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Thank you so much for visiting Choosing Hats. If you have not noticed, there have been a large number of new posts recently. The plans are to continue to post at this pace, however we will be taking a (hopefully) short break before we continue to do so.

We have some exciting new ideas we would love to share with you, just not yet.

Enjoy the recent posts, and stay tuned for more!

"Homophobia" and Homosexuality

This is a conversation I had via the Internet with a homosexual atheist friend from my old school. He posted something online which listed some emotional examples of hate crimes against homosexuals and declared that homophobia is wrong. I decided to question him about his beliefs.

Me: I agree, of course, that the descriptions of how these people were treated is morally and emotionally disturbing. People are sick and hateful. I am glad that I was not raised to hate homosexuals. In the sense described here then, I certainly think that "homophobia" is childish and wrong.

The last line though, "who are we to judge?" interested me. I would say that homosexuality is wrong just like lying and thieving etc. are wrong. I am no better than any homosexual then, because I do things I know to be wrong. I judge these things wrong because they have already been deemed wrong by my Creator. While I agree that the things described here are wrong then (hatred of homosexuals and foul treatment), I also believe homosexuality to be wrong. I do not understand what basis someone would have for thinking homophobia to be wrong, but not homosexuality. Hopefully that makes sense.

Take care,

Atheist:"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Me: Then we should not judge others for judging. See, that usage of the "judge not" saying is self-refuting, because it has to be pulled from its context in order to be used that way.

Besides, why use that part of Scripture (that is where the saying originates, even though it frequently is misunderstood and misused) while ignoring the many other passages that teach that homosexuality is wrong? I am not trying to be a jerk; it just does not make sense to me.

Take care,

Atheist:Because the vast majority of the scripture is untrustworthy. You know far better than I the arcane history of its compilation and writing (and rewriting to suit purposes). I choose to recognize the noble ideas proposed and learn from that wisdom, and not waste time and thought upon scripture.

Me: I am not sure you understand the trouble I am having understanding your position.

As far as I know, you affirm that:

Homophobia is wrong
homosexuality is not wrong.

I do not understand what basis you have for thinking homophobia to be wrong, and homosexuality not being wrong. You quoted to me, "Judge not, lest ye be judged", but this does not really provide a basis for the following reasons:

1. It is self-refuting, because you are judging that judging is wrong.

2. You broke the rule when you judged that homophobia is wrong, so it seems to me that you do not in practice appeal to this rule.

3. I do not see where there is a basis for believing that the statement "Judge not lest ye be judged" is objectively right.

I only mentioned Scripture to clarify that the statement originates from Scripture and within its original context does not have these problems. If you could clarify for me how you deal with these things to justify that homophobia is wrong and homosexuality is not wrong then it would go a long way in helping me to understand your position. Until then I am stuck with affirming that homophobia is wrong as well as homosexuality, since the Bible is my basis for morality and there are the above logical problems with rejecting this basis. I am not asking you to waste time and thought on Scripture, but rather to help me to understand your own position and how you justify your moral claims.

Also, there are a lot of injustices listed against homosexuals in what you posted. Again, I agree that most of these things listed are injustices and evil. I can say that because God provides a standard for justice by which I can judge things to be just or not. Since you reject this standard, I am curious as to what your standard for justice is?

As for your comments regarding Scripture, I do not agree. What is it about the Bible which makes you think that it is untrustworthy? What specific objections do you have about its origins? What specifically has been rewritten to suit purposes? Maybe if you describe more of what you mean I can understand. If not, that is okay too.


Atheist: A grain of truth becomes lost in a puddle of thought.

Me: How does that answer my question?

Atheist: You are over thinking.

Me: Not at all. I am beginning to think that you have not given any thought to why you say that some things are right and others are wrong, even though you reposted the same material again. It is not a hard question to answer for me, maybe it is for you.

Take care,

The video clip of Dan Barker objecting to his own book being quoted.

The other day I posted on a Barker vs White debate while it was going on. You may find the post here -


Dr. White has provided the video clip of the event -

Please make sure to visit www.aomin.org as Dr. White has posted a number of times on this rather strange incident.

Answering Pastafarianism

It must be confessed that the postulation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has resulted in the creation of some rather humorous material on the Internet and elsewhere. See - http://www.venganza.org/

The FSM also has its place in certain philosophical discussions, though I am afraid that the number of such discussions is much lower than what the typical unbeliever apparently supposes. It is unfortunate that the FSM has been removed so far from its original context as to lose its function as an Overload Objection and to be used instead in thoughtless mockery.

The FSM is an imaginary hypothetical set forth to parallel theism. Whether or not this alleged parallel actually obtains may be a subject for debate, though when used against an argument like TAG it becomes quite clear that the nature of the Christian God needed for intelligibility is hardly comparable to the conception of the FSM. We may dismiss the submission of the FSM worldview as supplying the preconditions for intelligibility simply because we know it to be contrived. Indeed if it were not obviously contrived it would lose most of its argumentative force when injected into a traditional theistic argument. This leads to a second point, which is that the FSM is deliberately absurd. When the imaginary and absurd hypothetical of the FSM is utilized in an argument against the existence of God it is assumed that the same evidentiary status is to be assigned to both the hypothetical and to God which begs the question against the existence of God.

One wonders where the relevance of the FSM to God is to be found. The proposed analogy fails, and there is no argument to be found within the analogy anyway. If one insists upon utilizing FSM in argument even after the aforementioned problems have been raised then he or she is welcome to go ahead and provide an account of intelligibility from within the context of the FSM worldview. Christianity provides the preconditions for intelligibility whereas FSM cannot. In this respect FSM is not very much unlike the finite gods of antiquity which unbelievers likewise love to bring into debates about Christianity. The only thing FSM really adds to the discussion at hand when used out of accordance with its original intent is comicality. Latching onto and overusing this feature of FSM through mockery does not stimulate the intellect but rather tends to make it shallow.


"Does God Exist?" My Opening Statement (2006)

Opening Statement
"Does God Exist?"
Central Virginia Community College
February 2006

Thank you all for coming out for the debate and thanks to Alex and Dr. McGee for being willing to help with this. I’d also like to thank my God, in whom we live and move and have our being. I want to make it clear from the start that the God I am talking about today is the God of the Christian scriptures. That’s the only God I care to prove because He is the only God who actually exists. I am happy to join Alex in refuting any other gods.

A lot of people have told me that it is a tall order to try and prove God’s existence in ten minutes. While I was on the phone with my girlfriend Kerri the other night, she told me that she didn’t understand why I have to prove God’s existence because the evidence for His existence is perfectly clear. She’s right, if God exists then the evidence for Him must be abundant and plain. The Christian God makes this claim Himself. Psalm 19.1-4 says that

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

So if a person denies that there is evidence for God’s existence, then they have denied the God of the Christian scriptures from the very start. The evidence is abundant and plain, every fact of existence attests to God’s glory. When I say evidence I am referring to all of the evidence that attests to God’s existence and person. This is not just referring to popular “proofs” for God’s existence but to God’s creation and God’s Word. Everything is evidence that God exists.

If the evidence for God’s existence is so abundant and plain and clear then everyone should believe in God. The truth is that even though some people deny it, everyone does believe in God. Romans 1.18-25 says that

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!

So if a person denies that God exists or denies that there is evidence for His existence or denies that they know that God exists, they call God a liar. So God and non-Christians are not on good terms, so to speak. That’s why non-Christians try so hard to rationalize and create arguments against the God who made them. The reason that everyone does not claim to believe in God is because everyone is blinded by sin. Non-Christians suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Everyone does not know God in a saving way. We can learn about our need for salvation and how to obtain it through the Word of God. God’s Word teaches us that we are all sinners. We have all done wrong in God’s eyes. We have failed to conform to God’s moral character. That is what we mean by sin. God did not decide to leave us alone to try and save ourselves. We cannot save ourselves; there is nothing good enough that we can ever do to merit forgiveness of our sins. We need Jesus to save us from our rebellion against God even in our thinking. To even question God’s authority is to sin against Him, and this sin needs the forgiveness that is only available through the blood that Christ shed while dying on the cross. God in His love sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to die for sins so that whoever trusts in Jesus as personal Savior and Lord will be saved from their sin and will never die. This is how God shows His love towards us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. This redemption is needed by every individual here today.

Now I’m sure that some of you are upset at this point because I’m calling you a sinner. Well, I am a sinner too, we all are. Just because something is offensive does not make it untrue. Others are upset because they realize that the outcome of this discussion does affect you. Whether or not God exists affects everything, even how you think of yourself. There are others who are upset that I’m using the Bible so much. There is a reason for this. When we examine our beliefs we find a governing principle, a final authority for everything that I will call a presupposition. A non-Christian tries to start with a false presupposition that they are in God’s position as a final judge of truth, even though they are finite and sinful. Non-Christians use arguments involving logic, science, and morality in order to try and make a case against God. There is a logical necessity attached to the presupposition of the God of the Bible, and rejecting this presupposition destroys any hope of having a solid foundation for things like knowledge and science and ethics. Without God as a precondition for everything, this universe and all that is in it, including the language we are communicating with now loses all intelligibility.

