What I believed at 18: An old paper

This is a terribly written paper. There are mistakes up and down. A couple sentences you can’t even understand. It might be instructive though for anyone curious what an evangelical high school education actually does when it shapes a dumb dumb normal person. This is definitely embarrassing to publish. Not even a single re read before turning this in, smh at 18 year old me.

I was not a particularly good student and I did not graduate from college. If I think of myself as a devout christian now, it’s only because benchmarks that I meet like church membership, tithing, a minimum amount of critical thinking and familiarity with doctrine would be considered things even the most nominal member of a christian society would achieve in centuries past.

 

Matthew Heimiller

April 23rd, 2012

Philosophy

Period One

I Believe Final

This paper is a summation of the yearlong course in philosophy. As such the cumulative topics covered are epistemology and truth, the existence of God, science and what is real, and the problem of evil.

On the topic of epistemology and truth it has been asked, “How can a person know anything?” The following approaches of skepticism represented by David Hume, empiricism represented by John Locke, and Biblical Revelation represented by Augustine of Hippo all seek to answer this question in their own way. These three authors from Britannica’s series of “Great Books” have written extensively on the topic of knowledge, or epistemology, and each author takes a different stance on the degree to which things can be known. The culmination of understanding each approach leads to the practical implications and use of knowledge in everyday life.

David Hume wrote three books within his “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” the first of which dealt with “understanding” or man’s process of knowing (Magee, 112). Hume is an interesting character when it comes to skepticism. He is a modified skeptic (112). As skepticism basically states that the degree to which you can know is not at all, it is surprising that Hume takes stances such as persons being defined as a “bundle of sensations” (113), and the almost empiricist stance on cause and effect that “It is only experience, which teaches us the nature and bounds of cause and effect, and enables us to infer the existence of one object from that of another” (Hume, 509). Hume’s view is that this bundle of sensations experiences life through a bunch of unconnected similar individual instant sensations. The phrase “unconnected similar” is oxymoronic an adjective that characterizes Hume’s views. At first glance the inference that hopeful probabilities, things that will probably happen and that we can almost be certain will happen, are the same as certain knowledge may be mistakenly made. This is one of the things that makes Hume a clever, modified skeptic who can deal with more practical issues in Books 2 and 3 of “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, passions and morals respectively because what he says are hopeful probabilities not certain knowledge. Ultimately though, Hume’s view is self defeating, because if Hume doesn’t really know then why should we trust him and listen to what he has to say. Practically this view plays out that we can probably know but not really know living in a delusional naive hopeful limbo where human kind does the best with what is available in a seemingly purposeless existence where purpose can be a hopeful probability but not an actuality.

John Locke is an empiricist. Clark cites Locke summing up empiricism saying, “When has [the mind] all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer in one word, from experience; in that all knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.” (Clark, 212).  According to Locke, people live in “adequate realities” (Locke, 239). What this means is that our simple ideas are reality (238) and that complex ideas are a mixture of simple ideas. Admittedly, these categories proposed by Locke have very fuzzy boundaries but in spite of that Locke purports that there are three ways the complex can come out of the simple. These are experience or observation, invention, or explaining unseen actions (202). “Unseen” in this instance represent any sensory experience, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, that is not known by the one being explained to. In terms of color, Locke would say that one may know red, yellow, white, and purple individually but what they have in common, color, cannot be known because they do not have this mystical commonality in physical existence to be experience (Clark, 213). This works itself out practically in an understated way in that things that can be known empirically but not only empirically. I can know that a billiard ball moves at a high rate of speed toward another billiard ball at rest, then they collide, then each billiard ball moves at separate angles away from one another but it takes abstract thinking outside of empiricism and experience to explain the concept of causation between the balls speed, collision, and subsequent angular departure.

Augustine takes a different approach to knowing, opting instead of skepticism or empiricism for biblical revelation where everything is intrinsically tied to God. To Augustine knowledge is tied to truth in that truth is the ultimate source of knowledge because God is truth. Augustine states this unabashedly, “For where I found truth, there found I my God, the truth itself” (Augustine, 80). According to Augustine, the Bible is the source of God’s directly revealed truths (323). Indirectly, Augustine would agree, God reveals himself to us through his creation. This statement is supported by Romans 1:20, ” For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (ESV). Augustine finds certainty in God’s truth because his God is perfect and everlasting in every aspect of being this includes his wisdom and knowledge revealed or otherwise. According to Augustine, people are by nature not God so they do not know everything. Not only this but humanity is in fact limited, blind, and deceived (523). In Romans it later says, “We exchanged the truth of God for a lie” referring to humanity and its rejection of truth. Elsewhere in the Bible, Corinthians 13:9 to be exact, it says that “we know in part” showing that the full picture metaphorically is not shown to us. This does not mean that man cannot know. Augustine thinks quite the opposite, that God facilitates us by his grace to process and ponder the senses and the feedback we get through them (Augustine 87). On the specific topic of memory, Augustine states that memory is, “immeasurable”(75) and “innumerable of numbers and dimensions” (76). Practically speaking, Augustine figures that man’s chief end is God for “his own sake” (639) and that man is to seek his knowledge, truth, and will through his revelation in the Bible (640).

