*** Primary Resource: Glossary of Biblical and Christian Philosophy
Christian Schools, Colleges, and Seminaries… too! These are ideas and philosophies at fundamental levels. Possibly, and likely in many instances, your Christian teachers and professors have not considered these issues, either!
In my ongoing study of philosophy, I eventually came to philosophy of science, primarily through Michael Polanyi. The only two real debates on the topic of truth (episteme or epistemology) in the 21st Century are Biblical Christianity and natural science. (On “natural science,” see comments and references below.) Because of technological advances, natural science seems to have the high ground on an understanding of the universe (cosmos). However, that understanding is mostly a myth, when one begins to understand the theories of the philosophers of science which I will present here.
I want to give high school and college students simple, but profound ammunition, mostly from the philosophy of science (but from logic and other areas, as well) upon which to present in debate or in writing papers that will at least gain you a stalemate with an honest and reasonable professor. For the most part, the issues are not that complicated, as you will see. With a little effort and more research on your part on the Internet, you will be able to understand (at least in part) and write on these subjects.
Essential words to know: science, naturalism, physicalism, methodological naturalism, dualism, monism, secularism or secular humanism, metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, morality and ethics, the two—and only two–opposing systems of Scripture
Warning! The strong advocates of modern science are not in the philosophy department. Philosophers understand the complexity of the issues and are usually (not always) more accommodating of philosophic scientific and Christian issues. The strong advocates of modern science are in the science departments (mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.), the social studies departments (sociology, psychology, economics, etc.), and most other departments where professors have never had courses in philosophy of science. They believe in the scientific method which (to them) determines truth. Their rabid conviction about evolution is one example.
Quote and cite atheist authors who agree with your position. In the following, you will find numerous atheists, agnostics, or believers in other religions (David Hume, Thomas Nagle, George Steiner, Anthony Flew, etc.) who have argued for logical conclusions that turn out to be consistent with a Biblical position. In using such argumentation, your professor cannot claim that you only have a Christian bias for your own position!
These ideas are starters. You will have to work at understanding what I have said and do your own solid research. I am only giving you a starting point, not writing the paper for you. I will try to direct you to other places on my www.biblicalphilosophy.org where I have written further and elsewhere, but you will need to have more background for your discussions. However, properly understood, these are devastating and irrefutable arguments. You will be lobbing atomic bombs, so do so in humility, grace, and wily understanding. “Walk softly and carry a big stick,” or better, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Using today’s Internet, you can find all kinds of articles that discuss at common and scholarly levels the ideas presented here by both Christians and non-Christians.
Biblical Christianity is the only true, complete system. Christians, as individuals, are not absolute. Churches and denominations are not absolute. No systematic theology is absolute. Only the inerrant and infallible, 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible are absolute (agreed upon historically and by all orthodox Christians). Thus, your reasoning will need to be consistent with that the teachings of that book.
All that follows is a comprehensive system—a whole universe of ideas that could be systematized. Learning the following is a lot like learning to swim—you have to get in the water where you are surrounded with a substance that you must know how to swim or sink. Virtually, everything presented herein is part of the whole system, so there will be much overlap of ideas and refutations. You should realize that you will “dog paddle” for a while until you can make strong, fluent swimming strokes. Strong swimming does not come without hard work and neither will the following. Be patient, work, read and re-read. Once your eyes are opened, your faith and your apologetic will be stronger.
Glossary. I have an extensive Glossary on my websites, www.biblicalphilosophy.org and www.biblicalworldview21.org. For words and terms that I have not defined here, you will need to consult that Glossary and its corresponding references.
Pursue as a career. If you really get into this stuff, consider a career as a professor of philosophy of science. You will need a solid theological foundation (Bible school, seminary, or extensive personal study—as I did), because all knowledge must be under the functional control of Scripture. There is no greater need in the ongoing apologetic debate with atheists. Most Christian apologists use weak arguments, for example, Creation Science is still science with all the fallacies listed here, so one is arguing a fallacy for the Christian faith (see # 16). I will be giving you foundational arguments against which there are no stronger arguments when properly understood—disagreements, yes, but no stronger arguments because they are presuppositional where personal preferences enter.
Introductory texts on “philosophy of science.” The following are books that are good introductions and general references to issues in the philosophy of science. Most of the topics listed and named herein falls into that category. In general, philosophy of science is about the epistemology of science—how its beliefs and knowledge are derived and formulated. That is, it involves the issues that make or do not make science a reliable system of belief. Indeed, science, is a belief system, as much or more so than belief in the Bible. Thus, the great battle about knowledge is between science and Christianity—more specifically, the Bible. If the Christian can build his argument that all knowledge is based upon personal, basic beliefs, then he can at least bring an honest opponent to a stalemate of competing ideas. For more on the “battle of belief systems,” see Fighting on Level Ground.
The End of Science by John Horgan. This book is a complete overview of the modern status of science and the challenges it faces when many of its pursuits seem to be at an “end,” that is, no other directions to pursue. It is written by an experienced science journalist and is easily readable, comprehensive, philosophical, and entertaining (he interviews many scientists and philosophers personally). Perhaps, even more fascinating are his next two books in which he attempts to find foundations for true belief in neuroscience, and then, mysticism. These books are The Undiscovered Mind and Rational Mysticism. Used copies of these books can usually be found for reasonable prices.
The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton. A well-researched book that traces the development of science from its beginnings, as “natural philosophy,” to modern subatomic physics. Because it covers so much material, explanation may be lacking at some points, but the reader will benefit from study and re-reads. If he masters this book, he will be ready to contend for his or her faith against modern advocates of positivism and scientism. This book is probably one of the best in its being comprehensive historically and scientifically.
Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology by R. C. Sproul. The book explores far more than the concept of chance. (In the following suggestions, I have one on “chance.”) Other chapters include ignorance of know causes, quantum mechanics (simply presented), cause and effect, logic, the notion of truth, and much more. This book is gives more powerful “proofs” than most books that are apologetic for Christianity.
A Christian View of Men and Things by Gordon Clark. I recommend all books by this author. He has been my tutor through his books for 40 years. In this particular book, he starts with history and politics and moves through various disciplines of study, eventually arriving at epistemology. In all of them, he shows that a standard does not exist for determining truth except in the Bible. It is not an easy read, but comprehensive in solid arguments and review of these attempts at knowledge in certain areas of study.
Mathematics: Is God Silent by James Nickel. An excellent work that presents more than a solid work on a Biblical worldview in mathematics. It also gives a simple history of philosophy and philosophy of science from a Biblical perspective. A great resource for many worldview issues. Mathematics is often presented as the most “objective” of sciences, but it is anything but objective and entirely dependent upon one’s subjective worldview.
The Frontiers of Science and Faith: Examining Questions from the Big Bang to the End of the Universe by John Jefferson Davis (Intervarsity Press). A cutting edge book that discusses quantum theory, chaos theory, the Big Bang, Godel’s proofs, and much more. This book is more theological and technical than any book listed here and presents more than most books on apologetics and science. However, it is invaluable to those Christians who want to take theology and science to their deepest levels in comparison and contrast; how modern science is compatible (or not) with the best forms of theology.
Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—and How to Know When Not to Trust Them by David H. Freeman. Cardiologists (expert heart doctors) advocated a treatment for irregularities of heart beats and tens of thousands died. No experts predicted the real estate and financial crisis of 2008-2009. Experts in diets and exercise in weight loss have recommendations that directly are opposite to each other. Football experts “punt of fourth down,” but statistics show that “going for a first down” is the better move. From a diversity of experts, Freeman shows how they missed and why. A truly eye-opening book on how experts cannot lead us to “green pastures.
Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project by Alvin Plantinga.
Not an introductory text, but the best and most comprehensive. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy by Michael Polanyi. This book is a difficult read, but it is far and away the best argument for the tenuous nature of science. Polanyi was a world-renown physical chemist and a personal acquaintance of Albert Einstein (even outthinking him on at least one occasion). It is a book that you do not have to read straight through, although there is some building on previous material. However, a possible help to you is my extensive vocabulary that I needed to work my way through this book. You can find The Polanyi Glossary here.
The nature of argument. Everyone one wants a “proof” of their particular ideas. Christians in particular want to prove their faith to unbelievers. Christian apologetics is a huge industry today. That is mostly good news, but if believers do not understand the nature of argumentation, then apologetics will only frustrate them—as it did me for many years. All arguments are based upon personal or group assumptions. Synonyms for assumptions include axioms, premises, presuppositions, basic beliefs, starting points, prejudices—do a little work on your own and find more. Use a thesaurus or synonym finder online—the exercise will be greatly beneficial to you. You can even find them on my website: Synonyms.
Personal assumptions are those that only you hold. Yes, every person on planet earth has differing beliefs from all others. I worked closely with a man for 30 years with whom we must have had 95 percent or more agreement on simple and complex issues. Yet, we differed on a few—some not so minor. These personal assumptions will include simple issues such as chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, a preference for Toyotas over Fords, and warm climate over cold climate. They will also include more complex issues, such as, Calvinist vs. Arminian theology, conservative vs. liberal ethics and politics, and whether Christians should marry, or even date, unbelievers.
Obviously, there are personal assumptions that are common to many people other than yourself. These are group beliefs, and they are quite varied, as they include conservatives and republicans, Christians and non-Christians, Freemasons and Kiwanis, Baptist and Presbyterian, traditional and feminist ideas, and many, many others. Groups are essential. If we had no beliefs in common, we could not even communicate, but being with like-minded people we have an identity and belong to a group. But every group has its opposite identity, as well. So, whose proof is better?
Circular arguments and tautologies. Proofs only exist within its own system. (See Gödel’s theorems following here, the discovery of which shocked the philosophical world!) This limitation of “proof” to a belief system is inescapably necessary to an understanding of argumentation, yet it is rarely taught. In fact, many consider circular reasoning and tautologies an informal fallacy. But every argument starts with assumptions—every argument. The evolutionist assumes certain scientific data is true and rejects the Bible. The Biblical Christian assumes the truth of the Bible over that of science and any other knowledge. The naturalist assumes that miracles are not possible; the Christian assumes that the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus make miracles possible. So, do not be persuaded by those who condemn arguments for being circular or tautological, each side should examine its own assumptions. Sometimes, agreement can be found between individuals and groups in this way, but more likely conversion (covered later) will be necessary to move from one thought system to another.
“Modern science” exists on this concept of “group-think.” The classical text on this reality is Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in which he states that science exists more by common agreement than the nature of “facts” allow. In fact, Francis Schaeffer (look up this wise Christian who dominated evangelical thinking in the 1970s and 1980s) said that “There is no such thing as a brute fact.” There are always underlying assumptions. Possible paper: write a book review of Kuhn’s book just named.
