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If you are a Wayne State University student this Fall 2011 term, and would like to learn more about Ratio Christi at Wayne State University, send an email inquiry to RatioChristi@yahoo.com
There are many established arguments for the existence of God. Our group covered four of the most well known of these during the Spring semester. They were the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the design argument, and the argument from DNA. These are all science based arguments that strongly suggest (if not require) the existence of God.
Our main contention was that the most current scientific data infers a Creator. We had a group of agnostics attend for the lessons on the cosmological argument, and they resolved to say that science may one day give explanations to these arguments that are naturalistic. In other words, they could not refute our main contention.
Also, at the end of discussing the cosmological argument, I brought up the Kalam Cosmological Argument to further the point. I'll explain the different arguments next. I tried to explain the Kalam argument 3 ways, and it felt like the entire group “got it” at the same time. All of the sudden, there was a deep realization that the universe could NOT be infinite. It's logically impossible. You could feel the mood in the room change. Ironically, that was the last night the agnostics came (they had attended up until this, which was the 3rd or 4th meeting of the semester).
So what are these arguments? Well first, let me review what is meant by an argument. An “argument” is not about verbal fights, but logical arguments that comprise of truth statements. Probably one of the most well known type of logical argument is the deduction, which comprises of the truth statements (premises) and their results (a conclusion). A logical argument like this is read as: there are two or more premises that are related. Each premise must be established as true. If the premises are true, then the conclusion follows. This is called deduction, where you can make a conclusion based on relevant information. The conclusion has to use the information from the premises to hold true, otherwise it's not substantiated.
The other two main ways of learning by logic is induction and abduction. Induction identifies a trend (in nature) and tries to explain it with a general principal. An example would be seeing things fall, and coming up with the general principal of gravity. Abduction is inferring to the best cause. Abduction is more like brain storming where you see the results of something and you are trying to explain the cause. Forensic scientists use this all the time to determine how a crime was committed.
Now that we have that out of the way, I’m going to give a brief review of the four arguments we learned this spring and gauge their usability.
Anything that has a beginning has a cause beyond itself.
The Universe had a beginning.
Therefore, the Universe has a cause beyond itself.
The first premise states that everything that has a beginning must have a cause. People give birth to people. A computer comes out of an assembly line. Trees come from trees, etc. Each of these have a beginning and a cause for that beginning. This includes the universe itself.
During the lesson, we learned about the various attempts to explain whether the universe had a beginning. The conclusion was that Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity shows us that time, space, energy, and matter all began at the same moment.
Using the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I also showed that it’s logically impossible for the universe to be infinite, so no “new” scientific discovery could fully refute General Relativity. How did I do this? Basically, I explained time is linear and is moving “forward,” always converting the future in the past in this slice of time called the present. Then I asked, “How long does it take to get the the end of an infinite line?” (If time is linear, which is is, then it can be viewed as being a line.) The answer is, you can never get to the end of an infinite line. If the universe is infinite, then time would never get to today.
Remember that infinity is not a number. You can say that you’re going to count to infinity. What’s infinity minus 5? It contradicts itself when used as a number. Similarly, in theory every minute could be counted. How many minutes ago did the universe come into being? This works when thinking about causes as well. Think of anything. Think of yourself. Work backwards to your parents and their parents and so on. How far back does it go? You can’t have an infinite regress of material causes. There is no infinite in the material world. There can’t be.
There are many other examples to make this point, but I think you get the idea.
Therefore, the universe had to have a cause that’s beyond itself. Since the universe is time, space, matter and energy, the cause of the universe has to be outside of time, space, matter and energy. By inference, this alludes to God, which meets all those requirements. It’s not a iron clad case, but it is a strong case nonetheless.
I also want to point out that the first premise is "anything that has a beginning..." Many skeptics ignore this statement and ask what caused God. God, by definition, has always existed and was not caused by anything. This does get interesting as we can't conceive of "a time before there was time." We don't know even how to put into words what "things" were like before God spoke them into existence. But we can infer with good reason that time, matter, energy, and space did not exist until God spoke them into existence. God is spirit, not material. So the material universe was caused by a non-material Being.
The great thing about the cosmological and kalam cosmological arguments is you only need minimal science knowledge to build the case. It’s easy to learn and share.
That’s it for this time. Next time we’ll finish the recap of the scientific arguments for the existence of God that we used last semester.
From the Wall Street Journal by JONATHAN SACKS
Britain's chief rabbi on the moral disintegration since the 1960s and how to rebuild
. . . Britain is the latest country to pay the price for what happened half a century ago in one of the most radical transformations in the history of the West. In virtually every Western society in the 1960s there was a moral revolution, an abandonment of its entire traditional ethic of self-restraint. All you need, sang the Beatles, is love. The Judeo-Christian moral code was jettisoned. In its place came: whatever works for you. The Ten Commandments were rewritten as the Ten Creative Suggestions. Or as Allan Bloom put it in "The Closing of the American Mind": "I am the Lord Your God: Relax!"
