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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

Why Philosophy Matters for Christians

October 20, 2014 3 comments

This is a guest post by Vern Poythress, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Redeeming Philosophy: A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions.

 

Answering the Big Questions

To many people, the mention of “philosophy” brings up an image of gray-haired intellectuals endlessly debating irrelevancies. There is some truth in this image, especially the part about the endless debate.

But philosophy matters for Christians because many of the debates are about the “big questions” of human existence.

•Does God exist?
•If he does, what kind of God is he?
•What kind of world do we live in? Is the universe nothing but….

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

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The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins

October 20, 2014 3 comments

An atheist reviews Richard Dawkins’ autobiography and titles it “The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins.” Even atheists are increasingly embarrassed by Dawkins.

 

 

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion by John Gray

……….Dawkins’s suggestion is that memes “leap from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” and it is clear that he sees this process at work throughout human culture, including religion.

There are many difficulties in talk of memes, including how they are to be identified. Is Romanticism a meme? Is the idea of evolution itself a meme, jumping unbidden from brain to brain? My suspicion is that the entire “theory” amounts to not much more than a misplaced metaphor. The larger problem is that a meme-based Darwinian account of religion is at odds with Dawkins’s assault on religion as a type of intellectual error. If Darwinian evolution applies to religion, then religion must have some evolutionary value. But in that case there is a tension between naturalism (the study of humans and other animals as organisms in the natural world) and the rationalist belief that the human mind can rid itself of error and illusion through a process of critical reasoning. To be sure, Dawkins and those who think like him will object that evolutionary theory tells us how we got where we are, but does not preclude our taking charge of ourselves from here on. But who are “we”? In a passage from The Selfish Gene that Dawkins quotes in this memoir, he writes:
They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, these replicators. Now they come by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

If we “are” survival machines, it is unclear how “we” can decide anything. The idea of free will, after all, comes from religion and not from science. Science may give us the unvarnished truth—or some of it—about our species. Part of that truth may prove to be that humans are not and can never be rational animals. Religion may be an illusion, but that does not mean science can dispel it. On the contrary, science may well show that religion cannot be eradicated from the human mind. Unsurprisingly, this is a possibility that Dawkins never explores.

For all his fervent enthusiasm for science, Dawkins shows very little interest in asking what scientific knowledge is or how it comes to be possible. There are many philosophies of science. Among them is empiricism, which maintains that scientific knowledge extends only so far as observation and experiment can reach; realism, which holds that science can give an account of parts of the world that can never be observed; irrealism, according to which there is no one truth of things to which scientific theories approximate; and pragmatism, which views science theories as useful tools for organizing and controlling experience. If he is aware of these divergent philosophies, Dawkins never discusses them. His attitude to science is that of a practitioner who does not need to bother with philosophical questions.

It is worth noting, therefore, that it is not as a practicing scientist that Dawkins has produced his assaults against religion. As he makes clear in this memoir, he gave up active research in the 1970s when he left his crickets behind and began to write The Selfish Gene. Ever since, he has written as an ideologue of scientism, the positivistic creed according to which science is the only source of knowledge and the key to human liberation. He writes well—fluently, vividly, and at times with considerable power. But the ideas and the arguments that he presents are in no sense novel or original, and he seems unaware of the critiques of positivism that appeared in its Victorian heyday.

Some of them bear re-reading today. One of the subtlest and most penetrating came from the pen of Arthur Balfour, the Conservative statesman, British foreign secretary, and sometime prime minister. Well over a century ago, Balfour identified a problem with the evolutionary thinking that was gaining ascendancy at the time. If the human mind has evolved in obedience to the imperatives of survival, what reason is there for thinking that it can acquire knowledge of reality, when all that is required in order to reproduce the species is that its errors and illusions are not fatal? A purely naturalistic philosophy cannot account for the knowledge that we believe we possess. As he framed the problem in The Foundations of Belief in 1895, “We have not merely stumbled on truth in spite of error and illusion, which is odd, but because of error and illusion, which is even odder.” Balfour’s solution was that naturalism is self-defeating: humans can gain access to the truth only because the human mind has been shaped by a divine mind. Similar arguments can be found in a number of contemporary philosophers, most notably Alvin Plantinga. Again, one does not need to accept Balfour’s theistic solution to see the force of his argument. A rigorously naturalistic account of the human mind entails a much more skeptical view of human knowledge than is commonly acknowledged.

