which it cannot sustain on its own. Atheism fails on these two fronts since it borrows from other worldviews when it comes to morality, something Luke also does as he seems to indicate there is a moral problem with the teachings of Christianity, and atheism has no foundation for an ultimately meaningful or purposeful life.

Morality

Luke seems to think that some of the best philanthropists are Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. I suppose these two were chosen due to the number of dollars they can send to any cause or humanitarian project. However I would argue that the measure of philanthropy is not the number of dollars one can send, but how much of oneself one can give. In this respect the greatest philanthropists are the ones who “lay down their lives for their neighbor”. However this is exactly what naturalism argues against. Altruism, the practice of selflessly giving oneself in service to others, is simply an incoherent concept in any worldview that denies that we are eternal, consistent1, creatures.

Meaning

I believe a difficulty exists with how Luke and I are using the phrase “life a satisfactory life”. I am using it in the classical philosophical sense, rooted in worldviews which contained the context of some sort of transcendent existence after death. In this sense, the qualifications of what it takes to life a satisfactory life are objective and definite. They transcend the universe and all its particulars, including us. Since these objectives are transcendent, it follows that a meaningful life is not constrained to time and space.

It appears that Luke, as most atheists, want to view a satisfactory life as a subjective and finite target. The problem with that understanding, however, is that if the meaning of life is whatever the subject determines it to be2 then the notion that there is any meaning collapses in on itself. If there is no objective standard, then it becomes incoherent to talk about anything meeting that standard. Here Luke demonstrates how an incoherent worldview like atheism is not consistently livable. Luke deconstructs the words used, specifically meaning and purpose, and then claims that everything fits.

If we say anything goes when it comes to meaning and purpose of life then we render the question itself incoherent. Meaning is stripped of its, well, meaning as is purpose.

When you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do.

  1. I add this stipulation because I believe pantheism falls into the same nihilistic trap as atheism. []
  2. A view consistent with Luke’s postmodern continental philosophy []

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 3 of 5

Preamble

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

This is part 3 of a 5 part series intended to address Luke’s post, “Christianity is Incoherent”.

My hope is that through this series others will be encouraged to examine their own worldviews. Christian and non-Christian alike.

As Aristotle famously said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Consistent

Luke apparently doesn’t like my treatment of eastern mystic worldviews. He seems to think their adherents would object to my claim that they don’t give a pretense of being consistent.

Well let’s quickly walk through the list:

  • The goal of Buddhism is nothingness. Koans given for meditation are intentionally designed to help you shut your mind off. Buddhism is about giving up one’s desires, including our desire to find sufficient answers.
  • Islam and Mormonism teach a system of abrogation where in newer verses in their texts nullify earlier verses. Islam also teaches a particular view of causal determinism and as such has no problem understanding God to be both good as well as evil. Neither Muslims nor Mormons are encouraged to seek out answers on their own, but rather to inquire of holy men who often give them mystic answers.
  • New age, Wicca, and Hindu explicitly deny objective truth. It’s very hard to be consistent when you deny the foundation for consistency at the outset.
  • Atheism maintains the universe has no specific purpose or design. If there is no design or purpose, then it is an act of futility to look for it in any objective sense. Oh sure, as we will explore later, you can make things up, but then you are merely playing with words.

I love Luke’s response to the problem of an infinite regress

The concept of infinite regress is still debated, and many naturalists do not accept an infinite regress, anyway.

That is really like saying that the concept of gravity is still debated but I don’t have a problem with it at any rate since I don’t accept it. It really doesn’t matter what naturalists accept or not because the laws of logic are a lot like the laws of physics. They both exist and exert force on us whether we like it or not. Unless Luke can either explain how an actual infinite can exist, or how his worldview does not logically lead to an infinite regress, his worldview remains logically incoherent.

Next Luke puts forth a list of 7 reasons he thinks Christianity is incoherent

Does God need to create?

Luke asserts that God’s creating indicates a need which, in turn, calls into question God’s aseity.

He writes:

Is it consistent to say that a perfect being would create something? A perfect being has no needs or wants, so how could he need or want to create a world and populate it with beings and demand worship and sacrifice from them?

Why should we suppose that a perfect being should be devoid of desires? And, more importantly, Why we should think that the desire in God to create is temporal? It seems rather clear that God is portrayed as the Creator who creates. Thus it seems to make sense to think that the desire to create is part of who God is and not an external constraint upon God’s character. Luke’s objection might make sense if another premise were found to be true, namely that this world is all that God has or will ever create. However without any support, such a notion would be little more than a bare assertion.

