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Krauss on Craig: “disingenuous distortions, simplifications, and outright lies”

A couple of days ago, Lawrence Krauss released a statement on his recent debate with William Lane Craig over whether there is evidence for God. (If you haven’t watched it, ctrl-click here to view it on YouTube.)

His statement was posted on Pharyngula, the blog of infamous self-styled “godless liberal” PZ Myers, and was also circulated on Richard Dawkins’ forum (the self-styled “clear-thinking oasis”).

Let me make a couple o’ comments on it:

Firstly

It’s clear that the thing I found most embarrassing about Krauss’ part of the debate—his complete lack of understanding of the contingency argument—has in no sense changed.

This argument is about why is there something instead of nothing; it isn’t an argument about causes, as he characterizes it (apparently confusing it with the Kalam Cosmological Argument), but an argument about explanations or reasons. It invokes the Principle of Sufficient Reason: that everything that exists must have a sufficient reason for its existence. Obviously, most of the things we know exist could just as easily not exist; in which case, why do they exist? But we can also see that some things, like the laws of logic, must exist—they exist necessarily. God in the latter category; the universe is in the former. There is nothing about its nature that says it must exist, or that it must exist exactly as it does. This is really not disputed, to my knowledge, among either scientists or philosophers. In fact, the science seems to indicate that the universe could have existed in so many other different ways that we literally cannot conceive of the number. But in that case, we are back to asking why does it exist, and why does it exist as it does? Krauss has no answer.

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Auckland Event: The New Atheism, Science, and Morality

Thinking Matters is pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting Dr Glenn Peoples at Auckland University next month. Glenn will be speaking on morality and the New Atheist’s endeavour to anchor morality outside of God.

If you’ve read Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins, one thing you’ll notice is that they take pains to point out that they are not relativists. They believe quite strongly that there are objective moral truths. Indeed, many of their most colourful arguments against religion and Christianity depend on this. But if they disagree with the tradition of other atheists, such as Nietzsche (who argued that morality “stands or falls with faith in God”1), how do they account for moral realism, in a naturalistic universe? Despite Richard Dawkins admission that science has no methods for deciding what is ethical, Sam Harris has recently contended that we should think of moral facts as being scientific facts. With neuroscience opening up the world of the human brain to us, Harris suggests we can now understand moral facts in terms of facts that describe the human brain and its experience of happiness and suffering.

In his talk, Glenn will examine the arguments for this view, explore their success, and show why the New Atheists are unable to preserve genuine moral truths in a world without God.

If you’re interested in the topic of morality and New Atheism, this will be a great event for you. It will also be a great opportunity for those who might have read Glenn’s blog and listened to his podcast to finally meet him!

Here are the full details:

New Atheism, Science, and Morality: Is there a naturalistic basis of moral truth?

TIME: Monday, September 6 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm

LOCATION: The University of Auckland, Library Basement Room 15, 5 Alfred St, Auckland

COST: Free

Can the natural world tell us what is right and wrong, without need for God? Can moral facts be grounded scientifically? Thinking Matters, in association with the Evangelical Union, is proud to host Christian philosopher Dr Glenn Peoples at the University of Auckland this September. Dr Peoples will be examining the arguments of popular atheist and best-selling author, Sam Harris, and argue that the attempt to ground morality outside of God ultimately fails.

Dr Glenn Peoples is a graduate in theology (BD) from the Bible College of NZ and has a Masters degree (MTHeol) and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Otago. For over ten years he has been writing and speaking, both in New Zealand and abroad, on intellectual issues that Christians face, including the place of faith in the public square, justice and human rights, and the reasons for Christian belief. He lives in Dunedin with his wife Ruth and their four children.

The Facebook page for the event is here.

1. Nietzsche, F. (1968) Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ. New York. Penguin Books.

Auckland Event: God in the Light of the Critics

On Saturday the 29th of May, TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences in Aotearoa), in conjunction with the Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, will be holding a seminar on God and the new wave of  atheism. The event brings together speakers from a variety of theological and confessional commitments to interact with the new cultural movement of skepticism.

When: Saturday May 29, 9am – 3.30pm

Where: Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, 1043 Beach Road, Long Bay (ph 473 2600)

Cost: $20 / $15 students and unwaged

Schedule

9.00  Registration

9.30  Welcome: Nicola Hoggard Creegan (Chair of TANSA, and lecturer at Laidlaw) and John Fairbrother (Director of Vaughan Park)

9.45 Tim Meadowcroft (Senior Lecturer at Laidlaw) Pascal’s Bus: A Conversation between Blaise Pascal and the British Humanist Association Buse.s

10.30 Morning Tea

11.00 Judith Brown (Adjunct lecturer, Laidlaw) Tracing the way Home: the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

11.45  John Bishop (Professor of philosophy, Uni of Auckland)  Some Thoughts on an Alternative to a ‘Personal omniGod’ Theism.

