John Loftus On Control Beliefs

Recently I found this article – http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/john_loftus/christianity.html written by John Loftus. Due to my current very limited access to the Internet I only have the time and means to make a few brief comments concerning the “control beliefs” Loftus “adopts” as described in his article. It is my contention that those who reject the Christian worldview are horribly inconsistent with what they state with regard to their own would-be epistemological systems and that this is especially evident in the case of John Loftus.

At the core of the “argument” Loftus makes is a discussion of “control beliefs” which he defines as “beliefs that control how one views the evidence”. As Loftus further describes these beliefs a recognition that these are essentially the same things as presuppositions arises. Thus, there is occasion to congratulate Loftus on his recognition of the importance of presuppositions before moving on to critique what he sets forth as his own control beliefs.

Loftus writes that according to his view everyone should approach both religion in general and Christianity specifically from the “default position” of skepticism. Whether Loftus here refers to skepticism with respect to religion only or to skepticism in a broader sense is unclear. If it is with respect to religion only, the question should be raised as to why religious skepticism rather than a broader form such as global skepticism is to be our starting point. Global skepticism is a much more appropriate position for those who reject Christianity, but we will assume that Loftus is referring to religious skepticism. How Loftus determines that religious skepticism is a default position escapes me, but aside from this the assertion appears to contradict some of his later claims regarding sociological factors allegedly determining religious belief. Of course, Christians will reject the idea that religious skepticism is a default position anyway, resting instead upon the biblical truth that everyone knows the Christian God, even Mr. Loftus. Perhaps such a statement will make non-Christians cringe. Afterall, the Christian belief that everyone starts from the knowledge of God (rather than skepticism) seems far too convenient for Christians to claim. However, this belief does not differ on the surface from the claim made by Loftus that religious skepticism is a default position as far as convenience is concerned. To assume that skepticism is a default position is to beg the question against Christianity. Loftus has merely asserted that religious skepticism is a default position but has not shown it, runs into problems when this assertion is coupled with the “Sociological Reasons” section of his article, and assumes his own position of non-Christianity from the start while being unwilling to permit Christians to assume their own position. Nevertheless more problems appear even if what Loftus has so far presented is accepted as true.

Loftus submits that anyone “who subsequently moves away from that default position [of skepticism] has the burden of proof, for to accept a religious set of beliefs is to accept a positive truth claim”. We shall concede the point that those who are not religious skeptics certainly carry a burden of proof, but if Loftus means to imply that the religious skeptic has no burden of proof then he is mistaken. One cannot simply assert the negation of religious truth claims without reason and expect to carry any intellectual credibility. Certainly Loftus should concede as much as he proceeds to offer justification for his position in his article as well as elsewhere. There is much more to be said on this subject, but more time will not be given to it here.

Loftus claims to derive two more control beliefs from his supposed default position of religious skepticism. The first of these is that there “is a strong probability that every event is a natural one to be explained by natural forces alone”. Loftus never explains in his article how this second control belief is derived from the supposition of religious skepticism, and the rejection of religious claims does not necessarily lead to accepting naturalism. Now Loftus may point out that he only claims a strong probability for naturalism, but this does not follow either and even if it did Loftus does not explain how.

The third control belief Loftus claims for himself is that the “scientific method is the most reliable (and probably the only) guide we have for determining the truth about the world”. Again we should ask how one derives this control belief from the premise of religious skepticism. It sounds nice, and it surely is a popular mantra in our unthinking “scientific” culture, but the idea that rejecting religion leaves one with science and vice versa is the result of one of the most absurd false dichotomies plaguing the philosophy of religion today. For some odd reason many atheists think they have a sort of monopoly on all of “science” and Christians are entitled to not a shred of it. This seems to be the case regardless of how truly ignorant the unbeliever may be of the field of science. Loftus refers to “the” scientific method, as though there is only one resulting from a rejection of religious truth claims. This could actually be rather humorous given the history of the philosophy of science. There is really no way to know, at least as far as this part of the article is concerned, what philosophy Loftus follows when it comes to science and the scientific method. What the scientific method is simply is not as clear as the average high school science textbook would make it out to be. Philosophical concerns await the scientist at every turn, though the scientist often wants to have as little as possible to do with them.

Nothing is given to substantiate the claim that the scientific method is the most reliable guide to truth apart from the religious skepticism from which this claim is supposedly derived. How one is to derive a specific view of scientific method from the rejection of religious truth claims is, again, totally unclear. However, the same lack of justification exists when it comes to an explanation of how the reliability and sufficiency of the scientific method are derived from the rejection of religious truth claims. Further, let’s assume for a moment that Loftus is correct and the scientific method (whatever that is in his view) is the only reliable guide to truth; how would we ever know? That is, we must assume that the scientific method is a reliable guide to truth in order to find that the scientific method is the only reliable guide to truth. The assumption is not based upon anything other than blind faith. Of course we are unable to get even this far, as the very statement “[the] scientific method is the most reliable (and probably the only) guide we have for determining the truth about the world” is not itself scientifically testable. It is impossible to scientifically justify science. Science rests upon a great number of assumptions found outside of the scientific realm. In addition to the aforementioned problems, this control belief is unable to account for much that Loftus desires to appeal to in the various disciplines he lists as titles and proceeds to utilize in his failed explanation for why he is not a Christian.

