Sunday, April 27, 2014

God Isn't Getting Smaller

Recently I hosted a series called Towards Belief. This was an interesting experience for a whole lot of reasons, but the thing I really liked about it was that people were engaging with big issues. Forget everything else. If I was to summarise my reason for being involved, that would be it. The world we live in is a world of fast paced world, full of distractions (I'm as guilty of this as anyone- I'm often, not consistently but often one of those 1 in 5 people who checks their phone every 10 minutes).

But there we were every Tuesday night at my church talking about BIG issues. Big issues of Faith, God, The Bible, Science and everything else.

One Tuesday night, someone raised the issue of modern medicine and how it interacts with Christian faith. They told a personal story about a prominent church leader they knew. This leader had an unsuccessful course of chemotherapy, after which he started getting prayed for and his condition has since improved. This raised the question of whether it is unfaithful to automatically go to the doctor first and to the prayer healing team second. You might be thinking: Why not just pray anyway- whether in the car on the way to the doctors, beforehand or both? This is really a secondary question and the details on this aren't actually that important. The bigger thrust behind the question - and other surrounding discussion in our group- was best illustrated by that particular question and that particular story, but the bigger thrust was wondering whether we've lost faith in God and let ourselves lose touch with God because of our modern technologies, medicines and amenities. 

We sometimes think that if we pray for something and it happens, then God was at work. But if we go to a doctor and the doctor prescribes some medicine and something happens, then the doctor and "medicine" was at work (and by implication God wasn't at work in that situation).

But this all neglects the simple and profound truth that God is God over everything.

The God of Christian faith is a God who both sustains and transcends the entire universe. He is also everywhere- with you as you read this. He's in Los Angeles. He's here with me as I type this out. If he does exist, then he is the God of everything. He's the God of the Bible and he's simultaneously God over the book of nature. He is the God who raised Jesus from the dead almost 2,000 years ago, from the Roman cross to the throne. And he's also the God who gave us science and modern medicine. There can't be any real contradictions in what is true, because all truth is God's truth.

You might respond to this by asking: What about all the people who deny God and justify their denial using science and modern medicine? It is true that many people look at our advancing knowledge and no longer see a need for God. But why, as Christians, should we hold ourselves captive to this faulty false dichotomy and facilitate its continued prominence? According to the Christian view, that view is merely a false understanding of God leading to a denial of his very existence. God isn't getting any smaller.


(Written Oct 2013)



Notes on apologetic approaches and thought life


What is Christian Apologetics? 

Christian Apologetics, in a broad sense, simply means defending Christianity. Thus, all Christians are or should be apologists. But in the literature on scholarly Apologetics, the definition is narrower. There are two broad schools of thought- presuppositionalism and evidentalism/Classical apologetics. A few notes on these schools of thought are below.

I don't personally like the term "Apologetics" as it means different things to different people, and to some it portrays Christianity in a negative light.

Thought Life and Character

I try to be a thinker. That is, I try to think reflectively, rationally and intelligently about all matters of life. When discussing ideas with others, I try to be thoughtful in my approach there as well. Some of my biggest "heroes" in life (for want of a better word) are Christians scholars who I see as humble, reflective, intelligent, whose ideas I think are reasonable and who communicate thoughtfully as well. Good examples: C. Stephen Evans and John Dickson.

Intellectual brilliance is a great thing, but it is not enough- thinking needs to be self reflective. We should be humble in our views, and charitable towards others.

These things could all be teased out through thousands of words.


Notes on Approaches to Apologetics

General thoughts:

- Note problems with all approaches.
- Note good insights to take from each approach.
-  Mixed bag of first order thinking, negative apologetics and evidences.
- First order(Note: I refer to first order in the sense of underlying, big picture, overarching considerations of a foundational nature to do with frameworks) Arguments still provide "evidence" in a broad sense, so you could say that presuppositionalism is still evidentialism at heart, at least to some degree. Secondly, and similarly, Presuppositionalists wouldn't believe in Christianity unless they had Evidence, in a broader still sense of the term.  (Footnote to this; Douglas Wilson claims that assumptions of Christianity are always implicit within evidence arguments etc. So a true presuppositionalist would claim that presuppositionalism is foundational to evidentalism, similar to how I am claiming here that evidence, broadly construed, is necessary foundation for all beliefs, presuppositionalism included).
- Note: Epistemological issues are at the forefront here. C Stephen Evans is the Gold standard.

