Saturday, April 15, 2017

Time, times, and half a time

I'd like to make a brief observation about the experience of time. The nature of time crops up in some theological conversations. For instance, freewill theists are apt to espouse the A-theory of time rather than the B-theory of time. They say the future is open. Indeterminate. 

According to classical theism, God is timeless. Conversely, some freewill theists say God entered time at the moment of creation or the moment of the Incarnation.

You also have debates about mature creation. For instance, Gosse distinguished between prochronic time and diachronic time. 

Let's take a comparison. Suppose a video gamer designs a dynamic, interactive story. This story involves three different times. To begin with, the virtual characters are dynamic. The plot unfolds in real time. Scenes change from one timeframe to the next. There's a flow of time.

In addition to the actual temporal succession, the plot may unfold according to a calendar. Events happen on particular days or time of day. Events occur in particular years. So the characters operate within a chronological framework. 

Suppose, for instance, the game is set in the middle ages. Suppose the game is a reenactment of the Song of Roland. 

In that case, there are two different times or temporal perspectives or temporal levels. There's the real time flow of events. How long it actually takes for a character to say or do something in the game. Then there's the assigned chronology of their historical period.

Finally, you have the timeframe of the gamer, who exists outside the simulation. For instance, he will design the game in advance. He will then activate the game. 

The internal chronology of the story and the real time succession of events don't strictly map onto each other. There's a distinction between narrative sequence and actual succession.

Suppose the virtual characters are artificially intelligent. From within their experience, from within the simulation, could they distinguish real time from calendar time? 

A Selection of Presuppositional Arguments

"A Selection of Presuppositional Arguments" by Prof. James Anderson.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Easter Hope

Peter Enns on apparent age

“Apparent age” means that God created the cosmos to look billions of years old when in fact it is only a few 1000 years old.

That's a misleading way of putting it. Mature creation isn't like antiquing an object to make it look older than it really is by artificial means. Rather, the theory of mature creation is that to create anything ex nihilo is to go from absolutely nothing to something concrete, thereby skipping over what would normally be the intervening stages in a cyclical process to arrive at that instantaneous result.  Once a cycle is in place, there's a continuum to how things come into being, persist, and cease to exist. But creating the initial conditions is discontinuous with the status quo. 

You may still reject mature creation, but you need to be clear on what the position represents.  

The Titanic

I recent exchange I had on Facebook:

What "evidence" is there that the Holy Spirit actually exists? I mean this as a serious question because when I was "saved" at 10, I did not feel any supernatural force guiding me, nor have I ever that I am aware of. It was a decision in my brain that caused me to walk the aisle and tell the preacher I wanted to be saved. How can anyone discern any difference between a conscience and the Holy Spirit? There doesn't seem to be a clear distinction. And shouldn't we KNOW with a significant degree of certainty that we are being led by this supernatural guide? 

Ray, decisional evangelism and the alter call are 19C theological innovations that have nothing to do with the Biblical theology of conversion. So you're using the wrong standard of comparison. That's pop folk fundamentalist theology.

In terms of supernatural guidance, a better example would be unambiguous cases like premonitory dreams.

Steve, how do you know a dream is from the Holy Spirit?

If a dream were to come true, then it's revelatory. That would be a veridical, supernatural dream.

Steve, if a dream comes true, it may be a random coincidence, which I contend is much more probable than someone having a dream that predicts the future.

Also, you can't just count the hits and ignore the misses. How many dreams has the person had that did not come true? Most likely more dreams do not come true than do come true.

Whether it's a random coincidence depends on the specificity of the details and/or the antecedent improbability of the event.

As a matter of fact we can just count hits and ignore misses. Misses simply mean something didn't happen. The fact that something didn't happen hardly subtracts from something that did happen. A nonevent isn't counterevidence, but nothing at all. It does nothing to obviate evidence for something. The fact that most cruise ships don't hit an iceberg and sink hardly makes the sinking of the Titanic less credible.

But it makes the sinking of the Titanic less probable because you know that on say 99 trips, the ships did not hit an iceberg. So you could estimate that 1% of cruise ship trips result in hitting an iceberg.

Misses are events. I'm sure you know how batting averages are calculated.

