Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Brian Auten interviews Dr. Angus Menuge on philosophy of mind

Click here for the interview. It’s up at Apologetics 315!

Details:

Today’s interview is with Dr. Angus Menuge, Professor of Philosophy  at Concordia University, and author of Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science. He talks about his background and work, the philosophy of mind, what reason (or reasoning) is, what materialism is as a worldview, things excluded from a materialistic worldview, methodological naturalism and materialism, accounting for free will, materialistic accounts of reason, the epistemological argument from reason, the ontological argument from reason, finding the best explanation for reason, problems with methodological naturalism, implications of materialism, practical application of the argument from reason, advice for apologists, the International Academy of Apologetics, and more.

If what Dr. Menuge says in this interview is true, and I think it is, then a person who believes in materialism can neither ground free will nor rationality! So atheism wouldn’t really be freethought so much as it would be… un-free… non-thought.

In case people don’t want to listen to the podcast, then I’ve got some things for you to read below.

The ontological argument from reason

Dr. Menuge presented a paper at the real Evangelical Philosophical Society conference for students and professors of philosophy, and you can download the paper here in Word format. (here’s a PDF version I made)

Here is the introduction to the paper that Dr. Menuge read at the EPS conference:

The argument from reason is really a family of arguments to show that reasoning is incompatible with naturalism. Here, naturalism is understood as the idea that foundationally, there are only physical objects, properties and relations, and anything else reduces to, supervenes on, or emerges from that. For our purposes, one of the most important claims of naturalism is that all causation is passive, automatic, event causation (an earthquake automatically causes a tidal wave; the tidal wave responds passively): there are no agent causes, where something does not happen automatically but only because the agent exerts his active power by choosing to do it. The most famous version of the argument from reason is epistemological: if naturalism were true, we could not be justified in believing it. Today, I want to focus on the ontological argument from reason, which asserts that there cannot be reasoning in a naturalistic world, because reasoning requires libertarian free will, and this in turn requires a unified, enduring self with active power.

The two most promising ways out of this argument are: (1) Compatibilism—even in a deterministic, naturalistic world, humans are capable of free acts of reason if their minds are responsive to rational causes; (2) Libertarian Naturalism—a self with libertarian free will emerges from the brain. I argue that neither of these moves works, and so, unless someone has a better idea, the ontological argument from reason stands.

The paper is 11 pages long, and it is helpful for those of you looking for some good discussion of one of the issues in the area of philosophy of mind.

You may also be interested in Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological argument from reason, which is related to this argument. It shows that even to have the ability to think, you have to have a certain anthropology and you have to have mental faculties that are designed for reason, not survival.

Methodological naturalism

Dr. Menuge also wrote an article entitled “Is methodological materialism good for science?”.

Intro:

Should science by governed by methodological materialism? That is, should scientists assume that only undirected causes can figure in their theories and explanations? If the answer to these questions is yes, then there can be no such thing as teleological science or intelligent design. But is methodological materialism a defensible approach to science, or might it prevent scientists from discovering important truths about the natural world? In my contribution to The Waning of Materialism (Oxford University Press, 2010), edited by Robert Koons and George Bealer, I consider twelve of the most common arguments in favor of methodological materialism and show that none of them is convincing.

Of these arguments, perhaps the most prevalent is the “God of the gaps” charge, according to which invoking something other than a material cause is an argument from ignorance which, like a bad script writer, cites a deus ex machina to save our account from difficulty. Not only materialists, but also many Christian thinkers, like Francis Collins, worry that appeal to intelligent design commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

As I argue, however, not only is an inference to an intelligent cause not the same as an inference to the supernatural, it is a mistake to assume that all gap arguments are bad, or that only theists make them. If a gap argument is based solely on ignorance of what might explain some phenomenon, then indeed it is a bad argument. But there are many good gap arguments which are made both by scientific materialists and proponents of intelligent design.

So how do you make an argument like that?

As Stephen Meyer has argued in his Signature in the Cell, intelligent design argues in just the same way, claiming not merely that the material categories of chance and necessity (singly or in combination) are unable to explain the complex specified information in DNA, but also that in our experience, intelligent agents are the only known causes of such information. The argument is based on what we know about causal powers, not on what we do not know about them.

Since the inference is based on known causal powers, we learn that the cause is intelligent, but only further assumptions or data can tell us whether that intelligence is immanent in nature or supernatural. It is a serious mistake to confuse intelligent design with theistic science, and the argument that since some proponents of design believe that the designer is God, that is what they are claiming can be inferred from the data, is a sophomoric intensional fallacy.

