Monday, August 30, 2010

"Why?" and "How?"

Why does the universe exist? Because God created it, answers the theist.

How did God create the universe? We have no idea. A common objection among some popularizers of atheism and on some internet discussion forums is that if we cannot know how God created the universe, then we are not justified in concluding that God did create the universe.

This claim is demonstrably false. Imagine the following fictitious discussion:

Julius Caesar: The sky looks so blue.
Brutus: How does the sky look blue?
Julius Caesar: I don't know.
Brutus: Then you can't say it looks blue.

Julius Caesar may not have had the advantage of accessing modern science, but it is plainly wrong to conclude that he wasn't justified in concluding the sky appears blue simply because he didn't know how its appearance is blue. One needn't know how something is true in order to know that it is true.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Inductive Argument Against an Infinite Regress of Non-temporal Causes

1. For any non-temporal causal regress, that regress is either finite or infinite. (Definition)

2. The causal regress of X is an attribute of X. (Premise)

3. If every observable attribute of X is finite, then the causal regress of X is most likely finite. (Premise)

4. Every observable attribute of X is finite. (Premise)

5. Therefore, the causal regress of X is most likely finite. (From 1 – 4)

Take, for example, my favorite illustration of a watch. The causal regress of one gear turning to cause another gear's turning is an attribute of the watch - in support of our second premise. (3) introduces induction to the argument. If attributes A, B, C, and D of X are all observed to be finite, the likelihood that E of X is also finite is increased significantly. Moreover, if all of the known attributes of X are finite, and none of them are infinite, it follows that all of X's attributes - both known and unknown - are most likely finite.

For any non-temporal causal regress, then, it follows that the regress itself is most likely finite, given the finitude of every other attribute. In arguing for a metaphysically necessary non-temporal First Cause, the inductive argument against an infinite regress may be combined with the following argument:

1*. Every existing entity is either contingent or necessary. (Premise)

In this context, an entity is contingent if it has its existence in another; and it is necessary if it is self-existent, and exists simply by virtue of the fact that it cannot not-be.

2*. If a non-temporal regress of causes is finite, then a metaphysically necessary First Cause exists. (Premise)

3*. The non-temporal regress of causes is most likely finite. (Premise)

4*. Therefore, a metaphysically necessary First Cause most likely exists. (From 2 and 3)

I tend to think that this argument is also applicable to strictly temporal causal events. So long as time is an attribute of a thing, the inductive argument may be modified to fit this change of focus.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA)

Many of you are probably familiar with Richard Taylor's famous illustration in support of the PSR. He reasons that if you were walking in a forest and came across a glowing translucent ball, you would immediately ask, "why is that translucent ball here?" You would find the response that it has no explanation quite unsatisfying, if intelligible at all. Rather, you would surely conclude that it has some explanation, even if you have no idea what the explanation is. Now imagine the ball were the size of a continent: it would still need an explanation. What about the size of a planet? Same problem. What if it were the size of the entire universe? Same problem. Merely increasing the size of the ball, or anything for that matter, doesn't at all do away with its need for an explanation. It seems quite plausible then to say:

1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (Premise, PSR)

A thing can be explained in one of two ways. A) It is the type of thing that exists because it cannot not-exist. Something necessary exists because it is self-sufficient. B) It is the type of thing that exists because it is dependent on another. This type of entity is not-self-sufficient. Both (A) and (B) are explanations, but they are different types of explanations.

Now, in order to make the LCA an argument for God's existence, our next premise must be justified:

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. (Premise)

Think of what the universe is for a moment: the totality of all physical space, time, matter and energy. Whatever explains the universe, then, must transcend the universe and be timeless, changeless, and immaterial, in addition to being enormously powerful. This is very close, at any rate, to being a God-concept.

Notice that it doesn't do any good to say that the universe has existed eternally. For, a translucent ball resting on the ground of a forest would still need an explanation even if it existed for all eternity. Just as we can't get around the need for an explanation by increasing the size of something, neither can we get around the need for an explanation by increasing its age.