Presuppositionalist apologetics:

Based theologically on Calvinism.

Good:
- Neutrality is an entirely false notion. It doesn't exist. No one is truly neutral.
- Negative apologetics is vital. It's easier to disprove something or argue against something than it is to erect a case for something to the exclusion of all others. Not only that, but psychology tells us that some people simply refuse evidence which is more evidence itself for point below- the will gets in the way? Example see the amount of atheists who think Jesus didn't exist and that all stories about him are totally mythical (eg: R Price in the book 5 Views on The Historical Jesus). You can convince yourself of anything if you really want to. So both due to psychology and as a strategy, apologetics must strike out other worldviews, not simply build a case for our own.
- Presuppositions and preconditions. Point out the assumptions upon which the other view rests. This could be seen as a vital cog of negative apologetics. But it's also a universal notion of it's own. To reject one belief, another belief must be held.
- The importance of first order thinking. Looking at the Big picture. Before looking at the detail contained in evidentialist arguments, consider questions like: How are we even here? What conditions must exist for us to be here, doing this debate. Universe- law and order, science. People- Rational Thoughts.
- Rationality and persuasiveness is complex. At the very least, person relative. Critical rationalism is more at home within a presuppositionalist framework.

Bad:
- Presupposing something is inevitable but presupposing the entire Bible is a bridge too far. Begs the question. Assumes what it's trying to prove. Some question begging may be inevitable, perhaps (interesting philosophical question to consider) but the entire Bible and/or Christian worldview is a lot to assume!
- Doesn't go far enough. The Resurrection isn't contained within the apologetic. Ironically this is what they are trying to avoid.
- Presuppositionalism claims to provide certainty and that other approaches fail because they only aim for probability. But Certainty is impossible, just like proper neutrality is impossible (especially on the big questions and on existential questions). Although the impossibility of certainty is easier to prove than the impossibility of neutrality. At least with neutrality, people can just claim to be neutral and that leaves a stalemate (even if psychology and/or philosophical argumentation shows that people always have assumptions they come from, and so to truly get neutrality one must dig through a gazillion layers of muck). Whereas with certainty, one can easily come up with a possible objection to almost any argument.

Evidentialism AND Classical apologetics:

Good:
- Positive case. Negative leaves us in nowhere land.

Bad:
- The problem of shifting evidence. Philosophical arguments against this I am very fond of. Similar to Evans. Eg: Wide Accessibility problem. If the best justifications for belief are only available to a select few who are educated enough to understand the best evidence based arguments, what does this say about God? ie: Fine tuning argument didn't exist in it's most persuasive form 100 years ago because fine tuning had not been found. Neither did Kalam Argument. if God is timeless, he will provide various forms. This fits in with the insight that a personal God would provide personal evidence (Moser). Craig wouldn't disagree (1st chap RF, Holy Spirit is warrant on it's own etc) however the evidentialist approach still places too much emphasis on evidence in it's implicit support for simply believing what the current evidence says. It doesn't account for the nature of God very well.
- Much of reverse of "Good" of presupp belongs here. Eg: Neutrality is impossible. Eg: Craig Parton's claim that 98% time devote to positive evidence is ridiculous. Because the will/psychology ensures some remain unpersuaded. And it's easy to find objections to anything. Defense is the best attack sometimes, and too much emphasis on evidence FOR Christianity neglects this point.

Doug Wilson Interview- an example of someone who doesn't stick wholly to one approach:

- Lewis's Apologetic Approach- Mix of Evidentialism and Presuppositionalism?
- Explanation of presuppositional vs evidentialism- Demolition Derby vs leading someone to something unfamiliar. Presuppose Bible and show Impossibility of contrary. But there is room for evidences.

(Written August 2013?)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Media and Faith

People often make claims of media bias. The ABC, it is often said, is left wing, Fox News is right wing. The Herald Sun is right wing, The Age is lefty. And so on. But what of religious faith? Is the media inherently anti religious, as some claim? Or is atheism a dirty word? This topic was broached on last week's episode of Q and A.