If a person has 99 dreams that do not come true, those are misses and they do count.

i) Why is the abstract probability of the Titanic accident relevant when we have evidence that it sunk? Do you really think we need to counterbalance the evidence that it hit an iceberg and sank against mathematical improbabilities? No one says, let's begin with the mathematical odds of a cruise ship hitting an iceberg and sinking. Let's put that on one side of the scales. Then let's put news reports of the Titanic accident on the other side of the scales, and see which tips the scales. No, we just go with the evidence that the Titanic sunk.

ii) Swinging a bat and missing the ball is an event. That's quite different from something that didn't happen.

Most dreams don't come true because most dreams aren't premonitory in the first place. That's a red herring. Most dreams are not about the future. You can only miss what you're aiming for. There's no presumption or expectation that dreams in general are supposed to be revelatory or premonitory, but 99 times out of a 100, they fail to envision the future. The presumption, rather, is that most dreams are ordinary, imaginary mental events. What distinguishes a premonitory dream is precisely that it's not normal in that regard.

iii) Problem is we need some criterion to distinguish a coincidence from what's not a coincidence. Atheists are intellectually lazy about that. They play the coincidence card, but of course, but they also need some criterion to rule out events that are not coincidental. Otherwise, their appeal is ad hoc.

I had a series of dreams recently about hot air balloons (never been in one, and no reason to dream about them). In a short space of time, two separate people (who didn't know each other) mentioned hot air balloons to me specifically relating it to the meaning of my dream. They didn't know I had been dreaming about hot air balloons. Coincidence?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Removing the roof

I generally avoid debates over apologetic method because they rarely get beyond methodology. Having worked out my own philosophy of apologetics years ago, I just do it. Since, however, I keep running into the same stale objections, it it's sometimes useful to revisit the issue. Here's a recent exchange I had. Facebook exchanges tend to be choppy, so I've rearranged the order of comments to tighten the flow of argument:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wood reviews The Case for Christ

In addition to his other talents, it turns out that Wood is a comedic impressionist:

The intercession of Christ

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25).

This is a deceptively simple verse. 

A. The first clause could mean two different things:

1. It might have a modal or qualitative meaning. It might mean Christ is able to completely save those who come to him. Not just assisting them in their pilgrimage. Not just a necessary condition. Rather, what he provides is all-sufficient to ensure their salvation. 

And that interpretation can be supported by the general theology of Hebrews, which lays great stress on the sufficiency and finality of the atonement, in contrast to the deficient nature of the old covenant. Moreover, the efficacy of the atonement is grounded in something absolute–the power of an indestructible life (Heb 7:16).

This might complement the temporal meaning (see below). Because the atonement is intrinsically sufficient, it's sufficient for now and for eternity. 

2. Or it might have a temporal or quantitative meaning: "for all time". Christ is always available to save those who come to him. And that interpretation receives support from the next clause. 

Moreover, the quantitative meaning can, in turn, have two different senses or applications:

i) It might refer to the same recipients. For instance, Christians remain sinners, so throughout life they never cease to need the redemptive work of Christ to atone for their sins: past, present, and future. Even–or especially–in heaven, the saints will never face the prospect of divine judgment. 

ii) Or it might have futuristic orientation. Perhaps it refers to future generations. Christ isn't merely alive to save Christians who were contemporaneous with the author of Hebrews, but Christians throughout the course of church history. On that view, Hebrews includes a futuristic eschatology.  

That's a sense in which the work of Christ can be both finished and continuous. 

B. The second clause could mean two different things:

1. It might have general reference to divine intervention. For instance, Jesus responding to petitionary prayer. 

And that interpretation has support from the general theology of Hebrews, which stresses God's providential preservation of the faithful, as they face trials and tribulations. Indeed, it is God who keeps them faithful (e.g. 2:18; 4:16). 

2. It might have specific reference to the application of the atonement. 

And that interpretation has support from the general theology of Hebrews, with its focus on the priestly office of Christ (vv26-28; 1:3; 2:17; 9:26,28).

(1) and (2) are complementary. Jesus sits at the right hand of God (1:1-14), so he can dispense favors. Moreover, he's not merely a priest, but a sympathetic priest. He knows firsthand what his people face (2:10-18; 4:14-16). His humanity and deity combine to make him an ideal intercessor. Omnipotent and empathetic.  

Finally, it's unnecessary to choose between these interpretation options, since they all have a foundation in the overall theology of Hebrews, and there's no antecedent reason to suppose the author felt the need to exclude those truths. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Regarding Christ according to the flesh

Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer (2 Cor 5:16).