If you think this is interesting, then do have a listen to the podcast. Dr. Menuge is not an ordinary academic – he is very direct. He calls materialism “a catastrophe” in the podcast!

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Love another Christian just because of the fellowship of the gospel

I was studying Philippians yesterday with the lady I am mentoring in apologetics. Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. We studied Philippians 1, and used D. A. Carson’s “Basics for Believers” commentary.

Here is the part I want to talk about today:

Philippians 1:1-11:

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Now just read that and reflect on how passionate, and even unstable and emotional Paul sounds about this love he has for this church. Ask yourself this: what is the basis for these feelings? Read it again, and write your answer down. I’ll tell you mine in a minute.

Now here is D. A. Carson.

He writes:

As often in his letters, Paul begins with a warm expression of thanks to God for something in the lives of his readers. Here the grounds of his thanksgiving to God are three in number, though all three are tied to the same theme.

The first is their faithful memory of him. The NIV reads, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (1: 3). But others suggest “I thank my God every time you remember me,” or something similar. The original is ambiguous. For reasons I shall not go into, I think Paul is referring to their remembrance of him. Later on he will thank the Philippians for remembering him so warmly that they sent funds to support him in his ministry. But here the vision is broader: he perceives that their interest in him is a reflection of their continued commitment to the gospel, and that is why he thanks God for them.

The point becomes explicit in the second cause of his thanksgiving: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now . . .” (1: 4– 5). Their “partnership in the gospel” injects joy into Paul’s prayers of thanksgiving: “I always pray with joy,” he writes. The word rendered “partnership” is more commonly translated “fellowship” in the New Testament. What precisely does the word mean? In common use “fellowship” has become somewhat debased. If you invite a pagan neighbor to your home for a cup of tea, it is friendship; if you invite a Christian neighbor, it is fellowship. If you attend a meeting at church and leave as soon as it is over, you have participated in a service; if you stay for coffee afterward, you have enjoyed some fellowship. In modern use, then, fellowship has come to mean something like warm friendship with believers.

In the first century, however, the word commonly had commercial overtones. If John and Harry buy a boat and start a fishing business, they have entered into a fellowship, a partnership. Intriguingly, even in the New Testament the word is often tied to financial matters. Thus, when the Macedonian Christians send money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, they are entering into fellowship with them (Rom. 15: 26).

The heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision. Both John and Harry put their savings into the fishing boat. Now they share the vision that will put the fledgling company on its feet. Christian fellowship, then, is self-sacrificing conformity to the gospel. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment. So when Paul gives thanks, with joy, because of the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel” or “fellowship in the gospel,” he is thanking God that these brothers and sisters in Christ— from the moment of their conversion (“ from the first day until now,” Paul writes)— rolled up their sleeves and got involved in the advance of the gospel. They continued their witness in Philippi, they persevered in their prayers for Paul, they sent money to support him in his ministry— all testifying to their shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. That is more than enough reason for thanking God.

[..]Implicitly, such an apostolic stance asks us what gives us our greatest joy. Is it personal success? Some victory for our children? Acquisition of material things? “I have no greater joy,” John writes, “than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Paul reflects exactly the same attitude. Paul adds, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart . . .” (Phil. 1: 7). Probably this was written against the background of Stoic influence that was cautious about whole-life commitments, especially if they involved the “passions.” Be cool; do not be vulnerable; do not get hurt. But that was not Paul’s way. “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you,” Paul insists, regardless of what the contemporary culture says. “I have you in my heart”: my whole life and thought are bound up with you.

More:

So strongly does he want the Philippians to recognize his devotion to them that Paul puts himself under an oath: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1: 8). The significance of the oath is not that without it he might lie. Rather, he puts himself under an oath so that the Philippians might feel the passion of his truthfulness, in exactly the same way that God puts himself under an oath in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There the point is not that otherwise God might lie, but that God wants to be believed (Heb. 7: 20– 25). So Paul: God is my witness “how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

Here is no mere professionalism. Nor is this an act, a bit of showmanship to “turn them on” to the apostle. Rather, it is something that repeatedly bubbles through Paul’s arguments. It recurs, for example, in chapter 4: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (4: 1).

Both from Paul’s example and from that of the Philippians, then, we must learn this first point: the fellowship of the gospel, the partnership of the gospel, must be put at the center of our relationships with other believers. That is the burden of these opening verses. Paul does not commend them for the fine times they had shared watching games in the arena. He doesn’t mention their literature discussion groups or the excellent meals they had, although undoubtedly they had enjoyed some fine times together. What lies at the center of all his ties with them, doubtless including meals and discussion, is this passion for the gospel, this partnership in the gospel.

