Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More on D'Souza, Kant, & Noumenal Reality

Kant argued that "pure reason" has epistemic access only to phenomenal, and not noumenal, reality. But some argue against Kant, says D'Souza, saying that "Kant cannot be right in saying that we have no access to reality because you and I and everyone else experience the same reality. When we are in the same room we see the same lamps and tables and books on the shelf. Obviously those must exist and we must have direct access to them; otherwise we would not have the same perception of them." (What's So Great About Christianity, 175-176)

Kant's response, according to D'Souza, is that, because we are all humans, we all have the same sensory equipment. This operates in us in the same way. Therefore we all have the same experience. But it's important to note that "the experience is all we have." "Just because we have similar or identical experiences does not mean that any of us has access to a reality that is beyond that experience."

D'Souza's Kantian point is simply this. There are empiricists who believe they can access reality via the 5 senses. Kant's point is that via the 5 senses all we can get at is phenomena. We can't, via sense experience, get at noumenal reality. So, saying we all have similar phenomenal experience in no way shows that we have epistemic access to noumenal reality.

D'Souza then responds to Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson claims that science is allowing us, via new instruments, to "view the world with butterfly eyes." Wilson says: "Fish communicate with one another by means of coded electrical bursts. Zoologists, using generators and detectors, can join the conversation." (176)

Now D'Souza thinks Wilson's claim does nothing to undermine Kant's point, because we are still viewing the images with our human eyes; "we are still using our five senses in order to read, hear, and interpret what those instruments say. In other words, our human apparatus of perception conditions the entire field of our experiences, and this has always been so and will continue to be so as long as we are human.." (176)

Kant has, according to D'Souza, "unmasked the intellectual pretension of the Enlightment: that reason and science are the only routes to truth." (178) And, that there is a reality that lies beyond the 5 senses. For D'Souza, this makes room for faith.

But what about the idea that science "works?" This seems to me to be related to Jon's comment on my last D'Souza post. I'll comment on this, via D'Souza, in a future post.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Greg Laurie Speaks About the Death of His Son Christopher

Greg Laurie’s son Christopher was killed in a car accident last week. Go here to watch Greg speak about his loss to his church family. And learn from someone whose hope is in Jesus the Christ.

D'Souza's Kantian Argument for Noumenal Reality

Dinesh D'Souza, in What's So Great About Christianity, uses Kant to argue that it's rational to believe that there is a world beyond our physical senses; i.e., that there is a non-empirical dimension of reality. For philosophical materialists the only kind of reality is empirical, sense-experiential. The world outside of our consciousness is accessible to our 5 senses, and is the only world there is. "The Enlightenment fallacy holds that human reason and science can, in principle, gain access to and eventually comprehend the whole of reality." (169) D'Souza writes that Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, showed that this is false.

Kant asks: how do we know that our human perception of reality corresponds to reality itself? Kant argued that "reality does not come directly to us but is "filtered" through a lens that we ourselves provide." (171) There is a world outside of us, but we do not apprehend it immediately. Rather, the external world gets mediated through categories in our mind.

D'Souza writes: "Kant conceded Berkeley's and Hume's point that it is simply irrational to presume that our experience of reality corresponds to reality itself. There are things in themselves - what Kant called the noumenon - and of them we can know nothing. What we can know is our experience of those things, what Kant called the phenomenon." (171)

For Kant, one can't know the ding an sich, the thing-in-itself. External reality remains permanently hidden to us. "All we have is the experience, and that's all we can ever have... We have no basis for inferring that the two [experience and reality] are even comparable, and when we presume that our experience corresponds to reality, we are making an unjustified leap. We have absolutely no way to know this." (173)

Kant is not against science. Science applies to phenomenal, not noumenal, reality. But who says noumenal reality even exists? That's the Kantian point D'Souza wants to establish. He writes: "For Kant, the noumenon obviously exists becauae it gives rise to the phenomena we experience. In other words, out experience is an experience of something... Kant contends that there are certain facts about the world - such as morality and free will - that cannot be understood without postulating a noumenal realm." (173) There is, therefore, on D'Souza's Kantian interpretation, a "world beyond our senses."

