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Prominent Brit atheist Polly Toynbee pulls out of debate with apologist William Lane Craig

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From bethinking.org, we learn:

The President of the British Humanist Association has pulled out of debating renowned Christian philosopher William Lane Craig.Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and prominent critic of religion, readily agreed in April to debate Craig on the Existence of God but withdrew her involvement last week saying “I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and having now looked at his previous performances, this is not my kind of forum”.

– “British Humanists take to the Bunkers” (August 2, 2011)

The reader is asked to believe that she had no idea what debating Craig would be like, even though his debates are up on YouTube. In that case, just how she got where she is today is under wide speculation.

Also, prominent Brit atheist A. C. Grayling won’t debate morality with Craig:

Meanwhile, A.C. Grayling, who this year published a humanist ‘bible’ called The Good Book has refused to debate with Craig on the foundations of atheist morality. With secular Britain beset by moral difficulties, not least among politicians, police and the press, this seems to be a neglect of his moral and intellectual duty. Grayling stated that he would rather debate “the existence of fairies and water-nymphs”.

– “British Humanists take to the Bunkers” (August 2, 2011)After the world got a look at the flower of British yoof, raised on secularism, rampaging through the streets and wiping out small shopkeepers while the police look on, we can hardly be surprised he’d want to punt that one.

Curiously,

While Toynbee is President of the British Humanist Association, Dawkins and Grayling are both Vice-Presidents. The BHA describes one of its core values as “engaging in debate rationally, intelligently and with attention to evidence”.

And it is the evidence that is betraying them, on all sides now.

Hat tip: Wintery Knight

42 Replies to “Prominent Brit atheist Polly Toynbee pulls out of debate with apologist William Lane Craig

  1. 1

    “Grayling stated that he would rather debate ‘the existence of fairies and water-nymphs.'”

    Perhaps that’s because fairies and water-nymphs don’t offer anything to issues of morality; so the argument that belief in the God of the bible would be the same lacks a certain cohesion.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Perhaps Polly Toynbee saw this video of the last time Dawkins got anywhere near Dr. Craig, and wanted no part of that type of precise, methodical, deconstruction of the logic of her atheistic arguments against Theism:

    Richard Dawkins Lies About William Lane Craig AND Logic! – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1cfqV2tuOI

    ================

    Oxford Atheist Calls Richard Dawkins “Coward” for Not Debating William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC1xgS1XGSg

    =====================

    Jim Croce – Bad Bad Leroy Brown (Midnight Special 1973) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjPCg5HtH1E

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-fDyPU3wlQ

    Golly. So if evidence contradicts faith, the evidence must be wrong?

    Seriously?

  4. 4
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Not basing your faith on the “shifting sands of evidence” is what he is saying. This is not the same as ignoring evidence. Meaning theories come and go and will continue to do so, but a singular constant has remained that has surpassed them all in the Word of Christ, relevant for the past 2000 years and will remain so for the next 2000. The majority of scientists are not even relevant in their own generation.

    This model fits all the data. This is how science works.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I’d volunteer, if they asked me.

  6. 6

    You know he’s not saying that, Lizzie. He’s saying that faith is above the shifting sands of what counts as evidence. For example; if one were to rely solely on the Turin shroud as evidence for the resurrection, and somehow the Turin shroud were to be shown to be a 15th Century artifact; this does not discount the resurrection; it discounts only discounts the artifact.

    On the other hand let’s take something that might directly affect faith that is not dependent on an artifact. Let’s say that scientists have come up with an actual scientific demonstration for how rm+ns can account for CSI. This does not affect faith that God is the ultimate and necessary first cause leading to the processes (whatever they may be) that can account for CSI.

    This is so because Craig’s foremost argument is the Kalam Cosmological argument, which depends on first principles of reason. It’s the first principles; which most strongly support theism, and not necessarily the physical “evidences,” which can be interpreted differently at different times, and can actually be countered by new evidences.

    What he’s actually saying then is that God transcends our shifting understanding of nature and the cosmos. Faith should be such that our understanding of God does not shift with new ideas about nature and the cosmos, because unlike our understanding, God does not change.

    God is not a scientific conclusion, but a conclusion on a higher order than science; that of the first principles of logic upon which scientific reasoning depends.