Upon reflection, I recalled that there were two recent examples of actors speaking about religious issues in the public sphere. I found it interesting that in the Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Press), there was a sharp contrast in the way the comments were reported. Chris O'Dowd's vitriolic ignorance was given a platform by being reported without comment ("Religion is ruining the world") whilst Matthew McConaughey's expression of faith in his Oscars Speech was used as a springboard for an argument against God and for religious belief to be treated with ridicule.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Some notes on "No Argument for God" by John Wilkinson


I'm halfway through this. 

This book is written in a warm, conversational tone and it covers some important topics for Christians to think about. However, Wilkinson makes some serious errors in thinking, and those errors would be quite damaging to the Christian church if more people took some of the things he says on board. (Although I won’t go into that side of things here, I’ll merely discuss his ideas).  

Wilkinson writes about the limits of reason, and how reason and the senses on their own create a flat world, devoid of any clarity about ideas of meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose cannot be empirically proven. He uses this discussion as a springboard to talk about the third dimension, ie: revelation.
However I’m not convinced that things are as simple as Wilkinson makes out. Why does “reason” have to only involve the “senses”? On the contrary, reasoning about something is simply thinking about something. We can reason about things that go beyond the mere senses, and in fact there are entire disciplines of philosophy that do just that. Wilkinson himself is offering us “reasons” of sorts to accept Christian revelation in this book, but one assumes he doesn’t think his own “reasoning” falls prey to his own critiques of reason? Perhaps the discussion would’ve been clearer if Wilkinson had referred to the hard sciences here instead. But of course, he wouldn’t do that because he’d be unable to make the same critique of the limits of the entire concept of “reason” without referring to it as reason. It'd be much more obvious to any reader that his discussion needs to get broader if he did that. I agree with much of what he has to say about the limits of science, but science and reason are not coterminous. This is not mere semantics. 

So after critiquing reason, Wilkinson moves onto revelation. He believes we need the third dimension of revelation to give us meaning and purpose which can’t be attained from the two dimensional world of “reason” alone. Revelation gives us the “why” of life whereas “reason” gives us the “how” of life. (And again, perhaps Wilkinson should have said science, which would have been more accurate). But Wilkinson commits a familiar error here. He introduces a very crucial topic but doesn’t adequately define it. He merely says that “Revelation” is the disclosure of a person and that it answers the why questions.

This quote disappointed me: 

“When someone reveals something, he or she draws back the curtain on it’s purpose. Someone explains why the object is there. The problem with revelation is that there is no proof; we have to accept the person’s word”. (p56).

The Christian message is the message of God becoming flesh. Jesus walked among us. The central Christian claim is that of the resurrection. As the Apostle Paul wrote, without it our faith would well and truly be in vain. The Resurrection was, historically, the beginning of Christianity. It is the cornerstone of Christianity and, further than that, it is therefore the KEY to Christian revelation itself. It was an event that took place in history. It was God’s son literally interacting with the senses of the people who witnessed it.

This is why as a fellow Christian, reading the quote about “Revelation” above was deeply troubling. There is an obvious, serious, concerning problem with Wilkinson’s thesis: It simply does not make sense of the Christian message. Wilkinson is a Christian pastor, but he is wheeling out grand statements about abstract ideas like “revelation” that do not make sense of the Christian teaching itself! Christian revelation is not SIMPLY revealing the “why” of life, and “drawing back the curtain” on the purpose of the universe. Christian revelation is not an ethereal philosophy of life or a list of moral teachings. The key event informing Christian revelation is an event that happened in place and time. Now, the resurrection cannot be “proven” 100% one way or the other. But it can be investigated by the tools of history. It is not something that is completely sheltered from “reasoning” one way or the other as Wilkinson would so clearly and evidently like it to be.

Part way through the book, after Wilkinson’s threads start coming together in major arguments about reason and revelation as I’ve (fairly, hopefully) stated above, something dawned on me that hadn’t hit me earlier. Ironically, Wilkinson is actually doing the opposite of what he wants to achieve with this book.  Wilkinson thinks we are at risk of “robbing Christianity of it’s distinctive flavor” (p35). We’re trying to make it friendlier by robbing it of difficulties. We want to be able to tell people “it fits entirely in your brain!”(p35). But ironically, it is Wilkinson who is trying to fit God into a box. According to Wilkinson, “Christianity does not conform to human logic” (p24). Wilkinson recounts his own faith story, in which he prayed to God “I choose to believe in you, even though I have no reason to”. (p20).  But surely he must realize that this is not everyone’s experience? There are many Christians who have, in fact, come to faith through or partly through reason and arguments. C.S. Lewis was an Oxford Professor in his 30’s when he became a Christian, and he ended up as possibly the most widely read Christian author of the 20th century. Mortimer J Adler was one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, and he became a Christian in his 80’s.  

