The unique perspective and vantage point of over 150 Mulims praying in Indonesia on the BBC News Day in Pictures site(picture #5) provides a picture worth a thousand words.
In the picture, each participant is bowed down with his face to the ground like slaves before a taskmaster. Having just completed a study of Islam and learned that Muslims believe Allah is not a personal God and is not personally knowable, one before whom even angels "flinch not" from executing his will, ... this picture illustrates that Muslims in fact preach and practice slavery rather than sonship. While as a father who requires obedience in my home, this picture is not representative of what I either expect or desire of my children, for there is on the one hand the obedience that comes from slaves (who serve primarily out of duty and fear) and then there is the obedience of children who while recognizing authority serve out of love, relationship, and respect.
As the world has witnessed and recognized, slavery is neither deemed optimun nor to be desired. With this in mind, I write that Christians might be reminded of the blessed position that is ours in being sons of God, that we might be reminded of this distinction every time we look upon the pictures of those held in bondage, and that my pointing out of this distinction might lead those in bondage to the redemption and adoption as sons that comes through Jesus Christ!
Friday, October 31, 2008
The unique perspective and vantage point of over 150 Mulims praying in Indonesia on the BBC News Day in Pictures site(picture #5) provides a picture worth a thousand words.
Posted by All Things Reformed at 6:49 AM
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Terry Anderson argues that "religion will die". Here's a Christian response to his basic arguments:
1. There are signs that in the western world (including the US) religion is, indeed, beginning a long, slow – although accelerating – decline.
Tim Keller's position (The Reason for God) that "the world is polarizing over religion" is better supported. As Kellar states: While the non-churchgoing population in the U.S. and Europe is steadily increasing, the number of americans answering 'no religious preferrence' to poll questions has skyrocketed (having doubled or even tripled in the last decade, and though there was a shift from a formally Christian foundation in U.S. universities to an overtly secular one; at the same time, certain churches with supposedly obsolete beliefs in the infallible Bible and miracles are growing in the U.S. and exploding in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Even in much of Europe, there is some growth in church attendance. And despite the secularism of most universiteis & colleges,... it is estimated that 10-25 percent of all the teachers & professors of phillosophy in the country are orthodox Chrfistians, up from less than 1 percent just thirty years ago."
The point is that not only are there signs even in the West of Christianity's staying power, but if one considers the world at large, religion (true religion) is not only not declining, but advancing even as Christ himself proclaimed it would!
Anderson's thinking is wishful and deluded.
2. In order to survive, a religion's mythology must be imbued into the next generation at an early age, before critical faculties that might prompt resistance develop.
Response: First, Anderson fails to substantiate that all religions are myth. Second, he suggests that religion will be more easily resisted by those with "critical faculties", yet as Sire points out there are those at every level of society and in every academic discipline (in science, humanities, technology, business) who take their theism with complete intellectual seriousness and honesty. Anderson's statement is not only arrogant but fails to explain how reason handles all the problems that naturalism fails to answer or provide for.
3. Evangelists know that it takes only three or four generations of unchurched people for the mythology to fall from consciousness, to disappear from the culture. People find that actually they can manage perfectly well without it.
Response: I don't disagree that the influence and effects of Christianity (as with all worldviews) tend to pass and weaken without propagation and moreso internalization. However, given the nature and needs of man along with the incredible testimony of the gospel which has spread regardless of attempts to kill it(by the power and providence of the Holy Spirit!), while it should not surprise us to see the gospel disappear in some (geographic) places where it has previously thrived, at the same time history has powerfully shown the gospel itself is not disappearing but forcefully advancing even to the ends of the earth.
Additionally, in regard to Anderson's statement that "people find they can manage perfectly well without it" he fails to define the word "well". Does he mean they can get by though they have no basis for (consistent) ethics? Does he mean they can consistently live out their naturalistic beliefs without ending in nihilism? Does he mean they can possess meaning and significance that's meaningful? Does he mean that their worldview provides assurance (and satisfaction) when it comes to death? Does their worldview account for the possibility of genuine knowledge the facticity of the external universe, or the existence of ethical distinctions, etc.?
4. In the developing world we are told that religion is strong and, apparently, unassailable.... do they really believe what they purport to believe? Or is the religious meme so strong in poor countries that it is inescapable? Does religion control so much of the culture that it is simply not possible to function as anything other than a religious adherent, whether sincere or not?
Response: There's no doubt some not only fail to fully examine their own worldviews and to investigate others because of relationships and external pressure placed on them by their culture. There's also do doubt that many fail to deal with known tensions or inconsistencies between the worldview they have embraced and the evidence around them. However, examination in these areas if done, while it may lead some to atheism, would also (as history has shown) lead many others to Christianity, which unlike atheism is able to stand the test of an adequate worldview (see Sire: The Universe Next Door ... An adequate worldview should possess inner intellectual coherence; be able to comprehend the data of reality, explain what it seeks to explain; and be subjectively satisfactory (i.e., satisfy by being true - either consistent with or providing a framework for what one experiences!))
5. The spiritual-but-not-religious brigade represents a creeping disease that can eventually kill religion.
Response: While it's true that the form of godliness without possessing the power of godliness is detrimental both to the individual along with their influences and actions; it does not stop true religion, nor it's adherents and witnesses.
Professors of false religions have been around for quite some time but have not stamped out religion yet. Anderson's position of this is not historically verified!
6. Religions do eventually die.
Response: While this may be true of some religions, Christianity has stood the test of time, and is advancing at the present time with promise of greater advances. The question is not whether religions die and whether he will be there to see it, but whether there is religion that is true (i.e., whether Christ is and is alive!) and whether his present denial of him will stand the test of time!
Posted by All Things Reformed at 12:10 PM
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
...The Washington Post informed us that they have never received this many questions in advance, and they were "impressed!" One thing's for sure: based on the questions we have received thus far the web chat should prove to be interesting.
See here for details. (Oct. 31, 1:00 p.m.)
Posted by All Things Reformed at 2:50 PM
“The Council of Nicaea settled the question that Christ was God in 325, so he is 1700 years out of date," Sydney priest Anthony Robbie said. “The rest is a regurgitation of every discredited 19th-century liberal Protestant German cliche in the book.”
The above quote is taken from Australian Priest Claims Jesus Was Not God. While the arguments of the priest are nothing new and while the quote that the Council of Nicaea "settled" the question that Christ was God invites questions from skeptics (i.e., while the Council spoke and testified, their statement does not "make" Christ God, but only affirms the truth that has been revealed); at the same time I find it interesting to see believers use the argument that an unbeliever is "1700 years out of date." An interesting twist, and while the date of one's belief is not the ultimate determiner of truth, it's interesting to see it effectively used "by believers" to discredit one whose positions are not only unsupported and contrary to truth, but dated in that his assertions are nothing new, but simply the old cloaked now in Australian garb.
Posted by All Things Reformed at 7:43 AM
The Web site of the Indian Space Research Organization — the body that launched the Chandrayaan — includes a verse from the Rig Veda, a sacred Hindu text that dates back some 4,000 years: “O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect,/ You enlighten us through the right path.”
One is tempted, in all this, to dwell on the seeming contradiction between religion and science, between reason and superstition.
Christians have for far too long tolerated the logical fallacy of generalization in the press and among non-Christian skeptics when it comes to the relationship between science and religion.
Note in the above quote taken from a NY Times article, the author after addressing the anomalies between the Hindu faith and the Indians participating in a scientific event (sending an unmanned spacecraft to the moon) aserts or draws the conclusion that there is a "contradiction between religion and science" without any proof that just because one religion is at odds with science that all religions must be or better put that no religion provides a basis for science and/or scientific endeavor. This is not only poor journalism, and in other cases ignorance of worldview considerations, but a statement and action that Christians should no longer tolerate without pointing out the logical fallacy.
Perhaps Tunku Varadarajan, the op-ed contributor of this piece, should examine more one's own statement about a "seeming" contradiction between religion and science, for when one delves deeper than the generalities, one sees that not all religions are the same, and therefore their relationships to science are not the same!
Posted by All Things Reformed at 6:54 AM
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"Now ... we have evidence that complex societies were indeed active in 10th and
9th centuries BCE and that brings us back to the debate about the historicity of
the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period," Levy said.
While the evidence of complex societies in the time of Solomon will not quell the objections of all skeptics (for if a person is pre-inclined against the truth - any objection - will satisfy and be employed, and if one cannot be used they will look to another); at the same time this new evidence does refute one of the objections some have made!