Supposedly Loftus requires sufficient evidence or reasons to justify truth claims, but throughout his article Loftus makes plenty of assertions without such justification. The control beliefs he lists as being his own are arbitrary, self-frustrating, unable to account for what he writes, and do not appear to be logically connected to one another as he claims. Loftus claims that his control beliefs bias him “against dogma and superstition” but one must conclude that his control beliefs are little more than unbelieving, unsubstantiated dogma themselves.


Our Source of Truth

I will say, from the outset, that this post will have political overtones – but only peripherally. I’m not much of a political pundit, but the recent election has served to show a very clear demarcation in worldviews – the subject addressed by this blog. My wife has a childhood friend that she’s kept up with, who tends very much toward a liberal viewpoint of Christianity, social issues, and moral issues. As I read her take on the election, I was a bit taken aback at a nominal Christian expressing such things about a man with such an obviously antithetical viewpoint to orthodox Christianity.

“It felt like a big moment. I could imagine being part of this massive wave of people, with hope burning in our hearts, having faith that this vote wasn’t a risk but a shout for desperately needed change. … I didn’t quite believe it until I turned the channel to CNN, where at least they had put the holograms away for a few minutes, and my heart opened wide to receive the truth, the beautiful truth shining like the sun in my eyes. It’s true. It’s good. It’s here. Thank God.”

Now, if you’ll pardon me for a moment, that looks… idolatrous. I really don’t know how else to put it. A mere man, no matter how powerful, is not worthy of such speech. I can’t pare it down to anything else. I’d like to – but I really can’t see how it’s anything else. “Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” Can we reduce this to anything else? As I also quoted in my response, “Woe to those who call evil, good, and good, evil.” When you pair this with the fact that Obama has voted for late term abortion of babies, has in fact voted for the death of babies who somehow survive their abortions, supports so-called homosexual “marriage”, has ties to Islamic groups like CAIR, sat under Rev. Wright, whose theology was discussed recently by both Dr. James White and myself, not to mention his varied ties to shady characters of every sort – I find it amazing, when we are told to not let immorality, impurity, or greed be even named among us!

Are we not told that …”although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them?” What then, is the Scriptural response to such an action? Hearty approval of those who practice such things? Are we to idolize such persons? Consider them to be the answer to our prayers for… hope and change? We cannot, are not, and must not! Yet, some who claim the name of Christ do so. Why is this?

The answer is simple – and it fits the purpose of this blog exactly. Presuppositions. Those who are thinking in such a way, are “children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” What, according to the next verse, is the antithesis to such a state? “… Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all {aspects} into Him who is the head, {even} Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

What further amazed me, was this comment on that post. “Just because you believe in someone’s right to choose to do something doesn’t mean you believe in that something they choose to do.” What is it we just talked about? What does Romans 1 warn us of? Those who give approval to such things. The argument that says sin should be allowed as a choice is specious on it’s face. Sin, my friends, is sin. Saying a certain sin is permissible shows something of our willingness to compromise the truth of God. Also, it shows what our view of truth really is. From where it is derived. Does that not sound like subjectivism? A relativistic view of man-derived truth, with no stable foundation? I can’t see it in any other way. The original poster, (in her request that I no longer comment on her blog) had this to say; “All I’m going to say here right now is that I continue to celebrate the difference of opinion we can have in our country. And that truly we are all different and I’d rather be accepting of that fact rather than spend time arguing, especially in the presence of people who don’t ascribe to our certain choice of belief. I don’t think we shed light by tossing Scripture (or Tertullian) back and forth between us.” She refers to the fact that I quoted Tertullian’s indictment (in his Apology) of the Roman practice of the abandonment of unwanted infants to the elements, and noted elsewhere that it made her think. I truly hope it did.. He also had a bit to say about abortion – and my point was that it was considered barbarous behavior 1800 years ago – yet we consider it somehow appropriate today. This is progress?

I’d like to examine the inherent presuppositions in her statement above. What I find interesting, first, is her equation of opinions to moral judgment. Is morality truly nothing more than an “opinion”, comparable to one’s like or dislike for, say, lemon meringue pie? Should the fact that people think morality is merely an opinion be celebrated? Then, take her next statement into consideration. Shall we, in fact, accept that simply because some people reject God, are hostile to God, and sin against God, this is ample excuse to refrain from casting down the strongholds we are commanded to throw down, erected against the knowledge of God? Then, examine this innocuous-sounding phrase; “our certain choice of belief”. Ignoring, for a moment, that “certain”, definitionally, means “true, sure, settled” – certanus – do we really “choose” our belief? Is not faith a gift of God, as Scripture says? Do we, and I’ll be intentional – choose our epistemology as if choosing a hat? Isn’t that the very thing in contention? Whether it’s possible, whether we should? I think that we can find the crux of the matter right here. The underlying assumption is that we simply choose to believe this way – and others do not. Therefore, there is no inherent superiority to our belief – we just chose it, after all. It isn’t as if it’s intrinsically true. Therein lies the problem. This woman has ceded the grounds of truth to man, and removed it from the feet of God. She is not interested in God’s truth – at least not in practice. The last comment is particularly revealing as well.

