I recently listened to podcast by Apologetics.com featuring apologist and author Greg Koukl who recently authored the book called Tactics. In this book Greg offers several great approaches to talking to people in a way that will lead to spiritual conversations and possibly sharing yor faith with them.
Hume a philosopher has a simple syllogism agianst miracles:
(1) Laws of nature are exceptionally regular.
(2) A miracle is a violation of a law of nature.
(3) Miracles do not exist in nature.
This is a valid syllogism. But are the facts true?
Spinoza has a similar theory:
1. Miracles are violations of natural laws.
2. Natural laws are immutable.
3. It is impossible for immutable laws to be violated.
4. Therefore, miracles are impossible.
Kant also had things to say about miracles:
Kant’s argument can be summarized as follows:
1. Everything in our experience (the world to us) is determined by practical reason.
2. Practical reason operates according to universal laws.
3. Miracles occur either (1) daily, (2) seldom, or (3) never.
4. But what occurs daily is not a miracle since it occurs regularly according to natural laws.
5.And what occurs seldom is not determined by any law.
6. But all scientific knowledge must be determined by practical reason which operates on universal laws.
7. Therefore, it is rationally necessary for us to conclude that miracles never occur.
Flew’s argument against miracles can be summarized this way:
1. Miracles are by nature particular and unrepeatable.
2. Natural events are by nature general and repeatable.
3. Now, in practice, the evidence for the general and repeatable is always greater than that for the particular and unrepeatable.
4. Therefore, in practice, the evidence will always be greater against miracles than for them.
Alastair McKinnon’s argument can be summarized as follows:
1. A scientific law is a generalization based on observation.
2. Any exception to a scientific law invalidates that law as such and calls for a revision of it.
3. A miracle is an exception to a scientific law.
4. Therefore, a “miracle” would call for a revision of a law and the recognition of a broader law (which thereby explains the “miracle” as a natural event)
Even in this admittedly unsuccessful anti-supernatural argument is hidden the premise of an apparently successful one, namely the evidence for the regular and repeatable is always greater than that for the irregular and singular. Science is based on uniform experience, not anomalies. Regularity is the basis of a scientific understanding. Therefore, science as such can never accept the miraculous. Thus the principle of regularity seems to be the common thread of the anti- supernatural arguments.
A Christian response:
1. The only cause repeatedly observed to be adequate to produce information is intelligence.
2. Now the information in the first single cell which emerged on earth would fill a whole volume of an encyclopedia.
3. But observation of regularities are the scientific basis for understanding singularities.
4. Hence, there is a scientific basis (in repeated observation) for believing that first life was caused by some intelligence beyond the natural world.
5. But since this kind of singularity produced by a supernatural intelligent being would be a miracle by definition, then we have a firm scientific basis for believing in miracles.
In short, repetition in the present does give us a firm scientific basis for believing in an intelligent intervention into the natural world. To borrow Hume’s term, we have “uniform experience” on which to base our belief in the miraculous origin of life. For we never observe an encyclopedia resulting from an explosion in a printing shop. We never observe a fan blowing on alphabet cereal produce a scientific research paper. No one would conclude Mount Rushmore resulted from wind or rain erosion. Why? Our uniform experience teaches us that the kind of information conveyed on Mount Rushmore never results from natural laws but only from intelligent intervention.
Since the rise of modern science anti-supernatural arguments have stressed the principle of uniformity. They have argued that:
1. Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.
2. Miracles are not constantly repeated.
3. Therefore, there is no scientific way to understand miracles.
Two things should be noted about this argument. First, this form of the argument does not deny that unusual events like miracles may occur, any more than it denies a hole-in-one may occur. It simply says that scientific law is based on regularities. And until one can establish a constant conjunction between antecedent and consequent factors there is no scientific basis for assuming a causal connection between them.
Second, neither does this argument deny that there is any scientific way to analyze singularities, such as the origin of the universe, or the origin of life, or receiving one message from outer space. It simply says that observed regularities must be the basis for analyzing singularities. For example, if we observe over and over again that a certain kind of effect regularly results from a certain kind of cause then when we discover even a singular case of this kind of effect (whether from the past or present), we have a scientific basis for assuming it had the same kind of cause too. This same assumption is behind the naturalists’ search for a chemical basis for the origins of life and an evolutionary basis for the origin of species. In both cases repeatable observations in the present are used as a basis for understanding the singularity of origin in the past. Without this principle of uniformity there would be no way of getting at singularities in either the past or the present.
