Monday, December 26, 2011

Immanuel Kant - Quote of the week

"Criticism alone can sever the root of materialism, fatalism, atheism, free-thinking, fanaticism, and superstition, which can be injurious universally; as well as of idealism and skepticism, which are dangerous chiefly to the Schools, and hardly allow of being handed on to the public" 
-Immanuel Kant

-Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787) Preface to 2nd edition, B xxxiv

Monday, December 19, 2011

Philosophy Quote of the week

I'm starting a quote of the week. The quote of the week will be posted on Mondays. Each quote will be from an important philosopher. I will start things off with a quote from Soren Kierkegaard.

“When the world commences its drastic ordeal, when the storms of life crush youth’s exuberant expectancy, when existence, which seemed so affectionate and gentle, changes into a pitiless proprietor who demands everything back, everything that it gave in such a way that it can take it back-then the believer most likely looks at himself and his life with sadness and pain, but he still says, “There is an expectancy that the whole world cannot take from me; it is the expectancy of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived, since I did not believe that the world would keep the promise it seemed to be making to me, my expectancy was not in the world but in God.”

- Two Upbuilding Discourses (16 May 1843) in The Expectancy of Faith From Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses. p. 23-24

Theology of Christmas

With Christmas being just around the corner, I thought I would share (again) this message by John Macarthur on the Philippians 2:5-11. This is one of my favorite messages by Macarthur. If you're not interested in video or audio the transcript of the message is here.

Should Obama get credit for killing Osama bin Laden?

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints, or opinions, are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express and opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless… These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.

Should Obama get credit for killing Osama bin Laden? As we enter this election cycle, which will consume our airways for the next 10 months, I think it is a fair question. And after stating this opinion to a friend on Facebook, I realized, this is a very touchy subject!

My friend is a Progressive, and thinks that the current president has not gone far enough to the left to make him happy, but at the same time, feels that since he is president, he deserves the credit for killing bin Laden. I was kind of slammed and called unpleasant names because I think differently on the matter.

He is of the opinion that since the President is at the top, anything that is done that is good, is done by him. Of course, anything that is bad is done by the Republican Party and those 'damn Tea Baggers'.

I think the credit should be given to the members of Seal Team Six who went and actually did the job. To the C.I.A. who got the intelligence, and those who did the planning of the raid. THAT makes sense. All the President did was give the green light.

We have heard that there were no thoughts to capturing bin Laden, that it was always going to be death, so why is it that the President, Secretary of State and all the others were in the photo op, to show they were the ones who said "GO!"? But do they deserve the credit? I say NO! Not just because Obama is going to run this into the ground during an election year: how he was tough with the Islamic extremist, how he had the power of life and death in his hands, and had the cajones to pull the trigger and get the most wanted, hated, and vile man inside the United States of America (Barney Frank being the second most hated man).

I look at it this way. What would have happened if Obama had said no, don't go after him, and it had come out? He would have been a shorter termed President than he already will be. They would have started impeachment proceedings against him if he hadn't done what he did, so he gave the okay, to keep his job. When it would have been better if he was just DOING his job.

Imagine the intelligence we would have gotten if the death had been kept quiet for a few months, which of course with the loss of the helicopter would have made it very difficult, but not impossible. So, instead of taking the smart road, Obama took the expedient road, and put the crown on his head saying, "LOOK WHAT I DID! I DID THIS!" Sorry, but if he won't take responsibility as President of the United States, for the stupid and irresponsible things that he and his administration have done, almost on a daily basis, then he doesn't get to take credit for the good thing that they have done either.

He, like the rest of us, can't have it both ways.

Thus endth the lesson!

Or at least, that is how Mark C's it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sausage Grinder epistemology

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do we know what we know? What is the source of that "knowing"? Its limits? What about its structure? Well that is the purpose of epistemology, to answer questions like that. Before Immanuel Kant, there were two camps in this study of philosophy: rationalists and empiricists. Parmenides, Plato, Augustine, and Leibniz would be seen as rationalists. Heraclitus, Aristotle, Aquinas, Bacon, Locke, and Hume would be empiricists.


Above I mentioned two words that need defining: rationalists and empiricists. What is a rationalist? A rationalist claims there are significant ways we gain knowledge and concepts independently of sense experience. The key to understanding both camps in epistemology is to remember: it's all about sense experience. Your view on how important the role sense experience plays in our gaining concepts and knowledge will put in one of these camps.

So we now know rationalists claim there are other ways than through sense experience that we gain concepts and knowledge. What are those other ways? From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "First, they argue that there are cases where the content of our concepts or knowledge outstrips the information that sense experience can provide. Second, they construct accounts of how reason in some form or other provides that additional information about the world." Further, rationalists claim we have innate ideas that are "before experience." This knowledge is part of our rational nature, so it's not gained by intuition, deduction, or experience because it was there all along. Our experiences can trigger or set-off that knowledge, but experience didn't provide us with the knowledge itself. Rationalists disagree on how we gained this a-priori knowledge. Some say God stamped it on us at creation. Others say we gained it in an earlier existence, while there are those who say it was gained through natural selection.


You can probably guess empiricism is all about. Yep, it's all about sense experience. John Locke claimed that the human mind at birth is a "tabula rasa" or blank slate, which means we are born with a mind without inclinations. Empiricists argue for a posteriori knowledge, that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge. From the SEP, "Empiricists present complementary lines of thought. First, they develop accounts of how experience provides the information that rationalists cite, insofar as we have it in the first place. (Empiricists will at times opt for skepticism as an alternative to rationalism: if experience cannot provide the concepts or knowledge the rationalists cite, then we don't have them.) Second, empiricists attack the rationalists' accounts of how reason is a source of concepts or knowledge." As I said before, sense experience is "ultimate" for the empiricist, there is no other foundation for knowledge. At this point, it's important to note that empiricists do not think we have empirical knowledge, but that our only avenue for knowledge, if at all, is by experience. 