“I don’t think we shed light by tossing Scripture (or Tertullian) back and forth between us.” This is a breathtakingly plain indictment of the grounds for her conception of truth. Scripture is not the only sure source of divinely revelatory truth to man, and for man. It is not the sole means whereby we may know God, and His requirements for us. It is merely something to be “tossed” – not “The Truth,” but merely “a truth” – for, and it is very apparent, there is no truth with a capital to her, and it saddens me to see it. I’ve been to her house, we’ve shared time together, and she’s been friends with my wife a decade and a half. She, however, is not seeing the Word as what it truly is. “the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left”.

The Word is our only source of truth – the Sword of the Spirit. Living and active and sharper than an
y two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. That is what the Word is. I truly grieve that she does not see it as such – and she will see this post – and my hope is that she may, perhaps, be shown to the Word by it. I pray that thereby the Lord may open her eyes as to the nature of what she dismisses in favor of a merely temporal ruler, and for the opinions of men, who relegate the divine Word to merely another opinion. I’m sorry, but it’s anything but opinion. The Gospel – and the Word which proclaims it, that we may proclaim it in turn, is an exclusive Gospel. It is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. I can only pray, and I hope you pray with me, that all of the temporal fluff that obscures the truth of the Word’s centrality will be revealed to us all more and more – and to her most of all. We cannot compromise our view of Scripture, and subject it to mere opinion, as if it has no more worth than the bare estimation of man. Scripture is God-breathed, and we must treat it as such.


Always Ready Study – Part 4

My apologies to those who have been waiting on me to post the next installment.

This study is part 4, and was limited to Paul and myself. I hope you enjoy it and are able to gain a further understanding of Presuppositional Apologetics by listening in!

— BK

Always Ready – Part 4


Choosing Hats Welcomes Razors Kiss

The team here at Choosing Hats has been exceedingly busy as of late. Lord willing, I will be getting married this coming Saturday, November 8th to my dream girl. Planning for the event has been anything but a dream.

Meanwhile Brian is working on his business in addition to his regular job while keeping up with his responsibilities as an elder in his church and as a father at home. Both Paul and Ragnar have been preoccupied with other things as well, such as school.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are all still just as committed to this project as we were when we started. There are some big plans brewing beneath the surface of the blog. However, the next few months will consist of a significantly smaller amount of time in which to work on our contributions to the blog. Nevertheless, we will do the best we can to finish series, create new installments of the podcast, and update regularly with new material. Please continue to visit, spread the word about us, and most importantly, keep us in your prayers.

In light of our collective situation we have decided to add an additional member to our team. We are glad to have our friend Razors Kiss join us at Choosing Hats. Razors Kiss is an extremely gifted thinker and apologist. He is patient and well-versed in debate and is a welcome addition to Choosing Hats.

You may visit RK’s site (pertaining to a variety of interests) here – http://www.razorskiss.net/

We look forward to RK’s contributions to the blog in the not-too-distant future and hope that they will be beneficial to you.


Richard Dawkins Lecture Commentary

This commentary was written shortly after having attended the Dawkins lecture in 2006. I have never viewed the recording of the lecture, otherwise I may take issue with some of the things I wrote in my comments on the lecture.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe7yf9GJUfU&hl=en&fs=1]

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On October 23, a Monday night, I had the privilege of attending a Richard Dawkins lecture at Randolph Macon Women’s College. I found Dawkins to be a very talented speaker and storyteller, and a man who, for the most part, follows through on what he believes. Dawkins has somewhat of a bad name in some circles because of his tendency to come out and say what he wants to say, but I find this to be a result of honesty and consistency rather than anything else less desirable. Dawkins made his points rather clearly. He was easy to understand and humorous. During the Question and Answer period, I was impressed with his patience and civility towards those posing questions to him, usually with the intent of stumping him or refuting his belief system.

That is, of course, what he has. Richard Dawkins adheres to a system of beliefs. He would not like this, as he does not distinguish between blind faith and reasonable faith (I am using belief here in the same sense as faith). Dr. Dawkins remains consistent with his atheist worldview further than many other atheists do, but nowhere near as far as he should remain consistent in order to convince the discerning Christian that there is no God, something which Dawkins claims is almost entirely certain.

Dr. Dawkins is not an irreligious man. He addressed this right away, claiming that he is, in fact, an irreligious man. However, Dawkins wears colored glasses like all of the rest of us, governed in his reasoning and actions just as the rest of us are. His ultimate presupposition is that of autonomous human reasoning. This necessarily excludes the alleged neutrality and objectivity that so many want to claim for themselves, as well as any epistemological, ethical, or scientific succcess.

Yet, Richard Dawkins is a well known intellectual, civil, biologist. How is this resolved? Quite easily, once it is realized that the presupposition of human autonomy in matters of knowing, morals, and induction cannot support the weight of its own worldview. Atheists (and all other non-Christians), must necessarily borrow from the Christian worldview in order to render anything intelligible at all. Dr. Dawkins is no different. He has an unregenerate person’s knowledge of God, and must start from this presupposition rather than his own in order to accomplish what he does. The careful reader will note that this means Dr. Dawkins knows and shows that God exists even in the midst of arguing against His existence. It is a self-defeating endeavor from the very start.

