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« The Nature of Truth and Knowledge | Main | "All Religions Are Basically the Same" »

April 30, 2010

Comments

"God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future."

--Martin Luther (1522)

"I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing. [I believe] such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren, rush inside the center of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn. I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children."

--George MacDonald

"For it is evident that God will in truth be all in all when there shall be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with iteself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body."

--Gregory of Nyssa

"For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all."

--St. Paul

"For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."

--St. Paul

My one and only piece of relevant evidence [for an Aristotelian God] is the apparent impossibility of providing a naturalistic theory of the origin from DNA of the first reproducing species ... [In fact] the only reason which I have for beginning to think of believing in a First Cause god is the impossibility of providing a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducing organisms.
- Flew

While a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducers has yet to be completed, nobody has shown such an account to be impossible. Flew was taken in. Reminds me of Project Alpha.

Experts can be fooled.

RonH

....nobody has shown such an account to be impossible.

How does someone go about showing what cannot be done? All anyone can do is show what can be done.

"While a naturalistic account of the origin of the first reproducers has yet to be complete, nobody has shown such an account to be impossible."

But why does proportioning his belief to the amount of evidence he amassed foolish? And why is holding out hoping science might come up with the goods more admirable, when that day may very well not come?

SteveK,

If someone is going to claim something is impossible, yes, they have to show it is impossible.

Being fooled isn't being foolish. There are lots of unanswered questions in science. Shall we make up answers for all of them and stop investigating?

RonH

Nice to hear STR's verdict on Flew's soul...

If someone can have absolute "assurance of their own salvation," then I can have assurance of my damnation.

I agree w/ Malebranche ... Looks like this is claiming to know with certainty of Mr. Flew's damnation. (Where is the evidence to make such a claim? Last I checked, none of us are able to see into the hearts of our fellow human beings, even at the very moment of death.)

RonH wrote:
"There are lots of unanswered questions in science. Shall we make up answers for all of them and stop investigating?"

Science can only measure the material world. If something immaterial crated the material, science cannot decide it. Neither can science make any rational claim that only material causes can be considered, that conclusion is in no way arrived at by empirical deliberations.

What is wrong with claiming God created? How is that any less probable than the (many failed) material explanation of origins?

The problem with all arguments for Atheism is that they do not answer the questions they must answer in order to be a viable explanation.

Atheism does not answer such fundamental questions as "Why does a universe birthed in randomness and characterized by continual change operate according to fixed mathematical laws like F=ma, E=mc^2, etc.?" "How did the random chemical processes that constitute human 'thinking' acquire concepts such as morality or justice, and why does 'thinking' operate according to universally-accepted laws of logic?" (e.g. You cannot give an argument to disprove the laws of logic without first assuming them to be true.)

In contrast to atheistic explanations, the Bible gives a comprehensive, coherent answer to all such questions. These are not evolving answers that human thinkers have gradually developed over the millenia, but are fully-developed explanations found in some of the Bible's earliest books (e.g. Genesis, Job) and repeated unchanged in later books (e.g. Psalms, Matthew, Romans).

According to the Bible, the universe is governed by fixed laws because it was created and preserved by an all-wise Designer. Man naturally thinks in terms of moral and logical concepts because he was formed to reflect the image of his Creator, who is infinitely just, good and wise.

In addition to not answering the fundamental questions, atheistic explanations (e.g. evolution) also fail to agree with observed evidence. For example, transitional fossils are systematically missing from the fossil record (a fact that has been repeatedly acknowledged by prominent evolutionists). It is not unusual to find measureable amounts of C-14 in coal or diamond samples supposedly millions of years old, which indicates the unreliability of radiometric dating, and suggests that the samples are likely only thousands of years old, as the Bible claims. Or, if the universe began as an expanding cloud of hydrogen gas, then there is no reason why it would coalesce into stars and galaxies (a fact that has been admitted by prominent atheistic cosmologists).

