Thursday, February 28, 2013

A question for Bill Craig on the Inner Witness of the Spirit

I have some questions about Craig's "Holy Spirit Epistemology," which may not be quite the typical ones.

The picture that we often have of Craig's position is that while he is prepared to argue for Christian theism, he thinks even if he were to re-evaluate all the arguments negatively, he would still continue to believe, because of the inner witness of the spirit. When he says this we are inclined to picture an "inner voice in the head" that is going to continue to convince him that Christianity even though all the evidence points the other way.

If this is the picture, then I have a few problems with it. Although I believe myself to have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, I don't find a clear voice in my head that I can always identify as the Holy Spirit, as it were, by feel. Consider an inner voice that told me to commit adultery. However, much it might feel like the Holy Spirit, I am sure Bill Craig would tell me that it can't possibly be the Holy Spirit, but probably has to come either from the flesh or the devil. He would direct me, no doubt, to the Bible's prohibition against adultery and argue that, no matter how strongly I felt that I should commit adultery, and no matter how much the feel of this prompting resembled the feel of other promptings to, say, help my neighbor, or go to church on Sunday, it cannot come from the same source. People who think the inner witness of the Holy Spirit tells them to commit mass murder, or violate any other of the Ten Commandments, have to be  mistaken. Something external to the inner voice, in this case Scripture,

I think it's a mistake to think of the witness of the Holy Spirit as an inner voice that some how goes on speaking within one's head regardless of what is outside of it. Rather, it has to operate, in large part, by calling our attention to things outside ourselves.

Is it reasonable to suppose that God might allow me, by honest reflection on the arguments about belief in God, come to believe that insofar as reason is concerned, none of the theistic arguments are good, and that some atheological arguments, such as the argument from evil, are good, but then enable me to continue believing because of an inner voice? I don't see the Holy Spirit doing that.

Craig does says this on his website.

Now it might be said, that God would, indeed, not permit a person to fall into circumstances where the rational thing for him to do is to apostatize and turn his back on God, but what God would do is provide sufficient evidence to such an individual so that he is able to defeat through argument and evidence the alleged defeater. I grant that such a view is possible (how could anyone who believes in middle knowledge think differently?). But as I look at the world in which we actually live, such a view strikes me as naïve.

The vast majority of people in the world have neither the time, training, nor resources to develop a full-blown Christian apologetic as the basis of their faith or to defeat the sundry defeaters which they encounter. I have been deeply moved by the plight of Christians as I have traveled abroad and seen the sometimes desperate circumstances in which they find themselves. In Europe, for example, the university culture is overwhelmingly secular and even atheistic. I met many theological students when we lived in Germany whose professors had exposed them to nothing but radical biblical criticism and anti-Christian scholarship. These students held on to Christian faith in spite of the evidence. It was far, far worse in Eastern Europe and Russia. I wish I could convey to you the spiritual darkness and oppression that existed behind the Iron Curtain during the days of the Soviet Union. I remember asking one Russian believer, "Have you no resources to help you in your Christian life?" He replied, "Well, there is an encyclopedia of atheism published by the state, and by reading what is attacked there, you can learn something. But that's about all." These bothers and sisters endured horrible oppression and atheistic indoctrination by the Marxist regime and yet did not abandon Christ. As I emphasized in my answer to Question #13, evidence varies from generation to generation and from place to place and is accessible only to those privileged few who have the education, leisure time, and resources to explore it. God has provided a more secure basis for our faith than the shifting sands of evidence and argument, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Now, admittedly different people have different intellectual needs which might be met differently. When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to get frustrated with many Christians who didn't seem to need to think critically about their faith as intensely as I did, but as I have gotten older I realize people have other fish to fry, and not everyone is cut out to be a philosopher. However, some of us, like Dr. Craig and myself, have been exposed to arguments for and against theism. Could a Christian decide, yeah, the cosmological argument is bad, the design argument in all its forms is bad, the AFR is bad, the historical evidence for the resurrection is poor, the problem of evil looks like a strong case against God, but I have this inner voice that tells me Christianity is true nevertheless. Or maybe a warm fuzzy feeling? Does the Holy Spirit work like that?  Remember I said that even those of us who believe we have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit can't introspectively determine whether a voice inside our own head is the Holy Spirit of indeed from a less sanctified source.

