Hasta la vista!

Well, I thought I was going to squeeze in a couple more days of blogging, but it looks now like that’s not going to happen. This is the year that my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, my son turned 18 and graduated from high school, and my daughter turned 16, and we are going to Mexico for a grand one-trip-celebrates-all. Yay vacation! So that’s going to leave me incommunicado for a while.

Y’all take care and be good while I’m gone, k?

 
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Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 14

Having spent a good few paragraphs presenting some really excellent arguments for why time cannot extend infinitely far into the past, and having completely failed to grasp the fact that this implies that material reality only needs to exist for a finite history, William Lane Craig continues his Cosmological Argument with two rather brief paragraphs intended to prove its third point, that the universe has a cause.

We thus have good philosophical and scientific grounds for affirming the second premiss of the cosmological argument. It is noteworthy that this premiss is a religiously neutral statement which can be found in any textbook on astrophysical cosmology, so that facile accusations of “God-of-the gaps” theology find no purchase. Moreover, since a being which exists by a necessity of its own nature must exist either timelessly or sempiternally (otherwise its coming into being or ceasing to be would make it evident that its existence is not necessary), it follows that the universe cannot be metaphysically necessary, which fact closes the final loophole in the contingency argument above.

It follows logically that the universe has a cause. Conceptual analysis of what properties must be possessed by such an ultra-mundane cause enables us to recover a striking number of the traditional divine attributes, revealing that if the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.

And that’s it! The next paragraph starts a completely different argument. After spending the bulk of his argument belaboring the point—which virtually no skeptic disputes—that the history of the cosmos goes back to a Big Bang, he wraps up his argument by tossing in a breathless “therefore goddidit kthxbai!” and he’s outa here. And just when he was getting to the good part too!

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Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 13

Continuing our look at William Lane Craig’s article on “Theistic Critiques of Atheism,” let’s see the next point he makes in regard to his Cosmological Argument.

Premiss (2), the more controversial premiss [that the universe began to exist], may be supported by both deductive, philosophical arguments and inductive, scientific arguments. Classical proponents of the argument contended that an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist, since the existence of an actually infinite, as opposed to merely potentially infinite, number of things leads to intolerable absurdities. The best way to support this claim is still by way of thought experiments, like the famous Hilbert’s Hotel, which illustrate the various absurdities that would result if an actual infinite were to be instantiated in the real world.

Unfortunately, this argument does more harm to God than to materialism.

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Theistic Critiques of Atheism, part 12

Ok, so that was a nice little 6-month diversion from the topic which we were originally considering, which was William Lane Craig’s article on “Theistic Critiques of Atheism. As you may recall, Craig posted a two-pronged argument: the arguments against atheism, and the arguments for theism. We’re up to the second argument of the second prong, the cosmological argument for God.

Cosmological Argument. A simple version of this argument might go:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then helps to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being.

As with his first argument for God, the Cosmological Argument suffers from a number of flaws, not the least of which is his naïve assumption that there was once a time when the universe (including time itself) did not exist.

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Aside: spam

Yes, comment spam is a nuisance, but every now and then it does provide a certain surreal entertainment. Like this:

[Spammer's Service] is a assemblage of get rid of pore toed crush people whose objective is to be dressed a upholster expand profits making investments.

Um, yeah, sounds like just the sort of people I’ve been wanting to do business with.

 
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XFiles Friday: So who cares?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)

Back in Chapter 12, Geisler and Turek had this to say about the significance of prophecy, in the context of a hypothetical case of the trees in your back yard moving 5 feet overnight.

[L]et’s suppose that [the] tree moving event occurred in the following context: Two hundred years in advance, someone claiming to be a prophet of God writes down a prediction that all of the trees in one area of Jerusalem would indeed move five feet one night during a particular year. Two hundred years later, a man arrives to tell the townspeople that the tree moving miracle will occur shortly…

Then one morning numerous eyewitnesses claim that the trees…actually moved five feet during the night.

That would certainly be a remarkable prediction, because how could someone 200 years ago have such detailed and specific knowledge about a remarkable event that didn’t occur until a couple centuries after his lifetime, especially when the event in question is not predictable by any known principles of science? Such evidence would indeed be difficult to account for in naturalistic terms. But is that in fact what we are actually dealing with when we look at the “Messianic” prophecies that Christians claim Jesus fulfilled?

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Pardon our dust

Please bear with me while I figure out how to work this moderation feature. It’s not going to be an ongoing condition, I promise. Well, for those that can engage in honest, good-faith dialog anyway. ;)

 
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The Heckler’s Defense

Well, it’s been an interesting past few months, and I think we’ve all had a good chance to study what I call the Heckler’s Defense. It’s a useful (if not entirely honest) way to deal with the situation where you’re wrong, and you know you can’t actually defend your beliefs directly, but you still want to believe them and to find some pretext for rejecting your critics.

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Straw and chaff

The Christian response to the Gospel Hypothesis has been interesting, though more for what it reveals about apologetics than for any flaw it purports to show in the Gospel Hypothesis itself. Indeed, it seems the only purported flaw that Christians want to talk about is the accusation that the Gospel Hypothesis is a straw man version of Christianity, and that proving the GH to be inconsistent with the facts is therefore no obstacle to Christianity being true.

That’s a bogus argument, as we can illustrate by means of a parallel case. The Book of Mormon claims to tell the story of a small group of Jews who migrated to the Americas around 600BC and who, over the course of the next several centuries, grew into two great nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites, that warred with one another until the Nephites were eventually wiped out. We can test whether the Book of Mormon is a true and reliable account, therefore, by proposing a Jewish Migration Hypothesis as a factual prerequisite that needs to be true before the BoM can be true. The Jewish Migration Hypothesis doesn’t need to be Mormonism in order to evaluate the truthfulness of Mormon Scriptures. It just needs to state a testable hypothesis with implicit and specific consequences we can look for and compare with the consequences of a competing hypothesis.

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The Gospel and the Gospel Hypothesis

The Gospel Hypothesis proposes that there exists an all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving and all-powerful Creator Who wants a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each and every one of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, to dwell among us, and to die for us so that we can be with Him forever. Pretty standard, VBS-grade stuff, right? You could make a hymn out of it, and in fact quite a few people have.

So why would a believer speak of his “intense distaste” for the Gospel Hypothesis? Is it Christianity? Is it not Christianity? What is it that makes the Gospel Hypothesis so loathesome and phobia-inducing for believers?

The Gospel Hypothesis, quite simply, describes the factual prerequisites that must necessarily be true in order for the Bible to be anything more than a man-made myth. The functional definition of rationalization is that it convinces us our beliefs are consistent with the evidence even though, in reality, they are not consistent with the truth. It’s entirely possible for the Bible to be convincing whether or not there exists the type of God described by the Gospel Hypothesis. But convincing or not, if that God does not exist, then Christianity is not true. And the Gospel Hypothesis confronts the believer with a testable hypothesis that can be used to objectively assess the evidence, without the rationalizations, and to expose the inconsistencies that make the Bible incompatible with real-world truth.

Loathesome indeed.

 
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