Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Monday, January 29, 2024

Why Pentecostal Churches Keep Growing (While Other Churches Are Declining)


See these two articles by Ed Stetzer. Very good!

Philosophical Naturalism: Some Posts

Once, in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class, a student asked me, "Dr. Piippo, do you believe in Satan and demons?"

I answered, "Yes."

And, BTW, so did the apostles Peter and Paul. So did Jesus.

Demons and angels are persons, without physical bodies. Do I believe this? Yes.

Why? Part of my answer is: I have never been a philosophical naturalist or physicalist. That is, I have never believed all reality is physical. 

Here are some of the posts I have written relating to: the incoherence of physicalism, and the reality of non-physical objects (such as, e.g., moral facts, or free will.) Establishing these things defeats the irrationality of the existence of nonphysical persons. Turn off Netflix and begin to read!

Demons in America

The Churchlands - famous philosophical eliminative materialists

A dinosaur chooses to question the reality of free will

The Gospel of Scientific Materialism

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Religious Experience and the Rationality of Belief in God

Flower, in my back yard

One chapter in my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church is called "The Case for Experience." Behind this chapter lie theistic philosophers such as William P. Alston. Alston argues for religious experience as warranted, and rational. 

Here is what this means (I have not included this kind of  heavy lifting in my book!). (Many of my blog posts are written for my own reference, a kind of catalog of ideas important to me.)

Alston claims: If God exists, then mystical experience is quite properly thought of as mystical perception. [If God exists, then we should expect mystical experience.] This is not an argument for God's existence. Alston is showing that it is rational to be a theist.

Alston restricts this discussion to “direct awareness of God.” Which means: Unmediated, not mediated, religious experience. [Alston is interested in direct, not indirect, experience of God.] He writes: 

“My reason for concentrating on direct experience of God, where there is no other object of experience in or through which God is experienced, is that these experiences are the ones that are most plausibly regarded as presentations of God to the individual, in somewhat the way in which physical objects are presented to sense perception, as I will shortly make explicit.” (Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 52)

Alston is not here referring to becoming aware of God through nature, or through the Bible, or through a sermon. He means something like: “I hear the voice of God speaking to me.” Alston advocates a “perceptual model of mystical experience.” (53) Alston claims mystical experience is like sense experience.

Alston’s view of perception is the “Theory of Appearing.” Which means: 

“Perceiving X simply consists in X’s appearing to a subject S, for example, or being presented to one, as so-and-so. That’s all there is to it, as far as what perception is, in contrast to its causes and effects. Where X is an external physical object like a book, to perceive the book is just for the book to appear to one in a certain way.” (53)

A direct awareness does not essentially involve conceptualization and judgment. Perception consists of something presenting itself to me in a certain way, apart from my conceptualizing it or making judgments about it. E.g, Now I see the computer screen. Directly.

Alston focuses on nonsensory experiences. Why? Because God is understood as a purely spiritual being. Because God is purely spiritual, “a nonsensory experience has a greater chance of presenting Him as He is than any sensory experience.” (52) • Alston says: “I shall refer to nonsensory experience as “mystical experience.” (52)

“Mystical perception” is the kind of perception that experiences God. “Mystical experience” refers to “supposed nonsensory experience (perception) of God.” (52)

Alston admits that many people will find this idea incredible, unintelligible, and incoherent. He doesn't think experiences should be limited to sensory experience. What idea? The idea that there could be something that counts as a presentation like a sense perception but is without any sensory content.

Alston asks: “Why should we suppose that the possibilities of experiential givenness, for human beings or otherwise, are exhausted by the powers of our five senses.” (52)

So, contra logical empiricism (the idea that experiences are real only if they are seen, smelled, touched, tasted, or felt), Alston is arguing:
i. That mystical experience is the right sort of experience to constitute a genuine perception of God if the other requirements are met.
ii. That there is no bar in principle to these other requirements being satisfied if God does exist.