Transcendental Method 

Yes, there has been a third way and this way was achieved by Immanuel Kant with his transcendental method of knowledge. Kant more or less took the best of both camps (rationalist and empiricist) to establish his method. Sense experience was the starting point for Kant. He disagreed with the rationalists' innate ideas, such as Descartes, but he distinguished between "prior to experience" knowledge and innate ideas with mental categories; a two-step approach if you will. For fear of over-simplifying I will give a link to Kant's method. We have mental categories of things that Kant would call "appearances" and then we have "things in themselves," i.e. things that are absolutely real. 

Kant's words: 
"T]he objective validity of the categories, as a priori concepts, rests on the fact that through them alone is experience possible (as far as the form of thinking is concerned). For they then are related necessarily and a priori to objects of experience, since only by means of them can any object of experience be thought at all. 

The transcendental deduction of all a priori concepts therefore has a principle toward which the entire investigation must be directed, namely this: that they must be recognized as a priori conditions of the possibility of experiences (whether of the intuition that is encountered in them, or of the thinking). Concepts that supply the objective ground of the possibility of experience are necessary just for that reason." 

You can think of Kant's method as a sausage grinder: sensations going into mental categories. What comes out of the sausage grinder? Knowledge. Kant argues that the categories are necessary for experience; without the mental categories we would have no way to experience anything. Do you think Kant's philosophy helped epistemology by finding a bridge between the camps? Or do you think he even made a bridge? One thing is certain: his method changed philosophy, so much so that philosophers to this day have various interpretations of the transcendental method, disagreeing over this aspect and that aspect. One could say this method created a crisis in philosophy and not just a change.

Kant's method is heavy reading to be sure, but it's also enjoyable (if you like philosophy that is) even though the method's complexity is high on the complex scale.

I highly recommend reading the links underneath "further reading" if you're interested in epistemology. 

Transcendental method (SEP) here is the method in Wikipedia

Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason

As always, a fair amount of resources can be found here at Apologetics 315. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Philosophy links

Like philosophy? Do you like free stuff instead of purchasing books? My answer to both questions is "Yes! Yes I do!" Here are some links to free philosophy resources I use. *I only like to recommend things I've used. If there are resources related to this you've found useful, then let me know in the comments section* I'll be adding to this list occasionally too.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
This is the site I use the most online to learn about philosophers and their work.

Reasonable Faith (Free, painless registration is required to get all the free resources)

Does Calvinism produce a God who is a moral monster?

Michael Horton asks and answers the question, "Does calvinism make God a moral monster?" His article was probably wrote to give a sneak peek of his new book "For Calvinism" which is one of two books on the debate for and against Calvinism; the author of "against calvinism" is Roger Olson. Horton sets up the article saying that Calvinism and Arminianism have to answer the question "Is God a moral monster?" He writes that both camps have to answer such questions such as: "If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to transgress his law, why didn’t he change the circumstances so that they would have made a different choice? and Why would God create people he knew would be condemned for their original and actual sin? Both camps have a view of predestination, so neither camp is free from the challenge or weaker than the other. Horton writes, "...the only difference is whether it is determined without purpose or with purpose." That is the main issue. 

I haven't read Olson's book, but I take Horton's word when he wrote the following:

"Roger Olson states his own view: “God is sovereign in the sense that nothing at all can ever happen that God does not allow” (100). So, if the fall happened, then God allowed it. The fall “was not a part of [God's] will except to reluctantly allow it” (99). OK, but then the fall was in some sense a part of God’s will. Calvinists acknowledge that it was not part of God’s revealed (or moral) will, but that he willingly permitted it as part of his plan. Yet Roger is looking for something in between: God “permits” it, but it is not a “willing permission” (64). Aside from the fact that any act of God in permitting something is already an act of will—a choice, my main point here is that Roger’s weaker claim is still strong enough to get him into the same hot water with the rest of us. Roger agrees that God knows everything that will happen. God even supervises everything that will happen. Nothing escapes his oversight. “I believe, as the Bible teaches and all Christians should believe, that nothing at all can happen without God’s permission” (71). 

And yet, Roger rejects R. C. Sproul’s statement, “What God permits, he decrees to permit” (78). Now, what could be more obvious than the fact that when someone with the authority to do otherwise permits something contrary to his revealed will, he is deciding, choosing, decreeing to allow it? Here again, Roger’s notion of a presumably unwilling permission is an oxymoron. To permit something is to make a positive determination, even if it in no way makes the one permitting it responsible for the action. So what is the substantive difference between saying, with Roger, that “nothing at all can ever happen that God does not allow,” and with R. C. Sproul, “What God permits, he decrees to permit”?" 

I think Roger's view is weak and gets him into the same trouble as the Calvinist, albeit, a different route of course. Granted, I haven't read Olson's book, but I am confused with his statement that "nothing can ever happen that God does not allow," and his disagreeing with Sproul on God decreeing to permit certain things to happen. He also notes that there are fringes Calvinism called hyper-Calvinism that teach God is the author of sin, i.e., God creates fresh evil in the hearts of man and directly causes man to sin, which is not only against scripture, but also against the teachings of reformed theology. God does not create fresh evil in man, nor does he directly cause our sinful or un-sinful actions. Horton finishes his article with the next three paragraphs. 

" The real difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is whether God has a purpose when he allows sin and suffering. Again, both views affirm that nothing happens apart from God’s permission. However, Calvinism teaches that God never allows any evil that he has not already determined to work together for our good (Rom 8:28). Nothing that he allows can terminate in evil. What would we say of a deity who “reluctantly permitted” a terrible disaster or moral tragedy, without a determination to overcome that evil with good? But that takes a plan and that plan must necessarily comprehend the evil that he is to conquer. 

