"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Incitatus, this one's for you bud

This link is to a 40 Meg, three hour presentation/discussion involving William Lane Craig, Bruce Winter and some other guy I've never heard of. The entire focus of this piece is the resurrection of Jesus.

I realize I have been reticent on this particular topic, mainly because I don't feel I have a firm enough understanding of all the factors in play. Hope you don't mind if I let some others speak who have been able to invest quite a bit more time into this topic than myself.

The points I've been picking out so far (I'm only half way through at the moment):

Modern scholarship agrees that:
  • Jesus did in-fact exist

  • Jesus was crucified

  • His tomb was indeed found empty

  • That the disciples did in-fact see something they believed to be the risen Christ

  • That they were able to convince large numbers of people that Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

P.S. If the mp3 download does not work for you they have this in several other formats here.

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Response to Daniel Nairn's "Little Rock Creek"

Let's call this one: "North of Logan's Pass"

...I don't belong in Central Minnesota. Why am I so drawn to large outcroppings of rock and slag?


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A little much, don't you think?

I just have to ask: Who's the person from the U.K. that has been on this blog for two and a half hours so far and has viewed over 42 pages. Is your head about ready to explode yet?

Just curious.


The Paradox of the Resurrection

I’ve just finished reading Simon Blackburn’s ‘Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed’ (highly recommended), which at one point looks at Hume’s argument on miracles. This argument is succinctly expressed in the maxim that:

‘…no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish…'

Mulling this over in the shower earlier, I think that this claim exposes what I see as a paradox when it comes to texts such as the Gospels:

The more outlandish a claim, the more it undermines the credibility of the witness – so miraculous events can’t be established on the basis of hearsay alone.

For example:

You answer the door to find A stood there. A is someone who lives in your area, you know of him but have never really spoken before. He says: “Just thought you should know, me and my friends just saw a group of kids messing about near your car.”

Most of us, assuming we have a car, would thank A and probably go check that our car is okay. His claim is reasonable and we have no real reason to doubt him – this holds even if, when we reach the car, there’s no sign of the kids or any damage.

However, now imagine that instead he says: “Just thought you should know, me and my friends just saw a flying elephant hovering about near your car.”

I doubt that nay but the most credulous of us would react with much more than a “wuh?” if this happened.

Even if we discovered a dent near the top of our car afterwards, the concept of a flying elephant would be so outlandish as to make alternative explanations seem the more likely: We’d assume that A was either joking, lying or deluded in some way.

The same holds true for texts like the Gospels. Unless the validity of the ‘God hypothesis’ is established some other way, eyewitness testimony will never be sufficient to support miraculous claims such as the resurrection.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blogging is not easy...

Trying to squeeze in a "quick" response over the Memorial Day weekend. We spent the weekend at my mothers place a couple hours north of where we live. Between her little dog Harry and my 1yr old son I never did get to finish. Ah well. Life goes on!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Same questions... Different places

While doing my morning blog review I ran across a short question asked by a blogger who goes by exapologist. Looks like an interesting fellow. He asks: "I'm still waiting to see a plausible *theistic* account of morality."

I couldn't resist...

So if anyone wants to follow a familiar debate in a new location stop on in and see what pops up.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

- Insert cliched shakespeare quote here -

In the interview a couple of posts below, Denys Turner makes the claim that in order to be a “proper, card carrying, atheist” you need to find a way of avoiding a certain question: Why is there something, rather than nothing?

It’s an interesting, and extremely important question. However, I don’t think that it really poses a great difficulty for an atheist such as myself, as there’s an extremely simply, but perfectly valid answer:

I don’t know.

That’s it. In some of the discussions I’ve had, both here and elsewhere, the theism/naturalism debate is treated almost as if it’s a zero-sum game – if naturalism doesn’t have the answers, then theism must be onto something. But for me that just doesn’t flow. It’s quite possible to completely demolish the naturalistic conception of the universe without providing any validation of the ‘God Hypothesis’, as they’re merely two separate attempts to explain why things are the way they are.

The theistic argument can’t just be a case of: “If naturalism can’t explain it then there must be a God”. Like any theory, it has to be built up independently.

In the same way, dualism is quite distinct from theism. It's quite possible - though I don't personally believe it - that morality is dependent on an aspect of the universe that we've yet to discover. Saying this merely suggests that there's still something for us to learn about what we call reality. It says nothing about possible deities. To say that there is “something” more than the material universe out there is to say nothing about the nature of that something – it’s worth bearing in mind that the discoveries we make about the universe in the next millennia or so are more than likely to be beyond anything that we can currently conceive.

The universe is a mysterious place, and we’re far from having all the answers. But that in itself is absolutely no argument for God.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

The Atheism Tapes II - Jonathan Miller and Colin McGinn

Thanks to Matt for turning me onto The Atheist Tapes. I swear I could sit around and listen to these kinds of discussions all day! In todays installment, Jonathan Miller is speaking with antitheist philosopher Colin McGinn. I was particularly interested in the second part of this three part discussion where McGinn is addressing the Euthyphro eilemma. (a dilemma that I see only problematic because of it's first principals) McGinn goes on to mention the fear many theists have about the loss of an objective morality, but then continues to speak at length about a real 'moral quality'.

In fact, it would seem his prime motivating factor for being an antitheist is because he views 'religion' in general to be immoral. I see this as yet another confirmation of what I was getting at in my last posting.