Balfour’s contributions to the debate about science and religion are nowadays little known—compelling testimony to the historical illiteracy of contemporary philosophy. But Balfour also testifies to how shallow, crass, and degraded the debate has become since Victorian times. Unlike most of those who debated then, Dawkins knows practically nothing of the philosophy of science, still less about theology or the history of religion. From his point of view, he has no need to know. He can deduce everything he wants to say from first principles. Religion is a type of supernatural belief, which is irrational, and we will all be better off without it: for all its paraphernalia of evolution and memes, this is the sum total of Dawkins’s argument for atheism. His attack on religion has a crudity that would make a militant Victorian unbeliever such as T.H. Huxley—described by his contemporaries as “Darwin’s bulldog” because he was so fierce in his defense of evolution—blush scarlet with embarrassment.

 

 

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Free Ebook-The Justification of Knowledge

September 29, 2014 2 comments

The Justification of Knowledge: An Introductory Study in Christian Apologetic Methodologycover_20
by Dr. Robert L Reymond

Available in ePub, .mobi and .pdf formats

HT: Nathan Stockwell & Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Silicon Valley; and posted with permission. Book titled The Justification of Knowledge by Robert L Reymond originally published in 1976 by P&R Publishing Co. P O Box 817, Phillipsburg, N.J. 08865 www.prpbooks.com

This book was originally written as a syllabus for an introductory course in Christian apologetics for students at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis. As I wrote, it was my awareness that it was to perform a classroom function that lay behind my decision to provide a good many quotations from the writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon H. Clark, Edward John Carnell, Francis Schaeffer, and others. I felt then it was the quickest way to introduce ministerial students to the apologetic systems of these important thinkers. As this work goes forth to a wider audience, I am still convinced that there is value in permitting an apologist to speak for himself. The reader is assured that the apologist is not being misrepresented, and in turn he gains an immediate firsthand acquaintance with the apologist. Therefore, while I have eliminated some quotations (and comments upon them) from the material which was used in the classroom, I have decided to let other original material remain.

No apologies are offered for the references to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. I am convinced that the system of doctrine contained therein is scriptural. It will help the non–Presbyterian reader, perhaps, to remember that Covenant Theological Seminary is committed confessionally to the Westminster standards, which will explain my readiness to quote from them.

While doubtless I have been influenced, either positively or negatively, to some degree by my reading of all the men mentioned above (and others, no doubt, too), I do not regard myself as an uncritical disciple of any of them, a fact which this book will bear out. I have tried to listen always and finally to the teachings of Holy Scripture and to evaluate each man I analyze in the light of God’s revealed truth. In the interests then of objectivity and of truth, I would request that what I have written not be “categorized” or rejected before the reader has studied the teaching in the many Scripture passages to which I refer. It is by the teaching of Scripture that I am to be judged; if I am wrong on my understanding of Scripture, I will happily rethink my position. On the other hand, if I have understood the teaching of Scripture correctly, then the reader should accede to the suggestions I espouse and not set the book aside as only my own reflections. If there is strength in this book at all, I believe that it springs not from my arguments per se but from the degree that it reflects a right understanding of the revealed Mind of the one living and true God found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. I would suggest that the reader truly interested in understanding me make the effort to look up the Bible verses to which I refer and to think about them. No matter what he finally concludes, he cannot but be the richer for his labors I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Charles H. Craig, owner–publisher of the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, for his continuing interest over many years in providing Reformed literature to the Christian and non–Christian reading public. My appreciation also goes to Mrs. June Dare, a seminary secretary for her patience and helpful criticisms throughout the typing of this work. Finally, to the Christian apologists mentioned and analyzed herein I must express the tremendous debt I owe them. All of them have been my teachers in one sense or another, though none of them should be held responsible for what I write here.

One final word to readers new to the subject of Christian apologetics: I would urge you to read in addition to this book the following books (as do my students in the seminary): Varieties of Apologetic Systems by Bernard Ramm, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics by E. J. Carnell, Jerusalem and Athens, edited by E. R. Geehan, The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, edited by R. H. Nash, and The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent, all three by Francis Schaeffer. They are indispensable reading in the field of apologetics.

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Dr. Reymond was associate professor of theology and apologetics at Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri. His other published works include Introductory Studies in Contemporary Theology and several monographs in the Biblical and Theological Studies series which he edits for the International Library of Philosophy and Theology, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. He is an ordained minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and has pastored churches in Tennessee, Georgia, and Missouri.

