Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Solitaire

Before I reply to Cheung’s latest comments, I’d like to review how we got here. A reader at Triablogue asked me to comment on Cheung. I said that I wasn’t in much position to comment on Cheung, but from what I’d read of him he seemed to be a Clarkian. I then mentioned some of my disagreements with Clark.

Cheung wrote back and, among other things, said the following:

<< Assuming that he has indeed read much of Clark, and then given his opinion on Clark, I am guessing that his opinion of me would not be much more positive even if he were to take the time to read more of my works (although I am quite different from Clark in some aspects). >>

I then followed up with a two-part piece on Clark (entitled “Gordon Clark”), since I have read almost everything of Clark’s.

Cheung then posted a piece which seemed to be a highly elliptical reply to what I had written, or was, at least, occasioned by what I had written.

I then responded to that (in an essay entitled “Extra-scriptural scripturalism”)--to which Cheung has now offered a rejoinder of sorts.

Among other things, Cheung says the following:

<< As the above reader writes, “I think some of the things that he said were already answered by you in your blog articles. I am not sure if he reads them.” Bingo! And if there is anything unanswered in my blog articles, it is because (as I have repeated several times on this site) they are intended as supplements to my books.

I am not interested in defending my reputation or my competence, but I am concerned when readers might be misled. The simplest solution is to remind all of you that I have already dealt with all the typical criticisms in my writings (books, articles, blog), and all you need to do is to read or review them. >>

Why should I go slogging through all his books and articles and blog entries when he himself indicated that given my views of Clark, my views of his own position would not be much more positive?

I’m just taking him at his word. Is there something wrong with that? To the extent that my criticisms of Clark are applicable to Cheung, I don’t need to trudge through all his own material. He’s the one who set the bar for me. But now he wants to raise the bar.

<< Mr. H interacts with only this short blog entry as if I have presented my main or even entire case against empiricism there… >>

No, I interacted with that particular blog entry since that particular blog entry was in response to what I had written. It is eminently reasonable for my to respond to his response to me.

But that hardly commits me to responding to everything else he has written which was not in response to me. After all, it’s not as if Cheung has responded to everything I’ve written which was not in response to him.

For that matter, Cheung hasn’t even bothered to respond in detail to what I have written with him in mind--and written in response to what he wrote in response to me. So I'm still well ahead of him. He’s the one who’s falling behind, here—not me.

<< I pretty much dislike going back and forth with anybody (except in friendly conversation with my wife)…

But if I am not careful, this will begin the very back and forth deal that I wish to avoid, and that I really have no time for.

I am able to convince anyone only by the sheer rigorous rationality and precise biblical exegesis of my arguments.

Again, I have no problem in answering something that is new, something that I have never addressed, and my readers would testify that I never resort to evasive maneuvers, nor do I need to. >>

So it looks like Cheung would rather play solitaire. Well, that’s his prerogative. But to avoid the cut-and-thrust of an actual debate is hardly an example of “rigorous rationality.” Nothing is easier than to give canned answers to canned objections. This is why the dialogue format is so popular in the history of philosopher. That way, the writer can ensure that he always wins the debate by making his fictive dialogue partner just a little bit dimmer when it counts. In a real give-and-take, you can’t control the flow of the argument, but a canned give-and-take is a safe bet because the outcome is rigged from the start.

<< Many readers fail to apply the strict standards of rationality when they examine arguments and refutations. They fail to remember that not just any complaint is a valid refutation. Just like any sound argument, a refutation must have a conclusion validly deduced from true premises, and that contradicts its opponent’s position. Nothing that Mr. H wrote against me amounts to this. He gives us assertions, speculations, rhetorical questions, but no argument (refutation) that reasons from true premises to their necessary conclusion.