    Scientific reasoning can inform us about God, but it ultimately does not lead to a full understanding of who God is. Craig’s contention is that God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit is more dependable than our own reasoning; no matter how empirical. It would be question begging to suggest in light of this that any materialistic insight could provide us with answers regarding God, and this is why people like Dawkins are demonstrably wrong about theism. Materialism depends solely on empiricism, which is incomplete; even empiricists acknowledge that it is.

    And if God is who the theists believe He is, it would be expected that He transcends that which is only of a tentative nature such as empirical science.

    I think you would do well to understand Craig a little more clearly than to jump to such ridiculous and uninformed conclusions.

  7. 7

    Exactly!

    (I like this new reply feature. It makes things a whole lot easier.)

  8. 8

    “…all other ground is sinking sand.”

    Christ the Solid Rock.

  9. 9

    Please do if they ask, Liz. How would you counter the Kalam?

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I’d probably cite Aquinas 🙂

  11. 11
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I was commenting only on that YouTube clip, where he actually says (does he not? I didn’t make a transcript) that is primary reason for his belief is the evidence of the Holy Spirit within himself, and that if other evidence ceased to support this believe, he’s still have the conviction of the Holy Spirit and trust that eventually evidence supporting his position would come up. I’m paraphrasing him from memory though.

    I was a bit surprised.

    I get his emails circulars, and had never read that before.

  12. 12

    You jest, I’m sure, but citing Aquinas will not help you in logically defeating the argument itself. You would have to deal directly with the argument. How would you do it? How would you deal directly with the Kalam cosmological argument without citing another? You’d have to use logic that is as sound as the argument itself; or you would have to demonstrate how the argument is not sound. Again, how would you do it?

  13. 13

    Well all I can say from my own experience is that the Holy Spirit does not operate on what we hope to be true, but on the conviction of what IS true according to the word of God. There’s a discernment involved that pertains to scripture. This is why I can discount what a lot of people claim regarding the Holy Spirit. Some claim to have a personal word of God or prophecy within them that is contrary to what I find in scripture. Foremost, the Holy Spirit does not contradict scripture, for it is from “God-breathed” scripture that we gain knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

    So I don’t think Craig is saying that the Holy Spirit gives us our own understanding of God apart from scripture. The Holy Spirit IS God and we do best to be completely in line with what scripture states as also God-breathed.

    There’s more to it than that of course, but I’m addressing where I think you’re going with the objection, and that would be to think that God is for a Christian whatever we make Him to be that comes from within us, which would not be a Christian understanding; nor would it be logical given that it is God who transcends, not ourselves.

    But I think we’re headed in a direction that may be way off topic for any further discussion. Perhaps we could remain a little more on topic by discussing why a top humanist would shy away from debating Craig?

  14. 14
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Actually I’m not jesting. I’m no theologian, but what theology I have I got from Dominicans 🙂

    I’d start by happily conceding that to avoid infinite regression (which isn’t such a bad thing, I don’t think, actually) we have to posit a First Cause that is itself Uncaused.

    And I’d also be happy to give that the name “God”, if only as a placeholder. And then, using Aquinas’ technique, I’d establish not what God is, but what God is not.

    And I’d demonstrate (heh) that whatever God is, God is not the God that Christianity claims, nor even the God that William Lane Craig claims, namely a mind

    But I’d have to work out a few details, first….

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Elizabeth you state as if in shock that someone could operate as such:

    ‘Golly. So if evidence contradicts faith, the evidence must be wrong?

    Seriously?’

    Yet Elizabeth, you have ZERO evidence that Darwinism is actually true as to first life, or diversification of further complex life, and all evidence presented that falsifies Darwinism you simply ignore!! You, Elizabeth, have enough faith, in that for which you have no evidence, to put to shame a suicide bomber. That you would not see the blatant hypocrisy of your ‘shock’ is what makes it ‘shocking’ for me!!!

  16. 16
    THEMAYAN says:

    Its interesting that Grayling would say such a thing, when as far as I know, he usually seems to want to talk nothing else but bashing anything that has to do with religion and theism.

    In fact I have never before heard him express any interest in fairies and water nymphs. Well, at least not publicly?

  17. 17

    My Gosh! Where are the brave atheists defenders of reason? Are they really a bunch of intellectual cowards? By Golly, nowadays they don’t create, oops raise good, brave and really intellectual atheists as they did in the past!!!

  18. 18

    Lizzie, since your post below (or is it above now? I’m confused) has no reply button I had to post here. I tried posting a whole new post in response, but I guess due to the ongoing changes it was lost, so I’m starting over.