What does Paul's cryptic comment mean? Here's a possibility: On the one hand there were thousands of Palestinian Jews, as well as however many Samaritans and gentiles, who heard Jesus preach, saw him work wonders and cast out demons. Yet many of them were his enemies. Indeed, some members of the Sanhedrin probably knew Jesus according to the flesh (in that sense), yet voted for his execution. Not to mention the lynch mobs who attempted to stone him or demanded that Pilate crucify him. So even firsthand knowledge of Jesus doesn't automatically save a person.

On the other hand, precious few Christians in churches planted by Paul had firsthand knowledge of Jesus. Living on mainland Greece, they didn't hear Jesus preach, see him work wonders and cast out demons. Yet they could be saved without knowing Jesus according to the flesh (in that sense). 

The perspicuity of Scripture

I'd like to comment on a neglected consideration in debates over the clarity of Scripture. The perspicuity of Scripture is a favorite target of Catholic apologists. If Scripture were all that clear, why so many competing interpretations? Sometimes atheists get in on the game. 

Many commentators and theologians operate from the unquestioned assumption that every statement of Scripture is supposed to have a singular meaning. Hence, the goal of exegesis is to ascertain that singular meaning. If it's hard to choose between two well-argued interpretations, then the aim of exegesis is frustrated. 

On this view, if you have two well-matched interpretations, then Scripture was either unclear, or it may have been clear to the original audience, but there's a missing piece of information which modern readers lack.

Now, in many cases, I'm sure Bible writers only intended a singular meaning. But I think it's dubious to make that a general or universal operating principle. My point is not to replace one presumption with the opposite presumption.

In some cases, or perhaps in many cases, we may have studied ambiguity. By that I mean, a Bible writer may deliberately make a statement that can be taken in two different ways. If you think about it, that's an efficient mode of communication. Rather than having to make two different statements to convey two different ideas, one statement can convey two different ideas.

Notice I said "different", not "divergent". Like a double entendre. For instance, that's a common feature in John's Gospel.

Or it may not so much be that they were intentionally ambiguous. Rather, if, in his own mind, a Bible writer thinks both senses are true, there's no overriding reason to word his statement to specify one meaning to the exclusion of another. 

But the ambiguity wouldn't be unclear in the sense that a writer failed to express what he really meant. To the contrary, in these cases he meant to leave it somewhat open-textured because both interpretations are true to what he intended to convey. He didn't word his statement to rule out an alternative interpretation so long as that's theologically true.

On this view, to accuse the text of lacking clarity reflects a gratuitously reductionist assumption on the part of the reader. An insistence that the text is supposed to be univalent rather than polyvalent. But in some instances, the reader may be guiltt of imposing that assumption on the text, despite the author's intention.

i) I think it's good for commentators to first see if there's one clearly superior interpretation. If, however, they can't narrow it down to that degree, they should be open to the possibility that both interpretation options may be original and equally valid. 

ii) That won't work for mutually exclusive interpretations. Both interpretations must be mutually consistent.

iii) Moreover, consistency is an insufficient criterion. There must be evidence in the text and context that the author may well have had that idea in mind. 

Riding the time machine back to AD 33

Jason Engwer recently did a prescient post about Hank Hanegraaff plugging Eastern Orthodoxy:

At one level, I don't care about Hanegraaff's deconversion from evangelicalism. What he does with his life is his own business. I'm not responsible for his choices in life. I don't have to live his life for him. 

In fact, I think some deconversions are good. Hanegraaff was always a controversial successor to Martin. He was a second-rate spokesman for evangelicalism. So the EO are welcome to have him. There's a natural pruning process. 

The only larger significance to his deconversion lies in the fact that he headed what at one time was world's premier countercult ministry. That gives him an institutional prominence he'd never enjoy on the merits. Likewise, that raises questions about the future direction of CRI. 