“Christian.” All Christians are not the same; not all are true Christians. You probably know that by now, but you may not know what is the great dividing issue for Christians. It is the nature of Biblical truth. Yes, there are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics, but these divisions are not as great as that concerning Biblical truth. (Of course, many of the disagreements have to do with Biblical interpretation, so there can be many agreements among those who believe in the Bible’s authority.) Most commonly, this dividing issue is presented as “inerrancy” vs. “errancy.” However, those terms may not be the best way to paint the issues. Perhaps, more accurately is one’s assumption (see above) about the breadth and depth of Biblical authority. For example, the Bible is not a textbook on science, but such issues as the origin of physical matter and the possibility of miracles is more authoritative than science. (See “science” below.) “Errantists” who carry the label Christian would argue against the Genesis account of Creation and the possibility of miracles. In fact, probably the majority of those who label themselves “Christians” in the United States today would not agree about the Bible’s authority on these two issues.
What the Bible is and is not is the most major decision that you will ever make because it will determine all your other decisions. For example, should you marry an unbeliever, or even date an unbeliever? (See II Corinthians 7) And, it is the controlling authority (epistemological) issue, as well. What career should you choose? Well, you can choose any one that does not violate one of the Ten Commandments.
The word “science” is more accurately “natural science.” The modern use of “science” has become distorted from it historical meaning. Science comes from the Latin, scientitia, which means knowledge. “Science,” as it is used today, refers to “natural sciences,” or the knowledge that is derived from these studies. However, the Scholastics (high Middle Ages) referred to theology, as the “Queen of the Sciences.” Thus, it is inescapable that theology was “science,” but other areas (logic, philosophy, etc.) were also “science.” At that time and in prior history, any scholarly study was called a “science.” The Greek translation of scientitia is episteme from which you will recognize “epistemology”—the study of knowledge. Thus, science in its historical sense was the pursuit of knowledge in any particular area of study.
Natural science was formerly called “natural philosophy.” That is, the various studies of nature were a division of philosophy. Many, if not most, people recognize that philosophy has a wide variety of opinions on ethics, the origin of the universe, who and what man is, and meaning of human existence. But there has been a profound sleight of hand with natural philosophy becoming today’s “science.” With the rapid growth of knowledge and application in natural philosophy, those areas of study became known as “natural science.” Over time, “natural” was dropped from the two-word term. Thus, “science” today means all the studies of natural science, and the proper term is both words together. You must understand this sequence of events to understand how “science” has become the dominant epistemology of our times.
This change may seem minor, but it is quite powerful. “Science” lingers as scientitia and episteme—knowledge. It still carries the exact and systematic pursuit of knowledge. But now “science” is limited to the natural sciences, and in this re-naming achieves epistemological status that it does not deserve. All the other studies which were formerly called “science,” as theology was the “Queen of the sciences,” have been lowered on the knowledge scale to rank below the natural sciences. Thus, only the natural sciences achieve “truth” by this historical and linguistic sleight of hand. Unless you realize this trick of history, you will not understand the modern attitude of scientism—the natural sciences are the arbiter of truth.
However, the following ideas that are the substance of this file cut the legs out from under this historical trick and expose the natural sciences for their deceit in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Further development of this theme is another possible paper.
The nature of authority. The student should also come to understand something of the nature of authority. Everyone lives and makes decisions by “authority” far more than is at first recognized. Growing up, your parents and a few other adults were your authorities—you pretty much believed what they said. But, then as you acquired friends of your own age, you began to realize that they reflected differing opinions from your parents. “Hhmm—the world is a little more complicated than I thought!” Then, you started reading other opinions and hearing them from the television and the Internet. “The world is even more complicated.” Then, you may have started thinking of yourself as a “free-thinker.” “I know better than anyone else.” But, hold on a minute.
You are dependent upon all your prior knowledge to “know” anything! Choose whatever point in your life when you think that you began to think on your own—first grade, age twelve, senior in high school, or sophomore (“wise fool,” literally) in college. At any of these points you are dependent upon present knowledge from which to make decisions and to feel that you “know” something. Further, what do you do when you decide to buy a car, choose a college, or decide whom to vote for in a presidential election. You talk to, and listen to, others! What are these others? Authorities! Some you trust and some you do not, but your opinions are shaped by your valuation of them. Then, there is the authority of the self. Nearing adulthood, you being to make your own decisions. This step is necessary because decisions and choices must be made. But, who are you? Are you sufficiently wise to choose a career, whom to marry, or whom to give the most powerful political office in the world!
Now, I am not downplaying authority. We cannot live without dependence upon authority. But, you should realize the tenuous nature of authority: childhood thoughts, opinions of bright and not so bright friends and teachers (maybe even parents), and television commercials. We are inescapably dependent upon authorities. What is important are the authorities whom we choose to let influence us. Whom will you choose? Yourself? Are you, as a person, sufficiently wise? Your parents—are they sufficiently wise? The Bible? How can you interpret it properly?
One last word on this subject applies to postmodernism. A distrust of all authorities, especially the Bible, is prevalent in popular and scholarly discourse. You should not be pulled into this false frame of reference. (1) Realize that dependency upon authorities is inescapable. The person who says, “Distrust all authorities” has named himself as a great authority. What credentials does he offer for trust by others? (2) Do serious research to determine which authorities are reliable. (You may even find your parents in this category because they know you so well.) (3) If we are all dependent upon authorities, what is the big deal about the Bible as an authority? After all, it claims to present “Thus says the Lord.” Millions upon millions for thousands of years have found the Bible to be a reliable guide.
Paper. Augustine came to realize that the Bible was the ultimate authority in just the same way that I have presented here. He realized that he had no choice but to accept the authority of others. Thus, why not choose God’s authority? Research his meditations on the subject of authority and write a paper on it. One potential resource is B. B. Warfield’s book, Calvin and Augustine.
A word of instruction on the pronoun “this.” In your own writing, never use “this” without a noun that immediately follows. You will be amazed at your own inability to find a “following noun” for the “this” that you have used. How confusing, then, for the reader!
Presuppositional thinking. One of the categories that divides Christians is evidentialism and presuppositionalism. Another way to state this division is whether there are “brute” facts or that all “facts” are interpreted by one’s preconceived notions. For example, find an “abstract” painting in an art gallery and stand behind others who are viewing it. What do they say? You will hear, “It looks like…” That is, they cannot simply grasp an abstraction; they have to compare to something they recognize or contrast something that the painting is not. There are not more “brute facts” than there is “abstraction” to art.
Now, I do not want to criticize my evidentialist brothers and sisters too much, but if there are “brute” facts, why are there so many interpretations? The Christian accepts the resurrection of Christ; the natural scientist does not? Why not? The resurrection has the most evidence of any “fact” of that period of time. There are far more manuscripts to attest to the resurrection, than the writings of Seneca or Cicero. And, how does one explain the millions of followers of Christ (“Christ-ones” or “Christian”) who have committed their entire lives to this “myth?” The article, “Many Infallible Proofs”, should help you work through these issues.
***Synonyms for presupposition, faith, belief, assumption, premises, etc. Knowing synonyms is central to understanding. If I use the word “faith,” do you understand that it means the same as “belief?” You must grasp the synonyms to understand the nature of arguments. You must come to understand that everyone operates by faith (belief), even the most avowed atheists. See Godel’s theorems and the Quine-Duhem Theory that follow here. You must be able to recognize the differing terms for the basic beliefs that people have. Here is a lengthy list of synonyms for belief or faith, but even with its length it by no means exhaustive.
Faith, first principle, justified true belief, presupposition, starting point, pou stou, axiom, foundational belief, basic belief, first philosophy, assumption, bias, prejudice, testimony, authority, beginning, core beliefs, basic belief, properly basic belief, most basic belief, foundation, foundational belief, any absolute, dogma and dogmatism, doctrine, metaphysics and first philosophy (Aristotle), value, values, value judgments, heart, aesthetics, meta-ethic or other “meta____” (insert any term), assumption, presumption, bias, prejudice, simple belief, predilection, subjectivism, fundamental, ultimate desire, a priori or any a priori position, ultimate (value, truth, ethic, person, Person, Faith, etc.), philosophical outlook, pre-theoretical suppositions, basic commitment, basic idea, the ideal, “one’s most efficacious argument” (Richard Weaver), “ultimate concern” (Tillich), “ultimate reality” (Henry Stob), worldview, ground of being, absolute or Absolute, Begriff (Hegel), etc
1A. The subjectivity of the scientific method.This method involves personal (subjective) choices all along its method. A. The person chooses his or her hypothesis according to his or her own emotions (desires, hopes, curiosity, likes, dislikes, etc.). B. The person chooses how much paper research to do before starting. Now, in today’s digital age, that amount of research on any subject is staggering—in fact an exhaustive study can probably not be done on any subject. (See a cute, but powerful story of The Epistemology of a Flea. So, one can examine only a small portion of what is available. A person decides how much research to do. C. Every person has a limited budget. Whether a student research project at home or the most sophisticated nuclear particle accelerator, there is always a limit of technology available and a limitation of one’s budget. D. The person decides which measurements to study and how many. E. The person decides who will do the study—many students and professors are better than others. F. The person decides what data to include and what to throw out. G. The person observes the data and draws conclusions. The scientific methods gives a form to the process, but the person (in his subjectivity) makes many personal choices along the way.
Any where person is used involves a subjective decision, yet the scientific method is supposed to be an objective process. The person makes choices all along the scientific method, so it is infused with subjectivity. Science cannot say whether an experiment “ought” to be done, that is, whether the experiment or its results are “right or wrong.” For example, is it right or wrong to use animals in medical research—science (in this case, medicine) cannot answer that question. Values from outside of medicine must be sought to apply to that question. See value below. (This inability to determine value is called the naturalistic fallacy.)
Further study. At this point, you need to do an Internet search with something like, “fallacies of the scientific method,” “personal decisions in the scientific method,” “the naturalistic fallacy,” or “philosophy of science and the scientific method.” There is plenty of information for your paper on the Internet; find that which is most simple, easily understood, and applicable to your project or paper.
Reference. Here is a short reference for discussion of Science, Knowledge, and Faith.
Help!! If you get bogged down anywhere or need further help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll see if I can help you further.
1B. The informal fallacy of the scientific method–induction. The method of science is empiricism—theory, observation, experiment, and conclusions—as we saw above. It is not different from just plain life experience except that (1) it is called “science” and (2) it is more structured. “You learn from experience” is commonly quoted as a truism. You have an “experience,” good or bad, and you structure your life accordingly the next time you face that situation. For example, if a toddler gets bitten by a dog; he or she may be afraid of dogs for the rest of his or her life. A student is rewarded with a good grade for a project prescribed by a school teacher, and he is spurred on to ever greater tasks because of that reward. There are thousands of incidents that happen over one’s lifetime that train and teach. Are they all true? No. All dogs will not bite; all teachers will not reward. That all experiences and experiments are not true always and everywhere is called the fallacy of induction (empirical method, scientific method).