    First of all Craig isn’t arguing necessarily from theology but from philosophy, so I think the whole Aquinas thing as far as your apparent application of it is a moot point, however somewhat related.

    But I think several areas where you’re wrong about Craig, (and I actually think you’d fare better than Polly Toynbee) are the following:

    First: “I’d start by happily conceding that to avoid infinite regression (which isn’t such a bad thing, I don’t think, actually) we have to posit a First Cause that is itself Uncaused.”

    Well it’s good we agree that a first uncaused cause is a way to avoid an infinite regress. I think it’s the only way, personally, and I think you would do well to check out the ongoing post on “Who designed the designer” (Part Trente Deux), where Gil raises the issue of time. Follow the subsequent posts and consider it; and while you’re at it you might try to clarify why an infinite regress is then not a problem. It is most definitely a problem for materialism. I think you would agree if you’re trying to make a coherent logical argument for existence that is necessary for any sort of material/temporal chain or web of causal events, it serves you well to consider a logical absurdity such as an infinite regress of causes as necessarily a bad thing. If you fail to do this, I’m afraid Craig would pounce all over you quite drastically.

    Second: “And I’d demonstrate (heh) that whatever God is, God is not the God that Christianity claims, nor even the God that William Lane Craig claims, namely a mind.”

    A mind is not what Craig claims; it’s something that transcends even the human mind. It may be mind in the sense that it involves intention; but when we think of mind we think of contingency. Try imagining a type of “mind” that is not contingent. If a contingent mind is what Craig is claiming I can see why anyone would have a problem with it intellectually; but that’s not what he’s arguing.

    Regarding the use of Kalam for the Christian God: You’d be headed into strawman territory if that is the direction of your counter argument because Craig doesn’t use the Kalam as an argument solely for the Christian God. He applies other arguments in combination; such as the historical record of the resurrection, the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the efficacy of the Christian life, etc.

    The Kalam is his preferred argument for generic theism, since it has its origin in Islamic philosophy. There are of course other forms of cosmological arguments that are Christian in origin, but the Kalam is not one of them.

    But the kalam does lead to aspects of God’s essence that must be so and which reflect what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures tell us about God; namely, his eternal essence and transcendence. Such an argument is limited. It can only go so far, and you will notice in debates that Craig doesn’t attempt to take it any further. Other arguments are necessary to establish the Christian God.

    I think one of the reasons Craig fares so well in these types of debates is his dedication to an intellectual discipline, which avoids applying an argument to that which it does not adequately address.

    I think that’s why Harris has suggested that Craig “puts the fear of God” in his atheist opponents. He’s more disciplined than they, and Polly perhaps sensed that she needs to hone up on her intellectual skills before facing someone like Craig. That’s my estimation.

  19. 19
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Lizzie, since your post below (or is it above now? I’m confused) has no reply button I had to post here. I tried posting a whole new post in response, but I guess due to the ongoing changes it was lost, so I’m starting over.

    I hate it when that happens! But I do like threaded blogs, and have made mine threaded here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/

    where you would be most welcome to drop by for tea (or fish :))

    First of all Craig isn’t arguing necessarily from theology but from philosophy, so I think the whole Aquinas thing as far as your apparent application of it is a moot point, however somewhat related.

    But I think several areas where you’re wrong about Craig, (and I actually think you’d fare better than Polly Toynbee) are the following:

    First: “I’d start by happily conceding that to avoid infinite regression (which isn’t such a bad thing, I don’t think, actually) we have to posit a First Cause that is itself Uncaused.”

    Well it’s good we agree that a first uncaused cause is a way to avoid an infinite regress. I think it’s the only way, personally, and I think you would do well to check out the ongoing post on “Who designed the designer” (Part Trente Deux), where Gil raises the issue of time. Follow the subsequent posts and consider it; and while you’re at it you might try to clarify why an infinite regress is then not a problem. It is most definitely a problem for materialism. I think you would agree if you’re trying to make a coherent logical argument for existence that is necessary for any sort of material/temporal chain or web of causal events, it serves you well to consider a logical absurdity such as an infinite regress of causes as necessarily a bad thing. If you fail to do this, I’m afraid Craig would pounce all over you quite drastically.

    Well, as I’ve said, I think an “uncaused cause” is a reasonably neat way of boxing the end of the regress. It doesn’t explain anything, but it gives us a black box that we can explore, Aquinas-style, to see what it is not.

