Archive for September, 2012

September 27th, 2012

The Problem of Socrates

by Max Andrews

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols commences with his maxims and missiles, the wisest of proverbs Nietzsche embodies his thought in.  Initially, the maxims are not so clear and one may only speculate as to what Nietzsche really intends for them to mean.  His succeeding work is an exegesis of these maxims, an illumination of the text, and an expository revelation of Nietzsche’s assailment of the Christian church.

“The Problem of Socrates” was Nietzsche’s understanding of the life of the philosopher, or better yet, the death of life.  Socrates was the philosopher, one who embodied the reason, virtue, and happiness, one who understood the vanity of life.  Life was a sickness, as an individual philosophizing and as an aggregate society.  Socrates and Plato were the “symptoms of decline” for life.  Life’s sickness progressed as more reason revealed the sickness many covered.  This revelation was only known through the philosophers.  What then is the value of life?  Nietzsche’s response, a paradox:

A living man cannot [estimate the value of life], because he is a contending party, or rather the very object in the dispute, and not a judge; nor can a dead man estimate it—for other reasons.  For a philosopher to see a problem in the value of life, is almost an objection against himself, a note of interrogation set against his wisdom—a lack of wisdom.

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September 24th, 2012

Catching William Lane Craig’s Intelligent Design Error

by Max Andrews

I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast on Sean Carroll on Science and God Part 1 this morning as I was walking from the parking lot into my office at University today, and I was quite surprised to hear a generalization Dr. Craig made concerning intelligent design.

Dr. Craig discusses how no models of the universe involve God. (This discussion begins around the 7 minute mark.) I think he’s correct in that we don’t have a physical theory of the universe that uses God as an entity in its explanation. For instance, you’ll find no entity in the standard model of particle physics that denotes God. However, Craig says that you do find this in the proponents of intelligent design theory “who want to postulate God as an entity in a scientific theory–that God would be like a quark, or a black hole, or a quantum field. He would be a theoretical entity postulated in a scientific theory.”

I have no doubt that there are intelligent design proponents, i.e. [young earth] creationists, who do this, but importing creationism into intelligent design theory strips ID for what it actually says.

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September 20th, 2012

Hellbound? A New Movie Challenges the Doctrine of Hell

by Max Andrews

This photo provided by Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc. shows exorcist Bob Larson, left, at work in a scene from the film “Hellbound?”. The documentary, which premiered last week in Nashville and opens Friday in New York, digs deeper into the modern Christian theological debate over hell and who’s going there. (AP Photo/Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc., via Huffington Post)

Here’s an excerpt from Travis Loller at the Huffington Post.

How can a loving God send people, even bad people, to a place of eternal torment? A new documentary struggles with questions of punishment and redemption and how culture affects and shapes Christian beliefs about God and the Bible.

Coming in the wake of controversy over Rob Bell’s 2011 hell-questioning book “Love Wins,” which put hell on the cover of Time magazine, and treading some of the same ground, filmmaker Kevin Miller believes the debate about the nature of hell is not academic.

In an interview after a Nashville screening of “Hellbound?” Miller said he believes our ideas about hell have a real-world effect on the way we live our lives and the way we relate to others.

Perhaps popular theologian Brian McLaren best expresses that thought in the movie when he says, “If I believe that a small percentage of human beings were created to enjoy bliss eternally and another group of beings were created to experience eternal conscious torment, then I look at human beings differently than if I say, `Every human being was made in the image of God. Every human being is beloved by God. God is at work to save every human being.'”

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September 20th, 2012

Free Papers on Jean-Jacques Rousseau

by Max Andrews

Oxford Journals is celebrating Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 300th birthday by granting free access to many papers relevant to his work and thought. Here’s a brief history of Rousseau:

[J]ean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most influential thinkers during the Enlightenment in eighteenth century Europe. His first major philosophical work, A Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, was the winning response to an essay contest conducted by the Academy of Dijon in 1750. In this work, Rousseau argues that the progression of the sciences and arts has caused the corruption of virtue and morality. This discourse won Rousseau fame and recognition, and it laid much of the philosophical groundwork for a second, longer work, The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. The second discourse did not win the Academy’s prize, but like the first, it was widely read and further solidified Rousseau’s place as a significant intellectual figure.

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September 16th, 2012

The Case for Day-Age Creation

by Max Andrews

By Hugh Ross

No one approaches the Bible completely free of bias. Mine was a secularist’s assumption that this book, like other texts considered “sacred,” would be easy to dismiss as a culturally important yet humanly crafted document. I did not disbelieve in a Being beyond the universe. I had studied enough to see growing evidence for the universe’s transcendent beginning and, thus, the reality of a transcendent Beginner. I felt no compelling need, however, to find the Bible either true or false.

Some may consider my early attraction to astronomy as a bias, but I see no basis for discounting a researcher’s truth filters — such as the rules of logic and evidence — as if they are inappropriate study tools. So this is where I started. I could not have imagined where my inquiry would lead.