Simply, induction is observation and conclusion. The classic example is that one observes one hundred swans. They are all white. Therefore, one concludes that “All swans are white.” Then, that person goes to Australia and finds black swans. No one person can survey either the whole earth or the whole universe. No scientific experiment can structure for every eventuality and possibility. Take the formula for a body falling to earth, S=1/2 gt2 where S is the determined speed of the falling object in a vacuum, g is the acceleration of the object in feet per second per second (yes, this is stated correctly—it is the formula for acceleration), and t is time in seconds. But, guess what? In nature there are no vacuums except in outer space (probably not there either) where objects do not fall. And, this formula only applies at sea level. You see that this “law” of gravity does not apply in the real world. Is it useful—absolutely! But modifications have to be made wherever it is applied in “the real world.” The person (subjectivity) must operate to make it useful.
Experiments cannot be done everywhere under all conditions. Persons are limited in their lifespan, time, interest, etc. Thus, induction (the scientific method, empiricism, scientific experiment) is always tentative. Its usefulness is not being challenged here—look at all the modern technical devices that we have. However, all induction is tentative and limited—it must be modified for practical application. Therefore, it is never true, as truth is changeless and applies everywhere. And scientists want to claim their knowledge to run the world. Their world is a changing fallacy! See
Suggested paper—David Hume. This atheist is a great source for citation, as he discussed at length the fallacy of induction. You can pit this famous philosopher and atheist against modern atheists. He also argued that no “ought” can be derived from “what is.” This argument is called the naturalistic argument—that any person in general, or a scientist in particular, cannot argue from what they see (“what is”) to what “ought” to be. For example, I observe a father spanking a child and the “suffering” that the latter experiences. Therefore, I argue that spanking is wrong. That “therefore” is a wrong conclusion from the facts. At least one position (that of the Bible) is that spanking is “good” (several of the Proverbs). (I cited this example specifically because the American Academy of Pediatrics has made this very argument.)
Internet. Also, there is plenty of material at simple and more complex levels of discussion available on the Internet. Simply search for “the fallacy of induction,” or “the fallacy of the scientific method,” or “empiricism as a fallacy.”
See the following category, Review any issue of Discover or other scientific journal, for a practical paper illustrating this example.
2A.“There are no absolutes.” This statement has been a favorite of relativists for decades. However, if the statement is true, then it is also an absolute, which denies the truth of itself. This contradictory statement is called a performative contradiction. If true in statement, then it is false in actuality. Thus, the opposite must be true, “There must be at least one absolute.”
Now, the usual argument proposed is, “Logic is limited.” Both counter statements can be true. Well, OK, but you have just stated that illogic or irrationality applies to all statements concerning truth. But, if you want to go there, then you can have no opinion about anything. If one wants to allow full-blown irrationality, then all statements are meaningless, and it is useless to say anything. So, logic necessitates a logical dilemma: Either there is at least one absolute or irrationality and all statements have no meaning. Even here, however, no one can live by the latter position because all conversations take place on the belief that what I say is rational and can be understood by those to whom I am speaking.
The following short review may be helpful: http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/absolute-truth.htm Do an Internet search on “the falsity of there are no absolutes.” That should get you some material.
You may also want to consider Jesus’ statement. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and its absolute ramifications. He is making the claim that truth is a “person,” Himself. How can that be?
2B. There is logically only one absolute. An absolute is absolute is an absolute, that is, everything else is subordinate to it. Ah! It is here that the rubber meets the road. What could this absolute be? Perhaps, Hegel presented the most comprehensive absolute in the history of philosophy with his concept of Geist. His absolute is total, absorbing everything in its path to its completion in history, if one believes his system.
Only an all encompassing, all-directing agency, qualifies as an absolute. Everything must be subordinate to it, and it must be able to answer all questions of inquiry. An absolute must be omniscient and omnipotent. Thus, a simple statement, such as, the following must be put into an all-encompassing system. “The sun always rises.” “A dog is a man’s best friend.” “Religions are the most common cause of wars.” “All religions are true.” These statements cannot stand except that they are placed within an absolute system. For example, “the sun always rises” is contradicted by modern science—the universe will someday come to an end. It is also contradicted by the Bible, “There will be no more sun” (Revelation 22:5). Both predict the cessation of the rising of the sun, but by differing methods. Which is true?
Papeer. For a serious exploration, one may want to read Paul Tillich’s book, My Search for Absolutes. However, he does not arrive at one absolute, he arrives at several. Thus, he has not really solved the problem of an absolute.
The only absolute. The only absolute is the Triune God as revealed in the Bible. The latter phrase is absolutely essential to this absolute. There are plenty of common folk, as well as philosophers and scholars, who claim an “absolute” God, but their concept is contradictory at many points (as is Tillich’s above). Not only are God’s attributes consistent and coherent in Scripture, but its system of ethics is total for persons to know and obey. The true absolute is the whole of Biblical revelation.
Internet search: use the phrases “the nature of an absolute,” “absolutes in religion and philosophy,” “what is required in an absolute?,” etc.
The Euthryphro dilemma. Philosophers are unable to solve the dilemma whether “good” is what God says it is or that “good” exists and God only recognizes it as such. That is, does good exist independently of God or does good only exist because of what God says? The obvious answer Biblically is that good is what God says that it is. If some standard existed higher than God, then that higher standard would be omnipotent—that higher good would control what He says.
Descartes’ demon. Descartes understood the nature of absolutes. His fear was that he could be deceived by a malicious, all-powerful demon. Thus, he arrived as his cogito—“I think; therefore I am”—a logical fallacy itself, and his “clear and distinct” concepts which is the very deception that he was trying to avoid! My mind is much more “clear and distinct” early in the morning, than late in the evening. Which thoughts am I to know as certain?
The logical positivists had a strong following early in the 20th century. Their absolute was that truth only existed in that which could be empirically verified (observation and experiment; the “scientific method.” What they and others came to realize, however, was that their absolute could not be empirically verified. By stating their absolute truth, they are actually denied its possibility! What a great paper this topic would make.
The naturalistic fallacy. Follows immediately here.
3. The naturalistic fallacy or it is impossible to derive an “ought” from “what is.” Materialism or physicalism is the theory of modern science that only matter and energy exist—that which can be sensed by taste, touch, sight, hearing, or seeing. However, “what is” can never give an “ought,” that is, what behavior is right or wrong for a person. While it is rarely carried to its compelling conclusion, this truth is commonly accepted (but not by all) by philosophers and ethicists. Historically, good evidence can be supplied by the atheist David Hume who wrote on this concept—throw an atheist’s arguments against other atheists! (See above.)
Today, most sociologists and psychologists commit this fallacy. Of particular note are the behavioral scientists who would modify people’s behavior on large populations, regardless of their individual beliefs. Perhaps, more common in the 21st century are evolutionary psychologists who think that right and wrong can be determined for what happened to animals and humans (who are also animals in their belief system) has ethical implications for all persons.
Value can only be determined by a person. If the universe “just happened” to be, then there is no person to give it value. In fact, values do not matter because the “universe” does not care—it is a cold, purposeless, even cruel actuality. (See the following discussion on value.)
History—the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, thinking of its usefulness in construction of buildings, roads, and other worthwhile projects. However, he was horrified when its more prevalent use was to maim and destroy in warfare. His horror led to the Peace Prize in an attempt to overcome the harm that he had wrought. Thus, was the invention of dynamite a “good” thing or a “bad” thing? What system of ethics can decide this? (Hint: no technology is right or wrong in itself—what is right or wrong is the intended goal of its use.)
4. Value and virtue—how does one determine what is valuable? Ethics is one major division of philosophy—epistemology, ontology (cosmology), and ethics (value, virtue). And it is perhaps the greatest dilemma that philosophy faces: who is to say what is right and wrong? Attempts to find ethical principles that exist at all times for all places have all failed. C.S. Lewis and others have written about The Tao, but is it not universal. Alasdair McIntyre has written books and articles trying to discern the evolution of morals. A famous law professor, Arthur Leff wrote a classical paper, “Unspeakable Ethics; Unnatural Law,” literally crying out for some principles upon which all society can agree—“Who Sez?” is his great cry. Immanuel Kant claimed the categorical imperative that everyone everywhere could agree upon. Plato explored virtue in The Republic. And, on and on throughout philosophical and theological history.
In actuality, there are only three ways finally to decide what is right and wrong. (1) Everyone does his own thing. Obviously, this would be anarchy for any society. (2) One person becomes an ultimate authority—everyone obeys whatever he (or she) says. This situation is totalitarian and tyrannical. (3) An omnipotent, loving Person structures ethics in which there is no conflict in ethics for the individual, the family, social organizations, and civil government. (I must give Frances Schaeffer credit for this simply, but powerful insight.) There are not other options.
Politics. There is a subtle, but extremely important subcategory of ethics: all politics is the application of ethics to the power of civil government. All politics and civil laws are the implementation of someone’s or some system’s principles of right and wrong. How does one avoid the tyranny of the minority over the majority or the majority over the minority? What is freedom? How is freedom implemented and sustained? What are the legitimate rights of man, of social groups, and of civil governments?
A word about “morality.” Some writers differ on the definitions of morals and ethics. Morals come from “mores,” or habitual and customs of a society. However, in the overall analysis, morals and ethics are the same—both determine what is right and wrong for individuals and groups. The “mores” of a culture must be judged by a standard that applies to all cultures, and only a universal belief system (religion or philosophy) can be such a measuring stick.
Paper suggestion. Any of the persons or systems herein named could be discussed. The three limited options for ethics could be chosen or the relationship of ethics to civil laws.
5. There is no “agreed upon” philosophy after 2500 years! Philosophy is literally the “love” (philos) of “wisdom” (sophia). In general, no person would doubt whether wisdom ought to be pursued and applied to everyone’s life. The problem is that the “love of wisdom” has resulted in no universally agreed upon philosophy. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of philosophies today, ranging from traditional rationalism and empiricism to feminism and environmentalism. Here’s your advantage: if there is no universally agreed upon philosophy, then yours is a good as any other person’s belief system. And, if your philosophy is Biblical Christianity, you have many claims over other philosophies: 2000+ year history, popularity—most of the world’s population claim it, a detailed history that no other religion does, a rationality that exceeds any other religion, Western civilization (and that of the United States0 that rivals nothing else in the history of mankind, etc.
Paper: explore the various traditional philosophies and how they contradict each other: rationalism/fideism, rationalism/empiricism, idealism/empiricism, nominals/universals, parts/wholes, analytical vs. wholistic philosophy (“continental”), rights/responsibilities, individuals/society, society/state, democracy/totalitarianism, etc., etc. If none are universally accepted, then any one of them is as good as any other. Only an outside standard can be used to judge, but there is no outside standard except Biblical Christianity (which not everyone accepts).
