Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Philosophy of Religion - Craig's Metaethical Argument for God's Existence

For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students:

1. State Craig's argument:

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a logically valid argument, which means: if the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true.

2. Define "Objective Moral Value"

a. By "objective moral value" (OMV) we mean: a moral value that is true independently of what people think of it. Thus, if it is true, it is true for everyone. Like, e.g., the statement The lights in this room are on. If that statement is true, then it is true for everyone; if it is false then it is false for everyone.

3. How does Craig defend P1?

a. Craig cites a number of atheists who admit that, on their atheism, ethics is illusory. For example, Craig cites atheist ethicist Richard Taylor:

The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well.Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are 'morally wrong,' and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.
Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion.2
Taylor concludes,
Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.3
b. Most philosophical-intellectual atheists are physicalists. If reality is only physical, then of course morality does not exist, since "morals" are not observed in sheer physical matter.

3. How does Craig defend P2?

Many atheists agree that OMVs exist. Use the Michael Ruse example in the essay: Anyone who thinks it is not wrong to torture and rape children for fun is just as mistaken as someone who thinks 2+2=5.

OMVs function as "properly basic beliefs." A properly basic belief is one that we believe to be true without being able to evidentially prove it. Examples are: 1+1=2, and I see a car coming towards me (Implying that My senses provide reliable information about the outside world.). Even though we can't prove either of these statements to be true, we are rational in believing them until we are given a good reason not to.

For example we know that Racism is wrong. We apprehend this to be true. So, moral values are apprehended. Like we apprehend, by sense experience, that the lights are either on or off. Moral values function like "properly basic beliefs."

Both atheists and theists recognize that OMVs exist. This is not surprising if God exists. If humans are God’s image-bearers, then it’s not surprising that they are capable of recognizing or knowing the same sorts of moral values – whether theists or not.
[Note: Theistic philosopher Paul Copan writes: “We possess an in-built “yuck factor” - basic moral intuitions about the wrongness of torturing babies for fun, of raping, murdering, or abusing children. We can also recognize the virtue of kindness or selflessness, the obligation to treat others as we would want to be treated, and the moral difference between Mother Teresa and Josef Stalin. Those not recognizing such truths as properly basic are simply wrong and morally dysfunctional.”]

For more see:

Divine Command Theory and P1 of Craig's Metaethical Argument

The Moral Argument for God - Premise 2

William Lane Craig's Moral Argument for God's Existence (which I find persuasive) goes like this:

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.  (By modus tollens. See "The Indispensability of Theological Metaethical Foundations for Morality.")

What about premise 2 (P2)? Is it true?

An example of a non-moral objective truth is: Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. This statement is true independently of our apprehension of it. And, as an objective truth, it is true for everyone.

Objective moral values are values that are true independently of our apprehension of them. 
Consider this example of an objective moral value. I recently read another horror story out of Isis. Isis men raped a crying mother in front of her own children, one of which was a baby. Then Isis beheaded the baby and placed it on the mother's lap. Call this Example Q. 

(Stories like this may be true. For corroborated examples see Stern and Berger, Isis: The State of Terror. For example: "On May 28, 2011, the corpse of a thirteen-year old child was delivered back to his family in the town of Daraa, where the protests began. The child’s genitalia had been removed, and his corpse was burned and riddled with gunshot wounds... Human Rights Watch and others have reported that Syrian security forces were using rape systematically to torture men, women, and children, some as young as twelve years old." Stern and Berger, 40-41)

For the purposes of our argument Q provides us with an example of an objective moral value: To do Q is morally wrong. This is a moral claim. Is this moral claim true? Note that if it is true, then it is objectively true, and thus true for everyone.

Craig defends P2 this way. He writes:

"My claim is that we are justified in believing P2 on the ground of our moral experience unless and until we have a defeater of that experience, just as we are justified in believing that there is a world of physical objects around us on the ground of our sense experience unless and until we have a defeater of that experience. 

Such a defeater would have to show not merely that our moral experience is fallible or defeasible but that it is utterly unreliable, that we may apprehend no objective moral values or duties whatsoever. 

Our moral experience is so powerful, however, that such a defeater would have to be incredibly powerful in order to overcome our experience, just as our sense experience is so powerful that a defeater of my belief in the world of physical objects I perceive would have to be incredibly powerful in order for me to believe that I have no good reason to think that I am not a brain in a vat of chemicals or a body lying in the Matrix. 

As [atheist philosopher] Louise Antony put it in our debate, any argument for moral scepticism will be based on premises which are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values and duties themselves, that is, than (2) itself." (Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/are-we-justified-in-believing-in-objective-moral-values-and-duties#ixzz3t4q3RCZF

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Bergmanian Take on Existential Risk

Nice - This cartoon from this week's New Yorker combines Ingmar Bergman and Nick Bostrom

Discipline Allows God to Be Lord of My Mind

Marabou storks in the Rift Valley of Kenya

If you are a disciple of Jesus then you have discipline in your life. Disciples are disciplined. Like, for example, guitar students practice.

Henri Nouwen writes: "If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life." (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living, p. 1) "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible." (Ib.)

As a new follower of Jesus my campus ministry leaders taught me to take daily "quiet times with God." I did. I'm having quiet time with God this morning. I read Scripture and meditate on it. I'm reading the Nouwen book I've quoted from. My spirit is marinating in God's slow-cooking, disciple-making, life-giving, perspective-gaining, hope-restoring, wound-healing crock pot. 

I have done this, daily, for over 45 years. Because "it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind." (Ib., p. 2)

I do my quiet times with God in quiet places of least distraction. (See here; and here.) I have disciplined myself to do this. What began as a stream of life in my heart over four decades ago has formed a groove that channels a deep river. The source of this river is the presence of God. 