Have Kantian scholars or other philosophers refuted Kant here? Does D'Souza even have Kant right? He claims there's been no such refutation, in spite of Daniel Dennett's claim that there has been. D'Souza confronted Dennett on this, and says Dennett just got angry "but he didn't provide any refutations, and he didn't name any names." (174)

Dennett and others are seen by D'Souza as being under the "illusion of realism." "Realists like Dennett think of themselves as tough-minded empiricists, but they are not empirical enough to realize that all that is available to them are experiences and nothing beyond them... The empiricist assumes without any evidence or proof that his experiences somehow give him a magical access to reality. So completely does he indentify experience and reality that he cannot liberate himself from thinking of the two as one and the same." (175)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My True Vocation

(Rembrandt's "Prodigal Son")

This week I'm re-reading Henri Nouwen's beautiful and brilliant book The Return of the Prodigal Son. I'll preach on these verses (Luke 15) this coming Sunday. This is my third read of this book, and I feel I'm getting more out of it than ever.

Nouwen reminds me of my true vocation. For many years I have taken much time to go alone and be in God's presence for the sake of being met by him and loved by him. Nouwen talks of that inner place where I can be embraced and eveloped by the loving arms of God, just as the younger son on this parable is.

Nouwen writes: "I have a new vocation now. It is the vocation to speak and write from that place back into the many places of my own and other people's restless lives. I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear." (17)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Codex Sinaiticus Comes to the Web

By next July, the entire text of the world's oldest complete New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus, will be available for free -- along with transcription, translation and search functions -- on the Internet. See here for the news.

CS was handwritten in Greek more than 1600 years ago.

For a preview, which will appear July 24, go here. You'll be able to see Psalms and the Gospel of Mark.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Video Clip - Rescuing Prostitutes in Bangkok

Thanks to Holli Brown for sending me this excellent 3-minute video report done at of Annie Dieselberg’s Night Light Design ministry in Bangkok. This is a powerful ministry that is rescuing prostitutes in Bangkok. Go here to watch it.

Annie and her husband Jeff (who is a pastor in Bangkok) were with us at Green Lake two weeks ago. Jeff told me he wants to come visit Redeemer in October when he’s in the states. Jeff will be at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe Oct 19 - both in the morning service and in the evening service.

Online Greek Bible

The online Greek Bible I use is: The Resurgence Greek Project.

Is there a better one out there? Let me know!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Happy Birthday from Joe Cocker

OK - I think this is really funny. (Thanks Ben Witherington for linking it on your blog.)

Go here.

Progressive Pentecostalism

I very much enjoyed reading USC sociologist of religion Donald E. Miller's Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Miller traveled the world checking out pentecostal churches that do holistic ministry in their communities and thus make systemic differences and see social transformation. It's interesting to read Miller the objective sociologist as he comments on these powerful Jesus-like ministries. He says they have the "S Factor," by which he means the Holy Spirit.

The "S Factor" is "the acknowledgment that there may be “something more” than humanly generated activity in Pentecostalism. Perhaps Pentecostals connect, on occasion, with a reality that is not observable. Perhaps social transformation is not solely explainable by human factors.” (4)

Miller coins the term "Progressive Pentecostalism." This form of pentecostal Christianity does not stop at physical and emotional manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but understands such manifestations as a Spirit-empowerment to effect personal and social transformation.

Progressive Pentecostalism is non-political. “PPs are not trying to reform social structures or challenge government policies so much as they are attempting to build from the ground up an alternative social reality... They are teaching their members that they are made in the image of God; that all people have dignity and are equal in God’s sight; and that therefore they have rights – whether they are poor, women, or children... They are typically trying to build the Kingdom of God one person at a time.” (5)

For Miller sociological tools are not enough to fully explain what is going on in Progressive Pentecostalism. He writes: “Functional explanations do not account for the whole of religion, however valuable these theories may be in helping us to understand the role religion plays in human life. On occasion, and in some instances, the possibility exists that we are encountering something outside of ourselves. This “something more” is what Christians call God and what Pentecostals identify and interpret as being the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.” (13)

There are a growing number of PPs. They “have begin to model their behavior after a Jesus who both preached about the coming kingdom and healed people and ministered to their social needs.” (30)

