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Monday, February 28, 2011

Grant to ND for Philosophic Theology


From Reformed Philosophy: Good News for Notre Dame:
by Ian M. Church.
Christian Philosophy in General, Relationship between Philosophy and Theology URL: http://wp.me/p9JkY-aL
The University of Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion received 1.3 million dollars from the Templeton Foundation to go towards researching the intersections of philosophy and theology. A brief summary from the Center’s website: “The award is part of a four-year, $5.7 million initiative called ‘Analytic Theology: The Convergence of Philosophy and Theology.’



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Brain, the Mind, and Theism: And John Searle on Watson the Computer Jeopardy Champ Does not "Think"


The Brain Thing

The materialist atheist asserts that the mind is the physical brain; the mind can be reduced to the physical brain tissue and neuro-chemical processes. There are not any nonphysical actions taking place in the human brain. But if the human mind consisted only of hard chemicals and neurons bouncing around in the skull, human thoughts would be no more true or valued than an afternoon tamale food-belch. Both are just chemical reactions. This means that there is no rational reason to count my thoughts more important than a burp; they are just meaningless and empty chemical reactions. This of course is self-voiding. If my thoughts and words are meaningless, then they are not true. Hence my thoughts cannot be meaningless. My thoughts are not just concrete chemical reactions.

A mind, distinct from the brain, destroys the theory of evolution. Evolution materialists do not believe mankind has a spirit. His soul is only “a little wind and smoke.” Research on the brain can lead to the conclusion that the mind is independent of the brain. Some legitimate science has uncovered reasons to believe that life survives the physical death. Some scholars have said that they would “bet yes” that the afterlife is a fact. When one submits to God’s revelation, there is no betting. It is impossible for God and the afterlife that He reveals not to exist. To ask the question about a possible afterlife presupposes that God lives, and His word is true. When the atheist backs up in a conversation and says, “Hold on, I’m searching for a word,” point out the inconsistency. I like to ask them: “Who is searching?” Those who claim that only the physical world exists, and that their mind is just a block of flesh, cannot answer that question. Frequently, they will quickly see their dilemma. Thomas Huxley, in one of his moments of weakness, asked, “How is it that anything so remarkable as the state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is it just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djinn, when Aladdin rubbed his lamp?”

Research has demonstrated that there is a distinction between the mind and the brain. One study had brain surgeons open up the skull of brain surgery patients to expose their gray matter. The researchers then electrically stimulated the area of the brain which lifts the right arm. They stimulated it, and the arm lifted without the patient’s permission. Then the scientists instructed their patients to resist the lifting of the arm when they stimulated the same spot in the brain. They stimulated that area, and all the patients could resist the lifting of their arm. This proved that the mind can control the brain.

Another study, conducted at U.C.L.A., had doctors give depressed patients two sets of pills. One was an antidepressant medicine and the other was a placebo pill. Both groups said they experienced relief of symptoms: 52% of those who received the medication and 38% of those who received the sugar pill. The interesting thing was the discovery that the brain waves, of the placebo-taking patients, acutely changed after taking the fake pill. Their brain chemistry and brain waves were altered without any medication, merely from their own “minds.” The mind controls the gray matter and can change it; the mind is distinct from the brain. The researchers reported that they were “stunned” because there were actual “hardware” changes in the brain, by the power of suggestion. The power of suggestion comes from the mind working the brain. The mind can change and “alter” how the brain works. This is clear evidence that the mind moved the brain and is distinct from the brain tissue. This is proof. Evidence is good, but remember that evidence can be interpreted in ungodly ways.


Searle's commentary on Watson (the IBM Computer Jeopardy Champ) is interesting and is found here:



see my book (God Does Exist!) that proves theism with a section on the mind/brain at:


Atheists and Air: Bahnsen


Greg L. Bahnsen: "Imagine a person who comes in here tonight and argues 'no air exists' but continues to breathe air while he argues. Now intellectually, atheists continue to breathe - they continue to use reason and draw scientific conclusions [which assumes an orderly universe], to make moral judgments [which assumes absolute values] - but the atheistic view of things would in theory make such 'breathing' impossible. They are breathing God's air all the time they are arguing against him."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gene Expression and Theism