    Second: “And I’d demonstrate (heh) that whatever God is, God is not the God that Christianity claims, nor even the God that William Lane Craig claims, namely a mind.”

    A mind is not what Craig claims; it’s something that transcends even the human mind. It may be mind in the sense that it involves intention; but when we think of mind we think of contingency. Try imagining a type of “mind” that is not contingent. If a contingent mind is what Craig is claiming I can see why anyone would have a problem with it intellectually; but that’s not what he’s arguing.

    He certainly said “a mind” in one of the debates I listend to. What do you mean by a mind that is not “contingent”? I assume you mean a bodiless mind? One that is not contingent on a brain?

    I assume that is what Craig is proposing (his proposal wouldn’t make sense otherwise).

    Regarding the use of Kalam for the Christian God: You’d be headed into strawman territory if that is the direction of your counter argument because Craig doesn’t use the Kalam as an argument solely for the Christian God. He applies other arguments in combination; such as the historical record of the resurrection, the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the efficacy of the Christian life, etc.

    Well, yes, but he’s vulnerable on all those, I would argue. And a collection of weak arguments don’t support each other (“faggot fallacy”).

    The Kalam is his preferred argument for generic theism, since it has its origin in Islamic philosophy. There are of course other forms of cosmological arguments that are Christian in origin, but the Kalam is not one of them.

    Right.

    But the kalam does lead to aspects of God’s essence that must be so and which reflect what the Judaeo-Christian scriptures tell us about God; namely, his eternal essence and transcendence. Such an argument is limited. It can only go so far, and you will notice in debates that Craig doesn’t attempt to take it any further. Other arguments are necessary to establish the Christian God.

    Indeed they are.

    I think one of the reasons Craig fares so well in these types of debates is his dedication to an intellectual discipline, which avoids applying an argument to that which it does not adequately address.

    And it is to be admired 🙂

    I think that’s why Harris has suggested that Craig “puts the fear of God” in his atheist opponents. He’s more disciplined than they, and Polly perhaps sensed that she needs to hone up on her intellectual skills before facing someone like Craig. That’s my estimation.

    Polly is no fool, and has plenty of intellectual skills. But she’s not a philosopher and she’s smart enough to know it (unlike me :)).

  20. 20

    Lizzie,

    Ok, another one of your posts that has no reply button. Could you kindly stop doing that? Notice I can find a design flaw without knowing anything about the designer? 🙂

    Anyway, let’s deal with mind. When I say contingent I simply mean “begins to exist.” Mind development would seem to be a part of that which begins to exist. It is not necessarily so when we’re dealing with a “mind” that needs no development or learning from experience. So when Craig talks about God as “mind” I think he means something completely different than what we envision when we think of minds from a human perspective.

    Anyway, that’s only a small part of what Craig is able to infer from the Kalam. God if he exists certainly transcends any concept we could envision about who He is simply because He is the ultimate reality, and our understanding is clouded in comparison.

    You mention that you are not yourself a philosopher. Well philosophy is perhaps the most difficult of disciplines such that none of us could say we are a true philosopher in relation to the vast resources we would need to understand in order to have more complete pictures of even our own reality. This is another reason why perhaps Craig advises a dependence on the Holy Spirit; who is the ultimate philosopher (I allow you a “given that He exists”). So what it all comes down to is that if God exists, Craig is correct in his assessment of that particular dynamic. If God’s philosophy does not change because God does not change, then council from God would be the best council we should hope for. Otherwise, we are in the dark as far as truly knowing. This does not prove that God exists, but is one very compelling argument for why particularly the Judaeo-Christian God is properly inferred by the Kalam. Of course I believe there is no “other” God, but that would require a much longer discussion.

    “Well, as I’ve said, I think an “uncaused cause” is a reasonably neat way of boxing the end of the regress. It doesn’t explain anything, but it gives us a black box that we can explore, Aquinas-style, to see what it is not.”

    This sounds like a true statement, but it lacks in my view the proper perspective. It is not the uncaused cause issue that only lends meaning and a solution to the infinite regress; it is rather, the infinite regress issue that lends meaning to the necessity of the uncaused cause. That is the Kalam cosmological argument made simple.

