Monthly Archives: August 2011

On the Euthyphro Dilemma

Is it moral because God says so or does God say so because it’s moral? False dilemma. It’s moral because that’s the way God is.  — William Lane Craig

I think that this an excellent and adequate response to the Euthyphro dilemma.  I believe that the answer is rooted in the ontology of God as perfectly good.

However, I don’t think that the skeptic would ever be convinced by such an answer.

He’ll just ask how we know God is good, and when we way “the Bible,” he’ll mention that the Bible also says to sacrifice turtledoves to “clean” women during their menstrual cycles, confirms the existence of unicorns, and prohibits football.

Now, all of those things are hyper-literal readings of the text and have simple responses. My point here is that the skeptic doesn’t accept the Bible’s description of anything, let alone God.

To illustrate, archeologists give the benefit of the doubt to ancient documents when a site contradicts a document. The thought is that the ancient writer was closer to the events and probably knows better than we do thousands of years later. Not to mention that its possible that a site might have been altered, destroyed, rebuilt, or built upon between the composition of the document and our discovery of the site.

However, when that ancient document is the Bible, then the error is automatically assumed to be with the Bible, and not assumed to be one of a myriad of possibilities like the ones I just mentioned. To recap, random ancient document contradicts a site: “There’s probably an explanation. Let’s assume the document is right and find out the reason for the contradiction.” The Bible contradicts a site: “Bible’s wrong, it’s complete fiction, God doesn’t exist. Three cheers for freethought!”

While I think that the answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma lies in God’s ontology, I think that in order to get the skeptic to see that, he must be willing to step out in faith and trust the Bible. However, given all of the skeptical attacks on the Bible (despite it previously thought to have been very reliable), there’s a long way to go on that.

By the way, I’m not the only one that sees this.  The Bible has yielded much good archeology in the past, and if we would continue to rely on it I have faith it will produce much more good in the future.  However, there is a serious prejudice against the Bible not only in archeology, but in every academic discipline.

History and archeology aren’t my thing, but I hope that other apologists who feel called to that area work hard to counter some of this anti-Bible sentiment in those fields.  If the Bible can be believed again as a reliable ancient source of history, then we will have taken a good step toward resolving some of the theological questions being raised as well.

Replying to Comments: “Twitter and Shallow Reasoning”

I really have to stop letting these accumulate.  Answering them is never as bad as I seem to think it will be.  And, often, I learn something.

First up, on my post on how Twitter breeds shallow reasoners, Boz thinks that the Twitter users I mention are misunderstanding proof, which he says is:

1) Provide strong evidence for; Demonstrate.  I can prove that Morphine is addictive.

2) Show to be true with 100% accuracy.  I cannot disprove solipsism.

I agree on both counts, and I also believe Boz is correct that the Twitter users I’m picking on don’t get what proof really is.  Nor do they understand that one cannot disprove solipsism (which is why they resort to ridiculing me).

The point is that argument can suffice in place of empirical proof.  Provided one can show a belief is rational by logic and argumentation, then empirical proof isn’t necessary.  There’s no empirical proof that an external world or other minds exist, and we can’t say for certain (therefore) that we aren’t living in a computer simulation (a la The Matrix).

But we are rational for accepting the existence of the external world and the existence of other minds without evidence.  So I also argue that, because we can argue rationally and cogently for the existence of God, that we are justified in accepting it as true in the absence of empirical evidence.

Really, it all boils down to treating God as we would any other belief.  So, then, I’ve asked the atheist to provide good reasons to not accept the existence of God.  No one has stepped up, and Boz reversed it on me: provide rational reasons for not believing in Amun, the Egyptian god of creation and the sun.

Challenge accepted.  First:

  1. The conception of God is as the maximal being.  God exists eternally, and thus was never created nor will he ever pass away.  God also exists necessarily.
  2. The preservation of the Scriptures pertaining to God is excellent.  No significant variations in the (forgive my use of this term) plot of the creation story exist.  The rigid attention to the story is indicative of its perceived truth.
  3. God sent his Son, Jesus, to speak for him.  Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy and equipped teachers to give God’s full and final revelation.  He backed up his divinity with a Resurrection from the dead.  All of this in fulfillment of Scriptures written hundreds of years before.

As for Amun:

  1. Amun is not the maximal being.  He neither exists eternally nor necessarily.  He created himself (however that might have worked, but it indicates at least one prior moment where he did not exist), and formed a hypostasis with Ra (the sun god) at the outset of creation.
  2. The variations of the creation myth of Egypt demonstrate they had no commitment to its finer points, and therefore believed it only in the sense that it imparts a lesson.  Similar to how Aesop’s Fables or Shakespeare’s plays do–notice the range of variations in both over the extant MSS; the Bible’s variations are at least as numerous but not as significant.
  3. There is no fulfillment in the material realm for Amun-Ra such as we see with Jesus.

I think that these three points nicely demonstrate the superiority of God to that of Amun-Ra.

