The Great Explanation – Atheist Style (Pt.1)

Preamble:

This is my reply to Dormant Dragon’s first post on her blog.  When citing DD’s opinions I shall be careful to quote her verbatim and take care not to put words into her mouth.  While I may inadvertently do the latter, it shall only be because I have either misread or misunderstood her language.  In such cases I shall allow her to correct me with a clarification.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for DD in her first post.  She has attributed views to me that I simply do not hold.  While this may be because she did not have enough information upon which to base her opinions when she wrote her piece (although recall she was originally inveighing against a sketch of PA on my blog), the same cannot be said now.  I therefore expect to be correctly represented from now on.

I am not trying to win an argument here.  I am just trying to demonstrate how non-Christian interpretations of reality do not work, and how unbelievers borrow concepts which are only explicable from the Christian worldview and then assume that because they are using them their worldview can account for them.

One more thing.  I do not mean any disrespect here, but I fully expect DD not to furnish us with the preconditions for logic, science, morals, etc. by sticking to her stated worldviewShe will try to jump into the discussion in the middle without showing me how her perspective supports her employing these terms and concepts. She will say things like “why can’t the universe contain its own ordering mechanism” and then assume she has explained how this could be and demonstrated this to be so.

If I did not believe the biblical account then I would not be able to account for these things.  I used to ask my students to do just that – they never could.  I would say, here is the biblical outlook.  It provides an account for such and such.  Now pretend you have rejected that explanation so you must begin from the ground up and replace it with another.  Try it.  One can only make predictions based on what one would expect to find given the preconditions one has to work with.

I employ the term “The Great Explanation” to describe core presuppositions.  No personal attack is intended toward DD in this post.  My apologies for the length of this post.

Introduction:

Dormant Dragon (DD) begins her first post with a misrepresentation.  According to her a presuppositionalist believesWe can be certain of the Bible’s truth as the word of god (because it says so itself) and from there, we can be confident of facts in the world because they comport with the Biblical revelation.”  She appears to think that presuppositional apologetics (PA) teaches an apologetic of “You know the Bible is true because the Bible says so.”  Of course, that is not what I nor any presuppositionalist believes.  This has been made very clear to DD with my repeated emphasis on the biblical outlook or worldview, viz. the biblical interpretation of reality.

Now I don’t expect DD to agree with me.  But that is where I am coming from, not her caricature of it.  I even provided a short outline of the biblical worldview (BW) so that she could see for herself the preconditions which it provides for interpreting the world.  In a previous post I stated that whether or not one believes the Bible is immaterial to the issue.  If I did not believe the Bible then I would be in the same boat as DD – I would not be able to make sense of anything.  She thinks she can of course, but we shall see she doesn’t even get off first base.  In her shoes I too would just make broad-brushed but unsubstantiated statements about the universe having its own principles of order and knowing things by experience, both of which statements are true as far as they go, yet neither of which she has explained.

So that we can be sure she has hold of the wrong end of the stick she adds in a follow up,

“If we break this down in relation to the axiom of existence – “I know I exist because god, who is outside myself, but who I know exists because he told me he exists, knows I exist and told me I exist” – the convoluted nature of presuppositionalism becomes immediately apparent.”

I’ve been teaching presuppositionalism at seminary level for years and “that ain’t it!”

Or try this one:

“This only follows if you assume – as you must, from within your worldview – that the veracity of the Bible is obvious and undeniable to any and all who read it.”

I don’t believe this for one second.  And the Bible itself does not teach it.  Why then “must” I believe it?  Perhaps for the same reason I must accept her totally unbiblical definition of a Christian: “As I said in a comment on my previous post, from an outsider’s perspective, anyone who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ may accurately be called a Christian, regardless of what else they believe.” – From her blog comments.  How easy it is to argue when you insist on defining what your opponent believes!

Even Teilhard de Chardin becomes a Bible-believer with a few taps of DD’s keyboard!  This is just irresistible ignorance.  She is defining PA contrary to the way PA’s define it; she is defining a Bible believing Christian in a way wholly foreign to Scripture itself.  In taking this tack she is really arguing with herself.

Here’s another one:

“In a sense, Descartes’ approach was similar to that of the presuppers, in that he believed it was through god’s revelation that we were able to know anything beyond the self.” [Of course, Descartes’ approach is diametrically opposite to Van Til’s!].

“It’s a frustrating approach to discussion, to say the least” she says.  Indeed!  As much of her response so far has been tilting at her own windmills while ignoring my efforts to correct her, “frustrating” is the word.  What student of the Bible would agree with her description of the God revealed there as “capricious”?  Where in Scripture is God capricious?  Where in the BW is there room for a capricious God?  Such a god would not be the God of the Bible (a phrase I have been careful to use many times); ergo he would not be the God I am arguing for.  To claim things like the God of Scripture is capricious, and that all that makes one a Christian is belief in Christ’s divinity (let alone to say He is “male”) is to declare oneself biblically challenged, not to mount a case against Chrtistian-Theism.

