A.L.: Closing Statement


A.L.: Closing Statement

I would like to thank James Brown for having this debate with me. It has been almost two years since we started our debate. There have been developments and changes in my thinking since my opening statement and instead of responding directly to my opponent's remarks, I would like to respond to them indirectly by giving my current views about some of the arguments I have presented. I will not deal with all of them here since there is not much space.

Although I have changed my thinking about some of the arguments, this does not mean that I am now an atheist or an agnostic. I still believe in God and I still believe that my arguments are persuasive enough to show that theism is more reasonable than atheism. 

The Problem of Atheism 

In my opening, I said that one must be able to show that it is reasonable to trust in our cognitive faculties to discover truth in order to prove atheism. I argued that metaphysical naturalism is self-defeating, that N&E defeats R. I no longer hold this view. [1] One can trust one's cognitive faculties without giving a reason why. One can hold that it is self-evident that our cognitive faculties are reliable and he is justified, I believe, in doing so. It may be that our cognitive faculties simply functions in such a way that we believe this either directly or indirectly. 

Having said that, I still believe that the theist has an advantage over the atheist on this point. The theist can say our faculties came from God and since He is good and loving, and truth Himself, that He made our cognitive faculties in such a way that it is likely to produce truth in a given circumstance. This, I believe, increases justification for holding on to the belief that our cognitive faculties are reliable. The atheist, at the same time, seems to have a lesser ground in holding this belief because it seems that there is no explanation why our minds are led to truth rather than not. This does not mean that the atheist is not justified in his belief, only that he may be less justified than the believer. 

Cosmological Argument 

There are also some developments in my thoughts regarding this argument. One can argue that there was either something in the beginning or there was nothing. Even when someone points to quantum physics or the like, it seems to me that it is intuitively implausible for nothing to produce such a complex universe. I just can't see it happening and I think most people would agree with me.

It may even be asked how such a concept of 'nothing' can be thought of. Now, I agree that even though it is hard to understand such a concept of 'nothing,' that it means it could not have been that nothing was in the beginning. One can argue that the concept of God is hard to understand and we should rule Him out. But I believe the difference here is that God's essence has to do with some kind of existence. God is pure act. That is what 'kind' of existence He has. But when it comes to nothing, we are not talking about existence at all, but no-existence, not even time or space. So it is very hard to say that nothing produced the universe or in the 'beginning' there was nothing. 

Now, suppose that every being in this universe are contingent. By contingent beings, I do not simply mean beings that are possible to not exist. By contingent beings, I mean beings which are 'generated, and to corrupt,' to use Aquinas' terms. Now, that which is generated has a 'generator,' something which causes it to exist or to be. A contingent being, by definition, did not exist at a prior time, that is, when it was not yet generated, it did not exist. But if everything was like this, then there would be nothing now. In other words, [2]

(1) If everything is a thing that has come into being did not exist at a prior time, then there was a time when nothing existed. 

(2) If this was so, then there would be nothing now.

(2) follows from (1) because nothing cannot produce something. And this seems to be intuitively implausible as I have explained above. So it seems that there needs to be a non-contingent being, that is, a being that is uncaused who caused the universe which is itself contingent. [3] 

The Resurrection of Jesus

My opponent says, 'This once again misses the point that the Bible, as a whole, has inconsistencies, and therefore is not a reliable source of information, and is certainly not justification for believing in the supernatural.' 

The argument is false simply for the fact that if the Bible as a whole has inconsistencies (a big if), then it does not mean that a part of the Bible, say the New Testament Gospels, cannot be reliable. I will not argue for inerrancy here, but would just like to note that there are many reasons why we should hold the Gospels to be reliable. The Gospels are not that of the genre of myth, but biographies, similar to those of Alexander the Great by Plutarch. Compare Mark with Plutarch's biography for example. Some of Plutarch's biographies start with proverbs or fables. In Mark, he starts with citing Jewish scriptures. This, of course, is not unusual since he is working within a Jewish framework. We also know that the best type of evidence known in ancient times is eyewitness testimony (see Thales' distinction between 'eyes' and 'ears').

When we read Mark, we read how he uses people's names. This is weird because the names are usually excluded. But there are times when names are used (ex. apostles). Richard Bauckham has argued that the names used may possibly be the originators of the stories and traditions. What does this mean? It means that Mark is controlling the stories and he does it by tying it up to eyewitnesses. In ancient times, the way to show your authenticity is by speaking of your office or your title. We see this with Paul as well: 'Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?' The way to argue for a certain event is to give people's names. For example, take this usual tradition:

'For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.' (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

The way this is written shows that Paul has not touched it or fabricated this in any way. What is also remarkable is how he specifically mentions who Jesus appeared to. This is why I don't see anything unusual with Peter's speech: 'God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.' And John 21: 'It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.' Eyewitness testimony is the criteria of the first century Christians. This is even why the gnostics used the apostles and prominent people's names. This is because by the 2nd century, they knew or at least believed that the apostles were eyewitnesses.

With Bauckham and traditional Christians, I hold the Gospels to be eyewitness testimony. And I believe that since these are eyewitness testimonies, and the fact that there is no good reason for them to invent a resurrection story within their first century Jewish mindset, I hold the resurrection to be a more plausible position than not. [4]

Words: 1000+


Notes

[1] See Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism ed. James Beilby, especially Michael Bergmann's article.

[2] I owe this understanding of Aquinas' argument from John Haldane. See Atheism & Theism by J.J.C. Smart / J.J. Haldane 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003, page 119.

[3] For a different type of cosmological argument, see Alexander Pruss / Richard Gale, 'A New Cosmological Argument' which can be found at: http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/ap85/papers/NewCosmo.html

[4] For more, see N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God and Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (September 15, 2006)

A
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