Archive for January, 2012

January 31st, 2012

Yes, There are Gaps in Biblical Genealogies

by Max Andrews

There’s that one question that has plagued Christians on anthropological origins.  Many young earth creationists claim there cannot be any gaps in the genealogy, which is what leads us to dating the time frame of the earth being young.  Old earth creationists, like myself, believe that there are gaps in the genealogy. The question is whether it explains anything at all and how much does it explain?

The genealogies are adequate but not complete.  No matter how you read the genealogies, you must concede that there are gaps.  For example Mt. 1.8:

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah.

However, 1 Chron. 3.10-12 reads it differently:

Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Jehoram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah [also called Uzziah] his son.

January 27th, 2012

Flannelgraph Christianity

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by John Quin.  John, a 40-year-old electronics engineer working for the Australian Government. He was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, a fundamentalist Christian denomination that teaches elaborate narratives beyond what even scripture can reasonably support. It has only been in the last few years that John has simultaneously discovered the flaws with fundamentalism and strength of philosophical based Christian apologetics. John hopes to be able to share his new perspective on Christianity with as many people as God places in his path.

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The field of interaction between science and religion is quite vast and in this blog entry I will concentrate on a couple of issues that concern the impact science has had on Abrahamic monotheism/Christianity.

For many people who were raised as a Christian and then went on to study Science at University the religion they had once believed with childlike certainty seems to have been totally and utterly falsified. For them believing in Christianity has become completely unthinkable. But what exactly has been falsified, God’s existence, a Divine genesis, or perhaps the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ? I would like to propose the hypothesis that the Christianity that has been falsified for many of these people is what I’ll refer to as “Flannelgraph Christianity”.

January 26th, 2012

Theology Thursday: William Hasker

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: William Hasker (Contemporary)

General summary of his theology: Hasker is an open theist and has focused his research in two major areas: omniscience and the mind-body problem.  In this post I’m only going to focus on the latter.  Whatever theory we adopt about mind and body, and their interaction, there is still mystery (whether it be physical, immaterial, or a combination of the sort). The issue of one of transcendence:  how can an embodied being such as humans, transcend their physicality and have mind-like awareness of oneself (when the body is not a mind)?  Hasker says it is not enough to choose theory M (say, materialism) over D (say, dualism) simply by showing that dualism has seemingly insurmountable problems. One should take the speck out of one’s eye first:  one must examine objections to M, too, for these may be even more severe than those against D.  A healthy reminder that having reasons against ~p is not the same as having reasons in favor of p.  [Epistemic principle here:  just because P and Q are logically not co-possible; and you have (non-decisive) evidence against P; it doesn’t follow that you have (decisive, or even non-decisive, perhaps) evidence for Q (cf. Islam and Buddhism, say)].

January 25th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Existential Instantiation

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Existential Instantiation

Definition: A rule of inference that introduces existential quantifiers.  The symbol for an existential quantifier is (∃x).

More about the term: The existential quantifier indicates that there is at least one thing in a categorical reference.  Instantiation is an operation that removes a quantifier and replaces every variable bound by the quantifier with that same instantial letter.  There are eight rules of inference to derive a conclusion of an argument via deduction:

  1. Modus Ponens: p ⊃ q … p… .:q
  2. Modus Tollens: p ⊃ q … ~q … .: ~p
  3. Pure Hypothetical Syllogism: p ⊃ q … q ⊃ r … .: p ⊃ r
  4. Disjunctive Syllogism: p v q … ~q … .:p
  5. Constructive Dilemma: (p ⊃ q) & (r ⊃ s) … p v r … .: q v s
  6. Simplification: p & q… .: p
  7. Conjunction: p … q … .: p & q
  8. Addition: p … .: p v q

January 23rd, 2012

Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes

by Max Andrews

Think about it for just a moment. Does God ever literally change his mind or course of action?  The Christian tradition usually sides with the, ‘No.’  Well, if you say know let me ask you something. What would you do with cognitive, so-called, anthropomorphisms concerning peitionary prayer or changing his course of action (i.e. God changing his mind in response to prayer or sparing Ninenveh)?  The traditional hermeneutic concerning anthropomorphisms approaches these statements as literary elements in which God expresses himself through human or animal terms that teach something true about God.  Expressions like “the right hand of God” or “the eyes of the Lord,” for example, communicate something true of God’s strength and knowledge.  But what does the concept of God’s changing his mind communicate? For example, if indeed it is anthropomorphistic?  If God in fact never actually changes his mind [due to prayer], saying he does so doesn’t communicate anything truthful.  It is simply inaccurate.[1]

January 20th, 2012

A Response to the Problem of an ‘Evil God’ as Raised by Stephen Law

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Rundle. Michael has a BA in Theology with Honors (PGCE).  His area of research is in the philosophy of René Descartes and twentieth century theology.

