Being as Communion

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Or do they?

Christians like myself, along with religious believers of all stripes insist this is not the case. Skeptics insist on empirical evidence, which they claim the faithful lack. The majority of humanity hang on tenaciously to their belief that something more than space, time, and matter exists. The question is whether their beliefs have a solid foundation, or are they just persisting in pre – scientific superstitions?

The skeptics’ mantra is: observable, testable, repeatable. They dismiss the philosophical wisdom of the ages as milk and water. They compare faith in deity with belief in the Tooth Fairy or the Boogeyman, if not the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. ~ Carl Sagan

William Dembski offers an alternative explanation. In Being As Communion, he contends that the universe is built from information rather than mere waves and particles.

To exist is to be in communion, and to in communion is to exchange information. According, the fundamental science, indeed, the science that needs to ground all other sciences, is a theory of communication, and not, as is widely supposed, an atomistic, reductionistic, and mechanistic science of particles or other mindless entities, which then need to be built up to ever greater orders of complexity by equally mindless principles of association, known as natural laws or algorithms or emergent properties or principles of self – organization. ~ William Dembski

If Dembski is correct, this has implications for the way we see reality. If the fundamental stuff of the universe is information, then the universe certainly points beyond itself to an intelligent personal Creator. From nothing nothing comes.

Something cannot come from nothing. To claim that something can come into being from nothing is worse than magic, when you think about it. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you’ve got the magician – not to speak of the hat! ~ William Lane Craig

If we should be skeptical of the claim that the matter could not have spontaneously popped into existence, we should certainly be skeptical of information arising without a mind. If it turned out that William Dembski is right, it would be another nail in the coffin a materialist atheism. I intend to examine Dembski’s claims in Being As Communion over the course of a series. I encourage the curious to join me over the next few posts.

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How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Conclusion

Now that we have reviewed the five most common methods, which method of apologetics is the best? I would encourage my readers to do their own research, read Five Views on Apologetics for themselves, and make up their own minds. My personal opinion is that, more than any one method, Five Views… promotes what is gaining popularity as “integrated method.”

Rather than promoting one method above the rest, it shows that these methods have more similarities than differences. In fact, many of the authors admit openly to borrowing from each others’ methods. For example, William Lane Craig tempers his classical method with Reformed epistemology:

We know that our Christian beliefs are true because they are properly basic, warranted beliefs grounded in our vertical experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. … We can show that Christian theism is true by presenting arguments for theism and evidences for a specifically Christian theism, which go to show, when coupled with defensive apologetics, that Christian theism is the most plausible worldview a sufficiently informed, normal adult can adopt.

Dr. Craig’s concept of showing Christianity to be true is typical of the classical method, but his ideas on knowing Christianity to be true are derived from the Reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga. He has adopted this hybrid method in order to avoid becoming overly rationalistic in his defense of Christianity.

William Lane Craig is not alone mixing and matching methods. John Frame (unlike some other presuppositional apologists) affirms the role of evidence and even classical arguments for God’s existence.

… [O]ur argument should be transcendental. That is, it should present the biblical God, not merely as the conclusion to an argument, but as the one who makes argument possible. …We can reach this transcendental conclusion by many kinds of specific arguments, including many of the traditional ones. The traditional cosmological argument, for example…

Few people would disagree that William Lane Craig is among the best classical apologists, and that John Frame is among the best presuppositionalists. It is encouraging that, despite some disagreement on minor differences between them, they agree on the the most important things. It is also enlightening for the classicalists among us who have engaged the simpleton “presuppositional apologists” who really do insist on arguing in vicious circles, and the presuppers among us who have encountered the uber-rationalist “evidentialists” who are more committed to the latest evidence and arguments than biblical orthodoxy. We should judge the merits of each method on the best apologists, rather than the worst.

Personally, I lean toward the classical method. Like William Lane Craig, I also appreciate the Reformed epistemologists’ objection that belief in God is justified apart from empirical evidence, and I agree that we know God exists better via the inner witness of the Spirit than by arguments. I also love the presuppositional passion for the authority of the Bible and apologetics as evangelism. Finally, I love the imaginative literary nature of cumulative case apologists, who remind us that Christianity is more than a set of syllogisms.

No matter the method, there are some essential elements of quality Christian apologetics. All believers are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. No particular method is described. Classical, evidential, cumulative case, presuppositional, or Reformed epistemology apologetics are perfectly fine from a biblical perspective. But we are to be ready with an answer, and we must deliver it with gentleness and respect. Our apologetics must be grounded in the Scriptures. We should always bear in mind the purpose of apologetics as well: to spread the gospel. Whether we use a particular method, or integrate various methods, goal of apologetics is not to show everyone how intelligent Christians can be, but to remove intellectual obstacles to encountering Jesus Christ.

