January 2011


I was doing some research on William Lane Craig’s website the other day when I stumbled on an interesting objection to the kalam cosmological argument (KCA) I had not heard before.  I thought it was interesting, so I’m passing it along.  It requires a brief set-up.

According to Aristotle there are four types of causes:

1.      Material cause (that of which something is made)
2.      Formal cause (a thing’s essence, form, or pattern)
3.      Efficient cause (the thing that produces the change)
4.      Final cause (the purpose for which something is caused)

Consider a marble statue.  The block of marble from which it was formed is the material cause, the precise shape of the statue is the formal cause, the sculptor is the efficient cause, and beauty is the final cause.

The two causes we are most familiar with are material and efficient causes.  Point to anything in the universe and we can tell you what it is made of, and what caused it to exist.  But what about the universe itself?  The origin of the universe marks the beginning of material stuff, so it cannot have a material cause.  It came into being ex nihilo.  The KCA argues, however, that the universe still needs an efficient cause.  Something outside the universe is needed to cause the universe to come into being because contingent entities don’t just pop into existence uncaused.

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God created every animal as a male-female pair at the same time, except for humans.  Why didn’t God create Adam and Eve at the same time?  What reason did He have for delaying the creation of Eve?

 

One of the more unfortunate aspects of blogging is that good posts quickly get buried, and eventually “lost” over time.  Most people do not have the time or patience to search through 100s or 1000s of past posts to find the gems.  To solve for this problem I have created a “best of TR” page featuring links to the most-viewed, most-talked about, and most intellectually stimulating posts on Theosophical Ruminations. The page link is located in the upper right corner of the home page.  Check it out when you get a chance!

Oneness Pentecostals believe God is one in both essence and person, and that Jesus is the incarnation of this single divine person.  On this view, the deity of Jesus is numerically and personally identical to the deity of the Father.  The Father and Son differ, not in their person, but in their mode of existence.

A common Trinitarian objection to Oneness theology is that it entails the idea that the Father suffered, and even died on the cross.  The ancients called this view “Patripassianism” (Latin for “the Father suffers”) and deemed it heretical.  But why?

It is to be expected that Trinitarians would object to the claim that the Father suffered in Christ since they believe God is three persons, of whom only the second (God the Son) became incarnate.  The Trinitarian objection to Patripassianism, however, was not limited to the identity of the one who experienced the suffering, but extended to the very metaphysical possibility of the Father experiencing suffering.  On their view, it was more than just a factual/historical error to think God the Father was the divine person who experienced suffering in Christ; it was metaphysically impossible for Him to do so.  Only God the Son was capable of such.

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The Guttmacher Institute (leading authority on abortion statistics) recently released their data for U.S. abortions in 2008.  Not much has changed since 2005.  Here are some of the most important findings[1]:

  • In 2008 there were 6.4 million pregnancies to the 62 million women of reproductive age.  Of those, 19% ended in abortion, 66% ended in live birth, and 15% ended in miscarriage.  That means there were approximately 1.21 million abortions.
  • The abortion rate is 19.6 abortions per 1000 women, up 1% from 2005 (19.4).
  • In 2008, women in their 20s obtained > half of all abortions.
  • 61% of women who obtain abortions are mothers (i.e. they have previously given birth to at least one child).
  • Chemical/medical abortions accounted for 17% of all abortions in 2008 (the rest were surgical).
  • There are 1793 abortion facilities, representing a 3% decline from 2005.
  • States with the most abortions: CA (214,190), NY (153,110), FL (94,360), TX (84,610), IL (54,920).
  • States with the fewest abortions: WY (90), SD (850), ND (1400), VT (1510), AK (1700), ID (1800).
  • States with the highest abortion rates: DE (40), NY (37.6), NJ (31.3), DC (29.9), MD (29), CA (27.6), FL (27.2), NV (25.9), CT (24.6), RI (22.9).
  • States with the lowest abortion rates: WY (0.9), MS (4.6), KY (5.1), SD (5.6), ID (6), WV (6.6), UT (6.7).
  • 24% of CA pregnancies resulted in abortion (representing 17.7% of all U.S. abortions) and 61% in live birth (15% miscarriage).

[1]Rachel K. Jones and Kathryn Kooistra of the Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States, 2008,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Volume 43, Number 1; March 2011; pp. 41-50.  Available from http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/4304111.pdf; Internet; accessed 10 January 2011.

Some of you have probably heard the news that in 2009, 41% of all non-miscarried pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion (87,273 abortions, 26,774 births, 11,620 miscarriages.).  For every 1000 babies born, 688 are aborted.

