Evidence for the Existence of God -Truth

25 04 2009

Here is an interesting argument that philosopher Peter Kreeft puts forth that ties into our discussion of the existence of the mind and truth. Kreeft derives this argument from Augustine and puts it this way,

1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
3. But the human mind is not eternal.
4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.

Kreeft explains that this argument appeals to those who hold to a Platonic view of knowledge based on his use of forms. Forms are abstract entities or ideas that exist independently of us. Ideas like truth, perfection, equal, etc. are concepts that we understand even though we may never have seen them in their completion. An example given would be two things that appear equal; however, if we were to examine them more closely and precisely, we would find differences in them. Yet, we still understand the concept of equal. Kreeft explains that this view holds that there are “are Eternal Intelligible Forms which are present to the mind in every act of knowledge.[1] If these concepts are within our finite minds, Kreeft argues that it is a short step to conclude that they reside within an eternal mind beyond ours. He basically leaves the argument there as it is much too detailed to get into it in anything less than a full length book.

Professor Angus Menuge cites Harvard professor of psychology, Steven Pinker who wrote, “our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth.”[2] Menuge goes on to summarize Pinker’s idea by saying, “our cognitive capacities, including reason, are there because they are useful in the Darwinian sense of promoting the flourishing of our “selfish” genes.” The bottom line is that, according to a naturalist/evolutionary model, our brains aren’t wired so much for truth as they are for survival. Truth is not necessary as long as what we know and believe leads us to make decisions that promote survival.

Menuge goes on to say that evolution simply tests us for our behavior and that false believes are as good as true ones as long as the right behavior is produced, that is, behavior that leads to survival. He quotes from Lewis Wolpert’s book, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, where he states, “our brains contain a belief generating machine, an engine that can produce beliefs with little relation to what is actually true.”[3]

Even the scientific method, the core of truth claims for a materialist, is based upon core truth claims that cannot be scientifically verified in and of themselves. These include the principle of causality, uniformity, and others.

So, for these and other reasons we are led to understand that truth exists and that it is not simply an outworking of an evolutionary framework, but is required to understand any scientific framework. If truth exists, then it is a short step to believe that an eternal and objective source of truth exists – God. I will write more on this later as I am reading some interesting work on how truth and beauty point us toward an ultimate designer.

[1] Peter Kreeft, “Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God”; available from http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm

[2] ” Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1999, 305. As found in Angus Menuge, “Truth and Usefulness”; available from http://www.epsociety.org/blog/2008/11/truth-and-usefulness.asp.

[3] Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1977, 140. Ibid.

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Celebrating the Resurrection

11 04 2009

I had a conversation last night with some friends of mine, one of whom is a Muslim. I had the opportunity to explain to them the significance of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This led to a number of questions from Fatemeh, a Muslim who is schooled in her faith. She asked how God could become less than he is by becoming a man. She asked how God could be three persons. She asked how the Old Testament prophets could have sinned. These and others are common questions asked by Muslims and are put forth as logical contradictions; however, when probed more deeply, they are not contradictions at all. First, when we say that God is one in being yet three persons, we often get confused with humans who are one in being and person for the most part. In listening to William Lane Craig answer questions of a person who was engaged in a conversation with a Muslim, he answered the question this way. God is one, yet with three separate and distinct centers of consciousness. Those centers of consciousness are the three persons of the godhead. This was a bit difficult for Fatemeh to understand partly due to her Muslim biases and partly due to language barriers, but I think she at least understood what I was saying.

Regarding the question of Jesus becoming a man, and therefore in her estimation, less than God, here is how I answered that question. As we read in Philippians 2, Jesus took on the nature of a man; however, in doing this he didn’t become less than God, but simply added a human nature to his divine nature. So, Jesus didn’t become 50% man and 50% God, or any other breakdown that would add up ultimately to only 100%. He was 100% God and 100% man, fully encompassing both natures without those natures intermixing or being in any way separable. This issue was debated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. which produced the following statement:

Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; “like us in all things but sin.” He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation (in duabus naturis inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter). The distinction between natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.