Her Statement of Intent:

She declares boldly,

“Through the course of this post, I hope to show why I think so, to provide my answer to the question, and to demonstrate that the ‘contrary’ – or at least an alternative to Christian presuppositionalism – is very far from impossible.”

All well and good.  Let’s see how she rises to the challenge.  “If I were to deconstruct my worldview in the way the presuppers think I should (which, I have observed, they generally don’t do themselves)”

If the BW provides the preconditions of intelligibility it is not amenable to deconstruction of course, so she shouldn’t expect me to attempt the impossible.  She is welcome to try, providing of course, she properly represents it.  She can then give the explanation which accounts for our experience from her point of view.

The BW says we discover order in the universe because God put it there.  As I said previously, there was an Orderer.  DD just says the universe has the principles of its order within itself (quoting [in fact misquoting] the arch-skeptic Hume – who said, btw, you could prove nothing by experience!) – and she stops.  No explanation of how order comes from chaos, how rationality comes from irrationality, how life comes from non-life (contrary to the law of abiogenesis), how logic and morality and good and evil come from an impersonal, mindless, unthinking, amoral explosion.  She states it as a self-evident truth and thinks she has explained it, when, of course, she has just said “it’s there!”

So how does DD start? Answer, she turns to Descartes and (if she is consistent) hard foundationalism.  Critics of Descartes’ cogito abound, both atheist, agnostic, and theist.  Bertrand Russell said all Descartes was entitled to say was that “thoughts are being thunk.”!  Buddhists (who, like DD are often atheistic pantheists) affirm the “I” does not exist as the same “I” from moment to moment.  Hume, of course, held that there is no “impression, which produces an idea of such prodigious consequence” as the notion of cause and effect. (D. Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature, T.H. Green & T.H. Grose, London, 1874, Vol.1, 377).  Moreover, including DD’s ‘eloquent’ quote from Hume:

“If reason determin’d us, it would proceed upon that principle, that instances, of which we have had no experience, must resemble those, of which we have had experience, and that the course of nature continues always uniformly the same…Our foregoing method of reasoning will easily convince us, that there can be no demonstrative arguments to prove, that those instances, of which we have had no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience.” (Ibid, 389).

But wait.  “Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, is the basis upon which all further knowledge must, of necessity, be built.”!

Well, as Donald Palmer observes: “So Hume’s radical empiricism could find no justification for the concepts of “God,” “Causality,” or self-hood.” – Does the Center Hold? An Introduction to Western Philosophy, (2nd edition), 94-95.  Given Hume’s belief that people are “a bundle of different perceptions” one would not expect his empiricism to lead to God.  But it doesn’t lead to anything else either!  It destroys Cartesian solipsistic rationalism.  (Hume couldn’t live according to his worldview either).

Here a quote from an older post fits well:

… let us just stop long enough to point out that if all there is is the natural world then the question arises…“How do I know that my sense-experiences – upon which I must depend if I am to test anything empirically – are reliable? Especially if my mind is nothing but firing neurons and synapses?” How can I test my senses empirically? Must I not take them for granted?  But if I do I must admit that not everything can be known empirically; since I assume these basic things before I proceed on to inductive testing. Again, as standards of conduct are mandatory to the validity of any experiment, we must ask how these norms can be tested empirically? In the world of the atheist would they not be relative to each individual’s brain chemistry? If not why not?

Dormant Dragon is off to a bad start.  She says,

“My self must exist, otherwise I would not be here pondering my existence…”

Must exist”?  Buddhists and Hume say ‘No!’  She invokes Descartes, but before he arrived at his cogito ergo sum he gave any number of reasons why sense-perception is untrustworthy.  For starters, we could be dreaming.

So how did Descartes overcome this problem and the distance between his mind and the external world?  He posited a good god (small ‘g’ because Descartes’ god is not the God of the Bible).  But DD foregoes this avenue (rightly since the God of Scripture cannot be discovered except through revelation).  But where does that leave her?  How does she bridge the gap between the “I” (even if one were to grant her assumption of a self based upon the cogito) and the external world?  That’s a crucial question and she better answer it.  If she can’t, her whole edifice dissolves.  Let’s see how she does:

“Even if I were a brain in a vat, even if nothing I perceived outside of my self was really there, the collection of matter and energy that gives rise to my mind, my self, the entity that I call “I”, must still exist.” (my emphases).

Although Hume has scattered her perceptions to the four winds, let’s say she can prove a continuous “I” instead of a succession of discrete “I’s”, where is she left?  Please notice the words “the entity that I call I.”  See how she presupposes the “I” since she calls it something – “I”.  As Montague Brown says, “knowing that one is thinking is a second act of the mind.” – Restoration of Reason, 34.  So her procedure is a non sequitur.  But she continues:

“the collection of matter and energy that gives rise to my mind, my self.”

Is this something she knows via her perceptions?  Does matter and energy alone “give rise to mind” (which she qualifies, not as brain, but “self”)?  How come?  But that is where all this began!  She is a naturalist.  All she has to make the immaterial laws of thought or morality is matter and motion!  Has anyone ever perceived undirected matter and motion create life? Thought? A cell? Something far simpler like a fountain pen or a mousetrap? Anything?  (Before someone writes in claiming evolutionists have demonstrated it, I would remind them that evolutionist “claims” change regularly, that claims are not demonstrations, and that what they say in the media and what they say in private differs greatly).