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Stephen Law has suggested that arguments such as the cosmological and teleological arguments could serve equally well to support an evil god hypothesis.

He says:

The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”1

This reminds me of the evil demon in Descartes’ Meditations. However, whereas Descartes was introducing the evil demon hypothesis for epistemological reasons Law is raising the evil god hypothesis as a challenge to theism. His challenge is for theological reasons.

January 19th, 2012

Theology Thursday: John Cobb

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: John B. Cobb

General summary of his theology: This concept of God has him evolving in the world, co-dependent, and God needs us to evolve with him. God is not all-powerful and he cannot necessarily bring out what he wills. God works with us by luring us; to lure the cosmos and us to an ever-greater directedness, novelty, harmony, and fulfillment. God is not omniscient because the future is truly open. This is a facet is similar to the open theist’s concept of omniscience though the open theist typically affirms that omniscience is defined as God knowing everything in so long as it is possible for him to know it. A more modest case would simply be that omniscience is redefined.

God is seen as an actual and everlasting entity who is becoming (evolving) in potential as a being.

  • He supplies every entity with it’s initial entity and gives to all beings relevance
  • God needs the world as much as the world needs God
  • The consequent of the pole (physical or actual pole; contrast to potential or primordial pole), also called nature instead of pole, which receives or prehends, uses and is affected by the concrete entities of the world
Consider the lemniscate as an illustration of God’s and the world.

Left side

  • Potential and not actual (dotted line maybe)
  • Eternal objects
  • Primordial and mental

Right side

  • Consequent or physical pole
  • Relates to all actual entities, galaxies, stars, physics, etc.

God is absorbing in and through the consequent nature all good and evil valuations from all actual entities. Through creative prehension, in order to make all things and to turn all increasingly to the good, God transforms everything he took in through the consequent nature and re-injects it into the consequent world. God is seen as dynamic, growing, evolving, learning, and directing; also, in an organic relation to all entities in the world. Because God is not distinct from the world we can infer things about God from the world. As responsive and growing God too is partially created by the universe as he interacts in it. He hopefully creates good out of all occasions and persuasively lures to greater creativity and harmony, etc.

Process is a view of reality as a whole. The world is dynamic, relational, and evolutionary. Time, process metaphysics, is not a single smooth flow but droplets or actual occasions. An actual occasion is the basic unit of reality. This actual occasion (currently understand as being Planck time, 10-43sec.) and it’s evaluation is prehended by the occasions that follow and personal human existence is wholly made up of these occasions dynamically. All of reality and it’s massive occasions are interrelated because the cosmic realm is a living whole (like an organism) then all things are vitally linked for ultimate actualization of possibilities. All reality, then, is an interrelated society of societies of occasions and all of things impact all other things—causal efficacy (not mechanical), understood as relational that which forms an organic whole. Ontorelations, a result of what exists as a result of relationships. From within all of this, God is lovingly seeking to lure the world to greater creativity… out of destructive chaos.

Positives about Cobb

  • Attempted to provide a way out of the problem of evil
  • Attempted to preserve libertarian human freedom
  • Integrates divine activity in the world and does not divorce them
  • God genuinely pursues relations with man and the created order

Negatives about Cobb

  • God becomes dependent on the world
  • God is not maximally perfect–seems to merely depict transcendent human properties and not fully infinite
  • God is no omnipotent–he cannot necessarily bring about what he wills
  • God is not omniscient
  • All of reality is rather mystic
January 18th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Heilsgeschichte

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Heilsgeschichte (hiyels-ge-sheek-te)

Definition: When translated from German it literally means “salvation history.”

More about the term: Heilsgeschichte is an organizing principle developed by Oscar Cullman for the various New Testament titles for Jesus. Cullman’s Christology is centered on what Jesus has done in history.

It is a characteristic of New Testament Christology that Christ is connected with the total history of revelation and salvation, beginning with creation. There can be no Heilsgeschichte without Christology; no Christology without a Heilsgeschichte which unfolds in time. Christology is the doctrine of an event, not the doctrine of natures. (Oscar Cullman, The Christology of the New Testament, rev. ed. [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963], 9).

January 17th, 2012

William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

A Review of William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 565-584.

William Lane Craig formulates retort to J. Howard Sobel’s objection to kalam as he typically formulates it.[1] Premise 1 seems obviously true—at least, more than its negation.  To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and is a premise that Sobel acknowledges to be true.  Sobel’s objection is with 2—that the universe began to exist.  This would then run into an infinite regress, which is philosophically and mathematically untenable.  Because an actually infinite number of things cannot exist, the series of past events must be finite in number and, hence, the temporal series of past, physical events is not without beginning.[2]