6. The Nature of “Proof.” Your professor stands boldly in front of your class and challenges, “If your Christian God performs a miracle by having this podium levitate, then I will believe.” Do you cringe and wonder why God will not “perform” in this circumstance? You could respond with a quote from Frederick Nietzsche who said, “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.” This quote means that the complex structure of stating a sentence argues strongly for God. Nietzsche was one of the strongest atheists and deconstructors of Christianity in history. Correspondingly, Gottfried Leibniz (a philosopher of the 17th and 18th centuries) asked, “Why should there be something rather than nothing?” That is, why should your professor be standing there at all, as opposed to never existing in the first place. In a random universe, there is no answer to that question. (Paper suggestion: work out the reasoning of Nietzsche’s or Leibniz’ statements!)
Well, those are possible quick come-backers, but answering his challenge is really more complicated. Such an argument involves demonstrating that every person chooses starting points. The starting point for a naturalist is that only the physical universe exists and the laws that govern it. Thus, whatever the “facts” are presented to him must be interpreted within this most basic belief. Getting beyond that basic belief involves conversion.
Conversion and regeneration. Conversion is a subject about which little is written. I am not talking about conversion in the Christian sense (but I will get to that). Conversion is a change in one’s beliefs. All people have basic beliefs, and these are complex and varied.
George Steiner states:
We normally use a shorthand beneath which there lies a wealth of subconscious, deliberately concealed or declared associations so extensive and intricate that they probably equal the sum and uniqueness of our status as an individual person. (After Babel, 172-173, 1975 Edition)
Beliefs range from “Chocolate is the best ice cream” to “Fords are better than Chevrolets” to “George Washington was a better president that Abraham Lincoln” to “Christianity is the only true religion.” You will need to read many pages on my website, www.biblicalphilosophy.org, to get a grasp on this concept. Once you have it, you can at least bring a stalemate to any argument. You will also understand why you rarely win an argument. Conversion has to occur in the other person, and this change is beyond your control.
In fact conversion is a mystery. Thomas Kuhn writes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions about “paradigm” shifts. Such shifts happened with movement from the geocentric view of the universe to the heliocentric view of Copernicus, not because of new facts or evidence, but for reasons of personal preference. The Church vs. Galileo debate was not religion vs. science at all, but an older, more complicated view of the universe (Ptolemaic) vs. the newer heliocentric system. That this debate was different than it has been presented would make an excellent paper, as well. There is much on the Internet about this false picture. Simply search for “the Galileo-Church controversy” or read about it in Kuhn’s book.
Why did Copernicus exchange his actual terrestrial station for an imaginary solar standpoint? The only justification for this lay in the greater intellectual satisfaction he derived from the celestial panorama as seen from the sun instead of the earth. Copernicus gave preference to man’s delight in abstract theory, at the price of rejecting the evidence of our senses, which present us with the irresistible fact of the sun, the moon, and the stars rising daily in the east to travel across the sky towards their setting in the west. (Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, page 3)
Regeneration is the Bible’s description of conversion, perhaps most clearly presented in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and John 3:1-21. The Spirit of God must change a person’s heart. This change converts a “naturalist” belief to a “supernaturalist” (belief). Thus, the acceptance of miracles, instead of their denial, becomes his or her starting point or most basic belief. Regeneration is the mysterious working of the Spirit “blowing where he will” in John 3. Conversion in science and other matters is also mysterious—it does happen, but we cannot know what it is in the person to cause him to change. For a fairly extensive review of who regeneration changes a person, see my paper, The Centrality of Regeneration, Faith, and Sanctification in a Biblical Epistemology. My opinion is that many disagreements among Christians could be explained by a simple understanding of this profound change in human nature.
A. Faith vs. reason—philosophy and religion are about the same ideas. Religion and science are different subjects, even different departments, in colleges and universities. However, they should really be included under one classification and department: the one that claims to have all the answers to all of life’s questions. What are the subjects of philosophy: ontology (cosmology, origins), epistemology (truth, knowledge), and ethics (morals, right and wrong). Religions concern the same subjects: from where did everything come, what knowledge is certain, and what behavior is right or wrong. The centuries long debate between faith and reason is entirely false: everyone starts from a position of faith, although it may be called axioms, basic principles, basic beliefs, assumptions, presumptions, biases, prejudices, starting points, or presuppositions. (See discussions of faith above.) In geometry, a mathematical system, one starts with axioms—these are not proved, but simply accepted “proofs” are built upon these assumptions. For Biblical Christianity, the axiom would be that the Bible is God’s word, fully authoritative, inerrant, and infallible.”
B. Modern debate—all “-isms” are faith-based—several papers herein. For a detailed discussion of the importance of ascribing “faith” or “belief” to all modern systems of thinking see my paper, Faith vs. Faith – Fighting on Level Ground. You may also refer to my book on faith, Without Faith It Is Impossible to Please God.
C. Gödel theorems. Kurt Gödel stunned the world with his incompleteness theorems about 1930. Mathematics had been the objective ideal since the Greek Pythagoreans over 2000 years ago. However, Gödel demonstrated that all mathematics only have proofs within individual systems. There is no proof outside the system. Axioms in geometry are one example that is commonly known. Mathematics was the most objective of sciences, but Gödel torpedoed that objectivity forever!
D. Quine-Duhem hypothesis. This theory states that any “proof” or conclusions from theoretical science at any given point of time is dependent upon all previous theories and experimental results ad infinitum. Thus, every theory or experiment or proof rests upon prior knowledge that is not part of the current conclusions. If any of that prior knowledge is false, then that which is current may be false for that reason alone.
For more on faith vs. reason, see the articles under Faith and Reason on the Site Map.
E. Tautology, circular thinking. These two terms are another designation for what is being discussed here. “Scholars” are quick to call an argument circular or a tautology to dismiss it as simplistic and irrelevant to any sophisticated way of thinking. However, all thinking is tautological or circular. Note in the brief mentions of Godel’s theorems and the Quine-Duhem hypothesis that “proofs” are always dependent upon prior assumptions (axioms, presuppositions, premises, basic beliefs, and all the other synonyms for such beginning ideas). A simple, but infinitely profound example is that of miracles. Natural scientists exclude the possibility of anything “super-natural” from the start of their thinking. So, their system cannot allow for miracles, no matter what the evidence. The Christian who is a super-naturalist sees no problem with miracles because they fit nicely into his Biblical worldview. Student—pay attention here! The argument is no more complicated than my simple explanation here. “Supernatural” vs. “natural” is an assumption, not a proof—a most basic belief for the natural scientist.
7. Emergence, supervenience—a whole is not the sum of its parts. Have you ever noticed that your conversation varies according to the person or persons involved? If two of you are having a conversation and another person joins you, the conversation changes! You have just experienced the nature of parts and wholes. The whole is the current group, add another part (person), and the whole changes. This phenomenon is gaining prominence in scientific discussions. There is individuality which can only be explained by the diversity of the whole and that the whole can only be explained on an understanding of its parts.
Another example is that of a living cell. The most that it is investigated, the more its complexity is known. None of the parts of a living cell would never have any of the characteristics of these parts in a living situation. The whole of a cell is not just a quantity, but a quality. Something or
Someone must not only bring the parts into proximity to each other, but must add the additional quality of “life.” This instantiation is called emergence, as a whole “emerges” from its parts, or supervenience, as some higher power “supervenes” on the parts to produce the characteristics of the whole. The cause of this emergence or supervenience is unknown to natural science in which only physical matter exists. The quality of assembly and life is external to matter. Emergence introduces the notion of transcendence or a supernaturalism.
Apologetics: how can “life” come from “non-life”—a major paper is possible here. The additional qualities of the assembly of components of the cell and being alive are stronger arguments against naturalistic evolution than what has been called “creation science.” The latter allows the presence of life, and then debates how its complexity or dependent characteristics could not have happened by chance. The presence of life has no place in a material universe. A cell or any higher organ or organism simply could never have the quality of life. It is not just the parts of the cell, but its function. What supervenes to coordinate all the complex activities that are necessary for the presence and sustenance of life? That supervenience is supernatural.
If I were a creationist (and he is neither a Christian nor a creationist), I would cease attacking the theory of evolution—which is so well supported by the fossil record—and focus instead on the origin of life. This is by far the weakest strut of the chassis of modern biology. The origin of life is a science writer’s dream. It abounds with exotic scientists and exotic theories, which are never entirely abandoned or accepted, but merely go out of fashion. (John Horgan, The End of Science, 138.)
See the reference in Horgan’s book for additional information, more than sufficient for a considerable paper.
Consciousness. Perhaps, the greatest mystery of modern philosophy and science (as neuroscience) is human consciousness. There are only three possible explanations for consciousness. (1) Panpsychism is the theory that consciousness is present as a component of matter in the universe, even inanimate objects like rocks, trees, planets, etc. Human consciousness is just a particular manifestation of that universal consciousness. (But, in actuality, the physical universe cannot explain consciousness, so this alternative is really non-existent.) (2) Emergence is the explanation for most of these “pure” naturalists. Somehow present in the physical and chemical material of the brain cells, consciousness “emerges.” Certain “boundary conditions” are met by the presence of these neurons that allows them to have consciousness. Of course, this leap is a huge and speculative one, but nevertheless is demanded by a naturalist worldview. (3) Consciousness is a creation of God special to human beings—one dimension of being created in the image of God. A great book to consult for arguments against pure naturalism is The Waning of Materialism by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer. Another article can be found here: Panpsychism. Both of these are by secular authors which gives some credence to a paper to a secular professor.
An argument for the existence based upon consciousness. For an excellent Christian author, see J. P. Moreland’s Consciousness and the Existence of God. You can get an introduction to Moreland’s thinking here: Argument from Consciousness. Use of the book’s arguments could make a good apologetic paper, also. Or, simply review Moreland’s book as a book report with some commentary.
8. Review any issue of Discover or other scientific journal. Discover is a “cutting-edge” magazine on the latest discoveries and theories in science. It is quite comprehensive. A student could take any monthly edition and go through all its articles looking for what I call, “weasel” words and phrases which indicate the tenuous nature of modern science. Such words or phrases include the following. “Many answers about (some subject of investigation) remain unknown,” “we used to think (this about some matter), but now we have discovered (that matter) is not true.” (This change of thinking shows clearly that science never has definitive answers.) Here is an example. In an article “Confronting the Dark” (Discover, May 2013, p. 39) is found the statement, “The surprising curl (of a graph of distances in space), frowning back at (Brian) Schmidt, told him that astronomers might have to rethink the way that the universe worked.” What! Huh! Have not scientists forcefully and with derision told Christians about The Big Bang and other origins of the universe, yet they are still formulating their theories and experimental data? How can they say one thing with certainty and then rethink what they have just said? There is no certainty in science.
Any monthly edition of such a magazine (there are many) is full of such rethinking, revising, speculating, and other tentative statements. How, then, can they be so dogmatic? Scholarly investigation is supposed to deride anything tenuous.
