religion

This tag is associated with 14 posts

Dawkins vs. Craig: Deaf, or blatantly misrepresenting theism?

I stumbled on this video from the recent debate between William Lane Craig et. al and Richard Dawkins et al. which occurred in Mexico. It was via Doug Geivett’s blog (he was another participant in the debate). The video is cut to show Craig’s comments alongside Dawkins’ rebuttals. It seems as though Dawkins either completely missed what Craig was saying, or he is blatantly misrepresenting the case on the other side. I tend to suspect it is the latter, as in the writings of Dawkins which I have read, he doesn’t strike me as the most intellectually honest fellow. Judge for yourself:

The whole debate can be found here.

The Impossibility of a Neutral Worldview

There is no such thing as a “neutral worldview.”

It is often proposed that some worldview is “basic”, in the sense of being “the worldview from which all others should be judged.” This proposition is wholly false. Within any worldview (which will be interchangeably referred to as a “noetic structure”), certain premises are taken in some sort of presupposed form. For example, within Christianity, the existence of God, on that worldview, is a presupposition. This isn’t to say that one can’t argue for the presuppositions within one’s worldview. One can certainly argue for the validity of one’s presuppositions, but this in itself doesn’t change the fact that every worldview is built upon some background.

I have seen it claimed that atheism does not or cannot constitute a worldview. This is also false. Any human being has his or her own noetic structure from which he or she judges the probability of propositions. Various atheists are not immune from having noetic structures or beliefs.

As Stephen Parrish writes, in God and Necessity, “…there are differences in the way people judge the probability or plausibility about the truth of certain propositions, and these judgments are made on the basis of the noetic and probability structures which are believed in” (147). It is simply not possible to divorce oneself from one’s presuppositions.

Thus, it is impossible to declare some worldview “neutral” and determine that from this worldview, all others should be judged. I would call this the height of self-edification. Christians, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, etc. all have certain presuppositions within their worldviews which will make the propositions of other worldviews more or less likely. One cannot retreat to, say, agnosticism and argue that one will then judge everything from that “neutral” worldview, for everyone is going to maintain some kind of noetic structure which will, in turn, define what propositions are to be believed–or even considered.

Further, it’s not as if retreating from belief in all gods or affirming that there is no god–that is, atheism in its varied forms–will allow one to stand on “neutral” grounds in order to judge worldviews. Instead, the presuppositions within an atheistic worldview will serve to confirm that noetic structure. Again, as Parrish writes, “[r]ealistically, for many thinkers, no amount of evidence would ever be enough to justify a belief in God or miracles” (157). This, of course, is due to the noetic structures which are presupposed.

Further, writes Parrish,

“Every person capable of considering or having an opinion on issues brings with them a specific noetic structure or world-view accompanied by a corresponding probability structure. If a person did not bring this component to the debate he would be unable to formulate an opinion, as he would have no way of judging probability. So before considering the evidence on a particular issue, there must already be in place a noetic and probability structure. Probability  is inherent in one’s world-view and thus is used in judging the evidence” (158).

The same, of course, applies to Christians or believers in various faiths. Their own presuppositions guide their thinking and discernment of probability structures. Again, there is no neutral worldview.

Cornelius Van Til, one of the great apologists of the last century, was well known for his own views on how presuppositions affect judgment of worldviews. He wrote, “In spite of th[e] claim to neutrality on the part of the non-Christian, the… apologist must point out that every method, the supposedly neutral one no less than any other, presupposes either the truth or the falsity of Christian theism” (Christian Apologetics, 129). Furthermore, Van Til goes on to make the point that in some sense, then, all reasoning is circular,

“To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another” (130).

This is not to say that we should be relativists when it comes to worldviews. There are ways (logical reasoning, scientific exploration, philosophy, etc.) to explore the validity of the claims of worldviews, and thus serve to confirm or disconfirm various presuppositions found within these noetic structures. The point, rather, is twofold:

1) It is question begging to assume that one’s own worldview is “neutral” or basic, and that all other worldviews should be judged from within this structure

2) We should be modest when comparing our worldview to that of others’, realizing that our presuppositions cannot be the basis for rejecting the claims of competing noetic structures.

Sources:

Parrish, Stephen. God and Necessity. University Press of America. 2001.

Van Til, Cornelius. Christian Apologetics. P & R Publishing. 2003.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

Scientific (Evolutionary) Explanations of Religion

It is baffling to me that some, particularly the “New Atheists” seem to think that if we were to find some kind of biological “hard wiring” into our brains of religious belief, it would prove that God does not in fact resist and that we are simply machines driven by biological and sociological means to believe in some mystical being.

Why is this? What is the reason that evidence for scientific accounts of the origins of religion would somehow undermine religion itself? There aren’t reasons offered. It is always just assumed that if science can explain something, that precludes any other kind of explanation. This is a blatant genetic fallacy, also known as the fallacy of origin. Explaining how some belief came to be does not mean that belief is false.

