Tag Archives: theowarner

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

I’m having a peculiar thought this morning.

After a few exchanges on message boards, I’ve been directed to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy more than once in the last few days. And, today, glancing through it, I’m left with a rather odd feeling. It’s not entirely one of having found a child with his hand in the cookie jar, but more the feeling that there some of the cookies are missing.

I direct the curious reader to a few articles and I will ask a few questions. Mind you, I cannot suggest anything more than to wonder if there isn’t anything more going on here.

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William Lane Craig Is Not Self-Authenticating

In the Q&A feature on ReasonableFaith.org, William Lane Craig’s online ministry, Craig recently addressed the classic conundrum of two religious persons, a Mormon and a Fundamentalist Christian, as the case may be, each communicating a claim to an authentic experience with the Holy Spirit; the Christian must conclude, reasons the questioner, that the Mormon is “lying or mistaken,” but the argument is “reversible.” I would like to point out that I see no reason why both Mormon and Christians cannot each have an experience with the Holy Spirit; many religious traditions, in fact the majority of Christians, acknowledge that salvation is open to non-Christians, that a glimmer of grace can persist in non-Christian religious traditions, and that God can work in the hearts of all men, without compromising the essential value of the “correct” religion. But, that aside, I recognize the tension between the two seemingly incompatible claims of authentic experiences with the Holy Spirit and I recognize that for many, this tension matters; one of my subscribers, for example, recently PMed me a hypothetical dialog between a hypothetical Christian and William Lane Craig, a dialectic, capturing much of the original question from ReasonableFaith.org. The hypothetical Christian says: “My Mormon friend claims to experience the Holy Spirit, and that through this experience he knows his beliefs are true.”
Continue reading William Lane Craig Is Not Self-Authenticating

William Lane Craig: Lord of the Groundhogs

But, if life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint. As the Russian writer Feodor Dostoevsky rightly said: “If if there is immortality, then all things are permitted.” Given the finality of death, it really does not matter how you live.

William Lane Craig, of course, repeats an oft misquoted passage from The Brother Karamazov and for a professional philosopher, as he routinely claims to be, one would think he’d know better; likewise, there’s something about Mr. Craig’s suggestion that ‘professional’ legitimatizes ‘philosopher’ that leads me to believe that he shouldn’t be the former and isn’t the latter. It’s difficult to attribute an author the philosophical views of the characters he creates, but Mr. Craig probably depends less on the person of Dostoevsky than the content of the sentence, the philosophy itself. Ivan Karamazov was certainly concerned with the implications of immortality of the soul, both as a matter of metaphysics and as a matter of belief, as Constance Garnett’s translation suggests: “If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover,” Karamazov continues, “Nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful, even cannibalism. […] For every individual […] who does not believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognised as the inevitable, the most rational, even honourable outcome of his position.” For the sake of drawing the distinction, if Karamozov, in this passage, is concerned with belief in existence of God or the non-existence of God as the cause of moral actions, then we can allay his concerns with empirical certainty: atheism does not cause immorality. But, this concern about the belief in God suggests to me that Karamazov might imagine that there would be no difference between believing in God in a universe in which God happens to exist or believing in that same God as matter of actual fiction; in either universe, whether there is actually a God, belief in God is what actually fosters moral behavior, which I don’t think is Mr. Craig’s contention, nor would it stand to evidence. Rather, I think Mr. Craig and those others who misuse this quote from Dostoevsky are suggesting that, considering those two universes, the universe without a God may contain moral actions, but those moral actions are arbitrary and meaningless and the people in that universe without a God might just as well go around killing each other – it doesn’t really matter. I’ve never entirely understood this argument beyond reading it as a brute assertion; it seems like the meaningless of moral actions in a universe without a God in part stems from the fact that moral laws would then simply be contrived through the power of the few or the many, but also from the fact that any sort of consequence we might experience can be escaped through death into annihilation. I’m not sure why agreed upon rules are meaningless and, more importantly, I’m not sure why Karamazov, and Craig, I would imagine, would suppose that people, left to our own devices without God to give us rules and reward us eternally for following them or breaking the slightest among them, would descend into cannibalism and then what… dogs and cats living together. Continue reading William Lane Craig: Lord of the Groundhogs

Is Brock Lawley a Muslim?