Posted by All Things Reformed at 7:11 AM
Monday, October 27, 2008
We've seen many articles similar to this, where social engineers try to convince the public that there is a genetic excuse for wickedness.
A recent "scientific study" is making its rounds on the internet in an effort to sway public opinion in favor of wicked, perverted bahavior. The shameless headline reads, "Gene linked to transsexuality identified". But the further one reads into the actual article, we see that the study backtracks from the absolute conclusion stated in the headline.
"In the largest genetic study involving transsexuals to date, researchers in Australia said they found that transexuality may be linked to the androgen receptor (AR) gene - which is known to modify the effect of the male sex hormone testosterone."
Such a statement is quite a backtrack from the conclusiveness of the headline, and the reason for the backtracking becomes clearer when the data collected in the study is examined.
"The longer AR gene was found in 55.4 percent of people in the transsexual group and 47.6 percent of the non-transsexual men, they wrote in an article published in Biological Psychiatry."
Taking a good look at these percentages, one has to do a doubletake when reading the headline again. This data provokes several questions.
Is the "transsexual gene" dominant or recessive? Why is there only 7.8% difference in the number of transsexuals vs. non-transsexuals who have this gene? How come 44.6 percent of transsexuals do not have the transsexual gene? If the headline of this story would be remotely accurate, I would expect 100 percent of the transsexual group to have the gene, or at least in the high 90s.
The biggest question of all, why even publish a study that is as inconclusive as this one? Perhaps the answer lies in this statement.
"There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice, however our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops," said lead researcher Vincent Harley of Monash University's Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research.
What link have these scientists discovered between genetics and transsexuality? None. Just another example of social engineers trying to use "science" to indoctrinate as opposed to educate.
Posted by Puritan Lad at 8:54 AM
... a friend just forwarded this to me from Spurgeon
We are all Christians."
"Why, we belong to a Christian
nation; are we not born Christians?"
"Surely we must be all right; we have
always attended our parish church, is
not that enough?"
"Our parents were always godly; we were
born into the church, were we not? Did
they not take us up in their arms when
we were little, and make us members of
Christ? What more do we lack?"
This is the common talk.
There is no Christian practice, there is
no Christian habit, but what has been,
or will be before long, imitated by people
who have no vital godliness whatever.
A man may appear much like a Christian,
and yet possess no vital godliness!
Walk through the British Museum, and you
will see all the orders of animals standing
in their various places, and exhibiting
themselves with the utmost possible
propriety. The rhinoceros demurely retains
the position in which he was set at first;
the eagle soars not through the window;
the wolf howls not at night; every creature,
whether bird, beast, or fish, remains in
the particular glass case allotted to it.
But you all know well enough that these
are not the living creatures, but only the
outward forms of them. Yet in what do
they differ? Certainly in nothing which you
could readily see, for the well stuffed
animal is precisely like what the living
animal would have been; and that eye
of glass even appears to have more of
brightness in it than the natural eye of
the creature itself.
Yet you know well enough that there is a
secret inward something lacking, which,
when it has once departed, you cannot restore.
So in the churches of Christ, many professors
are not living believers, but stuffed believers,
There is all the external of religion, everything
that you could desire, and they behave with a
great deal of propriety, too. They all keep their
places, and there is no outward difference
between them and the living, except upon that
vital point; they lack spiritual life. This is the
essential distinction, spiritual life is absent.
It is almost painful to watch little children
when some little pet of theirs has died, how
they can hardly realize the difference
between death and life!
Your little boy's bird moped for awhile upon
its perch, and at last dropped down in the cage;
and do not you remember how the little boy
tried to set it up, and gave it seed, and filled
its glass with water, and was quite surprised to
think that birdie would not open his little eye
upon his friend as it did before, and would not
take its seed, nor drink its water!
Ah, you finally had to tell the poor boy that
a mysterious something had gone from his
little birdie, and would not come back again.
There is just such a spiritual difference between
the mere professor, and the genuine Christian.
There is an invisible, but most real, indwelling
of the Holy Spirit, the absence or the presence
of which makes all the difference between the
lost sinner and the saint.Type rest of the post here
Posted by All Things Reformed at 7:18 AM
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The following quotes taken from here.
In Dawkins' view, there is a battle taking place in Britain between the forces of reason, and religious fundamentalism and it is far from won.
The God Delusion's stated aim was to "convert" readers to atheism - but he admits that as a proselytising tool it has broadly failed.
In fact, Dawkins has been described as "the biggest recruiter for creationism in this country". Critics accuse him of an imaginative failure when it comes to human nature's susceptibility to the comfort of irrational thought.
Posted by All Things Reformed at 5:13 PM
Posted by All Things Reformed at 4:48 PM
By the Providence of God, I stumbled upon this amazing work.
From the site:
"Reasoning with Jehovah's Witnesses" originated in the fall of 1984 as my attempt, through an independent Bible study, to personally reinforce the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. I was an active Jehovah's Witness at the time. The study is a collection of 800 Bible verses that objectively and soundly refute the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, in favor of orthodox, conservative, Biblical Christianity. It also includes, in the Preface, my personal story: how I got into Jehovah's Witnesses, and why I left.
I hope you find this on-line version of my study to be helpful either during your personal exodus from the Watchtower Society, or in your ongoing apologetic dialog with Jehovah's Witnesses.
Kevin Quick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By popular demand, I'm now making available a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) version of my study, a free download, for off-line reading and printing. It's formatted for duplex (2-sided) printing, and is 1.1 mb in size. Please feel free to copy, print and distribute copies as you wish. You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or later to open this file. You can download the PDF version of Reasoning with Jehovah's Witnesses by clicking here.
Posted by panta dokimazete at 2:02 PM
Friday, October 24, 2008
The movie takes a page right out of the New Atheist handbook. The basics go like this: Religion is absurd and religious adherents are suffering from a mental disorder. Religion causes all the death and destruction in the world. Religions teach an end times, and now have the ability to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, we need to end religion to ensure the safety of the human race. He concludes the movie saying, “Religion must die in order for mankind to live.” Maher’s tutelage under the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris is evident. But Maher is not as intelligent as Dawkins or as witty a wordsmith as Hitchens. If all the village atheists around the world formed their own village, he’d be the village atheist of the village.
Posted by panta dokimazete at 3:33 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Calvinist's idea of an actual as opposed to an imagined point of contact is not just some useless notion. It is the only intelligible point of contact possible. The non-Christian holds that pure chance and absolute fate are equally ultimate and mutually correlative limiting concepts or heuristic principles which man uses to explain the fact that we have learned much about the world, that there is order in the world, a uniformity, while there is also continual change and development. But the non-Christian's "explanation" is no explanation at all. To say "it just happens" as an explanation of an event is really to say, "There is no explanation that I know of."
I want to bring to the reader's attention and suggest the (re-)reading of Van Til's "My Credo". It's a great read for those who have never done so and a delightful reunion for those who have previously known it.
Posted by All Things Reformed at 8:51 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
We have now been told by Senators Biden and Obama that people, particularly those making six figures, will be "patriotic" if they "jump in" and "spread [their] wealth around" Senator Biden told us that Christianity requires us to "help those who need help the most." To this, we may as Christians say Amen and Amen. However, it does not appear that Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama are practicing what they preach. Before these two TELL us what to do with our money, it is worth looking at what THEY actually HAVE DONE with their own. Charitable giving for Senators Obama and Biden is nothing short of pathetic. Before getting in to the numbers, I should say that charitable giving nationwide (2-3%) is not good either and though it's higher for committed Christians (same is true of Canada: study) we (and I mean WE) too are not giving out of our abundance what our fellow Christians overseas are out-giving us out of their scarcity: see link1 and link2. That said...
First, Senator Biden's charitable giving since 1998 can be found here. As you can see, in 1998 he gave an astounding $195 out of $215k. Fluke? Well, he has earned $2.5 million over that time and gave $3,600 or far less than 1% of his income. Mr. Biden, it's time for YOU to "jump in" and get "patriotic" or so it would seem. Mr. Obama has been more charitable, but not much more. He has earned $3.9 million since 2000 and gave $146k -- that's 3.7% (thanks mostly to a really charitable year in 2006 when he gave 6.1%). Most years he gave less than 2% during that time. At least they are in familiar company with previous Democratic candidates like Al Gore and John Kerry.