Consider, for example, Dawkins’ complaints against the character of the Christian God. He picks through the Old Testament, pulling out instances of God acting unjustly, at least in his own view. This is rather problematic for Dawkins though. While he abhors God and insults Him (in Dawkin’s own words) because he finds God to be an immoral and unjust God, he has no platform from which to shout such insults against God. Certainly we could understand conventional moral values arising from the process of evolution since we all presumably share the same ancestry, but this does not explain from whence the actual value of the values comes from. Ought cannot be derived from is. Dawkins is well aware of this, but did a poor job of addressing the problem when questioned on it. He seems to think that we all (regardless of beliefs) share such problems, but this could not be further from the truth. By rejecting the existence of the Christian God a person rejects along with Him any claim to some sort of universal and binding justice or moral good. Dawkins has to be inconsistent with his belief system and borrow the Christian presupposition of the Christian God in order to even argue the way He does. Yet once he has done this God is shown to be there, and his arguments are shown to be faulty, whether or not we point out the specific fallacies in them or not. In his case, the specific fallacies usually involve misconstruing the nature of God thus not taking into account how such a God can and should act in order to act justly for any given situation.

We may also take a brief look at the way Dr. Dawkins explains induction. Induction requires the assumption of the uniformity of nature. The Christian has a reason to adhere to this principle, for God is sovereign and brings about all things according to the purpose of His will. Dawkins must simply assume the uniformity of nature. This is rather fideistic, arbitrary, and thus absolutely unwarranted from within the confines of his worldview which starts with the presupposition of the autonomy of humanity. Dawkins may, I think, be leaning towards an axiomatic acceptance of the uniformity of nature, but this again hardly accounts for why he should accept it at all. All attempts to solve this problem have failed, aside from the presupposition of the Christian God. This is precisely what Dawkins must borrow in order to reason in this fashion. Again, Dawkins has an unregenerate person’s knowledge of God, and it shows in his behavior.

Somewhat disturbing is this idea that Dawkins holds to where he has faith in nothing at all. Presumably, Dawkins believes reason to be the only or correct way to come to a bit of knowledge. As has been shown rather easily in the past though, this is a completely unwarranted and incoherent assumption. If we were to say, “We should only adhere to what reason brings us to” or something along those lines, we would only have what our own reason dictates to us. Why should we trust our own reasoning though? Why should we only adhere to what reason brings us to? Should we do so because our reason dictates it? Rationalism ends up in circles. By this line of reasoning, Dawkins again ends up accepting everything that he does based totally on faith. This is not a reasonable faith at all, but a blind and arbitrary one. Such is the end result of a commitment to human autonomy.

Dawkins is either a Fideist or a Theist. The first option does not account for anything; indeed cannot. The second falls right in line with what Christian Scripture teaches, namely that all of humanity knows that God exists and knows His nature. Dawkins must fight awfully hard…awfully hard in order to suppress this all encompassing truth. In the end, he fails, just as all other non-Christians do. He manages only to testify to the existence and glory of God. It is sad, very sad, that Richard Dawkins will not recognize this, feel the magnitude of his sinfulness, and repent, turning to Christ Jesus for salvation and life.


Letter To A Common Naturalistic Atheist Part 3

I recently found this response to an “atheist” man I was having a discussion with long ago. It is unedited, and therefore may not make sense in some places. Hopefully it will be useful to you in some way none the less.

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Now, you claim to know that animals cannot talk, and I have asked for you to explain how it is you can know this. The first thing you say in regards to this is that we have no evidence that miracles of a supernatural nature can occur. Hopefully you see that this begs the question though, because if miracles have happened, then we do have evidence that miracles of a supernatural nature can occur. In Scripture we have such evidence. It is invalid (circular) reasoning to reject that evidence by saying that we have no such evidence. You have not told me how you can know that animals cannot talk. You also say that if you accepted the miracles of the Bible, then you would have no reason to not accept the miracles of the Koran as well. You ask if you should believe in the other virgin births of mythology. Well, perhaps you should, but we cannot know without taking them each within their own proper context. I do not believe the Koran to be what it says it is and have good reason not to. According to Surah 42.11 Allah is incomparable and so transcendent that human language cannot describe him. So then, if we accept the truth of the Koran we must accept that it cannot be the revelation of Allah. It is a self-refuting book. I do not accept the virgin births in other religions because they contradict conclusions drawn through inductive reasoning. You will ask if miracles in Christianity do the same thing, and I will answer that without Scripture we have no basis upon which to draw any conclusions through induction, since only the Christian God controls everything that comes about through His own will and He makes this known to us. There is reason to hold that the future will resemble the past, and thus reason to rest upon induction, but only within the Christian worldview.

You will need to be more specific about the many alleged similarities between Christian doctrine and other beliefs from the Christian and pre-Christian time period. Even if these similarities are granted, I do not see how it invalidates the claims of Christianity in any way, shape, or form. Should I assume that since my Mach 1 shares parts with a Cobra neither of them exist? This concern does not make a lot of sense to me. Anyway, there are significant problems with some of the myth theories about Christianity.