“As an historian of revival it intrigues me that almost every major awakening since the Reformation has begun on a university campus. And this is a worldwide phenomenon.”
By Wayne Detzler, PhD (Board Member for Ratio Christi); Professor of Historical Theology—Southern Evangelical Seminary
For more than 50 years I have been actively studying and writing about revival. This fascination is rooted in the conversion of my family during a revival movement in the Midwest of the United States (1930s). It is fuelled by my participation as a preacher in revivals in Germany and England. My PhD is in the history of revival, a study I conducted at Manchester University in England.
One conclusion is inescapable: Since the Protestant Reformation the vast majority of revival movements worldwide have begun on university campuses. Here is some supporting evidence.
Our first meeting is this Thursday night in Fretwell 402, from 7PM-8PM.
We hope to see YOU there!
Eric Chabot, Ratio Christi campus director at Ohio State University, discusses the need for apologetics at the university.
"Now, if you then ask me where I get my 'ought' statements from, that's a more difficult question. Firstly, I don't feel so strongly about them. If I say something is wrong, like killing people, I don't find that nearly such a defensible statement as 'I am a distant cousin of an orangutan...
The second of those statements is true, I can tell you why it's true, I can bore you to death telling you why it's true. It's definitely true. The statement 'killing people is wrong', to me, is not of that character. I would be quite open to persuasion that killing people is right in some circumstances."(1) Richard Dawkins
"Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either."(2) Dr. William Provine, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
"If man is a product of evolution, one species among others, in a universe without purpose, then man's option is to live for himself..." Paul Kurtz, ("Father of Secular Humanism")
"A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." Ingrid Newkirk, Save the Animals (President of PETA)
"While the death of young men in war is unfortunate, it is no more serious than the touching of mountains and wilderness areas by humankind." David Brower, For Eath's Sake (former head of Sierra Club)
"Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness..." Apostle Paul, Romans 2:14-15
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:32
"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jesus, John 15:13
Where do morals come from? Is it based on feelings, culture, family, or perhaps, religion? Should it be?
This fall we plan to spend about four meetings looking at the foundation for morality. What we will find is morality, to be objective and binding to all people, must be founded in God. This leads us to what is called, "The Moral Argument."
Some say that "The Moral Argument" is one of the most persuasive arguments for the existence of God. (When I say "argument," I'm not talking about verbal fights, but "logical arguments" that comprise of truth statements (premises) and their conclusion (a deduction)).
Indeed, CS Lewis helped popularize the Moral Argument. It states:
1.) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2.) Objective moral values & duties do exist.
3.) Therefore, God exists.
If you're like me, it may take a while to fully digest this and get a firm grasp on it. That's why RC-UAH is spending our first four meetings of the Fall 2011 semester on this topic. We'll defend and show evidences for the first two statements, which will establish the conclusion.
In the coming weeks we will contrast moral systems based on the foundation of God as well as without God. As you may guess from the quotes above, moral systems without God as the foundation don't get very far. My goal for students is to show them that their moral system assumes God exists whether they realize it or not and to train students to use this simple truth as an evangelism tool.
Fall Schedule Preview:
August 25: The Failure of Moral Relativism
September 1: Building the Case for Objective Morality (Contrasting secular and theistic foundations for morality)
September 15: Are Morals Absolute? (looking at different views on objective morality and moral absolutes)
We'll also watch and discuss a debate on "Is God the Foundation for Good?" between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris
There's more to come in the semester, but hopefully this wets your appetite!
(2) Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994.
Yesterday, I presented a theoretical post. I said that the Euthyphro dilemma could be solved, as William Lane Craig observes, by the ontology of God. God is the ultimate source of good, and therefore the dilemma creates a false dichotomy. God neither commands something because it’s good, nor is it good because he commands it. God is good, and therefore his commands are good since they flow from his nature.
However, I observed, this wouldn’t satisfy most skeptics because they don’t think a syllable of the Bible is either true or reliable. Most believe that the Bible has been completely disproved by every discipline of science:
And on the list goes.
Now, all of those have logical answers. I’ve linked to what others have said (I haven’t actually addressed any of those claims in depth) if you, the skeptic, would actually care to read them.
But let’s get to a practical application of yesterday: the Resurrection. This is the central tenet of Christianity, but if the skeptic believes that the Bible is as riddled with error as many believe (above), then how are they ever going to swallow something as improbable and unbelievable as the Resurrection?
And make no mistake: It is both unbelievable and improbable!
Last semester we used Focus on the Family's "True U: Does God Exist?" small group DVD curriculum for most of our meetings. It was taught by Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute (an Intelligent Design think tank). DGE uses five lines of evidence for the existence of God while showing the short-comings of competing views. The five lines of evidence are the cosmological argument (the universe had a beginning, and thus has a cause), fine tuning argument (the likelihood of the conditions necessary for life on earth are so remote, that it's statistically impossible), irreducible complexity in the cell (molecular machines that couldn't have formed by a slow evolution - not to mention the appearance of design in the cell), information in DNA (there is no junk DNA, and where did the information, or "code," come from), and finally, the moral necessity of theism (objective morals can't exist unless God exists). We went over all these arguments, except for the one for morality.