Professional publications. While I have directed you to “popularly” written magazines, the same “weasel” words are found in the most scholarly and respected professional periodicals. I have directed you to those popularly written because they are more easily accessible and understood. That they are so-written takes nothing away from the tenuous nature of their statements. However, you could taken any area of scholarly endeavor and find the same “weasel” statements.
The following article on the “church of science” continues a similar theme.
9. The scientific community has its own “church” and “denominations.” Scientists would have you believe that there is a uniformity of belief throughout their world. However, one needs only to peruse their professional publications (and even the popularly written science magazines) to know that they differ among themselves in every department of science. So, if you encounter someone, especially a high school or college professor (where in science or not) who makes certain claims for science, you can answer, “Sir (Maam), to which science are you referring?” In evolutionary science there is no uniformity of agreement. “Sir (Maam), to which evolutionary scientist are you referring?”
10. How does electricity work? Description vs. explanation. Electricity powers many devices in homes and even more so in industry. But how does it work? How is it that zillions of electrons pass through a wire that never burns up (unless improperly matched with its conduction potential)? How do electrons “flow” when no movement occurs within the wire itself? Why is it that electrons “flow” and protons do not. How can electrons “flow” when they are attached to individual atoms? How do electrons flowing through a wire generate an invisible electromagnetic field? Why do some materials conduct electricity and others do not? How does electricity within a certain configuration produce an (electro) magnet? How can soft substances, such as clouds composed of water, generate millions of volts of electricity? Why does lightning follow certain paths and not others? How does electricity which passively flows through a wire explode when improperly connected—that is it that a person can hold a wire in one’s hand through which is passing thousands of volts and yet be physically jolted if he touches the end of the wire? Insulation is not an answer: why does one substance conduct electricity and other substances do not?
You can come upon with many more questions about electricity with some research. Scientists claim to “know,” but they cannot explain everyday phenomena. For sure, they can describe in considerable detail, but they can never explain. To say all that two objects in space attract each other is only to describe, not to explain. Why does nature have this characteristic. If you can learn that description is not explanation, then you will have conquered the false idea that modern science understands natural phenomena. (Ultimately, the only explanation for any phenomena is that of Creation—God created the objects in this universe to behave in certain ways—patterns—so that man could achieve his vocation (calling) from God.
11. Creation (human), imagination, abduction. The following quote is from the modern linguist, literary critic, and writer extraordinare—George Steiner.
Question: You do not consider yourself to be a creator?
Steiner: No. There should not be confusion over these roles. Critics, commentators, and exegetes, even the most gifted ones, are still light years away from creators. We do not fully understand the intimate sources of creation. For example, imagine this scene which happened in Berne… A group of children are on a picnic outing with their schoolteacher, who sits them down in front of a viaduct, and watches while they attempt to draw it. Then she looks over the shoulder of one kid, and he has drawn boots on the pillars!
Ever since then, all the world’s viaducts have been on the march. The name of the child was Paul Klee. Creation changes everything that it contemplates, with only a few lines creators show us everything that was already there. What is the mystery that triggers creation? I wrote Grammars of Creation (book) to understand it. But at the end of my life, I still don’t understand.
Surely, student, you can write on paper on Steiner’s thoughts because you can link The Creator to human creators who only reveal what was already in God’s mind! What about “creation” vs. “invention?”
12. Are the large majority of people in the world wrong? A Google search of “How many atheists in the world” reveals somewhere between two and twenty percent. The number varies because of identities with “atheist,” “agnostic,” “not sure,” and “religious but without specific identity.” But the percentage does not really matter. Without question, and inescapably, the overwhelming large majority of the persons of the world are “religious.” So, your atheist college professor wants to call the majority of persons on planet earth “stupid,” “ignorant,” “uneducated,” or otherwise denigrate them as thinkers? Your high school, college, or university pretends by its negativity and neglect that religion is not important in education? They want to pretend that great scholars (Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Pascal, Tolstoy, Newton, etc., etc.) were deceived and wrong-headed because they were strongly religious? You may want to include persons of other religious, such as, Gandhi, Maimonides, and Averroes. (I had difficulty finding these three. Could that be a paper, also—corresponding number of great people who were Christian vs. non-Christian?)
Now, I have said nothing here about which religion is true. I am keeping this idea “generic” against your professors’ narrow and closed-minded views, while he thinks of himself as “open-minded.” However, another paper could defend Christianity as the world’s majority religion and one that has most influenced the world for good.
13. Darkness and light—three classes of persons. The Bible frequently describes the persons of the world into two groups: the saved and the unsaved, sheep and goats, believers and unbelievers, the world and the church, Christians and pagans, and persons of either darkness or light. There are not hundreds of religious or philosophical belief systems; there are only two which may be variously labeled, as I have partially demonstrated. Being conscious of this division will help you, as you are involved in various discussions. Admittedly, many Christians have not had many of their beliefs changed to those of the Bible, but there should be basic beliefs about God and the Bible, Jesus and salvation. And, there should be a willingness to be taught by the Bible to “increase” their faith and become more Biblical consistent.
There is a third class of persons—those who are in the process of moving towards, or beginning to consider, becoming Christians. In some churches, these are the “effectually called.” That is, God is beginning to work in their minds and hearts to change them into becoming one of His own. These people are likely to be the ones who will seriously consider Biblical answers, but may struggle with them for a while, until they are convinced, fully regenerated. (Regeneration or “being born-again” is one of the most important concepts in Christianity. Research it!)
Two systems of thinking. Just as there are only two classes of persons (with some being “converted”), there are only classes of thinking: Biblical Christianity (worldview) and any other (humanism, communism, Satanism, naturalism, dialectic materialism, etc., etc.). In today’s climate of pluralism, one can think that there are systems without end. However, the Bible only speaks of “light” and “darkness.” While the New Testament does speak of “the world, the flesh, and the Devil,” these are just variants of the system that is opposed to God and His Creation. The student does not have to know all the –isms of the past and modern worlds. He only needs to know the Biblical system, and he will know how all other ideologies differ from that Biblical system. His primary challenge then is to know the Biblical system so that he can recognize how another system differs from that one true system.
14. Michael Polanyi. My favorite philosopher of science is Michael Polanyi. However, his system is a difficult one to grasp. Many terms that he uses correspond to a Christian way of thinking, although Polanyi was not an overt Christian. Polanyi discusses faith as the bedrock of knowledge, even for the scientist. He discusses calling (vocation), conversion, belief, circular thinking, community, conscience, ethics, and meaning. All these mostly concern philosophy of science, but they have correspondence to Christian thinking.
Perhaps, the most basic introductory text is Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing by Mark Mitchell. Among Polanyi’s own books, my first choice would be The Study of Man, Polanyi’s attempt to summarize basic principles. Both The Tacit Dimension and Science and Faith and Society are also useful for students getting a feel for Polanyi’s thought, although I don’t think they would be as engaging for most students as The Study of Man.
The book, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy is the full development and summation of Polanyi’s ideas. It is a difficult read, but necessary to a person who would master Polanyi’s way of thinking. The work that I have done on his vocabulary should be helpful in this endeavor: The Michael Polanyi Glossary.
15. God of the philosophers and others. Upon his conversion, Blaise Pascal wrote that he had come to believe in the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob—not of the philosophers and scholars.” It is rare for any person, other than a serious Bible student or systematic theologian to have any concept of God that comes clse to who and what He is. The god of classical theism is not the God of the Bible. (See the URL just listed for a more complete explanation.) Thus, any person whom you hear disparaging God in some way, for example,
“How can a good God allow evil?,” will have an erroneous concept of God. If you are well-studied in the character and attributes of God, then you will be able to introduce that person to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” John Calvin has said that all knowledge of man begins with a study of God (Book I of The Institutes of the Christian Religion). You are not the Christian that you should be, if you cannot discuss God’s character at some length at any given point in time. The Deacon Stephen in Acts 7 gave an account of God by his review of the history of God with the nation of Israel. That may be a good place for you to start. The real God of the Bible is much more attractive than any personal or scholarly picture of him.
16. Defend Biblical creation, not Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is an attempt by Christians and others to oppose evolution and remove a personal God from a concept of origins (cosmology), so that this teaching will be acceptable in public schools. Their attempt is misguided. (1) The God of Christianity cannot be removed from intelligent design because He was the Intelligent Designer. (2) Intelligent design is nonsense without naming that Designer. In this attempt, these scholars deny the Creator God and overlook the Biblical truth that the state should not be involved in public education. Christians should propose and defend the God of the Bible as Creator, not some intellectual “god.”
The pine “hut” or “tepee” opposes evolution. In the generic sense, Intelligent Design is valid. There is no organization without an organizer. As a child, I grew up in the South where there are zillions of pine trees. We “created” “huts” or “tepees” by taking dead pine limbs that had fallen to the ground, more or less interlocked them (their irregular structure made this arrangement easy to put together) into an inverted cone shape and piled them with fallen pine straw to cover the “skeletal” structure. If well-done, the covering could even keep out a light rain. It was quite the simple structure, as one could even imagine pine limbs falling off trees, falling together in some arrangement, and pine straw falling onto the limbs, to “create” spontaneously such a structure. However, while walking through the woods, if one came across a pine straw-limb “teepee,” one thinks, “A child been here.” When one sees the simplest of organizational structure, one thinks “a person has created this thing.” It is only when one comes to evolution that persons lose this association and causation. A living cell, for its size, is perhaps the most complicated organized design in the universe, and a scientist does not think, person or Person. Incredible incredulity! Irrational faith! Biased sophistry beyond what is reasonable!
But, again, there is no vague designer, but The Designer, the God of Creation described in the Bible. Let us argue for Creation and Intelligent Designer, but we know who the Designer is.
17. Refutation of the skeptic or doubter. This attack is simple. For the skeptic (or doubter) to refute anything, he must be omniscient; that is, he must know everything. Otherwise, how can he be skeptical? A skeptic has to allow, as possible, any kind of knowledge. By definition, a skeptic denies that any knowledge about anything can be known. But how can he know that any knowledge presented to him is not true, unless he already knows what truth is. To know, one must have a standard of comparison to demonstrate that a particular idea is false by contrasting his standard with that of the possible knowledge presented to him. Thus, he must know everything or at least some kind of truth to be a true skeptic. This argument is similar to there are no absolutes (presented elsewhere in this collection of ideas).