Another objection might be that everything in the universe has an explanation, but that this isn't true of the universe itself. Every part of a mountain may be small, but this isn't necessarily true of the mountain itself. This objection may be disposed of by sticking with the same analogy. If every part of the mountain has an explanation, then the mountain itself must also have an explanation. (In fact, we know this to be true, anyway.) Likewise, it is special pleading to say that the universe itself has no explanation.

A final objection to premise (2) is that the universe exists by a necessity of its own nature. In order to successfully respond to this objection, all we need to do is show that the universe does not possess one or more attributes that something necessary would have to have. This is fairly easy to show. Take some changing entity X. X if becomes Y, then it is no longer the case that X. This implies that X doesn't exist necessarily. Now, the universe is constantly changing in that every part of the universe is at least capable of a change in location. This implies that the universe does not have necessary existence. The universe could be something other than what it is.

Our final premise:

3. The universe exists. (Premise)

Now, what follows from these three premises?

4. The universe has an explanation of its existence. (From 1 and 3)

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God. (From 2 and 4)

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Scotist-Anselmian Modal Argument

Codgitator has written a helpful essay on the connection between the arguments of Duns Scotus (not to be confused with Doug Benscoter) and Anselm.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith

"The historical Jesus 'uncovered' (but actually reconstucted) in the Jesus Seminar . . . could scarcely be the object of Christian church proclamation. If Jesus was a wise Cynic preacher and teacher and nothing more, why should there be a religion based on him, given the prominence of other ancient teachers (Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, etc.)? If Jesus was chiefly a deluded apocalyptic preacher who wrongly thought the end of the world would come soon, why continue to proclaim him as the savior of the world? If Jesus' resurrection from the dead is simply a way of expressing the conviction that he is with God, why is he to be worshiped, given the many other saintly people who are surely with God? Those who advance such views of Jesus often claim they are trying to reshape Christian belief and proclamation. More bluntly, however, their views of Jesus would make traditional Christian belief illusory and traditional proclamation irresponsible."

-Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, 1997, pp. 828-829.

Brown's criticism of contemporary revisions of Jesus is direct and to the point. If the Jesus of history is not the same as the Jesus of faith, then why bother to preach the Gospel? Only if the Jesus of history really is the Jesus of faith - at least, if the historical Jesus claimed to be the Son of God - do we have any reason to dedicate our lives to him as we do. Anything less than the Jesus of faith would make him no greater than the other revered philosophers of antiquity. This is why it is so important that we not pick and choose from which teachings of Jesus we happen to fancy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some really sobering words from a Church Father...

"God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination." -St. Augustine

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Moral Nihilism and the Modality of Moral Obligations

Suppose someone denies that there are objective moral obligations, e.g. moral obligations that persons everywhere are bound by. Imagine also that our skeptical friend is hesitant to accept the idea that something concrete could be logically necessary, but is willing to concede that propositions may be logically necessary. An example of a logically necessary proposition (one true in all possible worlds) would be this: "there are no square circles." Finally, suppose that objectivity entails logical necessity.

1. There are no objective moral obligations in the actual world. (Premise)

2. There are objective moral obligations in W. (Premise)

3. If there are objective moral obligations in W, then there are objective moral obligations in all possible worlds. (S5)

4. Therefore, there are objective moral obligations in all possible worlds. (From 2 and 3)

The actual world is a member of the set of all possible worlds. (1) is thereby false given the truth of (2) and (3), since (4) follows from (2) and (3). What this argument demonstrates is that the moral nihilist cannot merely say there are no objective moral obligations, but that objective moral obligations are literally impossible.

The argument from motion's alleged composition fallacy

Few of us have a beef with the first premise of the argument from motion:

1. Evident to the senses is motion. (Premise)

Things change, and we know this through observational experiences.