He has attempted several typical ad hominem points. >>

i) One thing that doesn’t amount to a rigorous refutation is when Cheung contents himself with vague, unidentified charges about “assertions, speculations, &c.” If Cheung were applying his own standards to himself, he’d spell out what assertions, what speculations, what rhetorical questions, what ad hominem arguments?

ii) Another thing that doesn’t amount to a rigorous refutation is when Cheung contents himself with referring the reader to a miscellany of his books and articles and blog entries. It is no answer to particular questions and objections to say, Go read everything I’ve ever written and see if you can pick out what may be relevant to the specific case at hand. Once again, it would be nice to see Cheung put his stated standards of “irrefutable” reasoning into practice by actually refuting a real-time critic.

iii) Posing questions is a standard form of argumentation. It is used, for example, by Paul when he employs the diatribe style. For someone who lays claim to scripturalism, why does Cheung demote this Scriptural form of argumentation?

iv) In addition, the ad hominem argument, in the sense of arguing from your opponent’s premise or presupposition, is another valid form of argumentation.

<< Now, an irrefutable position is no good when read by a moron, so it helps that my readers are not stupid.

Nothing that he wrote actually support empiricism. So even if he successfully refutes me, we would end up with skepticism at best.

He has attempted several typical ad hominem points, but I have already dealt with them in my writings — I either refute them as fallacious and irrelevant, or I swallow them down without suffering any damage to the coherence of my position. And again, an ad hominem does not amount to a positive support for empiricism. >>

i) Take very careful notice of how Cheung is trying to shift the burden of proof.

The onus is not on me to make a case for empiricism. The question is not whether empiricism is true or false. The question is not even if rationalism is true or false.

Rather, the question is the relation between rationalism and scripturalism. Clark tried to graft a rationalist epistemology (and attendant metaphysical system) onto the Protestant rule of faith (sola Scriptura).

The primary question is whether this relation is internally consistent. Do the form and content of Scripture cohere with a rationalist epistemology--not to mention the attendant metaphysical system?

ii) The question is further intensified by the fact that Clark tried to turn the Protestant rule of faith into the only source of knowledge. Not only is this simply at odds with the classic Protestant position, but it raises the question of how Scripture, as an external standard, can be a source of knowledge--much less the source of knowledge, unless it is an object of knowledge, and how it can be an object of knowledge on a thorough-going rationalist epistemology.

iii) Let us be very clear on what Clark’s position—as well, apparently, as Cheung’s--amounts to. They are saying that Christians should not take the sensory claims of Scripture at face value. Instead, we are "morons" unless we dump all that--and I do mean "all"--for an extremely counterintuitive--not to say, incoherent--theory of knowledge.

iv) What is more, they deny the prima facie claim of Scripture, not on Scriptural grounds, but on philosophical grounds, derived from the standard objections to empiricism in the rationalist literature.

v) If you believe this, then you must turn the whole of Scripture into an idealistic allegory. Every sensory assertion of Scripture must be converted into a nonsensory analogue. The object of faith is transferred from the propositions of Scripture, as given in Scripture, to an esoteric parallel. Scripture is treated as a ciphertext or code language, to be run through the translation software of idealism.

Frankly, this is no different from Gnostic exegesis, which sets up a one-to-one correspondence between what the Bible says and what it “really” means. So you end up with a two-track theology: there is what the Bible says, with all its sensory nouns and verbs and extended imagery, and then there is the desensitized analogue, which is taken to be the true sense.

vi) I’d add that Cheung constantly confounds sense knowledge with empiricism. But it is easy to draw a basic distinction. Scripture can, and does, affirm sense knowledge without affirming any particular theory of sense knowledge.

There is, in other words, an obvious difference between what Scripture clearly affirms as well as implies, on the one hand, and a full-blown epistemology, on the other hand. Indeed, a number of epistemic systems may be compatible with Scripture because they are underdetermined by Scripture, but consistent with what it affirms or implies as far as it goes.

Conversely, when Clark, as well--apparently, as Cheung--insist that the senses are unreliable sources of information at a global, and not merely local level, their position is interposed in the teeth of what the Bible actually says.

vii) But since Cheung continues to bring up the matter of empiricism, a couple of other observations are in order:

I grant that rationalism has landed some body blows on empiricism. However, I’d also grant that empiricism has landed some body blows on rationalism. That’s why we’ve had an ongoing debate for the last 2500 years. Neither rationalism nor radical empiricism can stand on its own two feet.

viii) In addition, the tabula rasa-cum-bundle theory of sense knowledge offered by the likes of Locke and Hume is not the only available theory or sense knowledge. There are plenty of less radical options to evaluate.

