In Which Stephen Fry Steps In It

If you would be so kind, I would like to ask you to view this brief bit of blasphemous cheek. It'll just take a few minutes. Now then, all set? Let's break this down into two basic parts. The first part is that Stephen Fry is given a thought experiment, and we should take a moment to see how he thinks in thought experiments. He doesn't believe in God, but he is nevertheless asked a "what if." What if you were wrong, the questioner asks, and the whole thing turns out to be true, with you finding yourself in a conversation with God at the Pearly Gates. Fry takes that occasion to launch into his diatribe. Bone cancer in children? What's with that? But I want to note something really strange about this set up. When God and Fry take their places as these disputants, Fry undertakes to argue morality with Him. And in order to argue this way, he has to assume -- and most certainly does assume -- that there is a moral standard that overarches the two of them, and which is equally … [Read more...]

Natural Evil and the Classical Christian School

One of the central arguments that materialistic atheism offers against the Christian faith is that the reality and universality of suffering is inconsistent with the doctrine that we were created by, and are loved by, a gracious heavenly Father. If we intend to do our job in training our students to be able to defend their faith as they go out into the world, it seems to me that we ought not to begin by granting the foundational premise of unbelief. Believe me, the pressing reality of natural evil is a major argument that the atheists use, and the theistic evolutionists will have to do a lot better than they have done thus far in mounting a reply. If evolution was God's means of creating, then this means that pain, struggle, suffering, agony, and torment were His means of creation, and He pronounced all of it "good." There are two kinds of evil that we have to consider -- natural evil and moral evil. While moral evil is more horrendous, it is a little easier to handle because … [Read more...]

Their Temples of Reason

It is usually no fun when people play the race card, but when evolutionists do it, the results can be highly entertaining, at least after a few million years. My brother Gordon is Senior Fellow of Natural History at New St. Andrews. He was recently engaged to teach a one-off course in microbiology at the University of Idaho, which drew this protest, and then this one. There is a kind of evolutionist who insists that his theory can only be falsified with rabbit fossils in the precambrian, and then rests easily in the full assurance that anything with a rabbit fossil in it can't be precambrian by definition. This method works swell for them, and so they try to use a similar approach to journal articles, terminal degrees, and teaching slots. Creationists are clearly not equipped to be in the proximity of any of those things -- for are they not all cornpones? -- and so whenever they see a creationist they chase him out promptly, and then use his strange absence as an argument. His … [Read more...]

So Go Nomo to the Pomo

So I have written about the problems of postmodernism, what I have called the problem of European brain snakes. This might seem a little dismissive, but it all works out, because it actually is dismissive. Allow me to collect my thoughts on this in one place. First, postmodernism, and all the posturing and posing connected thereunto, is utterly inconsistent with the spirit of testimony that faithful Christians love to exhibit. Our testimony (marturia) is to the truth, and the truth is personal and ultimate. When I say the truth is ultimate, I do not mean ultimate in the concerns of our own little faith community. I mean Lord of all that is, Lord of Heaven and earth, and King of all nature. The truth is Jesus, and He is eternal life -- and there is no other. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” … [Read more...]

To Obligate Belief

The classic beginning of Calvin's Institutes rightly assumes that it is not possible to know God without knowledge of ourselves. Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God. But it runs the other direction as well. It "not easy to discern" which knowledge precedes and brings forth the other. They are interdependent. "Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him" (Institutes 1.1.1). The same kind of thing is true of other sets of complementary assumptions. I cannot know my Cartesian pinpoint self without assuming something about the authority of logic. I think I think, therefore I think I am, I think. I cannot know the Bible without assuming something about the nature of the world in which I learned to read it, along with the reality of Miss Robinson who taught me how to read in first grade. I cannot know one thing without knowing something about all things. This, if true, means that the … [Read more...]

Seven Theses on the Age of the Earth

I recently came to the conclusion that it was time to set down in one place my reasons for approaching Genesis the way I do. I have noticed that the topic has become a matter of increased debate in classical Christian circles -- and because schools cannot honestly stay out of it -- it matters a great deal what we teach and why. So here are seven theses on the age of the earth. 1. First, the age of the earth, considered in isolation, is neither here nor there. The issue is always what God said, and not how old something is. If the earth is six thousand years old now, it will eventually be one hundred thousand years old at some point, about ninety-four thousand years from now. Will theologians at that time still be required to hold to a "young earth" view? So the issue is not age, or day, or young, or old, but rather the substance of what God actually said. Whatever He actually revealed should be what we use as the foundation for all our subsequent thought. After we have our … [Read more...]

Pink Entropy

I recently wrote on the subject of entropy here, and set off a maelstrom of comments. Some people just have that gift, and other people don't. That appears to be just the way it is for me, and I try to be humble about it. Sometimes I think my comments section is a good example of entropy. If I might, I would like to supplement my initial observations with a few quick follow up jabs, and see if it happens again. These are just quick responses to a couple of basic questions that were raised, and which I would like answer outside the thread. Since I speak English, let us go with a dictionary: Entropy is "a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system." Now I don't see anything in my argument or illustrations that would constitute a howler when it comes to that definition. Assuming that this is a reasonable English expression of what … [Read more...]

Building Things With Sunshine

I have said in the past that I think evolution is a hoot, and moreover, I have given reasons for thinking this. One of the reasons is that the idea of evolution runs clean contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. In response to this view of mine, an anti-theist web site (read more here) has offered the following: "To finish this argument (hopefully once and for all) I will give a similar example but in relation to life.- In 'open' thermodynamic systems energy is imported to turn simple compounds into complex ones, a perfect example of this is photosynthesis in which; water and carbon-dioxide are turned into complex carbohydrates. The energy for this is imported from the sun, because the earth is not a 'closed' system, it is an open one. If evolution is impossible relating to the second law, so is photosynthesis, which is obviously not the case." Let me go straight to my conclusion, state the problem, and then work back to the argument. My interlocutor is trying to explain things … [Read more...]