I initially said:

i) A basic problem with EO is that it fosters the notion of salvation through the sacraments and salvation through "the Church"–rather than trusting directly in Jesus for salvation. It substitutes something in place of Jesus. People put their faith in "the Church" or the sacraments rather than Jesus. 

ii) EO simply disregards the forensic character of redemption in Pauline theology.

iii) EO has changed. As I've documented in the past. EO has quietly capitulated to liberal Bible criticism and theistic evolution. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

McGrew on "extraordinary" claims

Why One Convert Left Eastern Orthodoxy

For those following the Hank Hanegraaff situation with Eastern Orthodoxy, here’s a first-hand account of a Reformed believer who migrated to Eastern Orthodoxy, before coming back to a more Reformed Anglican posture (he is now a Deacon in one of the more conservative branches of Anglicanism):

It’s an account of why he left. Couple of highlights that I had pulled out of this in an earlier blog post:

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The many-gods objection to Pascal's wager

A stock objection to Pascal's wager is the many-gods objection. Pascal's wager is said to be a false antithesis because he made Christianity the standard of comparison. But that ignores a range of religious options. 

And it's true that Pascal's wager all by itself can't be used to leverage one religious claimant over another. But whether that's a weakness in the wager depends on the opponents. If it's a debate between a Christian and a Muslim (for instance), then the wager is inadequate. 

If, however, it's a debate between a Christian and an atheist, it would be nonsensical for the atheist to complain that the Christian hasn't eliminated all the religious rivals. After all, the atheist doesn't believe that any of the religious alternatives to Christianity is true. So why does an atheist suppose a Christian philosopher or apologist must first rule them out before an atheist can evaluate the choice between Christianity and atheism? If an atheist is debating a Christian who deploys the wager, the atheist has already eliminated the other religious alternatives as live options to his own satisfaction, so the atheist has, in a sense, cleared the field for the Christian. 

To be sure, the atheist has also eliminated Christianity to his own satisfaction, but that just means the Christian apologist must make a case for Christianity, in response to the atheist. And, of course, the atheist has his own burden of proof. 

To take a comparison, if a naturalistic evolutionist is debating an old-earth or young-earth creationist, it would be illegitimate of him say that his opponent can't make his case until he eliminates theistic evolution, for both sides in that debate think theistic evolution is mistaken (although they may have different reasons for their assessment). In most debates between two adherents of opposing positions, both sides act as if their side is the right side. By the same token, when two adherents of opposing positions debate the same issue, they act as if there are just two alternatives: the ones under review. That's generally the nature of a debate between two disputants. 

Now, a young-earth creationist could debate an old-earth creationist, a theistic evolutionist, or a naturalistic evolutionist. And a naturalistic evolutionist could do the same thing in reverse. But debate topics are typically restricted to keep things manageable. You try to debate one position at a time. Suppose a naturalistic evolutionist bested a young-earth creationist in a debate. It would hardly be fair to say that's a false dichotomy because he failed to disprove old-earth creationism or theistic evolution in the course of the debate. That's another argument for another time. He still won that debate. 


Recently debated some unbelievers on Facebook:

Piotr's modus operandi is sneak-and-retreat attacks. He never offers any substantive argument. He never rebuts the evidence which Jonathan presents. Instead, he issues the same prerecorded denials. Tendentious denials that pretend there is no evidence, while he turns his back on the evidence that Jonathan amasses. He never engages the argument. He's a tape recorder on playback, with a one-sentence message.

Does Claason think the narrative attributes the success of Jacob's selective breeding to "having mating animals stare at branches"? Is that just an applause line? Is he unaware of the fact that the narrative attributes the outcome to God's overruling providence?

Notice the tactic of atheists like Claason. They use a bait-n-switch. Rather that address the evidence for Christianity, they change the subject and talk about leprechauns or Bigfoot. That's a diversionary tactic. Moreover, it's an argument from analogy minus the supporting argument. For the comparison to work, they would need to argue that Christianity is, indeed, parallel to leprechauns or Bigfoot. But they don't flesh that out because they can't.

Yes, Tim, it's a diversionary tactic since you do not and cannot engage the evidence, so you try to shift the discussion to hypotheticals about Bigfoot and leprechauns. And, yes, a claim is a claim, which applies perforce to your question-begging denials. That elementary point has yet to sink in for you.

Claason trots out the "pet dragon," which is an unattributed rip-off of Sagan's garage dragon, which is an unattributed rip-off of Flew's invisible gardner. And this is a just a decoy. Rather than engaging the evidence for theism in general or Christianity in particular or the evidence against naturalism, they deflect attention away from the real debate by pointing to faux analogies.

