Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Finding common ground

It’s impossible to reason with anybody unless you already agree with them about something. Before any argument can have any effect on another person, they must agree with the premises. If they don’t already agree with the premises, then you have to begin with more basic premises that they do agree with.

Sadducees only accepted the first five books as scripture. They did not recognize the writings and the prophets as scripture. Since resurrection was not in the Torah (the first five books), they rejected resurrection. There are three explicit references to resurrection in the Old Testament—Daniel 12, Isaiah 26, and Ezekiel 37. When Jesus debated with the Sadducees about the resurrection, he didn’t quote any of these passages. Instead, he quoted from the Torah. Jesus began with something the Sadducees already agreed with, and he made his case from that premise.

Paul did the same thing when speaking at the Areopogus. Since the Greeks he was speaking to didn’t accept any of the Bible as scripture, Paul didn’t begin with the Bible. Rather, he began with an idea they already accepted. He pointed to a statue dedicated to an unknown god, and argued from there to the true God.

This procedure makes all the sense in the world. If a person doesn’t accept the authority of the Bible (or some part of the Bible), then it doesn’t make sense to appeal to the Bible (or that part of the Bible) in order to make your case to that person. You have to do it some other way.

It’s a good idea, when you’re arguing with somebody, to find out a little about what they believe and why they believe it. Rather than come out swinging with your arguments, ask them questions instead. Feel them out a little. Not only will this put you in a better position to reason with them, but it’s also a lot less off-putting than mowing them down with your arguments from the get-go. Of course when you're asking the questions, you have to be careful not to turn it into an interrogation. That's also off-putting. Once people are on the defensive, all listening has stopped.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Is Jesus a compatibalist?

Compatibalism is the view that we always act according to our strongest motivation. All of the choices we make are determined by our character and the dispositions, and inclinations of the heart.

Libertarianism is the view that there are no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws that determine what our choice will be. Our choices arise spontaneously out of the self-determination of the will.

Compatibalists and libertarians both use the term "free will," but they both mean something different by it, as you can see from the definitions above. There are a few things Jesus said which seem to indicate that Jesus was a compatibalist. Here are some things he said:

Matthew 7:17-18 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit."

Matthew 12:33-35 "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil."

Luke 6:43 "For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit; nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

when will i post again?

In case anybody checks here often, I thought I ought to let you know that I don't plan to post again until Monday. I'm on vacation right now, and I'm endulging in my obsession of making bows. Also, I got a couple of kittens, and I'm spending a lot of time with them. Here's a picture of them. Their names are Psyche and Aristotle.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 9

Edwards argues that it is agreeable to the common notions people have about morality, praise, and blame, that moral necessity is consistent with praise and blame. The common meaning of faultiness is simply a person having his heart wrong and doing wrong from his heart. Most people don’t form their concept of blameworthiness or praiseworthiness from an in depth study of metaphysics and philosophical subtleties. If they did, then the majority of us would never have any notion of moral praise or blame. These are some of the first notions children have. They form their notion of desert from experience and a natural sense of right and wrong which we call conscience.

Common people and children think any faulty deed is a person’s own act, and it’s the person’s own act if it was done by choice. They have no notion that an action begins accidentally without cause or reason, because that goes against the common sense notion that nothing begins to be without a cause or reason.

Everybody thinks a faulty or praiseworthy deed is done out of liberty, but liberty consists in doing what you please, not in doing in a state of indifference with no preference at all. The common notion is that when a person proceeds with the fullest inclination, he does so with the greatest freedom.

If common sense dictated that praise and blame are inconsistent with moral necessity, then the closer we are to necessity because of a strong propensity or inclination, the less worthy we are of praise or blame. Common sense would dictate that the stronger you desire to do something, the less commendable or blamable you are for doing it.

But just the reverse is true. The stronger the love of virtue and inclination to do good, the more commendable. The stronger the malice, the more blamable the acts are that come from that malice.

If mankind’s common notion of a blameworthy act is an act not determined by any antecedent bias or motive, then the greater hand these motives have in determining the acts, the less blameworthy, and the less hand, the more blameworthy. But people commonly think the more influence a motive has in determining an act, the more blameworthy.