18. Refutation of the relativist. “Everything is relative” is the claim of many in today’s postmodern world. Again, refutation of this position is simple. (A) If “everything is relative,” then the person who makes this claim knows nothing for sure. Therefore, any knowledge that another person presents to him might be true because he has no way to refute it. If he knows nothing, he does not know whether truth or falsity exists. Thus, he cannot even speak to the matter of knowledge. If he were consistent, he would keep his mouth shut because he knows nothing. (B) He also denies his belief in the use of language. When he makes a statement, he expects others to understand what he says. Thus, he believes that he is communicating some kind of knowledge when he says, “Everything is relative.” He expects that knowledge, “Everything is relative,” to be hear and understood. That is, he “knows” or “believes” that it would be understood or else he would just keep quiet. (C) His day-to-day life has purpose and design. Few people just curl up in the bed and do nothing. Even those who do, eventually want to eat. Most people work at a job, go to school, make plans for the future, marry, raise children, and even write or speak polemics in an effort to convince others. They believe that certain results will be achieved by their behavior. Belief is basic to knowledge—they “know” that their activities will likely produce predictable results.
19. How to respond if someone is certain. Almost all non-religious persons and even philosophers are relativists. However, occasionally someone “knows something for certain.” Well, they have opened wide the door to certainty. If one form of knowledge is certain, then one can argue that there is other knowledge that is certain, as well. If an atheist claims certainty, then the Christian can claim in opposition. If one kind of certainty exists, it allows for the possibility of others. If “There are absolutes,” then there might be many! (Of course, coherence and certainty, preclude there being but One Absolute—see the section that applies to Absolutes.)
20. Chance and freedom. Explorations in chance and freedom. Total freedom in chance is impossible. Total freedom in any area is impossible.
A. Chance—cannot exist. The theory of evolution openly and necessarily depends upon “chance” in the process. However, chance is being used here in a way that is artificial and fabricated. In our culture, we speak of “games of chance”: playing cards, dice, roulette wheel, and slot machines. But chance in these games has a limited number of possibilities. There are only 52 cards in a deck, six sides to a dice, 38 or 39 slots in a roulette wheel, and slot machines are calculated to “pay out” at “random” times. None of these games has unlimited possibilities. True chance, however, has infinite possibilities. With infinite possibilities, there are no possibilities because there is no force to move action or event in any given direction. While games of chance are seemingly random, they are forced by limited possibilities to settled out in a particular way. With true chance, nothing gives direction, because all possibilities are equal. Looking backwards from our current knowledge of life, we know that certain chemicals have to be in place for life to form. But in a truly random universe, “the primordial slime” could contain arsenic, lead, chlorine, and other poisonous mixtures. In a random universe, how does the sun come to be the sun? How does a Big Bang cause organization of elements that are highly complex? All the big bangs that are known to man cause extreme disorder, not order. I suspect that most who believe in evolution do not know this characteristic of chance, and would not allow it, if they came to realize it. Nevertheless, true chance or randomness has no direction because direction is purposeful and not chance.
R.C. Sproul has a small book,Not A Chance, that explores this concept more fully. For example, take the “chance” that a coin flip will be heads or tails. No matter how the coin is flipped—by simple flick of the thumb or a sophisticated “coin flipper”—the physical qualities will determine how the coin ends up! The force imparted to the coin, the air resistance, how many times the coins spins, how it lands, the weighted dimensions of the coin, etc. will determine how the coin will land. Chance has no power to effect the coin. Chance is only the probability of heads or tails. It has no force to determine what face appears upon landing. Interestingly, no matter how sophisticated the coin flipping device, and how many times the coin is flipped, the sum is rarely 50-50. For a hundred times, it may be 48/52, 45/55, or 49/51, but it will rarely be 50/50? Why not, if it is truly a 50/50 chance? Do an Internet search of “actual results of coin flip experiments,” and you will see the evidence.
B. Knowledge out of chaos and chance.Grammarians teach the construction of sentences. While the rules of grammar have been loosened, certain structures must apply or a sentence cannot be understood. For example, “Hole the ran into rabbit his” vs. “The rabbit ran into his hole.” Not all languages have the same structure, but all languages have their own rules of grammar without which communication is possible.
Now, evolutionists want everyone to believe that language and the possibility of communication by it came from random forces. Imagine the Big Bang and the period afterward. The chaos is beyond comprehension. We are to believe that an organizing mind that can create sentences and understand the sentences of others “evolved” out of this chaos. Such a conclusion is “beyond belief” and denies all sense of reasonableness and probability. Whose faith has the greater leap, the evolutionist or the Biblical Christian?
C. Form and freedom. Today, there is a great deal of talk about freedom, but the problem of freedom is similar to the problem of chance. Total freedom is total randomness: there is nothing to move thinking or action in any particular. Instead, the greatest freedom is actually found in a form—the form in which a thing was created to operate. A simple example is a railroad train. When is it most free–when it is racing down solidly constructed railroad tracks. In today’s concept of freedom, it would jump the tracks, saying, “These tracks are too restrictive and confining.” So, you know how far it would get when it jumps the tracks—total disaster that requires other “forms” to fix and get it back on track (pun intended).
Is a computer “free” or does it find its freedom in form? Everyone one who has had a computer knows that it functions “freely” and wonderfully when the hardware and software are fully compatible. But, get one “x” where there should be an “o” (on/off switches which is the most basic function of a computer) and it crashes. So, “freedom” to be an “x” instead of an “o” destroys the full “freedom” of the computer. When is an airplane most free—when it operates according to the laws of air flow over uneven surfaces or when it chooses other laws? The answer is obvious.
God has made moral laws for freedom. Today, there are strong forces for sexual freedom. “Let’s throw off the constraints of one man and one woman for life.” Thus, we have the modern epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases (of which the worst may be HIV/AIDS), broken homes, single-parent children (if they have a parent at all), and death and destruction in the homosexual community. (See http://www.familyresearchinst.org/ for detailed statistics on being “gay.”) Violations of capital punishments for murder has led the greatest epidemic of homicides in the United States that has ever been known. A great paper would be to show how violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments has caused far greater problems than following them. “All them that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). The greatest freedom is found in following the “laws” in God’s Creation and in the instructions (laws) of the Ten Commandments and the remainder of the Bible. For specific topic areas, see www.biblicalworldview21.org.
D. The false idea of academic or intellectual freedom. Faculties of virtually all colleges and universities strongly affirm “academic freedom,” when such a position is impossible. All advocates of “academic freedom” will limit what they will intellectually accept in many ways. The best example is the current (almost total) ban on Biblical Christianity. The Bible and Christians are demeaned and blocked from academic circles and publications. Where is their idea of freedom? The popular science publication, Discover: Science for the Curious, will not tolerate any suggestion of Creation or any idea that denies evolution. Homosexuals and lesbians have great intolerance for those with more conservative ideas of sexuality. Campuses will not tolerate any speech that is not “politically correct.” Again, total freedom has nothing to propel it in any direction. Those who claim “academic freedom” actually mean, “Accept my ideas. Yours do not count.”
E. Totalitarian ideas eventually become totalitarian civil governments. Notice how “politically correct” speech has become totalitarian law on many (most?) campuses. Notice the current (2013) Internal Revenue Service restrictions and denials of conservative political organizations. Notice how the Marxist idea of freedom for “the workers” resulted in the pogroms of Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung that killed tens of millions. When the rights of free speech are restricted, eventually free speech will be entirely eliminated by force of law, which will then be followed by violent force against the dominant ideas in power.
21. Pascal’s wager. Blaise Pascal formulated strong arguments for Christianity in his Pensées. His wager was that one should live a life of righteousness “just in case Christianity was true.” By so doing, one gains a double benefit. First, one lives a life of righteousness that honors his fellow man and avoids many of the troubles of life that individuals bring upon themselves and others. Second, Christianity offers the most hopeful or fearful destiny among all religions and philosophies: Heaven or Hell. By living a life of righteousness, one gains Heaven rather than Hell.* Thus, wagering on Christianity being true profits a person far more than wagering that it is false. See wager on the transcendent following here.
*Salvation by this means would be a “works” righteousness, whereas Christianity offers salvation by grace without any merit from the believer. However, Pascal’s wager does illustrate that Christianity is perhaps the best “deal” going for any person, and not the dreary, drab, and joyless life that many portray.
22. Abstract concepts do not exist. There is a process of abstraction, but there are no abstract concepts! Abstraction is the process of taking a range of “facts” and coming to some conclusion about them. For example, “The idea of justice is abstract.” No, every person has ideas about justice in particulars. Is it justice to execute a person for murder? However one answers this question is a particular propositional statement. (1) Yes, it is just because the Bible says “an eye for an eye…” (2) No, one man’s death should not cause the death of another. The process of abstraction arrives at either of these conclusions, but the conclusions are not abstract—they are definitive statements about the results of abstraction. Something that is abstract has no concrete existence—it is just swirling around somewhere in the mind. (See “abstract painting” elsewhere.)
23. Wager on transcendence—book review and challenge. I have mentioned George Steiner several times on these pages. He is a Jew by ethnicity, and certainly not a regenerated Christian, but he has insights into philosophical reasoning that can be helpful in scholarly debate. Steiner’s book, Real Presences (paperback, 1989 edition), is essentially a “wager on transcendence,” that is, there is tremendous evidence in the arts and sciences that there must be something “transcendent” (supernatural) to account for the creativity, inventiveness, and talent of persons who excel in these areas.
This essay (his book) argues a wager on the transcendent. It argues that there is in the art-act and its reception, that there is in the experience of meaningful form, a presumption of presence (transcendence—hence, the title of his book.)
These convictions are, as current linguistic philosophy puts it—when it is being polite—“verification transcendent.” They cannot be logically, formally, or evidentially proved…. “verification transcendence” marks every essential aspect of human existence. It qualifies our conceptualizations, our intellections of our coming into life, of the primary elements of our psychic identity and instruments, of the phenomenology of life and death” (page 214)
24. Theodicy—the “good” in evil.” The “value” of personal tragedies is virtually an everyday occurrence in the news. A couple has a Down’s syndrome baby and rejoices at the happiness that it brings. A person is paralyzed from the neck down, only to discover joys never before experienced. A train wreck occurs and engineers learn from the mistake and prevent worse accidents in the future. A student is denied one career and finds another far more fulfilling. And so on. Rarely do writers who excoriate God for allowing, or even causing tragedies, point out all the “good” values that follow. While such “goods” may not be universal, they certainly destroy the monolithic idea that all such events are “bad” and that God is “evil” because He allows (or causes).I have even read reports that forest fires are necessary to the health of forests in cleaning out underbrush, restoring the balance of animal life, allowing some plants and animals to survive and otherwise would not. Even tsunamis and earthquakes have their natural benefits. If such persons are going to rail against God, they should at least demonstrate the “good” that comes from these happenings—but generally, they do not.See the following for more on theodicy.
25. Theodicy—the logical mistake of almost every philosopher. The centuries-old argument goes something like this.
God is perfectly good.
God is omnipotent.Evil (natural and man-initiated) exists.
Therefore, God is either not perfectly good or He is not omnipotent.