    Because there is this absurdity we call an infinite regress of material/temporal causes, it necessitates a solution. The only solution is an uncaused cause. So it’s not at all meaningless, it’s the conclusion we are led to by logical necessity. It’s the ultimate meaning we are led to in consideration of causality. You don’t get everything or anything from nothing; therefore anything and everything that begins to exist must have a cause. That is why we state that contingency describes that which begins to exist. If we get there out of necessity, then that which does not begin to exist is necessary for anything to begin to exist. This is why we speak of a “necessary” first “uncaused” cause. That’s the best we can do with the language of human logic that does not reach beyond the confines of the material/temporal world (unless of course there is in fact a spiritual reality in addition to a material/temporal one).

    Of course we theists believe that God is much more than that, and attempts to categorize and enumerate the Godhead are ultimately lacking, but that does not render them meaningless; they are the most meaningful we are able to articulate with what we have. But as Craig would agree, in order to fully understand we require more.

    There’s a passage of scripture that relates to this: 1 Corinthians 13:12
    “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (NIV)

    More meaning can be gained from this when you consider a 1st Century mirror. It’s not like looking into the clear smooth manufacturing induced reflection we see today in modern mirrors. It’s a distortion of something we recognize as ourselves. So it’s not that we can’t see some of the truth of that which we are most familiar, but it is distorted by our ability to reason as ultimate philosophers. Craig depends on the Holy Spirit for “good reason.”

  21. 21
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Cannuck: “He’s more disciplined than they, and Polly perhaps sensed that she needs to hone up on her intellectual skills before facing someone like Craig.”

    True. What Polly and the rest of the atheists need to do is actually develop an argument that is better than WLC’s. The fact that the entire worldwide intellectual atheist community cannot collectively introduce a more powerful argument is very telling of the state of atheist so-called reason. Once Craig establishes that God is more likely than not, the Christian argument steps up. And atheists are forced to come up with a model that fits the data-a counter-argument that better explains ALL the singular phenomenon attributed to Christianity. The mental gymnastics involved is striking and thus far a sufficient counter with more explanatory power has failed to develop. However, a singular point once introduced simplifies the entire equation, seamlessly fitting the data together into an elegant Truth: Simply Jesus was what He said He was.

  22. 22

    JunkDNADFL: “Once Craig establishes that God is more likely than not, the Christian argument steps up. And atheists are forced to come up with a model that fits the data-a counter-argument that better explains ALL the singular phenomenon attributed to Christianity.”

    Exactly. Notice that Lizzie thinks when Craig resorts to different arguments for theism than he does for Christianity, his argument weakens: (in response to the following….)

    “Regarding the use of Kalam for the Christian God: You’d be headed into strawman territory if that is the direction of your counter argument because Craig doesn’t use the Kalam as an argument solely for the Christian God. He applies other arguments in combination; such as the historical record of the resurrection, the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the efficacy of the Christian life, etc.”

    She states:

    Lizzie: “Well, yes, but he’s vulnerable on all those, I would argue. And a collection of weak arguments don’t support each other (“faggot fallacy”).”

    Well, no. Like you said, once he establishes that the God who is likely given the Kalam argument, he is not vulnerable, but has trampled the very foundation of atheist thought, and that is the idea that there is no evidence for a god or gods. Once that foundation is blown away, the arguments for Christianity follow quite naturally.

    Lizzie started off attacking Craig for stating that the way a Christian should deal with doubt is to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance. That would sound kind of ridiculous if there is no Holy Spirit. But once you establish that God is necessary for existence, what other council and guidance could take the place of God himself?

    She’s arguing on the assumption of atheism. Craig destroys the assumption of atheism, rendering her argument no longer valid. Dependence on the Holy Spirit then becomes the most reasonable given that God does exist.

  23. 23

    JunkDNAFL,

    Where Lizzie is most vulnerable is in this statement:

    Lizzie: “I’d start by happily conceding that to avoid infinite regression (which isn’t such a bad thing, I don’t think, actually) we have to posit a First Cause that is itself Uncaused.”

    This is where the foundation for atheism is destroyed. Once we get them to admit that they have to posit a first cause that is itself uncaused, their atheism topples logically. Notice she has to say something as absurd as “which isn’t such a bad thing.” It is, in fact the worst thing for atheism. It renders atheism totally incoherent.

    That’s why Craig refers to the Kalam cosmological argument. It is the most powerful against atheism. It establishes theism as the the most likely.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle

    Have you ever seen how a natural fibre rope is made up from weak, short strands twisted to form long strands, counter-twisted to form a long, strong rope?