12.30 LUNCH

1.30  Peter Lineham (Professor of History, Massey) A History of Atheism: from Paine to Dawkins

2.15  Nicola Hoggard Creegan  Deeper than Darwin

2.35  John Fairbrother Thank God for Atheists

For more details phone Nicola @ 021 376 045 or check out the TANSA website.

Five Arguments for God

The Gospel Coalition have released the seventh article for their Christ on Campus Initiative, entitled “Five Arguments for God”. The essay is written by well-known apologist and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, William Lane Craig. Weighing in at thirty pages, Craig’s article re-examines five arguments for the existence of God and particularly how these arguments hold up against the popular criticism of Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Craig writes:

“It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they do tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society. One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea for good or ill is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true. Darwinism, for example, has certainly had at least some negative social influences, but that’s hardly grounds for thinking the theory to be false and simply ignoring the biological evidence in its favor.

Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation. If so, they are naïve. Over the last generation there has been a revival of interest among professional philosophers, whose business it is to think about difficult metaphysical questions, in arguments for the existence of God…

The New Atheists are blissfully ignorant of this ongoing revolution in Anglo-American philosophy. They are generally out of touch with cutting-edge work in this field. About the only New Atheist to interact with arguments for God’s existence is Richard Dawkins. In his book The God Delusion, which has become an international best-seller, Dawkins examines and offers refutations of many of the most important arguments for God. He deserves credit for taking the arguments seriously. But are his refutations cogent? Has Dawkins dealt a fatal blow to the arguments?

Well, let’s look at some of those arguments and see.”

The five arguments that Craig covers are:

1. the cosmological argument from contingency
2. the kalam cosmological argument based on the beginning of the universe
3. the moral argument based upon objective moral values and duties
4. the teleological argument from fine-tuning
5. the ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to his actuality

It is an excellent overview and along with the other articles (see our post on the CCI here) together offer valuable material for campus ministries (or anyone else).

The article can be read here or downloaded as a pdf.

The Decade of Atheism?

Nathan Jacobson from Afterall.net:

“Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt concluded 2009 by broadcasting a debate about God between polemicists Michael Shermer and Gregory Koukl, thereby bidding adieu to what he called “The Decade of the New Atheists”. It was indeed a remarkable cultural phenomenon how four atheologians in particular rose to prominence by selling scads of books: Sam Harris with The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens with god is not Great, Daniel Dennet with Breaking the Spell, and, of course, Richard Dawkins with The God Delusion. But just as noteworthy, perhaps, is the cavalcade of able critics who rose to these challenges to Christian theism. As with the cottage industry of criticism that accompanied Dan Brown’s and then Ron Howard’s The Davinci Code, these broadsides served as provocation for countless apologists. Of course, none of these apologists were remotely as successful as their atheistic rivals in terms of sales. One wonders whether they will slip into oblivion just as Hume survives in philosophy readers, while most of his contemporaneous critics do not. Whatever happens, the swift and mostly scholarly response to this one decade’s worth of the now perennial barrage on Christian theism leaves it an open question whether, in the final analysis, it was the atheists or their counterparts who owned the aughts.”

It’s an intriguing question. Nathan has also posted a list of published books and articles that have responded to the New Atheists. It’s worth checking out and judging the debate for yourself.

"The single most incompetent logical argument ever made"

David B. Hart has written a favourable review of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution over at First Things, but has some pretty strong passing comments of Richard Dawkins’ previous work:

[W]hat makes The God Delusion so frustrating to any reader who has a shred of decent philosophical training and who knows the history of ideas is its special combination of encyclopedic ignorance and thuggish bluster. Repeatedly, Dawkins discusses such issues as Thomas’ “five ways” (which he, as many do, mistakes for Thomas’ chief “proofs” for the “existence” of God); but he never bothers to consult anyone who could explain these issues to him. And he is desperately in need of such explanations, given how utterly bewildered he is on every significant point. He cannot distinguish questions regarding the existence of the universe from questions regarding its physical origin; he does not grasp how assertions regarding the absolute must logically differ from assertions regarding contingent beings; he does not know the differences between truths of reason and empirical facts; he has no concept of ontology, in contradistinction to, say, physics or evolutionary biology; he does not understand how assertions regarding transcendental perfections differ from assertions regarding maximum magnitude; he clumsily imagines that the idea of God is susceptible to the same argument from infinite regress traditionally advanced against materialism; he does not understand what the metaphysical concept of simplicity entails; and on and on. His own pet proof of “why there almost certainly is no God” (a proof in which he takes much evident pride) is one that a usually mild-spoken friend of mine (a friend who has devoted too much of his life to teaching undergraduates the basic rules of logic and the elementary language of philosophy) has described as “possibly the single most incompetent logical argument ever made for or against anything in the whole history of the human race.”