The reasoning is thus. If God is both perfectly good and omnipotent, evil should not exist. That is, since God is omnipotent, He is able to prevent all evil from entering the universe. He would only allow what is “good.” Thus, He cannot be both “perfectly good” and “omnipotent” because “evil” exists. However, there is a logical fallacy here—an example of equivocation—a change of definitions. When the philosopher or theologian says, “God is perfectly good,” he uses a definition of “good” from God’s perspective. In this definition, God defines what is “good.” But, when the philosopher says, “Evil exists,” he is using man’s definition of what is “not good.” It is man that observes that “evil exists.” It is an observation and conclusions that man invents. It is evil (“not good”) from man’s perspective. So, the 1st line begins with God’s definition of “good” and then substitutes (makes equivocal) man’s definition of “evil” (“not good”). In logic, this change in definitions is called equivocation. Yet, I have never found anyone else who has made this discovery.
Jonathan Edwards wrote a book called A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World. He goes to tedious lengths to demonstrate by God’s working “all things to His glory,” that glory is not corrupted by what man would call “evil.” From God’s perspective, there is only good in the universe, including what man calls evil. What man observes as “evil,” God has purposed for good. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). “(God) works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
An aside—working towards God’s viewpoint. What I have presented here is a logical deduction. I have not dealt with the emotions and difficulties that are presented by “evil” (in the human perception.) Everyone, Christians and non-Christians, struggle with the realities of evil in their own lives and the lives of others. Romans 8:28 is a great blessing of promise, but must be worked out with much meditation and heartache. What is demonstrable logically is not always easily grasped emotionally. Yet, is that not our ultimate goal, “to think God’s thoughts after him?” Logically and Biblically, only good exists in God’s omnipotent control (Providence) of the universe. One example is that although Adam’s sin caused all the evils that man experiences, we would never have known God’s mercy had he not done so. I would contend that knowing more of God is worth all the suffering that this life can send our way! Spend some time in meditation on this issue.
26. A plaintive cry for a standard of morality among the scholars of law, “Who sezs?” Arthur Leff held the prestigious title of Professor of Law at Yale University. With all his study and erudition, however, he vigorously cried out for some authoritative moral standard. He published an article in the Duke Law Review entitled, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law.” (It can be found online with the appropriate keywords.) The following are his final comments in that article which has become famous in academic circles.
All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why any thing should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things stand now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless:
Napalming babies is bad.
Starving the poor is wicked.
Buying and selling each other is depraved.
Those who stood up and died resisting Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too— have earned salvation.
Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.
There is in the world such a thing as evil.
[All together now:]
God help us.
There are many conclusions that should be made from his plaintive cry. Those without Christ and without a Biblical standard are lost for a purpose to life (and in particular, evil) and a moral standard. When they face the issues honestly, they realize their lostness both morally and spiritually and voice the plaintive cry of Arthur Leff.
A great title for a paper that reviews this article (found easily online) would be, “Who sez?”
27. A coherent purposeful view of history argues for a very strong, if not omnipotent, Controller. A study of history is truly a study in chaos. What does ancient Persia have to do with a modern animal zoo? What does the history of India have to do with the consumerism of the United States? What does a brontosaurus have to do with the wars of religion? What do Eskimos have to do with the planet Mars? Any attempt to give meaning, purpose, or coherence to these greatly disparate situations is inescapably to argue for some powerful and long living Controller of them. In Western classical history, such an attempt is an argument for God. (See Jonathan Edwards above.) Anyone or anything that could find purpose in societies and situations that exist thousands of years apart or so far distant in ontology as marine life at the bottom of the ocean and the physics of stars must be one powerful and long-living being. Only religions provide such an object, and only Christianity provides the comprehensive purpose and meaning for history and all situations. Another name for this logical conclusions is that to ascribe purpose to history is an “argument for the transcendent” or a wager on the transcendent for meaning in history.
28. Exclusivism. An accusation often made against Christianity, especially conservative, Biblical, or Reformed (Calvinist) Christianity. That is, if there is only one way to be “saved” (through Christ), if there is only one God, and only one truth (Scripture), then all other persons who do not choose or have no opportunity to choose this “way” are excluded—condemned to Hell. What is not realized in this condemnation of Christianity is that all religions, including universalism, are exclusive. Even the universalists have some criteria for being “saved”; even open theists are not universalists; and, even believers in the perennial philosophy interpret what is and is not its meaning. Here is the crux of the matter. If “religion” and “salvation” can mean anything, then they mean nothing. If there is no true belief, then absolutely nothing matters. Why discuss these issues? Why do anything? Why even “eat, drink, and be merry? Why be concerned about death at all? But—one problems remains: all rational persons are concerned and by their rationality, they will exclude certain persons while they admit others. All the open-minded atheists and agnostics will not admit Biblical Christians—they exclude them from their “way.” All belief systems practice exclusivism or they mean nothing, and therefore, have nothing to say. Every belief system is exclusive; to be a system, it has to be.
Tolerance. Reasoning about tolerance follows the same argumentative line. Those who believe themselves to be the most “tolerant” have no tolerance for conservative Christianity. Homosexuals who want “tolerance” have no tolerance for those who do not agree with them. Tolerance is a myth—a dangerous myth. Those who are believe themselves to be the most tolerant would be the first to light the fires to burn those whom they perceive as heretics (the intolerant). Complete tolerance is impossible—everyone has those whom they exclude in one way or another.
29. Postmoderns and narratives. Many advocates of postmodernism find fault with the classical approach where one defines his beliefs by propositions. They believe that narratives carry more credulity and inform better than propositions. Much of, perhaps their primary, intent is to bypass the notion that truth is propositional. Involved in this approach also is their belief that that “classical foundationalism” has failed. They even go so far as to say that language is too culturally bound to convey any kind of truth.
But, dear student, these ideas are themselves a performative contradiction. What are these postmoderns doing. (1) They are using sentences which are propositions, not narrative, to convince their readers of their positions! (2) They are stating by propositions their own versions of truth! (3) They are using language to say that language is inadequate! Many other ideas of the postmoderns could be included in this contradiction: deconstruction, hermeneutics of suspicion, death of the author, etc. Postmoderns are using modern methods to deconstruct modernism.
References. An excellent resource for the “good” and the “bad” of postmodernism is the book, Truth or Consequences: the promise and perils of postmodernism by Millard J. Erickson. Another book is Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times, Edited by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, and Justin Taylor.
30. How does a naturalistic worldview explain human conscience and guilt? This subject matter is closely related to the origin of consciousness (above). In an evolution of natural forces, where does an idea of right and wrong come from. In his Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche tried to ground them in customs and mores of society. However, what is there in a “survival of the fittest” directive that would cause guilt over some action? Since all actions are physically based, from where does the metaphysical idea of morality and guilt come? If the highest goal of the individual is to survive, why should he feel guilt about his behavior towards others. Consider this paragraph from a naturalistic site.
By holding that human behavior arises entirely within a causal context, naturalism also affects fundamental attitudes about ourselves and others. Naturalism undercuts retributive, punitive, and fawning attitudes based on the belief that human agents are first causes, as well other responses amplified by the supposition of free will, such as excessive pride, shame, and guilt. Since individuals are not, on a naturalistic understanding, the ultimate originators of their faults and virtues, they are not deserving, in the traditional metaphysical sense, of praise and blame. Although we will continue to feel gratitude and regret for the good and bad consequences of actions, understanding the full causal picture behind behavior shifts the focus of our emotional, reactive responses from the individual to the wider context. This change in attitudes lends support for social policies based on a fully causal view of human behavior. http://www.naturalism.org/center_for_naturalism.htm
Your paper would focus on how could a metaphysical concept of morality that leads to guilt come from a purely physical process in evolution. Why should evolved humans even give a thought to morality, much less to experience guilt.
31. What faith group (belief system) has caused the most deaths in history? Critics of Christianity like to point to various events in which Christians caused the deaths of others: the threat of death for refusal of baptism by Charlemagne, the Crusades, the “wars of religion” (particularly the Wars of Religion in the late 16th century), and others. However, the atrocities of the atheistic beliefs of Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Pol Pot of the 20th century far and away exceed any deaths that may be attributed to Christianity. Here is one resource: http://www.str.org/articles/the-real-murderers-atheism-or-christianity#.UdrJX23lflM
Another resource is Chapter 14 of the book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe (Nelson Books, 2001).
An addition. In your paper or in another paper, you could debate that most “Christian deaths” were caused by those who were not actually practicing the basic beliefs of Christian. (The Internet article above argues that point, as well as, numbers of deaths.
32. The origins of the most free country in history: association vs. causation. It is without dispute that the United States, as least until the 21st century, was the nation with the most civil freedoms in the history of mankind. Since its formal founding in the 18th century, millions and millions have emigrated here while millions of other nations emigrated out of their nation. So, the association is indisputable. However, many might want to debate that this association is not causation. A great paper could be written that it was causation. In the history of the world, there have been an incredible number of types of religions, philosophies, and political systems: none have produced what the United States became. The inescapable conclusion is that the founding beliefs of the United States caused this freedom. Those founding principles were fundamental Christianity, especially Calvinism and Presbyterianism, which- produce the Declaration of Independence, the War of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution.
As to Calvinism, the Scots-Irish (“Ulster Scots”), Presbyterian Scots, and Hugenots made up a large percentage, if not the majority of Americans at the time of the American Revolution.
In terms of population along, a high percentage of the pre-revolutionary American colonies were of Puritan-Calvinist background. There were around three million persons in the thirteen original colonies by 1776, and perhaps as many as two-thirds some kind of Calvinist or Puritan connection. (Douglas F. Kelly, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World, page 120)
Other resources are John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World (W. Stanford Reid) and Reformed Theology in America (David F. Wells).
33. The psychology of an individual’s universal claims. As an observation, sit next to almost any conversation and listen closely. You will find that individual persons make extraordinary claims. What the president should do or not do; programs that the United Nations should begin or stop; how the Russian president has made good/bad decisions; what is wrong with the American educational system; and more, much more. In fact, we have all made these claims—to what? Take one step back. We are saying that we know what is best for … any idea in the universe of ideas! Ponder that. We, as individuals—indeed, American individuals claim to know what is best for any person, government, society, etc.—anything. We would be rulers and dictators of the world, if we had the power.
What is this boldness to claim virtually to know everything? What is this arrogance, for it is arrogance to claim such extensive powers of reasoning. You may explore your own or others reasons for this willingness to omnipotence, but I suggest two—one negative and one positive. (1) Man’s weakness (gravitation towards sin) has always been to “be like God.” That was Satan’s temptation to Eve. “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5, ESV). So, when one claims to be able to know the answers to all the world’s problems, he is claiming a God-like desire to know everything.