Has Cheung ever bothered to “read slowly and carefully, and REALLY try to understand” such sophisticated and nuanced works of contemporary epistemology as the following (see below), “instead of merely dismissing” the other side of the debate because of Cheung’s Clarkian “traditions or assumptions, without actual refutations?”:

Alston, W. The Reliability of Sense Perception (Cornell 1993)
_____, A Realistic Conception of Truth (Cornell (1996)
_____, Beyond “Justification” (2005)
Bonjour L. & E. Sosa. Epistemic Justification (Oxford 2003)
Plantinga, A. Warrant: the Current Debate (Oxford 1993)
_____, Warrant & Proper Function (Oxford 1993)
_____, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford 2000).
Wolterstorff, N. Thomas Reid & the History of Epistemology (Cambridge 2004)

27 comments:

  1. Hey Steve, are you a Presuppositionalist?

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  2. Forgot to add: the question above doesn't relate to the thread....sorry.

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've defended Van Til in my "Johnson on Van Til: A Rejoinder."

    I'd add that there's a difference between Clarkian presuppositionalism and Van Tilian presuppositionalism.

    Speaking for myself, I'm an exemplarist, in the tradition of medieval exemplarism. One could say that exemplarism is a version of presuppositionalism.

    I believe that the divine attributes function as abstract universals and furnish the template for the natural categories. There, I'm sure that's all self-explanatory! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ah, we can finally fight about something then. I'll start by noting that presuppositionalists look weird and smell funny. =D

    Seriously, I've read Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief, and, while I would say he clearly excels at pointing out the question-begging nature of the arguments employed by those who hold Christian belief to be subrational, the positive case he wants to make doesn't do a thing for me. Despite his statement to the contrary, it seems to me that one could make the same argument about Great Pumpkinism. Fortunately, I'm not alone in thinking this, so, if I'm wrong, at least I have some most excellent company. In other words, if I'm correct, Reformed epistemology as I understand it would make a Pedantic Pumpkinite just as much a warranted force to be reckoned with as a Pedantic Protestant.

    The positive case that I'd make in place of Plantinga's case would be similar to those of the English/Scottish/Irish divines during the Deist controversy, where the reliability of the eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection can be reasonably established, and where the objections to miracles as well as accepting them on the basis of eyewitness testimony.

    Color me, I suppose, a card-carrying classical evidentialist who has his own parking space at the Evidentialist Society building.

    On the other hand, I bow at the Plantinga altar with his The Nature of Necessity, God, Freedom, and Evil, and his Analytic Theist reader. He also paid for my lunch at Notre Dame once, after I was an hour late because I forgot that he was on Eastern time, not Central time.
    He's a mensch in every way, and whether or not one buys his arguments, he is a most excellent writer whose material is a privilege to read and study.

    Have you read Hume's Abject Failure by John Earman? Assuming you understand the basic mathematical properties of probability, you'll like its more technical sections.

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  5. Before you weigh in you need to read my rejoinder to Johnson.

    Calvinism has no official epistemology. Plantinga co-oped the phrase "Reformed epistemology," but that's misleading.

    You can see the way I actually do apologetics from my many many entries on the subject at Triablogue. Most of what I do is fairly conventional because it is usually sufficient for my purposes to simply argue with the unbeliever on his own grounds. He supplies me with all the raw materials I need.

    There are also times, though, when I challenge his rules of evidence. This gets more presuppositional.

    We can't fling a whole lot of evidence in the face of the unbeliever if he's drawn up the rules of evidence is such a restrictive way that our evidence doesn't count as evidence.

    A lot depends on how radical and sophisticated the unbeliever is. The more astute and extreme, the more one needs to downshift from a debate over particular truth-claims to a debate over general truth-conditions.

    As for the case for the Resurrection, I'm gearing up for a major review of the new attack on the Resurrection in the Price/Lowder book. So you'll get to see me in action.