Certainly we must grant that this is a legitimate procedure to base all scientific understanding in the principle of regularity. However, the question is this: Does such a procedure eliminate a scientific understanding of miracles? In order to better understand our answer to this question let us reformulate the naturalist argument in the light of the two qualifications noted above.
1) Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.
la) This repetition need not be a repetition of the event we are analyzing but only of other similar events.
2) Miracles are not constantly repeated events.
3b) Therefore, miracles need not be eliminated from the realm of scientific understanding.
Once the argument is put in this form we can see that all one needs to do to establish a basis for singularities such as miracles is to find some constantly repeated process as a basis for understanding them. This we believe can be done by adding these premises:
4) Constant repetition informs us that wherever complex information is conveyed there was an intelligent cause.
5) There are some scientific singularities (such as the origin of first life) where complex information is conveyed.
6) Therefore, there is a scientific basis for positing an intelligent non-natural cause for the origin of first life.
There is a way things typically go and we do not normally expect any different but
within that “typical” behavior there is room for exceptions. There is an intelligent being, God, in charge who is deciding when these exceptions occur. And these exception are miracles.
I am a dark coffee man. You can ask my friend Tom, every morning I get dark coffee and he gets a Latte. ask Tom, he says, “Alex ALWAYS gets a dark coffee.”
One day I say, “Tom call me crazy, but I want to try something new.” I intelligently choose to get a Latte. Tom thinks this is a miracle. He says “Alex, you surprised me, you ALWAYS get a dark coffee but today you chose to get a latte, this is a miracle.”
Typical behavior on my part, I was listening to a recent podcast from apologetics.com. The episode I was listening to was called “How the Reformation saved Western Civilization.”
Some great stuff in this episode really got my thinking and this post may not make any sense at all:
The episode had a lot of topics that is covered and this is only some of them.
In many ways what Luther did, really saved Western Civilization.
Luther’s deal was giving priesthood to all believers, not just the rules: popes, bishops, princes, emperors, etc.
Luther influenced change. No longer should people hold one law for rulers and one law for civilians. Luther did not directly say or fight for democracy itself, but think about it.
What Luther said implies equality of all men.
It implies popular will. It implies that every person should have own right by God to choose integrity of own person and own people representatively.
Look at democracy and a government where voting is involved. Every individual has the right to popular will, to represent their own country and the integrity of that country.
Similarly, what Luther was saying is that every individual was created in image of God by God, every individual should have the right to conscience, to interpret the Scriptures on their own and come upon their own conclusions. Every individual person has these rights, not just the bishops, princes, emperor, and popes!
Remember prior to this reformation, only a prince (and other religious leaders-popes) could enforce the laws of God.
The Apologetics radio show made a good point: Immoral law is not a real law. Enforcing law for own appetite is actually against the law. Luther was fighting for this. (Augustine said these things before Luther.)
Here are the final words of Luther’s famous response to the emperor at Worms:
” Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
These are common ideas in Protestant lands, like America: Rights of individual, freedom of conscience, etc. But it was not always this way and it still is not common ideas in other lands. Luther turned world upside down. Not just the church but the government system too!
A key factor to American Protestantism is the theology of essentials. Essentials must be the same no matter what church you belong to. These are things like: Jesus being the Messiah who conquered sin by dying on the cross, the Gospel Message. Then there are the non-essentials. For instance, whether you belief in baptism or not – having the belief of baptism is not what gets you into Heaven. In America, we have freedom of conscience on these non-essential issues. One church can freely believe and baptize thousands every weekend, while the church across the street gasps in disbelief thinking that all that baptism is meaningless.
Again these issues go back to Augustine! His ideas of “essential unity” and “non-essential charity.” This is why we have denominations: if we have disagreements about non-essentials, then you can start a new denomination! Without being forced to believe one thing or another.
Luther was arguing for the right to have arguments over non-essentials. But more importantly he was arguing an essential theological doctrine, indulgences. You can’t force me to recant things that are against my conscience. (indulgences.) he challenged them to look to Scripture and see if they can challenge anything that he took a stand for. And he was also taking a stand for the right for others to read Scripture.