In short, the Bible succeeds where atheism fails--it answers the fundamental questions, it agrees with observed evidence, and it is internally consistent. The most natural conclusion is that it is what it claims to be: namely, God's special revelation to mankind. And, if this is true, then the Bible is also true when it says that we are guilty sinners who need a Savior, and that Jesus Christ is the one person uniquely qualified to save us: being both fully human and fully God in one person, paying a sufficient price for our redemption, and rising victoriously over sin and death. To trust in any other salvation is the ultimate foolishness.

SteveK,

How does someone go about showing what cannot be done? All anyone can do is show what can be done.

There are some cases where it can be shown that something cannot be done. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_of_impossibility

Patrick,

"What is wrong with claiming God created?"

It's not the claim that is the problem, it is the reasons given for the claim. If your reason for believing in a God is the impossibility of the origin of replicating life (based on RonH's quote of Flew), then you should be able to demonstrate that it is impossible. If you cannot demonstrate the impossibility, then you just don't know how it happened. This reduces it to a case of argument from ignorance:
I don't know the answer to A,
therefore, B is the answer to A.

Mitch,

The problem with all arguments for Atheism is that they do not answer the questions they must answer in order to be a viable explanation

I'm not familiar with many arguments for atheism. What I see are arguments for various gods, for which their are critiques and counter arguments. Most things that may be seen as a argument for atheism are actually arguing against some proposition put forth by someone else.

Atheism does not answer such fundamental questions as...
Of course it doesn't. Why would we expect it to? Atheism is a position on one question (or class of questions).
It is not unusual to find measureable amounts of C-14 in coal or diamond samples supposedly millions of years old, which indicates the unreliability of radiometric dating, and suggests that the samples are likely only thousands of years old, as the Bible claims.
It can't do both of these. If it is true that unaccountable C14 is found in coal and diamonds, it either demonstrates that carbon dating is unreliable or it provides evidence that these things are only thousands of years old. If it's unreliable, then it isn't telling us about the age of the materials.

You didn't say where your information comes from, but if it's what I'm thinking, then it's simply a misunderstanding of the carbon dating method. From a relevant wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating):

As of 2007, the limiting age for a 1 milligram sample of graphite is about ten half-lives, approximately 60,000 years.[8] This age is derived from that of the calibration blanks used in an analysis, whose 14C content is assumed to be the result of contamination during processing (as a result of this, some facilities[8] will not report an age greater than 60,000 years for any sample).

In other words, the method cannot be used to measure things much older the 60,000 years.

I think a little poking around online will help you find that there are also flaws in your claims about transitional fossils and cosmology. The transitional fossils issue has gotten to a point where it almost requires an active evasion of the evidence to continue to make claims like, "transitional fossils are systematically missing from the fossil record". I think most people don't follow the field, so it's understandable if they don't no about the evidence, but if you are actively engaged in discussions on the subject you should probably look into it a bit.

Eric,
" If your reason for believing in a God is the impossibility of the origin of replicating life (based on RonH's quote of Flew), then you should be able to demonstrate that it is impossible. If you cannot demonstrate the impossibility, then you just don't know how it happened."

I do not think it necessary to prove it is impossible though. The burden is no more on me to prove it is impossible than it is on you to prove it is possible. The naturalist claim entails ultimate material causality. That is a meta-narrative claim that should be treated as such. Materialists have no empirical basis at all for the claim and of course they have no empirical data. They tend to extrapolate and equate causes with effects and secondary causes with primary causes without justification.

My reasons for theism include the absence of anything in the scientific record that supports abiogenesis and the reality that Natural selection (and Darwinian evolutionary theory) cannot by definition account for origins. I buttress that with the philosophically justified position that miracles and the supernatural are possible, and that people have had empirical experience of the effects of the actions of those supernatural events (e.g. the resurrection, and that the failure of naturalistic theories to adequately explain those events.

Patrick,

"I do not think it necessary to prove it is impossible though."

It's not necessary, but if you claim impossibility, you should be able to demonstrate that. I don't think you need to show that every alternative position is impossible before you accept something as true (provided you will acknowledge that it may be untrue).

If someone says "abiogenesis is unlikely", that's fine. I agree, it seems like a very unlikely event. If someone says it's impossible, I would like some kind of explanation. "Very unlikely" is not the same as "impossible".