2. Everything in motion is moved by another. (Premise)

No potentiality can actualize itself. An acorn doesn't become an oak tree inexplicably. It requires external causes to actualize its potentiality: soil, water, sunlight, etc. (I repeat these analogies for the sake of possible newcomers to the blog.)

Now, I have defended formulated the third premise in the past like this:

3. If there is no First Mover, there will be no motion. (Premise)

I have defended this by pointing to various other illustrations that show once the cause of the set's motion is removed, then the motion of the set itself will cease. A watch without a spring will have no gears in motion. A train without an engine will have no boxcars in motion. Likewise, if the universe as a whole has no First Mover, then none of its parts will be in motion, which is obviously false.

From (1) through (3) it follows that:

4. Therefore, a First Mover exists. (From 1 and 3)

Analytically, we can know that the First Mover is not in motion (for everything in motion is moved by another - via the second premise). Yet, a thing can only be changeless if it is timeless (time is a measurement of change) and immaterial (every physical body is capable of being moved). The First Mover is also enormously powerful, since it is the cause of the universe's motion.

Now, there is an even more obvious way to express the third premise:

3*. The universe is in motion. (Premise)

This revised third premise is often subjected to the charge of a composition fallacy. The whole is not always like its parts. If every part of a floor is small, it doesn't follow that the floor as a whole is small.

However, there are instances in which the whole clearly is like its parts. For example, if every part of the floor is made of wood, then the floor as a whole is made of wood. So, which of these categories does the universe's motion fall under.

In order for the composition fallacy objection to work, it would have to be the case that everything in the universe is in motion, but that the universe as a whole is not in motion. But, surely this doesn't make any sense. For any interrelated whole that is composed of parts that are all in motion, the whole itself must also be in motion. It doesn't make sense to say the each of a train's parts is in motion, but that the train itself isn't in motion. In fact, the train itself must be in motion simply by virtue of the fact that all of its parts are in motion.

It seems clear, then, that the universe as a whole is in motion. This means that the universe's motion must be actualized by some external cause. This external cause is ultimately the First Mover. For, the universe just is the totality of all physical space, time, matter and energy. Therefore, the universe's mover must transcend physical space, time, matter and energy.

An additional objection often made is that in order for a thing X to be the cause of Y's motion, X must also be in motion. However, this objection is flawed for at least two reasons. First, X may move Y passively. For instance, one may be moved or changed upon the vision of a beautiful painting. It's not that someone is moved by virtue of the painting's motion, for the painting isn't actively doing anything. This is how Aristotle viewed the First Mover. The First Mover causes everything else to be in motion, but only by way of passivity.

However, this isn't my perspective. I believe that the First Mover (God) is more than a passive cause. The position that I adopt is that X need only be in motion to move Y if X is itself is already an entity subject to motion. Why, for instance, could an entity that transcends all motion not be the active cause of motion, and simply will motion eternally and without change? I have never read or heard a convincing argument against this hypothesis.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just for kicks...

1. There is possibly a sound ontological argument.
2. Therefore, God exists. (From 1 and S5)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Arguing Inductively Against a Self-caused Universe

As mentioned previously, I run into very little opposition to the following argument:

1. The universe is either caused or uncaused. (Definition)

2. Complex things are most likely caused. (Premise)

3. The universe is complex. (Premise)

4. Therefore, the universe is most likely caused. (From 1 - 3)

In our experience, we all know why (2) is considered true. The only reservations are usually from radical Humeans. The earth, for example, is a complex thing, and we know that the earth was formed by (caused by) various cosmological and geological processes.

(3) is probably an understatement. The universe is astronomically complex (complexity being understood as the interrelationship between diverse objects), so given (1) - (3), it follows logically that the universe is most likely caused.

Interestingly, a number of atheistic philosophers agree with the conclusion that the universe is caused. Quentin Smith is one such atheistic philosopher, and he has argued that the universe is self-caused.

