Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Brief Logical Explanation of Why Ethics Without God are Bankrupt

Francis Schaeffer is probably the single apologist who has most shaped how I approach arguments from non-Christian worldviews. One of the things he often said was that it is impossible to arrive at a universal when you begin with a particular. That of course sounds rather vague but what Schaeffer was getting at was this: when you begin with autonomous man (man apart from God) and his reason you can never arrive at concepts that are universally applicable, things like objective ethics, laws of logic, uniformed laws of nature etc. These concepts are universals (apply in all places at all times) and they simply can not be reached logically when you begin with man and his autonomous reason.

This is the dilemma of all thought that begins divorced from God and His self revelation in the Bible. All thought starts with man the particular and can not break free from that subjectivity. This is where we are today as a culture as we hear of the various "culture wars" and different groups trying to impose their morality through law. It is tragic because I think so many of the moral "victories" through legislation are really hollow and speak more of the decadence then of the hope for the culture still maintaining it's integrity. I just think about how states are voting on whether same sex couples should be allowed to marry. Many consider the outcomes which almost unanimously support (I wanted to say "traditional" but that is part of the word games going on as if non-traditional is an equal option) marriage. Many hail these as victories I can't help but see them as defeats dressed up in the victors garb. The mere fact that we as a society have lost our moral compass to such a degree that we now will VOTE and decide for ourselves what will be "moral" speaks of the degree of autonomy and thus lostness of our culture.

The above paragraph is all a side note for what I am really trying to get at in this post and is really a picture of the effects of trying to base ethics off of autonomous man. The effect is moral relativism. What I want to really display here is the statement of Schaeffer in the area of ethics. In an earlier post I responded to an Atheist who was attempting to give reasons for his acting morally in the universe. If you read the dialogue (scroll down or click here) you will see him offer one reason for acting morally after another only to have each reason challenged with the question "Why is that the standard?".

This is the problem of beginning with particulars and trying to arrive at a universal (in this case a moral ought or obligation). Each reason or argument is itself a particular and thus falls short of universal application and thus makes it impossible for a objective moral ought to exist when you begin with man philosophically. This is what the problem looks like in a more formalized fashion:

Autonomous: Morality is based on that which will bring the most happiness to the most people (Argument A)

Skeptic: Why should I care about anybody elses happiness?

Aut: You should care about the happiness of others because you should treat others the way you want to be treated. (Arg B in support of A)

Skep: Why should I engage treating others the way I happen to like to be treated?

Auto: When we do that (B) it encourages the greater good of society. (Argument C in support of B in support of A)

Skep: Why should I care about the "good of society" and others in society?

Auto: You should care about the good of society (C) for the future of humanity. (Argument D in support of C in support of B in support of A)

Skep: Why should I care about D?

This sort of discussion will go on ad infinitum because all Mr.Autonomous can do is point to another particular to try and support another particular and then he will need to point to another particular to support the one he just brought up and so on. He will never make a statement where he can say: "The buck stops here! This is the absolute and final standard, you can not ask 'Why?' to this."

This same sort of issue applies to all forms of universals, morality just happens to be my favorite one to bring up. I could equally point to the uniformity of nature and how modern science when run autonomously from God and His revelation has no reason to believe in the uniformity of nature (that the future will resemble the past) it is simply irrationally assumed. This is to philosophically build without a foundation, the ideas are just kind of floating like a house without a foundation.

The house that autonomous man builtMy final and concluding point is that to arrive at a universal you must start with a universal. A universal to clarify would be a reference point outside of the particulars within system to which particulars can point to as a standard. The Christian God fits this bill perfectly. With the Christian God we have an objective standard of ethics, secularists and atheists might not like the Biblical standard but that doesn't change it's objectivity. It is objective because it's reference point is God who is outside of the universe of particulars being the creator of that very universe. He gives a rational basis on which science can proceed, being that nature is uniform because He has created it's laws and holds it together thus we have reason to suppose a regularity rather then a blind leap as science divorced from theism must make in this foundational area.

