Mods: This is a repost of the one I planted in "Religion/Faith". Considering it didn't go anywhere, I thought I would try to place it here to see if
we could get a better conversation going. Please feel free to delete the other one. Thank you.
Warning: This is a long post that requires a good deal of reading.
A little while ago I decided to spice things up a bit and post on my social media account that, "I am an atheist". That was the totality of the update
and that was all I needed to say (considering I come from a strong Fundamental Baptist up bringing and have several of my class/christian school mates
on my contact list).
Much to my surprise the comment garnered a much lower response than I anticipated, with one exception. It did peek the interest of one of my old
acquaintances who is currently the proud bearer of a P.h.D. in theology, as well as being an active pastor and teacher of religion and theology.
I feel as though I may have bitten off more than I can chew so, I've decided to jump right in and post my exchanges here so that I may get a little
help for thinking more clearly about exactly what it is he is saying to me. Being that I have no formal training in any esoteric type of studies, I
need all the help I can get.
Below I begin with the first real topical message he sent me and we go from there.
You've brought up an astonishingly large number of potentially fruitful topics for discussion. Let me begin by answering the questions you've posed to
me, and then I'll try to sharpen the discussion by asking one of you.
By the three proofs, I assume that you mean the cosmological, teleological, and ontological. As they are typically formulated, I find the first two to
be awful, especially if an apologist suggests that they prove the truth of the Christian God. At *best*, they prove some kind of abstract,
god-in-general. Even that much is doubtful.
As for the ontological argument, it depends on the day, barometric pressure, moon phase, etc. Most days I find it unconvincing. Other days, when the
light hits it just right, it seems compelling. So, I typically set it off to the side.
In place of these, I would employ what has come to called a "transcendental" argument for the existence of God. For the sake of the discussion, I'm
going to simply employ it, rather than define it.
As for Plantinga, I tend to enjoy him a great deal. As you likely know (if you are familiar with him), he is largely credited with the restoration of
the respectability of theism in analytic philosophy over the last three decades. As for, more specifically, his claim that belief in God is properly
basic, I am uncommitted. I disagree with his exact formulation of it (I don't think it's fully faithful to Romans 1). That said, I think his work on
epistemology and naturalism is very compelling, and it is to something close to this that I want to turn my attention.
My main question for you, given naturalism, is this: how can naturalism account for the kind of conversation that we think that we're having? Given
naturalism, mind is reducible to brain. (Sam Harris has, more than many of the other New Atheists, attempted to bite this bullet, denying free will,
etc.) But if a brain is just a really complicated clump of electro-chemical activity, in what way is our conversation here meaningful? As one
apologist put it, aren't we just doing what our brains do at this temperature and pressure? The kinds of judgments that we seem to be making about
truth and morality, without which this conversation is simply pointless, don't seem to be possible given physicalist assumptions.
In a fully Christian worldview, however, this conversation makes complete sense. As image-bearers of God, we would expect to find ourselves discussing
these kinds of things, and we would expect that the universe around us is ordered in such a way that our conclusions *matter*.
This is why I ask about the purpose of the universe. If the universe is indeed purposeless (as it must be, given naturalism), this conversation is
truly pointless (although we can pretend otherwise). You might be "right" in some sense about the universe, but if you are, does it matter? In the
absence of any real meaning in the universe, you have to invent some purpose for your life, to make daily living possible. Maybe I've just done the
same thing, with Christianity. Given naturalism, neither your fairy tale nor mine is relevant. We're all just pretending.
But I don't think that you think that. I think that you think your ideas are *right* and *meaningful.* Rational people *ought* to hold them. But I
can't see naturalism accounting for these legitimate inclinations.
This is the nature of a transcendental argument. What I contend is that, if you're worldview is right, you can't rationally account for our having
In your last response to me, you asked several questions pertaining “meaning” in regards to its valuation in an atheist worldview. I was not
expecting that you would jump right to that particular aspect of the God/no-God debate, but O.K.
It has taken me some time to answer you back partly because I've been busy, partly because I've been refining the 10 page response I produced down to
just 5, and partly because, as I promised I would, I've been brushing up on transcendental presuppositionalism. My response was so voluminous at first
due to some troubles I was having in understanding exactly what you were asking me to expound upon. So, in this message I hope to get somethings
straight so that I may answer you with more clarity. I've also asked you some questions regarding your world view and I hope that I have done so
assiduously enough that you are able to answer them.
In the course of my research I found “The Defence of Faith”, by Van Til. Now mind you, I am only a few pages in, but I have already got the gist
of where he and you are coming from. For instance, he writes this found on page 40:
“Our existence and our meaning, our denotation and our connotation are derived from God. We are already fully interpreted before we come into
existence. God knows us before and behind; he knows the thoughts of our hearts. We could not have meaning and existence aside from the meaning and
existence of God.”
I think this is a fair summery and assertion of the position you must hold based on the angle and flavour of the questions that you posed to me. It is
a good summary of the presupposition as I seem to remember it to be. So, that being said, it seems to me that I could classify the subtext of your
questions into to distinct but concomitant categories. You asked me these questions:
“My main question for you, given naturalism, is this: how can naturalism account for the kind of conversation that we think that we're having?”
“But if a brain is just a really complicated clump of electro-chemical activity, in what way is our conversation here meaningful?”
Here, if I am understanding you correctly, you are not so much asking me to speak towards my confidence of my ability to reason as much as you are
asking me to speak towards the my confidence of the meaningfulness of my consciousness. If our brain is just a glorified computer what gives the data
output any value? What is the greater meaning of reason on a personal scale? But before I can answer this, you will have to humour me and help me
understand exactly what you are driving at.
edit on 13-6-2013 by Philodemus because: (no reason given)
edit on 13-6-2013 by Philodemus because: (no reason