Recently a team of researchers examined “the interactions that take place between the gene products of a minimal organism, Mycoplasma pneumoniae. This microbe, one of the simplest known bacteria, is an obligatory parasite that has a reduced genome relying on the biochemistry of the host for many essential biochemical functions. The researchers characterized the interactions of this microbe’s gene products at three levels. The first involved the RNA molecules produced by the genome. RNA molecules play a role in mediating the biochemical expression of the information harbored within genes. The cell’s machinery uses the information in genes to make proteins. But to do so, first requires the production of RNA molecules which transmit information from the genes to ribosomes where the proteins are made. Cell machinery can control the amounts and types of proteins it produces by regulating the amount and types of RNA transcribed from genes. The scientists monitored M. pneumoniae’s production of full sets of RNA molecules under various growth conditions. They were surprised to learn that despite the microbe’s seeming simplicity its pattern for producing RNA molecules is much more intricate and involved than expected, resembling that of complex organisms like plants, fungi, and animals. Additionally, the researchers studied the way the microbe used protein molecules once they were produced at ribosomes. It turns out that individual protein molecules participate in multiple roles in the cell’s operation with some of them taking part in more than one different type of protein complex. The team also examined the metabolic processes of M. pneumonia. They discovered that in many instances the enzymes that carry out the cell’s metabolic activities participate in more than one metabolic route. Though this microorganism has a small genome, it is remarkably flexible in its ability to respond to changes in the environment. This flexibility is possible because of the sophisticated gene expression patterns and the multifarious functions its proteins and enzymes play. The unexpected number of interactions among the biochemical components and systems arises because protein complexes and metabolic pathways share proteins and enzymes, making M. pneumoniae much more complex than its genome size suggests. Most biologists regard the genome size of an organism as a good indication of its complexity. But this new work reveals that such a standard can grossly underestimate complexity. The network of biochemical interaction arising from the shared components of protein complexes and metabolic pathways are more complex than the list of genes in a genome would immediately suggest. The surprising intricacy of even the simplest bacteria creates problems for the evolutionary paradigm. Even in its minimal form, life is unimaginably complex. And this complexity has to be accounted for in all origin-of-life models. In other words, the models must account for the simultaneous occurrence of a relatively large number of gene products, as well as the multifaceted network of interactions the gene products engage in to make life operate at even the most rudimentary of levels. And as I discussed last week, the proteins that take part in these reticulated interactions are also spatially and temporally localized within the cell throughout the course of the cell cycle, further exacerbating the problem for evolutionary explanations of life’s emergence. Complexity, in and of itself, is not evidence for the work of an intelligent Agent, but these latest studies indicate that the immense biochemical complexity of even the simplest microbe reflects order and organization, which are markers for design. Based on these latest results, I think it’s safe to say biochemical complexity far out paces that of women—I just happen to have a better grasp on the previous.” Dr. Fazale ("Fuz") Rana: RTB --------------------------------------


I would add: The triune God alone confers all the pre-essentials for the necessary epistemic equipment utilized in all science and research. God has the ontic attributes of omniscience, immutability, and omnipotence (universal reach) to be the ground for the immaterial universal and immutable rational necessities accessed in scientific pursuits. Any notion that rejects Christian theism cannot be true; thus whatever evidence one discovers, one must discern and process that evidence wth the rational tools furnished by God alone.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Change Essential Terms to Possibly Win Converts? CT


CT discusses the idea of changing important biblical terms to make the Bible message more acceptable for Muslims:





see my Book that refutes Islam as the reader learns the biblical method of evangelism (Puritan and Scripture based).


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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Jay W. Richards: The Untamed God

Analytic philosopher and author of “The Untamed God,” Jay Wesley Richards argues: “To say God is immutable is to say that he does not change or decay like the world and the objects within it. And since the doctrine preserves the contrast between the Creator and the creation, it simultaneously expresses the doctrines of creation, divine aseity, and sovereignty” (Jay W. Richards: The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability, p. 196). “God is eternal not only as everlasting but also as atemporal or time-transcendent” (Jay W. Richards: The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity, and Immutability, p. 203). Jay Richards also debated Hitchens.

Jay W. Richards discusses Modal Logic and S5 and their epistemic relation to the attributes of God in “The Untamed God.”

see my New Book that utilizes recent apologetic advances in arguing for Christian Theism
"Truth, Knowledge, and the Reason for God" at:
www.theLordGodExists.com/

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Right Reason" and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal by Paul Kjoss Helseth: a Book Review



"Right Reason" and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal (Paperback) by Paul K. Helseth. Review by Mike A Robinson.





If irrationalism were a drug, atheists would be high all the time; If right reason were water, some assert that Old Princeton might be a bit bloated for drinking more than the recommended eight glasses. However Paul Kjoss Helseth in "Right Reason and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal" argues the orthodox consensus that the professors at Old Princeton Seminary (1812-1929) abandoned important aspects of traditional Reformed theology, by maintaining that unaided human reason in some features was unaffected by the fall, is not the case.