"My reasons for theism include the absence of anything in the scientific record that supports abiogenesis..."

There was no life, then there was life. That's something that supports abiogenesis. There's the fact that the major constituent elements in living things are the same as the major constituent chemicals on the planet. The raw materials were present in abundance. That's something that supports abiogenesis. Many of the major molecules found in living things are found to be produced by non-biological processes. That's also something that supports abiogenesis. It's far from conclusive, but it's going too far to say there's an absence of anything.

"...and the reality that Natural selection (and Darwinian evolutionary theory) cannot by definition account for origins"

You are right that evolutionary theory doesn't account for origins of life by definition. It is outside of the scope of the theory. That's neither an argument for or against abiogenesis. Evolutionary theory deals with the changes in living things, and presumes the existence of populations of organisms.

Some form of natural selection may have been involved in abiogenesis, but it would be a bit different from what "natural selection" usually means within the context of evolutionary theory. I don't think it is necessarily ruled out by definition.

"I buttress that with the philosophically justified position that miracles and the supernatural are possible"

By that, do you mean the lack of proof that such things are impossible? Once there was a wise man who said:

"The burden is no more on me to prove it is impossible than it is on you to prove it is possible"

Thanks for the debate, Eric, I have to run. I leave you with one thought:

Specified Complexity.

Any example of that in the world apart from intelligent agents?

PEACE

Can you define "Specified Complexity" in a manner that either doesn't assume intelligence is responsible, or is not intended to be a unique distinguishing feature of living organisms?

Is the argument from specified complexity fundamentally different from the watchmaker argument?

(Bye Patrick. If anyone else wishes to pick this up, I may check in from time to time)

Eric,

    "I'm not familiar with many arguments for atheism. What I see are arguments for various gods, for which their are critiques and counter arguments. Most things that may be seen as a argument for atheism are actually arguing against some proposition put forth by someone else."

It is naive to suggest that atheism does not require an argument. Every philosophy needs to justify its claims--including the claim that God does not exist. Any worthwhile philosophy needs to be able to explain--at least in general terms--the world in which we live. Once it provides such explanations, then it is legitimate to analyze those explanations to see if they are adequate, logically coherent and consistent with observed evidence.


    "Atheism does not answer such fundamental questions as...
    Of course it doesn't. Why would we expect it to? Atheism is a position on one question (or class of questions)."

You define atheism too narrowly to be helpful. For many reasons, the divide between theism and atheism is not merely a question about the existence or non-existence of God. What do you mean by "God", and what implications does the existence of such a God have for the real world in which we live?

Any comprehensive philosophy must provide a basis for why the world exists, and why it is as it is. The foundation of the Christian's philosophy is a personal, all-powerful, all-wise and holy God. The foundation of the atheist's philosophy is time, chance and matter.

Is your concept of atheism merely that it is "a position on one question..." without any consideration given to a complete worldview? You need to get serious about such issues as life, meaning, existence, justice and purpose. These are the practical issues at stake in any discussion about the existence or non-existence of God.

Mitch,

"You need to get serious about such issues as life, meaning, existence, justice and purpose."

Did I say something to make you think I am not serious about these things? I am quite serious about them, I jut don't consider these as under the umbrella of "atheism". I know that a lot of people use "atheism" as a form of short hand for a large set of beliefs, but that can cloud the issues. It is not as though atheists all agree on everything. They only thing they all agree on is that they don't think any gods are real.

"Any comprehensive philosophy must provide a basis for why the world exists, and why it is as it is."

Atheism is not a comprehensive philosophy. Why the world exists and why it is the way it is are not within it's scope. It doesn't in any way follow from this that any particular comprehensive philosophy that includes gods is correct.

I have accepted your point that atheism does not answer many important questions. Did you have a chance to think about my other points (re carbon dating, transitional fossils and galaxy formation)?