Non-Christians are forced to borrow from the Christian worldview because it is the only worldview which is true and accounts for logic, science, and morality. This is God’s world and man is created in God’s image. We can’t stand outside of God’s creation on some neutral ground and debate whether or not God exists because His existence will come to bear on our arguments. Even though unbelievers strive to suppress this truth, it cannot be removed from their being and so they argue as though they are the final authority of truth while actually borrowing from the Christian worldview in order to get anywhere. It is like someone standing on the stage and claiming through the microphone that the stage does not exist.

The Christian worldview is proven true by the impossibility of the contrary. This does not mean that Christianity is merely probable, or that it is the best explanation for the facts we have; it means that the Christian worldview is the only true one without question. The Christian worldview has no trouble accounting for logic, science, or morality; while the non-Christian worldview can allow for none of these. Non-Christians are forced to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to make sense of anything.

The only proof for the existence of God is that without God nothing can be proven at all. Only by starting with the Christian God can we have a basis for logic, science and ethics. God is absolute. This means that He is the standard of truth. The laws of logic reflect God’s thinking. Logic can be discovered and used by humanity. Logic is evident and universal, invariant, immaterial. God and the laws of logic are eternal, and man discovers and uses these laws because he is created in the image of God. We can trust our senses because God tells us that we can trust our senses and that they’ve been created so that they are reliable. We can perform science only because we can trust our senses, and because there are regularities in creation. Creation is a revelation of God’s uniform nature. God’s Word tells us that we should expect regularities in nature. Morality is possible only because the absolute, personal God of the Christian scriptures exists. Logic, science, and morality are not allowed in any other worldview. Christianity is proven true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Without God it is impossible to prove anything.

A non-Christian’s reasoning is affected by sin and drowns in irrationality. Atheists know that God exists, but assume from the beginning that He does not in order to live as though He doesn’t. The atheist worldview cannot allow for the universal, immaterial, invariant laws of logic, yet continues to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to proceed with thought. How are the laws of logic possible in an atheistic universe, and how are they justified? The atheist worldview cannot provide a reason as to why we should trust our senses, or why we should assume that there is regularity in nature. The unbeliever has to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to get anywhere in science. The atheist worldview cannot allow for morality, so there is no real ethical reason to accept one proposition over another anyway. Yet the unbeliever continues to talk and live like some things are really right and some things are really wrong because they cannot eliminate the knowledge of God from themselves. In borrowing from the Christian worldview, atheists and other non-Christians show that they are unable to account even for this debate without resting on the presupposition that God exists.

So without God there is no intelligibility whatsoever. The proof for God’s existence is that without God nothing is provable. The Christian worldview is proven true by the impossibility of the contrary. It is up to the non-Christian to account for logic, science, and morality or to repent and believe the Gospel message of Jesus Christ which leads to the knowledge of things as they truly are.

The Problem of Religion (Part 2): Hume and Freud

David Hume

Hume is similar to Nietzsche in that he attacks philosophical norms, but what is pertinent to this article is that he likewise attacks religion. Hume finds many philosophical worries with religion. One of these worries is with the inadequacies of supposed proofs such as arguments from experience and miracles, which are at the core of many religions.

Hume presents a proof for the existence of God from experience through the character Cleanthes. This is the popular argument from design, which contends that since there is in the universe design and order there must also be a designer. After all, whenever there is design in our experience we infer that there must be a human designer, or so the argument goes. Through Cleanthes Hume states a powerful rendition of the argument.

Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: you will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human designs, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed. By this argument a posteriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence. (Hume 143)

One immediate problem with this argument is that it excludes the transcendent nature of many conceptions of God. Since finite features like intelligence are attributed to God analogously, the incomprehensibility of God suffers (Hume 141). Of course, there is no reason to think that knowledge of a wholly transcendent God is even possible if one is to be consistent with non-Christian thought, so the opposite position is not tenable either. Hume does not stop here though, he goes on to criticize the argument from design and all similar arguments from analogy further through the voice of his character Philo.

Our ideas reach no further than our experience. We have no experience of divine attributes and operations. (Hume 142)

This consideration efficiently decimates the argument if it has not already been fatally wounded. The objection is very straightforward and commonsensical; we cannot speak of what we do not know. We know that watchmakers make watches in our experience, but we do not know that gods make universes, or what kind of gods or universes would be a part of such a scheme. There is no warrant for moving from finite experience to claims about infinite beings, especially since it seems right to think that the causes of things are proportional to their effects (Hume 144). An infinite being and creator of a world seemingly should create some sort of infinite world, and the world we experience is nothing like this. In fact, nature is not only finite, but it is also flawed (Hume 166). Of course the religious person is probably not going to accept that God is also finite and flawed.

Many religions involve miracle claims, and more than that, some of them actually rely upon miracles claims to verify that they are true or worth subscribing to. Unless someone experiences a miracle firsthand, miracles are accepted based on the testimony of those with a supposed experience or experiences of the miraculous. Testimonies are usually accepted, setting aside worries about the credibility of sources and such, because the things that people testify to are generally found along with the actual events they describe. This is the angle Hume approaches this topic from.

It being a general maxim, that no objects have any discoverable connexion together, and that all the inferences, which we can draw from one to another, are founded merely on our experience of their constant and regular conjunction; it is evident, that we ought not to make an exception to this maxim in favour of human testimony, whose connexion with any event seems, in itself, as little necessary as any other. (Hume 123)

In other words, inferences drawn from particular objects or events to others are not based on any kind of certainty about what kind of causes or effects must necessarily go with them, because there is no such certainty. Inferences are all drawn from experience, observing the same objects and events together with certain others over and over again. With testimony it is the same. So the acceptance of any testimony about anything follows a particular course of reason which first makes sure that the source is not a known liar and other such things which would discredit the source and then infers that the claim being made corresponds to some actual event. An exception should therefore be made when the testimony is one which would destroy the uniformity in experience upon which it is based.

The reason why we place any credit in witnesses and historians, is not derived from any connexion, which we perceive a priori, between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed to find a conformity between them. But when the fact attested is such a one as has seldom fallen under our observation, here is a contest of two opposite experiences; of which the one destroys the other, as far as its force goes, and the superior can only operate on the mind by the force which remains. (Hume 125)

According to Hume, a testimony may not be trusted if it describes a miraculous event because miraculous events do not comport with common experience. This alone would not be a problem, except that common experience is the foundation for Hume’s epistemology of testimony. Again, there is trouble in the case of miraculous claims.

The very same principle of experience, which gives us a certain degree of assurance in the testimony of witnesses, gives us also, in this case, another degree of assurance against the fact, which they endeavor to establish; from which contradiction there necessarily arises a counterpoise, and mutual destruction of belief and authority. (Hume 125)

A testimony of a miraculous event is a self-defeating testimony. Not only this, but testimonies about miracles are also self-frustrating because for something to be considered miraculous it must violate uniformity of experience. So a uniformity of experience must be in place, but a violation of it must simultaneously be in place. In other words testimonies about miracles occurring are attempting to convey two contradictory views of experience of the world. Hume explains this.

There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior. (Hume 127)

What may be seen in Hume’s work on religion when all is said and done is that he is at the very least totally unimpressed with philosophical claims about religion. He views religion as needing philosophical support, or at least sees that many have attempted to provide such support, and easily refutes these attempts as very poor arguments.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud likewise takes a view of religion being something which must submit to philosophical demands, though he uses much broader sweeping attacks and deals with more anti-philosophical religious views as well. He also attempts to provide some psychological explanations for religion and in the process outlines the pragmatism of religion and how it has the potential to influence the intellect and behavior through providing comfort.

Freud begins by relating many of the cruelties of life to his readers. Examples include the elements, earthquakes, floods, storms, diseases, and death. These forces make humans feel as though they have no control over anything, they feel weak and helpless. In addition to this are other problems and suffering caused by the civilizations humans find themselves in and other humans as well (Freud 19-20). Freud explains that much of the sting of these realities is taken away once the impersonal nature of many of them is replaced by something more familiar that can be dealt with.

Impersonal forces and destinies cannot be approached; they remain eternally remote. But if the elements have passions that rage as they do in our own souls, if death itself is not something spontaneous but the violent act of an evil Will, if everywhere in nature there are Beings around us of a kind that we know in our own society, then we can breathe freely, can feel at home in the uncanny and can deal by psychical means with our senseless anxiety. (Freud 20)

Once nature has been given personal attributes or is seen to have personal forces behind it humans can feel more in control. Humans know how to relate to other persons and begin to relate to these imagined personal elements beyond the impersonal elements in much the same way. So the relationship between humans and the tragic forces that often oppose them changes so that, “we can try to adjure them, to appease them, to bribe them, and, by so influencing them, we may rob them of a part of their power” (Freud 21). This is exactly the process that Freud thinks is enacted by humans.