Woodbridge in the Forward writes that Helseth "calls on readers to reassess the validly of the `orthodox' interpretation regarding Old Princetonians (OP) by giving his own 'unorthodox' proposal a fair hearing" (p. xiii). This could convince the readers that OP "did not betray their Reformed tradition, but amplified it" (p. xiv). He begins his case: "When OP's religious epistemology is interpreted within a context that regards the `faculties' or `powers' of the soul as the function manifestation of a unitary whole rather than essentially autonomous substances that have the ability to act independently of one another, it becomes clear that that OPs were not Enlightenment rationalists whose confidence in the mind led them to ignore the import of the subjective and the centrality of experience in religious epistemology. Rather they were more or less consistent Reformed scholars who insisted that these kinds of factors play a critical role in very attempt to lay hold of what God has revealed, because laying hold of what God has revealed is something that is done by whole persons, not by autonomous faculties or powers" ( p. xxiv). He adds that "the religious epistemology of the OP theologians was principally informed by anthropological and epistemological assumption that are consistently Reformed" (p. xxv).





The author systematically delineates numerous essential aspects concerning the thought of Alexander, Hodge, Warfield, Machen, and others. He utilizes the words of the OPs to make his case that the OPs held to the primacy of God and Scripture over and above human reason.





Professor Helseth examines:





- OP's epistemological assumptions


- What relation to OP's views rest on evidential Christianity


- The intellectualism of OP as a moral rather than merely rational issue


- The relationship between Liberalism and OP apologetic aims


- The connections between OP and Scottish philosophy


- All sides using a great host of footnotes (countless pages have more footnote content than the primary text).


- Bahnsen's view of the similarities of Machen's and Van Til's apologetics - Van Til's interpretation of Warfield


- The context of OP statements like: "Without reason there can be no religion" (Archibald Alexander, p. 25).


- That `"right reason' for Warfield is the offensive weapon of the Christian apologist rather than the `self-established intellectual tool' of the autonomous man."


- The Rogers and McKim approach


- Webber's work.





Helseth discusses Alexander's words: "Most men profess that they are guided by reason ... they are guided by a blinded, prejudiced, and perverted reason" (p. 26). The "whole machinery of the human heart is wanting" for "the orderly and harmonious operations of the mind are destroyed" (p. 30). Additionally "the weakest Christian, even the mere child, by the illumination of the Spirit, possess a species of knowledge, to which the philosopher can never attain, by the utmost exertion of unassisted reason" (p. 35).





The author contrasts Biblical thought as well as the work of Augustine and Calvin in his analysis of Warfield and the OP scholars ("God is the light of all knowledge" Warfield, p. 53). Warfield also stated: "If sinful man as such is incapable of the act of faith, because he is inhabile to the evidence on which alone such an act of confident resting on God ... can repose, renewed man is equally incapable of not responding to this evidence, which is objectively compelling, by an act of sincere faith. In this its highest exercise faith thus, though in a true sense the gift of God, is in an equally true sense man's own act, and bears all the character of faith as it is exercised by unrenewed man in its lower manifestations" (p. 65). For the "believing academic has in his hands the norm of truth, in the Word of God" (p. 77). "The natural man cannot receive the things of the Sprit of God. They must first convert the soul before they are fully comprehended by the intellect. Only as they are lived are they understood. Hence the phrase, `Believe that you may understand'" (p.p. 92-93). In accord Hodge stated: "The idea that the heart may be depraved and the intellect unaffected is, according to the anthropology of the Bible, ... incongruous..." (p. 205).





The author goes off point as he mistakenly asserts that regarding apologetic methodology "a good case can be made that these two camps (Evidentialism and Presuppositionism) often talk past one another on a number of important epistemological matters" (p. 15, note 41). Most presuppositions make great strides to articulate the important difference between methodologies as it is clear that Presuppositional scholars noticeably understand the epistemic and ethical starting point of Evidentialism and classic apologetics. Some may error in the minority of cases, but the Presuppositional literature is unambiguous and the author is mistaken in his assertion on this vital matter (a matter that is beyond the scope of this fine volume).





Chapters include:


- The Moral Context


- Bald Rationalism


- The Critique of Theological Liberalism


- The Task of Christian Scholarship


- Reimagining the Princeton Mind


- And more





Helseth in view of his research opines that the OP "theologians should not be regarded as either scholastic or Enlightenment rationalists because they conceived of reason in a moral rather than a merely rational sense" (p. 173). He quotes Robert Hoopes: "Truth in its totality is at once intellectual and moral in nature, the conditions of wisdom are for men both intellectual and moral" (p. 199). "Reason is to the philosophe what grace is to the Christian. Grace determines the Christian to act; reason determines the philosophe" (p. x, quoted in the Forward by John Woodbridge). In contrast, the author asserts that the OP "championed the need for the regeneration of the whole soul as the necessary means to `right reason' and saving faith" ... for "regeneration is of necessity at the foundation of the ability to reason `rightly' because reasoning itself is an activity involving all the powers of the soul, not simply the rational faculty alone" (p. 208).