The argument seems to be:

1) If science can explain some belief as being hard-wired into the brain, that belief is false

2) Religion (supposedly) is hard-wired into the brain.

3) Therefore, religion is false.

Premise 1 is obviously fallacious by the genetic fallacy. Just arguing that some belief is hard-wired into the brain does not make that false. If something springs to mind because of our cognitive predisposition to believe something, that does not mean that this “thing” that springs to mind is false. We believe, for example, in the existence of other minds innately, despite being unable to enter other minds and show that they are operating in a similar fashion as our own (God is Great, God is Good 102).

Though the argument is trying instead to show that belief in God is not really due to the fact that God is actually there, but rather due to some kind of naturally arising belief that we have evolutionarily forced into our brains. Thus, when we experience something that we may take to be supernatural in origin, we are only taking it in such a way because we are genetically predisposed to do so. But again this is a genetic fallacy and it doesn’t actually attack the religious beliefs themselves.

It could just as easily be the case that the Bible and most of human history are correct when they assert that the natural world gives evidences of God’s existence, and that man can have natural revelation of God by seeing His works revealed in the world. Not only that, but it is clear that the argument in the above paragraph is wrong. Let me take an example from Michael Murray in God is Great, God is Good.

“I believe there is a deer in the neighborhood because I can see its tracks in the mud in my yard. I can’t see it directly, but I see things that are causal consequences of the deer’s presence, and this triggers in me a belief that it is around. What this line of argument does not see or even acknowledge is the possibility that the mechanism s that lead us toward belief in God might be, like the deer tracks, causal consequences of God’s activity” (103). Thus, the conclusion that God does not exist simply because we may have triggers in our minds that lead us to believe something is God’s activity does not exclude the existence of God.

There simply is no good argument against the existence of God that can come from some kind of scientific explanation of religion. All such arguments fall to the genetic fallacy or would seem to argue against any kind of belief formation based on cognitive evidences.

Source: Murray, Michael. “Evolutionary Explanations of Religion.” God is Great, God is Good. Edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

True Christianity: A Brief Discussion

People today are often confused about what it means to be Christian. Often, when one tries to claim that someone who calls oneself a Christian and does not believe in things that are Christian, they are confronted with people saying this is some kind of fallacy (specifically the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, as I was accused of in a previous debate).

The question then stands, is there a definition of what it means to be Christian? Are there people that claim to be Christian and are not, or can anyone claim to be a Christian regardless of their beliefs about, say, the Trinity or the divinity of Christ?

Yes, there is a clear definition of what it means to be Christian, and, apart from these beliefs there is no salvation. The early church defined Christian belief through three “Ecumenical Creeds.” These creeds explicitly state what the Christian belief is, and that apart from this faith there is no salvation. These creeds outline the one Holy Catholic faith (note that Catholic doesn’t only refer to Roman Catholics, but rather to the Catholic Church, the eternal “City of God”), and apart from this faith there is no salvation and no Christianity.

I’ve been listening to a number of debates that I downloaded and a few of them featured John Dominic Crossan (the founder of the misnamed “Jesus Seminar”) verses various conservative Christians. Crossan denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, he seems to deny in some ways Christ’s deity, he rejects Christianity as the only way, etc. He claims to be Christian. Can we say that he is not Christian? Absolutely. In denying the bodily resurrection, he denies the One True Faith found in the Creeds of the Catholic Faith. There is no fallacy in rejecting that people like this are not Christians, for there is a clear definition of what it means to be a Christian. If one does not believe in the One Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coequal and coeternal, one is not a Christian. This applies for every statement of belief within the creeds. If one rejects any part of these creeds, they are not Catholic in belief. The Athanasian Creed concludes: “This is the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.”

This is the teaching of the One True Church, this is the teaching of Scripture (which does not contain the Creeds, but from which the Creeds were directly derived), this is the truth.

The creeds are found below:

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever.

Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being. For each person — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — is distinct, but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit.

The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite.

In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet they are not three who are almighty, but there is one who is almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.

For just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually to be God and Lord, so the true Christian faith forbids us to speak of three Gods or three Lords. The Father is neither made not created, nor begotten of anyone. The Son is neither made nor created, but is begotten of the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And within this Trinity none comes before or after; none is greater or inferior, but all three persons are coequal and coeternal, so that in every way, as stated before, all three persons are to be worshiped as one God and one God worshiped as three persons. Whoever wishes to be saved must have this conviction of the Trinity.

It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took on human flesh. Now this is the true Christian faith: We believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and Man. He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man, with rational soul and human flesh, equal to the Father, as to his deity, less than the Father, as to his humanity; and though he is both God and Man, Christ is not two persons but one, one, not by changing the deity into flesh, but by taking the humanity into God; one, indeed, not by mixture of the natures, but by unity in one person.

For just as the reasonable soul and flesh are one human being, so God and man are one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, and from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people will rise again with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into everlasting fire.

This is the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.

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