These Christians differ from "Prosperity Gospel" preachers. Miller writes: “It is unlikely that churches emphasizing the Prosperity Gospel of health and wealth will be genuine agents of change within their communities. Too frequently they put most of their energy into producing crusades, tent revivals, and healing meetings and have little time left for addressing the practical social needs of members of their local community.” (31)

Throughout the book Miller provides many examples of PPs who take Jesus' words on Matthew 25 seriously and seek to live them out. The results are radical and profound. How profound? Miller writes: “In fact, we believe that Pentecostalism may potentially be a subversive political force, especially within autocratic governments that centralize authority within a single omnipotent ruler who claims a godlike status.” (34)

In PP-ism we have, arguably, the full gospel. “The assumption underlying holistic ministry is that it is important to divorce moral and spiritual needs from physical and economic needs. The two are inextricably linked.” (62) “A programmatic focus on conversion is not adequate to help people make their way out of poverty.” (63)

As Miller studied these PP churches, he saw worship leaders and pastors and people on their knees before God in prayer and in humility and in brokenness.

Miller the sociologist asked the question: “Is there a connection between this form of worship and the creation of a civil society? What if senators and presidents bowed before God the way these people were doing, confessing their sins, calling on God for help and inspiration to perform their civic duties?”

“Absent from the conversation of the Pentecostals we interviewed was therapeutic rhetoric regarding finding one’s personal path to self-realization and happiness. The notion of fulfillment was framed entirely differently. Tue happiness is to be found in following God’s will. When one’s priorities are aligned with God’s intentions, then worldly signs of success fade from insignificance.” (149)

So, instead of "my best life now" PPs follow Jesus and spend their lives in redemptive acts that bring the "least of these" out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

A final note. Current internet evangelistic atheists harangue that "religion is intrinsically evil.' Richard Dawkins has famously warned us that a parent who teaches "religion" to their child is guilty of "child abuse." Miller's study provides a powerful answer to such naivete in example and after example after example of Jesus-followers who sacrifice worldly fame and glory for the sake of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Roger Scruton on the Non-death of God

Philosopher Roger Scruton has written an excellent essay called "The Return of Religion." Here are some quotes from it.

"There are two reasons why people start shouting at their opponents: one is that they think the opponent is so strong that every weapon must be used against him; the other is that they think their own case so weak that it has to be fortified by noise. Both these motives can be observed in the evangelical atheists."

"Dawkins writes as though the theory of the selfish gene puts paid once and for all to the idea of a creator God – we no longer need that hypothesis to explain how we came to be. In a sense that is true. But what about the gene itself: how did that come to be? What about the primordial soup? All these questions are answered, of course, by going one step further down the chain of causation. But at each step we encounter a world with a singular quality: namely that it is a world which, left to itself, will produce conscious beings, able to look for the reason and the meaning of things, and not just for the cause. The astonishing thing about our universe, that it contains consciousness, judgement, the knowledge of right and wrong, and all the other things that make the human condition so singular, is not rendered less astonishing by the hypothesis that this state of affairs emerged over time from other conditions. If true, that merely shows us how astonishing those other conditions were. The gene and the soup cannot be less astonishing than their product."

"The atheists beg the question in their own favour, by assuming that science has all the answers. But science can have all the answers only if it has all the questions; and that assumption is false. There are questions addressed to reason which are not addressed to science, since they are not asking for a causal explanation. One of these is the question of consciousness. This strange universe of black holes and time warps, of event horizons and non-localities, somehow becomes conscious of itself. And it becomes conscious of itself in us. This fact conditions the very structure of science."

"It is this mystery which brings people back to religion... We are distressed by the evangelical atheists, who are stamping on the coffin in which they imagine God’s corpse to lie and telling us to bury it quickly before it begins to smell. These characters have a violent and untidy air: it is very obvious that something is missing from their lives, something which would bring order and completeness in the place of random disgust. And yet we are uncertain how to answer them. Nowhere in our world is the door that we might open, so as to stand again in the breath of God.
Yet human beings have an innate need to conceptualise their world in terms of the transcendental, and to live out the distinction between the sacred and the profane."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"It's a Bad Day to Be an Atheist" (The Josh Hamilton Story)

I watched the baseball All-Star home run contest last night and saw Josh hamilton hit 28 home runs. The announcers began talking about how Josh was a crack addict who found God and got his life turned around. As he was interviewed aftere hitting these home runs Josh thanked God for the amazing turnaround in just gtwo years of his life. Then the TV announcer said “It’s a bad day to be an atheist.”