Here It Comes:

Remember, “Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, the basis upon which all further knowledge must, of necessity, be built.”  These are her words, not “speak as I find” reinterpretation. We shall hear her out.

“Working out from the self, the ‘knower’, the next essential step in building knowledge is for there to be something to be known.  Descartes, it seems, having established the axiom of his own existence, went on to blot his copybook by claiming that the existence of god is as readily and certainly perceptible to us as the existence of our selves (although one is tempted to suggest that god must therefore exist in the same realm as the self – in the mind of the knower” [as would everything else, including the outside world]).

A foundational assumption of naturalism – and naturalistic pantheism – is that there exists a real physical world that we perceive with our [bodily?] senses to at least a practical degree of accuracy – such that we can move within the world, interact with it and effect outcomes all in keeping with the way things are, according to our perceptions. (my emphasis).

Okay, but a “foundational assumption” of conspiracy theorists is that the government is out to get us.  So what?  How did she escape the Cartesian dilemma?  She simply assumed she could!  But how does she know the world she perceives is real?  Millions of Hindus don’t!  How does DD, from her finite perspective and self imposed starting point, know she is not part of the dream of Brahman?

Presto!

She is now functioning as somebody who has explained (!) her way out of Descartes’ cogito and Hume’s critique of induction.  Having magically extricated her “self” and found the outside world she opines:

“Presuppers suppose that this world is intelligible to us because their god made it to be so.”

Not only did God make it so, He made us so that we could interact with our environment, and gave us a mandate to do science whilst promising to uphold the uniformity of nature with a covenant oath.  This God – the God of the Bible that is – cannot lie (Titus 1:2), does not change in His nature (Malachi 3:16), and upholds all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16).  He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who loved the world (including DD) so much He sent His only begotten Son to die in their place, and take the punishment for the willful rebellion of those who use His good gifts without acknowledging Him (John 3:16-21).

She reflects truly that,

“The world is a qualitatively different place for me to what it is for Dr Reluctant, for Dan over at Debunking Atheists or for anyone who subscribes to belief in the God of Classical Theism, who made humans, so the story goes, in his image, and made the world we inhabit…”

You bet it is!  The world DD wishes it to be is one where immaterial laws of thought, mathematics and ethics just happen to be “there” (although these “laws” aren’t law-like because they evolve somehow); where humans just happen to be able to recognize these laws and use them to design and build things with specified (to do particular functions) complex (non random) information and to predict how they will function in the extended world.  BUT when these same skills are used to demonstrate how the astoundingly complex human cells (which can only be seen if magnified 50,000 times), with very specific functions, point to a Designer, well then somehow chance and necessity can do the job!

She thinks God made the world “essentially to be a proving ground for us so that we can have the chance to spend eternity with god after we die.”  Once more she gets an F in Bible and Theology.

“In their world, consciousness precedes, gives rise to, and shapes all material reality.”

Correct!  The God of Scripture is the precondition of knowing anything at all.  In her world unconscious, blind, random, purposeless forces of physics made bird’s feathers and bat’s sonar’s and the human genome.  And we can write hundreds of books and build schools and write detailed computer code to prove there was no Designer involved!  (And I used to believe it).

Excursions Into Cloudland (a phrase borrowed from Dean Burgon):

Now it’s time for creative thinking: “But what if material reality gives rise to and shapes consciousness?”  And just how does it do that?  She should account for these things using only matter and motion (and billions and billions of years of course).

“If we arose from within the material universe…[I’m not even sure what this means.  I know DD thinks we did, but what warrant does she have for proposing it?] …it should not come as a surprise to us that our conscious intelligence evolved to make sense of that very same universe.”

It should not surprise us that laws of reason came from unreason, consciousness was created by unconsciousness, life sprang into existence from non-life, Shannon Information in things like crystals arranged itself into complex specified information, DNA code evolved… you know the drill.  Given DD’s epistemological bag of tricks she may not be surprised (she has posted her intent to jump epistemological horses yet more in her next post), but let her explain this “non-surprise factor” by laying out the conditions wherein we can make sense of her “what ifs”.

“Perhaps we should not have expected order, patterns and regularity”

Perhaps?  Has she ever won a game of scrabble by just tipping the letters onto the board?  Would she ever expect to?

“[T]hese are, in fact, what we observe, and these need not be signs of conscious intelligence or deliberate design, but simply the results of natural forces and matter behaving as they characteristically behave under local conditions.”

As this is the way natural unguided forces “characteristically behave” she ought to have no problem providing the preconditions wherein this behavior is intelligible.  She has not even proven that these natural forces exist (recall Hume?).