You can’t argue for the validity of such experiences without assuming such experiences. That’s the nature of doxastic practices. Doxastic practices are properly basic beliefs. You can't argue for them. They are “properly basic.” For example, we can’t argue for the reliability of our sense perceptions without using sense perception. 

What does Alston mean by this? Elsewhere he writes

"The supposition that there is a physical world (that there are physical things spread out in space, exhibiting various perceivable qualities) is constitutive of the practice of forming particular beliefs about particular physical things on the basis of sense experience in the way we usually do. (Call this "perceptual practice".) ... [I]n learning to form physical-object beliefs on the basis of sense experience we are, at least implicitly and in practice, accepting the proposition that the physical world exists (and that we are aware of it in sense experience). Thus the question of the rationality of this belief is the question of the rationality of perceptual practice."
oOr, to cite another example of doxastic practice: We can’t argue for the reliability of logic without using logic.

So, our arguments for the reliability of these basic doxastic practices exhibit epistemic circularity. But should we then be skeptical and not trust in our sense perceptions or in logic? Alston argues that it is reasonable to continue to engage in those doxastic practices which are well established socially and which would be psychologically difficult to avoid. Therefore we should continue to regard our sense perception, memory, introspection and faculties of rational inference as generally reliable.

We describe mystical experiences by using comparative language. This is, in essence, no different than using comparative language to describe sense experiences. Mystical experiences are described like sense experiences; viz., by using comparative language.]

Alston concludes: "If my arguments have been sound, we are justified in thinking of the experience of God as a mode of perception in the same generic sense of the term as sense perception. And if God exists, there is no reason to suppose that this perception is not sometimes veridical [true; representative of] rather than delusory." (57) 

Alston, therefore, thinks religious experience is justifiable and rational.]

From “Mysticism,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Is a person warranted in thinking that his or her experiences are veridical or have evidential value?”

This is the question Alston is answering “yes” to.

The Doxastic Practice Approach

“William Alston has defended beliefs a person forms based on mystical and numinous (in the terminology of this entry) experience, specifically of a theistic kind (Alston, 1991). Alston defines a ‘doxastic practice’ as consisting of socially established ways of forming and epistemically evaluating beliefs (the “output”) from a certain kind of content from various inputs, such as cognitive and perceptual ones (Alston, 1991, 100). The practice of forming physical-object beliefs derived from sense perception is an example of a ‘doxastic practice’ and the practice of drawing deductive conclusions in a certain way from premises is another. Now, Alston argues that the justification of every doxastic practice is “epistemically circular,” that is, its reliability cannot be established in any way independent of the practice itself. (See Alston, 1993) This includes the “sense-perception practice.” However, we cannot avoid engaging in doxastic practices. Therefore, Alston contends, it is rational to engage in the doxastic practices we do engage in providing there is no good reason to think they are unreliable. Now, there are doxastic practices consisting of forming beliefs about God, God's purposes for us, and the like, grounded on religious and mystical experiences such as “God is now appearing to me.” Such, for example, is the “Christian Doxastic Practice.” It follows from Alston's argument that it is rational for a person in such a practice to take its belief outputs as true unless the practice is shown to be unreliable. Thus we have an affirmative answer to question (Q1).”

Friday, January 26, 2024

Victor Reppert's Argument from Reason for God's Existence

(See Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea)

In my MCCC Logic classes I presented Victor Reppert's Argument from Reason for the Existence of God. It is especially interesting to a logic class because of the idea of a "claim of inference" that exists between premises and a conclusion.

If an argument is "logical" this to do with a “claim of inference.” This is also called “rational inference.” The "claim of inference" is the inner "Aha!" For example, consider this argument:

1. Socrates is a man.

2. All men are mortal.

Given these two premises are true, there should arise an "inner Aha!" An "I get it" experience. One sees the claim of inference, and says:

3. Therefore, given P (1) and P (2) are true, Socrates is a man.

C (3) follows "logically." It's a logical law of reason.