Read the espn story of Josh’s life change here.

Here’s a quote from Josh himself:

“When I was using [crack], I never dreamed. I’d sleep the dead, dreamless sleep of a stalled brain. When I stopped using, I found my dreams returned. They weren’t always good dreams; most of the ones I remember were haunting and dark. They stayed with me long after I woke up.
Within my first week of sobriety in October 2005 — after I showed up at my grandmother’s house in Raleigh in the middle of the night, coming off a crack binge — I had the most haunting dream. I was fighting the devil, an awful-looking thing. I had a stick or a bat or something, and every time I hit the devil, he’d fall and get back up. Over and over I hit him, until I was exhausted and he was still standing.
I woke up in a sweat, as if I’d been truly fighting, and the terror that gripped me makes that dream feel real to this day. I’d been alone for so long, alone with the fears and emotions I worked so hard to kill. I’m not embarrassed to admit that after I woke up that night, I walked down the hall to my grandmother’s room and crawled under the covers with her. The devil stayed out of my dreams for seven months after that. I stayed clean and worked hard and tried to put my marriage and my life back together. I got word in June 2006 that I’d been reinstated by Major League Baseball, and a few weeks afterward, the devil reappeared.
It was the same dream, with an important difference. I would hit him and he would bounce back up, the ugliest and most hideous creature you could imagine. This devil seemed unbeatable; I couldn’t knock him out. But just when I felt like giving up, I felt a presence by my side. I turned my head and saw Jesus, battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength. The devil didn’t stand a chance.
You can doubt me, but I swear to you I dreamed it. When I woke up, I felt at peace. I wasn’t scared. To me, the lesson was obvious: Alone, I couldn’t win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn’t lose. “

Years ago, at age 21, I was doing drugs nearly every day. I had an encounter with God. I've not only not done drugs since then but not even been tempted to do them. Some kind of transformation happened in me when I turned to follow Jesus. I don't think this proves God and Jesus are real to other people. But I can't deny that this happened to me, and my life is far better because of it. For me, it functions as partial proof that God and Jesus are real. And this is important to me because, philosophically, I believe it is experience, not theory, that breeds conviction.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stanley Fish On the Beauty and Relevance of Milton's "Paradise Lost"

I found this commentary by Stanley Fish on the depth and virtues of Milton's Paradise Lost interesting.

Paradise Lost raises all the big questions, as noted by Fish:

How did the world begin?

Why were men and women created in the first place?

How did evil come into the world?

What were the causes of Adam’s and Eve’s Fall?

If they could fall, were they not already fallen and isn’t God the cause?

If God is the cause, and we are the heirs of the original sin, are we not absolved of the responsibility for the sins we commit?

Can there be free will in a world presided over by an omniscient creator?

Is the moral deck stacked?

Is Satan a hero? A rebel? An apostate? An instrument of a Machiavellian and manipulative deity?

Are women weaker and more vulnerable than men?

Is Adam right to prefer Eve to God? What would you have done in his place?

Fish writes: "Wherever you step in the poetry, you will meet with something that asks you to take a stand, and when you do (you can’t help it) you will be enmeshed in the issues that are being dramatized."

And how good is Milton's poetry? Fish again: "Nigel Smith of Princeton, whose published work is more historical than literary, set the tone when he told me, “It’s the beauty of the thing; the poetry is just gorgeous; it makes me want to cry.” John Leonard of the University of Western Ontario seconded him: “It’s the way he works with words; what keeps me coming back is the sheer sound of the poetry, ‘simple, sensuous, and passionate.’”"

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buddhism May be Dying in Japan

Today's has this article on the slow loss of temples and persons following Buddhism in Japan.