Of course, we all know these things exist.  But we’re seeking an underlying explanation from her perspective.  What we’ve got so far is a strange brew of Cartesian rationalism and empiricism and a lot of highly subjective “what ifs.”  From a biblical perspective all is clear.  Almighty God, who is personal, rational, moral, powerful, relational, wise and glorious, created this material world and all the fabulous diversity within it.  He made human beings to be body and soul image-bearers in the world He created.  Man fell and the world has been suffering ever since.  But God will restore earth’s glory and rid it of evil and suffering.  Mankind will aspire to God’s original plan for him.  There is a meaning to it all.  We are not cosmic accidents in an uncaring deterministic world.  How do I know?  Because the Creator has left His mark in us and around us and, supremely, in the Bible.  The Bible is God’s description of Himself, mankind, and his environment.  It makes sense of what no other worldview can.

Dormant Dragon’s futile attempts to enthrone her opinions (or those she follows) have left her having to misrepresent the biblical worldview, the biblical God, and presuppositionalism.  According to Romans 1:18-22 there is no excuse for it.  “Professing themselves wise they became fools.” (1:22). This word “fool” is not meant in a demeaning way (which Jesus condemned), but as an identification of someone who should know better.   I realize she thinks my worldview is ludicrous.  But what has she replaced it with?

She recalls that, “Dr Reluctant challenged me on this assertion of universal self-organization, by asking if the universe ‘thinks’. A legitimate question, perhaps (?), to which I tentatively answer no – not if by ‘thinking’ he means any universal act of conscious cogitation.”  Here I recommend a quick flick through a dictionary.  Does the universe do any of the functions described under the word “think”?

“The very question itself seems to me to reflect the kind of belief I outlined above, that conscious intelligence alone can produce order and the appearance of design.”

As I pointed out before (in anticipation of this maneuver) things like crystals do exhibit some order and Shannon information.  They never ever exhibit specified order and complex sequenced information.  Stephen Meyer writes, “A system or sequence of characters manifests “sequence specificity” if the function of the system as a whole depends upon the specific arrangement of the parts.  Language has this property.  Software has this property.  And so too do proteins.” – Signature in the Cell, 99-100.

Then we encounter this assertion:

“However, let us consider thought for a moment. Thought requires a thinking subject and an object for the thought to be about.”

True enough, but this is something her epistemology must assume without demonstration.  Christians believe the precondition of intelligent thought is another intelligent Thinker.  We ‘think God’s thoughts after Him.

“…of course, we [sentient beings] do many [purposeful] things without thinking about doing them.  Why should we not credit the universe, of which we are a part, with the same ability?”

To do that we would have to commit the fallacy of reification (very common with evolutionists), whereby we assign human predicates to unconscious material things. We possess minds which work even when we are on ‘auto-pilot.’  The universe is impersonal (DD) and doesn’t have a mind.  Therefore, to suggest such a thing as even possible without showing how this scenario could work within her interpretation of reality is futile. 

“Indeed, it is precisely because I firmly believe that the universe is impersonal that I can feel confident that my senses perceive reality as it is.”

I came away from her explanation of Descartes’ cogito and her assumption of something to be known with rather less confidence!

“…there is no-one trying to make me believe, for their own reasons, that things are other than what I experience.”

Another straw man.  God does not violate our will.  She experiences God every day.  She could not be having this conversation on her deterministic atheistic worldview.  It cannot provide the laws of logic she is [mis]using to argue against God.  Van Til rightly claimed “atheism presupposes theism.”  His famous illustration of a child being held in her father’s lap as she slapped his face comes to mind.  Unless the father’s support was there, the child could not slap his face.

“How would mere mortals, limited, temporal beings such as ourselves, be in any position to know that this god was not deceiving us for reasons of his own?”

This has been answered.  If the Word of God is not a true reflection of the Revealer it would be false.  But then it would be impossible to know the preconditions of knowledge, including truth and falsehood, good and evil (whatever DD’s definitions of these concepts might be).  The reason we are having this debate is not because I am or can assume DD’s naturalistic pantheistic perspective, but because she is assuming aspects of my outlook which hers does not possess or account for.

Finally,

“Some presuppers already claim that their god has a morally sufficient reason for allowing (even causing, if we take the omnipotence and omniscience factors seriously [NB  she’s at it again.  Telling me what I am supposed to believe]) catastrophic suffering – and, as described in the Bible, ordering acts of genocide – so why would they then suppose that such a god would never have a morally sufficient reason for providing false revelation?”

Answer, because the God of the Scriptures is the one who tells us about these things!

She is right to say I find it hard to believe the universe can order itself in such a way as to produce life and logic (you need the one before the other).   But what I believe about her view is not the point.  She needs to show how logic. ethics, beauty, information, science etc. are possible from her worldview.  Please compare my outline of the biblical worldview and see how I gave a reason for these things in the God of Scripture.

That’s enough for today.  I notice DD has (unwisely in my view) posted her “second” main response on her blog.  I asked her to wait for me to get this one up, but I suppose she thought she didn’t need to read what I had to say here.  I will be out of town tomorrow, and have a full plate, but I shall reply to her new post asap.

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13 comments

  1. If the BW provides the preconditions of intelligibility it is not amenable to deconstruction of course, so she shouldn’t expect me to attempt the impossible.