What ties us together? What do we talk about when we meet, even after a church service? Mere civilities? The weather? Sports? Our careers and our children? Our aches and pains? None of these topics should be excluded from the conversation of Christians, of course. In sharing all of life, these things will inevitably come up. But what must tie us together as Christians is this passion for the gospel, this fellowship in the gospel. On the face of it, nothing else is strong enough to hold together the extraordinary diversity of people who constitute many churches: men and women, young and old, blue collar and white, healthy and ill, fit and flabby, different races, different incomes, different levels of education, different personalities. What holds us together? It is the gospel, the good news that in Jesus, God himself has reconciled us to himself. This brings about a precious God-centeredness that we share with other believers.

Does what Carson writes make you think of the Lord of the Rings book 1? (“The Fellowship of the Ring”) It sounds like Christians are supposed to band together in common purpose in order to complete a quest. They are not supposed to just be hanging out to pass the time. There is planning. There is cooperation. There is danger. There is achievement. There is adventure. I think that he loves the church in Philippi because they have entered into this fellowship of the gospel with him.

More:

Already in verse 4 Paul has insisted that whenever he prays for the Philippians, he does so with joy and thanksgiving. Now he gives us the content of his prayers for them: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ— to the glory and praise of God” (1: 9– 11).

[...]Second, what Paul has in mind is not mere sentimentalism or the rush of pleasure spawned, for example, by a large conference. “I pray,” Paul writes, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” The kind of love that Paul has in mind is the love that becomes more knowledgeable. Of course, Paul is not thinking of just any kind of knowledge. He is not hoping they will learn more and more about nuclear physics or sea turtles. He has in mind the knowledge of God; he wants them to enjoy insight into God’s words and ways, and thus to know how to live in light of them.

[...]Third, for Paul this prayer has a further end in view. He lifts these petitions to God, he tells the Philippians, “so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (1: 10). Clearly, Paul does not want the Philippian believers to be satisfied with mediocrity. He cannot be satisfied, in a fallen world, with the status quo. He wants these believers to move on, to become more and more discerning, proving in their own experience “what is best.” He wants them to pursue what is best in the knowledge of God, what is best in their relationships with other believers, what is best in joyful obedience. For ultimately what he wants from them is perfection: he prays that they “may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

Now for my thoughts.

I want all of you reading this to do one thing for me. I want you to completely abandon the criteria you are currently using for who you will be friends with and adopt Paul’s criteria. I want you to put your gospel-related activities at the center of your life. Do not neglect your other practical duties like making money and saving money and so on, but when it comes to your passion, where you take risks, where your long-term goals are – I want you to put the gospel at the center. And I do not mean mere proclamation of simple statements, I mean apologetics and Christian worldview – including politics, economics, etc.

Now, that’s not my main point. My main point is that I further want you to stop choosing who you will associate with based on worldly criteria. I want you to think about the people around you who are the most willing to put the gospel first and I want you to take up those people as friends. I want you to talk to them, to share with them, to encourage them, to confide in them, to listen to their confessions and to generally love them in the traditional ways that Christians love, e.g. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. You need to fellowship with them – invest in their enterprises, and let them invest in yours, too. This is real love according to the Bible.

We need to stop looking at other people on the surface level – age, skin color, wealth, clothes, etc. – and start to dig deeper underneath to find out where each person stands with respect to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our criteria should not be present ability. We should choose those with desire, intensity, and willingness to learn hard things. The first person you should invest in is the person who wants to learn to defend their faith to non-Christians using the best available evidence. If that person can demonstrate their desire to do grow in knowledge and depth of insight, you should be spending your time, money and effort with that person first.

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My experiences with Christian women in church and campus ministries

A friend of mine sent me some horror stories from his time dealing with single Christian women during seminary, and I thought I would write something about the horror stories from my experiences with single Christian women in campus ministries during my BS and MS programs, and in several evangelical churches that I attended in my 20s.

The biggest problem I’ve had with unmarried Christian women in college and in church is that it is impossible to impress them by being a competent, effective Christian man. Every skill and ability that seems to me to be useful and effective for the kingdom (or for marriage) seems to cut no ice with them. I had women in my youth group, in IVCF and in Campus Crusade have told me that being an engineer is bad, being chaste is bad, not drinking is bad, talking too much about apologetics is bad, and especially trying to get them to learn apologetics – that was really, really bad. They hated that. And forget trying to talk to them about abortion and homosexuality. They were very proud to be non-judgmental. It was a badge of honor, saying “I don’t judge” as if they were saying “I am good person”.