Any view that makes God the author of sin does indeed turn the object of our worship into a moral monster. However, any deity who merely stands around reluctantly permitting horrible things for which he has no greater purpose in view, is equally reprehensible. In the one, God is sovereign but not good; in the latter, God is neither. Once you acknowledge that God foreknows a sinful act and chooses to allow it (however reluctantly) when he could have chosen not to, the only consolation is that God never would have allowed it unless he had already determined why he would permit it and how he has decided to overcome it for his glory and our good. Mercifully, Scripture does reveal that God does exactly that. Roger agrees that God “chose to allow” suffering and sin (72). The Calvinist says that God chose to allow them for a reason. It’s permitting rather than creating, but it’s permission with a purpose. Permission without purpose makes God a “moral monster” indeed. 

Reformed theology has maintained consistently that Scripture teaches God’s exhaustive sovereignty and human responsibility. God does not cause evil. In fact, God does not force anyone to do anything against his or her will. And yet, nothing lies outside of the wise, loving, good, and just plan “of him who works all things after the council of his own will” (Eph 1:11). That God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are true, no serious student of Scripture can deny. How they can be true is beyond our capacity to understand. As Calvin put the matter, following Luther, any attempt to unravel the mystery of predestination and human responsibility beyond Scripture is a “seeking outside the way.” “Better to limp along this path,” says Calvin, “than to rush with all speed outside of it.” 

You can read Horton's full article here.

Related posts

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thinking about the resurrection

If Jesus of Nazareth was not bodily raised from the dead, then Christianity would be "dead." Paul of Tarsus wrote to the Corinthians "...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless," and "...we should be pitied more than anyone." Strong conclusions huh? If Jesus Christ has not been raised, then Christianity is not worth living, much less thinking about. True, the arguments for God are not thrown out the window, but as far as I know, one could not argue for *Christian* theism without the resurrection of Jesus.

Theologian R.C. Sproul wrote,

"The claim of resurrection is vital to Christianity. If Christ has been raised from the dead by God, then He has the credentials and certification that no other religious leader possesses. Buddha is dead. Mohammad is dead. Moses is dead. Confucius is dead. But, according to Christianity, Christ is alive."

We understand how important the doctrine of the resurrection is. How do we know it happened? Can we know? Given the evidence we have I think we can. Generally, apologists use the "minimal facts" approach to the argument for the resurrection of Jesus,  which are the following:  the empty tomb, the appearances and the early belief in the resurrection. Given my rookie status as a defender for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth by God, I'm going to take a different approach, one I am most comfortable arguing for and that is: given the data we have, the best explanation for the appearances of Jesus is that it was Jesus Himself that appeared to the disciples, the women, and the 500. What are some of the other explanations for the appearances?  The most popular one is the hallucination hypothesis; this is the conclusion I want to make you think about.

 What is a hallucination? Hallucinations are like dreams, they're subjective. I can't see your dreams nor can you see mine, they happen in the mind. There's no objective reality outside the mind that more than one person could see. And since the appearances of Jesus happened in groups, it could not have been a hallucination. Historians agree on the appearances being seen by groups. In chapter 8 of the Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli gave thirteen arguments against the hallucination theory:

"(1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fisherman on the shore, to James (his "brother" or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8). Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish. And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses -- he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.

(2) The witnesses were qualified. They were simple, honest, moral people who had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

(3) The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place. This is even more remarkable than five hundred private "hallucinations" at different times and places of the same Jesus. Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter. (The only other dead person we know of who is reported to have appeared to hundreds of qualified and skeptical eyewitnesses at once is Mary the mother of Jesus [at Fatima, to 70,000]. And that was not a claim of physical resurrection but of a vision.)

(4) Hallucinations usually last a few seconds or minutes; rarely hours. This one hung around for forty days (Acts 1:3).

(5) Hallucinations usually happen only once, except to the insane. This one returned many times, to ordinary people (Jn 20:19-21:14; Acts 1:3).

(6) Hallucinations come from within, from what we already know, at least unconsciously. This one said and did surprising and unexpected things (Acts 1:4,9) -- like a real person and unlike a dream.

(7) Not only did the disciples not expect this, they didn't even believe it at first -- neither Peter, nor the women, nor Thomas, nor the eleven. They thought he was a ghost; he had to eat something to prove he was not (Lk 24:36-43).

(8) Hallucinations do not eat. The resurrected Christ did, on at least two occasions (Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:1-14).

(9) The disciples touched him (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27).

(10) They also spoke with him, and he spoke back. Figments of your imagination do not hold profound, extended conversations with you, unless you have the kind of mental disorder that isolates you. But this "hallucination" conversed with at least eleven people at once, for forty days (Acts 1:3).

(11) The apostles could not have believed in the "hallucination" if Jesus' corpse had still been in the tomb. This is very simple and telling point; for if it was a hallucination, where was the corpse? They would have checked for it; if it was there, they could not have believed.

(12) If the apostles had hallucinated and then spread their hallucinogenic story, the Jews would have stopped it by producing the body -- unless the disciples had stolen it, in which case we are back with the conspiracy theory and all its difficulties.

(13) A hallucination would explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it would not explain the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the inability to produce the corpse. No theory can explain all these data except a real resurrection. C.S. Lewis says,

"Any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention [rather than fact], it is the oddest invention that ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus (Lk 24:13-31; Jn 20:15; 21:4). Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that he would get the face of the hallucination right? Is he who made all faces such a bungler that he cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was himself?" (Miracles, chapter 16)
I find the above 13 arguments to be satisfactory defeaters (all or some, take your pick) for the hallucination theory. I don't intend to reiterate what has been said in the arguments, but I will go over some thoughts that have come to mind from reading other work on the hallucination theory. Historian N.T. Wright makes a good point: if people were individually claiming to see the risen Jesus, it's inexplicable that these appearances seem to have suddenly stopped. If people were going about claiming to have seen Jesus just to be trendy and fit in (like owning an iPad), we shouldn't expect those claims to all of a sudden stop. People would have been doing just that.