Rom 1 in Christian apologetics

i) I recently witnessed a lengthy exchange between Sye Ten Bruggencate and some evidentialists. Sye's entire apologetic appears to be reducible to quoting Rom 1:18-21. Now, maybe there's more to his overall position than that. I did review a book of his a few years ago:

ii) Before proceeding to my main point, I'd like to get a few preliminaries out of the way. To summarize my own position: I don't classify myself as a Van Tilian. There's too much baggage associated with that classification. And I'm more eclectic. 

Van Til espoused transcendental theism due to his interpretation of divine incomprehensibility. And it's a logical move to go  from divine incomprehensibility to transcendental theism.

However, you can espouse transcendental theism without espousing divine incomprehensibility–at least as Van Til defined it. 

I do think Van Til had some important insights of enduring value:

iii) I agree with evidential apologists against classical apologists that miracles in themselves are evidence of God. You don't have to use a two-step argument in which you first prove God's existence before you can appeal to miracles. That confuses the order of being with the order of knowing. Although God's existence is a metaphysical starting-point for the possibility of miracles, it doesn't follow that belief in God is an epistemological starting-point. To take a comparison, you can't have apples without apple trees, but apples are evidence for the existence of apple trees. I don't have to first prove the existence of apple trees before I can appeal to apples as evidence for the existence of apple trees.

iv) Apropos (iii), it isn't always necessary to begin with presuppositional issues. It depends on how reasonable or unreasonable the unbeliever is. Some unbelievers retain a lot of common sense. 

v) But in a broader sense, I'd classify myself as a presuppositionalist, because issues of possibility, impossibility, probability, necessity, logic, induction, rationality, counterfactuality, the rules of evidence, &c., are ultimately foundational philosophical issues. They concern what the world is like. What kind of world do we inhabit? 

vi) Approaching my main point: it's possible for a true believer to suffer a crisis of faith. A paradigm example is John the Baptist (Mt 11:2-3). That's quite striking because the Baptist had more direct evidence for the messiahship of Jesus than most Christians can hope for. But human beings are psychologically fragile.

vii) Which brings me to my main point: the appeal to Rom 1 is an argument from authority. And that's legit. But it's useless to a Christian who's suffering a crisis of faith, for at that point he may doubt the authority of Scripture. That's his problem. 

An appeal to natural revelation via Rom 1 is not a direct or independent appeal to natural evidence for God's existence, but an indirect appeal that's dependent on the inspiration and apostolicity of Paul. And, once again, there's nothing wrong with that. 

If, however, Sye were to suffer a crisis of faith, Rom 1 would be ineffective to assuage his doubts since an appeal to Rom 1 is predicated on the authority of Scripture, and if, like John the Baptist, you're going through a crisis of faith, then in that state of mind you lack certitude concerning the authority of Scripture. How does appeal to Rom 1 work for a Christian who's uncertain regarding the certainty of Scripture? 

Now it may just be a phase he's going through. It may resolve itself on its own. 

Or it may require additional evidence over and above bare appeals to the authority of Scripture. And there's plenty of evidence to choose from. But Sye doesn't seem to have any fallback. Indeed, he appears to scorn supplementary sources of evidence. But maybe there's more to his position than I'm aware of. 

viii) Finally, I'm concerned about a degree of posturing when some people invoke Van Tilian slogans. They themselves are not immune to a crisis of faith. We need to guard against Peter's prideful audacity. Not only did he say he'd never deny Jesus, but he drew an invidious contrast between himself and his fellow disciples: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Mt 26:33). His grandstanding made him ripe for the fall. 

Rationalists and mystery-mongers

Recently, I had some exchanges on Facebook regarding presuppositionalism:

1. Jonathan McLatchie
What is the trouble with the presuppositionalist school of apologetics? The presuppositionalist argues that Christianity is the only self-consistent worldview, and thus on that basis one is rationally warranted in taking it to be axiomatic -- thus, the presuppositionalist argues, it is impossible that Christianity is false because no other worldview is self-consistent. My beef with this view is at least two fold. First, coherence is not the only test of truth (indeed, there are many propositions which are self-consistent and yet false). There is also the correspondence test for truth -- in other words, does the proposition correspond to reality? Second, while I think a decent argument can be marshalled for asserting that theistic belief is axiomatic to the presumption of the rational intelligibility of the Universe, and indeed reason itself, it is not at all clear to me that the same is true of belief in the Bible as God's revealed Word. I fail to see any logical contradiction that is entailed by asserting that the Biblical worldview is false. That is why, in my opinion, evidentialism is far more satisfying as an apologetic approach.