And thus a store of ideas is created, born from man’s need to make his helplessness tolerable and built up from the material of memories of the helplessness of his own childhood and childhood of the human race. It can clearly be seen that the possession of these ideas protects him in two directions – against the dangers of nature and Fate, and against the injuries that threaten him from human society itself. (Freud 23)

Freud gets to the “gist” of the matter, explaining what purposes religion serves (Freud 23). More or less, it comforts humans in a variety of ways over against the discomfort wrought by uncontrollable nature and others. There is a higher purpose to life which involves making human souls better, a higher intelligence that brings everything about for the best and for human enjoyment, a loving Providence watching over humanity, life after death, and fair rewards and punishments; religion often promises all of these (Freud 23). Of course these ideas have gone through numerous developments and are set forth in a slightly different way depending upon the religion they find themselves in, but the point is still the same (Freud 24). Religion has become such a dominative force because it is so highly valued and important for many who are just trying to cope with some of the less highly favored realities of life.

People feel that life would not be tolerable if they did not attach to these ideas the value that is claimed for them. (Freud 25)

Religious ideas are, in other words, the most valued thing in civilizations, and made to appear more so by the preeminence given them by the various members of societies (Freud 24-25).

Religious claims are accepted upon testimony just as other claims are, for example, in school. The difference is that learners are encouraged to go and check claims out further if they for whatever reason want more information pertaining to a claim taught to them in school (Freud 32-33). With religion this is not always so. There are three reasons given for why anyone would believe religious claims.

Firstly, these teachings deserve to be believed because they were already believed by our primal ancestors; secondly, we possess proofs which have been handed down to us from those same primaeval times; and thirdly, it is forbidden to raise the question of their authentication at all. (Freud 33)

It is, of course, worthy of our suspicion that the third answer given to someone inquiring about religion dismisses and discourages inquiry. This shows a known lack of support for religious claims. Of course the first reason given to believe religious claims is silly, because there is no reason to suppose that those of antiquity were always right, in fact there is every reason to suppose that they were often wrong. It might then be assumed that they were wrong about their religious beliefs as well, but at the very least an appeal to ancestral belief supplies no support for current acceptance of religion. Finally, the proofs of religious claims are often contained in writings full of contradictions and alleged facts which remain unconfirmed. Appeals to sacred texts and revelation assume that the sacred texts and revelation are trustworthy to begin with, which assumption is itself one of the religious claims that an inquirer is setting out to discover the validity of. The conclusion thus far is that religion exists philosophically unfounded on anything (Freud 33-34).

By examining the present as far as authentication of religion is concerned one runs into the claims of mystics and spiritualists. The experiences of these people are of course subjective and may easily be thought to stem from their own mental activities. Indeed, many of the things they say about these experiences give even more reason for doubt.

They have called up the spirits of the greatest men and of the most eminent thinkers, but all the pronouncements and information which they have received from them have been so foolish and so wretchedly meaningless that one can find nothing credible in them but the capacity of the spirits to adapt themselves to the circle of people who have conjured them up. (Freud 35)

The only two routes of defense left for religion, according to Freud, are the routes of belief by virtue of absurdity or behavior in line with imagining that religion is true. The first describes religion as being “outside the jurisdiction of reason” or “above reason” (Freud 35). This means that, “Their truth must be felt inwardly, and they need not be comprehended” (Freud 35). This shares some similarities with the claims of mystics and spiritualists, in that it cannot be tested and has little to no persuasive element as far as others are concerned who have not believed or had experiences. Freud is right to ask whether or not one must believe also every other absurdity, or if not, why religious absurdities only (Freud 35)? The second of the two final attempts to defend religion is simply behaving as though religion is true while knowing that it is either not or it cannot never be known whether or not it is. According to Freud, this is unacceptable to the vast majority of people.

A man whose thinking is not influenced by the artifices of philosophy will never be able to accept it; in such a man’s view, the admission that something is absurd or contrary to reason leaves no more to be said. (Freud 36)

There are actually some religious thinkers who take an approach to religion which is very similar to what Freud describes here, as will be seen later on.

Works Cited

David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding And Selections From A Treatise Of Human Nature. The Open Court Publishing Company. Illinois. 1963.

David Hume. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Pearson. NJ. 2008.

Sigmund Freud. The Future of an Illusion. Norton & Company. New York. 1989.

The Problem of Religion (Part 1): Introduction, Descartes, and Nietzsche


From within the Non-Christian worldview it may be rather easily seen that the term “religion” is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to define. This is no doubt due to the subjective nature of the term once it is divorced from the Christian worldview. A number of thinkers will be discussed in this series in order to show the great difficulty of even involving oneself with philosophy of religion without a solid foundation to work from. People tend to cast upon the term their own ideas and experiences of a particular religion or philosophical categories they think pertain to religion. This is no different for the philosopher than it is the layperson. In actuality, the way religion is defined affects every other facet of the philosophy of religion the person defining religion focuses upon or adheres to.

For example, many thinkers find the claims in different religions to be set forth as objective truth claims to be dealt with in the same manner as any other proposition of that kind. Rene Descartes and David Hume both seem to view religion in this way, as does Sigmund Freud, though he places a great deal of emphasis upon psychological reasons for religion to the extent that one wonders whether or not it matters if religion is what it sometimes claims to be or is claimed to be. Friedrich Nietzsche appears to successfully destroy the view of religion described, allegedly moving beyond the categories used in philosophy which are placed upon religion. The philosopher William James has little regard for the metaphysical questions involved in religion and sees religion instead through the lens of pragmatic concern. For him religion is a useful enterprise, whether true or false in the traditional sense and regardless of the specific claims of doctrine. Soren Kierkegaard takes a completely different view of the matter. He does not find the apparent problems in religion to be disturbing to the point that religion should be rejected, but rather embraces the paradoxical and absurd nature of religion. Martin Buber largely follows this train of thought and points out that philosophers have really missed the point. Before repeating the problem before us it should be mentioned that if nothing else this series will provide a summary of much important philosophical thought from major thinkers concerning religion. Such a summary is perhaps a much needed part of the aspiring apologist’s equipment. To reiterate then, within the non-Christian worldview religion is such a subjective and vague term that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to define. Each thinker mentioned above has very specific views of religion which are inherent in his writings concerning the matter as it pertains to philosophy, philosophical challenges, intellect and practice.

Rene Descartes

Descartes believes there is a need to prove the claims of religion. He attempts to do this through philosophy, creating an epistemology including God, souls, and certainty. He starts this process by doubting. Descartes realizes that arguments
beginning from theology are circular. He thinks it is okay for believers to accept these circular “proofs”, but nonbelievers cannot accept them (Descartes 3). He writes to the religious authorities of his day to provide an explanation of his desire to prove doctrines like the existence of God and the existence of souls to nonbelievers. The supposed reason for this is that the nonbelievers might accept these claims apart from theology and the circular arguments derived from it.

I have always thought that two topics – namely God and the soul – are prime examples of subjects where demonstrative proofs ought to be given with the aid of philosophy rather than theology. For us who are believers, it is enough to accept on faith that the human soul does not die with the body, and that God exists; but in the case of unbelievers, it seems that there is no religion, and practically no moral virtue, that they can be persuaded to adopt until these two truths are proved to them by natural reason. (Descartes 3)

Related to this is Descartes’ need to find a starting point other than theology which is acceptable to the nonbelievers he is targeting. This starting point must also dodge skeptical arguments leveled against it. Thus Descartes strives to find certainty upon the starting point of skepticism so that the skeptic cannot provide a response.

What I have done is to take merely the principal and most important arguments and to develop them in such a way that I would now venture to put them forward as very certain and evident demonstrations. I will add that these proofs are of such a kind that I reckon they leave no room for the possibility that the human mind will ever discover better ones. (Descartes 4)

Descartes regards his arguments as certain proof that God exists.

Descartes therefore views religion as something which may be treated by philosophy as any other subject may be treated. He also would presumably think that belief in God has a bearing upon one’s practical life since he tries to stick with more traditional views of religion, but what is indubitable is that Descartes thinks belief in God has a huge bearing upon one’s intellectual life and philosophy. This is known because his more original argument for the existence of God is epistemologically driven. He needs God to get rid of his skeptical worries, as will be seen in a moment.

Descartes thinks that all ideas have causes with as much reality as their effects. This means that while he is the cause of most of his ideas, he cannot cause the idea he has of God. Only God can do that. He presents his conception of God.