What about the group appearances?  Do the group appearances undermine the hallucination theory? I don't think so. Groups of people claim to see the mother mary in re-fried beans right? If you and I were looking at clouds and I say, "Hey, see that dinosaur?" You might would say, "Nope. Oh, wait a minute, yeah I do."  Remember this answer though in argument (3) "
Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter. (The only other dead person we know of who is reported to have appeared to hundreds of qualified and skeptical eyewitnesses at once is Mary the mother of Jesus [at Fatima, to 70,000]. And that was not a claim of physical resurrection but of a vision.)" I think the numbers are important in this argument against the hallucination theory. If just a few people were witnesses to this resurrection, then the hallucination rebuttal would be weighty and effective, but given the data we have, I don't find it to be weighty and effective.

Maybe the apostles saw something or somebody who resembled Jesus, and they believed it was him. The problem with this reasoning is that the apostles weren't expecting to see Jesus. One reason, as Bill Craig often points out, is that Jews who believed in resurrection all seemed to think of resurrection as an eschatological event. It was something that happened on the last day, not in the middle of history. And the resurrection was supposed to be general, not individual.

To wrap up, I'll borrow from an illustration I heard listening to a podcast: Think of somebody you know to have died, like a relative or something. Maybe your parents. What would you honestly think if you saw that person standing right in front of you right now? It seems like you'd have a few options: you're dreaming. you're hallucinating, you're seeing a ghost, the person never died to begin with, the person has risen from the dead. Honestly, I would probably think I saw a ghost, which is what the apostles first thought. They only believed after touching the scars and such. I don't buy the hallucination theory. If we only had the appearance to Paul, which was more like a vision, then I probably would. 

I must give credit where credit is due. I learned a lot about the rebuttal to the hallucination theory from a discussion between Greg Koukl and Sam Harper on the radio show, "Stand to Reason." Harper's printed work can be found here. Is the evidence for the resurrection perfect? No, but given the data we have, I'm convinced that God raised Jesus from the dead. 

Check out how the arguments for the bodily resurrection of Jesus play out in debates. The one below is a debate between William Lane Craig and Jame Crossley.  

If you don't like watching video you can listen to audio by downloading the mp3 file from Apologetics 315 here

You can also find more debates and lectures on the resurrection here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trusting in God's sovereignty

I was thinking on God's sovereignty today, remembered Macarthur's answer to a question about trusting God, then remembered how I felt once I understood God is sovereign. Macarthur was asked the following 

"HARDY: Some raise that with the whole concept of trust; that affirming this doctrine and growing in your understanding of it actually builds and increases your trust in God instead of trusting --

MACARTHUR: The greatest thing that a believer can do above and beyond everything is worship. That is the highest responsibility. The sovereignty of God is the single most glorious reality about God. Even His grace would lose its luster if He weren't really in control of it. His mercy would be diminished. It is His sovereignty that over-arches everything. And, you know, when I worship the Lord just as a way of life, it doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter if I'm well or sick; it doesn't matter if I live or die; it doesn't matter if things go well or don't go well. It just never interrupts my confidence in the sovereignty of God. So, you know, I think that's the key to my -- to just living life on the same high level of joy, come whatever comes, because you know that this is all fitting into His perfect plan.

I remember -- this is a good illustration. I remember a few years ago we had some people come here from another church. And, of course, that's not uncommon. But they came from a church where their families were in leadership in the church, pastoral leadership. And so coming here was a big thing. And they came from a charismatic church. And they came here, if I understand the story right, they came here one time when I preached on the sovereignty of God. And they never went back. And what they said to me was we've lived our whole life under the sovereignty of Satan. This is absolutely transforming. Satan makes you sick; Satan messes with your babies; check the kids at night, 3 o'clock in the morning Satan might kill your baby with SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome; pray Satan out of your bedroom, bathroom, dining room, Satan's liable to do -- I mean, you know, Satan made the planes crash into the Towers, Satan does -- everything's -- and poor God, you know, is -- (Pastor indicates by wringing His hands.) And this caused paroxysms of fear, heart palpitation, panic attacks; really unbelievable kind of things.

I mean who could possibly worship God in that kind of environment? Then you get the people together, and you whip them into some kind of emotional frenzy; call it worship. But down underneath it is a theology that literally makes it impossible to worship God, because God's not in charge. The opposite of that, of course, is to understand that everything works within the framework of God's purpose and will. And no matter what happens, you know, even the worst of things, are intended for your good and His ultimate glory."

I also remembered what R.C. Sproul wrote, "Our problem is this: We do not yet possess the full light of the remote. We are still looking in a dark mirror. We are not utterly devoid of light, though. We have enough light to know that God has a good purpose even when we are ignorant of that good purpose.

It is the good purpose of God that gives the final answer to the appearance of vanity and futility in this world. To trust in the good purpose of God is the very essence of godly faith. This is why no Christian can be an ultimate pessimist.

The world in which we live is not a world of chance. Its beginning was not an accident, its operation is not an accident, and its telos, or goal, is not an accident. This is my Father’s world and He rules it without caprice. As long as God exists, vanity is a manifest impossibility."

Given the sovereignty of God, you might wonder the same thing a questioner asked William Lane Craig recently. He wrote, "Your Middle Knowledge response, as far as I can ascertain, is that God knew before he created these people that they would reject the Gospel, so he put them in second century Tibet where it didn't matter anyway. No harm, no foul." Now, Craig gives a long answer (one worth checking out), but I will only post an excerpt:

"1. God is all-powerful and all-loving.
2. Some people never hear the Gospel and are lost.
The Free Will Defense attempts to show that the religious pluralist has not been able to prove a logical incompatibility between (1) and (2) and, moreover, that we can show (1) and (2) to be compatible by adding a third statement which is compatible with (1) and entails (2), to wit,
3. God has created a world having an optimal balance between saved and lost, and those who never hear the Gospel and are lost would not have believed it even if they had heard it.
Now your objection, Steve, is only to the second part of the Free Will Defense. You don’t think that (3) is possible or plausible.