The end.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 8

According to the argument from determinism, all of our actions are determined by our motives and inclinations, and since they are determined, we aren’t free, and since we aren’t free, we can have no moral obligations. But most people, even if they reject determinism, will agree that it’s possible for a motive to be so strong that the mind cannot help but yield to it, and liberty is destroyed in that case. If so, then half the strength goes half way in destroying liberty. Any degree at all in the motivation destroys liberty in proportion to the strength of that motive. If one degree doesn’t destroy liberty at all, then neither does two degrees, because nothing doubled is nothing. If there is nothing in the nature of motive that is at all opposite to liberty, then the greatest degree of it cannot hurt liberty. But if any amount of motive hurts liberty, then the least amount hurts liberty (and therefore virtue) to some degree. Therefore, the stronger the motive, the less virtue, and no motive is best of all.

Part 9

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 7

Liberty is inconsistent with virtuous or vicious habits or dispositions, because to have a habitual bias is to not be indifferent. If necessity is inconsistent with praise and blame, and if some inclination is so strong, the will follows necessarily, then when the will acts, it’s not blameworthy or praiseworthy.

But every bias brings a degree of moral inability. The stronger the bias, the more difficult it is to resist it. If moral inability is inconsistent with virtue or vice, then the more evil a disposition is, the less blameworthy a person is, or the more excellent the disposition, the less praiseworthy.

The more humility, meekness, patience, mercy, gratitude, generosity, and benevolence a person has, the less praiseworthy they are. The more ungrateful, profane, treacherous, envious, cruel, and prideful a person is, the less blameworthy they are. All of these dispositions bias the will and throw it out of equilibrium, destroying indifference and moral accountability with it.

There can really be no such thing as virtue or vice in God, angels, or men, because no propensity, disposition, or habit can be virtuous or vicious. The reason they cannot be virtuous or vicious is because they destroy indifference, which is supposedly necessary for virtue and vice. If habits can be neither virtuous nor vicious, then the exercise of them can’t be virtuous or vicious either.

Part 8

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Argument against morality from determism, part 6

If the liberty of the will consists in indifference, and if an action can only be virtuous if performed in a state of liberty, then an action can only be virtuous if performed in a state of indifference. The more indifferent, the more virtuous, because the more indifferent, the more liberty in the will.

But this is against common sense, which dictates that virtue lies in what is contrary to indifference. The stronger the inclination to do good, the further from indifference; the more virtuous the heart, the more praiseworthy the action that comes from it. Edwards writes that “To have a virtuous heart, is to have a heart that favours virtue, and is friendly to it, and not one perfectly cold and indifferent about it” (Part III, Sec IV).

In fact, Edwards argues that in some cases indifference can be vicious. For example, if I were indifferent about helping a loved one in deep distress, and did not have any inclination to help, then my indifference would be a vice. Also, if I were indifferent about any suggestion that I kill my father, my indifference would be a vice.

Moreover, indifference is next door to committing a crime, because the next step is preponderation, and the slightest preponderation is choice. If a person is in perfect equilibrium, he is just as likely to do as to not do, and if we are always in equilibrium, then it would inevitably fall out that we would commit the crime as much as avoid it. Where’s the blame in that?

Part 7

Monday, May 16, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 5

Indifference is inconsistent with commands, because commands bias the will, throwing it out of its state of indifference. Commands prescribe what people ought and ought not to do. They only work if they give the person some motivation to act. That motive may be a sense of duty or obligation. If that sense of duty or obligation motivates the person to act, then the person is not acting out of indifference.

If commands do not bias the will, then they become superfluous. If we act out of indifference, then we are not motivated by any inclination to do right or wrong, and since we lack any intention of doing right or wrong, we cannot be worthy of praise or blame if we do them. If we do any of the requirements of commands at all, it is merely by a fluke, and therefore cannot really be called obedience. Nor can it be called disobedience if we happen not to do them. It would be superfluous, then, to require anything of people who remain in a state of indifference.

A command may require something of the will which the will is not inclined to do. If the will is not inclined to obey, then it has a moral inability to obey due to a lack of inclination. If evil inclinations excuse us from doing evil, then the stronger our desire to do evil, the less responsible we are for doing it. The more wicked a person is, the less we should blame him for doing wicked things.

This is contrary to common sense. Whenever we are injured because of what somebody else did, we always want to know if they meant to do it. Never do we accept the excuse that “It’s not my fault; I wanted to do it!” as if they are blamable if they did not mean to do it, and excused if they did mean to do it. The reason we want to know whether they meant us any harm is because we blame them if they acted out of an intention to harm, and we excuse them if they had no intention to harm us. Moral inability consists in disinclination and never excuses a person from disobedience.