Everything that you might think makes sense for a man to be skilled at from a marriage point of view is viewed as creepy and weird by these church/campus-club unmarried Christian women, in my experience. I am a colored guy, so I always put their messed up standards down to the fact that I was colored and therefore was not allowed to talk to them, period. I was also surprised to see how little the command to “love your neighbor” was implemented by the unmarried Christian women. Here I was, struggling through a tough engineering program, and obviously coming from an unchurched background, yet these woman never had a supportive word for me. My interests in theology and apologetics and moral issues and politics were viewed by them with suspicion.

In retrospect, I would say the biggest argument against God’s existence I ever faced was the complete disconnect between what these women professed and how they treated others.

There was one exception. When I was a teen, I had an older college student mentor me and she helped me pick up my grades – especially in English. She eventually fell away from her faith (she was a cradle Catholic). But other than her, I basically was in my mid-30s before I met a Christian woman who had any respect for me because of the things that I could do as a Christian. And that was after over a decade of donations, organizing, training, mentoring, apologetics, etc. By that time, I had my BS and MS and a boatload of savings, and yet up till then, no unmarried Christian woman had ever given me the time of day. I was sort of stuck looking to white Christian women for validation, because most colored girls are liberal. But what I found is that they had no standard in their worldview that I could be graded against favorably, other than physical appearance.

That was the scariest thing for me, to find out that there was no worldview there that distinguished between William Lane Craig and Jim Wallis, for example. There was just the outward appearance – that was the sole criterion that unmarried Christian women were using to decide whether a man had value or not. And their agenda for men was never a mentoring/discipling agenda. It was the standard secular boyfriend agenda. And very often, they chose standard secular boyfriends for that agenda. I later found out that they found men with definite moral positions and definite apologetics ability intimidating. Any man with fixed, entrenched positions – either about truth or moral issues – frightened them.

Even now, I find this such a weird thing, because in my own life, I act as a mentor to younger Christians regardless of their appearance or other such criteria. Mentoring other Christians is what Christians ought to be doing! I mentor about a dozen promising young Christians (women and men) in different countries. On a given night, you’ll find me reading something they asked me to read, sending them links to evidence to help them argue, proof-reading their essays, buying them books, hearing about their school assignments, picking their elective courses, or ordering them not to take the summer off and to work instead, etc. Right now, I have two of my experienced pro-life friends helping one of them take over a pro-life club at a university. Another of my friends who does Internet consulting is helping another friend start his web site. And so on, with me or my friends mentoring other Christians just for the sake of honoring that command to love others upward. It doesn’t even matter how great the person is right now, because we mentor Christians at all levels of ability. No one is left out, and no oneis turned down.

But this idea that other Christians have value simply because they are Christians was NOWHERE to be found among unmarried Christian women when I was in university and in my 20s. It’s totally foreign to them that Christianity imposes those mentoring/discipling obligations on them, regardless of appearances. They are feelings-driven, not obligation-driven. They are concerned with their own agenda, and not looking to God to see what he wants them to do for their fellow Christians.

I was always the same Wintery Knight back them as I am today, just at an earlier stage of development, and yet no unmarried Christian women in the church or in a campus Christian ministry gave me so much as an affirming glance while I was working out my plans. In fact, church women often stood in the way of things I tried to do, like bring in professors to speak at IVCF or show William Lane Craig debates at Campus Crusade. Focusing on evidential issues was deemed “too divisive”. It was prayer walks, hymn sings and testimonies by postmodern relativists every week. I learned not to count on unmarried Christian women for support of any kind for the things I was trying to do. No matter how good the things I wanted to do were, they always had a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to do them.

I am always surprised when I meet a woman and she wants me to read the Bible, or read a book, or do anything like that. (That actually happened to me again last week!) I’ve had a handful of women do that to me in my whole life. Unmarried Christian women are, in my experience, running a very secular playbook, making decisions about how to treat others from their feelings. And then if you question them about it, they attribute their feelings to the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t really see how bad it is until you hear them tell you that God told them to move in with the atheist guy, etc. It’s striking to me how far the Holy-Spirit-wrapping of their feelings goes, and yet they don’t see a problem with it. I think the answer to this problem is that we really need to help women to think through their worldview and think about how to act on Christian convictions with other people, and men in particular, and men who are committed to building the Kingdom effectively and intelligently above all others.

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Pastor Matt: Christian apologists should care about the loss of religious liberty

From Pastor Matt Rawlings‘ blog. First he summarizes a couple of religious liberty cases – Brendan Eich and Elane Photography.