This very readable and fascinating volume is endorsed by:


- Paul Helm


- John Frame


- Douglas Wilson


- William Edgar


- Fred G. Zaspel


- David B. Calhoun


- Peter R. Jones.



The Old Princeton view was based on a Confessional standard and thus understood that fallen man's reason was morally affected by the Fall, as did Van Til later. But Van Til emphasized fallen man's inability to come to truth in an unbiased or nonaligned manner. All men have presuppositions and the presuppositions of unregenerate men distort truth as they reject it due to their sinful and nature; by God's grace through faith one must be regenerated from above to reason rightly.


Many footnotes and quotes on the work of D.B. Hart, George Marsden, Mark Noll, and others are noted in this book. I recommend this volume for apologists, church history enthusiasts, Reformed pastors, and all those interested in the scholarship of Old Princeton.





see my New apologetic Book that contends for the necessity of Christian Theism to account for Reason and Knowledge:


Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
//www.theLordGodExists.com/

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Absolute Sort of Certainty: A Book Review


Many scholars and students alike are not aware of the importance of Apologetics in the thought of Jonathan Edwards. Stephen J. Nichols in “An Absolute Sort of Certainty: The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards” provides a fine, readable resource that reveals that “Edwards as an apologist has much to commend … and may be more useful than other interpretive grids” (interpretive lens concerning Edward’s thought, p. 1).


Herein P & R furnishes the Reformed community another thoughtful jewel. The author discusses the diverse influences (Locke, Enlightenment, Platonists, etc.) on Edwards, yet Edwards was “unrestrained by the Enlightenment’s inability to transcend rationality” as Edwards (JE) surpasses the “Enlightenment by appealing to the transcendent, objective nature of religious affections” (p. 13). Nichols does not wholly embrace the sundry non-apologetic interpretations of JE (Miller, Gay, Anderson, Kuklick, Flower, Murphey, Murray, Gerstner, etc.) inasmuch as “underlying the entire (JE) corpus—Edwards erupts with proof of the truth of Christianity” (p. 18).


The author endorses aspects of Ricketts’ and Mitchell’s view “’that Edwards holds reason to be thoroughly dependent on revelation’” (p. 19). He adds: “Van Til argues that the problem with people is that they are covenant breakers, suppressing and rebelling against the knowledge of God. Edwards likewise articulates the view that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians in seeing the truth of the gospel is not one’s reasoning capacities, but one’s covenantal relationship to the gospel (p. 105). The author notes that JE affirmed the “self-authenticating nature of the warrant of Christianity” (p. 107).


Concerning epistemology there is an ontic necessity of God as “the Oxford Companion to Philosophy recognizes, ‘Puritan faith runs throughout his philosophy, where all explanation ends in God’” (p. 120). JE professed and expounded on “Scripture’s self-attesting nature” for it is one of “certainty and truthfulness” (p. 121) forasmuch as JE advanced “a revelation-centered view of knowledge … and emphasized the Holy Spirit’s testimony as the source of certainty concerning … knowledge” (p. 122).


Rational and ethical pre-commitments were important to JE for his “apologetic arises from a given context, or a set of presuppositions” (p. 140). Helm notes: ‘“Edwards seeks a general philosophical understanding, one rooted in the nature of things as he understood them’” (p. 140). Within this appealing volume the author briefly discusses views of Helm, Van Til, Gerstner, Augustine, Calvin, Murray, Oliphint, and numerous other scholars who overlap JE’s thought. Nichols appends understanding JE as “an apologist serves well in interpreting Edwards and his writings in toto” p. 177).

See my new Apologetic book that utilizes new apologetic advances:
"Truth, Knowledge, and the Reason for God" by Mike A Robinson at:




AASOC is endorsed by:
- William Edgar
- Harry Stout
- K. Scott Oliphint
- C. Samuel Storms
- Samuel Logan
- And more

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief by James S. Spiegel: Book Review


Many scholars spend the majority of their adult life carefully husbanding their thoughts and shielding their worldview and ultimate pre-commitments from critical analysis. Not so with James S. Spiegel in "The Making of an Atheist." Speigel argues that many atheists base their philosophy on wishful thinking as they seek to put away theism's moral absolutes. Countess atheists (the author provides numerous quotes) do not want to be restrained from their profligacy so they vociferously declare that God doesn't exist. Rubbish. Just disliking something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.