Hat's off to the Clinton's for out-giving each of these. Their charitable giving reached 9% from 2000-2007, giving in the millions out of their tens of millions. But none of these compete with the tremendous charitable giving of either Bush or McCain. All gave in excess, and for the McCains, well in excess, of the 10% mark (McCain typically gives in excess of 20%). Sarah Palin did release her tax returns over the past couple years and her charity amounts to about 3% ($4k out of $146k). Not great (only 2.5 times as much as the typical giving of Obama, but 19 times as much as Biden). Compared to Biden she's a saint, given their respective incomes and family obligations over this period.
These figures are consistent with the evidence provided by Arthur Brooks in his book Who Really Cares, which is the most comprehensive study of Americans' charitable giving done to date. Highly committed Christians and political conservatives are more charitable with their own money then seculars and political liberals, even if the latter are more 'charitable' with other people's money than their own (read: taxation and income redistribution).
Perhaps even more interesting than these numbers is why they are so under reported in the mainstream media.
Posted by Covenanter at 8:23 AM
The Christian Hope: Reasons Believers Have to Rejoice
1. Our Position
Justification by faith provides believers a reason to rejoice others do not share. Peace is a valued possession and some have it while others don't. As Paul writes
"Therefore, since WE have been justified through faith, WE have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Some may only say "There's PROBABLY no God", but that's not a settled peace. Some suggest they have peace but it's only because of intoxication rather than reality. Some experience peace for awhile, but as soon as they sin, peace is gone and they are left to cover up or make up, but tey continue messing up. Then there are the self righteous who trust they are fine and even better than others, but are not. They are deceived and while they boast to themselves and others, will be found to have used the wrong standard and do not measure up to the right one, finding themselves not even as righteous as they thought. But in constrast to all these, believers (even those who miserably fall short ourselves) have peace with God, because it depends not on us, but on Christ & the sacrifices he made for us & the benefits he gained & provides for us. This peace if first of all objective as we have gained access by faith in to this grace in which we now stand. Subjective peace then follows. Because our peace rests not upon ourselves or what we do, but upon the promise & provision of God for those who depend on him through faith, we can know this peace, & whereas others may boast or glory in their own works or righteousness, yet never truly know the peace of God, we have peace with God and that's something we glory in.
2. Our Expectation
Whereas others in some form or another are compelled or left to live in denial in regard to either the reality of God or the fullness of his glory, believers are free to acknowledge & rejoice in God and the fullness of his glory, prersence, power and plans. We do not live out of a position of panic or fear, but with great expectation and hope! For having come to know that God is for us, we have no reason to deny him or distance ourselves from him in any way, as others do. Both the presence and prospect of God and his presence, his promises, his kingdom plans, and his coming to pass even in the last days does not scare us; rather, we welcome it with joy as our hope not only rest in, but depends on, and looks forward to it. Believers alone are able to fully rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
3. Our Problems
Some may ask: If believers have it so great, then why do we face the similar troubles as the rest. Their assertion is that certainly these give cause for concer or reason to doubt. However, as a result of the new state of grace wherein we now live, our trials and tribulations, though they are sure to still come to pass, and even moreso as we serve God in this world, serve to bring us closer to the Lord and to make us more like the Lord! Our problems are the very means by which the promises and plans of God will be worked out and fulfilled not only in our Father's world, but in our lives. We are able to see ourselves and our problems not as others (i.e., that we are the objects of blind chance or fate) but having purpose... purpose which includes the working out of our salvation! Whereas the world either frowns upon or looks only with temporal appreciation unop problems, believers, while we recognize the difficulties, rejoice even in our problems, recognizing that the physical and emotional is not the whole truth nor is the present reality the final reality. We do not look to these in a spirit of martyrdom or masochism, but realize and experience a greater purpose and upshot through them. As Paul wrtites, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope", and this hope is experienced as the grace of God fills our lives.
4. Our Promise
Some may ask: How do you know that's not a false hope? Certainly there are many things in the world which might seem to indicate that there is no God or that God may be uncaring or forgetful, but as Ogilsvie writes "...there is one reminder of God's love which stands supreme!" Paul put it this way "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a rightgeous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were were still sinners Christ died for us." We were neither righteous nor good, but even so, God saved us at at a time and situation like this. Christ's love is unprecedented and unparalleled! But this is not all, for there's the lesser to greater proof. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! For if, when were were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" As John Stott writes "Again, if he reconciled us to himself when we were his enemies, much more will he finish our salvation now that we are his reconciled friends! These are the grounds on which we dare to affirm that we shall be saved!" If God saved us when we were unrighteous, ungodly, powerless, enemies; how much more can we look to and trust him now! Our hope is not ungrounded, illusory or deceptive, but our future rests on an even greater hope. Even in light of our sin, believers have great reason to rejoice!
5. Our Possession
The believers greatest reason to rejoice is not in what we possess or receive but in the one whom we possess. God is not only the source of all our greatest good, but the object of our greatest boast! Having been reconciled, not only is our boast not in ourselves, but our boast is in God himself, who has wrought and brought about our salvation. We serve a loving, just and gracious God and father. We have reason to rejoice in HIM!!!
John Stott writes "It's clear... the major mark of justified believers is joy, especially joy in god himself. We must be the most positive people in the world. For the new community of Jesus Christ is characterized not by a self-centered triumphalism, but by a God-centered worship!
Posted by All Things Reformed at 7:02 AM
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The following quotes are taken from World Magazine Article A Chemist and God. The article refers to Henry Schaeffer, who is a professor at the University of Georgia and is quoted as "in the top 10 of all researchers cited in recent years in chemistry publications"
From teaching Molecular Quantum Mechanics at the University of Georgia to studying the Bible during mid-week church fellowships, Schaefer sees cohesion between "secular" science and his Christian faith.
In Schaefer's view, a natural nexus exists between Christianity and science: "In many respects [Christians] are not different than anybody else in science, but we do have a deep-seated trust that God is a God of order and that by following rational methods we will find truth in the scientific sense."
Those scientists who speak definitively about how the universe began, though, are going beyond science: "When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up—we are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the very beginning."
"It was a problem for so many people that finally I decided to do a little research on whether it was true that scientists were not Christians. I discovered pretty quickly that essentially all the pioneers of the modern physical sciences were Christians. It was encouraging to me, and I think even more encouraging to others."
Posted by All Things Reformed at 1:32 PM
BPC Worldview Conference Notes: Lecture 4 "What is Truth: Confronting Postmodernism with Christianity"
What is Truth: Confronting Postmodernism with Christianity
Introduction (Groothius): What is Truth? (John 18:37-38) When Pontius Pilate interrogated Jesus before his crucifixion, Jesus proclaimed that "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37).
To this, Pilate replied "What is truth?" and immediately left Jesus to address the Jews who wanted Christ crucified (v. 38). Francis Bacon once wrote about Pilate. He asked, “What is truth?' but “would not stay for an answer." Although we have no record of any reply by Jesus, Christians affirm that Pilate was staring Truth in the face, for Jesus had earlier said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). For Pilate and his world (quite postmodern in many ways), there are only different interpretations, religions, personal and cultural constructions, pragmatic concerns, political and economic interests, but there is no unified body of Truth by which or through which we correctly interpret the world. Rather, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist." Nietzsche
II. What is Postmodernism?
A. Most recognized scholars define it broadly as “incredulity towards metanarratives” (no single story, no single worldview) that does or is needed to hold society together. No story, no understanding about what’s really going on, is any more credible than any other. Rather, all stories are relative, whether they are stories defining a person or group. However, more than a developed philosophy, some have said that postmodernism is “long on attitude and short on argument” (Mark Lilla). This has been my experience among college students. It’s just the “in thing” to shrug your shoulders at religious claims, concern of truth, and adopt a posture of “whateverism” (which is Pilate’s reaction).
B. Contrast with Modernism – Like modernism, postmodernism says that all knowledge begins with the knower, but argues that the knower’s knowledge is limited by his personal experience, personal interpretations, and by the inadequacy of human language, all of which make true knowledge of reality impossible to obtain and communicate. All this is to say, with E. O. Wilson, that modernists (including naturalism) “believe we can know everything [without appealing to God], and radical postmodernists believe we can know nothing.” As Christians, we agree with modernism that truth is knowable, but not with its method (unaided reason can get us there). As Christians, we agree with postmodernism that everyone interprets the world through a grid or worldview, but we disagree that all interpretations are equal making truth unknowable.
C. Postmodernism and Christianity –
1. Modernism’s bad attitude - At first blush, one might think that postmodernism, with its celebration of all our worldviews and insistence that no one should challenge our worldview, might be more hospitable to Christianity than modernism and naturalism. After all, Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and other ‘New Atheists’ directly openly assault and scoff at the claims of Christ and the integrity and authority of the Word of God. But what postmodernism gives with one hand (toleration and sometimes space), it takes with the other (an indifferent attitude towards Christianity). Indeed, postmodernism assaults the most distinguishing claims of Christianity, that there is one Truth, revealed and understood by men in human language and it is found in Christ alone.