But now you raise a quite different objection aimed specifically at (3). “Before God sticks Fred in second century Tibet wouldn't He have to ascertain that Fred would freely reject the Gospel in all circumstances, not just some of them?” Well, He wouldn’t have to, but that’s my hypothesis. Clearly, God could place a person anywhere He wants in human history, regardless of how that person might freely behave in different circumstances. But my suggestion is that God, being so merciful and not wanting anyone to be damned, so providentially orders the world that anyone who would embrace the Gospel if he were to hear it will not be placed in circumstances in which he fails to hear it and is lost. Only in the case of someone who would be saved through his response to general revelation would a person who would freely respond to special revelation, if he heard it, find himself in circumstances where he doesn’t hear it.

I’m mystified that you find this suggestion “intuitively unattractive.” On the contrary, I think it magnifies the goodness and abundant graciousness of God, that He would prevent anyone’s being lost though the accidents of history and geography. God is so good that He won’t allow anyone to be lost if that person would under any circumstances respond to the Gospel and be saved. 

In any case, you then go to your plausibility objections. These are just irrelevant, as explained above. So long as (3) is even possibly true, which you seem to concede, it shows that (1) and (2) are logically compatible, Q.E.D.

But I can’t resist saying something about the plausibility of (3). Why isn’t (3) plausible? You suggest that God would have to vet all the options in order to actualize such a world. That’s not really true, but is in any case no problem because the doctrine of middle knowledge entails that God knows which of all the possible worlds known to Him via His natural knowledge are feasible for Him to actualize. All feasible worlds are given to Him by His middle knowledge, so sovereignly picking one is just no problem. 

You suggest, more plausibly, I think, that that there are no persons whom God could have created who would under all circumstances reject His grace for salvation. Maybe you’re right; but how can you know? I just don’t think we’re in a position to make those kinds of judgements. You talk about the insanity of unbelief; and yet such persons are all around us, people who have heard the Gospel again and again, who have the Bible, who have read apologetics material, and yet who refuse to believe. In fact, I’ve had unbelievers say to me on more than one occasion, “Even if I knew that Christianity is true, I still wouldn’t bend the knee!” (Remember we're talking only of freedom-permitting circumstances here.) 

How do you know that God couldn’t put together a world in which the unreached are people who wouldn’t bend the knee under any circumstances? In fact, this hypothesis has real implications for other issues like the wider problem of evil. For example, maybe only in a world involving scads of natural and moral evil could God arrange the sort of world we’re envisioning. Maybe His desire to achieve an optimal balance between saved and lost overrides the benefits of a world with less natural and moral evil. It may well be that getting the right counterfactuals of creaturely freedom in place to achieve (3) involves putting up with a lot of otherwise gratuitous evil. 

Now you ask, why create “Fred” in the first place? Here’s the real nub of the issue, I think, and why you find my hypothesis unattractive. You think God could have just left Fred out. But that’s not true, if my hypothesis is correct! There may be no world feasible for God involving universal, freely embraced salvation which comes without other overriding disadvantages. Sure, God could have refrained from creating Fred (or both Fred and Sophie), but then the resulting world might have been even worse or at least no better. The hypothesis is that God has done the very best He can, given the true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him. 

Your claim that “there are an infinite number of beings God can create who would freely accept the Gospel without somebody else rejecting it” is guilty of the same error you alleged earlier, namely, speaking without a context. Suppose that for any possible person there may be circumstances under which he would be freely saved without someone’s being lost; it doesn’t follow that there is a feasible world in which every person would be freely saved without someone’s being lost. For the relevant circumstances may not be compossible. Your pun on Sophie’s Choice (a choice between two bad options) reveals that you haven’t yet grasped the theory of middle knowledge, for God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt.
So I’m a good deal less confident than you are about our ability to pronounce on what worlds are feasible for God. Therefore, I’m not inclined to regard (3) as implausible. In any case, we both agree that it is possible, and that suffices for the purposes of the Free Will Defense." 

Being finite creatures, our scope is limited, we don't have the full light of the remote as Sproul said so we can't know perfectly things like "Why did God create Fred knowing Fred wouldn't be saved?" Notice I said we can't know perfectly things like that, but we can have some grasp on such things. I think Craig gives a good answer to such a hard question. Some Christians do think unbelief is insanity, however there are those who don't. Like Craig, I've heard answers that echo "Well, even I knew for certain Christian theism is true, I still wouldn't bow my knee to such a God." Others wouldn't. Some don't think the evidence for Christian theism is hard enough and consequently don't put their faith in God; these people have said they would believe if there was just harder evidence. The list goes on for reasons why people are Christian theists.

The probability of a world existing of free moral creatures and all of them freely embracing salvation is zero I think. To be truly free, creatures need moral freedom and moral freedom entails at least the possibility of evil in the world. God wanted to accomplish plenitude - the highest good possible; the best of all possible worlds requires moral freedom, which also brings the possibility of evil.

The sovereignty of God is a challenging, yet comforting doctrine. It's challenging due to the raising of questions like "Why did God create person X, knowing he or she wouldn't put faith in Him?" and the other, "Why did God allow this to happen to me or them?" They are hard questions, but they aren't without good answers. The doctrine is comforting in that I know God has a good purpose even when I am ignorant of what that purpose is at the time. Honestly, I am going through some junk right now in my life personally and outside my experience, i.e. my family is going through some junk too. If God was "up there" ringing his hands, trying to keep everything together for everyone then I would wonder just powerful He really is. Would he not be like the mythological gods? I think so. I'm not sure how worthy of worship a god like that would be. Is God's sovereignty a crutch? Not at all. Though it's comforting at times, other times I am upset and quite mad at the lot in my life at that time. I'm human after all. At the end of the day though, I agree with a statement made by William Lane Craig, "...even though the problem of evil is the greatest objection to the existence of God,...God is the only solution to the problem of evil.  If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of evil." 

Check out the multiple resources on the problem of evil here at Apologetics315

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unicorn argument revisited

Due to the increase in traffic for the post, "The unicorn argument," I decided to repost it with additional links and text. Enjoy! 