In 2008, we woke from our national nightmare of Dominionism to the statesmanship and presidency of Barak Obama, and I, like most of the world, recognizing the need for courage, vision, and purpose in the face of deep-rooted, systemic problems in the American political and economic system, braced ourselves with a measure of relief and hope.

We knew that the project before our President would be uphill and waged with unsensationalized reason against an ideologically entrenched and resentful establishment; our hopes were high and we recognize that it is a bad system that makes bad politics of good policy.

But my patriotism is, for the first time in my adult life, undemure and I continue to see in his gestures and method a character of sincerity and strength to which I aspire.

An early gesture which struck my attention at the time was President Obama’s decision to include on his first international trip as President, a stop in the Islamic nation of Turkey, speaking before the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, April 6, 2009.

We had suspected since the attacks of September 11, 2001 that a quiet racism had intruded into our national discourse, bolstered by fear and theological ideology, and we knew that the mere act of presenting himself to an Islamic nation would carry a symbolism that indeed represented those of us with Muslim friends.

And because we really do desire ‘friendship with all nations,’ as Thomas Jefferson put it, we were pleased to hear our President equivocally honor the Islamic culture and civilization.

“We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.”

For Barack Obama, presenting American friendship and well-wishes to the Turkish people meant exposing himself to certain criticisms, some based on what might become Obama’s shifting of military and diplomatic strategy in the Middle East, but most based on brute racism: a preposterous fear that Barak Obama is secretly a Muslim.

That racism found acute expression on YouTube; recall the speech to the Turkish Grand National Assembly:

“The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.”

One YouTuber edited this very sentence as follows:

“The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans […] I know, because I am one of them.”

Most noted for his plagiarism, Brock Lawley is a suave and vain fundamentalist and his plagiarism, which, while being well documented, persists on his channel, is but one of his behaviors which illustrate what I would call uncomplicated immorality.

We see now his willingness to distort quotations, which is to say, to lie and because the apparent intent of this lie is to portray Obama as a Muslim – as if that were a bad thing – we see now his apparent racism.

The larger problem is always this: according to Christianity, to have faith in God and to love God is to love truth and reason for faith and love impart truth and there can be no genuine conflict between revealed truths and the knowledge of Man; according to Christianity, to fear truth is the very absence of faith and that is the fear which begins in self-loathing and ends chaos and crime.

Shutter Island (2010)

Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre has passed me by. I hear the name. And I know of a few of the movies. But, on the shelf in my mind, I would probably arrange those DVDs by their leading actor, not their director. Hitchcock. Woody Allen. They get their own section.

So, I’m not making comparisons to Raging Bull (1980) or Taxi Driver (1976). Good movies. But there’s no comparison. It’s not even worth trying and it’s not fair.

Shutter Island (2010) is – and now I regret mentioning Hitchcock – a psychological thriller. But, the experience isn’t thrilling and the psychology isn’t a maze of insanity and delusion that we need to keep us from checking our iPhones for more than two hours. It’s more like a long commute. We know where we’re going; we know how to get there; we don’t really want to go.

The central power of the psychological thriller is that we, as viewers, aren’t afforded with our ordinary omniscience. As we ponder whether the protagonist is actually insane, we realize that we can’t possibly answer the question based purely on the evidence – all the evidence we encounter could be part of the insanity. We have to just endure not knowing and enjoy the complexity of the puzzle. And, ultimately, it all reveals itself and we laugh a little. And, it turns out, we’re not insane.

But, Shuttle Island takes the potency of psychological thriller and forfeits it within about twenty minutes. And, so, without revealing it now – I promise you: you’ll know whether the protagonist is crazy or not pretty quickly. And then, once you’ve figured it out, you can leave the theater.