Excerpt:

[...][F]ew seemed to pause and ask about the ramifications of a nation incrementally losing the religious freedom it has long enjoyed. I would argue this is an issue that committed Christian thinkers should take very seriously.

First of all, the loss of religious freedom (along with the growth of centralized government) is historically dangerous for all people.  The loss of one freedom often serves as the domino for the loss of others.  We are a people called to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-40) and standing by while persecution may be inching toward many certainly does not count.

Second, some have argued that if we lose our freedom it will help the church grow or at least “separate the men from the boys.” This is a romantic notion that persecution is good for the church but it too is a failure to love our neighbors and is not entirely accurate.  For example, see Acts 9:31, which reads, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”  Moreover, great revivals like the First and Second Great Awakening and the immediate post World War II boom took place in times of religious freedom.

Third, true rational discourse in true marketplace of ideas depends on true religious freedom. One cannot arbitrarily exclude certain ideas from public debate because it strikes certain segments of the culture as offensive. If any person believes that open dialogue is a key to truth then that person should fight for any voice to have his or her say.

I’ll skip to his conclusion:

So, we need to graciously and intelligently contend for our freedom by supporting Christian legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and, of course praying for God’s continued grace.  We also need to train ourselves in public and practical apologetics including why it is that traditional marriage is good for a country (and it is).  In the meantime, be sure to go to Speak Up Church and gather resources on how to help protect your church from the current attacks on religious freedom.

Read the whole thing. This is a great post, and one you ought to click through and read.

Now before my remarks, I wanted to produce the biography of one of the ADF lawyers I heard in a recent podcast.

Douglas Napier bio:

Douglas H. Napier serves as Senior Vice-President-Legal for Alliance Defending Freedom at its headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he leads a litigation team of approximately 40 attorneys and legal support staff at offices in District of Colombia, Arizona, Kansas, California, Georgia, and Tennessee. Before joining Alliance Defending Freedom in 2007, Napier practiced civil trial law in Iowa for 16 years. He earned his J.D. from the University of Iowa College, with distinction, and is a fellow of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers. Napier is admitted to the bar in Iowa, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been admitted pro hac vice to several federal courts across the nation.

I’m glad that some Christians are making the plans to get these law degrees that allow them to do something about threats like this.

My thoughts

When I posted this on Facebook earlier on Monday, I was surprised to see a bunch of people posting Bible verses and talking about how persecution might not be such a bad thing. And this always annoys me, because I wonder if these people really understand what persecution looks like, in different times and places. It looks like murder, torture, imprisonment, fines, trials, sickness, disease, loneliness and despair. It’s not something you wish for. It’s certainly not something you want for others. We have a threat to religious liberty. That threat should be met with law degrees from prestigious universities – and life plans that allow you to get those degrees. We need to be making life plans to either get the degrees that can counter the threat, or to support those (financially) who are getting them or who already have them. I’m in the latter group.

Filed under: Commentary, , , ,

A Harvard University student explains how evidence changed her mind about God

Here’s a must-read article  about the effectiveness of apologetics on college campuses in Christianity Today. (H/T Sanjay M.)

Excerpt:

I don’t know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: “But how do you know what the Bible says is true?” By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and “shoot all the atheists.” My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, “Truth”), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard’s Christian journal, defending God’s existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we’d argue into the wee hours; when apart, we’d take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible’s contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like “It takes faith” could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn’t do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics. After all, atheists had been developing ethical systems for 200-some years. In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma, declaring, “God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”

Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn’t stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

Now, I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for saying this, but I think that if you are a Christian and you are in a secular university, then you really need to have put in the effort to study the areas of science, history and philosophy that are relevant to the Christian faith. This is regardless of your personal abilities or field of study. We must all make an effort regardless of how comfortable we are with things that are hard for us to learn.

Granted, most atheists are not interested in truth, because they tend to jettison truth whenever it conflicts with their personal autonomy – their desire to seek pleasure apart from moral constraints. But there is another kind of atheist. This kind of atheist is honest, open-minded, and they just have never encountered any good reasons or evidence to think that God exists and that Jesus is anything other than a man. There are a lot of atheists like that who are just waiting to hear some decent evidence. Our job is to prepare for them and then engage them, if they are willing to be engaged.

I think that definition of love she cited – self-sacrifice for the true good of another person – is important. I don’t think that ordinary Christians like you or me spends time on apologetics because we “like” it. I know lots of Christians who are in tough, expensive academic programs trying to get the skills they need to defend truth in areas that matter. They do this because they know that there are people out there who are interested in truth, and who are willing to re-prioritize their lives if the truth is made clear to them. We need to be willing to serve God by doing hard things that work.

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