2. What does postmodernism say of historic Christianity? It is simply one of many stories or narratives, but it is just as far removed from reality as all the other narratives. Very different that modernism’s more direct assault on the claims of Christianity. Screwtape Letters – “It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. - Screwtape to Wormwood in C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters
III. The Implosion of Postmodernism: The inherent problem in postmodernism is that it contradicts itself each and every time it makes a claim. That is, it dies the death of self-refutation in a multiplicity of ways. When you apply the assumptions of postmodernism to postmodernism, it self-destructs. Read Socrates and Protagoras
Plato’s dialogue Protagoras:
Protagoras: Truth is relative. It is only a matter of opinion.
Socrates: You mean that truth is mere subjective opinion?
Protagoras: Exactly. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Truth is subjective.
Socrates: Do you really mean that? That my opinion is true by virtue of its being my opinion?
Protagoras: Indeed I do.
Socrates: My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you, Mr. Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is my opinion, then you must grant that it is true according to your philosophy.
Protagoras: You are quite correct, Socrates.
A. Can there be no Truth? – Student story. “It would be better if we all just recognized that no one has the truth and that no one should try to persuade others to embrace their version of the truth.” I asked him if it is true that no one should claim to know the truth. I also asked him if he was trying to persuade us that we should embrace his version of the truth. He suddenly realized that if he said yes, then he would be claiming and doing the very thing he rejects (claiming to know the truth and trying to persuade others of it). So, he said no, “What I’m saying is not true, it’s just my opinion.” I then asked, “So then what have you actually said to us?”
B. Religious Pluralism –
There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the
unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious
dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic. - G. K. Chesterton
1. All religious claims about truth can only be partially true – Question: Is that totally true, or only partially true? Story: Three Blind Men and the Elephant. Three blind men are walking and come across an elephant. They each lay hold of something on the elephant and try to figure out what it is. One grabs the trunk and says it’s long and flexible, it’s a snake. Another grabs a leg and says no it’s think and round, must be a tree trunk. The third grabs feels the elephant’s large and flat side and figures the other two are wrong. The point of this very popular illustration originating in India but used in comparative religion courses all over is that each man felt only part of the elephant and no one could grasp the whole elephant. Likewise, religions have a grasp of part of the truth about reality, but none can and should claim to have the whole truth about reality. But there is a fatal problem with those who use this illustration in defense of religious pluralism. Newbigin and Keller point out that the story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could we know that each blind man grasped only part of the elephant unless someone was able to see the whole elephant. Keller: How could you claim to know that no religion has the whole truth unless “you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed none of the religions have?
2. All claims about religion are culturally conditioned and can’t be trusted – If all claims about religion are culturally conditioned, then so is the postmodernist’s claims about religion. I guess they can’t be trusted either. Plantinga – “Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would be quite different. [But] the same goes for the pluralist...If the pluralist had been born in [Morocco] he probably wouldn't be a pluralist. Does it follow that...his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process?" which can’t be trusted?
3. We can’t know anything about God or ultimate reality – Wow, you sure seem to know a lot about both. This one statement is a sweeping claim about ultimate reality. It claims to know much about the nature of God and of man (God does not speak, has not revealed Himself, man can’t understand Him or know Him, etc.). Keller: You can’t say that all claims about religion are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now.
4. It is arrogant to say that only your claims about religion are true, exclusively true – Keller: It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about religion (that they are equal) is right.” As soon as anyone says anything about religion (whether only one is right or all are wrong) one makes an exclusive claim about religion. And if that is arrogance, the postmodernist is arrogant too.
5. It is arrogant and ethnocentric to say that some cultures/religions are inferior – Are you saying that religions and cultures that claim to be superior are worse than the ones that do not claim to be superior? If true, then there goes Human Rights campaigns. Story of Anthropologist from Rhode Island, well-steeped in moral and cultural relativism in grad school; went to Africa to promote human rights for women. Tribal chiefs said leave us alone, morals are locally and culturally constructed; don’t say that your way of doing things is superior, how arrogant! She realized, either Human Rights or Moral/Cultural relativism, but not both.
6. Religions that claim to be exclusively true and are intense in nature are dangerous – Response: The person who says there is no truth is just as scary or scarier than the person who accuses me of not having the truth. (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, French Revolution). What makes one dangerous is not that they believe but what they believe (we all have that). Postmoderns like to say that atheists don’t fly planes into towers, but as Michael Horton has said, neither do Baptists and Presbyterians. It’s also not how intensely they believe it (we are told the religious extremism is the problem). Keller: Ever heard of an Amish terrorist? Can’t get more intense in belief than that! Indeed, a very intense devoted Christian who is genuinely Christ like would be zealous and courageous for the truth of the gospel – YES - but also patient, gentle, loving, forgiving, and seeking to serve, suffer, and die for others. In other words, the Christian who is self-righteous and unsympathetic to unbelievers needs to be more intense in faith, not less.
7. What matters is deeds, not creeds – Answer: is that your creed? Or they say it’s not about what you believe, but what you do. Question – Is that what you believe?
8. You don’t have to be wrong for me to be right – The title of this recently published book nicely captures what DA Carson calls the New Tolerance. According to the NT, it is intolerant for anyone to say that their way of thinking is better than another person’s. That’s a different understanding of tolerance than in years past where intolerance meant trying to suppress or exclude views with which you disagree. I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it. Ravi Zacherias once was a guest lecturer in an undergraduate class on world religions. He explained that Christianity is exclusively true. Afterwards, he and the class professor went to lunch. The prof challenged Ravi’s view of the nature of religion and logic. The prof said, Ravi your problem is that you have adopted a Western system of logic. The Western logic is either/or. Opposite statements can’t both be true in the Western either/or logic. But in eastern logic, they can. This is because eastern logic is a both/and system. Two opposite statements can both be true (or not wrong). So finally he concluded: “So, Either/Or Logic, the Law of Non-Contradiction, is Western. Both/And logic, the Law of Dialectic, is Eastern.” Adopt the eastern form, and viola! Your tolerant! Ravi asked if he was finished, and said this: "What you are telling me is this: when I am studying Hinduism, I either use the Both/And system, or nothing else. Is that right?" Do you know what he said? He put his knife and fork down and he said, "The Either/Or does seem to emerge, doesn't it? You see, he was using Either/Or logic to prove the Both/And logic. And the more he tried to clobber the Law of Non-Contradiction, the more it clobbered him. So, Jesus' claim about himself, that he was/is THE way, is reasonable. The question is, was he right? Jesus' claim was reasonable. All religions are exclusive. I looked at that professor and said, "Sir, I've got some shocking news for you: Even in India, you look before crossing the street. It is either the bus, or you, not both of you." It has nothing to do with Eastern and Western; it's what best reflects reality.
9. Since we can’t agree on which religion is correct, we ought to keep our religious views away from the public space or conversation (like politics). First, I’ve already demonstrated that everyone is religious in the sense that everyone starts with unprovable faith assumptions about ultimate reality, ethics, knowledge, and destiny. That is, everyone has a worldview, including secularists or naturalists. Excluding “religion” from the public space, then, discriminates against all worldviews but one, naturalism. That’s not freedom of religion and it’s sure not democracy. It’s not even a public space anymore; it’s a private gathering of secularists and “religious” folk who are forced to masquerade as if they are naturalists when they are really not. How fair is that? This is a slight of hand tactic, where secularists are allowed to argue openly and publicly from their worldview but Christians are not. Second, if Christians should be discredited and excluded because they ground their opinions in the Bible, then secularists should be discredited and excluded because they ground their opinions in their feelings and there’s no clear reason why politics should treat one source of authority better than the other. Third, all politics is ethics. It is about what we ought to do as a society. If it is impossible to be worldview neutral about anything it is ethics. Fourth, what’s wrong with having an open civil discussion in the public space where worldviews are allowed? Since when in a democracy does everyone have to agree on everything (our goals, our motives, our reasons, etc.) before the discussion takes place? And what do we do in a democracy when we reach a point where we just can’t convince the other person to change their preferences. We vote.
IV. Christianity clears up the confusion –
A. In the place of skepticism about knowledge and truth, Christianity has a personal God who reveals what is true to the mind of man and who created man with the ability to know the truth with varying degrees of certainty.