Moral rules can only work if they produce motive to excite and determine the will. The stronger the conscience, the stronger the motive to do good, and the more inclined the will is to act morally. If moral rules did not incline the will to act morally, then moral rules could have no effect. They would be pointless. It follows that morality is incompatible with a liberty consisting of indifference.

Part 6

Friday, May 13, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 4

The argument from determinism holds that we are excused for our behavior on the basis that we were determined to act by some motive or inclination. In other words, we have a moral inability to do otherwise. If it’s true that moral inability excuses us, then the only way we can be morally accountable is if we are free from all influence of motives and inclinations. Liberty, then, would consist in indifference. The more we are under the influence of inclination, bias, motive, etc., the less liberty we have, and the less worthy we are of praise or blame. The less we are under the influence of inclinations, etc., the more liberty we have. So a person has the highest degree of liberty when he is totally indifferent.

Edwards argues that this is contrary to common sense, and that common sense tells us just the opposite. Virtue and vice consist in acting with good or evil intentions. Any act that comes out of total indifference can be worthy of neither praise nor blame.

If there are absolutely no antecedent conditions which determine the will, then any act of the will is a mere accident. It’s a spontaneous event that happens for no reason at all. Since accidents are spontaneous events, they cannot be regulated by law. Hence they cannot be subject to either praise or blame.

A choice without motive is a choice made for no reason at all. If the choice were made for some end, then the view of the end would be the motive, and the motive would be what determined the choice. But a soul that acts without motive or end seeks nothing, exerts no inclination, and desires nothing. It follows that it chooses nothing, and since there is no choice in the matter, there can be no virtue or vice.

Part 5

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Argument against morality from determinism, part 3

Jonathan Edwards, in his book on The Freedom of the Will, agrees that there is a necessary connection between motives and acts of the will such that the will is always determined to act according to the strongest motivation. He argues, however, that moral accountability is not only consistent with this connection, but that there could be no moral accountability without this connection.

Edwards also agrees that “ought” implies “can,” but he makes a distinction between a moral inability and a natural inability. A person who has no legs has a natural inability to walk. A person who has no desire to walk has a moral inability to walk. Edwards argues that while “ought” implies “can” in the natural sense, “ought” does not imply “can” in the moral sense. That is, a person who is physically unable to walk because he lacks legs can have no moral obligation to walk, but a person can have a moral obligation to walk if he is only unable to walk because he lacks the proper motive or inclination.

Edwards argues that the distinction between natural and moral inability is agreeable to the common notions of mankind. Everybody agrees that natural inability fully excuses, but nobody excuses a person just because they did exactly what they wanted to do. Even determinists make this distinction. They would resent a person who injured them because of being overcome with a bad temper more than they would resent a person who injured them because they were delirious or suffering from muscle spasms.

To illustrate this point, Edwards uses an analogy in which two prisoners were offered freedom and promotion if they would repent. Neither of them are able to repent, but for different reasons. The first was perfectly willing to repent, but was unable to, because he was chained up. The second was enabled to repent by being unchained, but he still couldn’t repent, because he was of such a vile disposition that it rendered him unwilling. Common sense tells us that there is a difference. One had a natural inability to repent, and the other had a moral inability. We would excuse the one with the natural inability, but we would not excuse the one with the moral inability.

Part 4

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Argument against morality from determism, part 2

According to the argument from determinism, there is no such thing as a man who freely jumps off a building and kills a woman. He was determined to do what he did by forces that were not under his control. He was not able to resist the causal influences of his neurological makeup or the influences of his desires, inclinations, and motivations. Hence, it was not his fault that he killed the woman. He could not help it. We can’t blame him for killing her.

Now I suspect that a person who makes an argument like this has to fight against his own intuitions. Suppose the person was walking through the woods and was struck and injured by a falling tree branch. He may be mad as a wet hen and curse the branch, but he wouldn’t really feel any personal resentment toward the branch, because he knows the branch was passive in the whole affair. It didn’t really choose to hit him. But suppose the person was walking through the woods, and suddenly somebody stepped out from behind the tree with a tree branch and hit him with it. I suspect that in a situation like that, the person would resent the one who hit him.

If the argument against morality is sound, then there really is no difference between the tree branch that fell and the man who attacked. Neither of them is at fault, because they were both deterministically caused to do what they did, and they couldn’t help it. We don’t resent people who injure us through no fault of their own, and we certainly don’t resent objects that injure us through no fault of their own.

