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Can you be good without God?

The Moral Argument

Reasonable Faith have put out a new video explaining the moral argument:

“Can you be good without God?

See, here’s the problem: If there is no God, what basis remains for objective good or bad, right or wrong? If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

And here’s why.

Without some objective reference point, we have no way of saying that something is really up or down. God’s nature provides an objective reference point for moral values – it’s the standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. But if there’s no God, there’s no objective reference point. All we’re left with is one person’s viewpoint – which is no more valid than any one else’s viewpoint.

But the problem is – good and bad, right and wrong do exist! Just as our sense experience convinces us that the physical world is objectively real, our moral experience convinces us that moral values are objectively real. Every time you say, “Hey, that’s not fair! That’s wrong! That’s an injustice!” you affirm your belief in the existence of objective morals.”

The Fine Tuning of the Universe

Reasonable Faith have put out a new video explaining the fine tuning argument:

Scientists have come to the shocking realization that the fundamental constants and quantities of our universe have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value – a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair’s breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There’d be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.

What is the best explanation for this fine tuning? Does chance, the physical necessity of these constants, or design best explain this phenomenon?

Why doesn’t God just do whatever it takes to make people believe in him?

Here’s something I’ve heard many times, often called the problem of divine hiddenness, recently articulated to me by a Facebook friend:

It would seem that an all loving god would not make it so damn hard to understand and believe when it could be so easy to make somone believe by any number of means. In fact god would know exactly what it would take to make me or anyone believe. why not do that?

Like the question, “When did you stop doing drugs?” this is not the sort of question we should answer directly, because it makes several bad assumptions:

1. IT ASSUMES THAT BELIEF = FAITH

But James 2:19 says that even the demons believe. Imagine God provided special evidence to an atheist that compelled her to believe he was real. Would she love him as a result? Or would she maintain that even though she was certain he existed, Yahweh is a monstrous deity not worthy of worship? Most atheists—especially new atheists—would say the latter. So if God wanted them to have a loving trust in him (faith), it doesn’t seem like proving his existence would get the job done.

2. IT ASSUMES THAT GOD HAS NOT ALREADY GIVEN SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

But as (1) suggests, the problem atheists have with God is not strictly evidential in the first place; it is relational. Which is why Romans 1:18ff notes that, far from not knowing the truth, all people naturally do know about God, since his existence is clearly perceived in creation—but they suppress it in unrighteousness. Now, atheists obviously won’t tend to admit this, even to themselves; just as I would not have when I was an atheist. But looking back on my attitude and beliefs during that time, it is very obvious to me now that I was deceiving myself, and that Romans 1 was exactly right. Indeed, the Bible’s ability to accurately expose the human heart was something that I found quite convincing when evaluating its claims. It has the ring of truth about it.

3. IT ASSUMES THERE IS SUCH A THING AS CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO AN ATHEIST

But if the Bible is correct that unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness, then any evidence for God will be suppressed in the same way—reinterpreted, no matter how implausibly, to point away from God. In Luke 16:31, Jesus observes that, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.” I’d lay good money that if an atheist saw someone rise from the dead, she would look for a scientific explanation—and assume there was a scientific explanation regardless of her success—rather than believe it was a miracle. That being the case, what could God possibly do to convince her, when she will resolutely reinterpret any evidence to fit her godless worldview?

4. IT ASSUMES GOD WANTS EVERYONE TO BELIEVE IN HIM

But where is this taught in the Bible? Scripture is explicit that, because we are naturally enemies of God, none of us will ever love him without he himself taking the initiative and fixing this relational problem we have. It isn’t something we can do. Left to our own devices, we will always hate God. He must change our attitude; make us willing to see the obvious. That is what the phrase “born again” means—to have God replace our “hearts of stone” with “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

This is why Yahweh has always chosen whom he will save, and left the rest. That is what Israel is a model of. God does not intend to save everyone. Rather, as Romans 9:16-18 puts it:

So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.

Cross-posted from my blog.

The Cynical Anti-Intellectualism of Dawkins

Daniel Came:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center” text_align=”left”]”… it is quite obvious that Dawkins is opportunistically using these remarks as a smokescreen to hide the real reasons for his refusal to debate with Craig – which has a history that long predates Craig’s comments on the Canaanites.

As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins’s conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people’s beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn’t care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people’s attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another.”[/pk_box]

James Barham:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center” text_align=”left”]”Now, it is understandable that Dawkins should disdain to debate someone so far below his own celebrity star-power as Professor Craig. On the other hand, by that criterion, he really ought to limit himself to appearing with other bona fide media stars, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (not that they would find much to disagree about).

If, however, Dawkins’s principal concern were the truth, as opposed to protecting his celebrity status, then he ought to jump at the chance to debate Craig. If modern science really has put the question of the existence of God to rest once and for all, then what better forum to get this across to the public than Oxford’s venerable Sheldonian Theatre next Tuesday? It really is a pity, because for many of us interested in the question of the existence of God, such a match-up would have the quality of a real clash of the titans.”[/pk_box]

HT: Uncommon Descent

Is it Reasonable to Believe that God is Good?

In his debate with William Lane Craig, Stephen Law raised the challenge of an evil-god: if we dismiss the existence of an evil-god because of the amount of good in the world, why shouldn’t we dismiss the existence of an all-good god based on the amount of evil in the world?

