Archive for December, 2011

December 31st, 2011

Modal Realism, the Multiverse, and the Problem of Evil

by Max Andrews

Robert Adams raises and interesting objection to modal realism based on the problem of evil.  He believes

[That] our very strong disapproval of the deliberate actualizing of evils… reflects a belief in the absolutely, and not just relatively, special status of the actual as such.  Indeed, if we ask, “What is wrong with actualizing evils, since they will occur in some other possible world anyways if they don’t occur in this one?”, I doubt that the indexical theory can provide an answer which will be completely satisfying ethically.[1]

Adams’ objection concerning the actualization of evil is irrelevant to a Thomistic version of modal realism (this version to be released in an upcoming paper in the Fall of 2012).  Thomas does not seem to have any problem with the presence of evil.  When discussing Boethius, a philosopher prompts the question, “If there is a God, how comes evil?”  Thomas argues that the question should be reversed—“If there is evil, there is a God.”  For there would be no evil, if the order of goodness were taken away, the privation of which is evil; and this order would not be, if God were not.[2]

December 31st, 2011

An Outline of Tegmark’s Four Levels of the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Contemporary physics seem to indicate that there are good reasons, theoretically and physically, for an idea that there is a plurality of worlds.  This concept has come to be understood as the multiverse.  The multiverse is not monolithic but it is modeled after the contemporary understanding of an inflationary model of the beginning of this universe.  Max Tegmark has championed the most prominent versions of the multiverse.[1]  Tegmark has made a four-way distinction.

Tegmark’s first version of the multiverse is called the level one multiverse.  The level one is, for the most part, more space beyond the observable universe.  So, theoretically, if we were to go to the “edge” of the universe there would be more space.  Having this model as a version of the multiverse may be misleading because there is still only one volume, landscape, or system involved.  A generic prediction of cosmological inflation is an infinite space, which contains Hubble volumes (what we see in our universe) realizing in all conditions—including an identical copy of each of us about 10^10^29 meters away.[2]

December 29th, 2011

Dear Cancer…

by Max Andrews

Dear Cancer,

You’re world famous now. I hope you’re happy. You’ve done everything you could’ve ever dreamed of doing. Your name is known in almost every home in the world. You’re probably more known than Jesus Christ himself. I just wanted to let you know I’m getting a bit fed up with you. You’ve managed to elude our medicine and our use of science. You’ve taken so many of my family. You’ve taken friends. I’ve seen so many friends and family suffer the pains of your presence. I’ve seen so many more suffer your pains by watching others experience it. We all cheer for joy when we find out you’ve left but you never seem to leave us alone for good. I’m sure you treasure your secrets as to what form you’ll take or when you’ll come back. However, what I treasure is that you can’t answer why you come. You’re but a means to a greater purpose. Have you ever noticed that some of your victims find complete rest apart from you and in the Lord? Who knows?–Someday you may catch me. I hope not; but if you do, just know that you got second best. You can steal this life but you can never take the next. As you see, Cancer, you’re going to lose one way or another.



December 29th, 2011

Geisler’s Denial of Inerrancy–The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

by Max Andrews

Norman Geisler has recently released a new addition to his “Licona Letters” condemning Mike Licona.  Geisler is very emphatic that there be a differentiation between inerrancy and interpretation.  Under this Geislerian understanding of inerrancy, interpretation and inerrancy simply have a formal distinction but are essentially conflated.

[Such] a disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy as Licona makes is contrary to the nature of truth itself…. So, a formal distinction between interpretation and inerrancy does not mean there is an actual separation of the two.[1]

Additionally, Geisler argues contra Licona[2] that the grammatico-historical hermeneutic is neutral.  Geisler argues:

[The grammatico-historical] method does not approach the Bible with a historically neutral stance.  After all, it is not called the “literal” method for nothing.  It assumes there is a sensus literalis (literal sense) to Scripture.   In short, it assumes that a text should be taken literally unless there are good grounds in the text and/or in the context to take it otherwise.  As a matter of fact, we cannot even know a non-literal (e.g., allegorical or poetic) sense unless we know what is literally true.  So, when Jesus said, “I am the vine” this should not be taken literally because we know what a literal vine is, and we know that Jesus is not one.  Further, the literal [grammatico-historical] method does not reject the use of figures of speech or even symbolic language.  It only insists that the symbols have a literal referent.  For example, John speaks of literal angels as “stars” (Rev. 1:20) and a literal Satan as a “red dragon” (Rev. 12:3).  However, the literal [grammatico-historical] method does not allow one to take a literal historical persons (like Adam) or events (like a resurrection) as not literal history.