That may be an exaggeration. My friend has spent little time among theologians. But that is neither here nor there. All of these failings would be pardonable if Dawkins were capable of correction. But his habitual response to any concept whose meaning he has not taken the time to learn is to dismiss it as meaningless, with the sort of truculent affectation of contempt that suggests he really knows, at some level, that he is out of his depth.

Read the whole thing.

Hart is the author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

For a collection of reviews of The God Delusion, visit this page.

(Source: Justin Taylor)

We’re dreaming of a Bright Christmas?

“Asantaism” and “Athorism” are all the rage nowadays – ought Atheism to be our collective next step? In recent times the “New Atheists” have often recommended that the God of the Old and New Testaments be ditched along with other myths and fables for children such as Santa Claus.

It won’t break your heart to hear that, despite the hype at this time of year, that jolly old white guy ‘Santa’ is in fact a fictional character. Many people however, believe that the Judaeo-Christian God can also be placed in an area labelled ‘non-reality’. I argue that the usual attempts to infer a relationship between the two, display cracked thinking.

There is debate in philosophical circles over the sense in which fictional characters can be said to ‘exist’ – however, for the purposes of most of this essay, I’ll take it that Santa does not exist. But for the ‘neo’-atheists to compare God to Santa Claus only displays their own childishness rather than philosophical acuity. It seems clear that wishful thinking; of which the ‘bright’ (Dawkins’ designator of choice) brigade are here guilty; and insightful thinking share a verb, but little else.

Three years back, Richard Dawkins wrote a witty piece in the Washington Post where he implored the western world to give up taking Yahweh seriously in the same way that we’ve given up Thor, that once-rather-popular Scandinavian god of thunder.

“While technically agnostic about all those ancient gods, and about fairies and leprechauns too (you can’t disprove them either), in practice we don’t believe in any of them, and we feel no onus to explain why”

For Dawkins it is clear that in systematizing the universe, Yahweh is best placed into the same category as a leprechaun. Yet Yahweh, who has been part of the dominant world view of the western world for the previous 2000 years; and in the thinking of various other parts of the world for much of that; is neither non-existent nor twee.

So what is special about the God of the monotheist compared to the merry Santa of the mislead secular child? Clearly, God is believed in by a number of people older than 8 years; you may wish to take myself and the Pope as suitable instances. A key factor for me however, aside from the fact that there many intelligent people who take God to exist (pick up Philosopher’s Who Believe, for example) is the weight of positive evidence for Yahweh that we do not have for Santa or any other ancient god. Evidence such as the argument from morality, from teleology in nature, from cosmology, and most important of all, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in history.

I want to focus, however, on the robust ‘big-scale’ explanatory role that Christian theism can play, an advantage that individual gods in polytheistic systems cannot claim and which the faith of the neo-atheists has no hope of playing. Theism provides a much better explanation than atheistic materialism, for example, of the origin of the universe. This idea bears rephrasing – theists claim that God made the universe; God made nature itself. For the naturalist to say “aha, shame on you, ignorant Christians; we know how thunder works, so good bye to Thor and to your god!” completely misses the point and the grandeur of the God concept. Note that this isn’t a ‘god of the soon-to-be-filled gaps’ argument. Discovering natural mechanisms within the natural universe; no matter how wonderful or how many; can no more get rid of God than discovering linguistic structures in a book or blog post can get rid of the author.

The epistemological minimalism encapsulated in the oft-intoned “Occam’s Razor” does not sit well with the way modern science works. In hypothesis-testing, a concept’s explanatory power; not just its simplicity; is important. Particularly suspect is whether the Razor ought to be ruthlessly applied in the case of the universe itself – is it really more satisfactory to have nature itself as a brute fact (or indeed, billions of other universes), rather than a single person as its source? In the light of our own experience of agent causation and creativity, I suggest the personal option comes with at least some initial plausibility.

And there is modern cosmology; and philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe, including those against the existence of actual infinities, which strongly challenge the eternity of matter/energy and hence count against any assumption which takes the universe as brute fact. Yet regardless of, for instance, whether all of the premises of the Kalam argument can be sufficiently defended to convince the already convinced sceptic, there are prima facie considerations in favour of God’s existence that Santa or Thor do not share; minor mythological figures are simply not ambitious enough. Ultimately, whether or not you choose to believe in the existence of the man in the red suit at the north pole, the present question of a personal, non-physical creator of the universe who interacts with it to the point of incarnation, remains important and open; ready for unwrapping and investigation.

