Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Resurrection of the Body

Richard Carrier has argued that Paul believed Jesus "was resurrected by being given a new body, one not made of flesh or physical matter as we know it, but of some kind of ethereal, spiritual material." [1]

In support of this, Carrier cites 1 Cor. 15:42-44, "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

Apparently, he has in mind something like the following:

1. Something spiritual is necessarily non-physical.
2. Paul's conception of the resurrection is that of a spiritual body.
3. Therefore, Paul's conception of the resurrection is of a non-physical body.

The problem is certainly with premise (1). If I told you that the Bible is a spiritual book, would it be assumed that I meant to say that the Bible is a non-physical book? Such an interpretation misses the point that a thing can be spiritual in the sense that it exemplifies spiritual properties while simultaneously remaining a physical object.

The Bible is both physical and spiritual, and the same applies to the resurrected body. Paul tells us elsewhere (Rom. 8:11) that, "if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."

What dies - the physical body - is also what rises: "The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable . . ." This is from the same 1 Cor. 15 text that Carrier cites to begin with.

[1] http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/3.html

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kant's Practical Argument

Kant argues that God - "God" being understood as the moral judge - is needed to explain the rationality of moral behavior. Kant rejects theoretical arguments, but accepts a proof of God on practical grounds.

1. Moral behavior is rational.
2. Moral behavior is rational only if justice will be done.
3. Justice will be done only if God exists.
4. Therefore, God exists.

We might just take (1) for granted in order to focus our attention on its theological implications. Part of what makes moral behavior rational is accountability. Without it, all have the same fate. All of us will die, and in the end it ultimately won't matter how we live our lives. Yet, we clearly do recognize the rationality of moral behavior, and given that a necessary condition of its rationality is the guarantee of justice, we have a good pragmatic reason to accept premises (1) and (2).

As for (3), God is here understood as the determining factor in the application of justice. This makes sense given the traditional view of God as the greatest conceivable being. A perfect being would administer justice perfectly. Without God, and hence without a determining factor in the application of justice, there is no guarantee of justice. However, this is contrary to the conjunction of premises (1) and (2).

Therefore, God exists.

One objection to this argument I often hear is a brand of the old regress question: "If God determines justice for everyone, who determines justice for God?" This is much like the fallacious assumption that if God created the universe, then God must also be in need of a creator.

The reason the question is inapplicable to God is because God is not the type of being in need of the administration of justice. God is simply the greatest conceivable being. We might formulate this response like this:

5. Only beings that can err are in need of the administration of justice.
6. God is the greatest conceivable being.
7. The greatest conceivable being cannot err.
8. Therefore, God is not in need of the administration of justice.

The argument is clearly valid; so if its premises are correct, then the conclusion necessarily follows. The regress problem is thereby solved.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Is Altruism Even Possible?

I think we need to think of altruistic acts in a manner other than the absence of any self-interest. In fact, the idea that one should deprive one's self of any self-interest whatsoever has its own additional ethical problems. The problem is compounded especially for those of us who believe that human beings are created in the image of God.

The proposed dilemma is that if John helps the poor, then he feels good about it. If, on the other hand, he does not help the poor, then the poor continue to suffer. This is a simplistic scenario, so I ask for the reader's indulgence. The point is, no matter what John does, he can be accused of selfishness.

This dilemma, as stated, falsely assumes that feeling good about something is selfish. A distinction ought to be made between selfishness and self-interest. Beginning with the latter:

Self-interest: desiring the good for one's self
Selfishness: desiring the good for one's self at the expense of others

Obviously self-interest, with these definitions in mind, does not always entail selfishness. If self-interest, then, can be incorporated into altruism without resulting in selfishness, then there is no reason there can be no truly altruistic act. In fact, the two are demonstrably consistent under the following definition of altruism:

Altruism: desiring the good of others

One may, without contradiction, desire the good for one's self and that of others simultaneously.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Van Inwagen, Pruss, and the PSR

Alexander Pruss has just posted an interesting (albeit concise) reply to Peter van Inwagen's objection to the PSR. Van Inwagen relies on the premise that:

1. No contingent fact can be explained by a necessary fact.

(1), however, seems implausible. Consider the following proposition: "George couldn't divide the fourteen peanuts among the three party-goers because 14 is not divisible by 3."

Technically, 14 is divisible by 3, but I think what Pruss means is that 14 divided by 3 does not give us a number without a fraction (14 divided by 3 equals 4 2/3). What we have, then, is a necessary fact - 14 cannot be divided into 3 equal shares without fractions - that explains a contingent fact - namely, that George wishes to divide the peanuts equally among himself and his guests.

Now, it might be said that there additional, contingent facts about this instance. George and his friends do not go to the party by any necessity, nor do they exists by necessity, nor are there 14 peanuts by necessity. Each of these facts is contingent. However, what Pruss' illustration does show is that a necessary fact can at least partially explain a contingent fact. I'm not sure if anyone doubts this, though, or if it really ends up as a defense of the strong version of the PSR at all. There are many weaker versions of the PSR (I myself have defended a number of them), so we might just add another to the list in which all contingent facts have at least a partial explanation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Biblical Evidence in Support of the "Hail Mary"

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

This simple prayer has been the focus of controversy for our Protestant brothers and sisters. However, there is much Biblical support for each line of the Hail Mary. Let's go line-by-line:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Luke 1:28, "[The angel Gabriel said to Mary], 'Hail, favored one [or, 'full of grace']! The Lord is with you.'"

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Luke 1:41-42, ". . . Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'"

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Luke 1:43, "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Angels (Revelation 8:3-4) and saints (Revelation 5:8) offer the "prayers of the holy ones" to God.