This is staggering in itself, but when you break it down by race it gets worse.  Among white women, 21.4% of pregnancies ended in abortion (9,853); among Asians, 22.7% (5,212); among Hispanics, 41.3% (28,364); among blacks, 60% (40,798).  So for every 2 black babies born in NYC, 3 are aborted.  While this is a wake-up call for all communities, a special plea needs to go out to the black community to wake up to these statistics.  By killing more of your children than you allow to be born, you have become your own worst enemy.  As one commentator wrote in response to what’s going on in NYC, “The Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation are giving ‘fist bumps’ all around.”  Let it not be said.

A new website, The Ehrman Project, has launched.  It’s dedicated to evaluating and responding to Bart Ehrman’s claims.  It examines each of his three best-selling books: Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus Interrupted.  There are eight video responses to each book, each one covering a different topic.  There are also links to related books and articles. 

Participating scholars include Ben Witherington, Darrel Bock, D.A. Carson, Daniel Wallace, Alvin Plantinga, et al.  One of the coolest features of the site is that you can pose a question on the blog, and it will be answered by one of the scholars!  So if you have any difficult questions related to the issues Ehrman raises, now is the time to ask them.

HT: Ben Witherington

Many people are under the impression that the Textus Receptus (TR) printed by the Trinitarian Bible Society was the Greek text used by the KJV translators to translate the NT.  Not so.  The TR was not the Greek text used by the KJV translators.  Instead, it is a Greek text based on the KJV, created 270 years after the KJV was published!  To understand why, let’s explore the history of the TR in a little detail.

The story begins in 16th century Europe.  Catholicism was the religion of Europe, and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate was the Bible of the church—and had been for over 500 years.[1] In 1504, however, the Catholic humanist scholar by the name of Desiderius Erasmus came across a manuscript by the Italian humanist Lorena Valla (1407-57)—an event that would forever change Erasmus’ life, as well as the future of Bible translations.  Valla’s manuscript contained a host of annotations to the Vulgate, noting those places where it was not faithful to the Greek text.  Erasmus became enamored with Valla’s approach, and determined to carry on his work.

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I often hear both non-theists and theists alike say it is impossible to disprove God’s existence because it is impossible to disprove a universal negative.  This conception, though popular, is mistaken.

While a universal negative cannot be proven empirically, it can be proven logically.  If something is logically contradictory, or incoherent, we can be sure it does not exist.  For example, I can prove there are no square circles.  I cannot, and need not do so empirically, but I can do so logically.  To prove that God does not exist, then, does not require omniscience so long as one can demonstrate that there is something in the very concept of God that is rationally incoherent.  Of course, that is difficult for atheists to do because there doesn’t seem to be anything about the idea of a divine, transcendent being that is internally incoherent or self-contradictory.  Nevertheless, if they could find one, they could disprove God’s existence.

The Pew Research Center released a major social trends report in November 2010 on the topic of marriage and family titled “The Decline of Marriage And Rise of New Families” (you may have heard about the cover article on this report featured in Time magazine).  They attempted to evaluate how Americans’ views of marriage have changed over the last 50 years.[1] Some of their findings merely confirmed what most see as common knowledge, but some of their findings were quite surprising.

It took me a number of lunch breaks to read through the report, but it was well worth the time spent seeing how it is chalked full of valuable social statistics.  While I would encourage you to read the full report, here are some of the most significant findings (organized by subject):

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I was listening to a podcast by Jim Wallace from PleaseConvinceMe.com the other day on my way to work.  He was talking about atheists’ stock objection to the cosmological arguments[1]: “Well, then, who caused God?”

Wallace pointed out that the question itself is meaningless.  He illustrates his point by asking, What sound does silence make?  Silence is soundless, of course, so it makes no sense to ask what kind of sound it makes.  Likewise, the question, Who created God? is a meaningless question because by definition God is an eternal, uncreated being.  To ask, Who caused God?, then, is to ask, Who caused the Uncreated Being to exist? which is meaningless.

For additional information on responding to the “Who made God?” objection, read my post “Inexcusable Ignorance Part II.”


[1]Which argue that the universe needs a cause, and that cause is God.

In light of the 400 anniversary of the KJV, there will be a lot of discussion this year regarding the history of English Bible translations.  If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I would highly recommend Christopher Mulvey’s article “A full account of the Bible in English.”  Mulvey focuses on the period from A.D. 735 to the KJV in 1611.

Daniel Wallace also has an excellent series of articles covering the history of English translations from Wycliffe (A.D. 1382) to the NET Bible (2001).

Recently, there was some discussion of the historicity of Adam and Eve in the comments section of another post, so I thought I would start a separate post on the issue and refer readers to a short post by James Anderson who summarizes some of the key Biblical reasons to think Adam and Eve were real historical figures, and the parents of the whole human race.