By way of introduction, we have two more disjunctions to consider. First:

5. The universe is either self-caused or externally caused. (Premise)

6. Nothing can be self-caused. (Premise)

7. Therefore, the universe is externally caused. (From 5 and 6)

Again, Smith would agree with both (4) and (5), but he disagrees with (6). He postulates that the universe, while being finite in the past, does not begin at a singularity. Rather, he says that t0 is an impossible state of affairs. His argument hinges on this and on the possibility that between any two moments immediately after the Big Bang, after t0 and before/at t1, there are infinitely-many points. So, t1 is caused by t1/2 and t1/2 is caused by t1/4. This process continues infinitely, such that every moment of time is explained by a previous one without t0 having been an actualized state of affairs.

This is much like treating 0 to 1 as an open interval, with 0 not being a point in the interval. This is problematic for at least two reasons. For one, Smith is assuming that the infinity of points between t0 and t1 are concrete and not merely abstract. Secondly, as Robin Collins points out in his response to Smith, if there were infinitely-many points between t0 and t1, this would result in all kinds of paradoxes.

Take the interval between t1/2 and t1. There are infinitely-many points between t1/2 and t1; but surely according to Smith's own argument, t1/2 is a point in the interval that has been actualized, e.g. t1/2 to t1 is not simply another open interval. Hence, an actual infinite is formed by successive addition, which is impossible, given that another member of the set can always be added before arriving at infinity.

Smith's argument for a self-caused universe, therefore, does not appear to be sound. Yet, are there arguments against the possibility of a self-caused universe, or against anything being self-caused? If there are, then we may consider the final disjunction:

8. The external cause of the universe is either personal or impersonal. (Premise)

The universe's external cause must already be timeless, changeless, immaterial, and enormously powerful. If a case can be made that the external cause of the universe is personal, then we have the icing on the cake of an argument for the existence of God. The focus for philosophers of religion, then, should be not only on the first disjunction (which we have already seen is almost certainly true), but on the second and third disjunctions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spinoza's Ontological Argument

Spinoza is an interesting philosopher. I disagree with many of his conclusions, but there are others that I find ingenious. I'm not necessarily in support of his version of the ontological argument, but it's definitely something to think about.

1. Inability to exist is impotence. (Premise)

2. Ability to exist is power. (Premise)

3. If only finite entities exist, then finite entities are more powerful than an infinite entity. (From 1 and 2)

4. Finite entities are not more powerful than an infinite entity. (Premise)

5. Either an infinite entity exists or nothing at all exists. (From 3 and 4)

6. Something exists. (Premise)

7. Therefore, an infinite entity exists. (From 5 and 6) [1]

Premise (6) is, in fact, a posteriori. This leads many philosophers to conclude that Spinoza is here defending not an ontological argument, but a cosmological argument. I'm inclined to agree.

I can see (1) and (2) being somewhat controversial, but I also think most people would agree with both premises because of an intuition concerning the relationship between power and existence. Could something that has no power at all even exist? Moreover, isn't it a sign of power to exist necessarily than to possibly fail to exist at some time? This would also lend support to premises (3) and (4). Premise (5) is true (assuming that 1 - 4 are true) because if there were only finite entities in existence, it would be because they are more powerful than an infinite entity, which (4) states is false. As a result, it anything at all exists, it implies that an infinite entity exists. Given that something exists, per premise (6), it follows that an infinite entity (God) exists.

Where I obviously disagree with Spinoza is on his pantheism. He associates God (the infinite entity) with everything because he assumes that to be distinct from the infinite is to not exist at all, but to have any attribute in common with the infinite implies that the two entities are one and the same. The fallacy here is fairly easy to detect. Two entities can be distinct even though they share one or more attributes, since they may differ in other attributes. This is confirmed by our additional observations that some things (finite entities) come to be and pass away. They wouldn't fail to exist if they were identical with the infinite.

But, who knows? Maybe I'm oversimplifying Spinoza's view. In any case, it's something to think about.