Stories like these (and countless others) should teach us that God is BIGGER than we think. God can use experiences like Wilkinson’s to reach people, but he can also use reason, science and arguments to reach people as well. Wilkinson is trying to fit faith into the “absurd” box, whilst telling us how much he despises those who try to fit faith into the “logic” box. God doesn’t fit into Wilkinson’s box anymore than he fits into anyone else’s. The truth is that everyone’s experience of God is different to other people’s, and that is perfectly OK.

Christianity doesn’t confirm entirely to human logic at all points. Wilkinson is right about that. But that’s largely because God is an infinite God and we are finite beings. How could small, rationally limited people like us fully understand and explain an infinite being? If there is an infinite God, it wouldn’t make sense for us to be able to “fully grasp” him/it. On the contrary, you’d have to ask yourself whether anyone who thinks they know it all about this God is in fact kidding themselves. Wilkinson would agree with that much as well.
We see like we’re seeing through glass dimly. Dimly indeed. But that doesn’t mean Christianity is, on the whole, “contrary to reason” or that there are “no reasons” to believe! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The T World, The iworld and the R World

A fascinating discussion by Professor Dale Kuehne on "where the world is heading". Very abstract and theoretical in it's descriptions of the world, and no doubt some will object at his generalisations. But there's something valuable if you're willing to look underneath.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogUTfxCu-uU

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Reflection on Suffering

At the moment I'm hosting a series at our church called Towards Belief. Last Tuesday we commenced the series by watching the episode on suffering. 

A member of the discussion group I'm facilitating shared a thought with the group. His thought ran along these lines: 

We are all joined together by 6 degrees of separation. Therefore, there are a multitude of connections I have with other people that I don't even know, through the various degrees of separation. People can often be influenced or even transformed by things that they see and hear. Given this, how could I confidently say that there's no point to my suffering? We can't say things are definitively pointless when we don't know what influence it may have. 

I found this to be profound. 

To be sure, this is more a response to the intellectual questions around suffering than it is a comfort to those who are questioning or experiencing suffering first hand. If someone is experiencing pain, in most cases it'd be highly inappropriate and insensitive to say to them "Well you never know who might hear about your story or who might be influenced in some small way by what you're going through!". 

But nonetheless, this is a valuable comment in terms of thinking about this. I recently read a book called Connected, where the authors detailed how our behaviours influence those around us and how we are influenced by others in ways that we don't even realise. This influence can be quite strong to the third degree. In other words, we influence friends of friends of friends in a variety of ways. Thousands of people we don't even know. Now of course, the authors were studying things like the transmission of stds, political attitudes and things like that. It might be a lot harder, if not impossible, to scientifically study the effect that our personal pain might have on others compared to studying other more concrete things. Nonetheless, I think the fact that we do impact people through various degrees of separation does lend support to this idea that we simply can't know what impact we have on others. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Burden of Proof: Everyday Usage

The Burden of Proof is a concept which has caused much controversy! It has many meanings. Here are some brief thoughts on it's everyday usage.

Everyday Usage

For most of us, I'd guess that when we hear "Burden of Proof", we'd think of our legal system and the concepts that apply in criminal law. As I understand it, in that area there's two main guiding principles. Firstly, one is "Innocent until proven guilty" and secondly, they must be proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Considerations 

This raises all kinds of issues. Here are two: Firstly, the presumption of innocence (the first principle) means that the evidence for guilt must be shown and tested. Without being able to prove guilt, the defendant remains innocent. Being charged doesn't mean that the person being charged is guilty unless they can prove their innocence. No! It means the prosecutors must find enough evidence and then show they are guilty. Secondly, not only must evidence be found but that evidence must get to a certain level. It's effectively about proof, not probability. Some amount of evidence could perhaps show probability, but that wouldn't be enough. Sometimes it might seem very probable that the defendant is guilty, based on the evidence we do have, but unless the evidence is strong enough to put any possible reasonable doubts to bed they must remain innocent under the law.