Several distinctions are in order:

i) There's a difference between Clarkian presuppositionalism and Van Tilian presuppositionalism. Clark and Van Till represent opposing extremes. Clark is a rationalist while Van Til is a mystery-monger. I think Clark's rationalism is sometimes simplistic while Van Til is often gratuitously paradoxical. 

Clark's epistemology is more Augustinian while Van Til's epistemology is more like a Reformed version of transcendental Thomism. 

ii) The Clarkian version is axiomatic and espouses the coherence theory of truth.

One problem is that Gordon Clark had no real successors. There are some efforts to improve on his approach. To my knowledge, Ryan Hedrick is the most promising candidate to develop Clarkian presuppositionalism. But that remains at a programmatic stage.

ii) Van Til was a big picture thinker who didn't excel at detailed formulations. And he's binary to a fault.

Van Til's two leading, immediate successors were Greg Bahnsen and John Frame, both of whom diverge from Van Til in some respects.

iii) At present, the most astute Van Tililian apologist is probably James N. Anderson, although Vern Poythress also does some really find work in apologetics.

iv) The "logical contradiction that's entailed by asserting that the Biblical worldview is false" is the claim that God himself is the source and standard of logic and human rationality. 

2. Suppose we take the crudest version of evidentialism, which would be akin to historical positivism. "Just the facts!"

Now when an evidentialist of that stripe tries to proves Christianity by appeal to the basic reliability of the Gospels, a halfway intelligent atheist will invoke Hume's argument for the presumption against miracles. Typically, an atheist will say that any naturalistic explanation, however implausible, is more plausible than a supernatural explanation.

That's why sophisticated evidentialists like Swinburne and the McGrews present a philosophical justification for the possibility and credibility of miracles. They do so to lay the groundwork for evidentialism. 

By the same token, a key issue in the debate over ID theory is whether methodological atheism is a sine qua non of true scientific explanation. That's why Stephen Meyer and Bill Dembski, as well as sympathetic referees like Plantinga and Del Ratzsch, criticize methodological atheism. 

Likewise, secularism is unable to justify induction and inductive logic. Or the first instance. 

By contrast, as James Anderson pointed out some years ago, a doctrine of providentially preserved natural kind is able to ground induction. 

On a related note are cliches about value-laden nature of observation, and the realist/antirealist debate over the philosophy of science.

These are examples of presuppositional issues in apologetics and related disciplines. So this is a crucial area in which evidential apologetics and Van Tilian apologetics overlap.

vi) That said, there's no doubt that much of the best work in contemporary Christian apologetic is hailing from the evidentialist camp.

3. Actually, the hardest things to prove can be obvious or fundamental things. That's because we use obvious or fundamental things to prove less obvious or less fundamental things. But once we hit bedrock, it's hard to directly prove what's intellectually bedrock. At that point the most promising line of argument is transcendental reasoning.

There are certain beliefs we don't normally attempt prove, such as the existence of other minds, an external world, or sense knowledge. And it's difficult, if not impossible, to prove them directly. Rather, we use these them to prove other things. And, in a roundabout way, that's the best way to prove these beliefs. We can't do without them. To deny them means to deny too many other things.  Belief in God often operates at the same fundamental level. 

Mind you, there can be more direct lines of evidence for God (e.g. miracles, answered prayer). 

To take an example, W. V. Quine was the top secular philosopher of his generation. Labored to formulate a systematically naturalistic epistemology and ontology.

He started out as a mathematician. His initial reputation derived from his work on mathematical logic. However, as a consistent atheist, he denied logical necessity. That didn't fit into physicalism. He did admit to being a "reluctant platonist" to accommodate the higher ranges of set theory.

So, from a secular perspective, what is logic? Is logic just how human brains think (assuming brains do the thinking)? If so, what's the standard of comparison? What makes one brain logical and another brain illogical? If logic isn't independent of brains, then what's the basis for saying someone used a logical fallacy? Logic is nothing over and above how brains operate. Whose brain is the benchmark? 

By contrast, Christian philosophers like Greg Welty and James Anderson have argued that abstract objects like logic are constituted by the infinite, timeless mind of God. That grounds logic in a way that naturalism/physicalism cannot.

