Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace: six reasons why you should believe in non-physical minds

(Podcast uploaded, with permission, by ReligioPolitical Talk)

This podcast is a must-listen. Please take the time to download this podcast and listen to it. I guarantee that you will love this podcast. I even recommended it to my Dad and I almost never do that.

Details:

In this podcast, J. Warner examines the evidence for the existence of the mind (and inferentially, the soul) as he looks at six classic philosophical arguments. Jim also briefly discusses Thomas Nagel’s book, Mind and Cosmos and discusses the limitations of physicalism.

The MP3 file is here. (67 MB, 72 minutes)

Topics:

  • Atheist Thomas Nagel’s latest book “Mind and Cosmos” makes the case that materialism cannot account for the evidence of mental phenomena
  • Nagel writes in this recent New York Times article that materialism cannot account for the reality of consciousness, meaning, intention and purpose
  • Quote from the Nagel article:

Even though the theistic outlook, in some versions, is consistent with the available scientific evidence, I don’t believe it, and am drawn instead to a naturalistic, though non-materialist, alternative. Mind, I suspect, is not an inexplicable accident or a divine and anomalous gift but a basic aspect of nature that we will not understand until we transcend the built-in limits of contemporary scientific orthodoxy.

  • When looking at this question, it’s important to not have our conclusions pre-determined by presupposing materialism or atheism
  • If your mind/soul doesn’t exist and you are a purely physical being then that is a defeater for Christianity, so we need to respond
  • Traditionally, Christians have been committed to a view of human nature called “dualism” – human beings are souls who have bodies
  • The best way* to argue for the existence of the soul is using philosophical arguments

The case:

  • The law of identity says that if A = B’ if A and B have the exact same properties
  • If A = the mind and B = the brain, then is A identical to B?
  • Wallace will present 6 arguments to show that A is not identical to B because they have different properties

Not everyone of the arguments below might make sense to you, but you will probably find one or two that strike you as correct. Some of the points are more illustrative than persuasive, like #2. However, I do find #3, #5 and #6 persuasive.

1) First-person access to mental properties

  • Thought experiment: Imagine your dream car, and picture it clearly in your mind
  • If we invited an artist to come and sketch out your dream car, then we could see your dream car’s shape on paper
  • This concept of your dream car is not something that people can see by looking at your brain structure
  • Physical properties can be physically accessed, but the properties of your dream care and privately accessed

2) Our experience of consciousness implies that we are not our bodies

  • Common sense notion of personhood is that we own our bodies, but we are not our bodies

3) Persistent self-identity through time

  • Thought experiment: replacing a new car with an old car one piece at a time
  • When you change even the smallest part of a physical object, it changes the identity of that object
  • Similarly, your body is undergoing changes constantly over time
  • Every cell in your body is different from the body you had 10 years ago
  • Even your brain cells undergo changes (see this from New Scientist – WK)
  • If you are the same person you were 10 years ago, then you are not your physical body

4) Mental properties cannot be measured like physical objects

  • Physical objects can be measured (e.g. – use physical measurements to measure weight, size, etc.)
  • Mental properties cannot be measured

5) Intentionality or About-ness

  • Mental entities can refer to realities that are physical, something outside of themselves
  • A tree is not about anything, it just is a physical object
  • But you can have thoughts about the tree out there in the garden that needs water

6) Free will and personal responsibility

  • If humans are purely physical, then all our actions are determined by sensory inputs and genetic programming
  • Biological determinism is not compatible with free will, and free will is required for personal responsibility
  • Our experience of moral choices and moral responsibility requires free will, and free will requires minds/souls

He spends the last 10 minutes of the podcast responding to naturalistic objections to the mind/soul hypothesis.

*Now in the podcast, Wallace does say that scientific evidence is not the best kind of evidence to use when discussing this issue of body/soul and mind/brain. But I did blog yesterday about two pieces of evidence that I think are relevant to this discussion: corroborated near-death experiences and mental effort.

You might remember that Dr. Craig brought up the issue of substance dualism, and the argument from intentionality (“aboutness”), in his debate with the naturalist philosopher Alex Rosenberg, so this argument about dualism is battle-ready. You can add it to your list of arguments for Christian theism along with all the other arguments like the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, stellar habitability, galactic habitability, irreducible complexity, molecular machines, the Cambrian explosion, the moral argument, the resurrection, biological convergence, and so on.

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Douglas Groothuis lectures on the kalam cosmological argument

I watched the lecture above and it was excellent and comprehensive. He even talked about J.P. Moreland, Alan Padgett and other scholars. There were some things I had heard before, and some things that were new. He covered a lot of books that I had to read when I was sorting all of this stuff out, too.

Here’s the description from the video:

Doug Groothuis gives a lecture on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. What’s interesting about this lecture is that Groothuis did not accept the Kalam Cosmological Argument at first but was later convinced by it.