I'm so glad Brian Auten (Apologetics 315) shared the link to "Atheists and Unicorns: Emotional Appeal," by J.W. Wartick because I think all theists grow tired of the "you can simply use the word unicorn instead of God for that argument" argument. I've read a lot of atheist comments using the unicorn argument. I'm not trying to be a jerk when I say this, but it seems it is used only when the skeptic/atheist is out of ammo. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Anyway, here is an excerpt from the blog post:

"You may have heard it before. “I’m an a-unicornist, just like I’m an atheist.” “I don’t believe in unicorns, nor do I believe in God.” “There’s as much evidence for unicorns as for God.”

What are these statements supposed to show?

Whether intended or not, these kinds of statements are simply emotional appeals. The atheist is attempting to psychologically discredit Christianity without ever engaging any kind of logical reasoning."

I agree. He then goes on to write:

"But what about another common use of the unicorn within atheism? Namely “I can’t prove there is no God, just like I can’t prove there are no unicorns.”

While this initially seems plausible, it only remains plausible if one assumes positivism. We can actually prove there is no God. If the Christian’s account of God was found to be incoherent, then God would not exist. It would, in fact, be impossible for God to exist were his nature contradictory.

So even in this use of the phrase we find that the atheist is committed to a dogmatic assumption of positivism. By assuming that God can only be disproven by empirical evidence, they uncritically advance a philosophical enterprise which has largely been abandoned within modern philosophy.

A word of advice: focus on the arguments at hand, not pejorative language."

Positivism has been abandoned with modern philosophy. For example, positivism fails to prove there are not abstract ideas, principles, and laws beyond our sense perception or that we can even know of them. There are also other, better developed, refutations of positivism; one by William Lane Craig can be found here.

Be sure to read the full article by Wartick by clicking here


Newer post by J.W. Wartick. The post covers a debate he had with Cathy Cooper over this topic. Click here to read it.  

The following excerpt is from a post by Rich Deem discussing the invisible pink unicorn, flying spaghetti monster, and santa clause. 

"Can we determine the existence/non-existence of invisible pink unicorns? Actually, the answer is "yes." Unicorns would be pink if they reflected pink electromagnetic radiation (i.e., light). However, in order to be invisible, the unicorns would reflect no electromagnetic radiation. Therefore, the term "invisible pink unicorn" is self contradictory. Therefore, we know absolutely that they could not exist. I don't know who invented the term "invisible pink unicorns," but they were obviously deficient in their physics education." 

I were going to write-up a post on the "invisible pink unicorn" myself, I would have taken the approach by Deem. The invisible pink unicorn is self-contradictory and I don't think anyone under a western worldview would buy the concept. What about if we drop the pink part though? Deem writes, 

"Technically, it would be very unlikely that any organism would be invisible. The only reasonable chemical basis for living organisms in this universe is carbon-based life. This would ensure that unicorns would always be visible. Although possible that unicorns might be invisible due to being made of anti-matter, such existence would be problematic, since their interaction with ordinary matter would result in their immediate and spectacular destruction. Could unicorns be made of exotic matter? While possible, there is no evidence from physics that any creatures could be made of exotic matter. At present, it is possible to detect exotic matter only indirectly through particle physics and through its ability to bend light (only detectable through gravitational lensing of distant galaxies). At this point, we would be unable to detect a unicorn made of exotic matter. So, although we can be fairly certain that invisible unicorns do not exist in the universe, we could not take the strong aunicornist stance."

The flying spaghetti monster, to be fair, is nothing more than humorous rhetoric and not worth any more time in refuting it than to say that there is no way spaghetti and meatballs could be a self-existing, necessary being. 

Deem also takes on the santa clause argument. 

"According to tradition, Santa Claus is a man who lives at the North Pole on planet earth. Explorers and satellite images have failed to detect the dwelling place of Santa Claus, so we can be fairly certain that he does not exist. Since the polar ice cap is likely to melt within the next 100 years, we will have further evidence that nobody actually lives at the North Pole." 

We can see that pink unicorns, spaghetti and meatballs, and santa clause are all dependent upon the existence of the universe. God is not dependent on the universe or confined by time. The above objections can be nothing more than rhetoric if one is going to use them. They're not serious objections given by serious atheist/agnostic thinkers (no offense, but that is the case). 

Read the entire post by Rich Deem. Click here.

*sumo santa is a character in the game: Clayfighter
*The unicorn image can be found here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Looking back on Pascal's wager

 I've been listening to an overview of philosophy during my commutes to and from work. Yesterday, the professor lectured on Blaise Pascal, who was a 17th century mathematician and philosopher. In the world of philosophy he is best known for his "wager," which is in the Pensees writings that were published after his death. 

I have to admit, when I first read Pascal's wager, I wasn't that impressed. Did it make sense to me? Yeah it did, but it didn't convince me or even move me to be a Christian theist. The first time I heard it was in church by a preacher when I was a teen during the altar call session of the night. The music was playing lightly while the preacher gave his version of the wager. He seemed like a host of a game called "You bet your life!" and I just wasn't impressed. The preacher gave the presentation nicely. I understood the argument that if God does exist I should live as if He exists so as not to face cosmic justice in the afterlife; if He doesn't exist, what did I lose? I lived a good moral life instead of a life of indulgence, so what did I lose? What I lost was a life of indulgence! I could have done whatever I wanted without regret. I could have been selfish! Now, I must confess, when I was a practical atheist I lived a straight-edge lifestyle (I abstained from drugs, alcohol, and sex outside of a monogamous, loving relationship) so I most likely lived better than some Christians did around me (according to the stats I read at that time, Christian teens were just as sexually active as and partied like the "heathen"). I mentioned that because I didn't want to live a life of indulgence. I knew then and know now that such a life is a wasted life. However, Pascal's wager falls because some want to live that way (I would argue that many want to, but let's just be conservative for argument's sake). Some want to "live for the moment." Like some person once said, "party today because tomorrow we die!" Some people like that lifestyle and find Pascal's wager lacking. I understand their point. 