[1] For a similar rendering, see: William Lane Craig, The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001, p. 244.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Contribution of Duns Scotus to the Cosmological Argument

Duns Scotus is often (and unfortunately) overlooked as one of the great medieval Christian philosophers. He is known for his vigorous defense of cataphatic theology (as opposed to apophatic, or negative, theology). His contribution to the cosmological argument, however, cannot be overstated. Although he offers reasons for rejecting a non-temporal infinite regress of causes, it is his possibility premise for the existence of a First Cause that in many ways may be compared to the recent developments of the ontological argument. Scotus reasons as follows:

1. A First Cause possibly exists. (Premise)

There doesn't appear to be any contradiction with the idea of a First Cause, and given the arguments against an infinite regress of non-temporal causes, (1) may even be an understatement.

2. Whatever is possible is either contingent or necessary. (Definition)

3. Whatever is contingent can be actualized. (Premise)

Think of some contingent entity, such as a tree. We know that trees and other contingent entities are capable of being actualized, e.g. transitioned from a state of potentiality only to a state of actuality. (3) seems more reasonable than not.

4. A First Cause cannot be actualized. (Premise)

Assume the opposite. If a First Cause were ever actualized, then it is either: a) actualized by something external to itself, or b) self-actualized. (a) is impossible, since if anything else actualized the First Cause, then the First Cause wouldn't really be first at all. (b) is also impossible, since nothing can actualize itself. In order to actualize itself, an entity must first exist to be actualized, which is contradictory. Because (a) and (b) are necessarily false, it must also be necessarily false that a First Cause can be actualized. Hence, (4) is correct.

5. Therefore, a First Cause is necessary. (From 1 - 4).

In his excellent book, The Cosmological Argument, atheistic philosopher William Rowe doesn't dispute any of the premises of Duns Scotus' argument. Rather, what Rowe attempts to do is demonstrate that if this argument were correct, it would lead to all kinds of absurdities:

Surely it is possible for an everlasting star to exist. The stars that exist are presumably not everlasting--for each star, let us suppose, there was a time before which it did not exist and there will be a time at which it ceases to exist. But this seems to be an empirical fact and not a matter of conceptual or logical necessity. The idea of an everlasting star does seem to be a non-contradictory idea, even if no star is in fact everlasting. Let us grant, then, that

i. it is possible for an everlasting star to exist.

Now clearly we must grant that

ii. it is impossible for an everlasting star to come into existence. (If x comes into existence then by definition x is not everlasting.)

Moreover, since if something is produced by something else then there was a time before which it did not exist, we have

iii. it is impossible for an everlasting star to be produced by something else. [1]

Rowe concludes that if Scotus' cosmological argument (SCA) is correct, it can also be used to demonstrate that an everlasting star exists. But since we know that everlasting stars do not exist, something must be wrong either in the validity of the argument or in one of its premises.

The problem with Rowe's counter-argument is that it assumes a type of modality not necessarily entailed by Scotus. Even a star that is everlasting is being actualized by the matter that composes it. The analogy, then, of a non-actualized everlasting star seems to be incoherent and disanalogous to the SCA. For, the First Cause that Scotus envisages is simply not actualized at all. In other words, the First Cause doesn't require anything non-essential to itself to sustain its existence. Presumably, the matter of an everlasting star could logically be reconfigured.

Rowe, much to his credit, includes a footnote of this point. What the SCA entails is logical modality, and not metaphysical modality only. Rowe's objection is only successful if the SCA were to only apply metaphysical modality to the First Cause. After relating the possibility that the SCA may be including logical modality, Rowe simply moves on to discuss the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA), and specifically Samuel Clarke's version of the LCA.

[1] William L. Rowe, The Cosmological Argument, Fordham University Press, 1998, pp. 52-53.

Friday, August 6, 2010

God and Abstract Objects

Brian Leftow has defended a version of the cosmological argument which posits that if God possibly causes abstract objects to exist, and abstract objects exist necessarily, then God must exist necessarily. One reason Leftow puts the argument this way (presumably) is to avoid the problem of compromising God's unique aseity. If God is not the only self-existent entity, then that is apparently a difficulty.