Leonardo DiCaprio is certainly a fine actor, let me add. I hated him for years. So very cute, adorning the lockers of every teenage girl in my middle school. I suppose I thought of him as competition. But, I suppose I can forgive him. It’s not like the competition was down to him and me.

2/5 stars. Competent acting. But, the rules of the thriller are broken to the point of boredom.

Mellencamp Theology

In the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the Apostle writes, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor 13:11-12). Unto itself, it is a beautiful passage, echoing through time and culture, but, indeed, the entire thirteenth chapter is something of a masterpiece of poetical prose – its imagery and rhythms, its fearlessness, the depth of its introspection, the universality in which as readers we find something of ourselves. Its description of Love, for example, I wish really could form the entire basis of religion: “Love is patient, love is kind” writes St. Paul. “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Cor 13:4). These phrases are read at weddings and funerals, perhaps appropriately, but I can’t help but feel that something of the larger comment is lost when I see 1 Corinthians crocheted onto potpourri pillows – living a life that is of love is surely more difficult to do and understand than that sort of empty enthusiasm and cheerleading theology suggests. And likewise, we forget in the beauty of the passages the mind of St. Paul, the extraordinary intimacy into which we step, telling us that he has put away his childish things and that now, when he looks into a mirror, it is not clarity that is reflected.

St. Paul creates for us a hierarchy, placing Love famously above hope and faith – not to their exclusion, I should add; it is almost to the near-nihilistic extremes of Ecclesiastes that St. Paul brushes away everything except Love, saying: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2). The nothingness that St. Paul’s lovelessness becomes is the same ultimate nothingness that Christian apologists see in a universe without God to author the laws of logic and morality – it is a nothingless that contains prophecy, unraveled mysteries, all knowledge, and faith and likewise, a nothingness that might contain all sorts of temporal, finite, agreed upon moral agreements, but it is ultimately nothingness. It is interesting to me that Christian apologists see that nothingness as a fiction, sometimes believed in, but certainly never an actuality since, after all, in their arguments – or, as they would say with prepositional idiosyncrasy – on their arguments, God really did author the rules of logic and morality – there is always somethingness. But, St. Paul seems to think differently of nothingness – it is not an erroneous description of reality, competing with Christianity, but an actual possibility – sometimes, there is really is nothingness and no somethingness – that could consume us if we do not have Love, a nothingness that is not competing with Christianity, but participating within Christianity’s description and escaped by its prescription.

Love, knowledge, and nothingness cannot, I think, be properly considered without some sense of the story told in time; St. Paul depicts Love as a thing he arrived at in the course of his life, approximating the arrival at Love with maturity and adulthood and while he seems to have escaped nothingness, it is interesting that his knowledge has not increased. He comments that he looks through a “glass, darkly,” a phrase which suggests that he does not have the sort of self-knowledge that we would think comes with wisdom or experience or maturity, but that because he has Love, the somethingness that he has become is more than the nothingness that he was, the child that he was, even if he had had all knowledge. In time, St. Paul’s story is one that points from birth towards the future and towards Love and from Love to the eternal – and, although the text does not support it explicitly, I can’t help but image that St. Paul would feel something like shame were he to glance backward into the past and perhaps that is part of the darkness he sees in his own image.

Continue reading Mellencamp Theology

The 2010 Haitian Earthquake: God?

The 2010 Haitian Earthquake does not constitute compelling evidence against the existence of God because the cause of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake was the sudden release of two hundred and fifty years of tension in the fault lines between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates.

I say this because David John Wellman, valorious foil to the unapologetic plagiarist Brock Lawley, recently challenged Christian apologists, philosophers, and evagelists to begin a video, as I just have, by saying, “The 2010 Haitian Earthquake does not constitute compelling evidence against the existence of God because…”

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The Argument for Atheism from St. Anselm

(YouTube video here.)