How can a person know anything? According to Hume and skepticism, one cannot know, according to Locke and empiricism, one can only know to the degree of their own experience, and according to Biblical Revelation and Augustine one can know truly and certainly. Because of my personal belief in the Christian God like Augustine and because of his particularly articulate arguments on the point of biblical revelation and truth I most affiliate and align with him among the classical philosophers.

The question of the Judeo-Christian God’s existence and reality has plagued many a philosopher. A thorough answer to this question requires a discussion of four philosophical methods and their results using historical, philosophical, scientific, Biblical, and personal evidences where applicable. The four philosophical methods of ontology, teleology, cosmology, and axiology are appropriate for the discussion of God’s existence within  the criteria already stated for thoroughness.

The argument from ontology deals with the idea that God is absolutely perfect or necessary in being (Geisler, 554). According to Anselm and added to by Descartes is as follows, “1. It is logically necessary to affirm of a concept what is essential to its nature 2. But existence is logically necessary to the nature of a necessary existent/being 3. Therefore, it is logically necessary to affirm that a necessary existent does exist” (Geisler, 556). This argument grew over the years and the consensus on its validity  according to Geisler is that it relies upon assuming and “importing the undeniable premise that ‘something exists'” (Geisler, 564). This argument for the individual provides the clear and specific application of valid personal evidence for a God. This belief is personal only as it assumes that ‘something exists’ but for the common individual such an assumption is just common sense. The individual can be confident of their own belief and is equipped to answer a challenge like, “nothing exists” with a dismissal of the challenge as, if its own internal logic were correct, would not exist. Clearly on a specifically corporate level as a society, it is much harder to institute this argument as one may personally dismiss a challenge but in the public square, mental and hypothetical scrutiny invalidate this argument because of its assumption.

The argument from teleology deals with design and its assumption of a designer from the evidence of design (Geisler, 714). A classic historical example of this argument is Paley’s Watchmaker, given that, “1. A watch shows that it was put together for an intelligent purpose (to keep time)… 2. The world shows an even greater evidence of design than a watch… 3. therefore, if the existence of a watch implies a watchmaker, the existence of the world implies an even greater intelligent Designer (God).” (Geisler, 715).  As scientific evidence for the worlds complexity, Ross says one would have to deal with a variety of problems starting with the “building blocks” (Ross, 145). Among these unlikely building blocks are molecules, which require a delicate balance of charge to bind together (Ross, 146). Atoms, too, require fine tuning because without the precise adhesion to form multi-proton and multi-neutron elements the world would only be full of Hydrogen (Ross, 146). Ross goes on to say nucleons, and electrons have to be fine tuned as well using this outlandish analogy of the complexity, “Cover the entire North American Continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 mile…” multiply that number of dimes by one million and, “paint one dime red… The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 10 to the 37th. This is only one of the parameters that needs to be balanced to allow life to form.” (Ross, 150). Ross goes on to list a four page abbreviated list of 35 specific factors and constants as evidence for the universe’s fine tuning (Ross, 154). The result of this argument gives the individual that believes it certainty in the existence of a creator. Confidence in the specifically Judeo-Christian God of the Bible is clearly given by this argument because according to the bible in Genesis 1-2 God created man and made him creative to cultivate and make like God (ESV). This argument reveals a God that makes intelligently similarly to man, this looks a lot like the description given of the Judeo-Christian God. Corporately this argument applies specifically to any scientific profession as the assumption of order, understandability, and predictability are all affirmed and confirmed within this argument.

The argument from cosmology deals with God as the first cause. Thomas Aquinas’ argument from motion goes as follows, “1. Things do move… 2. Change is passing from potentiality to actuality.. 3. Nothing passes from potency to act except by something that is in actuality, it is impossible for a potentiality to actualize itself. 4. there cannot be an infinite regress of actualizes or movers… 5. therefore, there must be a first pure actualizer… 6. everyone understands this to be God” (Geisler, 161-162). This argument for God supports the Judeo-Christian doctrinal belief that God created Ex Nihilo, or “out of nothing” in Latin which was translated literally from the original Hebrew word “bara” (Driscoll). Corporately, this gives meaning to action as it all originated from God. As a business or church, the existence of God as the initial cause of all motivates action as not acting would actually be fighting God’s push.

