September 27, 2013

Friday in the wild (Contending for God remix): September 27, 2013

Howdy. This is a sort of "special edition" of Friday in the Wild—with a theme.

I recently became part of the blogging team of Canadian apologetics ministry Faith Beyond Belief. My contribution so far: a discussion of absolutist and incremental approaches to abortion legislation. New material is in the pipe, I promise! And some of it may be slightly reworked and reposted here if it is apropos.

FBB is part of the Canadian Apologetics Coalition of blogs, which is currently in the midst of a series titled "Contending for God." As David Haines puts it in his introduction to the series:

We will be looking at the question of whether or not God exists, and if God does exist, what are the implications for us humans?

Although I'm not taking part in the series personally, I can at least do my own small part to promote the series, by linking to and aggregating them. So, without further ado . . .

My friend Ian started the series ten days ago with an introductory article: Is God Welcome in Canada?, discussing the trend toward secularization, particularly in young Canadians:

One way to measure devotion to God . . . is to examine how often Canadians practice their faith by attending weekly religious gatherings. Sociologist Dr. Reginald Bibby found that, "in the last decade, the proportion of people who worship at least once a month has remained steady at around 30%." But Bibby argues that these attendees were not committed to faith or the church. Rather, he characterizes these religious attendees as "the politically undecided": they haven't dropped out and occasionally drop [in]." In fact, only 27% of Canadians were "churched"–people who attended every week and were committed to their faith's teachings. That means less than half of Canadians who claimed to believe in God actually attended a weekly gathering where they could learn about God.

On September 18, Paul Buller wrote about what it means to search for God:

How many times have you heard the dare, "If God exists he could strike me with lightning right now?" The objector then boldly struts around, lightning-bolt-strike-free. What does this little test really prove? . . .

To declare that God does not exist because one specific test done by one specific person on one specific day did not pan out in precisely the way that person predicted it ought to pan out is, shall we say, a little presumptuous? Such tests more or less attempt to reduce God to the status of a pet monkey that does tricks on command; hardly worthy of the title God, if he did oblige.

[Read Searching for God]

This was followed by the series' first post on philosophical arguments for God's existence: Anselm's ever-intriguing ontological argument, by Shawn Ferguson on September 20. I share Shawn's consternation about this argument. Is it sound, or is it semantic tomfoolery? And yet, even professional philosophers are still debating it, 935 years after it was formulated. That's some staying power for a mere word game.

I remember the first time I encountered Anselm's ontological argument. It took me some time wrestling with it in my mind before I could grasp its intricacies. When I finally started to comprehend its implications, I went back and forth for months in my opinion of it. At times I felt it was an ingenious and intriguing proof of God’s existence; at other times I thought it was the connivance of a fiendish intellect, bent on twisting words to his advantage in a roguish attempt to baffle the mind; at yet other times I thought the argument the product of a well-meaning but altogether confused individual. Some ten years after the fact, when going through the enigmatic proof in all its manifold manifestations, I still get the strange impression that I’ve been the victim of some wily ruse, although I think it sound in many of its forms.

[Read The Ontological Argument: An Enigmatic Proof]

On September 23 came David Haines' look at Thomas Aquinas' "First Way" (i.e. of five ways that God's existence can be proven). David's philsophical training shows here, but don't let that stop you from reading.

Before we look at the premises, we must first consider a principle that is foundational to this argument—the principle of causality. This principle states that anything that does not have in its own being that which sufficiently explains the totality of its existence must receive its existence from another (an efficient cause) that exists by, and for, itself. Briefly put, this principle maintains that nothing comes from nothing, or that "Every being that begins to exist needs a cause." To deny this principle would be to claim either that it is possible for a thing to be the cause of its own existence, or that things can come into being without cause. With this principle in mind let us take a look at the premises.

[Read A Defense of Aquinas's First Way]

Next came Justin Wishart's post this past Wednesday, critiquing Christopher Hitchens' view of God as a totalitarian dictator:

Hitchens not only denies that God exists, but he wouldn't even want God to exist. God is like a divine "big brother" who is continually spying on you to see if you mess up; when you do you will be judged. This is not a loving god, but a cruel and petty god. This would create the situation where rewards are given to people who submit and are loyal to the commands of this celestial dictator, and if you do not submit and are not loyal you will be damned. One can envision Nazi Germany, and that god is a "heavenly Hitler."

And does this not make sense? I think it does, and I can see why people would not want this god to be real. Think about it, god is all alone and comes up with the idea that he should make people. Obviously he needs something; possibly he is lonely, bored, or both. He then creates some people and tells them they must submit, and if they don't he’ll make them pay. Who would want such a god? We can even find many verses in the Bible that would seem to support this argument. How is the Christian to respond? I propose that the answer is found within the Trinity.

[Read Christopher Hitchens vs. the Trinity]

Finally, today, Tim Barnett contributed his post on the moral argument for God:

[W]e can conclude that if God does not exist, then objective morality simply does not exist. But is there any reason to think that objective morals do exist?

As evidence for this point, you need not look any further then your own moral intuition. For example, is it wrong for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons on its own civilians, including children? All of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will agree that this is a disturbing moral evil. Frankly, if you don’t agree, you don’t need a philosophical argument; you need psychological help.

Now when we say that using chemical weapons on children is wrong are we simply describing our personal preference or are we saying there is something objectively morally wrong about the act itself? Are we simply saying that we don’t like it, or that it is wrong independent of our like and dislikes?

Well if you agree that using toxic gas and nerve agents on children is objectively wrong then objective morality—a moral standard outside any individual—exists.

[Read Can Canadians Be Good Without God?]

That's not the whole series: it continues, with a post every couple of days, until October 4. I may highlight each new post as it arrives, or do another omnibus like this one next Friday, but either way I'll make sure they get a mention. Until then, Share and Enjoy!