As for the definition of “love”, I have not changed it. It is what Scripture says it is. Attempting to apply an unbiblical definition of it to the Bible and then concluding that the Bible is wrong is methodologically problematic. Now it might help for me to say that hatred goes necessarily along with love. If God loves the good, and He does, then He also hates evil, and He does. God is love, and God is the standard of justice. I find no such objective standard of either love or justice outside of Christianity, so to judge Christianity from presumably non-Christian standards is again problematic, and I would say much more than that, impossible. To help you understand the thing with Adam and Eve the way I do; if your Grandfather had done something stupid which winded up getting him killed before he ever was able to do what was necessary for your Father’s birth, then you would not be alive. Such is the case with Adam and Eve, for when they disobeyed God they brought sin into the world of humanity. This resulted in their spiritual death, and it affects all of their descendents just as in the illustration with your Grandfather. Of course, we may say that if we were in that position we would not have done the same thing, but this is highly unlikely, especially in light of the fact that we continue to sin every day, if not every moment, of our lives. The reason that the perfect Word of God is not perfectly understood is not because of God, it is because of us. As we have just examined, we are sinful, and so sinful that our epistemology is affected by our sin and disables us from always having a perfect understanding of Scripture. God is a perfect communicator, but humanity does not always want to accept what He has to say.


Letter To A Common Naturalistic Atheist Part 2

I recently found this response to an “atheist” man I was having a discussion with long ago. It is unedited, and therefore may not make sense in some places. Hopefully it will be useful to you in some way none the less.

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I agree that lying is wrong, but I do not think that we have a reason in common at all as to why we both think that lying is wrong. I believe that lying is wrong because God, who is Truth, is offended by lying. He commands us to be truthful as He is; lying goes against His moral will. We know this from His Word. Now you ask me if I really need an explanation from you as to why you think that lying is wrong. My answer is that yes, I do. This is what I am trying to explain; even something as seemingly simplistic as saying that “lying is wrong” cannot be justified by any other presupposition than that of the Christian God. I do not find your reason for thinking that lying is wrong to be very persuasive. Given your presuppositions, I can think of any number of situations where lying would in fact be in an individual’s best interest, contrary to what you say. The reason given for why it is in our best interest to not lie is that we must have respect for each other. This just pushes the problem back though, because now you are saying that it is wrong to disrespect others. Why is it wrong to disrespect others? Now from here you do move into a more complex explanation of morality which seems to rest upon the assumption that morality stems from a desire to have the greatest number of people as happy as they can be. Correct me if I am wrong, because again I do not want to create a straw man and knock it down.

Assuming that I am right though, your ethical theory appeals to the idea that whatever action or rule brings about the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people is right, and whatever does not is wrong. There are numerous problems with this theory. The idea that happiness is the best consequence of a moral action may neglect consideration of other good consequences. Also, happiness may not be the greatest good. You differentiate between right and wrong actions based upon the idea that happiness for the greatest number is supremely good as far as consequences go, but the theory fails to account for this governing assumption. There is also no way to calculate all of the effects a certain action will have. So you are in some epistemological trouble. To answer this by saying that all effects need not be calculated to ascertain the pleasantness of the results of an action does not solve the problem, for one is left wondering if there are any unknown effects that would cause an action to be wrong rather than right (or the opposite). There also appears to be no way to draw a line between which effects should be considered and which should not, other than arbitrary opinions. Your theory also relies heavily upon the idea that the future will resemble the past, even so much as to provide us with a basis for making correct moral decisions. This assumption appears to be difficult, if not impossible to justify. What is disturbing in a different way is that happiness might come through a series of morally disturbing events, or at the expense of the happiness of a great number of people. Thus actions that many (perhaps including even you) would at the least intuitively consider to be wrong are considered necessary and ethically right actions to be performed in order to bring about the desired result of happiness for the greatest number of people. So honesty, compassion, understanding and tolerance sound like beautiful positive moral values, but I still see no reason to accept them as such within your own worldview. However, I have a reason to love and cherish and strive to live my life by these values within my own worldview, which is Christian. Now I am not saying that you do not love, cherish, or strive to live by these. It is obvious that you try to be a good person. What I am saying is that I do not really see a motivation from within your own worldview to do so, nor do I see any way you can justify the assumption that these are right and that something like lying would be wrong. I have justifiable reasons to be concerned with what is going on in the Middle East. I do not see where you at all do, if you stick with following through on your own worldview.

The Bible is inerrant since God, who cannot lie, moved men by His Holy Spirit to record what we have in what is now known as the Holy Bible. So then, the Bible does support inerrancy. I am not sure what “The Christian Apologetics Handbook” says about inerrancy. It could be that this book does not give good arguments for inerrancy, I do not know. I know several of the philosophy, theology, and apologetics professors over at Liberty on a personal level (though I must make it clear that I do not attend there) and I have not heard of this book being required for one of the classes. However, I have no reason to doubt your claim, because Intro to Philosophy is now required there as a Gen. Ed. course and there are a large number of philosophy professors. Are you perhaps referring to the book written by Kreeft and Tacelli? Of course I have read Matthew 1 and Luke 3 many times before and I am not sure what you are taking issue with there. You will have to be more specific as to what these passages have to do with arguments for or against inerrancy.

