Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gap Problem Addressed Again

Suppose one accepts the existence of a First Cause of some sort. Based on this, in addition to some rather uncontroversial modal axioms, I believe we can justifiably "close the gap," as it were, between First Cause and God. The entire argument - let's call it the Modal Thomistic Cosmological Argument (MTCA) - might be stated as follows:

1. Dependent things exist.
2. Every dependent thing has a cause. (E.g., every dependent thing derives its existence from that in which it is dependent)
3. If there is no First Cause, then nothing will be caused.
4. Therefore, a First Cause exists. (From 1 and 3)
5. Every limited thing has the potential to be caused.
6. A First Cause does not have the potential to be caused. (E.g., It is not possible that a First Cause is caused)
7. Hence, a First Cause must be unlimited. (From 5 and 6 - in other words, a First Cause cannot be limited, since limited things are possibly caused; and if a First Cause were caused, it wouldn't be first, which is a contradiction)
8. Whatever is unlimited is supreme.
9. Therefore, a Supreme Being exists.

I can see no reason to doubt (1)-(7). I've detailed on multiple occasions why I believe a First Cause exists, and (5)-(7), I think, are analytical truths or at least easily inferable from what we know through observation of limited entities. This leaves us with premise (8). "Supremacy" is marked by two features: 1) it must be unlimited; and 2) it must be unique. Part of what we mean by "supremacy" is unlimitedness, so our main focus will be on whether this unlimited First Cause is one or many.

Consider the idea of multiple unlimited entities. If there truly were more than one - let's call two of them X and Y - then in order for X and Y to be distinct, X would have to lack something that Y possesses, or vice-versa. However, a thing can only lack something if it is limited. Therefore, whatever is unlimited is by necessity unique. This, of course, matches our definition of a "Supreme Being," which is what we mean by "God."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Order, Chaos, Teleology and the Wonder of It All

Like Wittgenstein, I often find myself in awe that anything at all should exist whatsoever. Why is there something, rather than just nothingness? Still, I am even further awed by the sheer harmony that our universe exhibits. Why should something so small, like a molecule, be intelligible to me - an evolved species of ape?

Consider the great order found throughout the entire universe, and indeed through all of existence itself! The laws of logic and mathematics are just an attempt to scratch at the surface. In Taoism, there are two eternal principles that eternally oppose each other. These two principles are Order and Chaos. Yet, for those of us who have been persuaded by our Western presuppositions, we opt to state that there is only one. Even chaos is intelligible, and since intelligibility presupposes order, what we discover is that there is Order even behind elements of chaos.

I'm compelled to believe that this Order exists, since without it, I cannot make sense of out anything at all. The question now is whether Order is personal or impersonal. If Order is personal, then we may be justified in resurrecting (as it were) teleos. There is purpose in our existence, and meaning in our experience. For anyone wondering about life, we have two initial ways we can choose to live. You can choose to live in such a way that you marvel at the exquisite regularity of Order. You're other choice is to reject this, but once that's done, your entire worldview will collapse. So long as chaos is intelligible, you continue to give credit to Order.

Yes, I do associate Order with God, but not in a pantheistic Stoic way. Order exists eternally, beyond creation, and flows directly from God's infinite wisdom. Given that we are made in God's image, we too are capable of understanding the world around us. God is rational, so any creature made in the "image of God," will likewise be rational, at least analogically.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Jesus Mythicist Fallacy

Many of the so-called "Jesus Mythicists" deny that there was any historical Jesus whatsoever. Specifically, though, I want to focus on one of their claims - namely, that the narrative of Jesus' resurrection was something that Christians borrowed from pagan sources. The name of Osiris is usually mentioned during these exchanges. Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that there really are striking parallels between Jesus and Osiris. Does the Jesus Mythicist now have a case? I believe he does not.

For one thing, there are also parallels to be found between the pseudo-mythical King Arthur and the historical King Henry V. Both men were brilliant war commanders of Great Britain who had enormous difficulties with their subjects. Does this mean that what we know of Henry V is now bunk? Surely not, and that should give us an incentive to reject the original Jesus Mythicist claim that the early Christians borrowed from their pagan neighbors. This becomes even more vivid once we consider how vague some of the alleged parallels really are. [1] That both were resurrected (in some sense; the Jewish conception of resurrection was bodily in nature) does not at all imply any borrowing.

In addition to this, we may consider the fact that there are many historical facts in support of Jesus and Henry V (see the book below). We're still waiting to hear about actual evidence of Osiris and Arthur.

[1] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel Publications, 2004, p. 91