A Current Example

A recent example (albeit, not in criminal law) might be the Essendon Bombers supplements case. This is an ongoing investigation and no players have yet been issued with any infraction notices. It has been speculated in both major Melbourne newspapers that part of the reason why players have not been charged is because Essendon's record keeping and governance was so poor. This line of thought is suggesting that ASADA just couldn't prove which players took what because of a lack of paperwork and lack of knowledge from the players about what they were taking. Nonetheless, it is possible that ASADA investigators consider it probable that Essendon players took illegal substances but that they simply don't have enough evidence.

The Big Picture Application/Analysis

As a side note and a thought experiment, consider this: If that were the case and it seems probable that the players were guilty but that the evidence wasn't strong enough to convict any individual Essendon player, would it be reasonable for them (or us, if we had the evidence too) to believe that the Essendon players took illegal substances (putting aside the issue that them personally believing it has nothing to do with whether they charge them)? In other words, looking at the big picture: If we have some evidence but we are lacking other evidence, it is reasonable to hold a belief based on an interpretation of probability about where the current evidence points? If so, how much evidence do you need? Does it depend on what kind of situation or example you're considering? These are interesting things to consider.




Sunday, July 21, 2013

Naturalism, Questioned.


1. If Naturalism is true, then every event that ever occurs in the universe is a product of, and can in theory be explained by reference to, natural laws and natural forces.

2. Universally across human cultures, in all places and times, people have reported the existence of events that seem to contravene the natural order and have reported experiences that seem to connect them with something beyond the bare, natural state of affairs.

3. If any of these events did contravene the natural order or if any of those experiences did connect someone with anything beyond the bare, natural state of affairs then naturalism is false.

4. It is likely that at least one of these events did contravene natural laws and/or that at least one of the experiences did connect them with something beyond the bare, natural state of affairs.

5. Therefore, it is likely that naturalism is false.

The key premise here is clearly number 4. The whole question is really about whether or not premise 4 is true. The other premises really just exist to explain the situation and provide a sequential framework for making this argument to question naturalism. The basic, undeveloped, intuitive idea on which the step by step argument is based, is this: It seems more likely that some miracles actually happened than it is to say that all of them didn't. 

The appendix to this argument would be to list some of the examples of events that have been considered to be miracles and religious experiences.  Craig Keener's book Miracles is one very comprehensive example of this.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Should Christians Engage in Natural Theology?


Hayward Lectures 2012, Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University Nova Scotia.

Lecture 1:

Should Christians engage in Natural Theology?

 And if so, how do we go about it?

God has always called some to defend him: Ancient World. Atheists (rejection of local Gods), superstitious- Miracles, subverters due to social stances. Justin Martyr.

1 Peter 3:15- Give reason- faith is reasonable.

New Atheists: Four Horsemen- Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Harris.
  • -          Distinguishing Factor: Religion is not just wrong but it is dangerous.
  • -          None of them have much experience, knowledge or awareness of philosophy of religion.
  • -          Some atheists are embarrassed by them.

Dawkins has a novel argument: Designer must be more complex.
  • -          But: Divine simplicity.
  • -          There is no real reason to believe this premise.

Brash confidence:
  • -          They want to write best sellers.
  • -          Religion is not just wrong but Ethically and socially harmful.
  • -          Questioning the idea of religious tolerance.
  • -          Reversal of previous thoughts. Previously, people thought LACK of religious belief was so bad that we should be wary of it. Could be harmful. Now, have we gone full circle?
  • -          Baptists stood up for religious freedom in this environment.