The axiological argument for God’s existence is also know as the moral argument for God’s existence. Variations on the moral argument came from Kant, Rashdall, Sorley, Trueblood, and most conclusively C.S. Lewis (Geisler, 498-500). In summary, Geisler states Lewis’ moral argument from his work Mere Christianity, “1. There must be a universal moral law… 2. But a universal moral law requires a universal Moral law giver… 3. Further, this universal moral law giver must be absolutely good… 4. therefore, there must be an absolutely good moral law giver.” (Geisler, 500). This sense of universal moral law has cut across all historical boundaries. In Greek philosophy a moral code of knowledge as virtue and happiness developed as the best way for an individual to do what was best (Sahakian). Quite separately and individually, in China, a moral code of the good of the whole or social harmony developed at much the same time (Ivanhoe). What both of these areas ethical systems showed is that they both assumed that they knew what good was or that they agreed upon some aspect of good versus bad intrinsically. Historically this proves the validity of the axiological argument. For the individual this argument affirms a moral God much like the God of the bible that gives humans a conscience and an intrinsic understanding of right and wrong. Application for the individual would include responsible engagement in cultural ethics to line up societies views with the biblical view as best as possible through appeals to the intrinsic nature of good. Corporately, organizations can be encouraged to do objective good in society and in the areas they are placed.

The question of the Judeo-Christian God’s existence and reality can plague philosophers no longer. A thorough answer to this question has been discussed using four philosophical methods and their results with historical, philosophical, scientific, Biblical, and personal evidences where applicable. The four philosophical methods of ontology, teleology, cosmology, and axiology appropriately discussed God’s existence within  the criteria already state. This discussion found that the Judeo-Christian God’s existence is reasonable given the statements about God from the four philosophical methods and how they line up with said specific God.

The relationship between a theological worldview and science is complex and requires analysis. God and science are compatible when taking into account the Biblical view of science especially in God’s command to subdue the earth which leads to the proper view of science that acknowledges the purpose and role of science, the limits to and faulty methodologies of science, and specifically the faults in naturalistic and Darwinian Evolutionary theory. In the end, this discussion leads to clarity within specific controversy and personal, practical application.

The biblical view of science requires discussing biblical examples of science and the exegesis of the meaning of Genesis 1:28, 2:5, and 15. Three areas of science in the bible are astronomy, biology, and the earth sciences (Deem). Astronomy in the bible includes the number of stars exceeding a billion and that each one is unique is found in Genesis 22:17 and 1 Corinthians 15:41 respectively (Deem). Also, the concept of light in motion is found in Job 38:19-20 (Deem). Biology in the bible includes the chemical nature of human life, the nature of infectious diseases, and the importance of sanitation in Genesis 2:7, Leviticus 13:46, and Numbers 19 respectively (Deem). The earth sciences in the bible include the water cycle, air having weight, and valleys at the bottom of the sea in Ecclesiastes 1:7, Job 28:25, and 2 Samuel 22:16 respectively (Deem). The Genesis verses of 1:28, 2:5, and 2:15 need to be examined. In 1:28 God says to subdue the earth. It lays out that man is different and above the animals (Henry’s). Not that man should be irresponsible but that he does have a power and mandate to fill the earth (Henry’s). At this point the relationship between Adam and creation was not defiled by sin and the mandate was being carried out properly not to just let the garden be but to imitate what God had done in initiating progress and continue developing more complex ways of tending and “gardening” the earth (Henry’s). In 2:5 we are shown creation before Adam (Henry’s). In some sense the earth was made for man (Henry’s). God also puts forth the model for subduing the earth as he organizes it and puts it in such a state that Adam will not be left alone but rather have a world to work with already and something to learn as a first step in a greater journey of learning (Henry’s). In 2:15 we see this echoed as God deliberately places Adam in the place where he is to work to God’s glory. God does not simply expect Adam to make the order of the garden but to “keep” it. God ordained the initial order to teach Adam about the life-rhythm’s instilled in creation (Henry’s). Likewise, science can be seen in that unlike animals, man does science. Man has a mandate to use science responsibly as part of his dominion over creation. As well, God although initiating the original progress and good “science” of gardening as the perfect example for dominion took that away after the fall leaving only broken science behind. The purpose of science then from this biblical perspective is to responsibly have dominion over the earth, to subdue and control it.