4. Regarding Josh Parikh's infinite regress objection to Sye's brand of presuppositionalism, I think part of the problem may be Sye's equivocal, slipshod terminology about "making sense of X". Suppose we recast the issue using epistemic justification lingo. Suppose we then draw the following distinction. A belief can be justified in two different senses:

i) A person's state of belief may be justified or justifiable

ii) Providing a philosophical justification for a belief

If we're using "justified" in the sense of (ii), and if someone must presuppose Christian theism in that sense to be justified (="make sense of"), then that may well generate Josh's infinite regress. You can never get started if you must provide a preliminary philosophical justification for everything you say or believe. For every claim you make will then be unjustified absent a prior justification. In other words, if you're providing a justification for X, but the justification you provide requires a justification in its own right. I think that's the kind of regress that Josh is angling t. 

One way to sidestep that deadlock is appeal to (i). We can begin in a state of justified belief. That psychological state may in turn be amenable to philosophical justification, so we can take it a step further. A justified belief in the sense of (i) can be subject to additional analysis and philosophical justification. To have a justified belief in the sense of (i) is the starting-point for having a justified belief in the sense of (ii). 

So, for instance, a young child is justified in the sense of (i) in believing that he knows his mother by sight and his mother loves him. 

And in principle, that might be justifiable in the sense of (ii) through corroborative evidence. 

By analogy, unbelievers can hold many justified beliefs in the sense of (i) even if their atheism implicitly undermines those beliefs. Given atheism, they can't justify their beliefs in the sense of (ii), even though some of their beliefs are justified or justifiable in the sense of (i).

Josh may or may not agree with me, but it's an attempt to disambiguate the issue.

i) One issue is that you have different religious epistemologies which intersect with different apologetic methodologies. although the fit is sometimes adventitious.

For instance, there's the infallibilist tradition of the Westminster Confession, where a Christian can attain "infallible assurance" of the faith.

Towards the opposite end of the spectrum are apologists who consider dialogue with atheists to be genuinely open-ended. It could go either way.

These are deeper differences than apologetic method. And it often has a lot to do with the personal experience of individual apologists.

ii) A problem with Van Tilian apologetics is a shallow talent pool. Much shallower than the available pool for classical and evidential apologetics. A lot of what passes for Van Tilian apologetics doesn't get beyond the level of slogans. 

On a related note is Sye ten Bruggencate, who has quite a following among people with low philosophical standards (to put it kindly). 

iii) One further problem is a bad development within Van Tilian apologetics, where Oliphint, Nate Shannon, Dolezal, and even Poythress (who's head and shoulders above the other three) are on the warpath when it comes to univocity. That's a dead-end.

5. Sye Ten Bruggencate 
They are indeed without excuse because the HAVE the evidence, so why are you giving them evidence when Scripture says they already have enough?

i) Enough for what? Enough to be culpable? 

ii) Having enough evidence to know that God exists isn't the same thing as having enough evidence to know that Christianity is true. Assuming Rom 1 teaches that people generally have natural knowledge of God, it doesn't follow that people have natural knowledge of Christianity, for that is based on historical knowledge, and not something intuitive, innate, or inferable from reason or nature.

iii) There's a distinction between tacit knowledge and conscious knowledge. For instance, people of normal intelligence have a prereflective knowledge of informal logic and math (i.e. how to count). 

But that tacit knowledge can be further developed through analysis. 

iv) People can have enough evidence for something, but be in denial. As such, there are situations in which it's useful to present additional information to make their denial untenable. 

I don't have any evidence that people have been saved by evidence.

It's unclear what that's even supposed to mean.

Give me one example where evidence was presented by Jesus and Paul for the existence of God. Just one please.

i) Of course, Jesus and Paul were typically dealing with Jewish theists or pagan polytheists. 

ii) In addition, we need to guard against caricaturing sola Scriptura. Sola scripture doesn't mean the Bible is an encyclopedia. Many things are true that fall outside the purview of Scripture. The fact that you can't find something in Scripture doesn't ipso facto mean it's false or unwarranted.

Please show from Scripture that the 'atheist' does not believe in God. Thanks.

There's a potential distinction between knowing something and believing something. A wife may suspect that her husband is cheating on her. There's telltale evidence. But she refuses to believe it. 