So, how should we respond?
  • -          Theologians and Biblical Scholars should point out the flows in how they read the Bible in wooden ways.
  • -          Plantinga, John Polkinghorne, Collins etc (Recommended) have shown the science and religion are compatible.
  • -          Christian doctrine of sin shows that ethical failures of Christians shouldn’t be surprising.
  • -          But New Atheist analysis of ethical actions of Christians is one sided. They exaggerate wrongs but don’t give credit where it is due.
  • -          Justice, rights and wrongs: Wolsterstorff. Doctrine of human rights stems from Biblical faith and nowadays there is no adequetae replacement for Biblical vision.
  • -          Jeffrey Burton Russell: Clearing the air, exposing the myths about Christianity.
  • -          Stark: The Victory of Reason. May go too far in answering. Starks analysis may be unbalanced towards the other side! But, makes a convincing historical case- science etc stem from faith, not from some secular ideas. 
  • -          Good to point out their weaknesses in social analysis/ethics etc. However, at a basic intellectual level we must show why a reasonable person can believe in Christianity. Failure to clearly articulate this simply plays into the New Atheists’s hands. 
  • -          First sin of religious believers in their eyes is not to follow reason.
  • -          A central idea of Christianity (and some other faiths) is: God exists.
  • -          Response from Christians has been Natural Theology. Eg: Mere Christianity.
  • -          Philosophers have done Natural Theology. However, it is not prominent in theology. Some view it with suspicion.
  • -          This has given NA’s some ground. They see religious belief as Zero grounds, all faith which means no evidence. Eg: Dawkins at Cambridge.
  • -          “Defined themselves into epistemological safe ground”. No public voice makes it appear that no serious case can be made. “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof” (Hitchens).
  • -          NA’s are evidentialist in their epistemology.

How to respond?

  • -          Attack their epistemology. Eg: Reformed epistemology. Sensus divinitas NOT belief by evidence. That kind of belief in God can be ”Properly basic”. It is a foundational belief. No argument or evidence? That’s ok.
  • -          I am sympathetic towards it .Plantinga/Wolsterstorff. It’s simple contentions are correct. But, it shouldn’t be our whole response. To argue that religious belief can be grounded without arguments or evidence is not the same as arguing that there are no good arguments or evidence.
  • -          There is both propositional and non propositional evidence.
  • -          Views of RE’s can be re stated.
  • -          However in simple terms it looks like confirmation of NA claims. Ie: There is no evidence (if we say “religious belief can be grounded without).
  • -          2 stage apologetics- One: Reasons why faith in God can be rational THEN two- reasons why revelation rational.
  • -          Why NT not prominent amongst protestant theologians?
  • -          Perhaps enlightenment views have debilitated NT.
  • -          Other reasons: Widespread suspicion that it undermines centrality of revalation.
  • -          But NT is revelation too. But, “Special” revelation from General revelation. Karl Barth. I am sympathetic to some of his reasons against NT.
  • -          “Transcendence” and above us. We will end up creating God in our own image.
  • -          Paul Moser has criticised. NT leads to thin theism. Abstract metaphysical claims. IF there’s a God, he isn’t interested in us knowing propositions, rather he is personal and wants us to know him. Spectator Evidence doesn’t cut the mustard of personal transformation.
  • -          (TDE Note: Craig response to evil borrows heavily from this).
  • -          We submit to God’s terms not vice versa.

Anti Naturalism
  • -          We can accet all of these claims and STILL see value in NT response to New Atheism.
  • -          Value can be in “Anti naturalism”.
  • -          Imagine not religious believer, what shou;d they think? Is the most reasonable view of our universe, naturalism? “Nature is all there is”? Should reasonabke non believers be atheists? No. There are problems with naturalism. There are difficulties. We reconceive NT as a defense of anti naturalism. Point to aspects of our natural world that point beyond nature. Natural Signs. Points towards a profound mystery. NT articulates questions that a reasonable person ought to ask. Even if N theologians cant adequetyl answer them, NT will point us in the direction of being open to the kinds of Answers that Barth and Moser would like.
  • -          I deny that naturalism is the most reasonable view of reality that one can take, even if they aren’t a believer.
  • -          Epistemic situation of someone who is confronting the reasonableness of naturalism vs rivals.
  • -          Where does burden of proof lie? What kind of evidence would we expect there to be if God exists and wants a relationship with us?