Why Faith in Christ Requires More than Emotion

[T]he force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own. Young people whose faith is mostly emotional are likely to retain it only as long as it is making them happy. As soon as a difficult crisis comes along, it will evaporate.

–Nancy Pearcy, Saving Leonardo, Kindle iPad Edition, p. 16 (emphasis added)

Aggravating Atheist Double Standards

One of the things I love about atheists is their constant use of complete double standards.  It’s why I can’t be an atheist: I’m way too consistent.

First some background:

Jennifer Fulwiler wrote a post about five Catholic beliefs that would make sense to atheists.  The spirit in which she wrote it would be to show that Catholicism is intellectually honest, not that an atheist would actually agree that those beliefs as true.  As only he can, PZ Myers wrote a response entitled “Jennifer Fulwiler: Vacant-eyed, Mindless Cluelessness Personified.”  He essentially dismissed each point as supernatural nonsense, so no atheist would ever actually agree to any of them.

But that wasn’t Jennifer’s point.  Her point:

I evidently did not make it clear enough that all of my examples were meant only to illustrate the intellectual consistency within Catholicism, and therefore assumed that you would be in a discussion with an atheist who would stipulate belief in God for the sake of argument. E.g. In the case of Purgatory, when I was an atheist I would have said, “All belief in the supernatural is crazy. But if you must believe in all that God and heaven mumbo jumbo, then, yeah, you need Purgatory in order not to contradict your own bizarre little belief system.” (source, emphasis added)

The first comment to that post, addressed to Jennifer, is the atheist double standard:

“intellectual consistency within Catholicism”

I would ask then if it is possible to get a blood born disease from the blood of christ when taking communion?

I read your original article, and as an atheist I did not agree with a single point (none of the teachings made “sense” to me”, and as PZ suggested, I am not convinced you had arrived at your previous atheism from an intellectual standpoint.  It sounds as if you were just a theist in denial or in “thenial” – it happens all the time.

There it is: the No True Scotsman Fallacy.  Basically, DKeane is saying that Jennifer wasn’t a true atheist, because true atheists would never convert to theism.  She’s been a theist all along. Read the rest of this entry

Faith in Quotes: The Conclusion

Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.

— D. Elton Trueblood

A Day at the Office

I thought that an occasional short story might illustrate certain points better than a straight article.  It’ll be good practice for that novel I’m hoping to write.

Rob dreads coming to work, but he has goals and ambitions.  First, moving out of his dreary apartment into a house.  Then, marrying Rachel.  At some point, a nicer car would be great.

Wedding expenses and honeymoon expenses, as well as down payments for houses, require money.  Unfortunately, they require more money than this pencil-pushing low-level administrator’s position pays, but that’s what Rob’s night classes are for.

It really wasn’t so much the repetitive job that gets to Rob as Terry.  Every office has someone that is into something weird and puts it out there.  Terry is the guy that does that here.  His weird thing: atheism. Read the rest of this entry

Faith in Quotes IX

Faith is not contrary to reason.

— Sherwood Eddy

Fascinating Phone Call on EWTN Radio

I was listening to EWTN radio this morning and I heard a fascinating phone call.  The caller asked the DJ (maybe the guest, I tuned in and only heard this call) why he needed to receive a sacrament of Penance before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

I was floored, to say the least.

Catholic theology teaches that the sacraments are containers of God’s grace.  When you receive a sacrament, you are essentially taking an outpouring of God’s grace.  The sacrament of Confirmation, however, is more than that.

In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit descends upon you, and bestows his gifts chosen for you to be a faithful worker in God’s kingdom.  Though it isn’t strictly necessary, biblically speaking, I think it is an excellent idea to invite the Spirit to take residence in a clean temple.

I stole that from the DJ or guest, because I liked it.

Now, why didn’t the caller already know that?  You think he would.  I knew the answer right away.  True, I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t on my Catholic upbringing that I drew for the answer.  Consider the words of Paul regarding the receiving of the Supper:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Cor 11:27-32)

I should think that anytime we receive a measure of grace from God, we ought to do such a self-examination.  Just because grace is an unmerited favor that God shares with us, we still ought to accept it reverently and with as clean a heart as we are capable of.  Never should we just take it lightly, or we are taking judgment on ourselves.

For the Catholic, that means confession to a priest, and completing a penance for absolution.  That is so small considering the gift of the Holy Spirit that is about to fill you; greater peace and grace isn’t possible here on earth.

But, is this only a Catholic problem?  Nope.  The whole church, Catholic and Protestant, has done an awful job of educating people of the first step of the gospel of our Lord–that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  The world teaches us that we are basically good; we are evolving toward something greater.  Our evolution is merely incomplete, so it’s not our fault when we behave like roughians.

I blame the world for teaching that.  I blame the caller for buying into it, and not submitting to the teaching of the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is one example among many of how far we as Christians have to go to get the gospel message out to a world that needs it now more than ever.

Faith in Quotes VIII

Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.

— Thomas Aquinas

Faith in Quotes VII

Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.

— Blaise Pascal