    It is a fallacy of composition to infer form the weakness of the component to the weakness of the whole, particularly when we deal with a cumulative and significantly inductive case where we must exert consistent standards in warrant.

    What is needed is to see how, like the fibres and strands of a rope, the various components interact. If they do so in an appropriate way, the whole can indeed be far stronger than you would expect from the components in isolation.

    I therefore suggest you spend a few moments here, which addresses the very question.

    GEM of TKI

  25. 25

    KF,

    Your private website entries are invaluable. Thanks for sharing them.

    I would like to start something online along those lines that would be appropriate for a younger audience. Something that is upbeat and entertaining, but leads young people to consider worldview issues, as sort of an introduction, leading them to want to dive in deeper – and of course providing links to the appropriate resources. I think a lot of what is contained in your very exhaustive website might be a good place to start. This would be a project that would of course take considerable time, but seeing as I’m no longer working, I have plenty of that.

    I also have WL Craig and JP Moreland’s “Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview,” which has helped me to formulate a lot of my thinking on these issues, as well as leading me to other sources. I would recommend that also to Dr. Liddle if she desires to prepare herself for considering how the whole Christian worldview is formed. It’s a textbook that is used a lot in introductory Christian college philosophy classes. I’m certain that it is used at Biola. Another good book along those lines is Nancy Pearcey’s “Total Truth,” and of course the complete works of Francis Schaeffer in 5 volumes’ particularly the first volume where he introduces Christian worldview issues in “The God Who is There,” “Escape From Reason” and “He is There and He is not Silent.” I would imagine that those titles come across as quite provocative to an atheist.

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Thanks CY 🙂

    You do know that I was a Christian theist for about 50 years? A fairly enthusiastic one 🙂

  27. 27

    Hi Lizzie,

    I hope you noticed my reply to your last post in our most recent discussion. Since again your post had no reply button I had to post it elsewhere. You can find it at 5.1.1.1.2. I hope you can address it.

    I realize that you were once a theist. My concern is not really the reasons why a person would leave theism, but the arguments for theism. Since atheists for the most part maintain that they find no evidence for a god or gods, I think that’s the best issue to start with.

  28. 28

    Also, Lizzie,

    The issue of the existence of God is more fundamental than evidential (while I wouldn’t deny that there is more than sufficient evidence). This is why I think atheists are wrong on the premise that since they see no evidence for a god or gods, therefore it is likely that there is no god or gods. It’s the wrong premise, since the question of the existence of God is above the evidential level, while touching sufficiently on that level as well; but it enters first on issues of first principles of reason upon which issues of evidence are based.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    CY, Craig and Moreland would be what I would use to teach phil 101 today, at least as the first ref level book.

  30. 30

    Yes, it doesn’t dive in too deeply, but it does cover all the pertinent issues.

  31. 31
    junkdnaforlife says:

    The Kalam is a brutally simple argument. Ironic how the science and reason police stress simplicity and then explode into mental acrobatics when it comes to the Kalam. An argument backed up by rigorous scientific data and unwavering logic.

  32. 32
    Ilion says:

    The important question isn’t “Are you a Christian theist?” but rather, “Are you *known* to Christ?”

  33. 33
    Ilion says:

    The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is like one of those clubs in which what is important isn’t so much what you know, but who you know and who knows you.

  34. 34

    But they really don’t desire simplicity and unwavering logic; rather they want the questions and answers to be so complicated such that the mental acrobatics work like magic. With such complication it’s easier to slip in incoherence to the view of an unwary disciple.

    One of the acrobatics is “skepticism:” “Question everything but skepticism itself.” There’s no basis for it other than a personal whim. Also, the skeptic can borrow from the modern new age mentality that “your view is as good as mine.” This works to their advantage in that it renders reason and logic relative to the individual rather than something that is grounded in first principles. This allows them to avoid the confrontation presented by reason and logic, while at the same time trumpeting reason and logic as their defenders.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    CY:

    Lizzie,

    Ok, another one of your posts that has no reply button. Could you kindly stop doing that? Notice I can find a design flaw without knowing anything about the designer? 🙂

    I think the nesting is set to something like 4 deep. Best trick is to use the reply button on the nearest post above in the tree, then it should stack below. Hope so. I’m trying to get the nesting on my site to work as well.

