About Luke Nix

Luke Nix is a Computer Systems Administrator in Oklahoma, USA. He has a beautiful and supportive wife, but no kids yet. In his spare time he enjoys studying theology, philosophy, biology, astronomy, psychology and apologetics. If you liked this post, more of his writing can be enjoyed at lukenixblog.blogspot.com.

Can You Argue Someone Into The Kingdom?

ApologeticsA while back I was listening to Greg Koukl’s radio show “Stand to Reason,” and a caller challenged the need for apologetics. His main concerns were that nobody could be “argued” into the Kingdom and that apologists were wasting their time with “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8).

I have to agree that his first concern is valid, but I don’t agree with the second concern. I don’t think that anyone can be “argued” into the Kingdom. For example, knowing that someone exists is different from wanting a loving relationship with them. Someone can believe that the Christian God exists, yet not want to have a personal relationship with Him. That person can recognize that the evidence points toward the Resurrection being a historical event but not want to dedicate their life to that fact. A belief that is different from a belief in.

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Questions That Are Off-Limits- Part 2

Last month we looked at questions that atheists tend to shy away from for whatever reason, and we looked at questions that are truly off-limits to those in an atheistic world. Today, we will see if Christianity has any such questions. 

What is Off Limits In The Church?

One of the great advantages of Christianity over atheism is that the questions that are off limits in atheism are central to Christianity- God exists and He does have a purpose for all the pain and suffering that we experience. But does Christianity have its own questions that it says are off limits that may cause the worldview to implode?

 

The Culture of “Questions Not Allowed”

Around the age of 12 or 13, I discovered that my asking questions was quite annoying to many people. Generally people didn’t mind my asking a couple basic questions here and there. But when I started asking a lot of questions, or my questions began to point out a real issue between two facts, their demeanor changed. I noticed this especially in church. People didn’t mind my asking some basic questions about Christianity, but when I started getting into deeper theology, they ran. Some rebuked the questioning. This gave me a very sour feeling around many fellow Christians, as if asking tough questions about what we believed was off limits. This was one of the reasons that I drifted away from the Church. My thoughts were these: if Christianity is true, why are Christians so afraid of being challenged? Christianity was for the intellectually weak and  emotionally driven.

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Questions That Are Off-Limits- Part 1

600px-circle-no-questions-svg1I have always been a curious person. I love to ask questions. What things work, how they work, and why they work. Math and the sciences had a great appeal to me in school. I always interacted with the teacher or professor. I was always trying to make connections among different pieces of knowledge that I was being taught. As I got older, if someone told me something, I liked to know how they obtained that knowledge and how it related to other knowledge I already had.

This continues even today. As a result, I’ve never been one to not challenge someone who I suspected was giving me wrong information. But I don’t challenge just for the sake of challenging. I challenge in order to find the correct connections among facts. I challenge so that I may discover the truth.
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Antitheism and Krauss’ Wager

Laurence Krauss- The Antitheist
Recently in a discussion with Justin Brierly (Unbelievable?) and Rodney Holder, Lawrence Krauss made an interesting statement (podcast: 58:01):

“You talk about this god of love and everything else. But somehow if you don’t believe in him, you don’t get any of the benefits, so you have to believe. And then if you do anything wrong, you’re going to be judged for it. I don’t want to be judged by god; that’s the bottom line.”

Earlier in the program Krauss also described himself as an antitheist and made a distinction from being called an atheist. Taken in the context of the quote above, this distinction and title make a lot of sense. As apologists, it is not enough to address a worldview as a whole; we must look into the specific views of an individual to appeal to them on both an intellectual level and an emotional level. I have a few thoughts that I would like to draw out of this.
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The Necessity Of God And The Death of Philosophy

1422686_10202650994776848_2032208984_nI saw this image on Facebook the other day (states “God isn’t an option, He’s a necessity”). As a Christian I accept this because it is a part of the truth of Christianity (and consequently, reality). But the unbeliever doesn’t tend to accept it or even appreciate the significance of this statement…especially if they claim to know anything (even as minimal as that they exist). Formally put, here is one way to present the argument:

1. Evolution is driven by survivability of organisms
2. Human brains and senses are the product of evolution
3. Therefore human brains’ and senses’ existence is driven by survivability- From 1 and 2
4. Beliefs come from the human brain reacting to sense experience
5. Therefore beliefs exist based on assistance to survivability- From 3 and 4
6. Humans believe that God exists
7. Therefore the belief that God exists exists is based on its assistance to survivability- From 5 and 6

8. God does not exist
9. Therefore evolution favors false beliefs over true beliefs if the false belief helps survivability more than the true belief- From 7 and 8

10. Therefore the human brain and senses cannot be trusted to yield truth about reality (knowledge)- From 2 and 9


I placed premise 8 in italics because it is the premise that is under debate between atheists and theists. If premise 8 is true then the next two conclusions (really, #10 stated in two more different ways) necessarily follows:

11a. Therefore if naturalism is true, knowledge is not possible
11b. Therefore if knowledge is possible, naturalism is not true

Idiomatically put: we cannot know that we have our naturalistic cake and know that we can eat it too.