    Does it provide such preconditions? You assert that it does, but don’t demonstrate how these are the only possible preconditions. In any case, the whole point of a worldview is to make experience intelligible within the context of that worldview. The precondition for intelligibility is having experiences of which to make sense. I have already pointed out that certain things are deeply unintelligble in light of the biblical worldview, but you simply deny that this is so without explaining how it is possible to fit these things into a holistic picture of reality as we experience it.

    If the Word of God is not a true reflection of the Revealer it would be false.

    Quite. What you cannot demonstrate is that it is true in the sense of reflecting an actual condition of reality.

    But then it would be impossible to know the preconditions of knowledge, including truth and falsehood, good and evil (whatever DD’s definitions of these concepts might be).

    And yet somehow, when the Ancient Greek philosophers wrote about such things, they had never heard of Jesus Christ and the collection of texts we now know as the Bible had not yet been assembled (nor all of them written). You seem to be assuming that knowledge, truth, good and evil all exist somehow as entities independently of their meaning as descriptors of the relationship between a conscious agent and the world they inhabit. Furthermore, your adherence to the Biblical worldview leads you to assert as knowledge certain things that are demonstrably inaccurate, such as your belief that all ancient fossils – which multiple lines of evidence place as being from animals that existed from many thousands to many millions of years ago – were laid down in a global flood for which there is no corroborating evidence. You claim that the BW is a precondition for intelligibility, and then proceed to make statements that don’t make sense of the world we encounter.

  2. You have been ignoring what I’ve been saying. Howbeit, in my second (and final) post I shall address the points you raise again. I shall also be saying more about the dilemma you have placed yourself in about knowing anything from your stated premises.

    I do not expect you to agree. You are far too emotionally antagonistic to any other approach than your own. Remember that I used to believe a lot of what you cling to. It wasn’t because I hit my head or needed a crutch that I came to understand the futility of non-biblical worldviews. You may not agree and you have demonstrated many times your ignorance of biblical teaching, but your scientism mixed with multiple semi-epistemologies are smokescreens behind which many of us used to hide.

    My purpose here is, as I have stated and will state, not to convince you or win an argument. I know full well that good arguments often fail because they are misinterpreted, misrepresented or just plain avoided. You have been guilty of all three. Here, for instance, you treat the fossil record as a brute fact which requires no interpretation, and its message must necessarily adds up to no evidence for the flood. There is nothing I can do to make you see what you don’t want to see. And I respect you enough not to try to ramrod my beliefs down your throat (I know some over zealous Christians try that approach, but it is not endorsed by the Bible).

    Regards,

    Paul

    1. I do think the issue of the fossil record is an interesting one.

      Paul, you said in reply to my question about the fossil record forming in the flood that this is an inference based on Scripture.

      When I asked what would falsify your belief that the fossil record formed in the flood, you said that you would need to be persuaded by exegesis. I am not sure how you would do this given that you say that it is only an inference from Scripture. I think you rightly agree that the Bible is entirely silent on the subject of fossils.

      You suggest that DD should accept that the fossil record has it’s origin in the flood, yet you have described it only as something that can be inferred from Scripture and you appear to accept it as something that would not need to be falsified.

      I hope I am not being awkward by bringing this up.

      I share your belief in the absolute truth of Scripture and the uselessness of the atheistic worldview.

  3. Matthew,

    No problem, but please understand I am not here dealing with evidences one way or another. Evidence is the same for believer and unbeliever, but both come with assumptions which bias their interpretation of the evidence. This does not mean their interpretation is therefore wrong. It does mean that their interpretation of the evidence MAY be wrong depending on what they have accepted as true and what they have rejected or overlooked as unimportant or inconvenient. Thus, in her comment above DD implies the evolutionary “explanation” (there is actually not even any direct evidence for evolution at all, but that’s another subject)is the only one there is, and that it falsifies the BW. But of course, she will not entertain any other interpretation of the evidence other than an evolutionary one!

    There is nothing new in this. Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (2nd ed.) is an interesting study on this from a secular perspective.

    But further, I’m afraid you have not represented what I actually said. Here it is:

    “It is what I would call a strong inference given that the flood is without doubt the greatest natural catastrophe ever to be brought on the planet. So much so that God refers to the pre-flood world as “the world that then was” (2 Pet. 3:6). As you know, the global flood would have buried millions of lifeforms instantaneously. No other upheaval of such magnitude is known in Scripture (or history).”

    and,

    “If it could be shown exegetically AND theologically that I have misinterpreted the Bible.”

    Notice I took it for granted that you believed the Bible was the Word of God? Therefore, I directed you first to 2 Peter 3:6 and added that no other catastrophe of such magnitude is known.

    Now I don’t have time here to give you my reasons for my belief in a global flood, but I have a half-finished post entitled “How Romans 8 Nixes Old-Earth Creationism” which discusses the flood directly.

    Exegesis includes inferences. Please read my “Category Formulations” here: https://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/diagnosing-the-dispensational-malaise-an-opinion-pt-4/

    The doctrine of the Trinity is just such. And I said I take the global flood to be a “strong inference”.