    ReplyDelete
  6. How does your rejoinder to Johnson affect the points I made just above? If they're right [or wrong], they're what they are regardless of what you've said in your rejoinder.

    Or am I confused?

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  7. You seem to be mapping Plantinga onto presuppositionalism. Plantinga is not a presup in the usual sense. So whatever I happen to think about Plantinga is not germane to what I think about presuppositionalism, which is what you were originally asking about. For the record, I think that Plantinga has some usual material, although his category of proper basicality is too thin for my bloodstream.

    There is also the question of how we define evidentialism. Is this a form of positivism, where the facts speak for themselves and we follow the evidence whenever it leads? Or is there a value-laden component in play, here? If so, that begins to shade into presuppositionalism.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For example, when you identify yourself as an evidentialist, who is your model? Moreland? Habermas? Montgomery? Craig? Corduin? Feinberg? Swinburne?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Cheung wrote:

    <<<
    The simplest solution is to remind all of you that I have already dealt with all the typical criticisms in my writings (books, articles, blog), and all you need to do is to read or review them.
    >>>

    Yup, Hays is right, this is solitaire. Between Hays' blog posts and my comments, several *specific* and *detailed* arguments have been presented, not just against Cheung's blog posts but against one of his major books. Cheung's response? "It's all in my stuff; just read it again."

    This is not serious interaction with one's critics. But then again, would you expect any other kind of response from someone who says:

    <<<
    Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable.
    >>>

    and:

    <<<
    Subjectively, the deck is stacked against me; objectively, there is *nothing* against me.
    >>>

    LOL!! I mean, why bother even interacting with critics if you already *know*, ahead of time, that all criticisms written anywhere by anyone have already been responded to, that your arguments are irrefutable, and that there is *nothing* in existence against your arguments! The vanity here is just overwhelming.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Pedantic Protestant,

    John Frame divides the task of apologetics up into apologetics as proof (providing positive arguments for the Christian faith), apologetics as defense (answering the objections of unbelievers against the Christian faith), and apologetics as offense (going on the offensive against unbelieving worldviews, reducing them to absurdity). Cf. Frame's _Apologetics to the Glory of God_.

    Plantinga's published work aims to say something significant in each of these areas.

    In his "Two Dozen or So Arguments For the Existence of God," Plantinga is practicing apologetics as proof.

    In his "Reason and Belief in God" and _Warranted Christian Belief_ (broadly speaking), he is practicing apologetics as defense.

    In his "Naturalism Defeated?" argument, he is practicing apologetics as offense.

    In particular, note that Plantinga's 'belief in God can be properly basic' argument (so characteristic of the early phase of his Reformed epistemology) is *not* intended as apologetics as proof or offense. It is rather apologetics as defense, an undercutting of one argument *against* the rationality of belief in God. It would be unwise to impute to Plantinga's argument a significance that he himself never intended for it. A car alarm can't convert your car into a F-22 Raptor, but nevertheless it serves a useful function that cannot be denied. One argument against the rationality of Christian belief has been neutralized. That's not everything, but it's something.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Steve --- I'd roughly say that I tend to argue in the same way of Montgomery and Craig, though obviously my argumentation is basically derivative in nature from their work and the work of those divines who stood up against the pamphleteers and deists in the 17th/18th centuries. So I hope this is an in-the-ballpark answer to your second question. BTW, it has been a while since I last read Montgomery, and the books are in boxes as I prepare for the Big Move West, so don't expect any citations in the near future!

    As to your first question as to how I define evidentialism, I don't think I'm too idiosyncratic in what I'm going to write, though if you think that it is too idiosyncratic then you'll doubtless let me know.

    Basically, my contention is that there is good historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have multiple eyewitnesses from at least two different literary traditions, and the people who truly knew the truth of the matter were willing to die often-horrible deaths for this truth, living a life that could hardly be said to be lived for material gain or the pleasures of the world. I'd argue that one would have to apply enough skeptical acid to the evidence for the Resurrection so as to wash away many other claims from antiquity.