How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Part 2

The first method of apologetics presented in Five Views on Apologetics is the classical method, which is presented by Dr. William Lane Craig. Currently, Dr. Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. In addition to his academic career, Dr. Craig has a popular apologetics ministry, Reasonable Faith. The Reasonable Faith website has numerous apologetics resources, including articles, videos, and podcasts. Reasonable Faith chapters meet across the country and around the world to discuss Christian apologetics. As part of his ministry, Dr. Craig is well known for debating scholarly skeptics of the traditional Christian worldview. Dr. Craig has also written several books on apologetics. For more detailed explanations of Dr. Craig’s apologetic method, read Reasonable Faith or On Guard.

The classical method, promoted by Dr. Craig, is often referred to as a two step method of apologetics. The first step is to persuade the skeptic that God exists based upon widely agreed on observations of the world around us, and then the second step is to argue that Christianity is true based upon uniquely Christian arguments.

This approach is comprised of natural theology and Christian evidences. Among its practitioners are such great figures as Thomas Aquinas with his famous Five Ways of demonstrating God’s existence and his appeal to the signs of credibility (miracles and prophecy) to validate Christian doctrines not demonstrable by reason alone; Hugo Grotius, the father of modern apologetics, whose De Veritate Religionis Christianae drew upon the traditional arguments of natural theology and inaugurated the historical approach to the truth of the Gospels; and one of my heroes, William Paley, whose Natural Theology is one of the most brilliant defenses of the teleological argument ever written and whose A View of the Evidences of Christianity was so impressive that it remained compulsory reading for every applicant to Cambridge University right up to the twentieth century.
– Dr. William Lane Craig, from Chapter One: Classical Apologetics, Five Views on Apologetics

According to classical apologists, Christian evidences will not be persuasive unless it is proven that it is reasonable to believe in God first. The skeptic will probably not be convinced that the Bible (special revelation) is true, unless she is convinced by evidence for God’s existence outside the Bible (natural revelation).

Paul wrote to the church in Rome that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20, ESV). Since human beings can perceive God’s existence and even know His nature through His creation, the classical apologist might begin with an argument for a Creator who made the universe, or a Designer who fashioned the universe with precision and wisdom. He might argue that a theistic god is the best explanation of morality, logic, or beauty. Some argue that a Perfect Being exists by necessity. There are a host of possible arguments and many classical apologists use more than one, forming a cumulative case for God’s existence.

After establishing that a theistic god exists through natural theology, the classical apologist moves on to arguing that this god is the Christian God of the Bible. He will move from arguing to the existence of a god based on observations of the world as we know it to arguing that the Christian worldview best explains the world as we know it. At this point the apologist might appeal to the historical reliability of the Bible, or to fulfilled prophecy. The central truth claim of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead, validating not only the truth of His religious teachings, but His claim to be God incarnate. If it can be shown that He was crucified, buried, and on the third day arose from the grave, then He is God in the flesh, who bore the penalty of sin so that all who put their trust in Him can be reconciled to a pure and holy God.

Dr. Craig differs from the typical classical apologist in that he places great emphasis on the difference between knowing and showing that Christianity is true. He argues that it is rational to believe in God apart from arguments and evidence on the basis of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. This view is influenced by Reformed epistemology, which holds that belief in God is properly basic. I will explain more thoroughly what properly basic means when I get to Reformed epistemology in this series. All the reader needs to know for now is that because belief in God is rational on the basis of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, Christians who have no knowledge of apologetics can still be justified in their belief in God. It also means that Christians can rationally maintain faith in God when evidence seems to contradict their belief. This is not to say that Christians maintain their beliefs irrationally in spite of the evidence. In fact, Dr. Craig would argue persuasively that the evidence is on the side of Christianity. Rather, it means that the Christian can know God exists, even if she cannot show God exists based on the evidence available.

Science vs. Scientism

This week I listened to a couple of great podcasts on the relationship between Christianity, philosophy, and science versus the strange ideas of scientism. See definition number 2 from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Main Entry: sci·en·tism
Pronunciation: \ˈsī-ən-ˌti-zəm\
Function: noun
Date: 1870
1 : methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist 2 : an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)

In this week’s Reasonable Faith podcast, Dr. William Lane Craig and Kevin Harris discussed an article by Massimo Pigliucci which is critical of scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s prejudice against philosophy.

Frankly, …someone who regularly appears on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and has had the privilege of remaking Carl Sagan’s iconic Cosmos series — in short, someone who is a public intellectual and advocate for science — really ought to do better than to take what amounts to anti-intellectual (and illiterate) positions about another field of scholarship. And I say this in all friendship, truly.
– Massimo Pigliucci

Dr. Pigliucci’s article is also critical of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, calling the latter “another frequent philosophy naysayer.” Dr. Craig and other Christian philosophers and apologists have often criticized these atheist superstars for their antiphilosophical biases, but it is notable when Dr. Pigliucci makes such statements. He not only has scientific and philosophical degrees, but is an outspoken secularist. He certainly cannot be accused of a pro – Christian bias.