There are limits to science. First, when sticking, “only to the facts” one must overlook the theory of fact. The theory of fact is infinitely divisible requiring more and more description and description of description in the statement of facts to prove a theory which is factual but not actual fact itself. The rub comes when those facts are just factuals themselves and factuals made of more factuals. Second, this leads to the nature of scientific laws. Scientific laws no matter how useful are limited in truth. Though effective, scientific laws are chosen not discovered and scientific constants can be practically found but not truly found due to the impossible nature of true precision in measurement. Third, the scientist lives in a perfectly mathematical world. The whole nature of the laboratory is to make reality less real, To make the mathematics match the reality as much as possible. These laboratories are supremely useful and a level of exactness that the scientist deems rigorous can be obtained but its true factuality is false, not truly exact. Fourth and lastly, science inductively murders logic. Scientific experiments say for instance, “If I eat roast turkey and plum pudding, I lose my appetite; I have lost my appetite; therefore, we had roast turkey for dinner.” This form of logic is false and logic comes before science. (Clark 145-150)

Two faulty methodologies of science are operationalism and  mechanism. Operationally speaking, without any outside help so to speak, there is always human error even if the instrument making the measure is incredibly precise. If this method is relativistic than it can make no truth claim, only what maybe or most likely. The lack of a truth claim in a relativistic procedure means that this model and method of science cannot make absolute arguments against theism as well as making truth statements for positions such as taking the “scientific method as the sole gateway to the whole region of knowledge”. Mechanically speaking, a problem with science can be the assumption that theism is not relevant. Whether it is because of atoms or statistics, assuming that everything is explained leaves no room for God. The error here is that theism is not defined and one could just as easily assume the opposite that God is. A similar error comes when it is taken into account that mechanism is not proven. It is a matter of choice to choose an indeterminate or mechanical universe to theoretically work with. (Clark 151-156)

Specific attention to the problems of Darwinian Evolutionary theory which include the above is required. Darwinian Evolutionary theory makes two main mistakes. They are assumptions about the past and a constant unchanging universe. First, the far past is not known. Anyone who talks about the far past as if an expert that had been their and observed what happened is full of hogwash. All theorists on the concept of the far past are pretty much on equal ground because of the shear amount of speculation required. Even with recent history, where man was around to record as much as possible, differing opinions as to what and how things happened vary wildly. This also plays into the second preconception that like the laboratory history is still and stagnant completely predictable. Practically speaking we can not even predict tomorrows weather with absolute certainty.

The biblical view of science is important because of all the controversial topics found in science. Three specific controversial instances include objective discussion, intelligent design, and abortion. First, objective discussion is an incredibly relevant, controversial topic regarding science because schools that do not have the right to objectively discuss controversial topics such as evolution, climate change, and cloning do not have the tools they need to inform their students properly (CSC – Tennessee). Without all the facts an informed scientific decision cannot be made as is the case in places where objective discussion is frowned upon. Biblically speaking we cannot defend our faith if all dissenting opinions are squelched. Also, discussion is a good way to present and find the truth because as Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.” Second, intelligent design is a hot button issue. Recently a NASA employee was demoted and humiliated because of his belief in intelligent design (CSC – Background). The Bible says that God created and that is important especially to the value of human life and of his other creation. The Bible also says that we will be persecuted so although the biblical view of science is not widely accepted right now it does not mean that we should give up or compromise on key doctrinal points such as God as originator of the universe. Third, abortion is a controversial issue as it relates to science. Science can show if a baby will be born with any defects such as Down syndrome and now a couple can even sue if their baby is born when it “should” have been aborted because of said Down syndrome (Baptist Press). God as creator who creates human beings in his image cares about even the tiniest of people. The value of human life weighed against the convenience of not having to deal with a child should always win out for the Christian. Also from a biblical perspective the innocent and powerless like the disabled do not deserve a death sentence as is given them at conception in an abortive world.