One indicator is that fewer Japanese are choosing the traditional and elaborate funerals overseen by Buddhist priests.

From the article:

"When it comes to funerals, though, the Japanese have traditionally been inflexibly Buddhist — so much so that Buddhism in Japan is often called “funeral Buddhism,” a reference to the religion’s former near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services.
But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.
“That’s the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that.”"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Night Light - Rescuing Prostitutes in Bangkok

This week Linda and I and others from our church in Monroe are at our annual summer conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. This morning we heard a powerful, heart-breaking, and hopeful message from Annie Dieselberg, who lives in Bangkok, Thailand. Annie and her husband Jeff work, with God’s help, to pull young girls and young women out of the monstrous sex trafficking industry in Bangkok’s red light district.

Annie knows the horror these women go through who become prostitutes because their families have seemingly no other way to make money. She goes into the bars and relates to them, shining the light of God in these desperately dark invironments. Annie’s description and personal experiences are compelling and captiviating. As we listened we were totally attentive and our hearts were broken by the grasp that evil has on these women and their male customers.
God led Annie to begin a ministry to them, which she calls a “business-as-mission.” She formed a business that makes jewelry, and hires the former prostitutes to give them an income, restore their dignity, and share with them the truth that God loves and values them all.

Words fail to express how moved I was I just listened to Annie share this story. You can visit Night Light Design here, and read about this incredible from-God ministry, and see the beautiful jewelry the redeemed ex-prostitutes make, and maybe purchase some yourself.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time To Rethink "Seminary"

I've much enjoyed Tony Jones's The New Christians. He's an excellent writer, very biblical, and radical like you-know-who.

On pp. 209-210 Jones says it's "time to rethink seminary." I say, "Why not?" And, "Of course it is?" Look, I went to seminary, and currently teach at three of them. But we're starting in my church a ministry school, which I believe will grow as the years go by until God tells us "It's time to rethink the Ministry School thing."

Jones has two problems, minimally, with modern seminary education. First, "there's nothing particularly theological about the structure of the seminary education. Instead of reflecting some theological convictions or virtues, seminaries are entirely reflective of secular universities." Yes indeed. Of course they are. For example, a while ago I met with two Presbyterian seminary professors who asked me to consult with them re. the spiritual formation component of their seminary. These professors longed for a real God-encounter at their institution, and described it as a place where God does not really have a place. Please listen to this. They told me that even the word "God" is not fashionable there. This did not surprise me, I've seen it before. Bring God and the Holy Spirit and Jesus (viz., the Trinity) into a seminary discussion and you could really get into trouble if you meant by these words the God who answers prayers and speaks to us and guides us and is powerful as well and loving and merciful.

Problem #2 for Jones: "Most seminaries are residential." For many, "the sacrifice of one's rootedness in community for the temporary "community" of a residential seminary is too high a price." (209)

Jones is intrigued by a monastic apprenticeship model of mentoring leaders who are followers of Jesus. In my church we're doing something a bit like this, with a lot of personal mentoring, prayer assignements, submission of spiritual journals to a spiritual director/coach, and so on.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Most American Christians are Binitarian, not Trinitarian

Tony Jones claims that "most American Christians don't really believe in the Holy Spirit." There's a difference between saying "I believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," and living a life that is dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Jones asks, does your church believe in the Holy Spirit? Then why in the world would you ever think that you can do anything to get people to come to church? "Instead, why don't you worry about being faithful - living out a beautiful Christianity - and see what the Spirit does in your midst? I think that people will be more attracted to the Spirit than to anything you could ever do to 'hook' them."

I like this. Jones writes: "All of us who care about God's Kingdom have been tempted to think that the advancement of that Kingdom is up to us."

Most American Christians are "binitarian" rather than "trinitarian." Jones cites Parker Palmer, who talks about Christians who are "functional atheists," believing "that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us." (202)

Jones concludes: "A return to true trinitarianism in the American church is desperately needed. That will entail, first, a commitment to the doctrine, and second, behavior that reflects a true reliance on God's Spirit." (203)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Reginald E. Allen

One of my Ph.D classes at Northwestern University was with philosopher and Greek scholar Reginald E. Allen. I don't think I have ever been taught by someone more brilliant.