B. In the place of moral relativism, Christianity has moral absolutes grounded in the revealed character of God. In the morning lecture (naturalism), we saw how ethics and therefore human rights would be meaningless. With postmodernism, we see that it is impossible; this is because all morals are relative, totally self-referential, culturally determined, and always equal. If there is no God, then we may always say to anyone who tells us how to live and how to treat others, Says Who? You? You are just telling me what your tribe thinks is right, not what is right for all people at all times. But if God has spoken, then we have an external superior moral standard to which we all are obligated and by which we may judge the actions of ourselves and others. We are no longer a law unto ourselves. It is amazing how many non-Christian scholars have admitted that Christianity would clear up the confusion concerning morality and human rights and skepticism about truth and knowledge and so on, but simply refuse to take that step. Keller: If a premise (There is no God) leads to a conclusion you know isn’t true (nothing is wrong), then why not change the premise? Best example of this I can think of, is Arthur Leff’s classic essay in the Duke Law Journal. He writes page after page explaining how ethics without God is impossible and how if there is no God, nothing can take His place, and how confused we must remain about the basis of all law. But his conclusion, like Pilate’s reaction to Jesus, is to stare truth in the face but refuse to acknowledge what he knows deep down.
Remember this, if tyrants have nothing to fear from atheists, because death is the end of existence with no heaven or hell, then they likewise having nothing to fear from postmodernists who preach moral relativism, because we can’t know whether tyranny is evil at all. We only have our feelings and cultures and personal preferences. As Ravi has said, in some cultures they love their neighbors, in other cultures they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have a preference?
Remember Pilate? Jesus had said to Pilate, Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” And Pilate the relativist scoffed, What is Truth? And walked away. Pilate did not hear the voice of the Master. He was not of the truth. He remained lost in a sea of skepticism, confusion, schizophrenia, and moral relativism, and hopelessness. My question for you is, do you hear his voice?
From Arthur Allen Leff . Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1979, No. 6, Symposium on Law and Ethics (Dec., 1979), pp. 1229-1249.
Posted by All Things Reformed at 12:28 PM
BPC Worldview Conference Notes: Lecture 3 "All is Vanity: Confronting Naturalism with the Biblical Worldview"
All is Vanity: Confronting Naturalism with the Biblical Worldview
A. Quick review: Particularly with naturalists (or modernists or atheists or secular humanists, etc.), we must convince them that they are not neutral or “just following the facts.”
We must show them that behind their conclusions lie a web of presuppositions about the world; they too hold basic beliefs that govern their interpretation of the world. Email to someone: “It helps to realize that there is no such thing as philosophical neutrality. As one historian has said, "Religion must always be judged on the basis of another religion." The choice is not between belief and non-belief or faith and non-faith. The choice is which faith (objects of faith); that is, which worldview provides an adequate foundation for reality? You can't turn away from one without jumping into or appealing to the presuppositions of another (Hinduism, naturalism, existentialism, nihilism, Christianity, etc.). Facts do not interpret themselves. We interpret them in the light of an over-arching worldview or system of philosophy (wittingly or otherwise). As the great philosopher Michael Polanyi has said, there is no knowing without first believing. In order to know, we must believe something without proof. That's the nature of thought. Everyone or every worldview has a set of first principles or presuppositions (starting premises) that are taken to be true without proof. Remember the Lewontin quote. The Christian and the atheist are the same in this regard. The question is which worldview best accounts for the world as we see, experience and live in it?”
B. Method: Proverbs 26: 4-5
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
or you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.
1. Present the Biblical Worldview: Do not answer the fool… according to his presuppositions or his ultimate criterion for truth but according to Christian presuppositions and Biblical theology.
2. Expose the non-Christian worldview: Answer the fool… Show how, on the assumptions of the non-Christian worldview, the non-Christian’s thinking and life is utterly and hopelessly irrational, unlivable, and ultimately reduces to hopeless skepticism and madness. Doing this goes beyond challenging specific beliefs (how old is the earth or does the universe have to have a cause), it challenges the very foundation of those beliefs. Is your approach to the world reasonable and livable?
II. First Naturalism, then Nihilism (life is meaningless): All is vanity and a chasing after the wind for those who live life as under the sun, but purposeful and joyous for those living life above the sun: Eccl 1:1-4; 9-11, 14
A. Personal story – a young man came into my office celebrating his new freedom from Christianity with its Hell, absolute morality, Holy God and exclusivity. “You know, it is liberating not to have that pressure on you all the time.” I said, “Yes, at least for a time, meaninglessness so that there is not a care in the world can be quite liberating. I bet it was liberating to Nazi executioners. If they knew it, I bet the would have sang Lennon’s song Imagine “Image there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people, living for today.”
B. Key is to show people how naturalism (whether atheism, secular humanism, or Darwinian evolution, etc.) is a reality/universe that reduces to time + energy and therefore meaninglessness (e.g., nihilism).
C. Broken cisterns and scarecrows: Read Bertrand Russell – A sure foundation of despair
Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built. – Bertrand Russell
D. Nietzsche prophesied in the 19th century that modern man will start killing himself and others at unprecedented levels when it comes to grips with the fact that life is meaningless because naturalism is correct. The great error, he said, is that modern man was trying to walk a tight-rope. It wanted to maintain a belief in objective truth and morality but get rid of Christianity. However, they will one day realize that they can not have their cake and eat it too. With Christianity goes objective truth and morality. “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality from under one’s feet… Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole.” For modern man, then, “morality is not yet a problem…we stand on the threshold of this event.” Dislodge God and you dislodge the entire foundation of Western morality and objective knowledge. Man becomes entirely self-referential. This will lead him to despair and brutality. The 20th century shows him to be a prophet. Trace it historically like this: Mid 17th-18th century: God is foundational (Christian theism); 18th: God is unnecessary (Deism and methodological naturalism);19th: God is dead (philosophical naturalism and modernism); 20th: Meaning, Morality, and Truth are dead (nihilism, existentialism, and postmodernism); 21st: Schaeffer = The Un-man (man will be seen as less than man) or the Super-Man of Nietzsche (man will rise up out of the ashes and construct a super truth for himself).
III. Life is Meaningless if Naturalism is True
1. Life is meaningless, because matter is all there is. There is not matter and mind or the material and immaterial, there is only the material or matter. Sagan (mocking our Gloria Patri), “The cosmos is all that is, ever was, or ever will be.” Astronomer, “In the beginning, Hydrogen.” The Universe is ultimately impersonal and purposeless, it only appears uniform and rational, because chance is impersonal and purposeless and all events are caused or determined by seemingly fixed natural or scientific laws that spontaneously affixed themselves to the natural universe (everything from solar eclipses to crime to love). Indeed, there is no reason to expect the future to be like the past except that it’s always been that way. History is a meaningless mechanical march to nothingness. There is no overarching purpose, no intentionality in biology, no reason for anything that happens. Death too just happens for no reason and nothing is on the other side of it for anything or anyone. Human beings are a product of blind chance, as are our births and deaths. Jacques Monod said, simply, that humanity’s “number came up on the Monte Carlo game.” Even human choices ultimately only appear to be “free” or “volitional.” Remember Kant. That is, we “know” from empirical science that everything is perfectly determined by natural processes, but it is useful to operate “as if” we are free (intellectual schizophrenia or mind-splitting Kantian style). Humans are forced to wear two hats. What we know: man is a machine controlled by impersonal natural laws of physics) and what we believe in order to function and feel like life is worth living (man is not a machine, but a significant and important creature). Pinker, “The mechanistic stance allows us to understand what makes us tick and how we fit into the physical universe, but when those discussions wind down for the day, we go back to talking about each other as free and dignified.” So behind all our acting, we know that life is purposeless - hardly worth living because it’s pointless, going nowhere, won’t matter in any ultimate sense. We are mere gears in a giant machine, mechanically going through motions governed by the blind laws of physics.
GK Chesterton - The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mind. In his book on politics, he attacks men for trampling on morality, and in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men...By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.
Of course, in Christian theism, ultimate reality is personal and purposeful; all events, good and bad, have a reason and purpose behind them, the universe is intentionally created out of nothing, upheld and maintained by the word and power of Christ Himself (Heb 1:3), it is orderly, rational and uniform and can be expected to remain so in the future because its Creator is orderly and rational. History is a series of meaningful events leading to the fulfillment of God’s purposes in the world, namely making the people and creation good again through Christ. Like his Creator, man has a moral conscious that guides and condemns him; making him responsible for his actions. That is, man’s actions are meaningful and significant. After I pointed out that committed Christians are more charitable than unbelievers, a student said that Christians are charitable only because they fear Hell or are trying to earn Heaven. Well, if there is something about Christianity that might make people charitable for selfish reasons, then there is something about atheism that might make people not charitable at all. I’m sure the poor and sick would prefer the former risk of the latter.