You can feel free to recommend whatever books you would like to me and I will read them if time and interest permit. I must warn you that I am not especially interested in politics. I hope you will not assume that I do not read any literature that is from a different worldview than my own. I just recently finished reading the Bhagavad-Gita and Violence and Compassion which is the transcript of an interview with the Dalai Lama. I am currently about half way through Ishmael. As far as what I would recommend that you read…well I feel a bit strange recommending that you read anything, but obviously Christian Scripture would be most important. Read the New Testament.


Letter To A Common Naturalistic Atheist Part 1

I recently found this response to an “atheist” man I was having a discussion with long ago. It is unedited, and therefore may not make sense in some places. Hopefully it will be useful to you in some way none the less.

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It is interesting that you credit your newfound interest and understanding of philosophy to your “conversion” to atheism. I suppose the opposite sort of thing has occurred in my experience. That is, before I started living my life with a real acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I cared little for matters of truth and philosophy. My conversion has resulted in a hunger for the Word of God, and stemming from this an interest in all things academic. I never knew before how very important education is to God. I returned to school at my old community college and brought my GPA from a 1.49 to a 3.6 by the grace of God, and recently transferred to a private liberal arts school to begin double majoring in Philosophy and Religion.

We are not capable of being objective so far as we would most likely normally suppose. Take your atheism for example. Atheism, and even more evidently your assumption that all things are natural, do not allow for any sort of “objective” investigation of either the Word of God or His world. At the back of all of your reasoning is the presupposition that you are an autonomous human being, meaning in this context that you possess an ability to set yourself over against the Christian God as the final authority in matters of truth and reasoning. Now, all of us have to use our reasoning of course, and there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, contrary to what many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians tell us by their words and behavior, God encourages the use of reason that He has given to us (having been created in His image). We can, must, and should use our reason; this is not what I mean by autonomy. It is when we assume that we are able to use our reasoning independently of God that we commit sin, and are incapable of rendering things intelligible upon our own presupposition of human autonomy in reason. The claim to objectivity and/or neutrality regarding the subject of the existence of God assumes from the outset that God does not exist. God tells us in His Word that Scripture is His Word, that everyone believes in Him, that it is futile and foolish to do otherwise, and that there is abundant and plain evidence for His existence. When atheists set themselves up as a final authority to deliberate between the options of acceptance and rejection of these claims of God, they set themselves in the place of God and so sin against Him. This does not put a non-Christian on very good terms with God. From the outset then you are turned against Him, unable to have objectivity regarding the subject. Now it is important to note that I do not pretend to posses any sort of neutrality or objectivity regarding the subject either. I interpret evidence based upon my presuppositions just as you do. It does not follow from this that we cannot communicate about the subject. We should be able to do so by looking at who adheres to those presuppositions which alone can account for things such as logic, morality, induction and redemption and who adheres to those presuppositions which yield contradictions, incoherency, detachment from objective reality and a need to borrow from another worldview in order to render anything intelligible.

You state that everything that exists does so within nature. You adhere to an atheistic, naturalistic worldview. Everything is material. If it is not material, it does not exist. As has been explained already, this is a presupposition. You say that you are justified in holding this position because everything understood in science demonstrates that everything that exists does so within nature. The trouble is that if we assume that science deals with those things natural and nothing else (which is not necessarily true, but that is not important right now) then obviously anything supernatural is outside of the scope of science and science so narrowly defined will deal with only natural explanations. It is like me favoring the use of my eyes for sensory data and then assuming that anything I cannot see does not exist. You assume that science must deal with only material things, see that science only tells us about material things, and then conclude from this that only material things exist. It would be a silly thing for me to say that only what my eyes can see exists, would you not agree? Science is a wonderful way of obtaining knowledge about the natural world, but it quite possibly has nothing to say about the supernatural world and further it is without a doubt not the only means by which we may obtain knowledge. I agree that just because there are some things we cannot currently explain through science it does not mean that there will not be some explanation forthcoming. However, we should be very careful about relying upon blind faith in science by saying that maybe sometime in the future there will be a scientific answer to problem x. I realize that you will say it is not blind faith since we have seen science answer questions before, but this just blindly assumes again that the current problem x has some sort of scientific explanation, and there is no way to know that. Perhaps it is wise for us to deal with information that we do know, rather than looking to some future explanation that may never come. It is also advantageous to remember that there are many things we know we cannot explain through science. For example, how do we know that science is the only way or the best way to knowledge? It is impossible to scientifically justify science. Its validity rests upon a great many assumptions that are outside of the field of science.

This helps us when we come to your problems with belief in God. For example, you may say that you base what you believe upon what is rationally verifiable, but by this you must mean what is verifiable through scientific means. If this is not what you mean then I apologize, I do not want to make a caricature of your position, but I do not see what else you might be referring to. You say that you do not believe that there is a God because you see no rational reason to believe in anything not bound by the laws of nature, but this appeals to your naturalistic presuppositions which are, again, unjustified as far as I can tell. Certainly if we take “rational reason” to mean “those reasons which can be obtained through naturalistic science” then God might not be the end result. This is to commit a category fallacy though. If I want to listen to Mozart I do not use my eyes. We do not come to the knowledge of God through studying the composition of a rock (although there is a sense in which we do, which I might explain later). We cannot answer all questions in the same way, by the same methods, etc. You are correct that an immaterial, non-corporeal, etc. God cannot be verified through naturalistic science. This presents no problem for my worldview. Naturalistic science is not the only way to obtain knowledge.