A bridge to nowhere: Wilson on New Atheism and morality

Douglas Wilson, pastor at Christ Church in Idaho and a senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College, reflects on his recent debate tour with Christopher Hitchens (the documentary of the tour, Collision, is now available on DVD) and the problem of morality for atheists:

“Can I be good without God? Sure. Knock yourself out. May I be good without God? Again, sure, but here is where the question starts to cut both ways. The question is double-bladed because it is here that we realize that we are alone by ourselves, and we are not really asking anybody for anything. I may be good without God for the same reason that I may be evil without Him or, as it suits me, indifferent without Him. There is no one here to get permission from. For anything. Mom doesn’t care if I go play ball, and she doesn’t care if I shoot my sister. She doesn’t care because she doesn’t exist. Turns out I have been asking questions of a deaf and indifferent universe.

Near the end of our film, Christopher [Hitchens] admirably acknowledges that you can be a fascist and an atheist, a communist and an atheist, a sado-masochist and an atheist, and so on, and you can do it all without contradicting anything within the tenets of atheism. Christopher does not think of this as a concession to my central point, but I do want to press it. He wants to go on to insist that atheism does not commit you to the “absurd belief” that if you are an atheist then you “have no morality.”

If we piece all this together, the only thing he can possibly mean is that every atheist has the authority to generate his own code of morals, and that these morals do not need to conform to the tenets promulgated by the International Society of Nice Atheists, and that they further do not need to conform to the code of morals being generated in the fevered brain of the fellow next to me. But notice what this does. It makes all morality a matter of radical personal choice.

But once we do this, how can we come back in later to restrict or limit the choices? Once the individual generates his code, he certainly may seek out other like-minded people in order to form what sociologists call a plausibility structure. But there is no such thing as an overarching moral code, independent of the individual, one that is authoritative over him. There is no ultimate reason why he cannot decide to defy his societal norms (his plausibility structure), or move to northwest Pakistan to join up with another plausibility structure–one with more excitement and explosions.

Once we have gotten to this point, we may certainly fight with those who have made different choices. But we may not appeal to a standard that overarches both of us, which they are disobeying and which we are not. They have as much right to generate their code as we do ours. We may fight with them, but we have lost the ability to reason with them.

Centuries ago, David Hume pointed out how deep and broad the chasm was between is and ought. The new atheists, for all their vaunted skill in engineering, have not been able to build a bridge.”

Read the whole article at On Faith.

There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

I’ve taken the time to write some of my thoughts on the proposed “Atheist” bus advertising initiative coming to New Zealand next year. If you haven’t heard, the campaign hopes to raise awareness about atheism through advertisements such as “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” (check out this post for all the details). Here’s my take on the campaign:

Firstly, it’s not properly an Atheistic campaign.

Traditionally and properly speaking Atheism is the theory or belief that God does not exist. As a positive claim to truth this philosophy needs justification – that is, if it is to be held as rational. On this definition Atheism turns out to be just as much a statement of faith as belief in God is often accused to be. Aware of this and lacking successful or convincing arguments to sustain their position, many have sought to redefine Atheism. This is especially true of the so called “New Atheists,” such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and many others. Because of their popular appeal, evangelistic zeal and appearance of scholarly credentials, they have succeeded in construing Atheism as the theory or belief of those who have no reason to believe that God exists.

This latter claim is very different. The first thing that should be said is that this new construal of atheism is totally consistent with God existing (of course, it is also totally consistent with God not existing). Accordingly, on this new definition, both a Christian Fideist and the most fervent anti-Christian bigot can call themselves an Atheist. Also, a person who has looked at all the evidence for God’s existence, and tried their best to understand and engage rationally with the arguments, may well conclude in the end that there is no reason to believe that God exists. He then may decide (i) to believe anyway, or (ii) he may decide to disbelieve. Alternatively, (iii) he may decide to remain undecided on the issue, declaring he doesn’t really know. This last option should rightly be called some form of agnosticism. But under the new definition, this person would be an Atheist.

That said, I’m willing to grant the new Atheist his definition. The net result is a belief which is frankly identical to the traditional Atheist – that God does not exist. Even if that were not the case, their predicament also remains the same as before – such a position is a philosophical position and therefore needs rational justification by way of reasoned argument. It is also false that in the absence of evidence for God’s existence it is more rational to presume that God does not exist. (This idea is fleshed out in my discussion of Russell’s Teapot.)

What can we say of the bus advertising slogan “There probably is no God”? Lacking certainty, this is actually soft agnosticism – the belief that does not know if there is or is not a God. Given the measures Atheists are willing to take to make their philosophy more reasonable, one might be forgiven for thinking that Atheism is a philosophy in retreat.

Secondly, if God does not exist, why should we not worry?

Here are three points where I think worrying would be good advice if it were true that God did not exist.

First, the question of God’s existence is truly the most important question there is. If God exists there are many entailments, some of which are the strong probability of an existence after the death of the physical body. Such an entailment should strongly effect how you live in this life. So this is not a trivial question at all.