@eric,

There was no life, then there was life. That's something that supports abiogenesis. There's the fact that the major constituent elements in living things are the same as the major constituent chemicals on the planet. The raw materials were present in abundance. That's something that supports abiogenesis. Many of the major molecules found in living things are found to be produced by non-biological processes. That's also something that supports abiogenesis. It's far from conclusive, but it's going too far to say there's an absence of anything.
I would argue these do not support abiogenesis, but rather they simply do not conflict with abiogenesis.

eric,
nice
RonH

Patrick

From the comments section at Biologos yesterday;

"The randomness involved in immune system function is absolutely crucial for us to fight off an immense (and rapidly evolving!) pool of pathogens with our limited genome. Randomness is the central mechanism for generating a diverse immune response.

It also happens to be a particularly beautiful example, contra Meyer, of natural processes adding “specified complex information” to DNA."

Eric,

    Did I say something to make you think I am not serious about these things? I am quite serious about them, I jut don't consider these as under the umbrella of "atheism".

I do not think one can give a meaningful argument for or against the existence of God except by (1)assuming the thesis (i.e. of existence or non-existence) to be true, and (2)analyzing the larger logical and philosophical consequences that follow from that assumption.

Moreover, one must properly define the term "God" as a personal, sovereign, all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-holy, all-wise Being--such as the God of the Bible. Anything less would be a finite being that is not self-sufficient, and therefore would fail at the outset, requiring a prior cause to explain its own existence.

Atheistic worldviews may take a variety of forms, but they cannot take the form of theism. In other words, any atheistic philosophy cannot appeal to a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful creator to explain the origin of the universe, of life, of justice and morality, of logic and reason, or of unchanging scientific laws. If it can explain these things, it must appeal to something else. My contention is that, in principle, nothing else (e.g. materialism) is adequate to explain the existence and present condition of the observed universe.

My problem with Atheism, therefore, is that it cannot successfully function as the basis for a consistent worldview, in contrast to Biblical theism, which can and does lead to a consistent worldview--one that is both internally consistent, and consistent with observed evidence.

Eric, et al.

    "There was no life, then there was life. That's something that supports abiogenesis. There's the fact that the major constituent elements in living things are the same as the major constituent chemicals on the planet. The raw materials were present in abundance. That's something that supports abiogenesis.

The statement "There was no life, then there was life." does not "support" abiogenesis, as you claim. Whether or not it supports abiogenesis depends on how and why life came to be.

If life came into being by the deliberate act of an intelligent deity, it is not abiogenesis, but creation. If life came into being by the random interactions of non-living chemicals, that would be abiogenesis.

Therefore, the change from non-life to life, by itself, is no argument for or against abiogenesis, and likewise is no proof or disproof of a Creator.

On the other hand, a vast quantity of specified information would be required in the DNA for even the simplest life form. The infinitesimal odds of obtaining such an arrangement by chance occurrences in the lifetime of even a billion universes argues against naturalism.

You also need to remember that a dead fly has all the constitutent chemicals needed for life, but it is dead nevertheless, and no one has yet devised a way to turn a dead fly into a living fly.

It is only by and through Christ that we are saved. But, when it comes to Flew, we don't know the extent of his belief. All we have are his public statements here and there. Sometimes people have more faith than they think they have. One's subjective understanding of one's own faith can't be the basis by which God judges us, for in that case, it is the conjuring up of my subjective certitude rather than God's objective grace which heals my soul and allows me to participate in the divine nature. This is why, for example, some Church Fathers counted Socrates and Plato among the pre-NT pagan saints. They were in contact with the Logos, the pre-incarnate Christ.

Flew was, after all, baptized as an infant by the Church of England. So, if one believes, as many of us do, that sacramental grace changes nature, perhaps Flew believed more than he knew. Wouldn't be the first time.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word, and I shall be healed."

Hi Francis,

I question your claim that "Sacramental grace changes nature." There are too many instances where baptized individuals have died in utter rebellion against God.

Throughout scripture, sacraments are symbolic of God's redemptive work, but do not guarantee the spiritual salvation of the individual who received the sacrament.

    For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:25-29

There is no reason to suppose that baptism is qualitatively different from circumcision. When Paul warned the Galatians against trusting in circumcision to save them, he did not tell them that they needed to trust in baptism rather than circumcision. Instead, he said that "faith working through love" is the true test of one's salvation.