Burden of Proof
  • -          Flew’s the presumption of atheism.
  • -          They think of God as if he were one more thing in the universe. Eg “We all agree the universe contains dogs, cats, quarks, black holes”. Theist goes beyond this basic common ground. Like believing in the Loch Ness monster.
  • -          If this were the case YES believer would have a burden.
  • -          It’s about does the universe have a certain character or not? Is there a sustaining power behind it all?
  • -          Is there a purpose? Or does everything exist on it’s own? Is the universe one big brute fact among many brute facts??
  • -          Theist and naturalist don’t just disagree about God, they disagree about everything.
  • -          Atheist mistake: Confuse commitment to naturalism (metaphysical) with commitment to science. But, theists and atheists don’t disagree about scientific facts and data!
  • -          Question of naturalism: Is nature all there is?
  • -          Science investigates the natural world, but it is not fit to investigate whether there is more than the natural world.
  • -          Theist holds that scientific laws hold because of God’s creative activity. Atheist has no explanation. But, ultimately the question of whether there is more is a philosophical question. Like most philosophical question,s this can’t be strictly proven either way. If by prove we mean an argument that no reasonable person could doubt.
  • -          God’s existence cnnot be proven. But neither can naturalism. Proof in this sense is an ideal.
  • -          What is reasonable is asking which rival worldview makes the most sense?

Evidence
  • -          What kind of evidence should we expect to find, if God did exist.
  • -          If God is a hypothesis, we should ask what consequences would follow if that hypothesis was true.
  • -          Some kind of knowledge would be available and widely available. It would be bizarre if you had to have a phd in philosophy or understand quantum physics to have a knowledge of God. We’d expect it to be fairly pervasive and easy to find.
  • -          Christianty theology assumes a certain kind of r’ship: Freely, motivated by God’s goodness not coercion or fear. If God’s existence was too obvious, that would not make sense of this. It would have to be dismissable. Ambigious. Able to be explained away. Easily resistible.
  • -          Pascal Pensees quote. Signs seen by those who seek but not by those who deny.
  • -          WAP and ERP. Two Pascallian constraints on evidence for God’s existence.

To do NT, we must have three things right:
  • 1.       Anti naturalism, rather than positive, complete knowledge of God. It’s goal is to tell us that there’s something beyond the natural world.
  • 2.       Burden or proof must be right. No presumption of atheism. All rival worldviews are accountable to reason.
  • 3.       Right view of the kind of evidence that it is reasonable to seek.
  •  

Questions

Constantly changing evidence. Don’t wanna hitch our wagon to the latest scientific evidence. Eg: If we had to wait until modern physics was finalised to know whether there was a God. Eg: Fine Tuning argument which is based on relatively recent science. There may be value a nd something in these arguments but ultimately We would expect universal aspects of human experience. WAP principle. BUT Can still be “defeater” against WAP. So defeaters must be considered. Defeaters of signs must be considered. My view is that the signs are neither supported by nor threatened by scientific evidence.

NA a fad? Probably not. It has a cultural influence and impact. It’s stretched far. Atheists joining together.

Affecting families? Yes. Need to show not just intellectual but understand the attraction of their writing etc. Stuents with fundamentalist readings or no knowledge or bible can be easy pickings.

Calvinism- no need for apologetics? Do the Pascallian constraints lend themselves to this kind of thinking?

Evidence doesn’t have to be propositional. Signs can have an immediate impact. Sign becomes focus of reflection and we articulate them. That’s where the arguments come from. Don’t impact everybody but always retain appeal.

Common Sense Realism George Marsden. Are you opening yourself up to the dangers that this kind of thinking opened itself up to.





Quotable


Rarely are truer words spoken than these:

The most signal failure of the atheist project is not that it insists on analysing religion in narrowly scientific terms, or that it cherry picks history in support of its case. It is that with its evasions and its incuriosity, its sloppy arguments and its unwillingness to question its own assumptions, it debases the currency of rational inquiry that it so claims to champion.

In doing so, its exponents shoot themselves in the foot while backing the wrong horse. This might make for a diverting YouTube video, but as a basis for public debate it is as empty as the heavens above.

From Here "The Failure of the atheist project" by Angus Macdonald

Those who advocate the extension of marriage to same sex couples have been very strong on the value of equality but almost silent on the nature of marriage they want equal access to. Whereas those who defend marriage as it is currently defined seem unable to say exactly what its value and worth is and why the institution would suffer from extension to same sex couples. A meaningful discussion about the value and purpose of the institution of marriage itself has not taken place.

From Marriage Equality or The Destruction of Difference? by Scruton and Blond


These kinds of issues will inevitably remain vexed. Public opinion decides what is offensive, and public opinion is always changing. Some of today's acceptable comments are tomorrow's taboos and vice versa. So as standards change there will always be those who are out of step with the rest.


- Me, on people taking offense at the comments of others.