A person who thinks nobody can be blamed for what they do, and yet resents people for what they do, is at odds with himself. His intuition tells him the person is at fault, but his argument tells him the person is not at fault. Our intuitions are often stronger than our arguments (see for example "The power of intuition" a couple of blogs back). Arguments are often rejected because they are counterintuitive, but the intuition that people are blamable clearly cannot be done away with even if one accepts the argument.

Part 3

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An argument against morality from determinism, part 1

There is an interesting argument against objective moral values that I heard from a guy I know. He said that whenever people act, their acts are the inevitable outcome of their motivations, and a person’s motivations are themselves the effects of things not under the control of the will, such as their neurological makeup, and social and environmental factors which contribute to our entire noetic structure. He argues that since this is the inescapable human condition, then we cannot have any moral obligations.

His argument seems to depend on the notion that “ought” implies “can.” In other words, the only way a person can have a moral obligation to do something is if they are able to do it. If they are not able to do it, then they can have no obligation to do it. Since our choices are determined by our motives, desires, and inclinations, then our choices aren’t free. We are not able to choose contrary to our motivations; therefore, we cannot be morally accountable for our actions.

This argument against morality strikes me as being self-refuting, because on the one hand, the conclusion is that there is no objective morality, but on the other hand, one of the premises in the argument is a moral principle. If there is no objective morality, then the premise is not true, and if the premise is not true, then the argument fails to show that there is no objective morality.

The intuition that “ought” implies “can” is a moral principle, because it defines fairness. It’s not fair to hold somebody accountable for something they could not help. Also, it tells us when we should require moral justification. We only require moral justification from people who are able to obey or disobey moral imperatives.

How do we know that the ought-implies-can principle is true? It can’t be proved. There is no empirical evidence for it. There are no premises which logically entail it. The principle can only be known by intuition. It is part of our moral intuition, because it informs us of when a person is blameworthy or praiseworthy. It informs us of when it is fair to hold somebody accountable for their actions.

Suppose, for example, that a man is thrown from a rooftop and lands on a woman and kills her. Our moral intuition tells us that the man has done nothing wrong, because though he resisted, he was not able to overcome the one who threw him off the rooftop, and having been thrown, he was not able to resist the force of gravity. Suppose, on the other hand, that the man was standing on the rooftop and freely chose to kill the woman by jumping off and landing on her. Since the man acted willfully, our moral intuitions tell us that he is blamable.

We would not be able to make this distinction if not for our moral intuitions, because it is a moral distinction. It is self-refuting, then, to rely on this distinction in order to argue against the existence of moral distinctions.

Part 2

Monday, May 09, 2005

The power of intuition

Sometimes the strongest philosophical arguments we make cannot overcome our intuition that tells us just the opposite.

A good example of this is the argument of Parmenides against the existence of the external world. He used Zeno's paradoxes to show that the external world is logically impossible. Zeno came up with four paradoxes of motion that supposedly prove that motion is impossible. Parmenides argued like this:

1. If the external world is real, then motion is possible.
2. Motion is not possible.
3. Therefore, the external world is not real.

The reason for the first premise is just that it's obvious when you look around you that there's motion going on. We see it continuously. But if motion is not possible, then what we're observing can't be real.

Philosophers have struggled for over two thousand years to solve Zeno's paradoxes. Some think it can be solved, and other think it can't. But hardly anybody really takes the argument seriously. As logical and sound as the argument may have been, we continue to believe in motion and in the external world. It's this confidence that the external world exists along with motion that fuels this drive to solve Zeno's paradox. Everybody supposedly "knows" that the the argument has a flaw, even if they can't figure out what it is.

David Hume demonstrated in his book, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding that it's impossible to prove the external world exists. All we have to go on is our perceptions, and we have no way of knowing that our perceptions correspond to anything outside of us. Yet we believe in the external world.

The only way we can know that there's an external world is by intuition. We have an intuition that what we percieve corresponds to something real. We don't derive that knowledge from anything prior. It can't be proved. We can only know it by intuition.

Since Parmenides has given us an argument against the external world from Zeno's paradox, and since some people cannot solve Zeno's paradox, and yet continue to believe in the external world, that shows that in some cases, our intuition is far more powerful than philosophical arguments. Rather than give up a belief in the external world, we assume there's a flaw in the argument whether we can discover that flaw or not.

This may seem like a pointless point to make, but it will become relevent in blogs to come. For the next two weeks, I'm going to be posting blogs in response to an argument against morality.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Do you take the Bible literally?