    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
    Galatians 5:6

The purpose of sacramental baptism is explained by John when he contrasted his baptism with Jesus' baptism, saying ...

    I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
    Mark 1:8

Here we discover that there are two aspects of baptism: baptism with water (performed by God's ministers), and baptism with the Holy Spirit (performed by Christ). The two are related, just as animal sacrifices are related to the redemptive work of Christ, or as circumcision is related to God's heart-changing work. In other words, water baptism is a picture of the spiritual baptism that occurs when Christ regenerates a sinner, joining him to Himself by faith and repentance through the Spirit.

However, there is no necessary connection between the recipients of water baptism and the recipients of Christ's saving baptism. The Pharisees were properly circumcised and faithfully offered animal sacrifices, yet Jesus described many of them as hypocrites and "blind fools", and addressed them, saying "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?" (Matthew 23: 23-24,33, etc.)

On the other hand, the converts at Caesarea were saved under Peter's preaching, and received the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized with water, showing that there is no necessary connection between being baptized with water and being regenerate...

    "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" Acts 10:47

I therefore question that Flew's baptism is any indication of salvation. Even so, it is valid to say that he could have come to faith in Christ in his dying hours--just like the thief on the cross. We are merely fruit inspectors. God is the final judge.

Francis Beckwith,

it sounds like you're saying that Flew has a chance at heaven

yay

Cuz i believe in Christianity about as much as Flew did. So, that really is good to hear.

Malebranche,

Luther's theology was in a state of transition and development for several years. The letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg is the only place in all his writings that supports a universalist position, so we must not assume that this is Luther's mature and settled view on the subject.

Gordon MacDonald's views do not represent orthodox Christian belief. The Bible teaches that only those who trust in Jesus Christ are "children of God".

    But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
    John 1:12
    This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    Romans 9:8
    By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
    1 John 3:10



The quotation from Romans 11:32 is in the context of comparing God's mercy to the Jewish nation with His mercy to the Gentiles. Here, Paul is summarizing what he said in the previous verses ...

    Just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [Jews'] disobedience, so they [Jews] too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they [Jews] also may now receive mercy. Romans 11:30-31

God's present display of mercy to the Gentiles is not universal, just as the present "disobedience" of the Jews is not universal (Paul, for example, was a Jew saved by God's grace, as was Felix Mendelssohn).

Therefore, when he speaks of "all" in verse 32, he means "all categories" (i.e. both Jews and Gentiles), and not all individuals.

    "For God has shut up all [i.e. both Jews and Gentiles] in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all [i.e. to both Jews and Gentiles]."
    Romans 11:32



Romans 5:18 is given in the context of two men--Adam and Christ--and contrasts the far-reaching consequences of their actions regarding those who are in Adam versus those who are in Christ.

Verses 15 and 19, for example, speak of the "many" (not "all") who were "made sinners" and who died because of Adam's transgression, and speaks of the "many" (not "all") who "will be made righteous" and to whom grace abounds through the obedience of Christ.

Numerous scriptures plainly teach that many will eternally perish in hell ...

    "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
    Matthew 25:41

    And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
    Mat 25:46
    in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

Therefore, when Paul uses the word "all" in Romans 5:18, he does not mean "all individuals without exception". The phrase "all men", in this context, should be understood to mean "men of every language, nation and tribe" or perhaps "all who are in Adam" versus "all who are in Christ". This not only fits the sense of Romans 5, but is also consistent with every other passage that speaks of eternal judgment.

    "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men [i.e. all who are in Adam], even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men [i.e. all who are in Christ]."
    Romans 5:17-18

None of us likes to think of people suffering the horrors of hell, but this is the very reason why the Son of God left the joys and comforts of heaven to die the horrific suffering of the cross. He is the only Savior, and He is the one in whom we must trust if we expect to be redeemed by Him.

We do no honor to God to suggest that men could be saved apart from the work of Christ, and we do no honor to God to suggest that He ought to save men who despise Christ and His redemptive work, or who belittle Christ by trusting in some other basis for their salvation.

We can only hope that Anthony Flew came to faith in Christ before He died, because "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

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