By the word ‘God’ I understand a substance that is infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else (if anything else there be) that exists. All these attributes are such that, the more carefully I concentrate on them, the less possible it seems that they could have originated from me alone. So from what has been said it must be concluded that God necessarily exists. (Descartes 45)

Descartes has thus conjured up a concept of God that he thinks he has not conjured up, since causes need at least as much reality as their effects, a widely accepted principle of his day (Descartes 45). Only an infinite God like Descartes’ could have caused the idea of an infinite God, so this God exists. What is important here with respect to the intellect and philosophy is that the Cartesian God, soul, certainty, and epistemology are all contingent on this argument because Descartes must get rid of the idea that an evil demon (or more likely some fault with the cognitive faculties) could be deceiving him about everything (Descartes 70). Descartes is necessarily a skeptic by his own admission if his program fails. Of course, he does not think that it does fail.

Now, however, I have perceived that God exists, and at the same time I have understood that everything else depends on him, and that he is no deceiver; and I have drawn the conclusion that everything which I clearly and distinctly perceive is of necessity true. (Descartes 70)

Therefore Descartes views religion as being intimately related with philosophy so much that epistemology itself rests upon it. He likewise must think that religious belief has significant consequences in the intellectual life.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche makes room in his very busy schedule of attacking everything else to attack Descartes as well and to comment on religion. Nietzsche thinks that what Descartes takes to be a foundational certainty, “I think”, really is not certain at all. The problem is that “I think” involves a whole slew of empty assertions.

When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, “I think”, I find a whole series of daring assertions that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to prove; for example, that it is I who think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an “ego”, and, finally, that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking – that I know what thinking is. (Nietzsche 23)

There is no reason to assume that the thinking which goes on in, for example, Descartes’ work corresponds to the “I” Descartes believes it does, in fact the thinking may correspond to nothing at all. Aside from this it is not known or explained what thinking is, it is just assumed that it is something caused by a being, both the cause and the being constituting large assumptions themselves. There is also a comparison being made between present and past moments and states with an assumption that some sort of connection exists, which is again unproven. This does a great deal of violence to Descartes’ proofs since he cannot get past global skepticism without this certainty. That is, as has been mentioned already, Descartes bases his view of God, souls, and epistemology on this alleged certainty. Since philosophy itself as Nietzsche conceives of it is full of failings, obviously any sort of connection between religion and philosophy will fall prey to many of the same problems pointed out by Nietzsche. Nietzsche sees the religious sentiment of his day growing, but not the theistic element of it. This is because the character of God has been called into question by the reality of life (Nietzsche 66). Of course he despises religion even in its pragmatic elements, going on about how it is used and abused by government, and seeing that it is “tied to three dangerous dietary demands: solitude, fasting, and sexual absence” (Nietzsche 61). These three he takes to exist everywhere that religion has existed, which is detrimental to humanity since things that are so fully a part of human nature are legislated against by it (Nietzsche 61).

Works Cited

David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding And Selections From A Treatise Of Human Nature. The Open Court Publishing Company. Illinois. 1963.

David Hume. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Pearson. NJ. 2008.

Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil.

Martin Buber. Eclipse of God.

René Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies. Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, UK. 1996.

Sigmund Freud. The Future of an Illusion. Norton & Company. New York. 1989.

Soren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling. Penguin. New York, NY. 1985.

William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York, NY. Simon and Schuster, 1997.

The Futility of Unbelief

My wife and I are currently listening to a debate (live) between well known atheist Dan Barker and Christian apologist Dr. James White through www.aomin.org.

Dan Barker just finished his opening statement which more or less left us with the old argument that the account of Jesus was borrowed from mythology. This is not why I am writing this post.

After Barker's opening statement, Dr. White got up to begin his opening statement. As Dr. White always does his homework, his opening statement was full of quotes from Barker's books. One would think that Mr. Barker would be glad to have his works read and quoted, but this was not the case!

Before Dr. White could even finish his first quotation, Barker loudly objected to having his own book quoted! He kept saying, "I may have changed my mind". There was a short spat regarding this and Dr. White (as well as my wife) pointed out that Barker is still selling the books that Dr. White was quoting from. The moderator did not uphold Barker's objection.

If I were an atheist, I would be ashamed of Dan Barker and concerned about his confirmation of the truth of Christianity. His thinking and behavior show that he is clearly just a man who hates God and has no apologetic, which is exactly what the Bible says he is. (Romans 1.20b)

Update: To make matters worse, Barker just quoted from his own book with respect to naturalism and miracles.

Second Update: Dr. White has written about the event here - http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3514

Nothing is Absolute

I was checking in on some discussion boards I used to post regularly on and came across the following statement by an atheist in response to a discussion over the Bible:

Atheist: All interpretation of the bible is subjective. You don't hold the final word on it. It's all in your own mind and isn't absolute. Nothing is.

If this gal had left off the last sentence, she probably wouldn't have gotten my attention. After all, she was just sharing her own opinion about another gal's interpretation of the Bible - nothing remarkable there. But that last sentence ... "nothing is [absolute]" made my ears perk up as it does anytime I hear it.

The following was my response to her:

BK: Nothing is absolute? Does that include your assertion above?

Of course, I was referring to her assertion that "all interpretation of the Bible is subjective". The point being that she was undercutting her very own ability to argue by making the claim that "nothing is absolute."

Her response to me:

Atheist: But, I never claimed that my assertion was absolute. So, if mine is not, then neither is hers. It's all her subjective opinion - nothing else.

Here she fails to see that the very making of an assertion implies that it is true, and not relatively true. For instance ... "all men are mortal" implies that every man, in every case, is mortal. "God exists" implies that God exists, not just "for me". That's the nature of making unqualified assertions such as "nothing is absolute"; they imply that what is being stated is absolutely true.

Here's my next response:

BK: So if your assertion is not absolute then it is relative, meaning its truth varies, meaning it is at least possible that some things are indeed absolute. Therefore, in this context it entails that it is possible that her opinion of scripture is not subjective after all - at least according to what you have asserted.

It was at this point that things got interesting. Here is her reply:

Atheist: No, my assertion that nothing is absolute could be absolute - because there is still that possibility - according to your way of thinking.

A true Christian would not believe that one person who posts here has the "absolute" interpretation of Scripture. If there was "one absolute interpretation" of the Christian bible, there wouldn't be so many Christian sects that branched out because they interpreted the words differently.

Nothing is absolute, as I said.

I found it remarkable that this person would make such a bold statement as she did about what a "true Christian" would believe about the Bible. After all, where does she get her perception of what a "true Christian" would believe, if not from the Bible itself? And didn't she just say earlier that all interpretation of the Bible was subjective?

Well ... read my response:

BK: No, because then there would be something which was absolute! Think about it ... if your assertion "nothing is absolute" were absolute, then your assertion would be incorrect. It would be absolutely wrong. My way of thinking is simply taking your comments to their logical conclusion.

More to the point - if nothing is absolute, then this includes any claims you make, including your claim that anyone's view of scripture is subjective. My comment earlier did not remove the possibility that her claims are, in fact, subjective - it simply brought to light that it is possible they may not be, which is in direct contradiction to your assertion that they are.

I thought perhaps at this point I had made it clear what the issue was. But instead I received the following response:

Atheist: Just as I said ... Nothing including all your inane verbiage there is absolute.

And so the game was over. No further desire to interact or address what I said - just a dismissal of my response and a labeling of it as "inane verbiage".

Here was my final reply, which I have yet to receive a response to:

BK: Is it that you don't understand what I am saying? Is that the problem?

"Nothing is absolute". The term "nothing" is universal, meaning your assertion implies that even your assertion is not absolute.

1. If it is true that your assertion is absolute, then your assertion that nothing is absolute is false.
2. If it is not true that your assertion is absolute, then your assertion is of no consequence.

Either way, your assertion undermines itself, either in refuting itself or in making it inconsequential.

Now please understand that this is not a shot against Atheists or Atheism at all - it is a demonstration of a lack of critical thinking. This could have just as easily been a Christian as an Atheist. Unfortunately too many times it is.


Sacrificing the Gospel on the Altar of Unbiblical Apologetics

Often so-called objections to the presuppositionalist methodology are downright frightening. Take this article for example -

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240172 written by Caleb Colley.

Under the section on presuppositionalism, Caleb writes the following:

“While the presuppositionalist is right that worldview is important, the presuppositional approach is in conflict with Paul’s prescription of the cosmological argument”

Um…I am sorry?

“the presuppositional approach is in conflict with Paul’s prescription of the cosmological argument”

Now I do not know about other people, but I am left wondering how people prior to Paul came to know that God exists without Paul being alive to present them with the cosmological argument. There are plenty of other questions that come to mind, like why Paul would prescribe a proof that does not prove the existence of God but rather some vague notion of a “First Cause” or “Unmoved Mover”, why Paul would prescribe a proof that is full of problems that keep it from reaching its conclusion anyway, and where Paul ever presents this proof to begin with.

Caleb writes that Paul prescribed this argument “in Romans 1:19-20” and then quotes the passage:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Okay, let me read that again.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Do you see anything there that is even remotely similar to the cosmological argument? Is there any talk of a First Cause or Unmoved Mover? The passage does show that the world was created and that things have been made, but this is far from an instance of the cosmological argument. Let us be honest, the passage says nothing at all about the cosmological argument. It is never named, never written out as a syllogism, and never alluded to. The cosmological argument is never even described in this passage, much less prescribed. Presuppositionalism cannot be in conflict with Paul’s prescription of the cosmological argument, because Paul never prescribes it. The author has apparently deceived himself into thinking that there is something in the text which is not actually there, holding fast to a syllogistic puzzle invented and used by Aristotelians, Roman Catholics, and Muslims along with other non-Christian groups. What the text does describe is a universal knowledge of God that is plain and clear because it is given by God, but this sounds like the claim of presuppositionalists!

Caleb writes, “God does not expect us to presuppose that His revelation is true”. Caleb cannot know what God does and does not expect of us if Caleb does not presuppose that the revelation of God is true. God never makes a statement in Scripture to the effect of Him not expecting us to presuppose that His revelation is true. The opposite is the case, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1.7) Any argument from Scripture that Caleb gives us concerning what God does and does not expect is going to require us to take God at His Word just like God always desires we do.

“He wants us to examine the evidence”

Again, Caleb cannot know what God wants and does not want without appealing to the Word of God. There are numerous problems with the underlying assumptions of this statement, but I will not be going into them here.

“People will be lost, not because they failed to make a presupposition, but because they failed to reason from the revealed order to the One who revealed it.”

People will not be lost because they failed to make a presupposition. Whoever said such a thing? I do not know what Caleb is arguing against here, but it is not presuppositionalism. If Caleb understood what he is writing about (and frankly, he does not), he would know that the presuppositionalist claim is in direct opposition to his misrepresentation. No one fails to make the presupposition that God exists. Further, no one is in a place to question the Word of God because there is no higher authority than God! This misrepresentation is bad, but not nearly as bad as what comes next.

Caleb preaches another gospel:

“People will be lost…because they failed to reason from the revealed order to the One who revealed it.”

No Caleb, people are lost because people are sinners. People do not become lost, people are lost. People will not “be lost” on judgment day “because they failed to reason from the revealed order to the One who revealed it” either, but rather because they are unrepentant sinners. In answer to the lost person’s question, “How might I be saved?” Caleb must answer, “[R]eason from the revealed order to the One who revealed it”. Caleb writes that “People will be lost” if they fail to do so. The gospel of Caleb, which is no gospel, is not good news at all. Rather, his gospel calls for a works righteousness of the intellect. To be consistent Caleb must believe that the reason he is saved while others are not is because he has reasoned better than they have. Presenting the actual Gospel contained in Scripture is not an option Caleb is able to take, for he claims that “God does not expect us to presuppose that His revelation is true”.

The remainder of what Caleb writes is in harmony with his anathematized gospel. (Galatians 1.8) He writes, “A presuppositionalist once told me that the unbeliever has a ‘heart problem’”. It appears that, though it is biblical, Caleb is skeptical of the claim that the unbeliever as a heart problem. Not only does Caleb put the phrase in quotes, he finishes his sentence, “A presuppositionalist once told me that the unbeliever has a ‘heart problem’, rather than intellectual difficulty, that keeps him from obeying Christ” (emphasis mine). Now I would posit that the unbeliever has both a heart problem and intellectual difficulties because both are taught throughout Scripture, but I believe that Caleb is trying to say something much different than I am when I use these phrases. When Caleb writes that “the unbeliever…[has]…intellectual difficulty” I see no reason to read this as meaning anything other than what he has already proposed, that “People will be lost…because they failed to reason...”. He is setting "intellectual difficulties" in opposition to a problem of the heart.

“This presuppositionalist explained that the unbeliever was unable to develop faith rationally because, having a ‘sinful nature,’ he was unwilling to presuppose that Christianity is valid.”

Caleb might actually go beyond the Thomist conception of man here, denying not just the fallen nature of reason, but quite possibly the sinful nature of man, as Caleb puts the term in quotation marks! More of Caleb’s unbiblical anthropology becomes apparent when he writes, “I admitted that some are prejudiced against Christianity”. Some unbelievers are prejudiced against Christianity? Try all. One is either for Christ or against Him.

“I admitted that some are prejudiced against Christianity, but then asked whether it was at least possible that an unbeliever wants to obey Christ, but has an intellectual objection to the existence of God, such as the problem of evil.”

Notice again the unbiblical anthropology which proposes the possibility that there are unbelievers running about who want to obey Christ but cannot. He then assumes that the Problem of Evil is an intellectual objection to the existence of God without showing the inconsistency in stating that God exists as well as evil. The Bible clearly shows that this is the case and I have been unable to find any inconsistency with it. Where then is the intellectual objection?

Caleb has shown us the kind of horrible errors unbiblical approaches to apologetics will lead us toward when more consistently practiced.

Colley, Caleb. “Ready Always to Give an Answer”. Apologetics Press : Scripturally Speaking. http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240172. Accessed September 25, 2009.

Confused About Presup

If one “googles” “presup”, he or she will find the video below at the top of the list. This gentleman argues that presuppositionalists undermine their own position in their insistence that reason and sense experience must “find their ground” in God. His argument consists of assuming that his particular version of atheism is true without giving us any reason for doing so.

The author of the video says that, “Presuppositionalists like to tell us that there can be no neutral ground between a Christian and an atheist in a discussion. This move tries to obscure the fact that we are all born in a state of implicit atheism…Implicit atheism is the neutral ground presuppositionalists will tell you does not exist.” We must recognize that the Bible teaches that we all know God (Romans 1.18ff). We deduce from this that we are born knowing God. If God exists then it is the case that we are born knowing God. To state without argument that we are born atheists logically entails the proposition that God does not exist and that atheism is true. It is extremely difficult to miss the assumption of atheism without argument. In using this argument against Christianity the author of the video begs the question. The atheist is not neutral at all, he is assuming atheism. There is no neutral ground between us.

There are many truth claims we have no choice but to accept upon pain of irrationality. One such truth claim is that God exists. The individual in the video is correct that we must accept a “certain set of truth claims in order to become Christians”, but one need not be a Christian in order to know that God exists.

He says that after “becoming…Christian, some people like to invoke radical skepticism to undermine reason and knowledge, the things that enabled them to accept their religion in the first place”. He provides an analogy of “delusional vandals setting fire to their own home” and imagining “they are immune from the flames”. Here he misses the point, which is that the reason and knowledge that were means to these people becoming Christians are not undermined by radical skepticism if Christianity is true, but are undermined if it is false. He understands that the “presuppositionalist claims that Christianity dispels radical skepticism” but errs in asserting that the presuppositionalist “was able to use precisely this untrustworthy, non-Christian, reason and sense experience in order to accept Christianity in the first place”. If Christianity is true then reason and sense experience are neither non-Christian nor untrustworthy. Non-Christians are able to come to know things precisely because Christianity is true. That is, they have intelligible experience only because they are inconsistent. The non-Christian operates on “borrowed capital” as Van Til put it, taking from the Christian worldview what he or she needs in order to make sense of things.

While it is fatally flawed, the best argument the young man in the video puts forth is, “At best the presup apologetic paints acceptance of Christianity as a kind of wishful thinking, accepting a claim because of the perceived negative ramification of not accepting it”. There are at least two problems here. One is that we accept Christianity based on the authority of God. We know that God exists and Christianity is true because God has told us so. The other is that if we reject this, we have no place where we might stand and argue that presup is wishful thinking. If the senses and reason are undercut by a rejection of the truth of Christianity, then we cannot intelligibly make statements like the person in this video. The argument that Christianity is just wishful thinking presupposes that Christianity is true.

Notice too that the author of this video does not give us anything like an answer to the position of radical skepticism. If he accepts it, and I would argue that he must, then he has no place to be making the arguments that he does in the video. We do not dispense with intellect or reason or senses or any other parts of intelligible experience. We do not “embrace…Cartesian skepticism” either. Cartesian skepticism does not even come close to the radical skepticism an unbeliever would be forced to “accept” if he or she were consistent. We do not adhere to fideism, assuming our position to be the case without argument. Our argument is that people like the gentleman in the video reject Christianity at the expense of rationality itself, falling prey to the self-defeating skepticism which inhabits and inhibits philosophy from Thales to Dewey. We have an argument, where is his?

Providence and Presuppositions

One of the easiest areas to spot the truth of the claim that presuppositions determine the way people view evidence is in the discussion of the providence of God.

Last night a friend of mine told me that his wife left her job.

Tonight he told me that his wife had been given a new job out of nowhere!

The new job is by far preferable to the old. For this we thank God. Upon sharing about this with unbelievers, my friend stated that he was "...getting hit up by atheists on why his wife got the job, and that it wasn't providence at all...".

As believers we see the hand of God at work in our life in incredible ways, especially when we reflect on what God has done in the past. When we take this to unbelievers we can usually expect to be greeted with skepticism and explanations and ridicule.

I am not suggesting that we need to stop talking about how God is at work in our lives. We absolutely should. It really only makes sense from within the Christian worldview though...

...just like anything else.

An atheist who gets it...

Well, some of it anyway. I do wish more Christians understood what is set forth in this video.

Greg Bahnsen opened in his debate with Gordon Stein as follows -

It is necessary at the outset of our debate to define our terms; that is always the case. And in particular here, I should make it clear what I mean when I use the term "God".

I want to specify that I'm arguing particularly in favor of Christian theism, and for it as a unit or system of thought and not for anything like theism in general, and there are reasons for that. The various conceptions of deity found in world religions are in most cases logically incompatible, leaving no unambiguous sense to general theism - whatever that might be.

I have not found the non-Christian religions to be philosophically defensible, each of them being internally incoherent or undermining human reason and experience.

Since I am by the grace of God a Christian, I cannot, from the heart, adequately defend those religious faiths with which I disagree. My commitment is to the Triune God and the Christian world view based on God's revelation in the Old and New Testaments. So, first I am defending Christian theism.

For the full transcript - http://www.bellevuechristian.org/faculty/dribera/htdocs/PDFs/Apol_Bahnsen_Stein_Debate_Transcript.pdf

Pragmatism vs Justification

I have been following the discussion on Induction between Chris and Mitch with great interest. Even though they are about to wrap things up, I wanted to comment on part of Mitch's most recent response.

Mitch writes: It might not be a justification of induction in Bolt’s opinion, but such is the nature of pragmatism. It needs not be a justification, it simply is a warrant for its continued use. There is no error here as Reichenbach is not attempting to contest that induction is justified or unjustified in that statement, simply that we have a reason to continue to use it.

I am not quite sure what Mitch is saying here when he states on the one hand that "it needs not be a justification" and on the other hand states that "it simply is a warrant for its continued use." Perhaps Mitch means something less formal by use of the word "warrant" than I am used to in discussions of this nature.

It seems to me that the statement "it needs not be a justification" implies no justification is present. Therefore, perhaps the word "warrant" simply means "reason" in the weaker sense, as in something that provides a motivation, rather than a logical basis. If Mitch means something more formal by the term, then I don't find consistency with the implication that no justification is present.

Now, if Mitch means "warrant" as a motivation, then it seems to follow that it is entirely reasonable to hold a particular position on the basis of pragmatism alone (i.e. without the need for a logical justification). If this is truly the case, then I wonder how Mitch would respond to those who might claim to hold the position that the Christian God exists as a pragmatic belief? Is there "warrant" for believing in God if it allows the believer to accomplish a particular goal? Does the believer "have a reason to continue" their belief, if it gives them the ability to meet a particular end? At what point is it acceptable to give up the search for justification and appeal to pragmatism?


Theologians All

A rather humorous exchange between Dr. James White and Dan Barker is posted below. Atheism is just as "religious" as any other system we might typically label a "religion". There is no such thing as a person who does not believe in God, but there is such a thing as a person who claims to not believe in God. Such a claim requires a great deal of bad theology.

A Brief Critique of “The Inconsistency of Theism”

Andrew Moroz desires to convince his readers of the inconsistency of theism through an article entitled “The Inconsistency of Theism” which may be found here - http://www.atheists.org/The_Inconsistency_of_Theism

Moroz notes that while there are many conceptions of God, his “focus will be on the Christian God”. Unfortunately he immediately presents John Hick’s description of [John Hick’s] god, which is not a description of the God of Christian Scripture. Since the Christian worldview is the only true worldview, and since it is the only intelligible way to view the world; it is unassailable. The only way to attempt an attack on the Christian worldview is to posit some sort of absurdity that either is or follows from a non-Christian tenet disguised as a Christian tenet. Hence, we end up with (for example) gods that have nothing to do with the God of the Bible. This straw man approach is common amongst unbelievers due to the consistency of Christianity. We are promised in this article that “several important incongruities within the concept of a god will be revealed”, yet the God of Scripture is never touched upon.

The article opens with a citation of the supposed percentage of Atheists and non-believers in the world. We are never told what “Atheist” actually means here (and trust me, the meaning changes depending upon what corner an atheist has been backed into) nor are we told what the non-believers lack faith in. As it stands, even if we were told more specific details concerning these percentages they would have little bearing upon the contention that theism is inconsistent.

After raising these rather irrelevant observations Moroz writes, “The Atheist position is perhaps founded on a principle of truth — a wish to believe only on evidence rather than on faith”. He also cites Russell as stating that “it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true” and quotes a famous passage from Hume showing his dedication to the idea that “the only legitimate propositions are those of matters of fact and those of the relations of ideas”. If “belief” and “faith” are synonymous then the statement from Moroz makes little sense. Setting this aside, I take it that he means something like Atheists wish to believe things only if evidenced. It is doubtful that Moroz would know that this is true of all Atheists. Even if he were able to show us that this is true of all Atheists, we might ask why they should do such a thing. Moroz probably means something more like, “Atheists should wish to believe things only if they are evidenced”. Unfortunately, he presents no evidence for such a statement. If it is the case that there is no evidence for the proposition in question then the proposed standard for belief fails its own test. The quote from Russell leaves us wondering why it is undesirable to believe propositions like the kinds he mentions (those with no ground for the supposition of truth), what constitutes “ground”, and what the grounds are for believing the very assertion he makes. Finally, what is paraphrased from Hume appears to be neither “matter of fact” nor “relationship of idea” and hence is not to be considered a “legitimate proposition” by the very standard set forth in the statement. Moroz has thus refuted himself from the start.

The concluding paragraph of the article does not fair much better than the beginning of the article. Moroz writes, “[I]t seems to me that one is puerile to base final knowledge on anything except philosophy - the only human endeavor that seeks to avoid assumptions”. I am left wondering why this seems childish to him, why his assertions at the beginning of the article did not meet this standard, and why he cannot see that he simply assumes philosophy (as using philosophy to justify the use of philosophy assumes philosophy) and thus sets forth another statement that fails its own test.

Moroz is therefore attempting to write an article from a position that cannot be consistently held. He is right to approach the “debate” about the existence and nature of God from an epistemological standpoint, but wrong in the epistemology he espouses. His is a self-defeating endeavor. He has not shown the inconsistency of theism at all, but rather the inconsistency of his own position. The reason for this is that anti-theism presupposes theism.

Moroz, Andrew. “The Inconsistency of Theism”. http://www.atheists.org/The_Inconsistency_of_Theism. Accessed 9/23/09.

Eight Steps to Popularizing Presuppositional Apologetics

A presuppositional apologetic is a method of defending the Christian faith. Presuppositional apologetics are based on a recognition of the need to be committed to God and Scripture even when chatting with unbelievers who raise supposed intellectual objections to the faith. The result is that God and His Word are presupposed while arguments and evidence are presented. Other methods of apologetics start with presenting arguments and evidence before concluding that God exists or that Christianity is true. Presuppositional apologetics start with the existence of God and truth of Christianity before presenting arguments and evidence. Do not misunderstand; presuppostional apologetics do not do away with arguments and evidence, they just do not use them in the same way as other methods.

Presuppositional apologetics are quickly gaining popularity. This may be linked to some denominations returning to a belief in the inerrancy (and hence the importance) of Scripture. It may be linked as well to the so-called “New Calvinism” that is sweeping through the generation of young people born in the 70’s and 80’s. Presuppositionalism places great emphasis upon the Word of God and certain Calvinistic tenets like Total Depravity and the sovereignty of God so that it is interlinked with them. If the Word of God is taken as a sure thing and if Calvinism is “the gateway to Reformed theology” then we should not be surprised that this apologetic method will follow on the tail end of the two movements mentioned. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of work to be done if presuppositional apologetics are to grow as we might desire.

Currently, presuppositional apologetics are almost completely inaccessible. There are also few books to be had on the subject and these are rarely ever available in bookstores. Due to the emphasis on epistemology presuppositional apologetics are seen as rather difficult to all but those who have taken several courses in philosophy. There are massive terms and difficult arguments involved. Ivory tower intellectualism is typically not appealing to laypeople who find themselves supporting their families in busy and stressful work environments every day. We should not be concerned with stopping this method from doing its job so well in higher academic thought; there is certainly a place for this. However, we should be concerned about how seemingly impractical this method is currently. In response to this observation, I present eight suggestions for your consideration.

1.Presup must be presented in a more evidentialist format.