I don't like it when people ask me if I take the Bible literally. That's like asking if I take the public library literally. The public library divides its books up into genres. There's history, science, philosphy, fiction, etc. They each are supposed to be understood in terms of their genre. The same is true with the Bible. The Bible is not just one monolithic book intended to be taken either literally or not literally. The Bible is a library. It's a collection of books, and many genres are represented. There's history, poetry, apocalyptic, personal letter, etc. Each book in the Bible should be interpreted in terms of its genre. That means some things are going to be literal and some things aren't.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Stop the blog tagging madness!

I was tagged by The Drake to play this game of blog tag. There were no warnings of voodoo if I failed to respond, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm supposed to finished five of these sentences and then tag somebody else, I reckon.

If I could be a scientist...
If I could be a farmer...
If I could be a musician...
If I could be a doctor...
If I could be a painter...
If I could be a gardener...
If I could be a missionary...
If I could be a chef...
If I could be an architect...
If I could be a linguist...
If I could be a psychologist...
If I could be a librarian...
If I could be a lawyer...
If I could be an inn-keeper...
If I could be an athlete...
If I could be a professor...
If I could be a writer...
If I could be a llama rider...
If I could be a bonnie pirate...
If I could be an astronaut...
If I could be a world famous blogger...
If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...
If I could be married to any current famous political figure...
If I could be a dog trainer...

If I could be a architect, I'd design a castle and daydream about building it all the time.

If I could be a lawyer, I think I would thorougly enjoy putting people on the witness stand.

If I could be a professor, I think I'd be about as happy as can be.

If I could be a writer, I write in the morning, I'd write in the evening, all over this land. I write about danger, I'd write out a warning, I'd write about a love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.

If I could be an astronaut, I would absolutely LOVE my job.

And now I shall tag Skyblade because she never writes in her blog, and I think this is a good way to stop this madness.

Is humanism the solution to division?

I’ve been reading the Humanist Manifesto I and II. In it, they say religions and creeds are divisive, and we should abandon them for that reason. We need to be united. It’s the only way we can solve our problems.

But don’t they see the inherent contradiction here? Humanism is a point of view. As such, it’s divisive. All worldviews are divisive for the simple reason that not everybody will share that worldview. Humanism is no exception. Whenever you assert a point of view, you divide yourself from people who disagree with you.

Even if your point of view is pluralistic, you’re going to cause division with people who are not pluralistic. There’s no escaping it.

The solution to division, according to the Humanist Manifesto II is that everybody abandon their religions and creeds and adopt humanism. It says, “We affirm a set of common principles that can serve as a basis for united action—positive principles relevant to the present human condition. They are a design for a secular society on a planetary scale” (p. 15).

Well obviously we’d all be united if we all adopted humanism. But then again, we’d be united if we all adopted Christianity, too. We’d be united no matter what we all adopted as long as we all adopted it. So to suggest that we should abandon religions and creeds because they are divisive, and we should adopt humanism instead, is just sloppy thinking. I’m surprised so many educated people signed this.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Punting to the infinity of God

Sometimes, people settle the issue of the incarnation or the trinity by appealing to God's infinite nature. They say the incarnation is possible because God is infinite. I don't see how being infinite solves the problem of the incarnation. I don't see what they have to do with each other. My impression is that the reasoning goes something like this: The incarnation is something we don't understand. Infinity is also something we don't understand. Therefore, if God is infinite, then lots of things can be true of God that we don't understand.

When people say that God is infinite, I must admit that I don't know what they mean. There are a few possible things people might mean by saying God is infinite.

Infinite size

Well, God is not a physical being, so he doesn't literally have size. The Bible talks in anthropomorphic languages when it says that a Temple was built for him to dwell in, but that the whole heavens cannot contain him. I get the impression that these are figures of speech. But even if it's true, what does size have to do with the problem of the incarnation? I don't get it.

Infinite duration

If time has always existed, and God has always existed in it, then God has existed for an infinite amount of time. But if God doesn't exist in time, or if God created time, then he hasn't really existed for an infinite amount of time. There isn't an infinite amount of time for God to have existed in, if God created time. If time itself is finite, then nobody could have existed for an infinite amount of time. But even if God has existed for an infinite amount of time, I don't see what that has to do with the problem of the incarnation or how it solves it.

Infinite attributes

God is said to have infinite love, infinite power, infinite knowledge, and infinite goodness. Just about anything that can be said about God, it is commonly said he has it infinitely. But saying, for example, that God has infinite love is ambiguous. Are we referring to the depth of his love or to the scope of his love, or both? It seems to me that it's not possible for God's love to be infinite in scope, because there aren't an infinite number of beings for God to love. If his love is infinite, then it's infinite in depth, not scope.