Notes:

http://www.relyonchrist.com/Lecture/13.htm
http://www.relyonchrist.com/Lecture/14.htm

Kalam Cosmological Argument

(Moreland, Scaling the Secular City; see also William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith [Crossway, 1994]; Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation from Nothing [Baker, 2004]; William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist [Oxford, 2004])

Preliminary: concepts of (a) the actual infinite and (b) the potential infinite

1. The universe had a beginning
2. The impossibility of the actual infinite (distinguish from potential infinite)
3. The impossibility of traversing an actual infinite (even if it exists); forming an actual infinite through successive addition, piece by piece…
4. Scientific confirmation from Big Bang cosmology (absolute origination). See also John Jefferson Davis, “Genesis 1:1 and Big Bang Cosmology,” in The Frontiers of Science and Faith (InterVarsity, 2002), 11 — 36; and Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (revised ed., 1992).
5. Scientific confirmation from second law of thermodynamics.
6. Astronomer Fred Hoyle (who once advanced the steady state cosmology) argues against the universe being infinitely old in virtue of its hydrogen consumption. The argument can be stated as a modus tolens deduction (denying the consequent).
7. Can everything come from nothing without a cause? The “pop theory” (biting the metaphysical bullet)
8. Philosophical critique of everything from nothing…
9. God and time (see Greg Gansell, editor, God and Time: Four Views [InterVarsity, 2001])
10. Argument against an impersonal cause
11. Argument against God needing a cause (Bertrand Russell)
12. Quentin Smith’s acceptance of Big Bang cosmology and denial of God’s existence.
13. Unitary: Ockham’s razor
14. Incorrigible, inextinguishable (having existed, God cannot fail to exist)
15. Personal, volitional (“personal explanation”—R. Swinburne)
16. Omnipotent: nothing is a greater expenditure of power than exnihilating the entire cosmos. This is rational to hold, given the argument.
17. Supplies the necessary conditions for impeccable and omnipotent goodness: (1) – (4). Need (5) moral argument and (6) the Incarnation for the final necessary condition, which, with (1) – (4), make for necessary and sufficient conditions.

What I liked about this lecture is that it kept my attention all the way through. It was very fun to listen to, because he considers a ton of alternative views and explains his view, which doesn’t agree with Bill Craig all the way. There is a 17 minute Q&A period at the end.

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Tonight: Stand to Reason’s 20th anniversary conference will be live-streamed

From the Biola Apologetics Events page. Note that all of the times below are Pacific Time zone.

Description:

Join us as we celebrate 20 years of Stand to Reason and clear thinking Christianity. The event kicks off Friday night with stimulating apologetics lectures and a celebration! Join us for the full conference on Saturday featuring lectures from the Stand to Reason speakers and friends. Can’t make it to Biola? This event will be available via live stream online.

Conference Schedule:

Friday Night, May 10 (7:00 – 9:30 pm)

6:15 pm - Doors Opens
7:00 – 8:05 pm - Lectures from J.P. Moreland, Sean McDowell, Mary Jo Sharp, and Craig Hazen
8:05 – 8:25 pm - Break
8:15 – 9:30 pm - Panel featuring Stand to Reason’s Speakers Greg Koukl, Brett Kunkle, Alan Shlemon, and J. Warner Wallace
9:30 pm - Cake & Book Signing in the Courtyard

Saturday, May 11 (9:00 am – 12:30 pm)

8:00 am - Registration Opens
8:30 am - Doors Opens
9:00 – 9:50 am - Session 1: “Who’s Waiting for Your Kids?”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Brett Kunkle
9:50 – 10:00 am - Break
10:00 – 10:40 am - Session 2: “Compromise Is Not an Option”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Alan Shlemon
10:40 – 10:50 am - Break
10:50 – 11:30 am - Session 3: “Cold-case Christianity”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s J. Warner Wallace
11:30 – 11:40 am - Break
11:40 am – 12:30 pm - Session 4: “Still Standing”
Lecture by Stand to Reason’s Greg Koukl

Conference Location:

Sutherland Auditorium
Biola University
13800 Biola Avenue
La Mirada, CA 90639
View Map

If you are in the South California area, you can attend in person. Otherwise, you can watch it online.

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J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” lecture

If I had to pick a few lectures that really changed my life, then this lecture by J.P. Moreland would definitely be on that list. This lecture also gave me many of my personality quirks, like saying “Does that make sense to you?” all the time. Dr. Moreland is  a great speaker.

The MP3 file.