2. Life is meaningless, because we can’t know anything truly – the ground of man’s reasoning is ultimately non-rational and impersonal. Today, we can only know the material world or material things, if we can know anything at all. That is, we only know things through our senses. This is called empiricism. Science will tell us what we can know because science is empirical or based on our senses. Everything else is mere opinion.
In Christian theism, we can know the world and expect there to be a real correspondence between our minds and the world around us because God created the world and our minds and reveals to us real knowledge. Schaeffer: Just as our lungs were made to breath in this planet’s atmosphere, our minds were made to understand this planet’s attributes. Our lungs fit this world and our minds fit this world because both our lungs and our minds and this world have a common Creator. This is my Father’s world, should we be surprised if true knowledge of the world is possible? This Christian principle laid the foundation, by the way, for all of modern science and explains why science did not get off the ground operating within cultures governed by other worldview systems like Hinduism and Islam (Stark, Schmidt). Further, we can think rationally because our Maker is rational. Naturalism ultimately traces man’s reasoning back to something that was not itself rational, personal/intelligent, or purposive in nature. Man’s reasoning somehow arose out of that blind mechanical unintentional process. On what basis can man’s reasoning be trusted? As Samples has said, “If that which produced human reasoning is itself non-rational in nature, then why trust one’s present ability to reason at all?” The laws of rationality or logic do not exist in a naturalist universe because laws of logic, along with laws of morality and science, are immaterial things. Therefore knowledge does not exist in a naturalist universe because without laws of logic, morality, and science, knowledge of any sort is impossible. A personal absolute is necessary for these things and only Christianity has one. What about science? There is no reason to expect our minds to properly understand the world in naturalism because we can’t know whether the meaningless collision of atoms in our brains are properly interpreting the world. As Doug Wilson has said, if naturalism is true, our brains are simply fizzing, not thinking. So, Christianity is necessary as a precondition for knowledge of any sort (logic, morality, and science) to be expected and trusted. Quick refutation of empiricism: How do we know that we can only know that which we sense? Isn’t that knowledge of something that we did not sense? Empiricism can not justify empiricism.
3. Life is meaningless, because we have no access to ethical standards –
Basis of Ethics - The basis for all ethics reduces to “Man will do what is right in his own eyes.” Ethics are determined from within the system, not from without. In other words, there is no reference point outside of man to which man must appeal for ethical standards and to which all men everywhere are obligated. Rather, ethics are determined from within. They are determined by the individual, by the majority, or by those in power. (e.g., FoxNews vote on what is fair). Most naturalists say that ethics should be determined by the majority according to what maximizes the well-being of the most people (utilitarianism). If so, then nothing ‘just is’ good or evil. Rather, it only becomes good or evil depending upon the consequences. If executing jaywalkers ultimately saves more lives because you would only have to execute one to make the point and the number of people hit by cars would go down greatly, then it is ‘good’ to do and it is nonsensical to speak of executing jaywalkers as “unjust.” Proper punishment or fair punishment and the like are meaningless words in utilitarianism. Also, a morally superior act would be a millionaire giving $5000 to the poor for impure reasons (tax break) over a poor man giving $500 dollars to the poor because his heart breaks for the under-nourished. What matters is whether the consequences of an action benefit the most people. Of course, this violates God’s ethical principles written on each of our hearts.
Nature of Man - Man is a machine, his brain is a three pound computer made of meat, all human processes are like all other processes (i.e., reducible to natural causes; atoms banging around). Are Humans different? Some say no (hardcore Darwinists and materialists) and others say yes (secular humanism), but none can say that humans are different in kind (with intrinsic worth and dignity). They all say that either man is valuable because he says so (value by convention) or he is not any more valuable than animals. With this view of man, there is clearly no firm basis for human rights. Indeed, it invites us to “care” for humanity like we do livestock (using reproductive practices and euthanasia, we can “weed” out runts and the impaired, those who suffocate the group, for the sake of the larger species).
Origin of Ethics – evolved as a survival mechanism. We evolved beliefs about morality, and God too for that matter, in order to help us survive. How do we know? Because evolution is only concerned with survival, not truth. British philosopher Roger Trigg says of evolution, “it does not matter if a belief is true or false, as long as it is useful, from a genetic point of view.” Our brains tell us what we need to believe in order to survive and ethics is one such thing. Truth is not it’s concern. Of course, if what our brains tell us about God or morality is designed to help us survive and not to help understand what is true, then so is what our brains tell us about evolution and survival. There is a pretty simple logic in all this: if the universe is caused or controlled by impersonal chance forces (naturalistic evolution), then you will end up with naturalism as the basis for morality, social and political philosophy too. So, book after book is written trying to explain (with admittedly no data) how it must be [given what we believe about naturalism and evolution] that all human behavior, including our sense of ethics, must have an evolutionary background Even rape, we are told by some, must somehow confer some evolutionary advantage otherwise it would have been weeded out by natural selection. People may object, but not on the basis of naturalism. You must accept the conclusion (rape is natural and somehow advantageous biologically) if you accept the premise (all behaviors have an evolutionary background). Peter Singer, famous Bioethicist at Princeton, understands this well. He writes, “In the West,” we have a “Judeo Christian tradition” that teaches that “humans alone are made in the image of God.” But evolution has shown that to be ludicrous. Rather we are animals and once we understand this, infanticide (killing the runt of the litter) and sex across species “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings” and will sometimes be the right/best thing to do in order to enhance our survival. Few naturalists will want to agree with Singer, but he is consistent.
The Naturalistic Fallacy – If Naturalism, then no morality. Do NOT let the naturalist commit the naturalistic fallacy (saying something ought to be the case because it is observed to be the case; what is natural can’t be wrong). When speaking with an atheist, he told me that we know what we ought to do out of empathy (we know how it would make us feel). This commits the fallacy. Telling us that we should have empathy because we do have empathy does not justify empathy as the basis for ethics. And what of those who have no empathy? On what basis in naturalism is he not justified in suppressing the empathy that he feels in order to please himself by hurting others? He can use his naturalism to say any of the following: He will reason that his empathy is only a vestigial artifact of evolution; that he can’t know even that empathy is good because his brain is only telling him what he needs to believe for the sake of human survival, not what is true. He will reason that, for the good of humanity, fatal experimentation on sickly infants will advance human evolution or happiness and any remaining empathy that he feels is rightly suppressed for the sake of the greater good. He will reason that the elimination of the "unfit" among us is good for the species (like weeding a garden). He will reason that the ultimate "good" is self-pleasure self-defined. He will reason that in the struggle to survive there are winners and losers; too bad for the losers, but hey, nature ran its course. He will reason that ultimate reality is meaningless random chance so get yours while the getting is good because you only live once. Naturalism will justify any of these positions. If all we can know is what IS the case (through empirical observation), then we can never know what ought to be the case. And if we can’t know what ought to be the case, then our decisions about the good are totally subjective and arbitrary. Building an orphanage to save children is no different than building an orphanage to molest them. Some like grape, some like rape, it’s all personal preference. Empiricism or science can tell you that stabbing kills. It can’t tell you that stabbing is wrong. Science can tell you the measurements or age of a fetus, but it can’t tell you whether or at what point the fetus is a dignified person. In other words, if you rely upon science for all truth, you will be left speechless about the most fundamental questions in life (immaterial in nature). Simply put, no naturalist can say that we SHOULD do anything because claiming to know what we should do violates his standard of truth which is empiricism. THAT SAID: Most will continue to speak of ethics and the good. So point out that his life provides evidence that he is aware in his heart of hearts of the truth of Christianity. Point out that his worldview forces him to wear two hats; that their worldview makes them split their minds (intellectually schizophrenic). They want to say that they can know only that which is material or what is, but they also want speak as though they know the immaterial reality of what we should do). Ask them, what scientific experiment can you conduct which will tell us that murder is wrong? Some say, We should prevent murder because doing so increases our fitness" (chance for survival). That is a perfect example of the naturalistic fallacy. It does not explain why murder is wrong and should be prevented. It only tells us that doing so increases our fitness. It just moves the question back. Why should we increase our fitness? Why care if we don't? Why care about the fitness of others? Why care about the behavior or life of others if their life does not affect my own? If fitness is our goal (arbitrarily decided in a naturalist worldview), why should I not kill others if my fitness is enhanced by their suffering? Whatever you say next will beg another question and on and on. Ultimately, the answer you are going to have to give in a universe reduced to matter and chance is that we should do this or that because YOU HAPPEN TO THINK SO, which only demonstrates how atheism reduces ethics and truth to personal preference and opinion. Things that we do may be materially known. Things that we should do are immaterially known (in Christianity, through revelation). And naturalism has no access to the immaterial. So don’t let the naturalist tell you that you ‘should’ use logic, ‘should’ not try to impose Christian values on him, ‘should’ disbelieve the scriptures, ‘should’ treat others with respect, unless he is able to explain how in the empiricism of naturalism, we can know what we ‘should’ do at all.