The Way It Looks on the Screen

So I am a presuppositionalist. That's true enough, but what do I need to presuppose? This will require more development, but what needs to be presupposed is the way things actually are. You don't need to know all the precise details of how things actually are -- you don't begin at the end -- but you do have to be committed to the truth a priori, knowing that such objective, unmovable truth, which is so necessary as the foundation of every form of knowing, is not possible apart from the bedrock of the true and living God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 9:10). But beginning with the fear of the Lord does not mean beginning with the Lord alone, the Lord solitary, the Lord isolated. No one can know the Lord that way -- it is incoherent -- oxymoronic. God cannot be known from outside God unless there is a creation, in which the knower lives. And if he lives in a created order larger than himself, then he also knows things other than God simultaneously with his … [Read more...]

C.S. Lewis and Moose Tracks Ice Cream

Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing natural law -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Jim Jordan kicked things off by attacking The Calvinist International at the Auburn Avenue conference, and I wrote a few posts on the subject, including an outline of my own debt to C.S. Lewis, and my derivative gratitude for the work of Van Til. So the debate now continues. Peter Escalante and Steven Wedgeworth have now replied to Jim here. In addition, just as I did, Steven gives an account of his intellectual pilgrimage here. We all travel different paths, but we ascend the same mountain. That's what natural law leads to, right? A syncretistic swirl of paganism and Christianity, like moose tracks ice cream? The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient, that kind of thing? Not really. I think this is a fruitful topic for debate because it concerns the nature of reality, and our access to that reality. For every Christian who lives downstream from Kant, I think this is an issue … [Read more...]

The Pigeon Forge Chapter

Okay, so the creation/evolution debate has many entries in the Annals of the Wheeze Worthy, but this is a particularly strong entry. A gent named Dan Arel has posted on why Bill Nye, the Science Guy, should not debate Ken Ham. You can read all about that here. If you choose to do so, you will encounter this . . . "To win a debate successfully you must understand your opponent's position better than they do, in fact, you should know it well enough that you could debate for them. Creationists have no rules, their dishonesty stops nowhere . . . Ham will care little for any facts or evidence and will stick to nonsense and will feed on audience ignorance and use terms like "irreducible complexity" to confuse the watchers into thinking he has made a valid point . . . This debate is being held at the Creation Museum itself and this will ensure that the brain-dead creationist zombies . . ." The good news is that Arel is telling us that he could "debate for" all of us brain dead zombies. … [Read more...]

Apologetics and the Heart

This article was originally published in Antithesis (July/August 1990). I still agree with all of this, but I must say that reading stuff of mine that is over twenty years old gives me the feeling that I used to compose my prose with flattened cardboard boxes and tin snips. Just so you know. In preparing this for the blog, I fixed a few typos, and no doubt introduced a few new ones. And all the italics refused to transfer for some reason. Apologetics and the Heart I must perhaps begin by explaining that I do under­stand that an (abusive) ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy. There is no reason to think we have refuted someone's arguments simply because we have vigorously attacked their person. There is also another fallacy, closely related to the ad hominem, dubbed “Bulverism” by C.S. Lewis.[i] He pointed out the modern tendency to dismiss an argument on no stronger grounds than the fact that you had explained how your oppo­nent came to believe it. But it does not follow … [Read more...]

Natural Law and Self-Deception

So it looks to me as though we are going to have a full bore discussion of natural law. This is fine, and about time. I do think that there are some genuine differences here, obviously, but perhaps not as many as advertised. Some of this seems to me to be a debate between advocates of natural knowing, on the one hand, and natural understanding on the other. If you look in the comments on the previous "5K in your pocket" post, you will see a link to Andrew Fulford's article on certain tensions in Van Til's position, along with some comments on it. Here is that link again. But if you will allow me to complicate things a little bit -- for is that not my spiritual gift? -- I would point out one other implication of any expression like natural law. If there is a law, then there is a lawgiver, as I have already said. But if there is a natural law, then there is also a body of persons to whom the legislation applies. If there is law in Idaho, there is a legislature. But there must also … [Read more...]

Spring Loaded

One of the things we should have realized by now is that the world around us is far crazier than we could ever have dreamed. Just when we have finally accommodated ourselves to taking yesterday's staggering discoveries for granted, along comes another one. Our sinful hearts have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted, and even we are having trouble keeping up. Word now comes that the language of DNA is not limited to one language. This is more than just a genetic palimpsest. This means that we have, at least in some places, a line of code that is coded in two different ways in order to perform two different functions. It is as though the boss at the factory said something like "turn on the fitzoblaster" and two different employees understood him perfectly, and went and turned on two different machines, and both employees did exactly what the boss wanted -- obeying his command in two different but homophonic languages. But the boss, under evolutionary assumptions, … [Read more...]

Down the Trunk of the Jub Jub Tree

This morning, I read this little snippet at the Bayly Blog, and thought I needed to add my two cents. Here is my first penny. Note that a "first couple" is not required by the text of Scripture, but that it is required by the theologians. Well, then . . . all rise! If the theologians need a first couple, then who are we to say anything to the contrary? We are not strictly bound by what the Bible says, but we are bound by what the theologians need. And what theologians need most, as everybody knows, is a donor base that won't cut off their seminary. And this means that the words must be parsed very carefully, like a donkey eating a thistle. My second farthing is that this quote quite obviously leaves room for the first couple to be the first couple that God decided to make a covenant with, themselves descended from a long line of critters. This means that just as God called Abram out of Ur, so also He called Adam and Eve down from the trees. This is because God looked far into the … [Read more...]