Violating the Law of Non-Contradiction
Two things are simultaneously true here: the granting of naturalism assumes the granting of knowledge, but only the denial of knowledge affirms naturalism. Here we have a violation of the law of non-contradiction. Knowledge is both affirmed and denied at the same time and in the same sense in this line of reasoning. Naturalism produces a violation of the law of non-contradiction. Reality does not violate this law. Therefore naturalism cannot be true.

Self-Defeat
Further, premise 8 (God does not exist) requires knowledge not only to make the claim, but to support it via arguments also. However, if premise 8 is true, then the claim of the truth of premise 8 and its supporting arguments are removed via the conclusion (10). The argument destroys itself from within- it is self-defeating. This does not necessitate that God exists, but it does necessitate that if God does not exist, we cannot know that God does not exist. We can only guess and opine that God does not exist.

Hard Agnosticism
If we can only offer guesses and opinions, then this takes agnosticism (not knowing whether God exists or not) beyond just the individual (“soft” agnosticism), but forces it on all of humanity- no one can know whether God exists or not (“hard” agnosticism). If God, indeed, does not exist, then no one can actually know it, and anyone who claims to know that God does not exist, ironically, is lying- not about God’s existence, but about their knowledge of it. Since their claim is no more than an opinion, it may be flippantly dismissed or blindly accepted as any other opinion without the charge of “academic dishonesty” being true.

Is God Necessary?
Of course, the denial of naturalism minimally includes the acceptance of the metaphysical, but not necessarily a God. Is it possible to affirm a minimal metaphysical realm to retain the ability to know things, yet not go all the way to affirming God’s existence? Even with the metaphysical existing, if nothing metaphysical with guiding power can purposefully guide the evolution of the human brain and senses (I’m granting evolution for the sake of continuing the conversation), then we still have the human senses and brain being the products of naturalistic evolution. It’s not exclusively naturalism that fails by this critique, it is a specific feature of naturalism that is necessary in naturalism and other worldviews that fails by this critique. If that feature is necessary, but fails by this critique, then so does the worldview fail by this critique.

So if knowledge is going to be possible, we can’t get away with merely granting a minimalistic metaphysical reality, we must grant a metaphysical agent that has intelligence and purposefully guided the creation (or evolution) of the human senses and brain to not only aid survivability but to also yield knowledge. Knowledge necessitates God’s existence. If you want to claim that you have knowledge, you cannot escape God’s necessary existence. Since knowledge necessitates God’s existence, knowledge removes the possibility of naturalism and metaphysical atheism from being true.

Of course, you can easily deny both of those conclusions by denying that you have knowledge of the falsehood of those conclusions. But you must grant that it is merely opinion that you are offering and is on equal academic and logical footing as is my conclusion that God does exist.

Is Philosophy Dead?
It is no wonder that Stephen Hawking made the claim that “Philosophy is dead“. Overlooking the fact that Hawking presents his own philosophy throughout his book, if premise 8 above is true, he’s actually right – epistemology (a foundational branch of philosophy) is a fruitless and meaningless pursuit – thus by all intents and purposes, it’s dead. But in a logical twist of events, without knowledge, science is dead. And any claim by Hawking that “God does not exist” or that “philosophy is dead” are relegated to mere opinion.

If one claims to know that God exists, they stand on solid epistemological ground. If one claims knowledge of anything, they are logically stuck with God’s existence. If one claims that God does not exist, the phrase “I know God does not exist” is at best oxymoronic. If we claim to know anything, God is absolutely necessary; otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves and our only option would be to consider Krauss’ Wager, but even that fails if Christianity is true.

Two recent sources that I recommend to further pursue this line of reasoning:

Alvin Plantinga – The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (OutlineVideo Lecture, and Debate)
Ronald Nash – The Word of God and the Mind of Man (the book and my review)

An ancient source that told us this nearly 2000 years ago AND predicted our refusal to accept it: Romans 1:18-23:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

More Great Posts on the Subject:
Wilkins and the EAAN- A Reply From Dr. Plantinga
Is Naturalism Rational?: The Self-Defeating Epistemology Behind Evolutionary Theories of Cognition