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J.P. Moreland Defends the Argument from Consciousness

In this video, Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland responds to Graham Oppy’s criticisms of the argument for God’s existence from consciousness. Moreland discusses challenges to three forms of the argument and interacts with Oppy’s claims about theism, consciousness and emergent chemical properties. The talk was delivered at the recent 63rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

For reference, AC= Argument from Consciousness and IBE= Inference to the Best Explanation.

For more on Moreland’s argument, see The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009).

[Source: Brett Kunkle]

What Does it Mean for God to Be Perfect?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn talks to Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland about the nature of God’s perfection and how concepts such as moral courage, joy, personal growth and enrichment, etc, might apply to a perfect being. The PBS documentary series Closer to Truth is one of the best resources available for interviews with top scholars on God, the universe, religion, and the mind. You can view the rest of Moreland’s videos on the website here.

[pk_youtube_player width=”560″ height=”315″ align=”center” autoplay=”false” cover=”” video_id=”ULM40ny15QM”]

The Bible and Neuroscience on Sexual Promiscuity

A good post by J.P. Moreland on how new research about the health dangers of sexual promiscuity confirms the truth of the Bible’s teachings.

New J. P. Moreland blog and website

Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland is no stranger to the internet. He’s blogged at his author page on Amazon and has also contributed to The Scriptorium Daily.  However it’s great to see that he now has his own new website and blog at jpmoreland.com. According to the site:

“This space is intended to be a dynamic clearinghouse for J.P. Moreland content, whether from the past, the present or the future.

As you can see, the website is driven by both J.P.’s passion and content. On the Library main page, you’ll notice that we have all sorts of different ways to help you find his content, whether by audience type (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) or by the themes of the “Kingdom Triangle” (‘Life of the Mind,’ ‘Spiritual Formation,’ and ‘Power of the Spirit’). The latter is intentional and strategically emphasized throughout given how that concept integrates with J.P.’s life.”

Be sure to also subscribe to his blog on the website, as well.

[HT: Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society]

Chalcedonian Definition

In 451 A.D. the Council of Chalcedon was convened by Emperor Marcion at the request of Pope Leo the Great. The settlement is considered to be the high-water mark of the early church’s christological speculation. It was formulated against the backdrop of nearly four centuries of controversy regarding the person of Christ. For a statement of the Chalcedonian definition, see below.[1]

I thought I would contribute something that has helped me understand the Chalcedonian definition regarding the Incarnation of the Son of God. Comments made to me of late speak of it being very difficult to understand, and I would beg to dissent. I admit that the antiquated language is difficult. The obscure terms are difficult. Also it is difficult in that it says what it wants to say in a long, drawn-out way – which is often the way of philosophical treatises that desire precision. But the idea itself seems to me be easily grasped.

What it was that helped me was the following. [2]

The settlement is a ringing endorsement of dyophysite [two-nature] Christology. Christ is declared to exist in two natures, whose distinction remains real even in their union with Christ. . . At the same time, however, in agreement with monopysite [one-nature] Christology, the settlement insists on there being only one person, one Son, in Christ. . . . Person and hypostasis are taken as having the same referent, so that the Incarnation becomes a sort of mirror image of the Trinity. Just as in the Trinity there are multiple persons in one nature, so in Christ there are multiple natures in one person. The famous series of the four adjectives asynchytos, atreptos, adiairetos, achoristos (without confusion, without change, without division, without separation) serves as a reminder that the two natures of Christ must be kept distinct and that the the unity of his person must not be compromised. . . . As a result of Chalcedon, it has become an imperative of orthodox Christology that we must “neither confuse the natures nor divide the person” of Christ.