 

 

Source [Monergism.com]

God Of The Bible Vs God Of Philosophy – Defending Your Faith Part 22

September 8, 2014 1 comment

Christian Philosophy’s boldest apostle

August 13, 2013 4 comments

CraigWilliam Lane Craig has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest debaters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Hands down he has debated quite a few individuals on the existence of God. Though I disagree with his molinism, I nevertheless respect his knowledge concerning the Kalam Cosmological argument and how to debate an opponent. This argument and various other knowledge concerning physics and science has allowed him to defeat every opponent he has ever debated. So much so, that atheists fear to debate him.

I ran across this link entitled “The New Theist-How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy’s boldest apostle”

Here is a quote from the article:

 

“Several months later, in April 2011, Craig debated another New Atheist author, Sam Harris, in a large, sold-out auditorium at the University of Notre Dame. In a sequence of carefully timed speeches and rejoinders, the two men clashed over whether we need God for there to be moral laws. Harris delivered most of the better one-liners that night, while Craig, in suit and tie, fired off his volleys of argumentation with the father-knows-best composure of Mitt Romney, plus a dash of Schwarzenegger. Something Harris said during the debate might help explain how Dawkins reacted: He called Craig “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.””

 

Read the entire article here.

The Chief Way to Attain Wisdom

The chief means for attaining wisdom, and suitable gifts for the ministry, are the holy Scriptures, and prayer. The one is the fountain of living water, the other the bucket with which we are to draw. And I believe you will find, by observation, that the man who is most frequent and fervent in prayer, and most devoted to the word of God, will shine and flourish above his fellows. Next to these, and derived from them, is meditation. By this, I do not mean a stated exercise upon some one particular subject, so much as a disposition of mind to observe carefully what passes within us and around us, what we see, hear, and feel, and to apply all for the illustration and confirmation of the written word to us. In the use of these means, and an humble dependence upon the Lord in all the changing dispensations we pass through our spiritual experience will enlarge: and this experience is the proper fund of our ministerial capacity, so far as it may be considered inherent in us: Pro_16:23; Mat_13:52; 1Jo_66 1:3.

These means are of universal importance. The wisest can do nothing without them, the weakest shall not use them in vain. There are likewise subordinate means, which may be healthful, and should in general be attended to: yet they ought not, I apprehend, to be considered as a sine qua non in a minister’s call and fitness. The first preachers had them not, and some in the present day are enabled to do well without them. Under this head, I principally intend all that comes under the usual denomination of literature. A competent acquaintance with the learned languages, history, natural philosophy, &c. is very desirable. If these things are held in a proper subservience, if they do not engross too much of our time, nor add fuel to the fire of that self-importance which is our great snare; they may contribute to increase and enlarge our ideas, and facilitate our expressing ourselves with propriety. But these attainments (like riches) are attended with their peculiar temptations; and unless they are under the regulation of a sound judgment, and a spiritual frame of mind, will prove (like Saul’s armor to David) rather cumbersome than useful in preaching. The sermons of preachers thus qualified are often more ingenious than edifying, and rather set off the man, than commend the Gospel of Christ.

As you desire my advice with respect to your future studies, I shall comply without hesitation or ceremony. The original Scriptures well deserve your pains, and will richly repay them. There is doubtless a beauty, fulness, and spirit, in the originals, which the best translations do not always express. When a word or phrase admits of various senses, the translators can only preserve one; and it is not to be supposed, unless they were perfectly under the influence of the same infallible Spirit, that they should always prefer the best. Only be upon your guard lest you should be tempted to think, that, because you are master of the grammatical construction, and can tell the several acceptation’s of the words in the best authors, you are therefore and thereby master of the spiritual sense likewise. This you must derive from your experimental knowledge, and the influence and teaching of the Spirit of God.

Another thing which will much assist you, in composing and speaking properly and acceptably, is logic. This will teach you what properly belongs to your subject, and what may be best suppressed; and likewise, to explain, divide, enumerate, and range your ideas to advantage. A lax, immethodical, disproportionate manner, is to be avoided. Yet beware of the contrary extreme. An affected starchiness and over-accuracy will fetter you, will make your discourses lean and dry, preclude an useful variety, and savor more of the school-lamp, than of that heavenly fire which alone can make our meditations efficacious, and profitable either to ourselves or our hearers. The proper medium can hardly be taught by rule; experience, observation, and prayer, are the best guides.

John Newton-Letter 2 Extract of a Letter to a Student in Divinity.

All Imaginations Apart From Christ is Idolatry

Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)