The irrelevance of ethical behavior - Ethics are also irrelevant if there is no God with whom we must deal. Dostoevsky once said, “If there is not God, then everything is permissible.” In naturalism, there is no God, after-life, ultimate good, ultimate judgment, etc. There is only a promise of non-existence in our future. To the atheist, I ask “How can the promise of non-existence in the future motivate anyone to suppress evil impulses in the present?” Using the assumptions of naturalism, what will you say to a vile person at his deathbed? He really did do it his way and got away with it. There is no standard to reign in a vile atheist on the assumptions of atheism. Tell the story about the two remarks on the unethical professor in the universitiy department.
Of course, in Christian theism, man is, as Pascal said, neither angel nor beast; he is inherently dignified and valuable, having been made in the image and likeness of God; he shares with His creator many attributes like a moral conscious, creativity, capacity for rationality, capacity and desire for companionship like we see in the glorious Trinity, ability to know the world truly, sovereignty (though ours is on loan) over the earth, etc. Ethics are grounded in the transcendent character of God and known by men through revelation from God and all men are accountable to God our moral judge both in this life and the next. There is a real good and real evil and the ultimate standard for good is God Himself, having shown ultimate goodness to undeserving sinners by subjecting himself to human control and torture to take on the penalty for the offenses of others. Psalm 8 lays this down rather nicely: we are not gods or an authority unto ourselves, like the Enlightenment thinkers said (what is man that You are mindful of him); but nor are we merely beasts like many Darwinists say today (a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honor). Christianity, in contrast to any other worldview, explains what we all know and experience to be true about man, his moral sense, his intrinsic worth and his potential for both greatness and debauchery. Pascal: “Man's greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness.”
Conclusion: Naturalism leaves man lost at sea in a rudderless boat. He is left with no purpose, no dignity, no guidance, no hope, and no reason to live. But Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life and offers man hope for tomorrow. How firm a foundation is the Word of our God!
Posted by All Things Reformed at 12:26 PM
BPC Worldview Conference Notes: Lecture 2 "Mind Splitting - How the West Lost its Mind and the Church Lost its Place"
(Credit given to Nancy Pearcey & others)
How the West Lost its Mind and the Church Lost its Place
“Christians do not promote values, because we hold that Christianity is objectively true, not merely private preference. Nor do we teach facts in the modern sense, because that means “value-free” science – free from any religious framework. What Christianity offers is a unified, integrated truth that stands in complete contrast to the two-level concept of truth in the secular world.” -- Nancy Pearcey.
I. Introduction: Today, as a culture, the West is stuck in between Modernism and Post-Modernism. We are stuck in between a public atheism where only atheistic assumptions, methods, explanations are accepted in and a private agnosticism, where, if we even care, we dare not challenge anyone’s ‘private’ view of truth or religion or morality. We sharply distinguish between facts and values; reason and faith; science and religion; truth and personal opinion. We are operating at best within a two-realm theory of truth and at worst within a context where there is no truth at all. Christians too have adopted the practice of compartmentalizing their faith into the “religious” sphere only. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to confront each of these (modernism where truth can only be scientific and postmodernism where truth does not exist). How did we get here from there? How did we split our minds and lose our place?
A. The West lost its mind because it has divided truth into two airtight compartments or realms (“non-overlapping magesteria”). In one there is fact, reason, science, rationality, matter and nature. In the other there is faith, values, beliefs, perceptions, the Mind, religion. So, we are left with intellectual schizophrenia, bifurcated thought. We have come to accept the view that there is what we know (via senses and hard science) and what we believe (via feelings and cultural environment). It is a trick from which man, the church, and society has suffered for decades.
B. The Church lost its place as the leader of culture by trying to rescue Christianity from the attacks of the 18th century Enlightenment by adopting secular philosophical assumptions and ridding itself of Total Truth (i.e., seeing Christianity as a worldview speaking to all areas of life). Basically, they bought in to the two-realm theory and placed themselves eventually outside the public/cultural discussion and the culture creating centers of society. One branch emphasized the lower story and tried to establish the truth of Christianity using only reason and downplaying the need for revelation in knowledge. The other emphasized the upper story and assumed that Christianity did not need to address, interact with, or publicly confront intellectual elites in society anyways, it’s all about the heart (personal conversion, experience) not head.
Religion and Faith: Call them ‘Values’
Science and Reason: Call them ‘Facts’
II. The Three R’s or ABrief History of Western Thought in 20m
PREMODERN (Revelation is Required)
Knowledge starts with: Self-revealing God
Knowledge is built upon a foundation of: Revelation - apprehended via reason
Truth is: Unified
Objective knowledge is: Knowable
MODERN (Reason is Exalted)
Knowledge starts with: Reason - unaided
Knowledge is built upon a foundation of: Reason - Unaided
Truth is: Divided (dualism)- between reason & non-reason
Objective Truth is Knowable
POSTMODERN (Relativism is Inevitable)
Knowledge starts with: "I" or the human knower
Knowledge is built upon a foundation of: Relativism - no foundation, only different perspectives
Truth is: Invented as we go
Objective knowledge is: Unknowable
A. Pre-Modern (Revelation is required) – Europeans basically agreed, God exists and knows everything. We humans, made in his image, know only a little part of what God knows. What we do know must be revealed to us by God (Revelation). Revelation comes through the study of Scripture/Church’s teaching (special) and through Science (natural revelation). Most believed with Aquinas (medieval theologian) who argued that natural revelation was sufficient to gain significant knowledge of God, world, and reality. The supernatural could be seen in the natural very easily. Scripture was an afterthought to knowledge. Incidentally, John Calvin and the Protestant Reformers argued that man’s use of general revelation was inadequate to yield significant knowledge of God, the world, and reality and must at all times be sharpened by the light of Scripture. Scripture was a forethought to knowledge. But the basic definition of Premodern epistemology is that all knowledge is a subset of God’s knowledge. God-centered thinking. Augustine: “I believe in order that I may understand.” Point: Knowledge starts with God’s revelation.
B. Modern (Reason is exalted) – disgusted with religious conflict, Enlightenment thinkers wanted to rid society of any need for religious revelation in nearly anything and ground all knowledge in the man’s Reason (autonomy). Some did this by saying that the ground of all knowledge was the human Mind (rationalists) and others said it was the human senses (empiricists). Others turned to skepticism. Stepping into the fray was Immanuel Kant, who sought to rescue the Enlightenment program from skepticism by bringing empiricists and rationalists together. He wrote Critique of Pure Reason, and said while all knowledge begins with sensory experience, it does not end there. Rather, there is no knowledge without sensation, but sensory data is made to conform to the Mind’s categories of thought (12 of them). So, there are objects and perceptions. All man can know are perceptions. So, the knowledge process goes like this: Sensation Mind’s ideas Truth. (quick critique: how does he know the Mind’s ideas exist since they are not apprehended through sensation?). However, the human will, justice, God, the soul, etc. can’t be “known” since they are not apprehended via sensation. This effectively places science in the area of the known or Truth, and given supremacy. And leaves faith to religion. They don’t overlap. This is called “dualism” (categorical distinction between facts and beliefs) which governs public discourse in society to this day. However, many objected. What about art/music, ethics, free will, justice, rights, love, religion, god, etc. This relegates art music language to the area of the unknown and unimportant. Kant writes, Critique of Practical Reason. Basically, he says that while we can’t know these things in the usual sense (sensation molded by the Mind) we can and must assume them because without them life would be meaningless and chaotic. So, while we know that our choices, for example, can be reduced to purely natural deterministic causes (Newtonian physics), we can’t help but believe and function as if they are uncaused and free. Just as humans possess a priori categories of pure reason that determine what is True, they also posses an a priori category of practical reason which tell us what we can’t help but believe (call these transcendental abstract entities, immaterial things that must be believed in order to function). We must assume an immortal soul so that people can receive just recompense for their earthly behavior, the alternative would be monstrous. We must assume the existence of a perfect being who is fit to judge that soul, etc. Many have said that Kant is basically contradicting himself here. He tells us that knowledge must begin with sense experience in the first book; but now there is another kind of knowledge of things that we can’t help but believe. He’s basically trying to establish Christian morality, which he sees as necessary to uphold society, without appealing to Christian revelation but only to human reason. Of course, when Darwin comes along, and atheism became seen as intellectually plausible, modernism became a fully naturalistic worldview. Clearly, what happened here is we went from “I believe what God tells me in order to understand the world” to “I believe what I tell me in order to understand the world.” Not hard to see, then, where postmodernism comes from…
C. Postmodern Epistemology (Relativism is celebrated) – can’t build a case for objective knowledge and truth upon a foundation of autonomous human reason, but that’s all we have. So truth is relative.