In this week’s episode of Straight Thinking, the podcast of Dr. Kenneth Samples, Dr. Timothy McGrew appears as a guest. The myth propagated by folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins is that science and religion (and let’s be honest–by “religion” we mean Christianity) are in conflict. In fact, Christianity is not just unscientific, but is actively anti-science. Dr. McGrew slays that dragon with historical facts and the sword of philosophical reason. Dr. Samples and Dr. McGrew also discussed the complementary relationship between good philosophy and good science.

There is certainly no denying that some Christians have misunderstood science, or bought into pseudoscience of one kind or another. However, modern science was birthed out of Christian convictions that the universe was created and designed by an almighty and all – wise God. Therefore, the universe functioned according to reliable, observable, and repeatable laws in an orderly fashion. Rather than being anti-science, the Christian worldview of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Copernicus, Galileo, Johannes Kepler and so many others set the stage for modern science.

Professing Themselves to be Wise, They Became Fools Part 5

The subject of today’s post is the genetic fallacy.

The genetic fallacy can be very similar to the ad hominem fallacy. The difference is that an ad hominem attack is directed at an individual person, but a genetic fallacy occurs when an attack is made on a group the critic’s opponent belongs to. It is also a genetic fallacy when is an attack is made on the origin, or the genesis, of an argument.

A very interesting example of the genetic fallacy is exposed and refuted by Dr. William Lane Craig on his website in Q & A #36: Our Grasp of Objective Moral Values. “Q & A #_” is a weekly feature on reasonablefaith.org in which Dr. Craig’s answers questions made by his online audience. In Q & A #36, an inquirer named Carmen made the following statement within her question:

… [O]ur moral values (proximate factors) could be linked to our or to our group’s reproductive fitness (ultimate factors) as our recognition of moral values evolves. We respond to morality but it is the underlying reproductive fitness that directs evolution. I cannot see how one can ever recognize morality as objective if our perceptions have been colored by the inevitable link between proximate and ultimate evolutionary factors.

To put it another way, Carmen was arguing that the origin of morality is (at least possibly) evolution. Our ancestors found that certain behaviors gave them a survival advantage, and that is where our notion of morality comes from. If this is the case, she argued, then morality is not objective–independent of how we think or feel about it–as Dr. Craig claims in his version of the moral argument.

Dr. Craig revealed and explained the fallacy with crystalline clarity of thought:

… [T]o infer that because evolution has programmed us to believe in certain values, therefore those values are not objective is a logical fallacy. This was the point I made in the article against Michael Ruse, when I said,

The reasoning of Ruse is at worst a text-book example of the genetic fallacy and at best only proves that our subjective perception of objective moral values has evolved. But if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then such a gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm.

The genetic fallacy is committed whenever someone tries to invalidate a view by explaining how that view originated or came to be held. People commit this fallacy, for example, when they dismiss your belief in democracy by saying, “You believe in it only because you were born in a democratic society.” That may, indeed, be the explanation of why you believe in democratic government, but that in itself does absolutely nothing to show that your belief is false. (Compare “You believe that the earth is round only because you were born in a scientific age!” Does that make your belief false?)

Now you might say, “All right; I see that objective moral values can exist even if we’re programmed by evolution to believe in them. But, still, why should I think that they are objective, given the evolutionary story?” The answer is, “Because you clearly apprehend them and the evolutionary story gives you reason to doubt your moral sense ONLY IF naturalism (atheism) is true.” The objection begs the question because it presupposes that naturalism is true.

It may not even be the case that the origin of morality is evolution. It could be that we just happened to evolve a sense that can detect an objective moral law, in much the same way our other senses apprehend other features of the real world around us. Even if it were demonstrated conclusively that we evolved into moral creatures, this could not disprove the existence of objective moral values and duties. This confuses ontology–where something comes from–with epistemology-how we know something to be true. After all, it might be argued that a Transcendent Lawgiver (best explained by God), may also be the All-Wise Creator and Designer of the universe and everything in it, including humans and moral laws and duties. Such a Being might have may have intentionally introduced an evolutionary mechanism so that the ancestors of humans would progress into beings capable of knowing His transcendent, objective moral law. He might even have encoded an apprehension of objective moral laws into the very structure of human DNA, causing this moral law to be written on our hearts, so to speak.

I do not say in this post whether such an argument would be valid. This post is about the genetic fallacy. I only offer it as a possible example of how the way we know things (epistemology) differs from the origin of those things (ontology).

In closing, it should be noted that I have only used small snippets of the Q & A that were relevant to the genetic fallacy. I strongly encourage readers to click on the link above to read the entire Q & A. Indeed, I encourage all of you to follow the articles, podcasts, videos, and other resources on the reasonablefaith.org website.

And as always, stay tuned to Think on These Things blog. In the next post, I will describe the non sequitur fallacy.

Ecclesiastes 7:19 ESV

Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.