A few hundred years later, a nation would be birth on the same ideas: You can’t force me to recant things that go against our conscience. Freedom of conscience comes from freedom of belief, comes from right of individual to think what he wants to think, comes from freedom of speech, and comes from freedom of assembly. It is a cycle!
This is America! You have the right to believe any anything and be as stupid as you want! And all of this comes from theology! Protestantism breeds Democracy!
Naturally it is a government system for sinful man to live in community and get along with other sinful Christians and non-Christians alike. The separation of powers flows from Biblical anthropology.
Think about it:
man is sinful/wicked
man gets power
man will do wicked/sinful things with power
Democracy helps to decentralize power. One could argue this is a consequent of reformation.
In the past, we have seen in absolute monarchy a lot of wicked kings and rulers. You might find maybe one good king, but they are all mostly wicked.
Then the podcast sifted to another topic that is somewhat related that I really liked also:
Law and Gospel distinction and the importance of both:
It is impossible for us (sinful man) to live up to the law fully. The Law is an oppressor. The Gospel comes and says, yes, but Jesus has taken on your responsibility of law. The Gospel is a liberator by Christ’s righteousness. The Gospel offers everything that the law demands. Christ did everything according to that law in our behalf.
Sermons need both the law and the Gospel. Law will say you ought to, you ought to, you ought to, but it hurts us to hear only law, because we can’t fulfill that! We need also to hear the Gospel message! Hearing the Gospel alone will not work either because then all of the prescriptions of how you are suppose to live due to law are missing and they are still necessary.
It has been argued that “The Law has nothing to do with us today because it has been fulfilled through Christ.”
It is true that we have freedom from law because it has been fulfill and the guilt of the law is now relieved. But saying that the there is no use for law anymore is not correct, or Biblical.
We live by grace. But the measure of sanctification is the law. Remember that Jesus kept the law. You know the two Greatest COMMANDMENTS (law) from Jesus was: Love God and love neighbor. This is law in summation of the Old Testament laws and 10 commandments.
Use of law today:
1. convict us of sin
2. order civics – points us to Christ, to know Christ
3. teach us how to live – in accordance of nature of Christ as a Christian
Love is a law. We have a Law of love.
This is not the Gospel! Christ died for sin that is the Gospel. Love is the law.
Love is a pursuit because you love the Beloved, and the best way to love is the following the law of the Beloved
Another neat point from the podcast is that Predestination and a lot of the ideas of John Calvin were not original. Much of his stuff came from Augustine.
This is the first of several posts on the topic of Faith And Reason. A lot of people in this culture have the wrong idea of what faith actually is. I have heard too many people say that faith is a leap in the dark. And that faith is not based on anything.
These Faith and Reason posts will be a mini “apologetics 101″series. I hope to explain some misconceptions and give a little bit of apologetics training through my rants and thoughts.
Apologetics 101 training
World views – A world view is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.”
A world view is a way of seeing the world. It is based on what we know about the world. Everyone has a world view, whether they want to admit it or not. World views are In the context of religion there are 5 main over arching world views. Each of these break down into several of thousand of specific world views, but speaking broadly here are the general and main 5.
Pantheist – believe that God is in all things. God is everywhere in nature, in humans, and everywhere else.
Atheist – does not believe that there is a “god.” Know there is no “god.”
Agnostic – unsure if God exists.
Theist – believe in a personal God. (Mono or Poly) ‘Personal God’ means that God has a personality, may or may not be able to be know.
Deist- believe in an impersonal God. (Mono or Poly)
The Christian Faith
Faith is based on facts, probability, reason, and knowledge. Faith should not be a leap in the dark, but it should be synonymous with confidence, trust, and assurance. Our faith is based on reason! It is not a guess or an emotion, but it is based on facts. Even, Wikipedia has the right idea: “Faith is a profound belief or trust in a particular truth, or in a doctrine that expresses such a truth.” Trust in truth.
I personally chose faith in God over there not being a God because probability. It is more probable that God does exist than he does not.
Truth is naturally exclusive. Some one might argue that there is a neutral world view or an inclusive world view (all roads lead to God)….Even inclusivist excludes exclusivist, people who doe not agree with them. There is not a true inclusive world view, because truth is exclusive by nature.
Think about it this way. 1+1 is always 2. There is always one exclusive truth answer. There are an infinite number of wrong answers.
I need to make reference to Apologetics.com radio show: Apologetics 101, and I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler