Oct 26, 2011

thought for the day

If moral improvement has actually occurred over the centuries (if norms of the past were less advanced or ethical than our own), there is a moral standard by which cultures may be judged - there is a standard towards which improvement has occurred.

moral facts exist.

Likewise, if you believe moral improvement has actually occurred over the centuries,

you believe that moral facts exist.

As with anything, you may be mistaken in your beliefs, but nevertheless you believe them. Much as you believe that the sun is a source of heat for the earth. etc.

From whence these moral facts?

Oct 24, 2011

after all, a Christian can't be a real philosopher, right?

the debate over the debate over whether R. Dawkins should debate W.L. Craig has het up.

This is a fair response to it I think.

I am a little tired of the cheerleaders on both sides. Craig is not perfect, but he seems to me a nice enough guy who presents classical Christian apologetical arguments in a rigorous-yet-accessible way to audiences of university students, academics and other interested people. He is a gifted communicator and probably rightly widely regarded as the foremost defender of Christian theism today. His well-publicised debates are backed up with scholarly and popular books and articles, particularly concerning the metaphysical implication of the origin of the universe and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dawkins has done some well respected work in evolutionary biology, but his main area of influence has been through his popular science books and of course his more recent railing against religion. He is an effective communicator and like Craig is charismatic with a wide following. However, I cannot take him seriously as an academic outside his field of expertise in biology or as a public intellectual rather than a polemicist, given his reluctance to actually interact with the arguments he claims do not exist or to have refuted . One notable exception was in his debates with John Lennox; yet in these he is widely regarded as having come across as the least persuasive of the two. Supporters of his who have imbibed the 'new atheist' hatred of religion and religious people need to calm down and learn to have a reasonable academic discussion - even with those who pointedly disagree - or they will face accusations of insularism, anti-intellectualism and cowardice.

Religion is here to stay and the New Atheism probably is too in some form; ridicule and invective from either side (as guilty of it as I may be) strikes me as a fairly unproductive route and a highly frustrating one when the actual issues are covered up by personal attacks and ignorant bluster. If anything is to sort out the fundamental misunderstandings contributing so greatly to this cultural divide, perhaps it is numerous instances of friendly chats over coffee, combined with a little prayer and a challenge to actually explore the claims being made by each 'side' for oneself. I for one am happy to engage in this project!

Oct 22, 2011

accidental coincidences

Are the gospels reliable as historical accounts? One line of evidencing bolstering their claims are coincidences between them which were not designed, for instance where one gospel incidentally fills in gaps in what another has reported.

Prof Tim McGrew is an authority on 'evidence', being known as an academic in the field of the philosophy of science. He is also one of the world's foremost experts on historical Christian apologetics (i.e. past apologists) and particularly, apologetics which makes use of historical argument to show the plausibility and truth of the gospel and related claims about Jesus.

This 10 min youtube clip is worth watching, at least taking a peek at to get the gist.

Or for a paragraph summary of the idea, see here: http://historicalapologetics.org/blunt-john-james/

More on this after exams perhaps.

Oct 20, 2011

truly revealing

Hey procrastinators, check this out - I think you'll enjoy it!

so ..., we throw our pain at this canvas
of life

again and again we throw our pain
at it

and it all seems so random, pointless

and it sloshes and reverberates

but we have fun; break the dreariness
of life!

told it’s all absurd we learn to laugh
at it

but this too is fleeting, shallow,

‘til ... the great Painter flips our canvas

revealing Jesus, the true meaning
of life.

Oct 18, 2011

Experts, experts - get your experts!

I'm intrigued by the fact that everyone else is an expert on the economy (& the effectiveness of the free market and such), but as an economics student I have no idea. Sure, I have various prejudices and suspicions, but in actually arguing something, I'd hardly know where to start. What caused the financial crisis - lack of govt regulation or over-regulation?? Many people making bold claims about this don't seem to even be aware that the alternate possibility is being seriously suggested.

I'm the last person to help out here. And I will very soon have a degree in this stuff, more or less.

God help us all.

Oct 13, 2011

decentralised power structure

In case anyone likes history or, perhaps, navel-gazing. This is from Sydney and I find it interesting how useful history is and how it can repeat itself in some ways. Convergence perhaps (reading Simon Conway Morris' "Life's Solution" has got me thinking along these lines.)

"The idea of a faculty system for the SUEU was broached for the first time in 1945; teams of students to minister in schools and on missions were established in 1946; as well as a more elaborate sub-committee structure for administration. Of course, the danger which these moves were seeking to prevent was that of nominalism ..." http://www.sueu.org.au/about/history/building_foundations

Oct 11, 2011


"You will not be able to extemporize good thinking unless you have been in the habit of thinking and feeding your mind with abundant and nourishing food. ... Take it as a rule without exception, that to be able to overflow spontaneously you must be full."
Charles Spurgeon

Oct 3, 2011

why an atheist I am not

(image thanks to Wikipedia. Only the vaguest idea what it means.) I don't like how this blog is formatting itself now, but there are more important things in life. Like death, life after death, life before death, etc.

This is the draft form of a talk that was spoken today.

I take it that to accept atheism is to believe the claim that God does not exist and neither do gods, goddesses or, presumably other supernatural beings.

I am not an atheist as I have found - and continue to find - Christian faith to be, (rather than ugly or irrational) – in fact, both attractive and coherent. I have been privileged to have been raised in a Christian home, attending Church since the age of 4. I came to know I am not a good person. I have found a need in my own life for what God offers in Jesus Christ; and this really has been life-changing, in changing and continuing to change my actions, thoughts, priorities, hopes and even my interests. I was pleased to be baptised at the start of 2009. So I am a Christian.

Atheism is a hopeless philosophy. It offers little; in the realms of ultimate explanation, – in science! - and in aid of human flourishing. Three fields of interest to me, I think seek a grounding:

Firstly, “reason” and rationality

*The importance of seeking truth; makes sense on theism, less so given naturalism. In seeking truth over self-interest, as we do, we borrow from a non-naturalistic worldview, in line with the Christ-focussed mottos of some of the world’s top universities. As a summary, God grounds rationality - it is far from clear that materialistic processes adequately account even for rational belief formation, let alone the question I raise of the legitimacy of a search for truth, prioritising it over falsehood.

*Also, atheism is not the obvious default metaphysic. A question for you all - is the universe an array of brute facts – a collection of matter/energy and its regularities, (and perhaps too mathematical facts and/or moral facts) – or does it all have a transcendent (and even personal?) source? Which is the correct explanation? To simply begin and end with naturalism is to take too much for granted – (indeed, the whole universe.)

Secondly, science

*Science is popular here. The fact that we can do science ought raise questions. The world is ordered in a particular way, the human mind is ordered in a particular way – so as to comprehend a fundamental, mathematically structured reality. These orderings coincide and we can do science. Brute fact, or God-given?

*Also the evidence for Fine-tuning of the physical constants (leading to the development of rational moral agents) is evidence for theism, in that it is more probable given God than in God’s absence.

Third category, “society” (and human flourishing.)

*The existence of human rights and dignity and a desire for justice do not find their natural home within atheism.

*The phenomena of evil - and death point away from atheism. Often when horrors perversely done in the name of God are rightly condemned, a notion of evil is assumed. Yet naturalistic atheism has no answer to evil and indeed no room for it; it denies its existence. Atheism too, has no answer to death; indeed, all, it seems to me, on atheism, is finally meaningless – we are simply star dust perhaps with some pathetic illusion of personality or importance - and while that might seem pretty in a fleeting way, rocks and rubbish dumps are equally star dust with us - and with the same fate – some collections of atoms get ‘lucky’ briefly, but it all comes to an end.

So, I’ve surveyed Reason, Science and Society and touched on the intellectual cost of atheism; however my personal focus and the motivating factor for not merely holding an abstract belief, but living in a particular way, is Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are somewhat of an enigma for a naturalistic account of the universe. It might seem to be convenient for some if he had never existed, but this simply will not do, on the evidence. Of course, if Jesus was not raised, this faith is utterly futile, but if he might’ve been, then this conversation is very worthwhile.