I could really go on with other areas but again my main point in this post was to get at what I laid out above, which is simply this: When you begin with autonomous man as a particular you can never arrive at a universal. I think this is important especially for us as Christians to note. Because what it ultimately means is that though the God rejector may use moral language and even share similar ethical values as us he in reality is still miles apart. Ultimately the unbeliever is living as Van Til said on borrowed capital, they go through moral motions and believe them to be meaningful but having divorced these motions from God these actions are really foundationless and thus irrational (mere existential leaps) and meaningless.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Highly Recommend this Book

I have been a very busy fellow this summer with work and getting ready for the new school so reading time has been relatively thin (As is blogging time). What I have been reading apart from the Samuels in the Bible is A.W. Pink's "The Attributes of God". This book is simply brilliant. It is not only a good theology reader but it has been to me an excellent devotional reading. It has convicted me with each sitting and caused me to stand in awe of the God I worship through exegeting His word. I just want to pass this gem on to anyone looking for a good book to read. I also recommend the audio, you can download the book in audio form at sermon audio from the Still Waters Revival books guys. What I do is read it with the audio going, I get more out of it by both hearing and reading...more focused I suppose.

The audio downloads are here. (Yes it sounds a little cheesy but I have been immensely blessed by the Still Waters book ministry...they help me get through the dense books by Edwards and the other great Puritans!)

A "Rational" Responder Meets a Decent Christian Apologist

For those of you have never heard of the young evangelistic Atheist group called the Rational Response Squad let me fill you in. Basically these guys are a bunch of college students who think that they have some pretty air tight reasons not to believe in God. They are rude, condescending, cocky, young, arrogant and everything else America considers good entertainment. They are very bold to repeat the illogical mantra "There is no evidence for God's existence!" (that's an omniscient statement) although when asked to give a reason for their Atheism they always engage in hand waving saying the burden of proof is not on them. At anyrate over a month ago two of them, Brian Sapient and "Kelly" had a public debate with Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort on national television. Honestly the RRS guys won the debate. They won not because their arguments were good and they were right but because Kirk and Ray simply didn't know how to answer them nor challenge them in their position. Simply put they put Kirk and Ray on the defensive most of the debate and the RRS were never on the defense. Kirk and Ray simply didn't know what kinds of questions to ask them to show their inconsistencies.

(A SIDE NOTE: in that debate I think one of the gross assumptions which needed to be addressed was how the RRS continued to appeal to some sort of moral code and how Atheism doesn't destroy morality, this needed to be probed by Ray and Kirk to show that these were just hollow words and philosophically the Atheist is standing on air when it comes to ethics. Ray and Kirk failed to point out these irrational assumptions the Atheist constantly makes.) I felt similarly about their debate with Ergun Caner, Caner did ok but he was on the defense the WHOLE time, never challenging their position.

Enter Matt Slick, the president of the CARM Internet apologetics page. The debate was between Slick and "Kelly" and simply put she was out of her league. Slick didn't give any heavy duty point by point argument, however he didn't let "Kelly" off the hook with all the outlandish claims she made nor when she started waving her hands saying "The burden of proof isn't on me!" What I liked that Slick did is that he was really just doing the ground work for a meaningful debate in that he was trying to get "Kelly" to explain what evidence would even look like by her standards. Of course such a standard for evidence for God's existence isn't on "Kelly's" radar screen because she doesn't want there to be any evidence. So she never could explain what would be the evidence that would necessitate the belief that the Christian God exists.

Along the evidence line, it was also telling when Brian Sapient chimed in to bail Kelly out of one of her unsupported claims pointing to some study he just googled. It was funny that Kelly would apply such high scrutiny to the NT Gospel accounts and say they are unreliable. Yet when Brian Google searches some off the cuff study that seemingly supports their position she immediately starts to point to it as supportive having never read it nor know what it entails.

Simply put Slick put this girl in her place. They probably got too cocky after the Comfort/Cameron debate and thought that they could take on real apologists. I am thinking they will stick to the small potatoes again and avoid the Reformed apologists.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Narrow Mind on Frank Beckwith's Switch to Roman Catholicism

I absolutely love Gene Cook's radio show "The Narrow Mind" it is clever and genuinely informative. Gene like myself holds to a presuppositional apologetic approach. What I mainly like about the show is the bluntness, Gene is not afraid to say the things that people in our postmodern limp wristed culture don't care for. Anyway the main point is to give a link to a show recently done with Matt Slick the director of the CARM apologetics web page on the Francis Beckwith situation. Honestly it is not the best show I have heard from The Narrow Mind but since I have talked about this recently I thought I would give the link.