Now Reppert thinks this kind of thing is plausible if theism is true, but implausible if atheism is true. And by "atheism" Reppert means philosophical naturalism, or physicalism. So Reppert reasons:

1, If naturalism is true, then logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.
2. But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs. (Implied by the existence of rational inference.)
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.

Again, "naturalism" is the view that the natural world is all there is and that there are no supernatural beings. There are no non-natural things. Whatever takes place in the universe takes place through natural processes and not as the result of supernatural, non-natural, or spiritual causation. Physicalism is a form of naturalism (all that is really is physical and nothing more). The basic substances of the physical world are pieces of matter.

So... what about a logical, rational "claim of inference?" (The inner "I see it!" experience.)Reppert claims that such logical laws are not physical laws. That is, the logical “claim of inference” cannot be explained by physics, or physical laws. How can he claim this?

Because if the laws of logic can be explained by physics, then there is no real claim of inference.
The so-called “claim of inference” would only be mechanistic and non-purposive. The claim of inference is not possible in a naturalistic/physicalist world. So “reason,” and meaning by this logic, seems to be not possible on an atheist worldview. Reppert writes: “The existence of reason makes sense in a theistic universe but not in a physicalist universe.”

But atheists themselves use reason to try to logically disprove that God exists. For example:

1. If God exists, then there can be no gratuitous evil.

2. Probably, there is gratuitous evil.

3. Therefore, probably God does not exist.

Does the atheist want “us” to be persuaded by this argument? Do they want “me” to see the logical connection, the logical claim of inference? Do they want "me" to "get it," to "see it?" If it's some rational claim of inference they are wanting to make, then I, as a theist, want to know whether an event can be at the same time the motion of brain matter in a mechanistic universe and, at the same time, the inference to a conclusion from its premises.

Reppert believes that the atheist here assumes the reality of a claim of inference, and uses it to argue that there is no God. But if reality is only physical, then human “reasoning” is impossible. (Like saying, “Ah, I see the logical connection!”) But human reasoning is possible. Therefore, probably theism is true.
(Yes, I've read Richard Carrier's criticisms of Reppert here and Reppert's response to Carrier here. See Reppert's current response to Carrier in "Defending the Dangerous Idea: An Update on Lewis's Argument from Reason " here.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

C. S. Lewis's Argument from Desire for the Existence of God


                                         (Wood ducks, in my backyard.)

I'm reading The Apologetics of Joy: A Case for the Existence of God from C.S. Lewis's Argument from Desire, by Joe Puckett.

This argument is stated like this:

  • Premise 1: Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  • Premise 2: But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
  • Conclusion: Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.

Regarding P1 Lewis wrote:

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity, ch. 10)

Lewis distinguished between innate, natural desires (like the desire for food) and artificial desires (like the desire to levitate, or desiring the Lions to win the Super Bowl). Innate desires have corresponding objects; artificial desires may or may not have actually existing corresponding objects.

Regarding P2 there are atheists such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Albert Camus who affirm it. Of course they reject P1. Camus "held that all human beings longed for meaning in a world that offered none. He posed the question,

"What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity."" (Puckett, K145)

If P1 is true, as Lewis believed (and philosophers such as Peter Kreeft believe), and if P2 is true (as even some atheists affirm), the the conclusion follows:

"Therefore there exists something outside of time and the universe that can satisfy that desire (and the best candidate for that which exists outside of time and the universe is God)." (Puckett, p. 122)

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Argument from Consciousness for the Existence of God

(A few of my 5000 books.)

This argument is J.P. Moreland’s, and is found at Go to “Resources.” Scroll down to: "Argument from Consciousness for God's Existence." ($1.95 for the mp3)

See also: Moreland’s hyper-academic  Consciousness and the Existence of God:A Theistic Argument.