I also explained that though the Old Testament prophets sinned, for which the Bible gives plenty of evidence, they had the same opportunity as Christians do today to have their sins covered through their trust in God. They sacrificed animals at the Temple as a temporary covering of their sins, yet the blood of those animals was always temporary; Jesus on the other hand, was the final offering – the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world!

Fatemeh’s last question had to do with God’s justice. She believed that Christianity was not based on a view of a just God. I that it was quite the contrary; that every other religion is based upon works as a means of earning ones salvation; however, I explained that this diminishes God’s holiness in that we could sin against an eternal God and pay it off with finite and temporal payments. I explained that only God himself was capable of paying the debt that we owed, in that only God was capable of paying for an infinite debt. In Islam, God would have to ultimately overlook sins committed against him by accepting good works as payment. This is true of every other religion as well as all others are ultimately works based. So, it is Christianity that is built of perfect justice, as well as perfect grace and mercy.

I hope you will ponder these ideas as you celebrate the resurrection of our sin-bearer, Jesus. He is Risen…He is Risen, Indeed!





Evidence for the Existence of God – Consciousness

4 04 2009

I thought that I would address this argument as it came into the conversation that I was having with Nate on Thursday night.  This issue is a major challenge for materialists/naturalists as it is difficult, if not impossible to explain why and how we have consciousness if all that we are are walking chemical reactors.  How does consciousness arise from non-consciousness (to be distinguished from unconsciousness).

Although consciousness has many different aspects to it, we will look at a few that are germane to this discussion.  The first idea is that of sentience which Armstrong describes as being “capable of sensing and responding to its world.”  We would think of this response as more than a mere involuntary reaction.  A deeper level of this idea is that of self-consciousness, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes “as those that are not only aware but also aware that they are aware.”  When we look at the world and are aware of it and aware of our place in the world, that becomes a state that requires explanation.  We know things about ourselves that no other human will even know unless we tell them.  So, how do we explain this?

Philosopher Peter Kreeft makes the following argument:

  1. We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
  2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
  3. Not blind chance.
  4. Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.

The questions that this argument include: why should the universe appear to be intelligible by us if it is the product of chance?; how does the impersonal take on personal qualities?; or, are those personal qualities illusion?; does the outside world really exist, or are we merely part of a larger illusion?  These may seem like silly questions to some of you; however, these questions and others have plagued thinkers for generations, and continue to do so.

The direction that may have gone is to pursue pantheism as the lowest possible entry point into a non-material reality.  Why pantheism?  Well, first of all it answers how the material world can experience a non-material reality – mind.  Second, it is a spiritual step that does not put many requirements on its adherents.  The god(s) of pantheism are generally not those who would require anything of its/their adherents, rather, the adherent can control the gods.  Think back to the Star Wars movies and how Obi-Wan Kenobi teaches Luke Skywalker to harness the force to his advantage.  What was that force, nothing other than a pantheistic representation of god, a god who could be controlled and manipulated to one’s advantage.  A god that also had a light side (pursued by Luke) and a dark side (pursued by Darth Vader).

The God of the Bible is a God that, by his very nature, deserves and commands our worship and obedience, not as a dictator, but as a loving ruler who created us in His image and desires what is best for us.  However, as C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe of Aslan, the representation of Christ in his series:

“Is — is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King
of wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts?
Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I
shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs.
Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver
than most or else silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs.
Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell
you.”

God has given us consciousness and minds such that we could know Him, love Him, and worship Him.  He has also given us self-awareness so that we could know ourselves, and by doing so, to know our true need for redemption from our fallen condition.  Our salvation is not to look within, as so many tell us to do, and as Obi-Wan told Luke to do, but to look above and beyond ourselves to the great God who created us to be in relationship with Himself.

Psalm 123

1To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.