D1. God is that than which no greater can be conceived.

P1. Either it is the case that God is the creator of the universe or it is not the case that God is the creator of the universe.

C1. Given D1 and P1, because the God that created the universe is greater than the God that did not create the universe, God created the universe.

P2. Given C1, either it is the case that the God that created the universe exists or it is not the case that the God that created the universe exists.

C2. Given D1 and P2, because the God that created the universe and does not exist is greater than the God that created the universe and does exist, God does not exist.

The Argument for Atheism from Christianity

D1. A proposition is either true or false.
D2. To hold to a proposition is to hold that the 1) proposition is true and to hold that 2) holding the proposition does not cause the truth of the proposition.
D3. When X is a proposition, the reason for proposition X is a proposition which is true and but for it, X would be false.
D4. When X is a proposition, the faith in a proposition X is to hold a proposition without reason.
D5. A Christian is one who has faith that God exists.
D6. An atheist is one that holds that one does not have reason to hold that God exists.

P1. It is the case that one holds that God exists or it is not the case that one holds that God exists.
P2. If it is the case that one holds that God exists, then it is the case that one has reason to hold that God exists or it is not the case that one has reason to hold that God exists.
P3. If it is the case that one holds that God exists and it is the case that one has reason to hold that God exists, then it is not the case that one has faith that God exists.
P4. If it is the case that one holds that God exists and it is the not the case that one has reason to hold that God exists, then it is the case that one has faith that God exists.

C1. Given D5 and P3, it is the case that a Christian holds that one does not have reason to hold that God exists.
C2. Given C1 and D6, both Christians and atheists hold that one does not have reason to hold that God exists.

Simplified Version

A Christian is one who has faith that God exists and because he has faith, he holds that one doesn’t have reasons to believe that God exists. Likewise, an atheists holds that one doesn’t have reasons to believe that God exists. It is somehow absurd, therefore, for a Christian to argue that one ought not be an atheist.

Movie Review: Legion (2010)

My favorite genre, or perhaps second favorite, is religious horror. Essentially, those horror movies where people die but the bad guys are demons or something and the whole movie follows sort of Biblical plot. It’s the intersection between pointless violence and horror… I mean, pointless violence and the Bible (little joke there.)

The Omen(1976) was good. The Exorcist (1973). The Prophecy(1995).

Legion(2010), for the record, is certainly not a shameful entry into the genre, but it’s certainly not going to be the standard by any stretch of the imagination. It involves a supposed second “flood,” but this one, carried out by angels. An extermination of the human race. Unlike Noah, there is no family earmarked for repopulating the planet and this second destruction of the earth also coincides with the birth of child. This child, incidentally, makes no sense. Is he the second coming? Why would God destroy the earth moments before the second coming? Seems bizarre.

There are far less cool angel scenes and a lot of the violence is just trite, ordinary zombie-like violence. The whole world is being destroyed and our vision is limited to a few small miles of desert boredom – unsatisfying.

The movie does, however, make one interesting stab at Christian fundamentalism, whether they realize it not. The main good guy in the movie is the Archangel Michael and he has been ordered by God to lead the extermination of mankind and kill the child… whoever the child really is. Michael searches his conscience and refuses the order, instead joining the humans and protecting the child. You would have gotten that from the trailer so don’t be too mad!

Gabriel, the equally bronzed archangel who takes over after Michael’s departure, is less sensitive to sympathy but argues that following orders is what really matters. Obviously, sympathy wins over blind obedience in the end, but certain parallels to the story of Abraham and Isaac and the Nazis, of course, are somewhat transparent. Sometimes I can understand Abraham’s decisions; sometimes I can’t. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t kill Isaac, but would that be because I had placed sympathy over obedience as an act of courage or because generally I was scared shitless.

For my part, I’m glad that somewhere in cinema “God told me to do it” isn’t a good reason.

★★★☆☆ If you have the time, go have a little fun. But, if you miss it, you didn’t miss anything.