To illustrate, think of yourself as a parent whose child has gone missing in the wilderness. Three days of desperate search has quickly passed by, and the leader of Search and Rescue comes to you and gently says, “Listen, we all are very tired and hungry, and we think that there is only a 5% probability that your child is still alive. We want to call off the search.” As a parent you would truly be alarmed, for as long as there are people searching there is a possibility that your child may be found, and found alive. You therefore press the Search and Rescue officer, “Please… Keep searching.” He responds kindly and continues through the night, but in the morning says, “Listen, we think that there is only a 1% possibility that your child is still alive.” Even with a 1% possibility, do you as a parent ascent to calling of the search? Of course not. In fact, the small odds would inspire the parents to reconsider how the child has avoided detection and even the assumptions that informed the initial search parameters. Even if the possibility were to be reduced even further, as long as there is the slimmest hope, the search is not abandoned. For the parents continuing the search is justified, for the reward of having their child back safely in their arms far outweighs the any effort they could expended. In the same way and for the same reason, so should our search for God be. Pascal says the wise man will search for God with all his heart.

The immortality of the soul is a matter so important to us, one which touches us so deeply, that a man must have lost all feeling to be indifferent to it . . .

One does not need to have a very highly trained mind to understand that there is here no genuine and solid satisfaction, that all our pleasures are only emptiness, that our ills are infinite, and that finally death, which threatens us every moment, must in a few years inevitably place us in the awful necessity of being eternally annihilated or miserable.

There is nothing more real than that, and nothing more terrible . . . So a man who doubts and yet does not search is at the same time utterly miserable and utterly wrong-headed. Pensees, 11

Second, if God does not exist then what restraint is there on moral behaviour? This is not to say that Atheists cannot act morally – they most often do. Similarly, I’m not suggesting that Atheists are unable to discern what is right and wrong – I think for the most part they can. Instead, the point is that by erasing God from the picture all morals become mere human conventions that are unfixed and subject to change by the latest whim. They are reduced to preferences, such as the taste of chocolate over vanilla. Without a transcendent ground for moral values and duties, justification for commonly held moral beliefs we all share is lost, and rational restraint from tyranny and oppression along with it. All are vulnerable to be victimised by another’s hedonistic ideal. Without a standard, there can be neither justice nor injustice. Without an ultimate good, there can be no evil.

God has traditionally filled the position of that transcendent ground required for the justification of morality. Immanuel Kant saw that for practical reasons (in order to make sense of morality) it was necessary to assume that God exists. Voltaire, the Eighteenth Century French Atheist said, “If God does not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” In other words, if God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist, and this is unacceptable. An Atheist may believe in objective moral values – if he does, he does so without rational justification. An atheist may disbelieve in object moral values but still live a life that affirms them – but to be more consistent with his philosophy he should renounce all moral values and duties, actually become a nihilist and not just believe it, and live as he pleases. After all, if God is absent there is ultimately no moral accountability and no life after death. So if there is no ultimate accounting for your actions, why not live by pure self-indulgence and gratification if you can get away with it? The consequence of a thoroughly realised atheistic view, is cause enough to worry.

Third, there is implied here in the statement “Now stop worrying” a view of God who sits in judgement of the world, condemning every trespass and hanging the threat of hell over every person, in order that they might behave. Such a view is a distortion of the Christian view and misrepresents the nature of God. Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) As we approach Christmas, we are reminded about the extraordinary lengths God undertook to rescue us from the predicament we were already in, and of the God who loves, and saw fit to offer the life of his Son as a substitute for many. The Christian message is not one of sorrow where a judge finds us guilty and punishes every wrong action, but one of great joy, where a Saviour has made every effort to reach out and draw people to himself, that we might freely choose him and thus avoid the judgment we already so richly deserve.

Thirdly, thanks for the reminder to enjoy life.

Jesus said, “I come that you may have life, and life more abundantly.” This slogan reminds us of the words of Jesus, and that it should be Christians who enjoy life the most. This is the natural state of true believer who has discovered the purpose of all life. That this life is is to discover and know Christ Jesus our Lord, and this should be the greatest adventure as He is the source of fulfilled life and true happiness.

Fourthly, Atheists apparently need a thicker skin.

The stated reason for this promotion of so called Atheism is not to convince anyone that there is probably no God, but to reduce stigma attached to the label “Atheist”. At this I wonder, what stigma could he be referring to? I’ve wrestled with a number of obstinate, unreasoning, and raving-mad atheists in my time, but realise that these are not representative of the general horde (approximately 60% according to the last census) of Atheists/Agnostics in New Zealand. Have Atheist’s got it so bad that they feel stereotyped or misunderstood in some way? It strikes me as supremely odd that in western countries such as Britain and New Zealand, Atheists would start an awareness campaign for Atheism, when Christians in other countries face immanent threat of death from real persecution, and must meet in secret to avoid extermination. To add to the insult, for the most part in the twentieth century it was Atheistic regimes doing the persecuting of Christians. Atheists in Britain and New Zealand apparently need thicker skin. If they want to know what persecution is they should become Christians and experience what it is like living in North Korea, or Saudi Arabia.