    Anyway, let’s deal with mind. When I say contingent I simply mean “begins to exist.” Mind development would seem to be a part of that which begins to exist. It is not necessarily so when we’re dealing with a “mind” that needs no development or learning from experience. So when Craig talks about God as “mind” I think he means something completely different than what we envision when we think of minds from a human perspective.

    OK.

    Anyway, that’s only a small part of what Craig is able to infer from the Kalam. God if he exists certainly transcends any concept we could envision about who He is simply because He is the ultimate reality, and our understanding is clouded in comparison.

    Sure 🙂 I mean, yes, that’s a familiar concept.

    You mention that you are not yourself a philosopher. Well philosophy is perhaps the most difficult of disciplines such that none of us could say we are a true philosopher in relation to the vast resources we would need to understand in order to have more complete pictures of even our own reality. This is another reason why perhaps Craig advises a dependence on the Holy Spirit; who is the ultimate philosopher (I allow you a “given that He exists”). So what it all comes down to is that if God exists, Craig is correct in his assessment of that particular dynamic. If God’s philosophy does not change because God does not change, then council from God would be the best council we should hope for. Otherwise, we are in the dark as far as truly knowing. This does not prove that God exists, but is one very compelling argument for why particularly the Judaeo-Christian God is properly inferred by the Kalam. Of course I believe there is no “other” God, but that would require a much longer discussion.

    This makes some sense, but it also gives me cause for suspicion. To be informed by “the Holy Spirit” means, presumably, to relegate your own reasoning to some other prompt. What assurances would you have that the prompt wasn’t something other than the Holy Spirit? I’m fine with the idea that grace enables us to consult our own reason without personal bias (the Still Small Voice of Calm) not at all happy with the idea that the Holy Spirit can convey semantic information at odds with the products of our own reasoning. Discernment to me to be critical, and that requires reason.

    “Well, as I’ve said, I think an “uncaused cause” is a reasonably neat way of boxing the end of the regress. It doesn’t explain anything, but it gives us a black box that we can explore, Aquinas-style, to see what it is not.”

    This sounds like a true statement, but it lacks in my view the proper perspective. It is not the uncaused cause issue that only lends meaning and a solution to the infinite regress; it is rather, the infinite regress issue that lends meaning to the necessity of the uncaused cause. That is the Kalam cosmological argument made simple.

    Because there is this absurdity we call an infinite regress of material/temporal causes, it necessitates a solution. The only solution is an uncaused cause. So it’s not at all meaningless, it’s the conclusion we are led to by logical necessity. It’s the ultimate meaning we are led to in consideration of causality. You don’t get everything or anything from nothing; therefore anything and everything that begins to exist must have a cause. That is why we state that contingency describes that which begins to exist. If we get there out of necessity, then that which does not begin to exist is necessary for anything to begin to exist. This is why we speak of a “necessary” first “uncaused” cause. That’s the best we can do with the language of human logic that does not reach beyond the confines of the material/temporal world (unless of course there is in fact a spiritual reality in addition to a material/temporal one).

    Except that, to me, that’s just lots of ways of saying the same thing: that “uncaused cause” is a placeholder that stops the regress and that if we want to know what the “uncaused cause” is, we can only do it by figuring out what it is not. You say it is not meaningless. I’m not sure what that means! Clearly the concept is not meaningless. What else can we say it is not, and why?

    Of course we theists believe that God is much more than that, and attempts to categorize and enumerate the Godhead are ultimately lacking, but that does not render them meaningless; they are the most meaningful we are able to articulate with what we have. But as Craig would agree, in order to fully understand we require more.

    There’s a passage of scripture that relates to this: 1 Corinthians 13:12
    “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (NIV)

    More meaning can be gained from this when you consider a 1st Century mirror. It’s not like looking into the clear smooth manufacturing induced reflection we see today in modern mirrors. It’s a distortion of something we recognize as ourselves. So it’s not that we can’t see some of the truth of that which we are most familiar, but it is distorted by our ability to reason as ultimate philosophers. Craig depends on the Holy Spirit for “good reason.”

    Yes, I’ve always loved that passage. 🙂

  37. 37
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, I don’t see that.

    The uncaused cause bit is fine. It’s the argument that the uncaused cause must be “personal” that makes no sense to me.

  38. 38

    I find that objection rather peculiar.

    Consider this:

    An uncaused cause is necessary for everything that begins to exist to actually begin to exist. I think we both agree on that.

    Therefore, whatever the uncaused cause is, intended in some way to cause everything to exist. That’s my belief based on the following two options:

    Either nothing exists beyond the uncaused cause; which is necessary.