How about explain how you can make sense of ANYTHING without presupposing Christian Theism, thanks.

What does Sye mean by "making sense of x"? Seems to be a basic equivocation here. Surely it's possible to understand a sentence without presupposing Christian theism. You can "make sense of" what a sentence means without presupposing Christian theism.

So does Sye really mean something like you can't justify any of your beliefs without presupposing Christian theism? 

How about you just tell us ONE thing you know without presupposing Christian theism and how YOU know it? Thanks.

What about a young child who knows the sound of his father's voice or recognizes his mother's face? 

So you know something for certain, because it is not doubtable? is that your claim?

Josh used an example of a self-presenting state: pain. I can't be mistaken about feeling pain. I can be mistaken about the source of pain, but not pain itself. 

BTW, this goes to the question of whether all knowledge is propositional.

6. Kelly K Klein
Wow, so that's it, it just seems to be the best explanation for you, I guess until someone convinces you to the contrary. You make your reason and acceptance the standards by which you determine God might exist?

i) Well, there's an obvious sense in which every Christian must rely on his own reason regarding what seems to be true to him. What's the alternative? You mind is the instrument by which you apprehend truth and falsehood. It's not as if you can climb out of your own skin and see things from a vantage-point independent of your own mind. 

ii) There's an important distinction between knowledge and proof. It's possible to know things we can't prove. Indeed, that's commonplace. Take memory. We can know that something happened because we remember it happening, even though, in many cases, we may have no supporting evidence over and above our memories.

iii) There's a distinction between what I can know and what I can prove to someone else. 

Why do you claim to be a Christian, is it because to you at the moment it just makes the most sense?

From a Reformed standpoint, it's ultimately up to God to conserve the faith of the elect.

But to others it doesn't make the most sense, so who is correct, according to you no one really knows.

There's a difference between mere belief and belief that's rationally defensible. Notice what a poor job the atheists on these comment threads do at defending their beliefs. Notice how often they resort to sheer assertions and diversionary tactics.

I listened to the Sproul/Bahnsen debate years ago. Sproul is a popularizer. Spreads himself very thin. He's hardly the most able exponent of classical apologetics. Bahnsen is more competent. But in that debate Bahnsen repeatedly committed the semantic fallacy of supposing you can infer a concept of knowledge from quoting a Greek word that's translated "knowledge".

Is God extraordinary?

I recently had a brief exchange with atheist philosopher Stephen Law on Facebook:

Interesting point. Magical or extraordinary beings with extraordinary powers can explain anything you need explaining, which is one reason why they are so popular. Can't explain x? Posit extraordinary being y with desire for x and ability to bring x about and bingo you can explain it. Then you can run argument to the best explanation to conclude that your y-involving worldview explains what your rival's cannot and thus is to be preferred!

Maybe you're uninformed about the extensive literature on the subject, but it's not just a question of "positing" agents with supernatural or paranormal abilities. Rather, that's often based on direct experience.

What we are looking at re this post is a very specific suggestion: that a major reason for favouring the Xian world view over the atheist is that it explains more, or provides the better overall explanation of what we observe. But it only achieves that (if indeed it does) by appealing to an extraordinary being with extraordinary powers.

If God exists, what would make him an "extraordinary" being? And is it "extraordinary" that God has powers which lowly creatures do not? Or is that ordinary for God? 

For instance, there are various animals that have "extraordinary" abilities in relation to humans, or extraordinary sensory acuities, but these are not extraordinary for the animals. So that's a comparative ascription rather than an absolute ascription. 

…which always gives you an automatic explanatory advantage - but rarely a more rational worldview. E.g. you can't explain why your keys ended up on the mantelpiece; I can! - it was gremlins (who like hiding keys and have the power to do it) - my world view wins!

i) Comparing God to explicitly fictional critters like gremlins skews the issue. A more apt comparison might be ghosts or demons, for which there's actual evidence. Or examples of paranormal powers, for which there's actual evidence.

ii) Suppose ghosts, angels, and demons exist. In a world where they exist, are they extraordinary or ordinary?

iii) An angel might have powers that are extraordinary in relation to humans, but ordinary in relation to angels. So what's the standard of comparison that you're using?

iv) On a standard definition, if God exists, then he exists in every possible world. Assuming (ex hypothesi) that God exists, his existence would not be out of the ordinary, but commonplace.