I am not sure why your study of the Bible and how it was compiled renders you incapable of believing in God except for that you interpret evidence based upon your presupposition of human autonomy. My study of the Bible and how it was compiled only builds my faith up. Reading and hearing the Word of God and seeing how God in His sovereignty has delivered His Word down through history to us both supports my presupposition of the God of Christian Scripture and excites me. Obviously the so called Abrahamic faiths have a similar origin, Islam and Judaism being Christian heresies. For whatever reason most people do not recognize this though.


Faith and Final Authority

There are some things we must believe before we are able to make sense of anything at all.
In the Spring of 2008, I had the privilege of having dinner with a few public figures right outside of Washington D.C. One such figure whom I had the privilege of dining with was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (pictured above). The Supreme Court is considered the highest court in the land. One may appeal his or her case up to a higher court until the Supreme Court is reached. At that point, there is no higher court to appeal to. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority for the USA. There is no going above Supreme Court ruling. You can only appeal that far. It is the final authority.

Everyone has things that he or she thinks are true. For example, you may think that there is a computer in front of you right now. Maybe you are not on a computer, but access the Internet through a mobile device. You may even be reading this after having printed it. None of that matters. The point is that you believe you are reading this right now. If I were to ask you about why you believe this, you would appeal to something else to explain your belief. Perhaps you would mention that you see the text in front of you. If you were pressed further, you might mention that you believe you see the text because you trust your senses to be reliable. You may be pushed for a further response and say that you think your mind is able to correctly interpret what your senses are telling it.

So, if I were to ask you about C, you would appeal to B. If I wanted to know why you believed B, then you would appeal to A. This could go on for a long time, but it cannot go on forever. Everyone has to stop somewhere. Eventually you will reach your highest authority and be unable to go any further back, just like the situation with the Supreme Court. There is always a highest court of appeals.

Some people take their highest court to be their own reason; their thought processes are said to be the final authority. Why do these people take reason to be their highest authority though? Is it because their reason tells them to? This, of course, is circular reasoning. This final authority, or highest court of appeals, is accepted on faith.

Some people take their highest authority to be the senses. If the highest court of appeals is the senses, then there is nothing else to appeal to higher than the senses. The reliability of the senses will have to be accepted on faith.

The same holds true for every final authority. There are some things we have to believe before we can make sense of anything else. Some people accept their reasoning on faith. Some people accept their senses on faith. There are other positions as well. Some people say that they reject all of these final authorities, which dumps them into the endless chasm of skepticism or subjectivism. These people claim to know nothing at all, or claim that they know whatever they feel like knowing. Both of these positions obviously have some very serious problems. The most significant problem with them is that people are able to function in the world and to make sense of things. This means that ultimately, people have a highest court of appeals, a final authority, a presupposition.

As Christians we take as our presupposition the truth that God has revealed Himself to us through the Christ of Scripture. From this faith commitment we are able to derive an entire system of knowing other things. We are not just limited to what can be known in Scripture, but rather are able to take the principles taught in Scripture as a basis for knowing everything else we are able to know as well. Rejecting the Christian presupposition is placing oneself above God and results in foolishness. (Psalm 14.1; Proverbs 1.7) There are no successful objections to the Christian faith when it is properly understood and taken as a whole. Meanwhile, the rejection of Christian presuppositions results in self-defeating skepticism or subjectivism as the history of philosophy has adequately shown.

How can people who claim that God does not exist still know things then? How can non-Christians make sense of things? What about very intelligent non-Christians? What about all the good things non-Christians have been able to bring about for society? What sort of answers could we possibly conjour up in response to these probing questions?

To begin with, no one has denied that non-Christians know things, make sense of things, can be intelligent, and do things that are beneficial to society. In fact, our whole argument rests upon these things being true. No one is denying that non-Christians are capable of knowledge, rationality, intelligence, etc. However, we are denying that non-Christians are capable of these things upon their non-Christian presuppositions. The only reason people are able to still make sense of anything at all is because this is God’s world and we are God’s creatures. Those who claim to reject the existence of the Christian God (please note, this includes many more people than just “atheists”) are still able to function in the world because they borrow from Christian presuppositions. Our job as apologists is to point these things out. Christianity is the only system of thought which is able to render things intelligible upon its own presuppositions.

This, I think, is the presuppositional understanding of things in a nutshell.


Homosexuality and Abduction

Quite a while back I entered into a conversation concerning homosexuality which had been going on for some time before I arrived. The nature of the disagreement was such that the “facts” being thrown back and forth were not solving anything. The issue was, as it is always, presuppositional. Hence, the conversation was turned toward the subject of abduction. I have removed comments that others were making during the exchange, and have edited obvious grammatical and spelling errors. It was rather difficult to have this conversation in a setting like the one it took place in, but I think that the previous “scientific” claims about homosexuality were undermined by what this individual had to say in response to my challenge. This post picks up the conversation at the point I entered in and challenged the presuppositions of the unbeliever. Those who do not understand the language used in this exchange may benefit from what someone posted during the course of the conversation:

“Abduction, or inference to the best explanation, is a method of reasoning in which one chooses the hypothesis that would, if true, best explain the relevant evidence. The term abduction is also sometimes used to just mean the generation of hypotheses to explain observations or conclusions, but the former definition is more common both in philosophy and computing.”