    Or the uncaused cause causes everything that begins to exist to exist.

    I think your objection stems from a misunderstanding of contingency. How?

    Well let me start with a few questions:

    Do you think the very fact that things exist renders the existence of things necessary?

    If so, how do you arrive at that assessment? It would seem that what we observe in nature is evidence that certain things that exist aren’t necessary. Every grain of sand on a beach isn’t necessary for the beach to be a beach is one example.

    In my estimation, the existence of things is therefore not necessary. That’s why we call things that begin to exist contingent. They aren’t necessary. They don’t need to begin to exist; except given that at least one material event started the causal chain or web of events leading to the existence of everything that currently exists as a result of the first cause in the chain or web. But if things need to exist then material existence is necessary and eternal. Thus; we have failed to resolve the infinite regress problem. We’re back where we started.

    So if things existing are not necessary, then the uncaused cause had a choice in the matter; and intended that things exist.

    The act of choosing is an act of intention. The uncaused cause intended that things that aren’t necessary exist.

    The act of intention indicates that the uncaused cause is necessarily personal in nature; able to decide between at least two options.

    That doesn’t necessitate that the uncaused cause is personal towards the creation itself; but it does make such a relationship valid on principle.

    An objection to this would have to show logically why things that begin to exist are equally necessary with the first cause, but I think as you can see, that it doesn’t lead anywhere.

  39. 39

    Lizzie,

    “This makes some sense, but it also gives me cause for suspicion. To be informed by “the Holy Spirit” means, presumably, to relegate your own reasoning to some other prompt. What assurances would you have that the prompt wasn’t something other than the Holy Spirit? I’m fine with the idea that grace enables us to consult our own reason without personal bias (the Still Small Voice of Calm) not at all happy with the idea that the Holy Spirit can convey semantic information at odds with the products of our own reasoning. Discernment to me to be critical, and that requires reason.”

    That actually is a very appropriate objection; but it is an objection that has a very reasoned solution:

    Obedience to the Holy Spirit is not a rejection of our own reason. It is rather an appeal to even more sound reasoning. Consider that the Holy Spirit is God; which is as I already mentioned is who I refer to as the ultimate philosopher – all knowing; while as the Corinthians passage suggests, we see only in part.

    I personally believe that the Holy Spirit works in all of us through our conscience. But He can also work in us upon our own choice for Him to do so. In other words, we are free to make our own choices; but to allow the Spirit guidance makes our choices more in line with God’s intentions for us.

    The product, according to scripture is what is termed the “fruit of the Sprit” which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness faithfulness and self control. “Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:23, NIV.

    So the product of obedience to the Spirit is not a personal whim, but a moral imperative. We are guided towards the outcome of bearing fruit. This has applications not only in morality, but in personal and intellectual integrity.

    Notice it says: “Against these things there is no law.” This is because as scripture indicates, God has set in our hearts through our conscience that these things are good and profitable to us.

    Also, in that we see in part, we require a certain discipline towards living more abundantly – not materially but “spiritually.” Christian spirituality is thus practical. It’s not a mysticism available only to specially trained initiates, but available to all who choose to be guided by it. It drives us towards better relationships with others, and towards personal (that part of ourselves we might be inclined to hide from others without it) and intellectual integrity. In that we see only in part, we don’t follow these guidances perfectly in any way; but the Holy Spirit does not simply move us towards that which we would choose as natural humans, but towards those things that are exemplified in the character of God. We gain the fruit of God’s character; however imperfectly.

    As I stated in an earlier post, objection to the idea of obedience to God’s Spirit in the face of doubt is reasonable given that God does not exist; but once we establish on first principles that God does exist, seeking counsel and guidance (provided that it is available) from God would seem to be the most reasonable given our present limitations.

    Perhaps this discussion is a little off topic, but since you raised it, I think it’s appropriate for me to at least defend against the objection. This is just a small part of what is certainly a much stronger and more highly detailed apologetic.

  40. 40
    Byrom says:

    I’ve just produced a video on this issue, highlighting the hypocrisy and cowardice of Toynbee, Dawkins and Grayling’s actions.

    Enjoy!

  41. 41
    Byrom says:

    Hmm seems youtube embedding isn’t allowed.

    Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mioJYqRVDE

  42. 42
    bornagain77 says:

    Byrom, that is a well done video, thanks for posting!

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