1. retains the I (or group of I’s) as the only source for knowledge in any sense. But since all knowledge starts w/ the knower, and they are finite, and they think and reason out of a specific interpretative community/framework (plausibility structure or worldview), then objective knowledge is unattainable (limited by finiteness and environment). “I’m a white middle-aged, European Canadian, with a reasonable amount of Western education behind me, and a white collar job, then surely it is not surprising if I look at things differently than, say a sub-Saharan African scholar or a twelve year old illiterate street prostitute in Bangkok.” DA Carson
2. What about Foundations of knowledge - are themselves produced by finite humans, so anti-foundationalism. There is no single path to knowledge. Can’t say that revelation, reason, science, empiricism, etc. is the right way to know things. Arrogant.
3. Truth is always that which is true for me or us. Truth is not ahistorically universal. But relative to time and culture. So tolerance must adapt accordingly. Tolerance went from “What you say is wrong, but I’ll defend your right to say it,” to “What you say is right for you but wrong for me, or equally true.” In religion, “You do your religion your way, I’ll do religion my way,” instead of you do religion your way, I’ll do religion God’s way.”
Premodern – Truth rains down; Modern – truth bubbles up; Postmodern – truth just bubbles
III. Secularization in the West and in the church
A. Society: Today, the West is in between modernism and postmodernism. We give an exalted almost divine status and authority to science (modernism) in many sectors, but commonly say things like we can’t be certain about anything or the truth is too big for any one of us to grasp or you can’t legislate morality because everyone has their own morals in other sectors. The Judeo-Christian consensus, once taken for granted, is broken and no longer welcome as the lens through which we must interpret the world
B. Church: How did this go unchallenged by the church? Because the church had already made their bed with the devil of dualism in so many ways.
1. Christianizing Plato (Augustine) and Christianizing Aristotle (Aquinas) – Plato and Augustine identified the material world as secondary and inferior in the mind of God and the immaterial world as primary and superior in the mind of God. So that work, daily life, politics, and so on were inferior and unrelated to the Kingdom of God. Aristotle and Aquinas argued the natural world is good and not inferior. In fact, he said it functions so well that it does not need God to fulfill its purpose. Same for man. Man in his natural state, using reason alone, does not need God, special revelation, or enabling grace for virtually anything EXCEPT a supernatural relationship with God. So special grace or revelation are add-ons and unnecessary or applicable for knowledge of and activity in the ‘secular’ world.
2. Embraced Enlightenment (secular) tools in 17th and 18th – (Rationalism and Empiricism). Their response to modernism, which insisted that any case for truth or knowledge must be made starting with man as the knower and unaided reason as the method, was to try and establish the truth of Christianity apart from the Bible (revelation of God) and using the tools (science and reason) of modern man. Many Christians took the challenge (we’ll show you that Christianity is true without appealing to divine revelation). We’ll start not with theology (philosophy) and certainly not creeds and confessions, we’ll start just with facts and logic and prove Christianity, or at least Christian morality, from there. Rise of rational religion and Protestant liberalism. This deal, as it were, rendered Christianity unnecessary and relegated it to the private realm of truth (upper story). Why? In trying to show that Christian morality could survive the tests of science and Reason, they proved too much. They proved that Christianity was unnecessary or irrelevant for ethics, for other subjects too. In short, it was no longer needed as a foundation for society. Society could be built on man’s unaided sense and reason, while Christianity at best dove-tails along.
3. Revivalism: Other Christians conceded the intellectual and cultural battlefield. They said, “If Darwinists and theologians attack Christianity with reason and evidence, let’s just make faith an issue of non-reason (pietism, quietism, revivalism, experientialism, spiritualism, mysticism, etc.) or unreason (Christian existentialists).” The intellectual side of faith is misguided and dangerous. Let’s stress personal conversion and spiritual experience, not theology and doctrine. This way, modern man can’t touch it because it is in the realm of the non-reason (upper story) and science or higher criticism is the realm of reason (lower story). If they stay in their corners, all will be okay, right? Schaeffer always said that when this happens, when religion is placed in a different realm of truth (weaker, subjective, value, etc.), it is eventually “eaten up” by the lower story (this is why theology ceased being the ‘prince of sciences’ and was taken out of public universities). So Christianity grew coming out of the Second Great Awakening a mile wide and an inch deep: it grew in subjective faith, in experiential faith; personal faith; non-communal faith; non-creedal/confessional faith; private faith; in spiritualism; anti-intellectualism, anti-confessionalism. Christianity has largely abandoned it’s claim to be a comprehensive unified integrated view of Truth applicable and relevant in all areas of life (it’s just a heart thing concerning our spirituality).
4. Rise of Dispensationalism, Fundamentalism, Spirituality of the Church, and reaction against Protestant liberalism – “who cares about culture, Jesus is coming very soon! We’d better worry about keeping ourselves holy and saving souls! Look around at all the “signs of the times.” Things are going to get horrible anyways you know, it’s all beyond redemption. Let modern man worry with “worldly” or “man-made” institutions like art, music, politics, the university, science, philosophy, poverty and disease, and so on. That’s the mistake of protestant liberals anyways. They think Christ wants to redeem the physical world or culture and does not care about souls. It’s just the opposite! We should worry with the other world, not this one.” As a result, many Protestants developed a narrow view of creation, fall and redemption at odds with historic Protestant and Reformed theology. They argued that though the world was created good, sin rendered the world and everything in it evil. The only thing God was interested in saving was the soul of man and intends to just destroy the rest of it.
IV. Christ and Culture
The Bible speaks of the world in at least two senses (a place, which God loves and a method, which God hates). We need to remember that. When God told us Gen 1:28 to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, he meant that His people were to be instrumental in advancing His kingdom over the entire world. When he told Abraham that he and his seed would be a blessing to the nations, we must remember that we are his seed and are called to bless the nations with the healing that comes from the gospel in all of life. We must be ever dissatisfied so long as all that God created good (these are the structures of creation – family, art, environment, community, culture, music, morals, marriages, work, reason, science, etc.) – continues to be distorted and misused by men as a result of the Fall. Machen: “…the field of Christianity is the world. The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God.” That is, our mission is to make a reality what we pray for in the Lord’s prayer, that God’s ‘will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, knowing well that this will not be accomplished fully until the Lord comes back to put things right. Our disinterest and disgust with the world usually is a result of a flawed view of the Fall. The Fall did not make all things besides human souls worthless to God. God is seeking to restore all things back to their good creational purpose. So, the scope of God’s salvific work is not limited to the human soul, but to all of creation, to rescue all of creation from distortion and misuse, from sex to philosophy. The corruption of art, entertainment, and government does not mean that art, entertainment, and government are evil in themselves and that God has no interest in them. Rather, as Paul says in Romans 8, the “whole creation groans” and “eagerly awaits the day when it will be liberated from death and decay.” We are the liberators! We are to be soul winners and culture creators. Too often, we are only culture critics (Pearcey). But aren’t we pilgrims? We are pilgrims, but we are pilgrims who spread salt and light in this world as we journey on to the perfect world being remade just for us. Remember, that Jesus and the early church proclaimed that the Kingdom is both present and coming, referring to God’s present and future reign over all and the consummation of history in the new heavens and new earth. Our message is the same. We preach the gospel to restore first and foremost man’s relationship with God, man’s heart condition (for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul), but we do that so man will set out to heal and restore a broken world. It’s not true that important Christian ministry is limited to evangelism, missions, preaching, etc. Important Christianity ministry is anything that God created good (normal work) and can be done from a Biblical perspective with the glory of God as the goal. I challenge you, then, in whatever you do, do to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Posted by All Things Reformed at 12:09 PM