In a recent New York Time article, Thomas Nagel offers a brief but robust explanation why a purely physical explanation of the universe will not work. This may not seem, at first glance, to be a big issue. However, if it is true that the universe is only physical, then there can be no human mind/soul and certainly no god. Here is the kicker: Dr. Nagel is an atheist. And, he is arguing for a position that is favorable to theists in general and Christians in specific. How are we to understand this? [Read more...]
The concept of an omnipotent being, namely a being with maximal perfection with respect to power, is sometimes believed to involve a contradiction. The most popular reductio ad absurdum case against the existence of omnipotent being is known as “the paradox of the stone.”
The paradox unfolds as follows:
1. If God exists, then He is omnipotent
2. If God is omnipotent then God can create a stone too heavy for anyone to lift.
3. If God can create a stone too heavy for anyone to lift, then God is not omnipotent since He cannot lift the stone He created.
4. If God cannot create a stone too heavy for anyone to lift, then God is not omnipotent since He cannot create the stone too heavy for anyone to lift.
5. Either way God is not omnipotent.
6. Therefore God does not exist. [Read more...]
As part of my exploration of new approaches to apologetics, I’ve been reading through Clifford Williams’ book Existential Reasons for Belief in God.
So far, the hardest thing about understanding Williams’ thesis has been getting my head around the difference between an evidential argument for faith that uses needs as evidence of God and the existential argument for faith which asserts that faith in God is justified because it satisfies certain human needs.
One of the most well-known versions of the needs-based evidential argument is from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction of those desires exists,” writes Lewis. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”
A more recent version of this same argument comes from N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian. In his book, Wright asserts that the universal human needs for justice, spirituality, relationships, and beauty are, in fact, universal because God put them in every human heart. Humanity yearns for those things precisely because they are echoes of the imago dei that still reside, however faintly, in humanity.
I have always found these arguments to be pretty persuasive, mostly because they combine the use of reason with an honest description of how humans actually function. Just look around. Look at thousands of years of art, literature, and philosophy. These gut-level longings are a universal part of the human condition. [Read more...]
I am convinced that one of the easiest things to do as a Community Apologist is to use pop culture to demonstrate that everyone, everywhere (with the exception of the odd sociopath) has a moral intuition. And once people agree that this intuition exists, the conversation can then turn to why it exists and where it comes from.
One of the commenters on my last post asked if I could provide some specific techniques for using pop culture to demonstrate moral intuition. I have not yet gotten to the point where I can tick off a numbered list of steps, but because of his promptings I am developing a kind of mini-curriculum that will premiere here at some point.
In the meantime, the best way to show community apologists how to use pop culture to demonstrate universal moral intuition is to model how I do it. In other words, here is me trying to convince my readers that most television shows assume the existence of a shared moral standard even when the producers, directors, actors, and the fictional characters they play aren’t aware of it. [Read more...]
I’m in the process of getting a Master’s in Philosophy. Right now, I’m taking a class on thesis writing and we’re working through the process of choosing a topic. Since I attend a Christian University, most, if not all, of the students are Christian. The thesis, however, as my professor said, has to be “purely philosophical.”
In this case, “purely philosophical” means that it can argue for the existence of an “unmoved mover” or a being that is the source of normative moral obligations, but cannot wander over into the field of apologetics, which would include things like making a case for anything specifically Christian. Arguing for the Judeo-Christian god is off-limits.
When challenged as to why our topic could not be more specifically apologetic, the professor replied that: 1) this was a philosophy thesis, not apologetics, and 2) that confining oneself to pure philosophy forces us to think like a philosopher, to hone our ability to use logic, reason, and well-constructed arguments so that anyone—regardless of their religious affiliation—would have to acknowledge the strength of our ideas.