I was hoping he would describe what foundation he is anchoring his moral claims to, as he seemed to genuinely believe that he was speaking truth while asserting moral claims. Unfortunately for me, he simply attacked the Euthyphro dilemma and moved on. Ah well.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Atheism Tapes - Jonathan Miller and Denys Turner

As I’ve not been in a position to offer any real debate myself recently, I thought I’d do the next best thing and show some other people debating the issue of religion.

The clips below are from a BBC series called ‘The Atheism Tapes’, in which Jonathan Miller interviewed various individuals about atheism. One of the most interesting, and most relevant to this blog, was the interview he conducted with Cambridge theologian Denys Turner.

I find Turner’s theological arguments incredibly shaky, and I also disagree with his characterisation of atheism, but as a model of how to conduct a debate on religion (on any subject, come to that) it’s hard to fault either man.

Part One:

Part Two

Part Three:


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The ground we stand on

As usual Tom Freeman has been asking some good questions and making me think much harder than I would on my own. Thanks for that bro! Recently, in the context of one of our back and fourth sessions, he brought up a thought that I'd really like to explore a little further.

Allow me to set the stage. Tom fashions himself as an atheist. He has a very acute sense of right and wrong. Not wanting his sense of right and wrong to be based on mindless chemicals (read feelings), Tom has come to see the concept of moral realism as an appealing option. The problem is, at the moment Tom is flying his atheist kite and that model doesn't come equipped with a personal God who's character gives a foundation for moral realism. When faced with this Tom has been sort of half-heartedly toying with the dualist idea. But as most atheists realize, there's no answers in a theoretical dualism... just a hope.

So the question that has been coming to my mind is this: If some who consider themselves atheists can begin toying with notions such as dualism, what keeps them from belief in God? More specifically what keeps them from faith in Jesus?

It would seem that many atheists reject the God of the Bible, because they view Him as immoral...

Tom says this in response to my claiming that all morality is rooted in a posture of the heart:

"The code of behaviour is to adopt a certain posture of the heart, so that you’re then inclined to obey commandments. Never mind whether you think they’re good or bad commandments, just use your freedom of conscience to surrender your own freedom of conscience, and give up your right to ask questions of they guy in charge. “I am the way, the truth and the life” – or, as Judge Dredd puts it, “I am the law”. I’m not sold on this!"

He makes several moral objections in this comment.

1. It is wrong to go along with something you believe is morally evil
2. It is wrong to surrender your freedom to choose to the will of another isn’t a moral outlook
3. It is wrong to have someone tell you to shut your mouth and just go along with X
4. It is wrong for God to claim that He alone is the standard by which all will be measured
Tom adds: 'An outlook that involves surrendering your freedom to choose to the will of another isn’t a moral outlook'

But here's the problem. He's using a standard to say these things. Tom is not ready to say that this standard is purely subjective and only reflects the matter thats clanking around in his head. So where is this standard coming from? How can we use this moral standard to shoot down the only One from whom it could possibly be derived? The more we pursue this end, we are essentially digging out the ground we are standing on. On what then do we stand?... or do we stand at all?

So here then is my proposition. Could it be that our allegations towards towards the God of the Bible might be seen in a different light if we were open to look? Tom made a number of objections earlier, I don't find any of them to be particularly troubling. All they require to be dealt with (and they do need to be dealt with) is a little perspective. If Tom wishes to maintain that his moral objections have any weight at all, there must be a personal God from whom this standard flows. If he cannot accept that due to some kind of materialistic prejudice, then he cannot appeal to dualism either. If, however, his reluctance to acknowledge the God of the Bible is due to some real moral objection, then we have some work to do to discover where this moral standard is coming from.

As for me, I continue to maintain that God as revealed in these ancient texts (and all of creation) gives us our best shot at sustaining a objective, or 'real' moral framework.

Lastly, one could always take the position that there is a God, but He is not properly revealed in any major religion. That is indeed a valid move, but I would caution about being to quick to leap in that puddle. Let's at least hold off until we've given a proper exploration of our motives.

Hope you don't mind me picking on you a little Tom. ;-) Just know that I do this only as a means for us to discover the truth of our existence. You know I love you bud!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Drawing the fire

Recently I tossed out one of my token objections to atheism in the comments section of one of Stephen Laws posts. His post had basically nothing to do with the comment I made, but I touched a nerve as I always seem to do and basically I ended up hijacking the entire comments section responding to objections to my objection. So, in the interest of drawing the fire in a different direction, I decided to move the debate over here. That way the good folks over at Stephen's blog can focus on the actual issues he raised. I will start where we left off by posting a thoughtful comment by Tom Freeman in the comments section, followed by my response. If you happen to be new to this blog, thanks for stopping in!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Poking at tigers and believing beliefs

Just finished up my guest blogging piece for The Tin Drummer today. The topic addressed was that of "belief". It's more of a ponderance than an argument, but it was interesting to write. Thanks to TD or giving me that opportunity!

I've also been continuing to badger some unsuspecting atheists over at Stepehen Laws blog. If you've been around here much it's nothing new. Surprisingly, the responses have been familiar echos of what has been tossed around here. Good stuff to think about though. Hopefully this will continue progress my thoughts as I try to sort out life in general.

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