Paul draws this out: Romans 1:18-25 "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. ... 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen."


The author then quotes Jonathan Edwards: "There is no one thing whatsoever more plain and manifest, and more demonstrable, than the being of God. It is manifest in ourselves, in our bodies and souls, and in everything about us wherever we turn our eye, whether to heaven, or to the earth, the air, or the seas. And yet how prone is the heart of man to call this into question! So inclined is the heart of man to blindness and delusion, that it is prone to even atheism itself."
Spiegel presses Plantinga's potent argument as he demonstrates that atheists cannot know that their beliefs are true given their rational pre-commitments to naturalism, consequently atheism under its own presuppositions stultifies itself.

Moreover Spiegel says: "The descent into atheism is caused by a complex of moral-psychological factors, not a perceived lack of evidence for God's existence. The atheist willfully rejects God, though this is precipitated by immoral indulgences and typically a broken relationship with his or her father. Thus, the choice of the atheistic paradigm is motivated by non-rational factors, some of which are psychological and some of which are moral in nature."


Additionally: "The hardening of the atheistic mind-set occurs through cognitive malfunction due to two principal factors. First, atheists suffer from paradigm-induced blindness, as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God that is manifest in creation. Second, atheists suffer from damage to the 'sensus divinitatis', so their natural awareness of God is severely impeded. Both of these mechanisms are aspects of the noetic effects of sin."

In refuting atheism Spiegel utilizes:
- Philosophy

- The biblical worldview

- The importance of theoretical frameworks and paradigms

- Biographical history of famous atheists

- A type of Paschal's wager

- The confession of atheist Thomas Nagel who admitted: "I don't want there to be a God"

- Paul C. Vitz's discovery that numerous renowned atheists lacked a father or a defective father - The argument from the fine-tuning of the cosmos

- Flew's embrace of theism.


A few significant quotes from the author:
- "There is really nothing new about the new atheism, except the degree of bombast in their claims" (p. 10).

- "The biblical message is that there are moral dynamics involved in the abandonment of faith" (p. 13).

- "The truth is that atheism is profoundly false. It is a misconstrual of reality at the most basic level" (p. 17).

- "Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from careful application of reason but from willful rebellion" (p. 18).

- "From a naturalist standpoint the objection from evil is incoherent. This is because naturalists have no grounds to call anything evil" (p. 27).

- Since atheism is self-refuting: "What could be more futile than a worldview that undermines itself? Atheism is a sort of suicide of the mind" for as Chesterton noted "Darwinism ... is an attack upon thought itself" (p. 60).

- The author quotes William James: "If your heart does not want a world of moral reality, your head will assuredly never make you believe in one" (p. 84).

- "Perfect objectivity is impossible, at least for mere mortals. Yet some persist in claiming that science gives us an objective, unfiltered view of the world." For scientists are not "immune to the influence of their own beliefs and values as they do their research and theory formulation" (p. 92).

- "All scientific observation is to some extent interpreted though a paradigm. However neutral he or she might pretend to be, the scientist always filters data through a set of unspoken (or unconscious) presuppositions" (p. 100).

- Atheists suffer from "paradigm-induced blindness. Their theoretical framework prevents them from seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of them" (p. 102).

- "If a worldview, such as naturalism, gives us no reason to think that our belief-forming mechanisms are generally trustworthy, then we have no reason to believe that worldview is true" (p. 108).

- The good professor quotes Dawkins: "It is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on ground other than religious ones" (TGD, 2006, p. 266).

- He adds a citation form Aquinas: "To know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature" (Summa Theologica, vol. 1, p. 12).

I would adjoin: To make sense out of our world, the atheist, still must presuppose theism. It alone supplies the required pre-essentials for the immutable universals such as the laws of thought. These laws are necessary for predication, communication, and for the intelligibility of human experience. When the perspective of God's revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the a priori conditions for knowledge and meaningful experience. This contravenes anti-theism. In reality, a pugnacious atheist has an empty philosophy that works on the assumption that his sweeping statements made with harsh, stinging, and bitter force against Christianity are settled facts since he makes them with dogmatic stridency. Insults and blind faith do not just make for bad arguments; they are embarrassing delusions that cannot account for argumentation at all. Only Christian theism can supply the pre-essentials needed for debate, evidence, and knowledge.

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Here in is a treasure trove of powerful and compelling apologetic argumentation addressing various relevant topics. The author provides a formidable, precise, wide-ranging, and appealing approach in countering atheism.


Ephesians 4:17-18 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.
------

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