(2) But this desire is also how God created persons. In Genesis 1:28-31, God had given dominion to Adam and Eve over the entire earth. They were, and we are, God’s representatives (vice-gerents) to tend his Garden (now under God’s curse, but still His Garden). Thus, we have to acquire great knowledge in order to fulfill that Creation Mandate. However, we are not to pursue knowledge in isolation of God, but “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). All knowledge acquired by man must be under the absolute authority of Scripture—God’s revelation—His revealing to man what He wants us to know. Thus, we are always properly to ground all knowledge in the Scriptures. For example, this universe has not existed forever, it was created “out of nothing” (Genesis 1:1). Whatever cosmology one adopts, it must be authoritatively guided by all the verses (not just Genesis) that have to do with the Creation and maintenance of the universe. We are right to proclaim universal ideas and implement them, but we must be sure that they are ideas from God (Scripture) and not our own (sinful and fallible) reasonings.
34. A personal universe at the quantum level! In quantum mechanics, there is a phenomenon called The Observer Effect. Perhaps, the simplest illustration is the Double Slit Experiment. If subatomic particles are fired at a double slit, a wave pattern on the background screen appears, instead of a particle pattern that reflects the two slits. However, if an instrument is placed in front of the slits to “observer” the particles, then the wave pattern reverts to the particle pattern. This experiment reflects the wave-particle debate over light as a wave or a particle. A simple cartoon illustration can be found here.
The Observer Effect explodes into The Measurement Problem. That is, atoms and subatomic particles do not “exist” in a particular place until an observer looks for them. The following video from noted scientists illustrates how the universe “is not there” until we look at it.
Students, this stuff is not all that complicated, even though it concerns nuclear physics. There are many more videos and “print’ resources for you to read and cite in a paper. Throw nuclear physics at your professor. This universe is personal created by a Person! One theory even challenges that there may be only one electron in the universe, and that it only “appears” when we look for it.
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Werner Heisenberg discovered that the momentum and position of a subatomic particle could not be measured at the same time because the measuring process affected one’s calculations!
35. Chaos theory. Chaos theory concerns small, almost infinitesimal, events causing major events at a distance. One classic example is that a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan “causes” a hurricane in the Atlantic. Causes is in quotation marks because it has a different meaning than the traditional “cause and effect.” The butterfly flapping its wings is not truly a cause. It is part of a highly complex whole that one small disturbance in one part upsets the whole dynamic equilibrium. The butterfly’s flapping has a “cause” of its own and only indirectly causes the hurricane along with a complex of other “causes.” Interestingly, there are mathematical schemes that can predict certain outcomes, but with considerably varying degrees of probability. A resulting hurricane is a pertinent example because weather patterns are chaotic indeed, and “everyone” knows the trials and tribulations of weather forecasters.
The beauty of chaos theory is both its apparent randomness and its chain of cause and effect. It is both unpredictable and predictable. At the quantum level, quantum “leaps” involve chaos theory. Within history, then, there is indeterminism with a certain degree of freedom while inevitability is a result, also. Thus, chaos theory allows “free will” within certain limits while God predestines all events. See “Theological Reflections on Chaos Theory” by John Jefferson Davis, cited in The Frontiers of Science and Faith in the book list that begins this work.
36. A choice for eternity. Atheists, agnostics, and others who are opposed to Christian answers act as though their choices are not consequential. They are wrong! Eternity is for real. When these people die, they have made their choice for eternity. They may not believe in conscious life after death, but they have made an eternal commitment in their decision. They had better be certain that they are right. So, choices made in time and on earth have eternal consequences whether they believe in an afterlife or not. The Christian has made the best “bet.” He is betting on a conscious life of pure joy and happiness. On a purely pragmatic basis, if he is wrong, what has he lost—the sin and misery of the wrongful life that he could have lead on planet earth? What if the non-Christian is wrong—he faces an eternity of the worst existence that he could imagine. One’s choice is made in this life… but with consequences for eternity. The non-Christian may glibly deny the reality of the Christian God, but comparatively, he has made a choice in which the odds are infinitely stacked against him. (This argument is virtually identical to Pascal’s wager above, but stated a little differently.)
A choice must be made NOW! In modern science, and perhaps in other areas, there is always hope for the future. Perhaps we will find a cure for diabetes. Perhaps interplanetary travel will be possible. Perhaps gene modifications will advance the world’s food production. Perhaps the United Nations will bring peace on earth. This hope for the future is necessary, but minimizes the need for a decision about eternity NOW! As we have seen above, the most important choice that we can make concerns a possible eternity, consciously experienced. Our time on this earth is limited, but eternity is—well, eternity—forever. And, it may prevent itself soon. The college freshman gaily goes about choosing classes for study, a possible career, and his/her own enjoyment. But, dear reader, peruse any college newspaper to find that many freshman die that year. Many sophomores. Many other classmen. No one knows when death will occur. Thus, serious considerations of eternity are a most pressing need! Thus, colleges do not address the most important concern of its freshman, nor any of its students and demonstrates that colleges fail in their pretense to offer an education to its students.
So, the pressing need for anyone and everyone is to decide about eternity. They need to study the various alternatives that philosophies and religions offer and make their decision. All other decisions pale by comparison.
37. Faith involves doubt. Descartes wanted to be absolutely certain. Other philosophers have also. But God does not give certainty in this earthly life. Review all that has been said about faith in the above topics. Faith is acting on knowledge about which there is always some uncertainty—that is the nature of faith. Faith chooses on the basis of the best knowledge available and leaves the results to God. Godels’ theorems demonstrate that proofs only exist with a system—the system that one chooses if based upon faith. So, get the notion out of your head that doubt can be eliminated. Doubt is part of the concept of faith! Remove doubt and faith is no longer necessary. But—it is not possible to remove faith. No philosopher or theologian have ever been able to remove it.
38. Grammar as evidence for God. Frederich Nietzsche said, “We have not got rid of God because we still believe in grammar.” Write a paper on what he meant by that.
39. “Why is there something rather than nothing.” This is a quote from Gottfried Leibniz. Research and write a paper on what this means.
40. Fibonacci sequence. 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377… The sequence is that the third term is the sum of the previous two numbers. The occurrences of this number in Creation is phenomenal: petal arrangement of flowers spiral arrangement of petals, pine cones, and pineapples; keys on a piano keyboard; the spiral arrangement of snails; bee ancestries; right triangles; and many more. The findings and applications are so vast that a periodical, The Fibonacci Quarterly has been published for 50 years! And, there are other such mathematical sequences in nature that have been called the golden mean. There could be more than one paper here!
41. Scientists quests for aliens—misplaced faith? Unquestionably, modern scientists are interested in “proving” the existence of intelligent beings from other planets. Billions of dollars are spent on space probes, landing devices (on other planets), telescopes on earth and in outer space, and large networks of listening devices to detect origins of life. And, what have scientists found—virtually nothing. Then, they criticize Christians for their belief in the origins of Genesis and their faith in the Creator God, in whom and about which, there is abundant evidence. Who is exercising the greater leap in the dark: natural scientists or Bible-believing Christians?
42. Law of uniformitarianism and science as “history.” Experimental science or the scientific method has a certain validity which I have discussed in several ways already. Among groups of scientists their experiments can be duplicated and the results verified, modified, and “proven” wrong. However, the whole of evolutionary science concerns the application of the law of uniformitarianism which states that what patterns in science exist now have always existed. Once could also call this application historical science, that is, science applied back in history. But, the study of history is different from current studies. Any historian has to study documents that actually exist and piece together what he thinks may have happened. What the scientist does in this application is no different from what other historians do. They gather evidence and form hypotheses about what may have happened. Even if those conclusions can be repeated in scientific experiments today, one assumes the law of uniformitarianism which is quite tenuous in that there are many indications that “nature” has changed in some patterns over the years, or the observations of science have changed, or something else is not constant. For example, with radioisotope dating going back thousands of years, how can one know that those isotopes are predictably constant in their rate of degeneration? Historical science and uniformitarianism are huge assumptions, and ones that cannot be “proven” by any modern methods.
And they “cheat.” There have been numerous experiments to try to create “life” under certain chemical conditions with basic proteins and other materials that might have been present “in the beginning.” But what is the experiment? It is highly controlled and directed by intelligent minds! These experiments are no “chance” (see topic above) experiments. Not only does intelligent control govern these experiments, they start with matter! If they truly want original conditions, they have to first have “chance” produce an atom, then molecules. They must start from nothing… but then everyone knows intuitively that “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”
43. Why are some people “good” and some “bad” or even evil? The naturalism of evolution has no answer to this question. Neither does philosophy. However, Scripture does. Man was created good and made in God’s image who is perfectly good. “Man” (Adam and Eve) chose to follow Satan’s epistemology, rather than God’s. Thus, God cursed them. Even so, God’s image was not fully obliterated, some goodness remained, but now there was also evil present. So, man is a dichotomy of good and evil, sometimes strongly towards one pole or the other. Of course, God provided the possibility of salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ. At regeneration (being “born from above”), man is set on the road to become fully “good.” That road will not be completed in his time on earth, but there will be gradual improvement in that person until he is made perfect in heaven. See The Euthryphro dilemma above.
44. The Bible as epistemology. Since philosophy cannot agree on a single epistemology, why should not the Bible be a foundation for epistemology? In fact, the Bible offers the strongest foundation of epistemology. See The Bible Destroys the Strongholds of Epistemological Speculation. One of the great challenges of epistemology is that no person claims to know everything. But, if one does not know “everything,” then what is unknown may refute everything is known! However, God knows everything; therefore, what He says that can be understood (and that knowledge is considerable) can be known to be irrefutable! So, the Bible can make an infallible claim to true and eternal knowledge.
45. Operationalism and/or functionalism—“science” as a description, not reality. The cause of what “works” or produces predictable results does not have to be true—a description is not explanation and an event is dependent upon how it is measured. The tricky aspect of this definition is that “what works” does not have to be true, even when the desired results occur. For example, placebos in medicine can reduce blood pressure, significant pain, tense muscles, and more. But there is no possible correlation between the chemical ingredients of the placebos and the physiological effects. This concept is considerably broader than its application to science—applicable to everything that concerns the physical world. For example, the understanding and theory of language is quite complex, but it works remarkably (not perfectly) well. Statistics have a certain usefulness, but their basis and interpretation are somewhat tentative. I would even propose that functionalism (or operationalism) is the mode by which The Creation Mandate is to be achieved in the physical world—probably because of the Fall that distorted communication and the physical universe.
One of the most interesting aspects of functionalism is that, as the “real world,” it does not matter what one’s philosophy or religion is. The Indian mystic who goes to market must deal with sellers in real terms and coins, not the mystical sayings of his belief system. The naturalist lives in a world whose only explanation can be transcendental, and one that the large majority of people on earth believe. The pacifist must fight his natural urges to protect himself and his family from bodily harm.
A great resource for the concept of operationalism is Gordon Clark’s The Philosophy of Science available at Trinity Foundation.
46. To know anything, one must be omniscient. If one does not know everything, then what is not known could refute everything that one believes that one knows.