What caused me to think differently about Pascal's wager was in the lecture I heard yesterday. Pensees was published after the death of Pascal, so his work was incomplete. The professor said Pensees was Pascal's reflections or thoughts on life and not meant to be taken as arguments for the existence of God. I assume Pensees was more of an existential work then an apologetic work then, which actually changed my view of Pascal's wager. I was under the impression that his work was meant to be an argument to move the atheist to theism, which is the reason I found the wager lacking and didn't have respect for it. 

The argument is best used for those in the middle I think. Like commenter Bossmanham said on this post: "I think, however, that since he was dealing with a population that primarily was Christian, he was basically trying to get them to stop being so apathetic. In that sense, there may be some worth to it. For instance, I've seen some philosophers who are kind of agnostic, but say that if there is a true religion, Christianity would be it. I think Anthony Flew was in that camp. Perhaps there's some value in it for them?" 

I think the wager is best used for those who find themselves to be agnostic and sympathetic toward Christian theism. That is where Pascal's wager has weight. The wager probably is best for those to, who doubt God's existence emotionally instead of intellectually. If Bob has no problem with the basic arguments for Christian theism (the cosmological argument to the resurrection of Jesus), but instead doubts emotionally, i.e. he continues to "what if..." himself, then Pascal's wager could alleviate the emotional doubt. 

Knowing now that Pascal was not trying to convince atheists to be theists, I now respect the wager. I still think it is a bad argument for theism and that no one should use it in an attempt to convince someone to theism. Instead, I think the wager would be best used in conversation with those who are agnostic, but sympathetic toward theism and for those who are emotional doubters.

More information on Blaise Pascal click here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The goal of Christian living

R.C. Sproul's teaching series Pleasing God is available to watch online for free at Ligonier's website.

Here is the first lecture in the series on the goal of Christian living.

Watch the rest of the series, click here

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What about a talking snake and donkey?

This question is usually projected to make the bible and theism in general look stupid, but you know when actually thought-over, the question is stupid. I know I say, "There aren't stupid questions, just stupid answers," but this question is foolish. Think about it. If one, like myself, is convinced that God exists, given the arguments, and then convinced that God raised Jesus from the dead given the arguments, then wouldn't a talking snake and donkey be probable? Couldn't God use those animals to make His points? Once God is realized, then miracles aren't thrown out the window. Now, if I had zero evidence for God and the resurrection, then yeah, it would be ludicrous for me to believe that a snake and donkey talked at some point in history; I completely understand that line of thinking. However, there is good evidence for God and also good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

The question must be asked and looked at in light of the whole scope of evidence for Christianity and when it is, one can understand the question is rather weak and does no harm at all to Christianity. I don't mean to insult the questioners because they are told the question is glorious and super-duper awesome defeater to throw at Christians. Well, it's actually not strong at all given the evidence we have for Christian theism.

I tried to keep the post short, but a friend of mine suggested I should list the basic arguments for Christianity; I thought it was good advice. I'm going to give quick summaries of the arguments for Christian theism; keep in mind, these are quick shots of much fuller arguments, so if you want to explore the arguments further click on the links I gave above and below.

1. The Cosmological Argument from Contingency
The cosmological argument comes in a variety of forms. Here’s a simple version of the famous version from contingency:
  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4)

2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument based on the beginning of the universe

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
3. The moral argument based on moral values and duties
  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.
 4. The teleological argument from fine-tuning
  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

5. The ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to His actuality

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

 For a more thorough explanation of each argument, I recommend clicking here. Dr. Craig explains each argument, then gives a refutation from Dawkins, and then refutes the objection made by Dawkins. 

Arguments for the resurrection of Jesus

-the burial narrative
-the empty tomb
-the appearances
-the early belief in a bodily resurrection.

How do we explain those facts? Wintery Knight gives a rundown of the possible explanations and his critique.

1) Jesus wasn’t really dead
- crucifixion is lethal and you can’t fake being dead
- this doesn’t explain the early belief in the resurrection, since
a half-dead Jesus would not inspire a belief in the resurrection

2) Jesus’ disciples moved the body and lied about it
- it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.
- it doesn’t explain why the early church was willing to be persecuted

3) The Jews moved the body and lied about it
- they had no interest in helping a rival sect
- it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.

4) The Romans moved the body and lied about it
- they had no interest in helping a trouble-making sect
- it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.

5) Somebody else moved the body
- it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.
- there is no evidence to support the claim

6) The early church hallucinated the appearances
- group hallucinations are impossible
- it doesn’t explain the empty tomb
- it doesn’t explain the theological mutations about “resurrection”, since seeing a ghost does not imply a bodily resurrection

To learn more about the argument for the resurrection of Jesus click here.

Commenter Mike brought to my attention the Presuppositional arguments! I forgot about that avenue of apologetics.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

" transcendental argument...attempts to prove that the Christian God is the precondition of all human knowledge and experience, by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary; in other words, that logic, reason, or morality cannot exist without God. The argument proceeds as follows:[2]
  1. If there is no god, knowledge is not possible.
  2. Knowledge is possible (or some other statement pertaining to logic or morality).
  3. Therefore God exists.
Cornelius Van Til likewise wrote:

We must point out that [non-theistic] reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well... It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions.
—(A Survey of Christian Epistemology [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969], p. 204)"

An overview of Van Til here.

Explore presuppositional apologetics by clicking here.

Keep in mind, I just gave the basic arguments without explaining the premises. I highly recommend checking out the links I've posted throughout this post. 

Arguments for the existence of God: debate audio, lecture audio, and book reviews click here

Arguments for the resurrection of Jesus: debate audio, lecture audio, and book reviews click here.

*Image take from this website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Dawkins won't debate Craig

I read Richard Dawkins' article today on why he won't debate William Lane Craig and I still find his answer(s) unsatisfactory. Should he change his answer to meet my need for a satisfactory answer? Not at all. Why does he not debate Craig? He refuses to debate Craig because, "The Christian philosopher is an apologist for genocide." After insulting Craig and bringing up the supposed genocide of the Canaanites he then says, "Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn't, and I won't. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty." 