    You must understand that the so-called “falsifiability criterion” works differently depending on which ultimate criterion is being used – human “reason” or the Word of God.

    I believe there is plenty of clear evidence for a global flood and that this substantiates what I would expect from my reading of the Bible. In my final response to DD I shall give a few reasons, but please understand, I will not be diverted from the more fundamental worldview issues which dictate in large part our approach to evidence.

    As far as being “falsified by scientific evidence” is concerned you must appreciate that “scientific evidence” is not usually indubitable. If you have read the interchanges between Tony and DD you will have seen how DD’s worldview prevents her from considering the evidence about information systems which Tony presents.

    Likewise, her determination not to believe the Bible at any price causes her to construct straw men arguments. Look how she re-defines concepts like “worldview” and “precondition of intelligibility” in her comment above (neither definition is accurate but it suits her purpose to have it so).

    I must go

    God bless,

    Paul

  4. After visiting DD’s site I noticed she had appended a long comment intended for here. I don’t know what happened to make it not show up, but I am happy to include it below:

    I can see that going through this post will be a lengthy process, but since I must begin somewhere, I think I would do well to address the accusations of misrepresentation straight off the bat.

    In order, you first claimed that I misrepresent Christianity. As I said, from an outsider’s perspective – one who used to be an insider – Christians, as a matter of fact, believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I qualify as an outsider now precisely because I no longer believe this. Holding this core belief makes one a Christian, by definition, regardless of what flavour of Christianity one adopts, regardless of what other beliefs one adds to it. Belief in the divinity of Christ makes a person a Christian as surely as belief in the nonexistence of deities makes one an atheist, whether or not one is also a pantheist, a Buddhist, a humanist, a nihilist, or anything else.

    You may wish to claim that your version of Christianity is more rigorous than others, and perhaps that is true. By all means, accuse me of oversimplification, but it is certainly not inaccurate to claim that belief in the divinity of Christ is the defining belief of Christianity.

    On to the second accusation, that I have misrepresented presuppositionalism in particular. If I have done so, it was not through any willful falsehood on my part. Quite frankly, I think I have done my best with what is, from my perspective, a deeply nonsensical worldview, one in which you take the natural tools of human reason and perception and subordinate them to the ‘authority’ of an imaginary being disparately represented in a collection of ancient texts. You claim certainty where you are only entitled to claim functionality.

    It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that, given our differing perspectives on reality, it is perhaps inevitable that misrepresentation will occur on both sides. I’m a novice philosopher at best, so it’s quite probable that my epistemology is at present insufficient; on the other hand, I do contend that the justification you claim for your epistemology is incoherent and very probably nonexistent.

    With that in mind, a few points of contention:

    The BW says we discover order in the universe because God put it there. As I said previously, there was an Orderer.

    In other words, you claim your god as a brute fact, in much the same way as a naturalist might claim natural laws – descriptors of the way nature behaves – as brute facts. Perhaps these laws, as such, can only be inferred inductively, but again, this is no better than any reasoning you use to infer your god’s existence.

    DD just says the universe has the principles of its order within itself

    Which is a core pantheist belief, I might add, and one that is becoming increasingly evident to science.

    (quoting [in fact misquoting] the arch-skeptic Hume – who said, btw, you could prove nothing by experience!)

    Hume, although declaring inductive reasoning – inferring generalities on the basis of specific experiences – unable to be rationally justified, still recognised that it was indispensable to normal human functioning within the world.

    – and she stops. No explanation of how order comes from chaos, how rationality comes from irrationality, how life comes from non-life (contrary to the law of abiogenesis), how logic and morality and good and evil come from an impersonal, mindless, unthinking, amoral explosion.

    Of course, positing a supernatural entity does not provide an explanation for these things either – it just moves the problems up a level. What exactly is this law of abiogenesis of which you speak? And since I began by speaking of misrepresentation, naturalists do not infer that morality “comes from” brute matter and energy, but are phenomena that arise from interactions between conscious beings.

    She states it as a self-evident truth and thinks she has explained it, when, of course, she has just said “it’s there!”

    This is, although you may deny it, exactly what you do with regard to your god. It is telling that you seem to think the brute facts of the existence and characteristic behaviour of matter and energy require explanation, but that makes it quite extraordinary that you think your god – a complex, conscious, intelligent, creative, supernatural, limitless being – is “just there”.

  5. N.B. I appreciate this response, not because DD has made a dent in the BW, but because she has kept on point.

    I am happy to be corrected with regard to her view of morality and shall address it in terms of her clarification from now on.

    “A-bio-genesis” comes from three Greek terms (as those of you who have taken Greek are aware). It states that life (“bios”) did not (alpha privative) originate (“genesis”) from non-life. Pasteur and others proved this over a century ago.

    It is worth noting that presuppositionalists (or anyone else) do not and cannot say that the God of Scripture is “just there.” When people say god is “just there” one can be absolutely sure that they are not speaking about the God who declares Himself in the Bible. This will prove itself to be true once their attributions to their god are scrutinized.