I will offer what I think is a compelling theological reason for thinking Adam and Eve was the original pair of humans as well.  If there was more than one pair of original humans, then humans would have fallen into sin at different times.  Indeed, there could have been two different spiritual lineages of humans living side-by-side: those who had not sinned, those that sinned.  This contradicts passages like Romans 5 which indicates that all humanity sinned in Adam.

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A recent survey in England revealed that 64% of women want a husband who makes more money than them, and 69% would prefer to stay home to be a full-time mother if they were financially able to do so.  

I bet the only people surprised by this are social liberals who thought that if you tell a woman long enough that a successful business career will be more meaningful to her than raising a family, she will believe it.  Apparently women aren’t buying it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a woman who wants to work outside the home should not do so.  But that is not where most women find their fulfillment in life.  God designed men and women differently.  Most women find their greatest fulfillment in caring for and raising a family, while most men find their greatest fulfillment in being productive in industry for the benefit of their families.  That’s just human nature, and it can’t be socially engineered otherwise.

The reigning philosophy of science is methodological naturalism, which requires that scientists explain all natural phenomena in terms of naturalistic causes.  If a scientist thinks the evidence for some biological or natural entity points to an intelligent cause, the possibility is dismissed as unscientific by definition, and the scientist is charged with employing a “God of the gaps” argument in which God is invoked to plug up gaps in our knowledge.

I’ve always found this line of thinking interesting.  Can you imagine if this principle was applied to the non-biological world?  What caused Stonehenge?  “People made it,” you say.  Oh no!  You have broken the rules of science.  This is a physical entity, and thus it must be explained in terms of naturalistic causes.  “But,” you say, “it has all the elements of design.  The arrangement of parts is both complex and specified.”  But this is just the appearance of design, not real design.  While we may not know the natural process by which the pyramids were created, scientists are working on that.  We cannot give up on science by appealing to some unknown “designers.”  To do so is to employ a people of the gaps argument.

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translationA couple of months ago we had a guest preacher at our church.  He was a seasoned preacher, and overall, his message was edifying.  There was one point he made, however, that had me shaking my head.  He quoted John 14:2 where Jesus says “in my house are many mansions,” and then went on to explain that in the Greek this literally means “spiritual bodies.”

When we got home my wife asked me what I thought of the message.  I told her I liked it, except for his absurd interpretation of John 14:2.  She asked if I had looked up the Greek to know that this was the case.  I told her no.  She asked how I knew it was absurd, then.  Here is what I said, and what I want to share with you: If someone says the correct translation of a certain word is radically different than the translation appearing in mainstream translations, then you can bet your bottom dollar the person is mistaken. Think about it, what are the chances that hundreds of individuals who dedicated their entire lives to understanding the Biblical languages are going to miss the boat by a mile, but an individual who has no specialized training in Biblical languages is going to get it right simply by looking up a few words in Strong’s Concordance?

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Opponents of ID often argue against ID on the basis that it is not science.  Of course, the definition of science itself is disputable, and it is often disputed.  This is largely a red herring, however, because it shifts the focus away from the merits of ID arguments to the classification of those arguments.  As Thomas Nagel has written, “A purely semantic classification of a hypothesis or its denial as belonging or not to science is of limited interest to someone who wants to know whether the hypothesis is true or false.”[1]

While I think ID is a scientific conclusion, I do not wish to debate here whether ID properly qualifies as science, or whether it is better classified as religion/philosophy.  The question I want to raise is how scientists would respond if it could be demonstrated that ID is both properly categorized as religion/philosophy and ID is true.  Would scientists cease discussing certain subjects in science class?  Would they stop discussing the origin of life or origin of species?  In my estimation, this is doubtful.  I think most would continue to offer naturalistic explanations for these objects because their definition of science requires them to.  After all, if by definition alone science must provide naturalistic answers for all natural phenomena, then scientists must continue to offer naturalistic explanations for all phenomena—even phenomena  ID would have proven do not have naturalistic explanations.

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If you like the content provided on this blog, then do me a favor and tell your friends about it in 2011!

One of the most common objections against Intelligent Design is that if an intelligent agent is causally involved in the natural world, then science is no longer predictable because at any time the agent could intervene and mess with our experiments.  For example, Michael Ruse writes, ““[T]he relationship of the natural and the supernatural are unpredictable … [if] the cause of a natural event is the whim of a deity, the event is neither predictable nor fully understandable.”[1]

I think this objection is misguided.  First, it is based on a faulty understanding of ID.  ID only claims to have discovered evidence of a designer’s activity in the past.  It takes no position on the question of whether the designer is still in existence, whether the designer is presently involved in the cosmos, or whether the designer will be involved in the cosmos in the future.  Those are philosophical and religious questions.

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