Fifthly, these issues are not unprovable.

I often hear the claim that;

1) The Atheistic claim is a universal negative
2) In principle, it is impossible to prove a universal negative.
3) Therefore, Atheism is unfalsifiable.

While the logic is valid, both the premises are false. For (1), the Atheistic claim that “God does not exists,” is not a universal negative – it is a singular negative statement. For (2), both universal negatives and singular negative statement can in principle be proved. All that is required is to find an instance of whatever x is. And if x is God, then finding God disproves a negative. Christians should be aware of this, and have a ready response.

As another instance, I heard recently this argument made by a Christian

1) You cannot prove that God exists.
2) You cannot prove that God does not exist.
3) Therefore, both Atheism and Theism are equally faith commitments.

Again, the logic is valid, but the premises are false. For (1), it is certainly true that one cannot prove with logical necessity that God exists. Logical necessity would be the level of certainty attained by mathematic equations, logical syllogisms, and very few other things. However, it is possible to prove that God exists to the standard of beyond reasonable doubt, which is all that is required in a courtroom. Successful arguments for God’s existence can be constructed with premises that are true or at least more plausible than their contradictories and therefore, rationally compel one to believe its conclusion. For (2), the same response for (1) applies – logical necessity is not necessary for a proof. Plus, it is untrue that Atheism does not have positive arguments. The Atheist has traditionally appealed to the Problem of Evil. Some atheists still appeal to the incoherence of the concept of God. Furthermore, what I said about universal negatives not being unfalsifiable applies – all one needs to do is demonstrate there is a God and Atheism is falsified.

Sixthly, this is an opportunity for Christians.

My last thought on this campaign is it makes for an excellent opportunity to address this important topic and to enter into discussion with those who have never thought about it before. While I won’t be donating any money to the cause, this should be seen as an open door for us to advance the gospel of truth. It is a fair warning for all Christian theists to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:15), and demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). Accordingly we should be wary of people who have no good reason or sound argument to hold to Atheism, yet believe it anyway. Likewise we should call our fellow believers to become familiar with the good reasons and sound arguments for Christian theism, which implicitly will be defeaters for Atheism.

Albert Mohler on the New Atheism

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of the radio talk show The Albert Mohler Program, gives a presentation at the University of Louisville explaining and defending the content of his latest book, Atheism Remix. The new book is a popular-level engagement of the New Atheism, helping Christians to understand and respond to the intellectual challenges raised by the the movement. To listen to the audio only, go here.

[vimeo 7701979]

Source: Justin Taylor

New and recently released apologetic books

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I could corral some apologetic-themed gift ideas here for those that might want to encourage friends and family members with Christian truth. Why get the latest Twilight Saga CD or Joel Osteen’s latest Fifteen Steps to Self-actualize your Dream Yacht when you can get something with real intellectual and spiritual fiber?

Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors

Edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig

B&H Publishing Academic
304 pages (paperback)

This book is a comprehensive rejoinder to the new wave of skeptical arguments against Christianity. It is book two in a series on modern Christian apologetics that began with the popular ‘Passionate Conviction’. Confronting skeptics such as Richard Dawkins and Bart Ehrman, the book includes essays by eighteen different evangelical thinkers that were delivered at the annual apologetics conferences of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Google books preview here.

Paul Copan is Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is author of many books including  “True for You, But Not for Me” (Bethany House)  and Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion (Chalice Press).

William Lane Craig is one of the most prominent philosophers of religion in the world today and also the research professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

contending_with

Table of Contents

I. The Existence of God
1. William Craig, “Dawkins’ Delusion”
2. James Sinclair, “At Home in the Multiverse? Critiquing the Atheist Many-Worlds Scenario”
3. Victor Reppert, “The Argument from Reason”
4. Michael Murray, “Is Belief in God Hard-Wired?”
5. Mark Linville, “The Moral Poverty of Evolutionary Naturalism”
6. Greg Ganssle, “Dawkins’ Best Argument Against God’s Existence”

II. The Jesus of History
7. Robert Stein, “Criteria for the Gospels’ Authenticity”
8. Ben Witherington, “Jesus the Seer”
9. Gary Habermas, “The Resurrection of Jesus Timeline”
10. Craig Evans, “How Scholars Fabricate Jesus”
11. Dan Wallace “Misquoting Jesus? Bart Ehrman and the New Testament’s Reliability”
12. Michael J. Wilkins, “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?”