So I wonder if this picture of Craig's position is really what he thinks, or is it a straw man?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

If you attack something, you have to defend your attacks

Papalinton: Dawkins showed more than a modicum of wisdom when he intelligently noted, in paraphrase, "It [a debate] would look good on his CV but not on mine." Why give unwarranted oxygen to an aficionado of implausible supernatural superstition?

VR: Because you went to the bother of attacking that superstition. If spend your energy attacking something, you then have to put your own view and the view you are attacking on a level playing field and follow the argument where it leads. You have to be ready to have it out with the leading advocates of the opposing view. Otherwise, you conducting a one-sided discussion, where only the ideas on your side are considered. You may conclude that the public-debate format in which Craig thrives is a bad format. Fine, find another format.

I have never had a public debate with a Mormon apologist. But, if I wrote a book called The Mormon Delusion, and a Mormon were to reply to my objections on behalf of the LDS, then I would have to be prepared, in some format or other to engage that defender of Mormonism, and if several Mormons were to respond, then I should at least engage the best people on the Mormon side.

If Christians aren't important enough to debate, then they're not important enough to attack. Craig is one of the world's leading defenders of theistic arguments. If your thesis entails that theistic arguments are no good, then you have to respond to advocates of those arguments. From what I can see, Dawkins doesn't even know how to state Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument, much less refute it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dawkins' failure to debate Bill Craig

In any event, Dawkins' failure to debate Craig is not something I have a problem with per se.

However, I find the charge of "defending genocide" to be somewhat misstated. Could an omniscient being ever be justified in ordering a genocide if he thought that the overall balance of good over bad would be enhanced by so doing? Regardless of what you think the answer is on this, I don't think you could use that as a basis of supposing that your opponent was an evil person, or that you shouldn't be seen on stage with someone like that. Unless you thought this person could end up advocating a present-day genocide, I don't see that such a position would render someone dangerous. And if you really thought someone might end up justifying a real genocide, wouldn't you want to debate them to make sure that such ideas were effectively refuted? I certainly would.

But the fact is, I have no trouble with Dawkins not debating Craig, except that I consider it to be symptomatic of an overall unwillingness to be responsive to critics of his atheistic programme. An atheist might think that a public debate format is a bad setup for that person to engage the points at issue betwee Craig and himself, which is fine. What he has not done is shown either the ability or the willingness to engage, say, Craig's Kalam Cosmological argument, beginning with an effort to state the argument clearly enough so that his audience can be sure he knows how to distinguish that argument from other versions of the cosmological argument. To take a page from Jesse Parrish's book, anyone who writes about the credibility of belief in God should be able to pass this Simple Test For Understanding. Otherwise....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Craig on Intentionality and Mathematics


A rabbi bashes the new atheists

It's Rabbi Moshe Averick.

Classic line: Wouldn’t it have been simpler to reprint Bertrand Russell’s succinct essay, “Why I Am Not Theist,”  and have been done with it?

Well, actually the essay was entitled "Why I am not a Christian." But the point still stands.

Peter Williams' New Book on Lewis and the New Atheists

What if C. S. Lewis debated Richard Dawkins? Oh, don't worry. Even if Lewis were around to debate, Dawkins would come up with some reason not to go on stage with him!

The trailer for it is here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dale Tuggy's Review of the Craig-Rosenberg debate


Sins of the physicalist literature

Back before I opened Dangerous Idea, I gave this response to physicalist critics of the AFR, on Bill Vallicella's blog.

 A lot of the physicalist literature is guilty of one or all of the following sins, which in my estimation are:
1) A dogmatic pre-commitment to materialism.
2) Changing the explanandum in order to make the physicalistic explanation possible.
3) Presuming the very ideas one is trying to explain naturalistically.
4) Issuing gigantic promissory notes to future science, when we have no idea how future science will go.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Callard on Naturalism by Definition

This is a really forceful response. HT: William.

Searle: For us [naturalists], if it should turn out that God exists, that would have to be a fact like any other. To the four basic forces of the universe—gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces—we would add a fifth, the divine force . . . [I]t would still be all physics, albeit divine physics. If the supernatural existed, it too would have to be natural. [Searle, 1998, p. 35]

Callard: This sort of terminological appropriation, whether it is applied to God, numbers, or anything else, fails to address the underlying question. By decreeing that the word ‘natural’ (or ‘physical’) is to be applied to any phenomenon we discover, the naturalist robs naturalism of any content relevant to the substantive dispute between naturalists and those who disagree with them. I have claimed that efficient causal relations between non-spatial, necessary, eternal, unchanging objects and spatial, contingent, changing objects are strongly possible, and I have used the word ‘abstract’ to refer to the former sort of objects, and ‘physical’ or ‘material’ or ‘concrete’ for the latter sort. But the truth of my claim is not affected, or illuminated, if we decide to use these words in some other way instead.