Nouwen says that "the word 'discipline' means "the effort to create some space in which God can act."" (Ib.) There is a space created in my mind and heart where the Spirit of God has a chance of getting my attention. I treasure and tend this space and attend to the moving of God's Spirit in me.

The $20 Wedding

Yes, I wore a tux...
( just read THIS, and thought I'd re-post "The $20 Wedding.")

In 45 years as a Jesus-follower and pastor I have officially performed one bazillion weddings. That is a lot of rehearsal dinners and wedding reception dinners.

1. I have done one bazillion weddings.
2. Therefore, I am overweight.

When I think of these weddings what I remember is not the food, but the people. The most beautiful weddings I have seen have to do with the marital couple, who they are, and what they can one day be. 

All the money in the world cannot cover over two clueless people. But a groom and bride who submit their lives to God and to the serving of the other shine like stars in this materialistic darkness of "happiness." I am thinking of some of them now. They loved, and still do. Their love influenced others, without trying to.

It's really about preparing for marriage and life together, not the wedding day. The more the former happens, the greater is that special day.

I present to you a wedding plan. Here are the costs, in my Monroe community.

Wedding planner - $0. (I charge nothing for this advice.)
Officiant - $0. (I charge nothing to officiate your wedding.)
Building rental - $0. (We can have your wedding outdoors. We've had weddings in our backyard, on the river.)
Groom's tuxedo - $0. (The groom wears nice clothing that can be worn again.)
Bridal gown - $0. (The bride wears nice clothing that can be worn again.)
Flowers - $0. (From your mother's garden.)
Photographer - $0. (Because all your friends have smart phones.)
Food - cost per plate - $0. (Your friends bring finger foods. That's what Linda and I did, and we had 350 people at our wedding.)
Miscellaneous costs - $0.
Marriage license in Monroe County - $20.
Pen to sign marriage license - $0. (I will lend you mine.)
Total costs - $20

Stress - less.

Relationship - more.

I have done weddings like this. I remember them for the inner beauty of the couple and the presence of God.

See also:

"Is Simplicity the Newest Wedding Trend?"

"Does a Big Wedding Equal an Unhappy Marriage?" (Wall Street Journal)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Incarnation Breeds Sympathy; Discarnation Breeds Criticism

Linda walking in Munson Park

Christmas is about the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. When you get inside someone else's skin and live and die there you feel with them. 

Incarnation breeds sympathy. Sym + pathos. "Feeling with." Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 

The biblical Greek word here is:
συμπαθέω,v  \{soom-path-eh'-o}
1) to be affected with the same feeling as another, to sympathise with  2) to feel for, have compassion on 

In Mark 6:34 Jesus saw a large crowd of people and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The Greek word here means "deeply moved."

Jesus felt with people in their struggles and disorientation. Which means: so should we who follow him. We are to...

... "clothe ourselves with compassion" (Colossians 3:12).

... "be kind and compassionate to one another" (Ephesians 4:32).

... "be compassionate and humble" (1 Peter 3:8).

Because "the Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11).

Since we are "united with Christ" we share in his "tenderness and compassion." (Philippians 2:1)

The more we are like Christ the less we will criticize others. The more Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) the less we will judge others for their struggles. Compassion and sympathy are beautiful fruits that grow in a Christ-abiding heart.

Thank God that he sympathizes with our weaknesses! Thank God for his followers who have matured to do the same.

Incarnation breeds sympathy; discarnation breeds criticism.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Real Jesus Sermon #1

Worship at Redeemer
Pastors are to equip their people for the work of ministry.

As Redeemer's pastor I am committed to increasing the Jesus-literacy of my church.

Tomorrow I give the second of seven Real Jesus sermons.

Sermon #1 can be heard HERE

Prayer Is Relationship Rather Than Something We Have to Do


Praying is being-in-relationship-with God, rather than some religious duty that one has to do. 

I communicate with Linda, not because I "have to," but because I love her. To only talk and listen to her out of duty would be a sign of a strange, unsatisfying marriage.

Philip Yancey writes: "Prayer as transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy, an occasional and awkward exercise with little connection to life." (Yancey, Prayer, Kindle Locations 844-845)

How I communicate with Linda when no one else is around is an indicator of how I view her and our marriage. In a similar way how I pray shows how I view God. "Who one believes God to be is most accurately revealed not in any credo but in the way one speaks to God when no one else is listening." (Nancy Mairs, quoted in Ib., Kindle Locations 820-822)

To pray is to be in relationship with God. Prayer is not something we have to do. When you are in a real, loving relationship you communicate.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kevin Bacon's Argument That the Bible Affirms Dancing

5 Thanksgiving Choices

Some of our Redeemer kids

Today is Thanksgiving Day!

1. Take time to reflect on the blessings God has given you. I've made a gratitude list on my computer and printed it out. I've got the list in my pocket, and will pull it out and look at it several times today.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." 
- Thornton Wilder

2. Think of the people God has brought to add value to your life.
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
- Albert Schweitzer 

3. Focus on what you have gained, not what you have lost. In the worship song "Blessed Be Your Name" we sing "You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be your name." I remember precious people I have lost. I think of what their lives have given to me.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." 
- Epictetus

4. Say "thank you" to others, in your words, attitudes, and actions. Today, serve people. To serve is to love. Servanthood is the overflow of a thankful heart.

"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated."

-- William James

5. Let the words "Thank you, God" be your constant praise. 

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever."
- 1 Chronicles 16:4