III. The Coherence of Christian Doctrine
13. Charles Taliaferro and Elsa Marty, “The Coherence of Theism”
14. Paul Copan, “Is the Trinity a Logical Blunder? God as Three and One”
15. Paul Copan, “Did God Become a Jew? The Coherence of the Incarnation”
16. Steve Porter, “Dostoyevsky, Woody Allen, and the Doctrine of Penal Substitution”
17. Stewart Goetz, “Hell: Getting What’s Good My Own Way”
18. David Hunt, “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism”

God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible

Edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister

Intervarsity Press
265 pages

The ambition of this book largely overlaps with Contending with Christianity’s Critics, setting out to address some of direct objections put forward by the New Atheists. Craig and Meister have assembled some of the finest evangelical scholars from across different academic disciplines, including an interview by Gary Habermas with new convert to theism, Antony Flew.

Chad Meister is professor of philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana and is the author of numerous books, including The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity, Introducing Philosophy of Religion, Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith and The Philosophy of Religion Reader.

godisgood_isgreat

Table of Contents

Part One: God Is

1. William Lane Craig, “Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God”
2. J. P. Moreland, “The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism”
3. Paul K. Moser, “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God”

Part Two: God Is Great
4. John Polkinghorne, “God and Physics”
5. Michael J. Behe,  “God and Evolution”
6. Michael J. Murray, “Evolutionary Explanations of Religion?”

Part Three: God Is Good
7. Chad Meister “God, Evil and Morality”
8. Alister McGrath, “Is Religion Evil?”
9. Paul Copan, “Are Old Testament Laws Evil?”
10. Jerry L. Walls, “How Could God Create Hell?”

Part Four: Why It Matters
11. Charles Taliaferro, “Recognizing Divine Revelation”
12. Scot McKnight, “The Messiah You Never Expected”
13. Gary R. Habermas, “Tracing Jesus’ Resurrection to Its Earliest Eyewitness Accounts”
14. Mark Mittelberg, “Why Faith in Jesus Matters”

Postscript: My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism
Antony Flew (with Gary Habermas)

Appendix A: The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism “Ad Absurdum”:
Review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion by Alvin Plantinga

A Faith And Culture Devotional: Daily Readings On Art, Science, And Life

Edited by Kelly Monroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington

Zondervan
304 Pages

Unlike the previous two books, this one isn’t offering an apologetic for the Christian faith but instead a way to integrate the pursuit of truth and the wonder of faith.  The daily reader is intended for Christians who care about literature, philosophy and science by offering the thoughts of some of the most astute theological and philosophical Christian minds of the day. The book is divided into five sections: Bible and Theology, Science, Literature, Arts and Contemporary Culture, and each section features 15 succinct readings. Some of the contributors:

faith&culture

-Dallas Willard
-John Eldredge
-Michael Behe
-Frederica Matthews-Green
-Darrell Bock
-William Lane Craig
-R. C. Sproul
-Randy Alcorn
-J. P. Moreland

Read a sample here. It will be released next month.

Kelly Monroe Kullberg is the founder and director of The Veritas Forum, the author of Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas, and an associate with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Lael Arrington has a master’s degree in the history of ideas and aesthetics from the University of Texas, has authored three books and cohosts the radio talk show, The Things That Matter Most.

Critical Reviews of Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion"

I received a few emails in regards to my previous post about Richard Dawkins and his earlier work, The God Delusion. Several readers were interested in what I said about the book’s critical reception and so I’ve compiled a list of some of the reactions that have appeared in academic journals and in the media, from both skeptics and theists. There are many more out there (online responses from Peter Williams, Albert Mohler, Richard Swinburne, and Steve Hays are also worth investigating) but the following offer a pretty good assessment:

“Dawkins is perhaps the world’s most popular science writer; he is also an extremely gifted science writer. (For example, his account of bats and their ways in his earlier book The Blind Watchmaker is a brilliant and fascinating tour de force.) The God Delusion, however, contains little science; it is mainly philosophy and theology. . . Dawkins is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.”
Alvin Plantinga (Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame) Books and Culture 3/01/2007

“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Cardcarrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.”
Terry Eagleton, Vol. 28 No. 20 · 19 October 2006 pages 32-34

Despite my admiration for much of Dawkins’s work, I’m afraid that I’m among those scientists who must part company with him here. Indeed, The God Delusion seems to me badly flawed. Though I once labeled Dawkins a professional atheist, I’m forced, after reading his new book, to conclude he’s actually more an amateur.
H. ALLEN ORR (Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester) The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 1, January 11, 2007 (Also worth reading is Orr’s excellent reply to Daniel Dennett’s criticism of the review)

“The quality of Richard Dawkins’s polemic against classical supernaturalism is, for the vast most part, paradigmatically sophomoric. Moreover, while civility is not entirely absent from his deliberations, the tone of his discussion tends all too often to be surly, arrogant, and self-congratulatory.”
Robert Oakes (Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri) Faith and Philosophy vol. 25, no. 4, pages 447 – 451, 2008