    Now if somebody wants to say that people just don't rise from the dead, then we have to get to the root of why this assertion is allowed to nullify the testimonies that, yes, somebody did rise from the dead. If realizing that there are possibly antisupernatural biases to be overcome makes one a certain shade or type of presuppositionalist, then I suppose that I'm a presuppositionalist in this area as well. [The role of evidence in establishing miracle claims is one of my mental hobby horses by the way.]

    Like you, if somebody wants to make either a de facto or de jure objection to Christianity, I'll attempt to deal with their objection on their own terms, trying to show [if it can be shown] or argue [if it can be argued] that their objection, if carried through in a consistent and logical sense, undercuts their premises as well or, even worse, undercuts major points of their worldview. But I don't consider this to be applied presuppositionalism.

    How I came back to the Church and how I justify or defend my belief in Christianity are birds of a somewhat different feather. Coming back to the Church was a joint affair of the heart and mind --- an inner conviction of sin and accountability as well as a conviction that, far from being solid, my atheist or agnostic arguments were [stealing your terms] leaky buckets. This would give the HS ample room in which to do His stuff, if I can put it colloquially. But if you ask me right now, a decade later, why I believe and assert what I do, I'd try to follow the rough outline:

    (1) By the standards by which we accept ancient historical phenomena, the historicity of the gospels seems a much more reasonable proposition than asserting their lack of historicity. This gives a positive argument for Christianity.

    (2) The historical phenomena that accompany the claims of other religions are absent or much weaker in comparison to Christianity. This gives a negative argument against challenges to Christianity.

    That's quite an ambitious two-step program! Also, I'm under no delusion that the greatest, most airtight historical argument will work, simply because it wouldn't have worked against the obstinate 20-year old version of myself. But whether an argument convinces somebody and whether the argument is sound are different things.

    I'm reading your rejoinder essay, btw. Also, having read much of the old posts here at Triablogue, I don't have any beef whatsoever with anything that I've read. In those areas you discuss/defend for which I can claim a certain level of comfort and knowledge, I'd argue much the same way.

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would second acquascum's contribution to this debate, which more than equals my own contribution.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Aquascum:

    That Frame book has been mentioned to me a few times, and I've just been pokey in regards to getting it and studying it.

    [BTW --- I don't know if there is any hidden significance to your handle, but it just sounds good.]

    If I understand your post correctly, you are asserting that, based on what I've written here, I'm criticizing WCB for his positive argument not being strong when the work is primarily defensive in nature, fending off an objection to Christian belief. You would say that his model, what I'm calling a positive argument, really isn't a positive argument in the rigorous sense of the term, but is merely a handmaiden to his main goal, which is to put up a defensive front against the claim that, say, Christian belief is subrational, lacks warrant, etc.

    Is that a fair summary? If so, you make an obvious point, but perhaps it wasn't obvious back in '01/'02 when I studied the book.

    As for the "Naturalism Defeated?" reference you make, I've read "Is Naturalism Irrational?" in the Analytic Theist. [I also enjoyed "Sheehan's Shenanigans" if that is the proper title.] If we're referring to the same thing, and given Plantinga's output there is no guarantee that we are, I'd agree with the "offensive" label.

    On a completely different note, what do you think the most powerful objection to Christian belief is? If this is too open-ended, feel free to ignore the question. I'm just curious. The question is thrown Steve's way as well with the same caveat.

    Sorry if I seem scatterbrained --- I'm sleepy, a bit ill, and need to lie down for a bit.

    PP

    ReplyDelete
  14. I meant to say that Plantinga has some "useful" material, not "usual" material.

    To draw another distinction, Frame is more programmatic while Plantinga is more detailed. That is due, in part, to their different professional responsibilities.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I assume that "aquascum" is a subtle literary allusion, via Latin, to Jn 3:5 ("with water").

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Pedantic Protestant,

    I agree with everything you say in your follow-up post about Plantinga. I think you've got it exactly right.

    As for "the most powerful objection to Christian belief," I think it still continues to be the problem of evil, especially the problem of so-called 'gratuitous' or 'horrific' evil (actually, those are two distinct problems, though they are related). I think Plantinga gives a fair rundown of these in the relevant chapter of WCB. You might also want to check out Daniel Howard-Snyder's anthology, _The Evidential Argument From Evil_, although it really is impossible to keep up to date on everything that is being written on the topic.