Chris: There is no telos in naturalistic evolution. There is also no reason to think we can trust our reason. Nor is there reason to trust that scientists are being ethical and not just lying to us. Nor is there any reason to suppose the future will resemble the past.
Tim: Great Chris, you would like to deny induction. The reason is utilitarian pragmatism.
Chris: Excuse me? I never denied induction.
Tim: Yes you did. You just said “there is no reason to suppose the future will resemble the past”.
Chris: Within your view of things, Tim.
Tim: You would like to deny induction in certain circumstances, is that better? Well, you just did.
Chris: Wrong. I do not deny induction. You are forced to within your view.
Tim: Okay great. So there is good reason to assume the future will operate similar to the past.
Chris: And what is that?
Tim: I’m not making that claim, Chris, I’m modifying the position I believe you are holding since you said you don’t deny induction.
Chris: Right, okay.
Tim: Kind of an interesting tangent…from homosexuality to induction.
Chris: Not really since it is foundational. Are you Popperian?
Tim: That’s a strange term, but I do agree with much of what Popper said. I’m not an expert on his views, I just covered them when studying philosophy of science.
Chris: Not a strange term at all. Pretty common actually. Do you believe that science operates with induction or deduction?
Tim: I don’t like name-based labels, when it’s the concepts that are important. Just like I assume you don’t call yourself a Newtonian, although I assume you recognize certain areas of physics. Science informally operates inductively, but formally operates deductively.
Chris: Which means what?
Tim: I will explain. In informal language, scientists often talk about future applications of theories, etc., and assume that the universe operates uniformly. However, theories are based solely on deductive reasoning. So induction is assumed, but not necessary.
Chris: So we cannot know that theories will apply again in the future?
Tim: Nope.
Chris: Then you are using hypothetico deductivism, not induction.
Tim: Chris: If we knew they’d apply, they wouldn’t be theories. They’d be proofs.
Chris: So you have no reason to think that the next time you type there will be characters on the screen. Yet you do. Which is irrational.
Tim: Well, abductively I can reason that there will be characters, but I can’t prove it. I apply abductive reasoning.
Chris: Abduction is just a reformulation of induction. And IBE as well.
Tim: No it is not.
Chris: It still assumes regularity. And I see no reason to do that in your view.
Tim: a) No it doesn’t. b) Why?
Chris: Okay, explain abductive reasoning to me.
Tim: An inference to the best explanation is dependant on the preconceptions of the one making the inference. In other words, the best explanation could be one of non-uniformity. There’s no necessary “it must assume regularity” premise to abduction, although certainly the laws of logic would be appealed to.
Chris: How do you determine what is the best explanation?
Tim: Whichever one is best able to explain the observations, with the least number of undefined variables.
Chris: But how do you determine which one is best able to?
Tim: Well, by that standard I just typed.
Chris: You just repeated the same thing.
Tim: “Best” essentially means “efficient”. Repeated the same thing? No I didn’t. I used the word “best” twice, so you assume I’m appealing to a tautology, let me reword it.
Tim: If the explanation was merely a repetition of the term, then it’s tautological.
Chris: I would call it begging the question…but moving on. I think that to talk of a “best” explanation you must appeal to past experience.
Tim: Well if that were true, Chris, it would be impossible to create any explanations since no human has an infinite regress of experiences.
Chris: lol My point exactly! Uh…actually you would not need an infinite regress.
Tim: Your points exactly? I’m disagreeing that an explanation requires experience.
Chris: An IBE necessarily appeals to some assumption of regularity.
Tim: Although, I guess one could argue that some experience (although unrelated) is necessary to operate intelligently, assuming they take a foundationalist view of epistemology.
Chris: I’ll cite Oxford, Philosophy of Science on this as well as Chalmers, What Is this Thing Called Science?
Tim: Science IS subjective.
Chris: I win.
Tim: You win?
Tim: What have you won?
Tim: Do you deny that ALL observations are made by our ability to perceive?
Chris: No, I don’t.
Tim: Are you going to appeal to some mystical theory of scientific epistemology?
Chris: Nope.
Tim: Well, you seemed to cheer “I won” after I stated that science is subjective.
Tim: Great, everyone is stating that Chris wins without stating how or why. Shall I invite some friends in the room to tell me that I won?
Chris: I have an answer to the problem Tim, you are reduced to subjectivism.
Chris: Dawkins would hate you.
Chris: But anyway, I’m going to take a break.
Tim: Chris: you have an answer?
Chris: Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” (NASB)

If I find a note at home on the table, I do not assume it is from a cat. It is from another human. That is the best explanation, and it is based on past experience. Hence Inference to Best Explanation relies on regularities in nature which a non-Christian cannot justify.

God sustains the world, imposing order upon it which results in regularities that make inductive practices possible. The immutable God has decreed every event in time and we therefore act as rational creatures when we take this into account and assume temporal regularity for induction. Meanwhile, the unbeliever can assert things about the objective scientific status of homosexuality until he is blue in the face; he will end up in the kind of bind this fellow fell into. Expect much more on this subject at a much later date.