The Chalcedonian formula itself does not tell us how to do this. It does not seek to explain the Incarnation but sets up, as it were, channel markers for legitimate Christological speculation; any theory of Christ’s person must be one in which the distinctness of both natures is preserved and both meet in one person, one Son, in Christ. It admittedly fulfilled the purpose for which it was drawn up; namely, to exclude two possible but unacceptable explanations of the Incarnation and to provide a convenient summary of essential facts that must be borne in mind by all those who attempt to penetrate further into the mystery. [3]

The question that Chalcedon is answering then is not, “How is it that Jesus can be God and human at the same time?” which, I admit, is difficult. Note the illustration of channel markers. In effect this says that there can be a wide variety of how to answer this question, as long as one rows their boat of speculation between the two borders marked out for them. The question that Chalcedon answers then is rather, “What are the boundaries to acceptable speculation regarding the person of Christ?”

Alternatively, one could say the question was, “How is it not a logical contradiction that Jesus can be fully God and fully human at the same time?” And the Chalcedonian definition avoids any logical contradiction in that two natures are attached in some way (perhaps we may never know exactly how) to one person. Not two people in one person, nor two natures in one nature, which would both be logically contradictory, but two natures in one person. And even if you don’t understand what a nature is or a person is, as Roger E. Olson explains, it is two whats and one who. [4] Thus the doctrine of the Incarnation can be rationally affirmed.

Footnotes

1. From C.R.T.A.: The Centre of Reformed Theology and Apologetics.

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

2. The whole chapter called Christian Doctrines (II): The Incarnation is long, but thoroughly worth reading in my opinion. (see footnote 3).

3. J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, IVP, 2003, p. 601.

4. Roger E. Olson, Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity, IVP Apollos, 2002, p. 227.

J P Moreland

Audio Resources from J. P. Moreland

I’ve been updating the audio resources page on our home site and I came across some new talks by J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. The topical sermons were given at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, between 2007 and January 2010. Moreland is a great speaker and while I don’t agree with all his theology, some of these talks include a good dose of apologetics.

An Interview with J.P. Moreland on Christian Worldview Integration

One of the greatest challenges for Christians in the academic world is to think faithfully and consistently as Christians. Too often, the knowledge claims of the Bible and the intellectual resources of Christianity are ignored or squandered by Christians themselves. While many Evangelicals may be involved in the academic world and in the common human project of understanding ourselves and the world, many do not make an impact as Christians because of a failure to connect and integrate their theological beliefs with the knowledge claims of academic disciplines.

InterVasity Press have launched a new series of books aiming to address this need and equip Christians in the task of integration. Edited by J.P. Moreland and Frank Beckwith, the Christian Worldview Integration series will cover topics from economics to biology, showing how the knowledge claims of Christianity might be blended with the knowledge claims of one’s own academic discipline to form a coherent, satisfying worldview. So far, two in the series have been released: Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective by Paul Spears and Steve Loomis (read Frank Sanders’ good review here) and Psychology and the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology by John Coe and Todd Hall, with Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft by Frank Beckwith on the way. The other anticipated topics and authors are:

The Evangelical Philosophical Society blog has posted a great interview with J. P. Morealand on the series (part 1 and part 2) that is worth reading.

Here are some of the questions:

  • In its best and most sincere effort, how do Christian worldview integration endeavors with academic disciplines tend to go? How does the approach of the series differ from what is typically published in this area?
  • Is “integration,” ultimately, a philosophical issue with bearing upon other disciplines? How should theology contribute to the conceptual work of philosophy in the area of “Christian integration”?
  • The “integration of faith and learning” has become a slogan, if not a fad of sorts, for many Christian intellectuals and educators. But I get the sense that “integration” as a vision and an endeavor is far more than a slogan or fad for you and this series.
  • Christian work at the intersection of the sciences is an important area of integration, especially given the authority that scientific knowledge has within Western cultures. Are the positions of “theistic evolution” and “Christian physicalism” the result of proper integration or a failure to understand genuine integration between Christian truth and other disciplines?
  • How should Christians approach, use and present the teaching of scripture when engaging in genuine integration between what the Bible claims and what is claimed by extra-biblical sources of knowledge?
  • Does the holistic character of discipleship and spiritual formation demand integration? If so, how and why?
  • How and why is integration work interrelated with Christian apologetics work?
  • If Christians neglect to engage in integration work, what are the costs or consequences?
  • What are the top three issues or concerns that Christian faculty should confront when attempting to integrate their Christian beliefs with their discipline?
  • In the years to come, what would you like to see happen in the area of integration and this series among self-identified Christian universities, colleges, and seminaries?

A seamless garment with no holes: human persons and the failure of naturalism

Last year, the release of J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig’s Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology saw a lot of attention. And quite rightly. The Companion marshalled some of most cutting-edge work in the field of the philosophy of religion and showed why natural theology is fast becoming an exciting scholarly domain again. But in the shadow of the Companion‘s release, another of Moreland’s works was published: The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism. Although it might not have got the same amount of attention, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei also represented an important entry in the contest of ideas and a powerful defense of theism. In it, Moreland argues for the theistic position by way of a stinging attack on naturalism and its failure to answer the problem of consciousness and account for the basic facts of human experience, such as free will, rationality, and intrinsic value.

The problem of consciousness is a deep mystery for philosophers and neuroscientists. This problem is the dilemma of how conscious states (thoughts, feelings, perceptions) arise from physical brain states. Ned Block, the American philosopher at NYU, has said that “researchers are stumped” and that we have “no conception” that enables us to explain subjective experience or conscious life. Colin McGinn, a professor at the University of Miami in the philosophy of mind, says that the emergence of consciousness “strikes us as miraculous, eerie, even faintly comic”. Even if we are sure that they arise from brains, we do not know the sorts of connections that conscious states (such as “seeing a tree”) have with brain states (such as “there are neurons firing at point A in the brain”). Hard materialists like Daniel Dennett have argued that conscious states are nothing more than brain states and brain behaviour, but Moreland argues that in both science and philosophy, a strict physicalist analysis of consciousness and the self has been breaking down since the mid-1980s.

For Christianity, the existence of such features basic to human experience are not metaphysically strange or inexplicable. For if in the beginning existed a supremely self-aware Being, then it is not difficult to see how consciousness could emerge. And if Christianity were true, Moreland also suggests one would predict that alternative worldviews whose basic entity or entities are not spiritual would find these things we take for granted recalcitrant – that is, hard to explain or explain away. In his book, Moreland shows that this is exactly the case with philosophical naturalism. Because naturalism posits particles at the beginning, one cannot adequately account for consciousness without mounting other reductive or eliminative strategies to explain their emergence. In The Recalcitrant Imago Dei, Moreland looks at these strategies and shows why they fail. Moreland therefore concludes that consciousness, freedom, rationality, a unified/simple self, equal and intrinsic value, and moral action of a certain sort, are all rebutting defeaters for naturalism and evidence for Judeo-Christian monotheism.

Bill Vallicella has written an excellent and thorough review of Moreland’s book, giving a summary of Moreland’s discussion of naturalism and his argument from consciousness for the existence of God.

Formally set out, Moreland’s argument looks like this:

1. Genuinely non-physical mental states exist.

2. There is an explanation for the existence of mental states.

3. Personal explanation is different from natural scientific explanation.

4. The explanation for the existence of mental states is either a personal or natural scientific explanation.

5. The explanation is not a natural scientific one.

Therefore

6. The explanation is a personal one.

7. If the explanation is personal, then it is theistic.

Therefore

8. The explanation [for the existence of mental states] is theistic.

In his review, Vallicella examines each of the premises, cataloguing additional reasons that Moreland offers in support for them. He writes:

Moreland makes a very powerful case, to my mind a crushingly powerful case, that [mental states] do not have a natural-scientific explanation. I would go further and claim that they cannot have such an explanation. (If a naturalist pins his hopes on future science, a science that can do what contemporary science manifestly cannot do, then I say our naturalist does not know what he is talking about when he bandies about the phrase ‘future science.’ He is merely gesturing in the direction of he knows not what. He is simply asseverating that somehow science will someday have all the answers. That’s as ‘theological’ as the assurance that, though now we see through a glass darkly, later we will see face to face. What do faith and hope have to do with science? Furthermore, why should anyone hope to have it proven to him that he is nothing more than a complex physical system?)

While Vallicella acknowledges that there are possible objections to Moreland’s argument (he raises some potential ones himself), he concludes that it renders belief in the Judeo-Christian God reasonable, and when combined with the rest of Moreland’s arguments, demonstrates why theism is more reasonable than naturalism.

It is worth reading his whole review (it can also be found on his own blog here). Also worth looking at is Moreland’s interview about the book on the Evangelical Philosophical Blog from last year (part 1 and 2) and Moreland’s post about the topic on his Amazon blog.

The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism, can of course, be picked up on Amazon.

Notes:

“God, Naturalism and the Foundations of Morality” by Paul Copan in The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue, ed. Robert Stewart. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008.

Serving the Non-Western Church: Moreland's Advice for Christian Intellectuals

The phenomenal reach of the Gospel and growth of the church in the non-Western world is easy to miss for us on the other side of the globe. With the exception of the very earliest years of church history, the redistribution of the population of the Christian church in the last fifty years has been described as greater than any period in history. Prominent church historian and professor at the University of Notre Dame, Mark Noll, has commented:

A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east. [If a Christian] Rip Van Winkle wiped a half-century of sleep from his eyes [after waking] and tried to locate his fellow Christian believers, he would find them in surprising places, expressing their faith in surprising ways, under surprising conditions, with surprising relationships to culture and politics, and raising surprising theological questions that would not have seemed possible when he fell asleep.

With 75% of the population of the Christian church concentrated in the developing world, the work of organizations such as The Langham Partnership is vital in ensuring that growth in these countries is sustained by Biblical-grounded truth and Christ-exalting preaching.

And for us in the Western world, according to J. P. Moreland, this rapid shift should force us to reevaluate our own intellectual endeavours. At the recent national meeting of the EPS in New Orleans, the Professor of Philosophy at Biola University has challenged Christians whose principle vocation is the life of the mind:  thinkers, scholars, writers, researchers, etc, to reconsider their work in the context of the Non-Western church. Although no audio is available, Joe Gorra has recently posted the main points from Moreland’s address on the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog:

1. The church is exploding all over the world outside Western culture, and the disciples in these countries hold to an overtly supernatural worldview.

2. The emerging young intellectual leadership in these countries look to the ETS/EPS/SCP for guidance and help.  They read our writings and follow us.  They are confused and hurt when we advance ideas that undermine the commonsense, supernatural worldview of the Bible that they embrace.  Thus, we have a responsibility to do our work in light of how it impacts our brothers and sisters in these countries.

3. Here are four suggestions for how to better fulfill that responsibility:

– Work together with others to write books, produce edited works, and so forth.  The synergy of such efforts increases our impact and it models the importance of the body of Christ and cooperation among its members.
– Produce works that range from popular to technical, but be sure we do not look down upon those who work at the popular end of the spectrum.  The key is to find one’s role and play it well.
– Beware of living for a career and for the respect of the “right” people in the profession instead of living for the Kingdom and seeing one’s work as a calling from God rather than a place to re-assure oneself that he/she is respected.
– Require a burden of proof before one adopts a view, e.g., Christian physicalism, that if read by a brothers and sisters outside Western culture, would hurt their supernatural faith, especially if the view is not one held by a significant number of people in church history and if it is “politically correct” to adopt it under pressure from the academic community.

Worth considering. To be fair to Moreland, I don’t think he is suggesting that Christian intellectuals should fail to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. Instead I read his comments as a reminder that our intellectual endeavour – as much as our whole lives – come under the Lordship of Christ and should be directed toward the glory of God and the edification of the wider church. Knowledge and obedience are frequently related in Scripture (Eph 4:13; Phil 3:8-11; 2 Peter 1:5; 2:20) and obedience is not just a consequence of knowledge but an important aspect of it. Our knowledge is always a knowledge under God’s authority  and our quest for truth is not autonomous but subject to both the Christian community and Scripture.

God and A Life of Meaning

This month, J. P. Moreland, the distinguished professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, releases a new book dealing with the search for meaning and the existence of God: The God Question. If there is one thing that both theists and skeptics can agree on, it is that we should all endeavour to answer the question of life’s meaning. For a philosophy that takes God as the starting point, life is defined by the ideas and precepts that are revealed by His character and purpose for humanity. For a philosophy that views life apart from God, there may seem to be a kaleidoscopic array of choices, but ultimately no way in which to judge one better than the other.

Moreland writes at a time when he sees the West increasingly unable to live with its decision to exile God into the periphery of its consciousness. With a dizzying panoply of infatuations and celebrity-endorsed pleasures, many in the West still struggle with the gnawing realisation that a life lived solely for the high-speed pursuit of success has not delivered the meaning it was meant to. Although we grow richer, garner more leisure time, and enjoy a higher standard of living, many have become unable to find happiness and, instead, are much more likely to be depressed and anxiety-filled than people of other generations.

In his book, Moreland, draws attention to several features identified in a study on anxiety and depression by psychologist Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano: (1) the pace of modern life: our resistance to depression and anxiety that is weakened by the breakneck speed of our lives. (2) the loss of a sense of community and deep connectedness with others beyond the superficial: we don’t have the relational connection we need for support and strength in finding a way out of unhappiness. And finally (3) the emergence of moral relativism: we lack the intellectual framework required to admit that there is a right and wrong way to approach life and to fuel the energy we need to seek, find, and live in light of the right approach.
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The God Question is an endeavour to approach these issues with the conviction that it is the loss of confidence in the truth and knowability of a biblical worldview that lies at the root of our cultural condition. Moreland writes with the express purpose to show that we can know that God does exist and this matters. With God and an abundant, grounded life encountered in a relationship with Jesus Christ, every decision becomes ultimately meaningful, anchored by this reference point. The book is not an inacessible, technical one. Unlike Moreland’s Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview or Scaling the Secular City, it is an approachable reflection of conversational apologetics that is similar to Lewis’ Mere Christianity or Strobel’s The Case for Christ. Moreland is a sharp thinker and one of the most gifted apologists in Evangelicalism, and this would be the kind of book that would be great to give away to a friend who might be searching for answers.

The Chapter headings:

Part 1: Why Can’t We Be Happy?
1. Why Can’t I Be Happy?
2. Hope for a Culture of Bored and Empty Selves
Part 2: Is There a Real Solution to Our Dilemma?
3. The Question of God, Part 1
4. The Question of God, Part 2
5. The Luminous Nazarene
6. My Own Journey as Jesus’ Apprentice
Part 3: How Can the Solution Help Me Change?
7. Rethinking the Whole Thing
8. Two Essentials for Getting Good at Life
9. Avoiding the Three Jaws of Defeat
10. How to Unclog Your Spiritual Arteries and Develop the Heart to Work with God
Part 4: Is This Life All There Is?
11. From Here to Eternity

J. P. Moreland has degrees in philosophy, theology, and chemistry, and has taught j-p-morelandtheology and philosophy at several schools throughout the U.S. He has authored or co-authored books including Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Scaling the Secular City; Does God Exist?; Immortality: The Other Side of Death; and The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Times. He is co-editor of Christian Perspectives on Being Human and Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. His work appears in journals such as Christianity Today, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and The American Philosophical Quarterly. He has served with Campus Crusade for 10 years, planted two churches, and has spoken on over 200 college campuses. (Source = the Biola website).

Read Moreland’s brief introduction to his book here.

The Evidence for Christianity

In this talk at Calvary Chapel Nexus, Dr J P Moreland builds the case for Christianity using several types of scientific and philosophical evidence.

[vimeo 9834426]