The first lesson is a primer on logic and critical thinking. It explained how scientists use abduction, induction, and deduction to make reasonable conclusions about nature. It also explained that in philosophy, an "argument" isn't fighting words, but building a simple case for an idea from logic. These logical tools were used and referenced throughout the series. Also, as an aside, you can think of the scientific arguments as being divided on context. The first two look at nature at the macro level, while the next two examine nature as the micro level.
I found that while the videos were fast paced and engaging, they did not include a complete background of the information necessary for presenting to college students. I was admittedly stumped when one student asked me if the "point of singularity could have been a back hole?" Since this was during the second or third lesson, I realized I needed to do more preparation. I decided to buy Stephen Meyer's book, "Signature in the Cell" to get up to speed on DNA and cellular information. It was thick, but I found it fascinating - and it was a great help for when we covered the DNA and molecular machine sections.
To reinforce and build on the scientific material in the series, we also watched "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" (looking at the cell's complexity and design) and "The Privileged Planet" (Fine Tuning examples).
DGE comes from an admittedly Intelligent Design perspective, although it does incorporate some scripture since it's a Christian video series. Intelligent Design is a movement that takes away the naturalistic assumptions that many scientists have and follow where the evidence in nature leads. This brings the scientist (or student) to the reasonable conclusion that there's an Intelligent Designer. Dr. Meyer uses the most current and best scientific data available to build its case. Also, ID does not use any holy books for help, so any additional truth or clarifications the Bible could shed on these topics is omitted.
Practically speaking, this is simply putting naturalism to the test, thereby showing the short-coming of naturalism and the reasonableness and plausibility of a Creator. To be clear, by testing naturalism, the inference of the series is for an Old Earth. Young Earth creationists can still use this series, but they need to understand this particular point. (RC doesn't endorse any particular age-of-the-earth view, but I wanted to make this clarification so YEC's don't automatically write this off as unusable.) Also, by using these arguments, Christianity isn't proven. It's barely even talked about. Instead, it builds the first and essential building block to get to Christianity by establishing a Being exists that could easily be God.
This line of reasoning is handy for those who don't have the time or ability to defend the truth of the Bible. From an apologetics stand point, this series builds a person's ability to challenge the presuppositions of an agnostic or atheist. If it's assumed that God doesn't exist, you will have no luck of convincing someone of miracles (a la, the Bible), since miracles are impossible without divine intervention. Once theism is seen as possible, miracles become possible.
As for students' take aways, I think that those with a science background could easily relate these arguments to friends and explain why they're so significant. For everyone else, the cosmological argument has a low learning curve and can be used by anyone. In conclusion, the videos (both True U and the supplemental) make a compelling case that a supreme being exists while exposing the short-comings of naturalism.
Is it moral because God says so or does God say so because it’s moral? False dilemma. It’s moral because that’s the way God is. — William Lane Craig
I think that this an excellent and adequate response to the Euthyphro dilemma. I believe that the answer is rooted in the ontology of God as perfectly good.
However, I don’t think that the skeptic would ever be convinced by such an answer.
He’ll just ask how we know God is good, and when we way “the Bible,” he’ll mention that the Bible also says to sacrifice turtledoves to “clean” women during their menstrual cycles, confirms the existence of unicorns, and prohibits football.
Now, all of those things are hyper-literal readings of the text and have simple responses. My point here is that the skeptic doesn’t accept the Bible’s description of anything, let alone God.
To illustrate, archeologists give the benefit of the doubt to ancient documents when a site contradicts a document. The thought is that the ancient writer was closer to the events and probably knows better than we do thousands of years later. Not to mention that its possible that a site might have been altered, destroyed, rebuilt, or built upon between the composition of the document and our discovery of the site.
However, when that ancient document is the Bible, then the error is automatically assumed to be with the Bible, and not assumed to be one of a myriad of possibilities like the ones I just mentioned. To recap, random ancient document contradicts a site: “There’s probably an explanation. Let’s assume the document is right and find out the reason for the contradiction.” The Bible contradicts a site: “Bible’s wrong, it’s complete fiction, God doesn’t exist. Three cheers for freethought!”
While I think that the answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma lies in God’s ontology, I think that in order to get the skeptic to see that, he must be willing to step out in faith and trust the Bible. However, given all of the skeptical attacks on the Bible (despite it previously thought to have been very reliable), there’s a long way to go on that.
By the way, I’m not the only one that sees this. The Bible has yielded much good archeology in the past, and if we would continue to rely on it I have faith it will produce much more good in the future. However, there is a serious prejudice against the Bible not only in archeology, but in every academic discipline.
History and archeology aren’t my thing, but I hope that other apologists who feel called to that area work hard to counter some of this anti-Bible sentiment in those fields. If the Bible can be believed again as a reliable ancient source of history, then we will have taken a good step toward resolving some of the theological questions being raised as well.