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.
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.
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.
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.