    The word “Christian” is a biblical term from Acts 11:26 and other places and should be defined in line with what the Bible itself says. I defy anyone to study the word in the NT and come out with DD’s definition. There’s much more to it of course, and DD’s lack of understanding on this point says more about her former “belief” than the one she is attacking.

    I shall try to address the main issues she has brought forth in my next post. I do not wish to derogate her as an individual. But the challenge to provide a rational account for the world from her belief system still applies. Whether she is an improving philosopher or not I believe she will always avoid explaining things like immaterial realities like logic and morality, or class concepts themselves like number or humanity etc.

  6. “Must exist”? Buddhists and Hume say ‘No!’ She invokes Descartes, but before he arrived at his cogito ergo sum he gave any number of reasons why sense-perception is untrustworthy. For starters, we could be dreaming.

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but as for the dreaming side of things, I have never had any dream, be it ever so vivid or memorable, that I could not differentiate from waking life upon looking back at it. Now, it may of course be the case that I have this all backwards, and the part that I take to be waking life is actually the dreaming part, and what takes place when I think I’m asleep and dreaming is my experience of the real world. If this is so, it seems odd to suppose that the real world would be so episodic and inconsistent whilst my dreams have such a strong continuity and feeling of solidity, but bizarreness by itself does not equate to untruth, of course.

    Remember that I used to believe a lot of what you cling to. It wasn’t because I hit my head or needed a crutch that I came to understand the futility of non-biblical worldviews. You may not agree and you have demonstrated many times your ignorance of biblical teaching, but your scientism mixed with multiple semi-epistemologies are smokescreens behind which many of us used to hide.

    It’s interesting that you suggest I am ‘clinging’ to a worldview when the beliefs I presently hold are the result of nearly 20 years of what I’ve come to think of as a spiritual quest. I was raised as Catholic, and I certainly did ‘cling’ to my faith until grim death – the point that I could no longer deny that Christianity was in large part an arbitrary man-made construct with little relevance to the way my life was panning out. It just didn’t make sense of the world for me, unless I denied large parts of my experience.

    From the outside, now, it makes complete sense why others still have religious faith, just as it makes complete sense to me why I don’t share it.

    For some time, after abandoning belief in Catholic Christianity (although I still find that a largely insignificant distinction to draw) I was a deist, essentially, believing that somewhere in or maybe just beyond the universe there was a benevolent power, and I also believed that genuine atheism must be a very cold and lonely place to be.

    It was really only a matter of time before it became apparent to me that a god who didn’t participate in the world, who wasn’t directly observing everything we do, and didn’t particularly care what happened to its creations – if that’s what we are – might as well not exist, for all the relevance it has to how we live our lives. This kind of Epicurean view of god is, to my mind at least, practically indistinguishable from atheism. Naturalistic pantheism was something I stumbled upon as a description of what my beliefs and feelings already were – and had been even while I was still Catholic – not a worldview to which I consciously aspired. Looking back, I almost think this should have become evident to me the moment I first looked at bacteria under a microscope in high school biology class and felt what could only be described as wonder and affection for the tiny organisms I saw.

    I have always been interested in science, though I reject the charge of scientism – I certainly don’t apply the scientific method to all of my decision-making, nor do I think it is any more necessary than alternative means of truth-seeking, like philosophy. You are correct, however, in indirectly surmising that my epistemology is patchy and incomplete. It’s a very new consideration for me, and I do find it difficult to explain things that – I feel, anyway – ought to be obvious. I am working on it, however, and have attempted to correct a few deficiencies here. I suspect I’ve had the misfortune to have honed my skills, such as they are, on less thoroughgoing presuppositionalist apologists.

    “A-bio-genesis” comes from three Greek terms (as those of you who have taken Greek are aware). It states that life (“bios”) did not (alpha privative) originate (“genesis”) from non-life. Pasteur and others proved this over a century ago.

    I didn’t want to leap in and assume this is what you meant, but this “law” of abiogenesis is a misapplication of what Pasteur actually discovered. It used to be believed that spontaneous generation was possible, borne out by the seemingly sudden appearance of maggots in spoiled meat, mould on stale bread and so forth. What Pasteur and others demonstrated is that cellular and multicellular life-forms do not arise fully formed from inanimate matter, but are the result of the presence of other such life forms, such as flies laying eggs in carcases and mould spores multiplying on bread, or in Pasteur’s case, bacteria curdling milk. This has not, however, disproved the occurrence of abiogenesis, which, as it is used by researchers in the field, refers to the origins of organic life forms from simpler, non-replicating molecules through chemical reaction.

    1. Pasteur’s fundamental theorem is “Life can only come from life.” This has never been contradicted. Abiogenesis is the term used for its formulation as an impossibility theorem.

  7. Whether she is an improving philosopher or not I believe she will always avoid explaining things like immaterial realities like logic and morality, or class concepts themselves like number or humanity etc.

    ‘Immaterial’ realities exist upon a base of material entities. Logic is an abstraction of concepts derived from experience of material reality, such as identity and noncontradiction – that is, something is generally not observed to be itself and not itself at the same time.