The article is much longer than that, but I only pasted Dawkins' answer for not debating Craig. So it seems he won't debate Craig because Craig doesn't shy away from giving an answer to the "genocide" account in the bible. I might be wrong, but wouldn't the debate be on the existence of God? How does arguing for or against the existence of God have anything at all to do with the account in Deuteronomy? I think Dawkins' answer is lousy. I know he has arguments against the existence of God so he should use them in a debate against Craig to show why his arguments dismantle Craig's arguments for the existence of God. His answer of Craig being an apologist for genocide is ridiculous. 

Come on Dawkins! You're better than that....aren't you?  

I think Paul Copan has a much better answer to the Canaanite problem in Deuteronomy. 

"We should carefully note the language of "driving out" and "thrusting out" the Canaanites (Exod. 23:28; Lev. 18:24; Num. 33:52: Deut. 6:19; 7:1; 9:4; 18:12; Josh. 10:28, 30, 32, 35, 37, 39; 11:11, 14) or "dispossessing" them of their land (Num. 21:32). "Driving out" is not at all the same as the "wiping out" or "destroying" passages found in these same contexts. Upon examination, the former references are three times as numerous as the latter.[52]  When a foreign army might pose a threat in the ANE, women and children would be the first to remove themselves from harm's way?not to mention the population at large: "When a city is in danger of falling," observes Goldingay, "people do not simply wait there to be killed; they get out. . . . Only people who do not get out, such as the city's defenders, get killed."[53]  Jeremiah 4:29 suggests this:

At the sound of the horseman and bowman every city flees; They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is forsaken, and no man dwells in them.

Hess draws the following conclusions: "There is no indication in the text of any specific noncombatants who were put to death." Indeed, the "justified wars" of Joshua "were against combatants."[54]  We read in Joshua (and Judges) that, despite the "obliteration" language, there are plenty of Canaanite inhabitants who are not "driven out" but rather are living in the areas where Israel has settled. Joshua himself refers to "these [nations] which remain among you" (Josh. 23:12?13; cp. Josh. 15:63; 16:10; 17:13; Judg. 2:10?13). The process of driving them out would be a gradual one, as even Deuteronomy 7:22 anticipates and is reaffirmed in Judges 2:20?23.[55]  

Israel's occupation of Canaan involved not simply military activity, but also infiltration and internal struggle.[56]  In my previous article, I note that the text of Deuteronomy 7:2?5, Joshua, and Judges suggests that we have the language of (i) obliteration as well as (ii) acknowledgment of Canaanites as future neighbors. Goldingay comments that Israel knew how to read Torah: "It knew it was not to assume a literalistic understanding" of destroying the Canaanites. That is, Moses did not mean for this to be taken literally. Rather, as Goldingay notes, "Israel was to dispossess the Canaanites and destroy their forms of religion and have nothing to do with them." That is, Israel took this "totally destroy" command metaphorically or hyperbolically?which reflected the ANE language of bravado and exaggeration in warfare.[57] 

To summarize, we should distinguish between two central aspects of the Canaanite question. On the one hand, herem includes stereotypical language of "all" and "young and old" and "man and woman"?even if women and children are not present. So far as we can see, herem is carried out in particular military/combatant settings (with "cities" and "kings"); this specific combatant scenario could well apply in the Amalekite case (1 Sam. 15). In these limited settings, herem is thoroughly carried out (involving even livestock [for example, 1 Sam. 15:9, 14])?though it allows, and hopes for, exceptions (for example, Rahab). The sweeping language which appears to involve only combatants is truly all-inclusive here. On the other hand, evident in Deuteronomy?Judges is the clearly exaggerated ANE language of utter obliteration and total destruction. These hyperbolic references to "totally destroy[ing]" run on parallel tracks with regular mention of many remaining Canaanite inhabitants after the "total destruction" (for example, Judg. 1). Additionally, we should take seriously the many references of "driving out" the Canaanites, to clear away the land for habitation, which does not require killing. Civilians would flee when their military strongholds were destroyed and no longer capable of protecting them."

Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Update: WK responds to Dawkins' article

"His entire column is easily dispatched using Dawkins’ own words against him, because he contradicts himself.

Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

Meanwhile, in his column, Dawkins claimed that God’s command to destroy the Canaanites was an instance of evil:

Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament. Anyone who criticises the divine bloodlust is loudly accused of unfairly ignoring the historical context, and of naive literalism towards what was never more than metaphor or myth. You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder.

So, in one statement, there’s no good or evil, and in the next statement, there’s evil. That’s a contradiction, and it undermines his entire column, Q.E.D. You can’t claim that there is no standard of good and evil in one breath, and then make judgments of good and evil in the next. It’s self-refuting. Dawkins didn’t even try to respond to any of Craig’s standard arguments for God’s existence in the editorial, he just went off on a tangent about a few Bible verses that, even if true, might only defeat Judaism and Christianity in particular, but not the existence of God in general. And the debate “Does God Exist?” is about the latter." 

Read the rest of his post here.



"In his latest undignified rant, Dawkins claims that it is because Craig is "an apologist for genocide" that he won't share a platform with him. Dawkins is referring to Craig's defence of God's commandment in Deuteronomy 20: 15-17 to wipe out the Canannites. Here is Craig's offending passage:
"[If] God's grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of [the Canannite] children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives."
I am disinclined to defend the God of the Old Testament's infanticide policy. But as a matter of logic, Craig is probably right: if an infinite good is made possible by a finite evil, then it might reasonably be said that that evil has been offset. However, I doubt whether Craig would be guided by logic himself in this regard and conduct infanticide. I doubt, that is, that he would wish it to be adopted as a general moral principle that we should massacre children because they will receive immediate salvation.
But whatever you make of Craig's view on this issue, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not God exists. Hence it is quite obvious that Dawkins is opportunistically using these remarks as a smokescreen to hide the real reasons for his refusal to debate with Craig – which has a history that long predates Craig's comments on the Canaanites.

As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins's conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people's beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn't care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people's attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another."