Moreland - The Recalcitrant Image: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism

Moreland - The Soul: How We Know It's Real and Why It Matters

This is one of my favorite arguments for God's existence. Ultimately, this argument succeeds as an example of abductive reasoning:

1) Irreducible consciousness exists.
2) The best explanation for irreducible consciousness is either theism or naturalism.
3) It's not naturalism.
4) Therefore, theism is the most probable explanation for the existence of irreducible consciousness.

Here is a synopsis, notes I use when I teach students this argument.

1.  A “Recalcitrant Fact” – a fact that resists explanation by a theory.

a.    Imagine, e.g., that you are a prosecuting attorney, and have strong evidence that John committed a murder. HOWEVER…  there are 10 credible people who say they were watching a ball game with John at the time the crime was committed.

b.    That is a “recalcitrant fact.” (A "stubborn" fact.) It does not fit your theory that John committed a murder.

c.    You could try to explain it away. How?

d.    Every attempt to explain away the recalcitrant fact fails. The fact remains “recalcitrant” (unyielding; won't go away).

e.    At this point the recalcitrant fact provides evidence for an alternative theory.

2.  The existence of consciousness is a recalcitrant fact for atheists.

a.    If atheism is true, then all that exists is matter and its various arrangements.

b.    This is called “naturalism,” or “scientific naturalism,” or “philosophical naturalism.” Or “materialism.” Or "physicalism."

c.    If all that exists is matter, how can you get “mind” from “matter?”

d.    But “mind” does exist.

e.    Therefore the existence of “mind” (consciousness) is a recalcitrant fact for atheism-as- philosophical naturalism.

f.     Former athestic philosopher Antony Flew, in There is a God, points to the existence of consciousness as a problem for atheists.

g.    Also presenting a problem for atheists is free will, and a “unified I.”

h.    But what if Christianity is true? If it is, then it follows that we are made in the image of God. There’s something about us that is like God.

 3.  Consciousness – what is it?

a.    Think about water. Water can exist in three states: liquid, solid, and gas. Each of these three states is a different state of water.

b.    In the same way, there are at least 5 states of consciousness.

                                          i.    Sensations

                                        ii.    Thoughts

                                       iii.    Beliefs

                                       iv.    Desires

                                        v.    Volition, or Acts of Free Will

 4.  #1 – A Sensation (Mental State #1)

a.    Two levels of sensations.

                                          i.    Those that come through a sense organ.

1.    An awareness of “yellow”

2.    An awareness of “sweetness”

3.    An awareness of the smell of a rose

4. An awareness of the smell of an elephant ear at the county fair.

5.   Note: If I see a red object in lighting that makes it look orange to me, I experience it as orange, even though it is red.

                                        ii.    Those that do not come through a sense organ

1.    Pains, itches, emotions, etc…

2.    The difference between a pain and an itch is that they are different forms of sensory awareness.

3.    The difference between anger and the taste of a banana is that they are different forms of sensation.

b.    A sensation cannot be true or false.

                                          i.    It can be accurate or inaccurate.

                                        ii.    E.g. – Upon seeing a banana I say, “I have a sensation of ‘yellow’.”

                                       iii.    This sensation is not “true” or “false,” but accurate or inaccurate.

c.    You can have sensations without being able to think.

                                          i.    E.g. – I am sure that frogs have sensations. But it’s not clear to me that frogs can think.

                                        ii.    Frogs can feel pain, they can see flies. But they can’t have thoughts about flies. They don't dream about flies, or lust after flies, or hate flies.

d.    A sensation is just “a state of sentience.”

5.  A Thought (Mental State #2)

a.    A “thought” is the mental content that can be expressed in a sentence.

b.    For example:

                                          i.    Schnee ist Weiss. (German)

                                        ii.    Nieve es blanca. (Spanish)

                                       iii.    Snow is white.

c.    All three of these sentences have the same content.

d.    The content is in my mind. The sentence is on the board, or on the sheet of paper.

e.    The sentence isn’t the same thing as the thought.

                                          i.    You can see the sentence.

                                        ii.    You can’t see the thought.

f.     A thought is a state of consciousness.

g.    Thoughts are different than sensations.