Calling into question the coherency of Christianity based on God’s desire to create is a lot like calling into question a human’s humanity based on their desire to have sex.

So is it consistent to say that an eternal being whose character includes being creative has, and presumably will continue, created? I don’t see why not.

Isn’t God unchangeable?

Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being would create something? If God is unchangeable, then he can’t have one set of intentions at one moment and then a new set of intentions at another. And yet God supposedly created at one time, but now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe, because he did it already. The idea of an unchangeable God that creates is incoherent.

Luke makes several assumptions here. And at the risk of answering a pooly formed question I’ll simply outline the additional data Luke needs to provide before this can go from a bare assertion to a well formed question with any weight that followers of Christ like myself should take seriously.

1. What does Luke mean by unchangeable? Does he mean what the Bible means which is that God is unchangeable in His character or does he mean immutable? If Luke means immutable, where does he get the idea that Christianity requires its adherents to adhere to such a belief?
2. Where does the notion that God “now doesn’t have the intention to create a universe”? It seems either arrogant at the worst or horribly misguided at the worst to think that Luke would know the unrevealed intentions what an infinite being.

Is it consistent to say that an unchangeable being can be omniscient? If God is unchangeable, then his knowledge can’t change. And yet what is true changes all the time, for example what is true about my age. So an unchanging being can’t be omniscient.

Again, Luke offers a ill-formed question here which need to be fleshed out further.

How can God be transcendent and omnipresent?

Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and omnipresent? To be transcendent is to be nowhere in space, but to be omnipresent is to be everywhere in space.

Transcendent does not mean “to be nowhere in space in time”, it means to not be constrained by space and time. To transcend them. As for how God can transcend space and time and still act in it, I believe that is the focus of Luke’s next question.

How can God transcend space and time and still act in space and time

Is it consistent to say that God is transcendent and yet acts in time? To be transcendent is to be beyond space and time, so a transcendent being can’t also be immanent in space and time.

The only way this objection makes sense is if we import another premise which is that a transcendent being must abdicate it’s transcendent property in order to operate in space and time. However by including this premise we end up demolishing the meaning of the words used, specifically with regard to transcendence.

What Luke needs to do here is show how his question does not negate itself by virtue of deconstructing the very words he is attempting to use to demonstrate an inconsistency with God ontology.

God’s freedom bothers me

Is it consistent to say that God is omniscient and has free will? If God knows all the actions he will perform, then he cannot do otherwise, and therefore he is not free.

Luke’s objection here only makes sense if we include the premise that the only truths that exist are necessary truths. This strikes me as an odd claim and Luke bears the burden of showing why we should believe this is true.

In the meantime, I’d like to point out this video of Dr Craig explaining the different logical divisions of God’s knowledge.

At the corner of Mercy and Justice

Is it consistent to say that God is all-merciful and all-just? A perfectly just person treats every offender with exactly the severity he or she deserves, but an all-merciful person treats every offender with less severity than he or she deserves. What sense does it make to say that God is all-merciful and all-just?

Luke is absolutely correct here. Mercy and justice would indeed be at odds if we viewed God like the Muslims do where mercy is doled out at the expense of justice. Fortunately, our divine creator knew about this problem and before the foundation of the world He had a solution.

More specifically, I believe Luke’s problem here is that he fails to factor in the offended along with the offense. In our case, the offense is against a perfect being who created us and as such has authority over us. What is interesting is that Luke seems to assume that many people fail to get what they deserve. That begs the question, however. What do we really deserve with regard to the cosmos?

In conclusion, I fail to see how a handful of poorly formed and loaded questions are suposed to show how Christianity is internally inconsistent.

I also recommend Brennon Hartshorn’s response to this list.

Is Christianity coherent, consistent and livable? Part 1 of 5

Quite a while ago I contributed a post titled “Coherent, Consistent, and Livable” to a series titled “Is Christianity is True” organized by Brian Auten. Shortly after the compiled book was published, Luke Muehlhauser announced his intentions to publish a rebuttal to each essay in the “Is Christianity is True?” series in a “Why Christianity is False” series of his own.

Well, it seems that Luke finally got around to writing a response to my post titled “Christianity is Incoherent”. I’m glad to see Luke’s response, I was afraid for a while that it would never materialize!

Now that it’s here, let’s example the rebuttals and see whether Luke has, in fact, demonstrated that Christian belief is incoherent, inconsistent, and not livable.

I initially wrote my response as one long piece, but it quickly grew to the point where I doubted whether anyone other than Luke1 would read it.