Edward Feser has written a good discussion of the merits and demerits of this challenge here.

(HT: Timmy H)

Christopher Hitchens, Atheism, and Evil

Douglas Wilson, writing at The Gospel Coalition, discusses Christopher Hitchen’s recent Slate article on 9/11:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=””]All this is Hitchens doing what Hitchens does best, and he does it for most of his article. And then, fulfilling the promise of the title (“Simply Evil”), he veers into incoherence at the very end when he only had about two column inches to go. It was like watching a bicycling Tour de Something rider, 50 yards ahead of the nearest competitor, anticipate the finish line by raising both hands above his head, at which point he triumphantly bites it.

“The regimes of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fully deserve to be called ‘evil.’”

Evil? Since the 2009 publication of God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens has spent a great deal of energy trying to persuade all of us that the idea of God is a false and pernicious one. But now he ups and calls these bad guys . . . evil. Given the premises, what might the definition of that be? Who determines what is evil and why? By what standard? But there may be a wiggle-room word in there. Hitchens only said they deserve to be called evil. But that generates the same questions. By whom? And whoever that person is, how did he wind up in charge of our moral lexicon?

We have to grow up, Hitchens has said. We have to reject outmoded concepts. We have to get rid of the idea that there is a God in heaven, telling us the difference between right and wrong. But if these things be true, then there are other things that follow. For some reason, Hitchens is willing to affirm the premises but will not own any of the obvious conclusions. You cannot throw away your suitcase at the beginning of your journey, and then, as you are nearing the end of the trip, pull out all the things that you packed in it. There may be shrewd ways of avoiding baggage handling fees, but that’s not one of them.

If there is no God, then Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have no God. But if they have no God, then it follows that Hitchens is not their god either. And if Hitchens is not their god, why should they care what he calls them? There is no god, and Hitchens is not his prophet.

Evil? Unless such men are treated as evil men, there is no justice. And if there is no actual justice (not paper justice, not name-calling justice, but actual justice), then there really is no such thing as evil. If there is no such thing as final justice, then how can we manage to define the concept of injustice? Hitchens wants to call them evil after they are largely out of ear shot. Let us all agree to call Stalin evil. On Hitchens’s account of things, does Stalin care?

Hitchens may counter that he fully intends to fight them. He fully intends to treat them as evil, and his article was a call to arms. All right then. Is evil then determined by who wins that fight? Does this fight have a referee? Is there a rulebook? Who wrote it?”[/pk_box]

And his conclusion:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=””]I for one am glad that Hitchens wants to repudiate the big lies. I am glad that he stands against vicious totalitarian ideas. Thus far I can applaud him. But in order to stand against anything, however obviously bad it is, you must have something to stand on.[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

Faith in the Face of Evil

Paul Helm:

Faith cannot be totally blind, a gamble in the face of infinite odds. Whatever doubts and risks may be associated with trust, faith, in order for it to be intelligible and defensible, must have some evidence going for it. And the point of Christianity (at least) is to hold that enough of the purposes of God can be seen to trust him for what cannot be seen.

We may trust God in the face of evil not by an act of blind faith, but because there are other parts of the ways of God that are eminently trustworthy. God has a plan; parts of that plan are intelligible to us, and we trust him for what at present it is hard to make sense of.

One reason why it is hard to make sense of the plan of God is that it expresses itself in a temporally unfolding panorama which we, living for a few years in the 20th century, can only see part of.

The faith which can face and even surmount evil cannot be a mindless leap; nor is it a form of faith which has all the answers. It sees part of the picture, and trusts the Creator and Redeemer for what it cannot see.

Read the rest here.

[HT: Patrick Chan]

How to Know Who Should Take an Outsider Test and When

John Loftus’s Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) has become rather infamous. More infamous than is warranted, since Matt Flannagan (among many others) has shown its incoherence. But ignoring that, Paul Manata now crushes the OTF‘s relevance by asking the question: should we take it, or shouldn’t we? “The answer, if you’re wondering, is that hardly anyone should take an outsider test.”

The Atheistic Argument from Evolution

It is a common taunt among combative non-theists (henceforth called atheists) that evolution, because it is a well-established scientific fact, somehow provides positive proof that God does not exist. God, as the title of the evolutionary zoologist Richard Dawkin’s book proclaims, is a delusion. If this is so it then follows that belief in God is the same as belief in Santa Clause, which directly opposes our best scientific knowledge. Read more

Stephen Law’s Super-mountain Argument: Part Two

Can we retain a doctrine of divine atemporality while holding to a doctrine of divine personhood? Read more

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Dr Matthew Flannagan

Dr Matthew Flannagan

Matthew Flannagan

Dr Matthew Flannagan

Dr Matthew Flannagan is a theologian with proficiency in contemporary analytic philosophy. He holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Otago, a Masters (with First Class Honours) and a Bachelors in Philosophy from the University of Waikato and a post-graduate diploma in secondary teaching from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute.

Matthew blogs on MandM – a Kiwi blog that addresses philosophy of religion, ethics, theology and social commentary.

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Divine Command Meta-Ethics, Applied Ethics, Bio-Ethics, Old Testament Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Law, Critical Thinking and Apologetics

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