I wouldn't go that far. In fact, even if the Platonists are correct in saying that abstract objects have necessary existence, God's unique aseity may be salvaged by pointing out that only God stands in a causal relationship to other entities. Abstract objects, if they exist at all, are causally inert, so their aseity is of one type, whereas God's aseity is of another type. Nevertheless, the idea of anything other than God existing a se does leave the Christian, myself included, with an uneasy feeling.

The problem I see with Leftow's argument is that it doesn't seem to be possible to cause abstract objects, for the reason given above. If abstract objects literally cannot cause anything, why think they can be caused themselves? St. Augustine, having been trained in the neo-Plantonic tradition, solved this difficulty by postulating that abstract objects exist as concepts in the mind of God. This means that even though abstract objects exist a se, and are not caused to exist, they are still dependent on God's mental activity (theological conceptualism). I think we may incorporate Leftow's modal argument with this conceptualist model of abstract objects:

1. Abstract objects are possibly necessary. (Premise)
2. Whatever is possibly necessary is necessary. (Premise, S5)
3. Abstract objects possibly exist necessarily as mental concepts. (Premise)
4. Therefore, abstract objects are necessary concepts of a mind. (From 1, 2, and 3)
5. Abstract objects cannot be concepts only in contingent minds. (Premise)
6. Therefore, abstract objects are concepts of a necessary mind. (From 4 and 5)

Briefly, in support of (5), abstract objects (if they exist necessarily) cannot be concepts of just any mind. For, there are possible worlds in which contingent minds (such as you and I) do not exist, and so abstract objects must be concepts of a necessary mind in those possible worlds. Given (2), it follows that a necessary mind also exists necessarily.

Of course, there are also positive reasons (other than S5) to conclude that abstract objects must be mental concepts. One of these reasons is the causal objection against Plantonism.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What does it take for a theological claim to be rational?

I know this is a vague question, and I pose it vaguely on purpose. Consider the following:

1. The universe is either caused or uncaused. (Premise)

This premise is obviously true, since it rests upon the law of excluded middle and a very general consideration of the universe and causation.

Now, suppose someone adopts the first horn of the dilemma: the universe is caused. Is this claim obviously false? I doubt it, but I'm sure there is someone who thinks so. For the rest of us who acknowledge the universe's having a cause as a possibility, however, this leads us to:

2. If the universe is caused, it either has an external cause or it is self-caused. (Premise)

Again, the first horn of the dilemma in (2), "the universe has an external cause," is not obviously false. Now suppose that the conjunction C&E is true (where C = caused, and E = externally caused). On C&E, what can we know? Well, we can know that the external cause of the universe must transcend the universe (universe = the totality of physical space, time, matter and energy), which implies that the universe's cause is timeless, changeless (time is a measurement of change), and immaterial.

A final dilemma may be proposed:

3. If the universe has an external cause, that cause is either personal or non-personal.

If it is rational to believe in a personal external cause of the universe, then such a cause is plausibly God. There may be more reservation about this last one, but from my own intuitive perspective it is not obviously false that the universe's external cause is a personal agent.

Still, rationality usually entails more than the lack of obviously false assertions. Many would presume that we must have sound positive reasons to believe in a proposition, especially a proposition of this magnitude. A discussion of what constitutes rationality is therefore in order. However, there are some highly plausible arguments that suggest there exists a personal external cause of the universe. One of these is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, but the list may be multiplied to include many cosmological and teleological arguments, among others.

Consider, for instance, a sub-argument dealing with the dilemma of (1):

1A. Complex things are most likely caused.
1B. The universe is complex.
1C. Therefore, the universe is most likely caused.

