Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Knock-Down Argument in Favor of Religious Freedom

For the record, I love engaging in constructive debate. However, I hate confrontation. Nevertheless, I have to reiterate once more that religious freedom trumps one's emotional feelings. As a libertarian, I hold that marriage should be privatized. As a Christian, I believe that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. If same-sex couples want to have a wedding, then that's fine by me. However, that does not give them the right to legally require those opposed to same-sex weddings to participate in a same-sex wedding. As I've repeated before, I'm a Christian and a record producer. It would be completely unreasonable for me to be legally required to record the music of a band that I have religious objections to, e.g. a Satanic band's music.

Feel free to post your objections to this post, but I'm finished debating the issue. I only write this because religious freedom is being threatened, and religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of our Constitution. Marriage, in general, is not.

Who would object that I should be legally required to record a Satanic band's music?  If you oppose such a legal requirement, why the double-standard with respect to same-sex weddings?  I'm not saying homosexuals are Satanists, but the principle is the same nonetheless.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Propositions as both True Conditionals and Impossible Instantiations

Let's take the following proposition:

P1: If the devil were to repent, God would forgive him.

Now, on Christian theology, is P1 true or false?  Moreover, if it is true, then is there a possibility for the devil to repent and return to heaven?  Answers to this question will inevitably vary from one Christian theologian to another.  However, let's assume that P1 is true.  Does this make any more difference than P2?

P2: If there are square-circles, then the law of non-contradiction is false.

P2 appears to be true as a conditional statement, yet impossible to instantiate.  This is because the consequent ("the law of non-contradiction is false") is necessarily false.  However, that does not make P2 any less meaningful.  We still understand P2 as providing information that corresponds to reality.

The question for the Christian theologian to ponder is whether or not P1 is like P2.  Certainly God forgives those who repent, but is it possible for the devil to repent?  This question is tricky because it depends on how one understands the manner in which redemption is made possible.  Most orthodox Christian theologians accept St. Anselm's argument in Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man").

When humanity sinned against God, only God could forgive us, yet only man could provide satisfaction for the sin.  Hence, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man: one person with two distinct natures.  His death "satisfied" humanity's sin against God, and allowed our repentance to lead us to redemption.  Hence the saying: "Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life."

If this account of the Incarnation is taken to be true, what it implies is that for any fallen angel, including Lucifer/the devil to be led to redemption, God would have to take on the nature of an angel and be both fully God and fully angelic.  Whether this is possible can be left open to debate.  However, I am personally inclined to think one's will is voluntarily fixed upon entering heaven or hell.

This would make any notion of repentance, much less redemption, for the devil impossible.  If I am correct about this, then P1 is a true conditional statement that is impossible to instantiate.  The difficulty is that the simultaneous truth and impossibility of instantiation of P1 is not nearly as obvious as that of P2.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Cumulative Case for God's Existence

Richard Swinburne is famous for his inductive arguments which lead to a cumulative case for God's existence.  He distinguishes a correct-C inductive argument (in which the evidence X increases for Y more than in the absence of X) from a correct P-inductive argument (in which case, the overall balance of the evidence for Y is more probable than not).  Let's consider some inductive arguments, even if they are not Swinburne's.

The Cosmological Argument

1. Complex things most likely have an external cause. (Premise)

2. The universe is complex. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe most likely has an external cause. (From 1 and 2)

The Teleological Argument

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity is most likely the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit regularity. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are most likely the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

The Moral Argument

1. If people have knowledge of objective moral obligations, then they most likely have an intrinsic end designed for such knowledge. (Premise)

2. People have knowledge of objective moral obligations. (Premise)

3. Therefore, people mostly likely have an intrinsic end for knowledge of objective moral obligations. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Happiness

1. People who pray to God and meditate on average live longer, healthier, and happier lives than those who don't, as long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

2. Self-interest is worth pursuing so long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one should most likely pray to God and meditate. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Desire

1. Innate desires most likely correspond to something that can satisfy them. (Premise)

2. Perfect and eternal happiness is an innate desire. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one's innate desire for perfect and eternal happiness most likely corresponds to something. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Religious Experience

1. Barring some defeater, one's religious experience is most likely genuine. (Premise)

2. There are those who have religious experiences that lack any defeater. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there are those whose religious experiences are most likely genuine. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Suffering

1. A perfect God would not allow gratuitous suffering. (Premise)

2. Most likely, whether there is gratuitous suffering is unknowable. (Premise)

3. Therefore, it is unknown if there is gratuitous suffering and if God allows it. (From 1 and 2)

Now, let's weigh the evidence.  Surely there are other arguments, but let's stick with these for now.  The arguments in favor of God's existence end up like this: P(h/e&k) > P(h/k).  In English, P = a proposition's probability, h = a hypothesis, e = evidence, and k = one's background knowledge.  We can know this is the case, since these are all facts we would expect if God exists, rather than if he didn't.  The argument from suffering fails as a correct C-inductive argument because it is inscrutable.  There is no way of determining whether gratuitous suffering actually occurs.