So stay tuned, over the course of the following week we’ll explore several issues and see how well Christianity and other worldviews fare when held up to the standard I outlined in my initial post.

In the meantime, I encourage anyone who hasn’t read my initial article to go take a look at it. Read Luke’s response as well. My goal here is not only to engage with Luke but also to invite others into the discussion.

  1. I assume Luke would read any length response I wrote since I also assume that Luke’s questions were honest ones and not merely for show. []

Unwrapped minds

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give. -Proverbs 25:14

While many churches hold birthday celebrations for Jesus this time of year. It is tragic to think that many who will be celebrating or otherwise name themselves as party guests regularly neglect to give to God the gift of their minds.

Surely the sight of so many unwrapped minds grieves our Lord.

Can’t I make anything up and claim it’s Christian?

In a recent discussion with a group of de-converts from Christianity the following objection was raised:

Actually, my article *argues* that there is no objective definition of Christianity; it does not assume it. That was pretty much the point: there is no supernatural referent to “Christian” (or “God” or “salvation” or any of it), so the only definition(s) possible have to do with human social designations. Many groups of course *claim* to have objective definitions, but since I believe (a) they are all wrong, and (b) all lack the authority to settle the question for everyone, I can either scrap the word “Christian” altogether, or understand it to refer only to those who profess to be followers of Jesus. Thus, the boundaries of the term “Christian” are very fuzzy: it doesn’t refer to anything divine, and there is no universally accepted coding system, as it were. So: there is no correct answer.

Anyone is, of course, free to stipulate any definition of “Christian” they wish. You can, if you like, define “Christian” such as to exclude de-conversion. I can’t say that you’re wrong. But there is no reason at all I have to adopt your definition.

Here is my response:

Christianity does have an early and objective definition which has been upheld by all orthodox Christians ever since the establishment of the Church in the book of Acts. In fact, this objective definition is what we use in order to determine whether something is orthodox or not.

This definition is seen clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul clearly states what many believe to be the earliest Christian creed or codification of Christian beliefs. It contains a number of things but the quick rundown is that Christians believe that Christ is a real person, who died a real death, who then rose from a real grave in a real, physical body and who appeared to real people.

I realize it is very popular to characterize Christian belief in particular (as well as religious belief in general) as merely a product of wish fulfillment or a preference akin to which flavor of ice cream is best (I prefer chocolate). However the fact remains that Christianity is based upon real, historical events which means that Christianity, like Judaism, is potentially falsifiable.

This also means that no one can epistemologically be a “true Christian” unless Christianity is, itself, true. If you have renounced Christianity and now believe it to be false, by definition you also believe you were never a “true believer” because you would have to logically commit yourself to the idea that you were deceived when you held an irrational belief (if, that is, Christianity is indeed false).

Finally, you seem to misunderstand the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. The fallacy is one of lack of objective definition such that the goal-posts are rendered wholly subjective. My contention (as well as Paul’s per 1 Corinthians 15) is that lack of objective definition of what beliefs are definitive of “true Christian beliefs” is simply not true.

We do have an objective standard, rooted in real historical and falsifiable events. Our claims are not entirely subjective, nor are they ad-hoc (as supposed competing explanations of unique Christian claims such as the resurrection are).

So the question of whether you were a “true believer” in the first place must logically center around what you believed in relation to the objective truth claims of Christianity (specifically the resurrection of Jesus) AND what competing, credible, competing theories/arguments/and evidence you have subsequently found that have provided sufficient defeaters to your original beliefs.

In the end, you were either a “true believer” then (of the objective claims of Christianity) or you are a “true believer” now (in atheism/agnosticism). However, die to the law of the excluded middle you cannot claim to have been a “true believer” of both since, at the end of the day, one of them is false and therefore cannot have “true believers” no matter how strenuously it’s adherents may wish it to be true.

John Lennox on the relationship between science and religion

[HT Justin Taylor]

From the article:

Here are a pair of lectures by Dr. John Lennox (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford) on the New Atheism, science, and morality. They were delivered March 11-12, 2008 as the Carver-Barnes Lecture Series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I love how the second lecture ends with Lennox citing “the problem of evil” as the “most difficult question the theist will have to answer” and how/why it is so important.

Bonus, here is a link to the excellent debate between Lennox and Dawkins.

UPDATE: Apparently the videos above are now privatized. This is a good reason why I prefer to not post links to youtube-clones  like vimeo. On a related note, it disturbs me how many ministries are choosing to use obscure and less functional services like this to host their content on. What? Is a simple MP3 not flashy enough for you?