December 26th, 2011

Auctoritas–A Response to the Geisler Controversy

by Max Andrews

I have been reviewing, critiquing, and commenting on the controversy between Norman Geisler and Mike Licona for a few months now and I haven’t commented on it for a while hoping that all of this would soon pass.  With much dismay I was terribly wrong and it appears to have gotten much worse.  There are several happenings I would like to reveal and discuss some new critiques of the situation.  For my previous posts please see:

My Support and Endorsement of Mike Licona

The Disputatio–A Response to Norman Geisler in Defense of Mike Licona

In Promptu Ponere–A Response to Norm Geisler’s Petition Against Mike Licona

A Response to Tim Rogers and the Geisler Camp

Caveo Cavi Cautum–A Second Look at Geisler’s Petition Against Licona

Tekton’s Geisler Carol Cartoon

Tekton Ticker recently released a satirical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol depicting Licona as Bob Crachit and Geisler as Scrooge adopting a plot driven towards this controversy over inerrancy rather than Scrooge’s distain for Christmas.  I’m not going to offer much critique on this simply because this shouldn’t have warranted the response from an SES alumnus as it did. You can see Tekton’s response here.  However, I cannot ignore its absurd response completely but here are the six reasons why Tekton should/would be brought before the school for review:

December 23rd, 2011

Thomistic Ethics and the Evil God Challenge

by Max Andrews

I finally weighed in with my thoughts concerning the evil God challenge set forth by Stephen Law.  My original post argued for two primary principles: 1) evil is the negation of good and requires no ontological grounding and 2) that everyone always acts according to what they believe is good.  (1) Certainly may appear as a mere assertion and it may be reversed and hence the problem of good.  I won’t be defending (1) in this post but I would like to explicate (2) more because I believe it is much stronger and (1) follows from (2) logically later on.

Thomas’ meta-ethic was that being and goodness are the same in reference but differ only in sense.  He follows Aristotle in making the connection between goodness and desirability.   “The formula of the good consists in this, that something is desirable, and so the Philosopher says that the good is what all desire.”[1]  Although all things desire goodness, not all things capable of pursuing goodness with understanding understand what really is good; it is possible for creatures with intellect and will to desire an apparent good as a real one.[2]

Something is desire in two ways, either because it is good or because it appears good.  Of these, the first is what is good, for an apparent good does not move by itself but insofar as it has some appearance of good; but the good moves by itself.[3]

Desirability is an essential aspect of goodness.  The perfection of anything is goodness and perfection is attained in actuality, “As regards nature the good of anything is its actuality and perfection.”[4]  Again, following Aristotle, goodness appears in the notion of that which desire culminates:

December 22nd, 2011

Marriage–Theological and Practical Readiness

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Bryan Raszinski.  Bryan is a Religion undergraduate at Liberty University.


Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Ephesians 5:22-30, NASB)

Going back and forth the last few years to college and then home has definitely changed the way I see things and what it takes to be a man of the gospel ; a man who, on a daily basis, declares he is going to take up his cross and follow Jesus no matter the cost. I have also learned a lot about marriage in its self and going back and forth have seen two parts that I think need to be addressed because, for the most, one or the other is given the priority and the one that is not given priority seems to be ignored (this is not the case for every single couple getting engaged to be married I am sure but the trend seems that most are this way). At school I see the practical readiness of marriage set while the theological readiness seems to take a seat it should not and at home I see the exact opposite the theological readiness takes the priority and the practical readiness takes the seat.  Both are essential before tying the knot and while no couple is ever completely ready to be married and knows how everything will go, the important thing remains that in order to even get engaged these two things need to be settled and discussed so both the future husband and wife know what the other expects from them.

December 22nd, 2011

Inferential Reasoning in Foundationalism and Coherentism

by Max Andrews

Logically prior to inferential reasoning is intuition.  These intuitions may be basic beliefs. The belief that this glass of water in front of me will quench my thirst if I drink it is not inferred back from previous experiences coupled with an application of a synthetic a priori principle of induction.  Though this example is not how we form our beliefs psychologically or historically, it can be formed via instances of past experience and induction in the logical sense.  However, when it does come to inferential reasoning R.A. Fumerton provides two definitions for what it means to say that one has inferential justification.[1]

D1 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) S justifiably believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(3) S believes P because he believes both E and the proposition that E confirms P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

D2 S has an inferentially justified belief in P on the basis of E. = Df.

