Sunday, June 28, 2015

Are scientists more valuable than people in the humanities?

D. H. Mellor says no.

Does Same-Sex Marriage Leave Marriage Intact?

The picture many of us have of same-sex marriage is that homosexual couples will be doing the same thing as heterosexuals, but with the same-sex partner to which they are attracted, as opposed to an opposite-sex partner. For at least many gay activists, this is perceived as stifling and limiting. At one point I had the idea that same-sex marriage might be a good thing because it would push gay people in the direction of lifelong faithfulness and discourage promiscuity. Many in the gay community don't want to be pushed in that direction, however.

This is an admittedly pro-family site, but the question still arises.

But I wonder if people in the gay Christian community react this way.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What is the characteristic blindness of our age?

When we read the writings coming from previous centuries, we say "Typical Victorian. Typical Medieval. Typical eighteenth-century." But then we have to start wondering what the characteristic blindness of our age is. We can see the problems with other ages because we aren't in them and we haven't absorbed the typical prejudices of that time. We have, however, absorbed the typical prejudices of our time, and those are hard to see. How much of what we say is going to be read by people in the future as "sooo early twenty-first century?" That's what C. S. Lewis talks about in his introduction to a fourth-century theological treatise:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

From diversity to accepting racism: a paradox

If you accept diversity, shouldn't you accept the racist, too? Being a racist is one more way of being diverse?

What does it mean to judge someone?

A redated post.

What does it mean to judge someone? Is it to form an opinion concerning the rightness of an act that someone performed? Or is it to form an opinion regraded the character of the person who performed that act?

If we are talking about the first concept, then if we have a moral standard that proscribes actions that other frequently perform, then we end up often judging others. But I don't see anything wrong with "judging" in that sense. The idea that we have to dumb down all standards of morality for fear of being guilty of judging others seems to me to be ridiculous (though popular). It is more difficult to draw inferences concerning the character of others, however, and so there is a reason to refrain from making these sorts of judgments. But very often we are told we ought not to judge, which ends up meaning we ought not to hold moral standards that would result in our disapproving of the conduct of others.

Larry Gilman objects to my argument


Lewis’s “Argument from Reason” gives me that fishy feeling I have whenever someone tries to get the jump on science by the power of pure reason.  As I learned from reading Lewis himself, logic only tells you that if you have one penny in a drawer and put another in, there must be two pennies in the drawer; it doesn’t and can’t tell you whether there is a penny in the drawer.  To know that, you must look.  Logic alone, no matter how pure, no matter how apparently compelling, can never tell us what is physically real, in a bureau, in a brain, or anywhere else.  We must look, and that looking we call “science.”  Lewis and Reppert, in effect, rule on what science can find before science has looked — whereupon I cry Foul.  Lewis even thought he could exclude a purely naturalistic, evolutionary origin for the human brain on the strength of the Argument from Reason (Ch. 3 of Miracles).  That’s an awful lot of biological history to settle without leaving one’s easy chair.  But despite my gripes, I think that the Argument from Reason draws attention to a fascinating and knotty class of problems.  If it were reclassified as the Problem of Reason, I would have no quarrel with it.

But my argument does not directly conclude that naturalism is false. What it concludes is that it cannot both be the case that the world is naturalistic AND that we make the rational inferences that constitute the scientific enterprise. There are two possible worlds, one with scientists in it which is not naturalistic, and a world without scientists which is naturalistic. Science is not a presupposition-free enterprise, it presuppose that there are scientists and that scientists do infer conclusions based on evidence. 

And, many people think that science is only allowed to appeal to materialistic explanations, otherwise it isn't science. That seems also to be deciding scientific questions without actually doing the science. 

Mavrodes' moral argument

Mavrodes' argument from the queerness of morality. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

God is not willing that any should perish

This post from ten years ago has been getting some attention from a whole new set of commentators, so I am redating it.

One of my firmest theological convictions is that a perfectly good God would do everything possible to enable people to be saved. A God who, before the foundation of the world, determines that some will suffer everlasting punishment, simply because this would be to his own greater glory (why would it be to his own greater glory anyway?) is as God whose motivations I absolutely do not understand. It isn't just that there is something mysterious here, it is that this kind of conduct is completely opposed to any ethical values that come from God's own commandments. God expects people to care deeply about the salvation of the people of the world, yet God could save a lot of people but just decides not to? Imagine the tortures of the Nazis extended through all of eternity. To say that this kind of torment will go on not because the damned make choices that make it impossible for God to save them, but rather simply because God has chosen this fate for them, is to attribute to God characterstics that, to my mind, conflict utterly and totally with the character of God revealed in Christ. The Bible does not say "For God so loved the elect, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." And so when I read "God is not willing that any should perish" in II Peter 3:9, I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, I believe it, that settles it.

But Scripture also seems to indicate that the way people come to be saved is by being evangelized. They come to salvation by hearing the Good News of Christ and believing. And if this is how God saves people, then it seems that an Omnipotent being is, in the face of things, slacking on the job of bringing people into his Kingdom. I know that there is a lot of evangelism going on. But if we make the assumption that the people who die without accepting the evangelistic message have been lost, while those who have accepted it have been saved, we reach some disturbing conclusions. If Satan wants everyone to be lost, and God wants everyone to be saved, then Satan is winning the numbers game. This two-bit fallen angel (everyone is two-bit compared to the Almighty) is getting more people into his kingdom that the Omnipotent one is getting into his. And this can get really upsetting for Evangelicals who have to bury their unconverted loved ones, since the most obvious conclusion they have to draw is that the person who has died has gone to hell.

It is here that some kind of second chance after death seems like an appealing idea, an idea fictionalized (but not actually endorsed) in Lewis's The Great Divorce. People can escape hell if they are willing to give up their greatest sins. But I think maybe you can accept the underlying idea here without actually having to believe that there is a real second chance after death. We assume that time works for people who are dying in the same way it works for the rest of us, so if one minute has elapsed when a person has passed into eternity, then presumably that one minute would not be long enough for God to do anything in that person's soul. But do reports of near death experiences, for example, support this idea of simultaneity? Could God pack years of evangelism into those final seconds, and offer everyone a chance to be saved, if only they will give up their most precious sins, while the person is still alive? If this were so, this would reconcile "Salvation only through Christ," "No second chance after death," and "God is not willing that any should perish."

All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

An ethicist's nightmare

There are ethical problems with some research. Let's take, for example, selective breeding of human beings. The issues surrounding racism are made a lot easier by the fact that there is really no such thing as a superior race. But, if we started breeding superior human beings, then there would be a superior race in reality. Then what would our duties of the superior race be to the inferior race? That would be an ethicist's nightmare. 

But a certain famous scientist keeps playing around with the idea. 

Friday, June 05, 2015

Keep your ethics at home

What Milton Friedman says here sounds like what some of you are saying about the photographer case.

Strange bedfellows.