Tag Archives: Buddhism

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
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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 []
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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.

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Implications of a pattern matching mind

I recently wrote a post on the pattern matching ability of the human mind, here I want to explore the implications of that pattern-matching ability a bit more.

My contention with the mind being a pattern matching machine is that in order to match for patterns, we must first be aware of a pattern to match for in the first place. So it is incumbent on every worldview, theist and atheist alike, to come up with a reasonable explanation for why this is.

According to Darwinism, natural selection operates according to random mutations. Now I realize that modern naturalistic apologists like to object and say that its not random but rather directed by forces of some kind or another. But that only pushes the problem back one step (where did these forces come from and why do they bear the marks of intelligence?) and it still fails to demonstrate why men in particular have an innate desire to match for metaphysical realities like the existence of moral patterns.

My observation above is made against the backdrop of the argument for God based on consciousness (more info here and here).

I’m not sure if you ever answered my question about the mind earlier, but the question about whether we are merely a collection of molecules in motion, animated for a brief time and then transferred to some other part of the universe, has a significant bearing on how we live our lives, how we view the world, and how we interact with others.

So we have at least two good reasons to believe in the existence of an intelligent designer, who at this point we haven’t said much about. As for who that intelligent agent is, we would need something more than the general characteristics we are able to discover from their handiwork (an agent’s creation can’t, by definition, be on par with itself). We would need special revelation if we were to know who that designer is. That means that

  1. the agent would have to want to be known and
  2. that the agent desires some sort of relationship with us since communication implies a relationship of some sort

Now as for sources of revelation, not all are created equally or with the same intents and purposes in mind. Like the transmission of objective truth claims regarding reality. In Hinduism, what we observe around is us known as Maya, or merely an illusion. How we would know that to be the case is unclear. Actually, because of such a view of reality Hindus are wholly unconcerned with whether the propositional statements made by their texts actually conform with reality (ie are true) or not. After all, if its all an illusion, why bother with the particulars of such an illusion.

Likewise, the central thrust of Buddhism is towards nothingness. Its a lot like atheism in that regard. And since nothing is the universal aim of life, it makes little sense to consider the particulars.

Contrasted to all of this is monotheistic belief in a personal God where in an intelligent agent designed the universe and us, has endowed us with epistemic resources that are well suited for the environment in which we find ourselves, and who encourages us to know

  1. Him
  2. Ourselves
  3. The environment

Its out of this worldview that science emerged, and its out of this worldview we’ve made much progress by way of understanding our surroundings.

Where we begin our epistemic journey of discovery of the world around us matters. It matters whether we will even begin the journey in the first place. And it matters whether we can trust the data our epistemic resources like our mind and senses, provide us.

So, the questions for us to consider are:

  1. What is the mind?
  2. How did it come about?
  3. How do we know we can trust it?
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Death according to Buddhism

I’ve recently come across an author for American Thinker, Robin of Berkley. I absolutely love her work and story telling style. Here is an ex-script from her post titled “Tiger, the Buddha, and me”:

Here’s my favorite story about the Buddha: A grieving young mother from a poor background begged him to revive her dead son. Not only was she heartbroken, but she feared her husband’s wealthy family would punish and shun her for the child’s death.

The Buddha promised to bring the boy back to life if she returned with a mustard seed from a home where death had never visited. She thanked him profusely and set off for town.

The young mother knocked on door after door and heard heartbreaking stories of loss. Finally, she grasped the Buddha’s teaching: that sorrow is a part of life. She returned, bowed deeply to the Buddha, and asked him to help her bury her child.

It’s too bad that the mother didn’t visit Jesus’s home. While He may not have given her a mustard seed, He might have given her faith of about the same size1. That faith might have been large enough to move mountains, including the mountain of death that we all face2. She might have also realized that while the Buddha is right, death has touched every house3, he was wrong in that death is not just a natural part of life. That we should just dispassionately accept it and move on.

Death is not natural4, it is the result of evil5. Not everyone has tasted death6, and even those who have are not without hope of having their condition reversed.7

The good news is that death will one day be defeated.8. Then, those of us who have decided to stand with Jesus will say:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
-Isaiah 25:8, 1 Corinthians 15:55

  1. Matthew 17:20 []
  2. Romans 6:23 []
  3. Including God’s own house. []
  4. Genesis 2:17 []
  5. James 1:15 []
  6. Hebrews 11:5 []
  7. John 3:16 []
  8. 1 Corinthians 15:26 []
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Freedom in forms

Ellis Potter, in a talk posted by Apologetics315, made an assertion that I found to be quite helpful in explaining how Christianity is not, as Christopher Hitchens asserts; evil, totalitarian, and oppressive .

All things comport to a particular form (or several related forms) and when the form one is made to conform to is violated, bad things result. Ellis’s point does not end here, however, as this by itself would sound no different than the moral argument, which itself is solid. Coming from a Buddhist background, Ellis posits that there is “freedom in forms”.

Take gravity for instance. It’s form grants us the freedom to easily and predictably move from point A to point B and any attempts to violate the form of gravity are met with swift consequences. It is easy to focus on the negative consequences that result from attempts to violate the form of gravity. But what we ought to focus on are the freedoms we gain by understanding and honoring gravity.

With the form of gravity we are free to walk around and not float off into space. While we generally take this freedom for granted, all we need to do is look to the trouble astronauts must go through to accomplish even the most basic task in space where there is no (or very little) gravity. Without the form our bodies have been designed for even the most basic task of eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom become monumental chores that require teams of experts to find solutions for the most basic functions.

Ellis goes on to state that violation of form is not a violation of freedom. We do not consider our lack of ability to defy gravity on our own to be a violation of our freedom. We are still free to choose within the form we’ve been placed. Namely, we can choose to sit, walk, run, and jump all because we exist within the form of gravity.

And this leads me to a very import insight Ellis’s train of thought elucidates: Wanting to violate our form means we want to be God.

Wanting to operate or lay hold of choices outside your from means you wish to change your from. A desire to choose outside of moral forms is an implicit statement that we think we can run the rest of the universe. At the least we express a desire to have unlimited control over our corner of the universe, meaning we do not wish to be under any restrictions whatsoever.

And therein lies the rub of Christianity. Do we accept that we are contingent beings that exist in certain forms or do we wish to change those forms to suit our needs and then get mad when we discover that we are not the master of our universe?

I, for one, love the forms that exist. They help me “run the race with endurance marked out before us” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

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