“In his new book, he attacks religion with all the weapons at his disposal, and as a result the book is a very uneven collection of scriptural ridicule, amateur philosophy, historical and contemporary horror stories, anthropological speculations, and cosmological scientific argument. . . Since Dawkins is operating mostly outside the range of his scientific expertise, it is not surprising that The God Delusion lacks the superb instructive lucidity of his books on evolutionary theory, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and Climbing Mount Improbable.”
Thomas Nagel (professor of philosophy at New York University) The New Republic Online October 23, 2006

“Dawkins aims at a variety of arguments for God’s existence, but keeps missing the targets. He, amazingly, never addresses the kalam cosmological argument, one of the most powerful and most discussed theistic arguments of the past thirty years. Nor does he mention the much-discussed theistic interpretation of Big Bang cosmology. Pascal’s wager is summarily dismissed and badly botched…Dawkins confesses that the purpose of The God Delusion is to convert people to atheism. . . It nevertheless poses no serious threat to a well-informed and philosophically credible Christian faith”
Douglas R. Groothuis (Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary), Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 6 (2007)

[Addressing the ‘central argument’ of Chapter 4: “Why There is Almost Certainly No God”] “Dawkins’ argument for atheism is a failure even if we concede, for the sake of argument, all its steps. But, in fact, several of these steps are plausibly false… his argument does nothing to undermine a design inference based on the universe’s complexity, not to speak of its serving as a justification of atheism.
William Lane Craig (Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology)

The least satisfying part of this book is Dawkins’s treatment of the traditional arguments for the existence of God . . . Despite the many flashes of brilliance in this book, Dawkins’s failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience.”
Jim Holt, The New York Times, Published: October 22, 2006

“From an anthropological perspective, Richard Dawkins’ Darwinian critique of theism and religion is a fascinating read, though perhaps not always for the reasons the author would wish. In some respects, it makes a highly original contribution, bringing a new perspective to the scientific debate surrounding belief in God and other dimensions of the religious experience. But, at the same time, the arguments in relation to some aspects of religion are sometimes inconsistent and presented with a reliance on rhetoric rather than reason.”
Edward Croft Dutton (Oulu University in Finland) The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies. Washington: Fall 2007. Vol. 32, Iss. 3; pg. 385

Dawkins’s polemic against the need for religion is compelling, even if the arguments are not particularly new. Less persuasive is his attempt to explain what faith is and why people continue to believe. So great is his loathing for religion that it sometimes overwhelms his reasoned argument. . . Dawkins steamrollers over such complexities. The result, ironically, is that he ends up sounding as naive and unworldly as any happy clappy believer.
Kenan Malik, The Telegraph, 08 Oct 2006

It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.
Andrew Brown, Prospect, 21st October 2006 — Issue 127

“Ultimately, a reader can get worn out by 400-odd pages of indignation… Early in “The God Delusion,” Dawkins quotes Sagan’s book ” Pale Blue Dot” and concludes: “All Sagan’s books touch the nerve-endings of transcendent wonder that religion monopolized in past centuries. My own books have the same aspiration.” Unfortunately, in “The God Delusion,” he doesn’t succeed. Dawkins is probably right that fundamentalist religion “actively debauches the scientific enterprise,” but I’ll take Sagan’s more reverent skepticism any day.
Anthony Doerr, The Boston Globe, November 19, 2006

“The religion that Dawkins demolishes, like the God he imagines as enthroned in its midst, deserves (and staggers under) practically all the blows he launches at it; but there’s a whole other world that he scarcely lays a glove on. That world isn’t necessarily immune to reason’s assaults, but they’ll have to be orchestrated more subtly and sensitively than they are here. Meanwhile, atheists, especially insecure or harried ones, will find in The God Delusion one hell of a hotline.”
Peter Heinegg, Cross Currents, Winter 2007, Vol. 56, Iss. 4; pg. 128

The most effective chapters are those in which Dawkins calms down, for instance, drawing on evolution to disprove the ideas behind intelligent design. In other chapters, he attempts to construct a scientific scaffolding for atheism, such as using evolution again to rebut the notion that without God there can be no morality. He insists that religion is a divisive and oppressive force, but he is less convincing in arguing that the world would be better and more peaceful without it.”
Review by Staff, Publishers Weekly, New York: Aug 21, 2006. Vol. 253, Iss. 33; pg. 58

Also, for those interested in getting a hold of books that have addressed Dawkins’ book and the New Atheism, here are a few options (HT: James at Analogical Thoughts):

David Berlinksi: The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, April 2008.

Edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors , August 2009

Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God, May 2008

Eric Reitan, Is God A Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers, December 2008

David Robertson, The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths, June 2007

Keith Ward, Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins, April 2009