(1) S believes P.

(2) E confirms P.

(3) The fact that E causes S to believe P.

(4) There is no proposition X such that S is justified in believing X and that E&X does not confirm P.

Given the explications of such definitions, both D1 and D2, there seems to be good grounds for believing that P must be inferentially justified.  It is most certainly that case that D2 is more amenable to having scientific knowledge in the sense that both (2) and (3) are confirmatory.  D2-(3) is certainly difficult to substantiate without begging the question.  Having E cause S to believe P is difficult to distance from some form of transitive relation.  Inferential justification may also be expressed probabilistically or determined probabilistically.[2]

December 21st, 2011

Responding to the Evil God Challenge

by Max Andrews

Stephen Law has been setting forth his case for the evil God challenge.  It has been a recent topic of discussion in the blogosphere and there have been several articles written about it.  The argument is formulated in a way that mirrors the moral argument for the existence of God.  If objective morality is true then this morality is grounded in God.  Law argues that if objective evil is true then it is grounded in an evil God. (That’s the basic outline of the argument but please see more here).  I haven’t read much of anyone’s responses to the challenge so I apologize if I’m repeating someone.  I’ve been hesitant to participate in this discussion because I hoped it would pass over but here are my thoughts.

The reason why I waited so long to chime in on this discussion was because I didn’t think the argument was a very good argument.  I have two primary contentions for why this is an incoherent argument.  My first is that the argument requires there to be a genuine ontology for evil and my second follows Thomas Aquinas in that everyone always acts according to what they believe is right.

December 21st, 2011

Thomas Aquinas’ Doctrine of Simplicity

by Max Andrews

The doctrine that God is absolutely simple derives from the metaphysical considerations that God is a being whose existence is self-explanatory, absolutely perfect, and pure actuality.  Prior to Thomas, the doctrine has its most influential formulations in Augustine and Anselm.[1]  According to Thomas, God is his essence and his essence is to exist.[2]  If the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential properties.[3]  The latter seems to be impossible for nothing, if caused to exist, can be the sufficient and efficient cause of its own existence.  Nothing can be self-caused and thus the latter option is insufficient. Therefore, if existence differs from essence then another being must cause existence.  This option is also an insufficient explanation for God’s essence and existence because another being cannot cause God because he is the first efficient cause—the uncaused cause.

There are three important claims Thomas commits to concerning the doctrine of divine simplicity.[4]

(1) It is impossible that God have any spatial or temporal parts that could be distinguished from one another as here rather than there or as now rather than then, and so God cannot be a physical entity.

(2) It is impossible that God have any accidental properties.

(3) All of God’s intrinsic properties must be essential to him, it must be acknowledged that whatever can be intrinsically attributed to God must in reality just be the unity that is his essence.

The first claim, (1), removes God from having any spacetime properties.[5]  God is completely timeless logically prior and posterior to the moment of creation.  From this timelessness it follows that God is absolutely immutable and eternal, which are all entailed from simplicity.[6]  The immutability that Thomas is advocating functions with respect to God’s intrinsic esse.  If God were to be able to change intrinsically that would suggest that God’s goodness and omnipotence could change.[7]  An extrinsic change may certainly be compatible with Thomas’ notion of immutability.  If God were to apply salvation to agent X then God has undergone an extrinsic change in the sense that agent X was once an enemy of God prior to salvation whereas post-salvation agent X is now a friend of God.  This is a relational change that has no effect on the intrinsic esse of God.  Thomas would argue that all creatures are really sustained,[8] known, and loved by God, but God would be the same whether creatures existed or not.  However, it is difficult to reconcile God’s genuine relationship with contingent beings if this modal distinction is permitted.  If it is the case that no modal distinction is possible and that modal collapse is a byproduct of simplicity then God really does stand in genuine relations to created beings and creation since it is not the case that what exists could not have not existed.[9]  Thus, God does not really undergo an extrinsic change in creating the world.  He just exists; creation and creatures come into existence with a real relation to God by being caused by God.[10]  This simply makes extrinsic change superfluous to God.