I have found very little resistance to this line of reasoning. It is an inductive argument, and we experience the truth of (1A) all the time. My body is a complex organism, and it is caused by the function of my organs, and so forth (I'm thinking of a sustaining cause here). Of course, (1B) receives even less resistance, given that we clearly perceive that the universe is composed of countless diverse objects that are all interrelated. (1C) is therefore usually granted, even by the theological skeptic.

It is usually in arguing for an external cause of the universe that much more resistance is felt. The most resistance is, of course, reserved for the conclusion that the universe's external cause is personal. This is where the traditional arguments of natural theology come in handy. It is highly plausible, given what we know about the universe's composition, that the universe began to exist at a finite time in the past. Yet, its beginning is either caused or uncaused. I think you know the rest.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Inferring God's existence from miracles

Suppose that some event X occurs which cannot be explained by naturalism. Moreover, suppose X occurs repeatedly and is well-documented, but at the same time, is not repeatable (via laboratories, etc.). An example of this might be the stigmata, the apparently inexplicable appearance of Jesus' crucifixion wounds.

1. If a genuine occurrence cannot be explained by natural processes, it is either supernatural or inexplicable. (Premise)
2. The stigmata is a genuine occurrence that cannot be explained by natural processes. (Premise)
3. Hence, the stigmata is either supernatural or inexplicable. (From 1 and 2)
4. Genuine occurrences are not inexplicable. (Premise, PSR)
5. Therefore, the stigmata is supernatural. (From 1, 2, and 4)

I'm sure that there will be no trouble in accepting (1), (3), and to a slightly lesser extent (4). (4) assumes that events really have explanations, and do not just occur without any reason whatsoever. For someone who already accepts a fairly benign version of the PSR, that leaves us with (2).

The stigmata is a well-documented phenomena. [1] Naturalistic explanations range from deliberate hoax to psychosomatic self-infliction. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, I think it deserves more attention and study.

[1] See the following links:,

The Argument from Motion, Craig-style

William Lane Craig doesn't usually write much about the argument from motion (AFM) when presenting the cosmological argument. However, I think there is a way to understand the AFM in a way that compliments one of Craig's points.

For proponents of the AFM, such as myself, if there is motion in an interconnected whole, then the interconnected whole must have a First Mover. For example, a watch without a spring would not be in motion even if there were infinitely-many gears. A train without an engine would not be in motion even if there were infinitely-many boxcars. By analogy, the cosmos would not be in motion without a First Mover even if there were infinitely-many bodies. Therefore, given the motion of the cosmos, it follows via induction that a First Mover exists.

Now enters the Craig-style argument. Given that the First Mover is the cause of motion in the cosmos, the First Mover must transcend the cosmos (all physical space, time, matter and energy). Hence, the First Mover must be timeless, changeless (for time is a measure of change), and immaterial. It must also be personal. For, there are two things we know of that are immaterial: abstract objects and minds.* Yet, abstract objects do not stand in causal relations, so nothing abstract could cause the motion of the cosmos, or of anything for that matter. Therefore, the First Mover is a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, which (per the Angelic Doctor) "everyone understands to be God."

*Of course, if one can coherently propose another alternative, then the argument about the First Mover being a mind will not necessarily follow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What do we really value?

Today's Gospel included one of the most powerful messages in Holy Scripture. It was Luke 12:13-21:

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

This leads me to ask: what do we really value in life? Do we base our happiness on the fleeting possessions of this world? Or, do we ultimately find our deepest longings satisfied in another world? It seems obvious to me that every person in every culture has an innate desire for a perfect and lasting happiness. Yet, it is also true that such happiness cannot be found in this world. All of us will die some day, after all. Do we dare conclude as C.S. Lewis did, that we were made for another world?

It is always possible to put off giving our lives to our Lord, Jesus. We can say, "yeah, it all seems reasonable, but I'd like to know more first," but eventually we will have to make a decision. We cannot put off the decision forever, so the question remains: are we prepared to trust in God in the hopes that we will receive the treasures of heaven?

Personally, I want to be like Joshua: "As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15).