-- Callard, Benjamin, The Conceivability of Platonism, Philosophia Mathematica (III) 15 (2007), pp. 347–356.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Corduan on confusing miracles and magic

I am redating this post, because of this comment:

So we have a guy who believes in ghosts and magic and an invisible superman telling me that my position isn't rational. It takes brass.

Still, before going any further, I promised that I would clear up why Mr. Carrier and some of his colleagues in their critique of miracles make the mistakes that they do. The answer is very simple: they confuse miracles and magic, and doing so is such a common practice that it seems to me that few people are ever even aware of it, though the distinction is not too hard to catch. I am using the term “magic” here in the technical sense, as one would in the study of comparative religion, not in the sense of sleight of hand for the sake of entertainment. Magic consists of the manipulation of spiritual forces for the sake of bringing about a certain end. A miracle is a free action by God, done by him as he sees fit, and never coerced by human beings, though it may be, if God so wishes, a response by him to human beings. This is not a distinction that I have invented just now (or for that matter, a few decades ago), but one that has been accepted in religious studies and the anthropology if religion, not to mention theology, for a long time, but it seems to be unknown among philosophical skeptics of religion, unless they deliberately ignore it. Its roots lie in another fundamental distinction, namely that of religion as rituals for reasons of personal gain and religion as the worship of a supreme being simply because of his exalted position. As anyone who has read some of my other works knows, I contend that a natural disposition of fallen human beings is towards magic and rituals, and that those procedures wind up infiltrating almost all religious cultures. Nonetheless, from an abstract, conceptual point of view, the difference between the two is crystal clear.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Rage of Unbelief

This is in response to Alex Rosenberg's debate with William Lane Craig. Not mentioning any names, but this does seem to be a real problem with "movement atheism." If this movement becomes more predominant, we may find ourselves in a society deeply bifurcated on religious grounds--a kind of intellectual apartheid, where we are no longer able to talk to one another. The societal damage this would do would be incalculable.

HT: Bob Prokop

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The external world and the burden of proof

Should the burden of proof be on the side of a person who believes in the external world? Should believers in the external world have to prove that there really is an external world independent of our minds? After all "The external world exists" is a positive existence claim, in just the way that "God exists" is a positive existence claim. So, if theists have the burden of proof, do external worldists have the same burden?  Do we have the right to believe in the external world if the we can't refute the claim that we are brains in vats who are being given the experience of a world that really does not exist?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition: Keith Burgess-Jackson on Nagel, Plantinga, and Leiter

Here is his response to Plantinga's review of Nagel, and here is his response to the Leiter-Weisberg attack on Nagel.

Some of the attacks on people like Nagel really do remind me of the Spanish Inquisition.

More on circumstantial ad hominem

Here's what I put in the last post. 

"You think you have reasons to believe in God. But actually, you only believe it because you can't stand the idea of going out of existence when you die. You don't have reasons, just rationalizations."

In other words, this response is addressed to a believer who thinks he has reasons for being a theist.

Now, I am perfectly willing to point out that there are POSSIBLE non-rational motives working in both directions. But to think that we know that actual motives of other people assumes powers of mindreading that I am afraid we all lack.

Walter said: It's also quite annoying when we skeptics are told that the only reason we refuse to believe is because we love our sin and autonomy too much to bend the knee and submit to Jesus as our master.

Of course it is. It is also annoying when skeptics assert that they couldn't have psychological motives undergirding their beliefs.

I'm skeptical wrote: Please tell me about this empirical evidence regarding wish fulfillment. I always thought the atheist based his beliefs on evidence.

Well, we all think the evidence is on our side. We all at least try to believe based on evidence. How well we do it is precisely what's at issue. I don't know if he was thinking this, but sometimes atheists really talk as if atheistic naturalism is so emotionally repulsive that only evidence could persuade anyone that it is true. That strikes me as extremely naive. If you'll buy that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona, from my front porch you can see the sea.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ad hominem circumstantial

"You think you have reasons to believe in God. But actually, you only believe it because you can't stand the idea of going out of existence when you die. You don't have reasons, just rationalizations."

How many times have you heard this?