Ever seen those “[Insert topic here.] For Dummies” books? Surely there are people buying them or they would not continue to fill almost any bookstore one enters. People like “how-to” books. Most evidentialist literature is written somewhat like how-to books. There is clarity, organization, and step-by-step instruction. People need arguments spelled out rather than presented subtly amidst discussions of the history of philosophy. One book I highly recommend that is along the lines of what I have in mind here is Pushing the Antithesis by Greg Bahnsen (Gary DeMar). We need more books of this nature.

2.Presup must use a greater variety of simpler arguments not directly pertaining to epistemology.

The unbeliever cannot find intelligibility in anything if he or she is consistent. Human dignity and free will are just two areas that I have seen explored with great results in terms of presenting presup arguments that are not completely epistemological. We should seek to tap into many more arguments of this nature. There is more room for putting arguments of this kind that do not directly pertain to logic or induction into simpler terms. We do not need to dumb down our method, but we do not need to remove it so far from human experience that no one cares either.

3.Presup must have its terms unpacked for clarity and comprehension by the layperson.

Terms are nice for those in the know to quickly summarize a deeper point but they can easily turn others away. I do not doubt that many beginning presuppers get into the middle of debates and find some mantra they have been repeating getting challenged by their opponent with no response being able to be made by them. The great task of breaking our terms down into common language and explaining what they mean for the apologetic encounter is almost completely before us and not behind.

4.Presup must stop being used almost exclusively against materialistic atheism.

It is cool to point out that logic does not smell like dung or taste like chicken, but for those who want to subscribe to some weird two-worlds doctrine there is not much of an argument there. You can also find this argument in many non-presup books. Let us be honest, atheists are fun to debate and usually make themselves ready for any opportunity to debate with us, but atheism is hardly the position of most unbelievers we encounter each and every day. We need more literature, more debates, and more arguments pertaining to other versions of unbelieving thought. The method is made to appear weak and incapable of dealing with other views when it is focused so much upon atheism and is so rarely placed against other positions.

5.Presup must be taught exclusively to greater extent by “new blood” not necessarily connected to narrower Reformed movements.

Many of the finer groups who adhere to the presup method have seen it lead them into many other areas of related thought that they often find entailed by presup. I do not have a problem with this, but it does draw the discussion quickly away from presup as an apologetic. Further, there are not many very well known apologists who are also strong proponents of presup. There are also not many obscure individuals or groups promoting the method. We need people willing to learn and to teach presup.

6.Presup must be taught in churches.

If the Word of God is being taught, so is presup. We should bring this out of the texts we preach and teach when they pertain to such subjects as anthropology, epistemology, creation, Lordship, Christology, etc. Our people are hungry for a certainty in the things of God, and Sunday School or small groups is another great avenue for teaching how to defend the faith biblically rather than according to worldly standards. We need to take the opportunities God gives us.

7.Presup must be used to critique evidentialist methods.

If people do not think that their method is broken, then they will not see any reason to fix it, much less replace it. This one is not going to win a lot of friends, but we must cast secular “science”, opinions of liberal theologians, mysticism, spiritualism, Aristotelian and Roman Catholic philosophy out of our churches yesterday. Aside from being offensive to God, traditional arguments do not work anyway! Our people need something more sure than this, and they have it, they just need to be shown that this is the case.

8.Presup must be taught from the Bible.

If presup is truly the biblical method of defending the faith, then there is absolutely no excuse for the absence of Scripture from so many presentations of it. There are loads of passages in Scripture which directly bear upon our apologetic that require exegesis and application in a more explicitly apologetic way. We read, memorize, study, and overlook relevant passages all the time! There is a massive amount of extremely careful work to be done in this regard.

Are sunglasses evidence of God?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Psalms 19:1-4 (ESV)

The other day I jumped into a conversation about the presuppositional approach to hermeneutics. One of the individuals involved in the conversation was talking a bit about the use of evidence and saying that evidences are not always bad.

Well, I must agree. Evidences are never “bad”! It is when someone fails to utilize evidences properly that they can become problematic. My contention in the discussion was that the presuppositionalist is more evidentialist than the evidentialist. The evidence of God is not hidden in syllogistic arguments. Everything is evidence of the existence of God. I cited the relevant portion of Psalm 19 above and received one nod. I could not tell whether the other gentleman was being sarcastic or not, but he grinned and exclaimed, “Your sunglasses are evidence!” and pointed to the other student before walking off.

Of course, I find nothing absurd about holding that sunglasses are evidence of the existence of God. Indeed, everything is created by Him and for Him and hence His glory is revealed in all. There is the intuitive need to locate the origin of the created matter itself which is used in making sunglasses. There is the human ingenuity which went into designing and forming a pair of sunglasses. There is the purpose for which sunglasses are made and their function which meshes with this purpose, in and of itself enough to boggle the mind in terms of the science involved. Surely these constitute evidential characteristics of a pair of sunglasses, howbeit only when viewed according to the proper presuppositions of the Christian worldview. We need cut a bit deeper to get at the root of the problem for those who still do not see the glasses as evidencing the God whom we serve.

There are the reliable senses by which our perceptions of sunglasses are formed, the universals by which we categorize our experience and the trustworthy memory with which we approach these and other cognitive processes. There are the extrapolations contingent upon the inductive processes that fill our every thought of sunglasses and there is the language we use to communicate to others regarding sunglasses, even if it is to scoff at the idea that they constitute evidence of the existence and nature of God.

Every fact of existence screams about God. Sunglasses are not excluded, and what we have reviewed barely scratches the surface. Sunglasses constitute massive problems for those who would rebel against God. The evidence does not get us to our conclusions. We all have our presuppositions by which we evaluate the evidence. We must thus argue transcendentally. We may start from any fact and ask, “What are the preconditions for intelligibility in this instance? How do we come to understand this fact at all?” This world is created, sustained, and controlled by God and hence we argue on His turf. There is none other to argue on.

Come now, sunglasses evidence our Creator? Yes, and such is an extremely malleable bullet to bite.

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" - Abraham Kuyper

The failure of unbelief with respect to induction illustrated by Mitch LeBlanc.

Mitch LeBlanc continues to espouse his inconsistencies regarding induction in his most recent post found here - http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/further-thoughts-and-clarifications-on-induction-and-the-christian-god/

Mitch Admits His Problem

He writes, “…I simply mean to suggest that one should be as skeptical about the problem of induction as the problem is skeptical of inductive reasoning itself.”
With this he begs the question. I pointed out that he did so in his previous post and he continues to do so now. The existence of debate regarding a given topic does not entail skepticism. If he is unsure of whether or not there is a Problem of Induction then we can go to the mat on the issue, but to mention that the topic is debated as though this puts some argument in his corner or makes the presentation of an alleged problem go away is simply a mistake. In his most recent post Mitch makes it clear that he does agree with me that there is a Problem of Induction anyway, so why is he wasting time throwing around the names of philosophers who think there may not be a problem and expressing a feigned skeptical attitude toward there being a problem?

If Mitch wants to entertain the idea that invalid reasoning is not unreasonable and hence is rational then he may go ahead and do so, but aside from a quick allusion to this one time in his original post he has not developed a defense of such an idea.
Mitch believes that there is a Problem of Induction and writes, “I think there is an inability to justify our extrapolations of past events into the future”. Now that he has finally admitted this, the readers will expect him to at least provide an answer to the problem after all of the trouble he has put us through in inconsistently presenting us with a multitude of positions he does not hold in the face of the presuppositionalist’s challenge to do so. What is his answer?

His Proposed Solution; Pragmatism

“Admittedly, I am still making my way through Reichenbach’s writings on probability theorem but I agree with him that if there are any true inductions our consistent use of induction will eventually discover them. This justification is pragmatic in nature but certainly a reason for it’s continued use.”

Mitch appears quite confident that finishing a book will provide him with his answer as to a sort of justification for induction. (So much for unbiased reading!) Just from the little bit he pulls from Reichenbach we find a number of problems. The method is itself based upon induction and hence falls prey to Hume’s original objection. We will come to the same conclusions, using Reichenbach’s method, that we will come to if we do not. Even this begs the question though, as it is likewise based on induction. We cannot state that the future will resemble the past in terms of the allegedly pragmatic nature of induction without using induction. We might cut out the heart of a virgin every year to keep the world from ending and proclaim that the practice obviously works, but few (I hope none reading this) will accept the claim.

Scientific Knowledge Impossible

We must be very clear about what Mitch is stating with regard to science. If he is consistent, we cannot know anything through science, not even with probability. Thankfully he seems to understand this as opposed to most people who tout the “falsifiability” line while overlooking its origins. Mitch writes that “Scientific theories cannot be supported, but they can be corroborated by virtue of their falsifiability.” Again, notice that we cannot have knowledge through science. He goes on to explain what he means by theories being corroborated. He writes, “That is to say, the better of two theories will be the one which has been subjected to more falsification attempts and has not yet been falsified”. I find the assertion that a theory somehow becomes more certain through more testing dubious and the assertion that a theory which has undergone more tests is the better theory dubious as well.