                                          i.    A thought can be true or false.

                                        ii.    A sensation cannot be true or false.

h.    Thoughts are different states of consciousness than sensations are.

6.  A Belief (Mental State #3)

a.    A belief is something you take to be true, between 51% and 100%.

                                          i.    For example, I am 80% certain that the Lions will make the playoffs this year. I’m “80-20” on this.

                                        ii.    For example, I am 100% certain that I exist. I’m 100-0 on this.

b.    A belief is your view of how things are; of what you take to be true, or to be the case.

c.    Beliefs are like thoughts – both can be true or false.

d.    But beliefs aren’t the same things as thoughts.

                                          i.    E.g. – thoughts only exist while you are having them.

                                        ii.    But you have many beliefs that you are not now aware of or thinking of.

                                       iii.    E.g., as I now speak to you, I have thousands of beliefs about…

1.    My wife Linda

2.    The multiplication table

3.    The New Testament

4.    Frogs in my backyard

5.    History

6.    Birds

7. Elephant ears

8.    Etc…..

                                       iv.    I have many beliefs I am not now paying attention to (not now thinking of).

                                        v.    But it wouldn’t make any sense to say, “I now have a thought that I’m not thinking about.”

1.    Thoughts only exist when you are having them.

2.    Beliefs exist whether you are aware of them or not.

                                       vi.    Another example: I have thoughts that I don’t believe.

1.    E.g. – I am now doing a great job teaching.

2.    You can have a thought that you don’t believe; you can have a belief that you are not thinking.

e.    Thoughts and beliefs are like liquid and solid. They are different states of consciousness.

7.  A Desire (Mental State #4)

a.    A “desire” is a felt inclination toward or away from something.

                                          i.    E.g. – a desire for a cupcake.

                                        ii.    E.g. – a desire not to have a root canal.

                                       iii.    E.g. – a desire to be a good friend.

b.    Desires are not thoughts or beliefs.

                                          i.    A thought doesn’t have a felt inclination for or against something.

c.    Desires aren’t the same things as sensations.

                                          i.    Many people confuse a desire for God with a sensation of God’s presence, or an experience of God.

                                        ii.    People can have a desire for something that is a long-term desire…

1.    Like a desire to be a good teacher, or a good friend, or a godly parent.

                                       iii.    You can tell a long-term desire by the behavior that comes from it.

                                       iv.    E.g., the desire to be a good guitar player.

8.  A Volition; an Act of Free Will (Mental State #5)

a.    A mental action

b.    An exertion of effort

c.    This is a state of consciousness, of free will.

d.    Libertarian free will – a conscious choice that cannot be fully reduced to prior (antecedent) causal conditions.

9.  All 5 of these are states of consciousness. Not one of them is physical.

a.    How do we know that?

b.    How do we know that these 5 states of consciousness are not physical?

c.    You don’t need a brain to think.

d.    E.g. – God doesn’t have a brain, and God can think.

e.    God doesn’t miss not having a brain.

10. Three Reasons Why Consciousness Is Not Physical

a.    There are things that are true of consciousness that are not true of the physical brain.

                                          i.    If this is true, then consciousness and the brain cannot be the same thing.

                                        ii.    Like what?

1.    A thought can be true or false. But no physical state of your brain can be true or false.

2.    E.g. – when you think, “That cupcake was good,” there is brain activity going on. Something may be happening, in your physical brain, that is closer to your left ear than your right ear, and it may be 10 cm long.

3.    But the thought “That cupcake was good” is not nearer your left ear than your right, and it is not 10 cm long.

4.    Thoughts don’t have geometrical size or shape. But the states of your brain do have geometrical sizes and shapes.

                                       iii.    Another example: Think of a pink elephant. Some of you may be able to think of putting a blue blanket on it.

1.    The thought is of “pink” and “blue.”

2.    But there is nothing physically pink and blue in your brain. Right now, if we could examine your brain, we would find nothing that is pink and blue.

