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Kenneth Samples on the Compatibility of Faith and Reason

Riddleblog has posted audio from Kenneth Samples lecture in his series on “Historic Christianity’s Seven Dangerous Ideas”.

The talk, delivered on May 7 at Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, is entitled “Faith Makes Sense:  The Compatibility of Faith & Reason”. In the lecture, Dr Samples gives an overview of arguments for God’s existence, including arguments from cosmology, objective morality and abstract entities.

Download the lecture here.

Kenneth Samples is a senior research scholar at Reasons To Believe (RTB) and teaches at the Academy and Adult bible study classes at Christ Reformed Church.  He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference and has also written several articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal.

Closer to Truth Interviews William Lane Craig

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, host of the show Closer to Truth, interviews Christian philosopher William Lane Craig about philosophical theology, cosmology, and other issues. Unfortunately the site doesn’t allow it’s videos to be embedded, but here are the links:

Arguing God from First Cause?

Can God Change?

Considering God’s Existence?

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 1 of 3)

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 2 of 3)

Did God Create From Nothing? (Part 3 of 3)

Did God Create Multiple Universes?

Did God Create Time?

How Could God Know the Future? (Part 1)

How Could God Know the Future? (Part 2)

How Free is God?

How is God the Creator? (Part 1 of 2)

How is God the Creator? (Part 2 of 2)

Is God All Knowing?

Is God Temporal or Timeless? (Part 1 of 2)

Is God Temporal or Timeless? (Part 2 of 2)

The site also has a useful summary of some of Craig’s scholarly contributions to the debates about the existence and nature of God here.

A Familiar Conversation: Part 2

In my previous post, I analyzed an argument for Atheism and discussed the hidden second premise that “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.” Didymus is a pseudonym used for our familiar objector. Here I’ll look at three typical responses to my discussion and examine the reasonableness of each.

1:

“Well, if you reason like this then you can’t conclude that pink unicorns, trolls and hob-goblins don’t exist.” [1]

This is no insult or failing of my philosophy. I don’t make the claim that things like trolls don’t exist. Failing to be able to prove something does not exist is no slight. This is why soft agnosticism becomes the safe middle ground – an acceptably moderate position in the absence of evidence.

In similar fashion Didymus adds, if you reason like this you have to take seriously the existence of such things as Lucky Potions and Flying-Purple-People-Eaters. He alludes it is ridiculous to do so in the absence of evidence.

It is good to take such things seriously if there are some good reasons to believe these are credible. As there are none, I am under no such obligation. Thus, I do not have to take seriously things like trolls. Now in the case for God there is no comparison. There are good reasons to believe God is credible. There is philosophical evidence, which is backed up by my own experiential evidence, and without reasonable defeaters for each of these, I am completely rational in believing that God exists.

2:

“Well, there are many intelligent people on both sides of the debate who disagree with the philosophical arguments, and so philosophical arguments are not to be trusted.”

The assertion that many intelligent people would advocate Atheism is false. Most serious thinkers would prefer a soft form of Agnosticism if not Theism.

There is an assumption here that both sides are equally diligent and honest in their quest to find the truth. I make no claim here about motivations of either side (I can only know my own, and perhaps even that imperfectly). The point here is simply to say that to implicitly claim to know that the people on both sides of the debate are genuinely applying serious critical thought into this area of Philosophy of Religion is presumptuous.

The greatest problem with this type of response when arguing for God’s existence is it commits the fallacy of argument ad populum. This is an appeal to the numbers of people who believe in order to prove ones point. What people believe about God’s existence or the arguments for God’s existence makes not a whiff of difference whatsoever about God’s existence. We know in other subject areas that the whole world can be wrong, yet this does nothing to effect the truth or falsehood of any belief.

Finally, the response itself is self-defeating. This is a philosophical argument that has engendered some difference of opinion from both sides of the debate, so by its own merit we should not trust this argument. In short, it is using philosophy to argue against the use of philosophy.

3:

“Well, the point is where there is no evidence it is foolish to believe in something, and it’s not foolish to believe in something if there is evidence.”

Of course, I think there is good evidence for God’s existence; so believing in God is not foolish by this axiom. But the objection holds water like a leaky bucket. If your trustworthy wife told you she spent the afternoon window-shopping, but she did not have any evidence of this, it would actually be foolish not to believe it.

The point of the illustration is not to make a comparison with belief in God, but to show the objection is not axiomatic. On further analysis, one wonders why it was not foolish to believe something in the absence of evidence? The answer is because your wife has proven herself trustworthy in the past and stands in as an expert witness to her afternoon activities. Expert witnesses, though not guaranteeing the truth or falsehood of a belief, nevertheless increase the credulity of the position they advocate. When a five-year old girl in pig-tails fresh out of kindergarten advocates an outlandish belief about her favourite rugby team, she might convince a few of her pairs, but not many others. When Hamish McKay agrees with her announcing on the News in all seriousness that the Chief’s have a good shot at winning the Super 14, this authoritative stamp of approval gives said belief considerable weight.

Christianity of course suffers from no lack of expert witness. Two billion[2] or so people worldwide can testify (with varying degrees of competency) to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Miracles are in abundance for anyone who is willing to open their eyes and look for them. A revolution in philosophy in the last 40 years, especially in the Anglophone world, has curtailed the atheistic dominance in the field. Today perhaps one quarter to one third of philosophy professors are theists, and of that mostly orthodox Christians.[3] And of course, God himself in his word, the Bible, provides the ultimate expert witnesses. There he has preserved with other powerful proofs[4] the testimony of the apostles, all eye witnesses to the risen Lord.

CONCLUSION

It seems to me that Didymus is right in that until evidence is found that would corroborate these types of beliefs then one is justified in remaining sceptical, even to the point of disbelief. However, this is where he is wrong. As soon as one claims something does not exist a burden is placed upon them to prove it. If one fails to bear this burden they have crossed the boundary of what is reasonable. Empirical evidence can verify that belief in P is reasonable, but lack of empirical evidence cannot prove that belief in not-P is reasonable.

Unfortunately, in forsaking philosophical evidence because he believes it hopelessly indeterminate, and by ardently requiring tangible evidence such as that which is delivered in a science lab, he has mired himself in a quagmire or illogic, unable to pull himself free from claims he so vehemently makes. These claims are explicit and implicit; respectively, that God does not exist, and that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.


[1] or “Toothfairy, Thor and water-divining,” See comment: # 11 February 2010 at 1:37 pm; Panel Discussion of Stephen Meyers Signature in the Cell

[2] How Many Christians are There Worldwide

[3] Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism” Philo 4/2(2001): 3-4.

[4] Such as fulfilled prophecy

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.