Practical personal application breaks down four ways when it comes to science. They are learning science, employing science, esteeming science, and technology. First, learning science is important because it is part of the creation mandate and man’s responsibility to subdue the world. This can lead to taking a community college science course on the side or a web-course from a Christian university so the everyman knows what he is dealing with scientifically in all the controversial areas. Second, employing science is applicable for those who need to do something which is all people. We must remember that no matter what task we are doing, there is a more efficient, more scientific way to “garden” in that task. Science here is our ally. Need to make better corn? Then with science you can sequence the genes of said corn and create a super corn that grows larger and more densely than any naturally occurring corn. Third, esteeming science may be a hard thing for the everyday Christian. Christians need to remember that science is not against Christ. They need to instead view science in its right place as a good thing not demonizing scientists or being suspicious of those who use science. Practically at a church this may mean giving out scientific scholarships for Christian scientists. Fourth, responsible use of technology is a suitable application. The great misconception about technology is that it is good or bad. Rather, it opens some doors and closes others. Carefully and not blindly embracing a technology is important for the Christian. Specifically with the advent of social networks and “The Facebook” many Christians are left saying, “a million friends isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? a billion friends.” The irresponsible use of social networking to pat one’s ego and feed one’s soul idols is not a good thing. The responsible response would be to leverage the doors of communication that social networks have opened to facilitate real life community and fellowship.

In summary, the relationship between a theological worldview and science is good. God and science are compatible. The Biblical view of science is especially shown in God’s command to subdue the earth. This leads to the proper view of science that acknowledges the purpose and role of science along with the limits to and faulty methodologies of science. Darwinian Evolutionary theory therefore is shown to have holes in logic. In the end, hopefully, this discussion has lead to clarity within certain specific controversies and personal, practical application.

The origin, problem, and solution of the problem of evil are important. The origin of the problem of evil is a long story. First, in the beginning God created everything. God is the perfect good and there is no evil at this point. Second, creation by itself is declared good. Third, creation was good but man had agency to choose and so creation had the potential for evil. Fourth, sin, which is the departure from God’s moral will results in evil. Fifth, evil then exists independent of God, but not outside his sovereign will but outside of his moral will and character. Sixth, God factored in evil. God willed creation and man was the agent actualizing evil. Evil did not surprise God. The problem of the problem of evil can be two things. One is a logical problem, the other is a personal problem. The problem logically is how could a good God exist in the same universe as evil. Logically speaking the answer to this question is that God has higher purposes for evil than what is seen in the moment, or even over a long period of time. This leads to the personal problem of evil. “Can I believe in a God that lets this happen?” some ask. Not because it is logically impossible for evil to occur but because they want to know “why?” There is an element of faith with a personal trust even in evil because one has to admit that evil is there for either contrast, character, or correction. Contrasting between goodness and life, evil makes us appreciate the good times by comparison. Character and personhood are developed throughout trials and evil can be an instrument therein. Correction and learning can occur from or in difficult times whether within the natural order in a “reap what you sow” kind of way or in a supernatural pronouncement that does not have a direct material connection to actions we or others have taken. The solution in the problem of evil may sound glib but in true minimalistic style God offers us Jesus as the ultimate reconciliation of the broken evil world with God. In Jesus, we have hard times but we are either delivered from those hard times or we are not to the greater glory of God. (Millen)

This is what I believe.

 

Works Cited

Augustine. “Confessions, The City of God, On Christian Doctrine.” Britannica Great Books. Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. Vol. 18. Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952. 74-640.

“Baptist Press – Couple Awarded $3M in ‘wrongful Birth’ Suit – News with a Christian Perspective.” Baptist Press. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37398&gt;.

“Bible Commentary.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary –. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&gt;.

Clark, Gordon Haddon. A Christian View of Men and Things: an Introduction to Philosophy. Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2005. Print.

“CSC – Background on David Coppedge and the Lawsuit Against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.” Discovery Institute. 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.discovery.org/a/14511&gt;.

“CSC – Tennessee Legislature Passes Landmark Academic Freedom on Evolution Bill.” Discovery Institute. 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.discovery.org/a/18541&gt;.

Driscoll, Mark. “Doctrine | Creation: God Makes.” Mars Hill Church. Web. 19 Dec. 2011. <http://marshill.com/media/doctrine/creation-god-makes&gt;.

ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999. Print.

Hume, David. “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.” Britannica Great Books. Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. Vol. 35. Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952. 457-509.

Ivanhoe, P. J., and Norden Bryan W. Van. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2005. Print.

Locke, John. “A Letter Concerning Toleration, Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Britannica Great Books. Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. Vol. 35. Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952. 94-363.

Magee, Bryan. The Story of Philosophy. New York: Dorling Kindersley Book, 2001. Print.

Millen. Class Notes.

Ross, Hugh. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001. Print.

Sahakian, William S., and Mabel Lewis. Sahakian. Ideas of the Great Philosophers. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1993. Print.

“Science and the Bible: Does the Bible Contradict Scientific Principles?by Rich Deem.” Science and the Bible: Does the Bible Contradict Scientific Principles? Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencebible.html&gt;.

 

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