From where I stand today, with full confidence in the truth of Scripture and high regard for the prolific scientific enterprise that sprang from widespread access to the Bible, I cannot help but wonder if something other than exegetical difficulties is fueling the creation controversy. The push to choose either a high view of the Bible or a high view of nature’s record seems to come from a sense of vulnerability — an apprehension that discoverable facts might somehow, someday clash irreconcilably with biblical theology. And then what? I simply do not see that danger as real. God’s constancy and consistency of character, observed in both Scripture and nature, takes it away.

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September 15th, 2012

Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes–Oh My!

by Max Andrews

Below is just a brief abridged outline of the key distinctions among the four early Jewish groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and the Essenes.

  • The Pharisees are the most often mentioned group in the NT. 100 BC to AD. The name means to separate (from the Hasmoneans? From ritually unclean?). They were very emphatic about the need to be clean (i.e. not touching a dead body). They were strict on tithe laws, the Sabbath, and divorce laws. It was voluntary participation to become a Pharisee. They were all over Israel. They wore distinct clothing and were as many as 6,000. They were Am-Haaretz (people of the land). Some were scribes and some were not. They were mentioned 100 times in the NT and were heavily criticized by the NT, rabbis after AD 70 and Qumran.
    • Pharisees were strict legalists. They were less into politics and more into religion. They focused on externals and not the heart.
    • Pharisaic doctrine
      • Immortality of the soul
      • Judgment based on works
      • Hell
      • Resurrection
      • Strong Messianic hope
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September 13th, 2012

The Doctrine of Divine 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 existence.[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 acknowledge that whatever can be intrinsically attributed to God must in reality just be the unity that is his essence.

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September 11th, 2012

William Rowe and the Problem of Evil

by Max Andrews

Rowe makes a strong positive case for why atheism is true.  He supposes that, as especially in the absence of other arguments, anyone who observes the amount of human and animal suffering in the world and the truth of premise 1 in the evidential argument (that there are probably pointless evils) then this person would be rationally justified in believing atheism to be true. He presents two basic forms of the argument:  the logical and the evidential problems of evil.  The logical problem of evil argues that the existence of God and the existence of evil are logically contradictory claims.  However, these aren’t explicitly contradictory—they are implicit (i.e. a married bachelor is an implicit contradiction and a married non-married person is an explicit contradiction).  Rowe recognizes that we must abandon the logical problem of evil because the contradiction has yet to be proved (though he states that just because it has yet to be demonstrated doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one).

The evidential problem is a probabilistic argument, which argues that given the apparent [pointless] evil it is more probable that God does not exist than if God does exist.  He uses the example of a fawn suffering for no apparent reason.  Given that God would prevent this from happening and the fact that it does happen then God doesn’t seem to exist.  Rowe seems to favor this form of the problem of evil over the logical problem.

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September 10th, 2012

David Hume on the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

Hume asks the question of how a finite effect can have an infinite cause.  Kant says that you can base it on the moral argument. If you are explaining the subsets, you have the explanation of the infinite set (according to Hume).  However, in explaining the first member of a finite set, one must go out of that set.  Focus on a series in which a member’s existence is explained by the preceding cause.  In explaining a set you go outside of the set.  The point is not if it’s an infinite set but if it gets outside of the set (relies on PSRb in a way–that there must be some sufficient reasons for any positive fact and denies brute facts.)

Hume also argues against the CA on a priori grounds.  He formulates the CA in a way that combines causal (Thomistic or kalam) and reason (Leibnizian).  He considers the causal closure of the universe.  Under his idea of how the universe is he considers it to be a causally closed system, which, by definition, rules out any external causation.  Any a priori argument is absurd to Hume—it’s impossible to deduce the existence of God from fixed necessary premises or Kantian/Newtonian spacetime intuitions. 

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September 9th, 2012

The Inductive-Statistical Model of Scientific Explanation Preferred over the Deductive-Nomological Model

by Max Andrews

The Deductive-Nomological model, strictly speaking, certainly seems ideal but is untenable.  This is ideal for empiricists arguing from fixed premises but this view hardly seems amenable to novel discoveries and even predictions.  D-N does have a robust explanatory scope and power of causal laws such as the law of conservation. This model doesn’t have any explanatory power for other laws (i.e. the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which prohibits atomic electrons from collapsing in on the nucleus and being propelled away from the nucleus).  The D-N model, if it were to implement the Pauli Exclusion Principle, would have a self-defeating condition in the explanandum or explanans (depending on how the principle is being used). So, the model itself seems inert to the effect that it could never be verified or falsified by its own merit and criteria.  It stands in a privileged explanatory position.

Additionally, the D-N seems incompatible with many models of our universe.  This model assumes that the universe is deterministic.  Its view of causality is more than the Humean notion of effects rooted in habits of association, and rightly so, but it assumes that causality is applicable in every instance of a law.  There are several problems with this in the quantum world.  Quantum calculations are solely based on probabilities.  The vast majority of quantum interpretations are indeterministic (i.e. the traditional Copenhagen, GRW, Popper, transactional, etc.).  Additionally, there are other interpretations that suggest that the quantum world is deterministic (i.e. de Broglie-Bohm and Many Worlds).[1] What this goes to say is that the world may not be completely deterministic but it’s certainly not chaotic either.[2]  This is where I get caught between the efficacy of the I-S model and the D-N-P model.  The D-N-P model makes sense of deterministic and probabilistic explanandums.

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