If all of this is correct, then we actually have a correct P-inductive argument: P(h/En&k) > 1/2.

Monday, March 30, 2015

An Open Challenge to the Westboro Baptist Church

I am offering an open challenge to any member of the Westboro Baptist Church to defend their theological positions in a formal debate.  We will find a moderator that both of us will agree upon, and the debate will take place in writing.  Please let me know if you are willing to engage me in a formal debate, letting me know either here on my blog or by email:

Douglas R. Benscoter, M.T.S.

A Priori Arguments and Thomism

I have flirted with the idea of formulating a Thomistic argument that is purely a priori.  More than one comes to mind, but I am interested in exploring a reductio ad absurdum argument that establishes the existence of a necessary being.

1. If nothing exists, then possibility does not exist. (Premise)

2. If possibility does not exist, then it is not possible for nothing to exist. (Premise)

3. Hence, something necessarily exists. (From 1 and 2)

4. Possibly, nothing contingent exists. (Premise)

5. Therefore, something necessary exists. (From 3 and 4)

6. Whatever is necessary has an essence identical to its existence, e.g. it is pure actuality. (Premise)

7. Therefore, pure actuality exists. (From 5 and 6)

The argument is clearly valid, but is it sound?  If it is, then we have a sound a priori argument for the existence of God as being itself subsisting.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Atomism and Its Irrelevance to Classical Theism

The original atomists, Democritus and Lucretius, for example, held that all that exists are composites of atoms.  Today we might replace atoms with quarks or strings (the latter, assuming M-theory is true).  However, the gist of the position remains the same.  Peter van Inwagen, for instance, holds to mereological nihilism: that no composite material thing really exists.  He does, nevertheless, make an exception for living things.  I won't get into the details of his arguments, since they are not pertinent to this post.  While Peter van Inwagen is either a classical theist or a neotheist, Democritus and Lucretius still believed in polytheism, and a materialistic version at that.

Now, let's assume that mereological nihilism is true: mountains aren't real; they're just composites of quarks arranges in a specific way.  What relevance does this have on classical theism?  I honestly can't see any relevance.  The argument from change, the argument from contingency, the design argument, and the argument from desire are each consistent with atomism, or mereological nihilism specifically.  Suppose that mountains really don't exist.  Does that mean there is no change?  Of course not.  Obviously, the classical theist will have to defend the arguments in favor of classical theism, but the point is that atomism does nothing to undermine it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Theological Non-cognitivism: The Young Earth Creationism of Atheism

Theological non-cognitivism is the claim that statements like, "God exists," "God is good," and "God loves me," are not only false, but literally meaningless.  It amazes me that even a small segment of the atheist population still adopts this view.  Although some significant work had been done prior, it was likely Alvin Plantinga's The Nature of Necessity that put the final dagger in theological non-cognitivism, logical positivism, and the verification principle.

I say that theological non-cognitivism (TNC) is the atheist's equivalent to the Christian's Young Earth Creationism (YEC) because there is a trend among both groups to ignore either scientifically or philosophically compelling reasons to reject them.  Science clearly shows the universe has existed for roughly 15 billion years.

Moreover, the creation account in Genesis 1 has for centuries, and now millennia, been interpreted figuratively.  I won't go into great detail here, but you'll see how Days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6 each correspond to one another.  On Day 1, God created light, whereas on Day 4 God created the sun and the moon.  On Day 2, God separated the land from the sea, and on Day 5 God created sea animals and birds.  Finally, on Day 3, God created land vegetation, and on Day 6 God created land animals of all sorts, including human beings.  In other words, the author of Genesis was simply using a rhetorical device in order to illustrate the hierarchy of creation.

The problems with TNC are many as well.  When a theist talks about a Cosmic Designer who transcends the universe, and is therefore timeless, changeless, immaterial, eternal, indestructible, and enormously powerful and intelligent, what's the objection the proponent of TNC has to offer?  There can be no immaterial mind, and the very concept of an immaterial mind is incoherent, as I often hear from these TNC proponents?  If that's all they have to offer, then they're simply begging the question against theism.  On what grounds does the TNC-er make such an unsubstantiated claim?