                                       iv.    Therefore, there are things that are true of consciousness that are not true of the physical brain. If this is true, then consciousness and the brain cannot be the same thing.

b.    There is a “what it is like to feel consciousness…”

                                          i.    E.g. – What it is like to feel pain…

1.    … to feel anger…

2.    … to be thinking about lunch…

                                        ii.    This is available from a first-person perspective.

                                       iii.    BUT NOTE: There is no first-person perspective on “what it is like to be physical…” Everything that is physical is only available from a 3rd-person perspective.

                                       iv.    See here Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?

1.    Nagel suggests that the subjective aspect of the mind may not ever be sufficiently accounted for by the objective methods of science.

                                        v.    E.g., suppose a physicist knew all the physical facts about the universe.

1.    Suppose she was blind from birth.

a.    Then, all of a sudden, she gained the ability to see.

b.    This person would learn some brand new facts. There would be facts about “What it is like to see the color yellow.” Etc.

c.    She already knew all the physical facts. But now she gained a bunch of new facts.

d.    From this it follows that the new facts she has come to know are not physical. They are, instead, mental facts.

e.    Thus, there is knowledge that is not available from a 3rd-person perspective.

2.    A scientist can know more about your brain than you do.

a.    But he cannot know anything about your mind, about what it is like to be you, unless you tell him.

b.    You alone have first-person knowledge of your mind, but not your brain.

c.    If your mind was your brain, you should be able to have a scientist tell you what is going on in your mind by reading it off what’s going on in your physical brain.

c.    Intentionality

                                          i.    This is “of-ness”; “about-ness.”

1.    Your thoughts/beliefs/sensations are “of” or “about” things.

2.    My sensation is a sensation of a tree.

3.    My desire is a desire about a cupcake.

4.    My fear is a fear of tornados.

                                        ii.    Our thoughts/beliefs/sensations are said to have “intentionality.” Which means they are “of” things or “about” things.

                                       iii.    Pure physical states don’t have intentionality.

1.    It doesn’t make any sense to point to an an area of the physical brain and say, “That brain state is about the Second World War.”

                                       iv.    States of consciousness do have intentionality.

1.    Therefore, the states of consciousness are not states of the brain.

                                        v.    For these three reasons (and others) the 5 conscious states are not physical.

11. What About the Brain?

a.    Science can establish correlations between the brain and the mind.

                                          i.    This doesn’t prove they are the same thing.

                                        ii.    E.g. – just because fire causes smoke, it does not follow that fire is the same as smoke.

                                       iii.    Just because I poke you and it causes pain, this does not mean that the thing going on in your physical brain is pain. 

b.    It’s possible that consciousness uses the brain to work, like a driver uses a car to move.

c.    Moreland uses out-of-body experiences to validate this. Therefore, people don’t need brains or eyes to see.

d.    So, establishing correlations doesn’t prove they are the same thing.

12. The Problem for Atheistic Naturalism

a.    The problem is… if you begin with matter… and start with matter as it is described in physics and chemistry…

                                          i.    …then the history of the universe will be a history of the rearrangement of matter into more and more complicated arrangements of matter.

b.    The problem is…  before sentient (conscious) life existed, there was no consciousness, on naturalism.

                                          i.    If this is true, then how can you get something from nothing?

                                        ii.    How do you get consciousness coming into existence from matter by merely rearranging brute, inert matter according to the laws of chemistry and physics?

                                       iii.    Moreland says: “There is no explanation for the origin of consciousness if you start from matter. Period.” Moreland says he has read every attempt, on naturalism, to explain this.

                                       iv.    Moreland says: “This is why the majority of philosophers working in philosophy of mind today deny the reality of consciousness.

13. Consciousness is explained if Christian Theism is true.

a.    If you begin the universe with mind (logos) rather than with matter (particles; b-bs), then you already start the universe with conscious self, and the existence of subsequent selves is no problem.

b.    This is because the cause of the universe, at its core, is a Conscious Being, not brute matter.