Topics:

  • How J.P. Moreland become a Christian
  • How evangelism drove his efforts to answer skeptics
  • How can evangelicals be so numerous, and yet have so little influence?
  • When did the church stop being able to out-think her critics?
  • How studying and thinking can be a way of worshiping God
  • Romans 12:1-2 – what does this passage mean?
  • Are your beliefs under the control of your will?
  • Can you “try” to believe something by an act of will?
  • If not, then how can you change your beliefs?
  • Changing your mind is the only way to change your life
  • Matthew 22:37 – what is this passage saying?
  • How can you love God by using your intellect?
  • How can you defend God’s honor, when it is called into question?
  • In a debate, should you quote sources that your opponent doesn’t accept?
  • Should you only study the Bible, or should you study rival worldviews?
  • 1 Pet 3:15 – what does this passage mean?
  • If you knew you were going to be in a debate, what should you do?
  • How can you be bold in witnessing? Where does boldness come from?
  • What should the church do to make bold evangelists?
  • 2 Cor 10:5 – what is this passage talking about?
  • The passage talks about destroying fortresses – what are the fortresses?
  • List of some of the speculations that we are supposed to be destroying
  • What does the phrase “spiritual warfare” really mean?

And here is a longer version of the same lecture (MP3) presented to an audience of university students and faculty.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , ,

The apologetics adventures of Matt and Madeleine Flannagan in New Zealand

Posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

Excerpt:

Here in New Zealand, I am often told by evangelical leaders that we now live in a post-modern society, which has moved beyond “arguments” and that Apologetics is an outdated “modernist concept.” They say we need instead to “tell the story” so that people will see the “meta-narrative of scripture”—whatever exactly that means.

Last night, Madeleine and I were invited to a Christmas function for new lawyers, organised by the Law Society, the professional association for lawyers in New Zealand. The function was in a major law firm in central Auckland’s business district. So I was right in the thick of the up-and-coming legal professionals in New Zealand.

Anyway, Madeleine struck up a conversation with some young lawyers who were working for an arm of the government. They discussed aspects of their respective legal professions. Then one of them turned to me and asked me, “what do you do?” I answered that I was a theologian. Immediately, this caused them to pause (it often has this effect) and one told me he had been reading a book called The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Without thinking, I said, “Oh, that book, it’s crap.” He replied, “Yeah, but you have to say that, don’t you?” I responded, “No I don’t actually.” I then mentioned to him the works of some other atheists to whom I would not respond in that fashion, despite the fact I disagreed with their conclusions.

Then, for the next thirty minutes, these lawyers began asking me genuine questions about the Christian faith.

You have to click through to read all the interesting questions and answers, but here is the conclusion:

Sometimes being an apologist in New Zealand is surreal. I commented to Madeleine on the way home that we, two people from west Auckland—a theologian who did not have full time employment and very little resources to support my ministry, and a lawyer from a tiny firm who largely does legal work for poor people who don’t pay handsomely—were at a function at one of the largest law firms in the country, in the central heart of Auckland city, sharing our faith with some of the most successful up-and-coming lawyers in NZ, many who worked for the government. How can Apologetics be boring when stuff like that happens? I also wonder, however, how many of my “post-modernist” colleagues with their youth churches and really “cool” music, would have been able to have that conversation with any real meaning with the urbane elite of Auckland.

I also have to say that this is not the first time something like this has happened. In the last few years Madeleine and I have frequently found similar things have happened over and over. Apologetics is not “dead”.  It is not a “thing of the past”.  It’s extremely relevant. What’s irrelevant are those who are so culturally out of touch that they don’t realise that the questions apologists address are being asked, and answers to those questions assumed, in the conversations of some of the top lawyers in New Zealand; and those people, ostensibly secular liberals, are hungry and interested in credible answers to those questions.

I can sense some of the frustration that Matt and Madeleine feel, because I also know what it is to do what actually works with no support or recognition. In my case, the problem is with the Church, which is largely opposed to apologetics and scholarship in general.

I was having a chat about Matt’s post with my friend Dina Monday night, and I told her that I believed that Christians are not entitled to many of the things that the world considers fun. We aren’t entitled to popularity, we aren’t entitled to happiness, we aren’t entitled to a life of comfort. But we are entitled to the joy of defending our faith to interested skeptics in a world that is chock-full of logic, historical evidence, and scientific evidence. That is one source of happiness that we are fully allowed to draw on. If we put in the time to study the laws of logic, and the evidence from mainstream science and history, then these wonderful encounters become possible. Anyone who has had a good encounter will tell you that it is a good feeling. It doesn’t make up for the difficult side of being a Christian, but it is something.

Here are a few Bible verses that I think are relevant to Matt’s post:

1 Peter 3:15-16:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Matthew 10:32-33:

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.

33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2:

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

I like the third one especially.

God expects us to testify about his existence and character. And not by sharing our personal experiences, but with evidence. Fortunately, our task is easier because there is plenty of evidence available to us. This is the world that God has made, and his fingerprints are all over it. It is a joy to be asked questions and to have studied and prepared in order to know the answer. It good for us to be called by God to give a defense, and to be found faithful. Cultivating our intelligence through difficult and often dull study is one of the ways that we show God that we are his friends. We show him that when push comes to shove, we side with him. We are his friends and his allies.

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