But how does infinite love solve the problem of the incarnation? Perhaps infinite power solves it. One might argue that if God has infinite power, then he has the power to engage in logical impossibility. But power has nothing to do with logic. Our inability to do draw four-sided triangles, for example, has nothing to do with a lack of power.

Sometimes I think that when we say God is infinitely good, holy, or just, we don't mean "infinite" in a literal sense. We're just using it qualitatively, not quantitatively. We mean that God is wholly, completely, and perfectly good, holy, and just. I don't know what it would mean for God to be infinitely good in a literal sense. A circle isn't infinitely round; rather, it's completely or perfectly round. In the same way, God is perfectly and completely good.

Infinite number

There's only one God, and there are only three persons in the Trinity, so this one is easy to rule out. Besides, after reading about the kalam cosmological argument, it doesn't seem that it's possible for there to be an infinite number of things.

I sometimes think the only reason people punt to "infinity" to solve the problem of the incarnation and the trinity is because infinity is one of those things that's hard to understand. Since it's such a mystery to us, we figure anything is possible in the infinite, so we throw all of our logical difficulties in the infinite, and we don't even worry about explaining what we're talking about.

The mystery of the incarnation

Ronald Nash writes in his book, Worldviews in Conflict that if ever there were a contradiction in the Christian worldview, the incarnation would be it. According to the doctrine of the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and fully man. That means he is both infinite and finite. That seems like a blaring contradiction, doesn't it?

There are four ways to handle this problem. One way is to admit it's a contradiction and reject the doctrine of the incarnation. If you take this approach, then it brings up other issues. If the incarnation is false, and if the Bible teaches the incarnation, then the Bible has errors. So now you've got to reread the Bible and see if it really does teach the doctrine of the incarnation.

A second way is to admit it's a contradiction and claim that logic doesn't apply to God, or that God is beyond logic, or something like that. The problem with this approach is that it basically makes logic null and void throughout creation. If logic doesn't apply to God, then God can do the logically impossible. If God can do the logically impossible, then we can never really be sure that any contradiction indicates error. If God created it all, then he could've created it with contradictions built in. Consequently, we can't even say that other worldviews are false. God could've made it to where they're all true, even if they contradict each other. "But the Bible says that Jesus is the only way and the only truth!" Sure, but if God can do the logically impossible then it may be the case that Jesus is the only way, and Jesus is also not the only way. "But the Bible says that other religions are false." Sure, but if God can do the logically impossible, then other religions can be true even if they are false.

A third way is to show that the incarnation is not really a contradiction. I think this is fairly easy to do, and doing it doesn't require that we are able to really understand how it all works out. The law of non-contradiction states that two propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. If Jesus was infinite in the same sense that he was finite, then that would be a contradiction. But in the incarnation, Jesus is infinite with respect to his divinity and finite with respect to his humanity. He has two natures. So he is not both infinite and finite in the same sense. Now how the two natures fit together is a mystery, not in the sense that it's a contradiction, but merely in the sense that we simply don't know how it fits together. This is a legitimate use of "mystery." We've shown there is no contradiction; we just happen to lack some information about the details.

A fourth way is to punt to "mystery," in the sense of "That's a contradiction I just can't resolve." I already said what I thought of this approach in an earlier blog.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Punting to mystery

I'm bothered by how often Christians punt to "mystery" when they can't resolve a contradiction in their own worldview. They do it so often, it's tempting to think "mystery" is just a synonym for "contradiction."

If there is a contradiction in our own worldview, then let's just be honest and say our worldview is false. If we have good reason to think that some apparent contradiction has a resolution that we just don't know about, then we should say what that reason is. Only then are we justified in calling it a mystery.

If we punt to "mystery" every time somebody brings up a contradiction we can't solve, then we are in no position to criticize other worldviews just because they contain contradictions. If punting to mystery is a legitimate way for us to avoid solving a difficulty in our own worldview, then what are we going to say to others who punt to mystery when they can't answer our arguments against their worldview? Let's be consistent and hold our own worldview to the same standards of logic we hold other worldviews to.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Chopra and Koukl on Faith Under Fire

So, what did y'all think about the show? Until now, my only real exposure to New Age was from Neale Donald Walsch. Although Chopra did seem to commit a few logical mistakes in his thinking, he did not strike me as being half as crazy as Walsch.