    As for my handle, it's from _Finding Nemo_. The AquaScum 2003 is a unit that keeps fishtanks clean, and it plays a crucial role in the movie. There's an easter egg on the _Finding Nemo_ DVD in which you can see an ad for the AquaScum 2003. It's pretty funny, though it's rather hard to find this particular easter egg (well, harder than those on _The Incredibles_ DVDs :-)

    J. I. Packer once said that theologians are the plumbers of the church. Let's just say I like to clean theological tanks for a living ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. BTW, my email address is in the Blogger profile.

    ReplyDelete
  18. OK, this link is hilarious, and speaks for itself:

    http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/05/06/william-lane-craig/

    Quick, someone email Craig that the definitive refutation of his views is on-line! ;-)

    Molinism is a *heresy*; uh, sure, if you say so ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  19. As to the question of what I think the most powerful objection to Christian belief is, that's a hard question to answer. The problem of evil seems to be the most popular objection. But that reflects, to no small degree, a copycat mentality, where it gets repeated over and over again as an abstract criticism rather than a heart-felt objection. Since I've offered my own theodicy, I don't regard this as a powerful objection.

    Certain epistemic objections are powerful for philosophy majors. Again, though, I find these to be fallacious.

    Comparative mythology can be impressive of one doesn't pay close attention to questions of dating and genre, as well as the many material disanalogies.

    The charge that Scripture is full of contradictions is impressive for those who come to the Bible with a certain abstract preconceptions about photographic realism and the fact/value disjunction.

    If, however, one takes a less extrinsic approach to Scripture, such as we find in Blomberg's Historical Reliability of the Gospels, then almost all these problems turn ot to be pseudo-problems.

    Scientific objections come in two forms: scientific objections to specific events, such as the creation account or the flood account, and a metascientific objection to the effect that Scripture as a whole is working is a mythopoetic, prescientific worldview.

    The latter is often tied to the view that the admission of miracles would render the natural order too unpredictable to do science at all.

    How impressive the first objection is depends on such factors your philosophy of science (realist or antirealist), your interpretation of Scripture, as well as how you rate the evidence for, say, evolution, modern cosmology, and historical geography as over against alternative theories.

    In addition, critics tends to generate artificial tensions by interpolating extra-Biblical assumptions into the Biblical record.

    How impressive the second objection is depends, in part, on the personal experience of the individual. If the individual has had no experience of the paranormal in his own life or the life of some trusted acqaintance, then the paranormal dimension of Bible history will carry an air of unreality. The world of the Bible just doesn't look like the world he knows. Rather, it seems to be better described by blind forces and natural laws.

    If, on the other hand, he has had a brush with the paranormal, then the Scriptural paradigm suddenly looks more realistic than the one-dimensional outlook of secularism.

    A lot also depends on what one reads. If one only reads one side of the argument, then that fosters or confirms a certain bias.

    I deny that the admission of miracles renders the scientific enterprise impossible, but even if it did, it begs the question to say that x must be false because if x were true, it would falsify y. For the reasoning is reversible.

    A more profound answer would be that it's a doctrine of divine creation and providence which supplies the necessary conditions of science.

    Otherwise, evolutionary epistemology conduces to scepticism.

    Likewise, materialism, by reducing everything to the level of a third-person observation, leaves the observer out of the picture. It has no place for mind or abstract objects (numbers, laws of logic).

    ReplyDelete
  20. Steve --- the problem of evil long ago lost its teeth with me. As for the problem of so-called Biblical contradictions, the vast majority of them are merely due to people not knowing of what they speak. For reasons good or bad, the fact that a few things have not been reconciled in a plausible fashion [difference between the hours in John and the synoptists, say] doesn't bother me, as I can have confidence that, were all the facts known, one could see how the synoptists and John could both be correct. [This confidence is based on the fact that other things check out.] Darwinism, Marxism, Freudianism, the variants of these arguments, negative higher criticism, etc etc etc once troubled me but over a decade of studying these things has rendered them mere intellectual curios of a man in his 20's.