Arguably, Allen is the greatest Plato scholar of our time. His translations of Plato's dialogues have replaced the Loeb translations.

My class with Allen was on Aristotle's Metaphysics. I remember there being about 7 or 8 of us doctoral students. Allen would usually arrive a bit late, sometimes with the odor of a sandwich on his breath that slowly filled the room. Often, he did not even bring a copy of the Metaphysics with him. That's because he knew the entire thing in Greek!

Ir was not unusual, at times, to see another Northwestern professor sitting in on Allen's lectures, just wanting to hear this Greek philosophy genius explain, deeply, the text. For example, one day sitting next to me around the table in the library-like classroom was the philosopher E.M. Curley, the great Spinoza - Descartes scholar.

One of Allen's favorite texts to interpret Aristotle, which I bought, was Joseph Owens's The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics. Allen especially pointed to Owens's idea of "pros hen equivocity" and an intepretive key to understanding Aristotle.

A final note. I once went to Allen's office to ask him a question. He was sitting at his desk reading the Gospel of John. I asked him why he was reading it, and he said it was a good example of Platonic philosophy affecting Christology. I told Allen that I was reading Edward Schillebeeckx's two books on Jesus and Christ. I told him that Schillebeeckx, like many others, dated John's Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, putting it usually around 90 AD. I asked him where he would date the Gospel of John. He told me he would date it before 70 AD. I asked, how can you do that? I will never forget his response. He looked at me and said, "Don't you believe in prophecy?"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

God Is Not Dead Yet

The cover of the new Christianity Today, borrowing from the famous April 8, 1966 Time cover "Is God Dead?," is titled "God Is Not Dead Yet." The lead article is by the brilliant philosopher William Lane Craig. Bill was my first mentor in apologetics, when I was a young philosophy major at Northern Illinois University. He was one of my Campus Crusade for Christ staff leaders.

Here are some of the significant bullet points of Bill's essay:

  • There's a rise of theistic philosophers in university philosophy departments. In this regard Bill's friend, atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, laments the "desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s."

  • The vitality of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Probably no one in the world understands this argument better than Bill. For example, see here.

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 explanation of the universe's existence is God.

  • The Kalam Cosmological Argument - this is Bill's expertise. This argument is found in many standard philosophy of religion textbooks. This is THE form of the cosmological argument that atheists must address. Dawkins et. al. don't do this.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

  • The teleological argument, esp. the fine-tuning argument for God's existence. Many, including myelf, find this a powerful argument for there being a God.

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to physical necessity, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

  • The moral argument for there being a God. Personally, I am so glad Bill has pressed this argument. It has always made sense to me, and now even more so because of how Bill has developed it and defends it.

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.

  • Bill adds a section on the infamous ontological argument, as formulated by Alvin Plantinga an others. The argument is:

1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) 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. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.

6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

7. Therefore, God exists.

I love presenting this argument at the beginning of my Philosophy of Religion classes. Among other things it is an introduction to philosophical thinking and logic.

  • Bill then argues that we do not now live in a "postmodern" culture. Evidence for this includes the fully modernist approaches of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens and their popularity. Bill argues that Western culture is post-Christian, but not postmodern. His analysis here deserves to be studied. I hope he writes more about this in the future.

Finally, Bill attracts a lot of attention from internet atheists who go after him. For the most part, and it seems entirely, he does not engage them. I think he is right in doing this. He's certainly not avoiding anything, because he spends his time dialogueing with and debating the greatest intellectual, academic atheists in the world. There's not an "internet atheist" out there who is on an intellectual level with Bill, who has a deep, phenomenal multidisciplinary grasp of the issues, ranging from quantum mechanics to math to Christology to hermeneutics to logic to philosophy and theology. His life certainly debunks the idea that only ignorant people believe in God and Jesus.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Revolutionary "Beatitudes" of Jesus

"The Beatitudes are the manifesto for a revolutionary lifestyle. If, as Christ's ambassadors, we follow them, they will turn society as we know it upside down."

- Tony Campolo, on Matthew 5:3-11, in The God of Intimacy and Action, p. 50