    Morality is explicable as a result of our evolution as social mammals. Its existence is dependent upon our relationships to our fellows, and the decisions we make in interacting with the world. What has been called ‘proto-morality’ has also been observed in other social mammals, such as wolves and dolphins, and even some bird species.

    Class concepts would not exist without material entities to group into classes. It’s an efficient means of understanding the world, and the survival benefits to ancestral groups of hominids ought to be obvious. Numbers are an abstraction from material reality – we see the world in terms of discrete objects, rather than as a blur of fluid matter, so it makes sense to be able to know what to call more than one of those objects. A mathematician friend agreed with me the other day that the reason it’s difficult to explain a lot of pure mathematical concepts is that they are an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction…and so on.

    I’ve seen people claim that the existence of these essentially contingent ‘immaterial’ entities allows us to infer the existence of a being of pure immateriality. I can see how this reasoning works, but I don’t think it follows necessarily. What I also see going on is the belief that conceptual entities such as logic, number, morality and so forth somehow pre-existed and shaped material reality, but I don’t think this follows either, nor have I seen any effective demonstration that such things existed prior to the material realities from which – on my view – they are derived.

  8. From what I can gather, Biblical Christianity™ essentially means subscribing to the doctrine of the fall and of Christ’s redemption of humanity by fulfilling the requirement for atonement for sin under God’s (Yahweh’s) law. At least that appears to be the interpretation made by Answers in Genesis – and also their grounds for rejecting any concept of theistic evolution, by the bye.

    There may be other interpretations – the definition of “Biblical Christianity” hardly seems set in stone, and it may be that you don’t agree with AiG’s accepted version.

    After all, how does one reconcile the various views expressed in the New Testament? Is the Old Testament law binding upon Christians, as James (and Jesus, at some points) seems to believe? Or not so much, as Paul proclaims? Or does it even matter, so long as one adheres to the overall view of human history and destiny outlined by the perfect-creation-fall-redemption-eternal-salvation doctrine?

    How does one reconcile conflicting views expressed in the Bible itself? And how, for that matter, do modern-day Bible Believers™ come to terms with the fact that the Bible, as we now know it, was assembled by Catholics?

    1. These questions, which again show anyone familiar with the Bible that they originate from someone who has only the slightest acquaintance with it, take us in a different direction. I’m not being mean, I just think if you criticize something……
      I will perhaps address these questions another time (they are not very difficult since they are misunderstandings for the most part).

      Regarding AiG’s definition of “Biblical Christianity” I am not sure where you got it, but surely the place to look would be here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith esp. under Section 3: Theology.

      It is very brief but it is accurate and representative of biblical-evangelical teaching. From this basic statement one can formulate the BW.

      Regards,

      Paul

  9. She is now functioning as somebody who has explained (!) her way out of Descartes’ cogito and Hume’s critique of induction. Having magically extricated her “self” and found the outside world she opines:

    “Presuppers suppose that this world is intelligible to us because their god made it to be so.”

    Not only did God make it so, He made us so that we could interact with our environment, and gave us a mandate to do science whilst promising to uphold the uniformity of nature with a covenant oath. This God – the God of the Bible that is – cannot lie (Titus 1:2), does not change in His nature (Malachi 3:16), and upholds all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16). He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who loved the world (including DD) so much He sent His only begotten Son to die in their place, and take the punishment for the willful rebellion of those who use His good gifts without acknowledging Him (John 3:16-21).

    In my most recent post, I think I have expanded upon my reasons for assuming the existence of an external reality that my senses perceive, as a foundational assumption.

    I feel I should point out here, however, that in positing the BW – especially as you here support it with scriptural references – you are not, in fact, extricating yourself from the dilemma of exactly how you can know anything about the nature of the external world. The Bible is part of the external world that you must perceive with your senses, as would be the god you believe to exist, if it exists; and you offer no basis for trusting your senses independently of either of these, in order to be sure of their veracity. You, like me, have only the conviction that things external to your mind really exist and are not dreams or delusions, however imperfectly we may perceive them; and I would suggest that your convictions have the same basis as my own.

    You may, of course, declare here that I am once again misrepresenting or misunderstanding the Biblical worldview; however I am beginning to suspect that this is little more than a convenient diversionary tactic used to avoid getting into an explanation of things you would rather not consider.

    I note your reference to Pasteur’s “fundamental theorem” which appears to be no such thing (a ‘theorem’ being specifically a proven mathematical operation). This is at least as much a misrepresentation and misunderstanding as anything I have yet written about Christianity; and furthermore, one that ignores the specificity of what Pasteur and others actually discovered regarding the generation of life forms. Now, you may say that I ignore the specificity of aspects of the BW, and that may well be the case. However, I think this knife cuts both ways – you are also prepared to ignore obvious implications of some Biblically-based beliefs (you have to be, in order to uphold any faith in the Bible as a factual record of events) and whenever these implications are raised, you find it convenient to dismiss them as unbiblical. Well, of course they’re unbiblical if they call the veracity of scripture into question. But that does not, in point of fact, make them less valid as objections to the BW.

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