    Religious pluralism doesn't bother me. The entire set of arguments that God-talk is meaningless [Plantinga discusses this in the first two chapters of WCB btw] don't bother me.

    I may have mentioned this before, but what would *really* bother me would be the existence [either past, present, or future] of moral rational agents somewhere else in the universe. CS Lewis' essay The Seeing Eye attempted to address this, and I was going to blog on this a few months back when the PP site was in its newborn stages, but I'm not sure how I'd react other than to say that I'd react uneasily.

    I suppose that, for right now, aliens would bother me the most. So far as I can tell, I'm the only person bothered by this possibility.

    Final note: I may have mentioned this to you before, and if so, sorry for being repetitive.

    ReplyDelete
  21. You don't explain why the possibility of ETs bothers you, so there's nothing for me to respond to.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Pedantic Protestant wrote:

    "Steve --- the problem of evil long ago lost its teeth with me."

    Just for the record, when I answered your question about "the most powerful objection to Christian belief," I meant of course the objection that *non-Christians* regularly claim is the most powerful one for them. It wasn't intended as an autobiographical comment :-)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Aquascum --- no problem with anything you wrote. My question was ambiguous, having at least two interpretations. You answered the question with respect to what non-Christians cite. I was more curious as to what you personally think. I put my cards out on the table with the alien line.

    Steve --- the basic gist of why aliens would bother me would be the fact that part of God's nature is tied up in the human sphere of things. While I wouldn't say that scripture is definitive either way on the matter, it seems that scripture is completely consistent with the thesis that man is the sole corporeal rational agent in the universe. On paper, Lewis' Seeing Eye essay pretty much answers a lot of my objections on an intellectual level, but on a gut or emotional level, it still bothers me. That may be my problem.

    Does the concept of rational moral agents being elsewhere [and elsewhen] in the universe cause any dissonance in the Hays brain?

    You don't owe a response, obviously. I'm just informally poking around as to what you think.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This question has been around since the days of Augustine (cf. City of God 12.14).

    Seems to me that Scripture is silent on the question of ETs, and I don't see anything in Scripture to prejudge the question one way or the other.

    The Bible is naturally androcentric because the Bible is addressed to men, and is primarily concerned with instructing us on our duty to God and our fellow man.

    If there were (or are) ETs, I'd expect Scripture to be silent on the subject, for were it to reveal that fact, this would foster a lot of mischievous speculation, distracting us from our real needs and duties.

    A traditional theological objection to ETs is that their existence would violate the unrepeatable character of Christian redemption.

    But this objection rests on three assumptions:

    1.If there are ETs, they must share in the Fall.
    2.If there are ETs, they must share in redemption.
    3.The redemption of ETs would violate the unrepeatable character of Christian redemption.

    There is no prior reason, that I can see, to assume that ETs must be a fallen species. The fall of Adam was a local, historical event.

    There is not prior reason, that I can see, to assume that ETs, if fallen, must be redeemed. The fallen angels were never redeemed.

    Even if they were redeemed, the unpeatable character of God's union with human nature (the Incarnation) and his atoning death for the elect (my view), or even for the whole human race (Arminian view), does not preclude his union with an alien nature or atoning death for an alien species.

    That would not be a repetition of the Incarnation or atonement, for it takes a different class of natural kinds.

    Speaking for myself, I don't believe in ETs, and I don't disbelieve in ETs. I'm noncommittal.

    If there are none, I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed; and if there are some, I wouldn't be surprised or unsettled.

    I do disbelieve in UFOs.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great information on your site folks. I also am working on a natural healing oil site. I'll bookmark yours if you bookmark mine. You can find it at natural healing oil.
    Again, nice site folks...I'll be baak...:)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello, just visited your bible blog, I also have a bible related website, it's about some books which is helpful to understand the God's Words

    ReplyDelete
  27. hey nice site you have here!

    Any tips on bloggin ? id like to see your reply to this story :)

    look forward to the next edition

    i have bookmarked you

    ReplyDelete