Square One

Interestingly, Mitch does not apply Popper’s method outside the realm of science. He is thus left clinging to a pragmatic attempt at justifying induction and Popper’s problem filled method in the realm of science. He is right that I do not find his proposed solutions very convincing. By his own admission, he cannot know anything through science and is unreasonable in his use of induction. After all the fuss that has been made it turns out that Mitch falls right back into the grip of the Problem of Induction. Why does Mitch expect his next glass of water to remain water anymore than he expects it to turn into merlot?

Failed Attack On Christianity

As for the remainder of Mitch's response, it relies heavily upon continued misunderstandings or misrepresentations of presuppositionalism. The argument is presuppositional in nature and epistemology revelational. The God of the Bible has communicated to us. The Word of God is the final authority, it cannot be held up to a higher authority. The Word of God is the ultimate presupposition, as opposed to proximate. God does not change, does not lie, governs the world and hence justifies our use of induction through causing creation to exhibit non-absolute regularities and fashioning our minds in such a way that they function in accordance with the operations of nature with the result that we come to know His world though not necessarily with certainty. If Mitch wants to argue with someone who claims to have some different presupposition then he should go elsewhere. It is not only impossible for me to give up my presupposition as has been clearly shown in the confusion Mitch offers in response to an old problem of philosophy, it would also be sinful for me to do so.


Mitch is showing himself to be incapable of rejecting my worldview without losing his claims to knowledge and rationality. He is also exhibiting inconsistencies which are indicative of failed argument. Having made this clear I would call upon Mitch to turn from his would-be lordship over himself and submit instead to the Lordship of Christ Jesus of Scripture who upholds the universe by His power, was crucified for sins, buried, and raised again on the third day in accordance with Scripture. There is forgiveness for sins of foolishness in Christ the Lord.

With A Wave of His Wand: How Mitch LeBlanc Answers the Problem of Induction


Mitch LeBlanc wrote an indirect response to me regarding the Problem of Induction wherein he relied heavily upon Michael Martin to deal with the presuppositionalist utilization of the famous problem. He apparently recognizes, to some extent, the alleged challenge set forth. My response to his post may be found here - http://choosinghats.blogspot.com/2009/09/mitch-leblancs-proposed-solution-to.html . He has now written another post here - http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/inductive-reasoning-and-the-christian-god/ wherein he states that I have missed the point of his previous article. He claims that his post is not intended to be a solution to the Problem of Induction and that it is debatable as to whether or not there is such a problem. In this post I will address one error on my part from my previous post before showing that Mitch’s most recent response consists of little more than hand waiving.

My Bad

In rereading Mitch’s post, it does appear that I misunderstood him concerning the quote regarding induction in science and the possibility of the sun not rising. The error is on my part and I am sorry for the confusion. It does not appear to have played a massive role in my post so I will move on.

Ignoring The Problem

Mitch writes, “Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem, but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

“Nowhere in my article did I attempt to provide a solution for the problem…”

There appears to be no pragmatic difference between arguments from philosophers who try to dismiss the Problem of Induction and those that are set forth in an attempt to resolve the problem in a stricter sense. One way to resolve a problem is to show that it is not a problem. Both groups of arguments are set forth to show that ultimately, there is no problem. The works of the philosophers mentioned by Mitch are grouped with literature addressing the Problem of Induction. If there were not an alleged problem there would not be a reason for these philosophers to address the topic at all. It may be that there is no problem, but Mitch has not shown this. Indeed, what Mitch actually does is asserts that there is debate about whether or not there is a Problem of Induction and then assumes without any argument at all that there is nota Problem of Induction.

“…but rather echo the fact that even the idea that there IS such a problem is still debated.”

Also, “…the citing of various names is to show that the specific philosophical area we’re speaking of is still hotly debated!”

If Mitch wants to play the role of philosopher he will need to move quickly past this strange reasoning where mentioning that something is debated somehow makes it go away in favor of his own position. When Mitch writes, “As it stands then, presuppositionalists are simply bending the evidence when they present this idea that there certainly is a problem of induction and even moreso when they assert that they have the solution”, he blatantly begs the question. Mitch has not provided us with an argument that there is no problem. It must be pointed out that the presuppositionalist is not similarly begging the question or “bending the evidence”. Hume wrote on the problem, Russell wrote on the problem, Bahnsen wrote on the problem, I have written on the problem, and now Mitch himself has written on the problem. If it is not a problem at all, then please, show us why it is not. If it is a problem, provide us with a solution. Whether we leave this distinction or do away with it is rather unimportant for our purposes. Mitch has not provided a response to what has been raised regarding induction. Mitch misses my point. Naming philosophers is not argumentation. Stating that something is debatable is also not argumentation. I will leave it to the imaginations of the readers to spell out the results of an application of the slippery slope to this type of response used in the context of supposed philosophical discourse!


We may have reason to disregard the entirety of the discussion thus far, for Mitch writes, “In fact, with regard to Science I agree with Popper’s falsifiability criterion and his conclusion that science relies primarily on deductive reasoning”. One of the biggest reasons Popper developed his philosophy was in response to the Problem of Induction. Mitch’s view of science may be incompatible with his argument that there is no such problem, as the view he holds is itself a result of taking the Problem of Induction seriously. Are we to agree with Popper that there are some real concerns about induction, or are we to agree with the other philosophers Mitch lists?
Where is the compatibility between the statement about induction that Mitch has written, “the uniformity of nature…is used in inductive reasoning” and the views of the pragmatists and Popper? Mitch must be rather confused. He appears to be simply throwing out names and views and hoping one of them sticks. He makes statements like that above concerning induction and how it works which aligns him with the answer to the problem Hume refuted then says that he is not trying to answer the problem because there is not one by appealing to pragmatists without actually presenting any of their arguments then jumps to accepting the view of Popper that was briefly touched on above. What exactly are we supposed to come to believe through all of these posts?

Wrong With Martin...Again

Mitch writes that, “…the relevance of quoting Martin on his analysis of Hume was specifically because Hume is the primary source of Bahnsen’s critique on induction. It stands to reason then that if Bahnsen is quoting Hume and misunderstanding what Hume meant, then either Bahnsen must abandon his advocacy of Hume’s ‘problem of induction’, appeal to another philosopher or reformulate the problem himself.”

I encourage the reader to check my original response to Martin’s quote. The quote is full of problems that Mitch just overlooks, the most significant being that, “…this observation Martin makes is not available for taking by Mitch, as he has already stated that we ‘owe this skepticism to the likes of Bertrand Russell and David Hume as both of these philosophers raised important skeptical questions about the usage of inductive reasoning’”. My original treatment of the quote shows several problems with what Martin would have us believe regarding Hume. We can go through the exegesis if it is necessary. Martin is wrong. I would presume that Bahnsen understood the relationship of Hume to the Problem of Induction in much the same way that I do. That is, Hume presented the problem better and popularized it. As for the latter part of Mitch’s assertion, if Bahnsen is misunderstanding yet quoting Hume and still presenting a problem then he has reformulated the problem. Mitch has no need to run through such hypotheticals as he has not shown that Bahnsen is misunderstanding Hume. Most importantly, Mitch is not responding to Bahnsen, he is responding to me.

More Unfamiliarity

Mitch writes that he is “disappointed” with my response to his objections to the Christian response to induction, finds it “largely superficial” and calls it “patent silliness”. Frankly, I find his "approach" to the Problem of Induction rather silly, but this does not constitute argumentation anymore than writing lists of the names of philosophers does. Mitch, like many others I speak to regarding this topic, is confused because he likely does not have a good understanding of the problem. The principle of uniformity cannot be disproven through an appeal to experience. Just because our expectations may turn out to be wrong in some given case or cases does not mean that our expectations will not obtain in others. The problem for Mitch is that he has not justified his use of the principle of uniformity which he states is necessary to inductive reasoning with the result that he has no reason at all to give us for having the expectations he does. This line of thought is explicitly stated by Russell. To put it in very simple terms, Mitch has not shown us how we can know that nature will continue to exhibit any regularities at all. I can. Miracles are by definition rare occurrences.

Still Waiting On A Response To The Problem Of Induction

“As for my ‘grasping for problems that are not there’, I’d simply contend that presuppositionalism has a monopoly on this point and I dare not attempt to take share away from the stockholders.”

Mitch has taken the time to write two blog posts “in response” to me about a supposedly non-existent problem but cannot seem to give a very straight answer on where he stands regarding the alleged problem or how it is not actually a problem for him, though he has alluded to several attempts at resolutions which differ significantly from the response of a man whose rhetorical style he here mimics.
The remainder of Mitch’s response stems from his misunderstanding regarding the basics of presuppositional apologetics. I offer this now only as an assertion and hope to come back to it in future posts. The short version is that Mitch does not seem to get that presuppositionalists believe the Bible.