Apologetics: June 2004 Archives

For you non-philosophers out there, an epistemic obligation is just an obligation related to what you should believe. Evangelical Oupost has been blogging about Pascal's Wager. I posted some comments there, but I wanted to expand on them here. I think Pascal's argument that we should seek to believe in God is a good one.

The objections that I think are most serious are that you can't just choose what to believe and that it would be wrong to believe for purely selfish reasons. Pascal deals with the first objection by saying he's not trying to argue people into belief, since that has to come on its own. (Try to believe that there's a blue elephant sitting right next to you right now, or that the car approaching you really fast isn't there, if you really think belief is voluntary. It isn't.) Still, we can do things that bring us to be able to accept something more or less easily. Pascal is just giving practical reasons to pursue the kinds of practices that will allow belief in God to come on its own. What I'm trying to do in this post is to suggest more of what's behind Pascal's suggestion and to respond to some objections. [Some of this is adapted from a class handout on religious knowledge and arguments against believing in God based on the lack of evidence.]

Roundup

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Tim Challies raises some uncommon but uncommonly sane questions about raising hands in worship. As you might conclude from my comment, I don't agree with everything he seems to be suggesting, but these questions are worth thinking about. We usually don't think along these lines about this sort of thing.

Jollyblogger has a new post in his series on studying the Bible. I'd never gone back and read the early ones in this series. Good stuff.

The Limitless links to I seem to have lost where I found this, but here's a paper on a participatory model of the atonement. Since this is one of the things Wink has been working on, I figured I'd mention it.

A little while ago I read a review of Kenneth Kitchen's latest book on the reliability of the Old Testament. I had wanted to blog about it, so I was holding off, but I don't think I'm going to get around to it. It looks like an excellent book, though, so I really want to get it.

Another Roundup

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I've got too many things to blog about again, so here we go.

Jonathan Ichikawa has a nice post at Fake Barn Country about obesity and determinism. I think I agree with everything he says. (It's also at his own blog, but there aren't any comments there yet. If you're interested in looking at all possible comments, it's worth checking both.)

Tiger! Tiger! has a great post on arguments for atheism. The author is an atheist but is acknowleding the insufficiency of the best arguments for atheism. I think I agree with every word up to a certain point. At the end, there's an appeal to a hermeneutic of suspicion as a final method of arguing for atheism, but I wonder if again this is at best at argument for agnosticism, since of course you can apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to the atheistic framework as well (and the atheistic explanations of evidence and experiences pointing to theism) by explaining the atheistic worldview in terms of Romans 1 and the fall of humanity.

Saddam's doctor gives some inside dirt. (via The Limitless)

Stuart Buck puts Brian Leiter in his place with a careful examination of a new poll that shows the overall increasing mistrust of the media from both political parties. Leiter was trying to use it to show that Republicans are stupid for not trusting C-SPAN and that Republicans are simply mad at the press for questioning Bush and no longer groveling to him (as if they ever did). Stuart points out that the poll shows that Democrats are growing distrustful of all the media sources, that the Wall Street Journal is the biggest drop in trustworthiness according to Republicans, that Democrats and Republicans trust both Fox News at nearly statistically equivalent rates to each other, and Democrats are distrusting enough of C-SPAN that they fall prey to his charge of stupidity if Republicans do (not that the charge applies anyway if you understand what they are distrusting, on which see his argument).

Eugene Volokh, as far as I can tell, is a standard pro-choice libertarian, but he's willing to acknowledge that, even though both sides of the abortion debate are guilty of euphemistic and dysphemistic language, the mainstream media really do show a bias toward the euphemisms and dysphemisms of the pro-choice side of the debate.

Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping notices how Bush's order in 'women and men' sends a strong signal to Muslim practices that marginalize women. It's little things like this that show that Bush really isn't like a lot of Republicans of the past (or at least of the era since the 60s when Republicans were the civil rights party). The Bush Administration consciously thinks about things like this.

Joanne Jacobs connects talking to kids (including to babies), grades/test scores, class, and the racial achievement gap. I don't think everything she says follows from the data, but it's fascinating stuff. My comment there is sufficient to show where I disagree.

Jollyblogger has an excellent post on metaphor and whether Harry Potter can be morally redeeming for a Christian who believes the occult is evil. It's one of the best defenses of popular fiction with elements hyper-fundamentalists would reject that I've seen in a long time, using the examples of Hosea's marriage to a practicing prostitute and Isaiah's walking around "naked" (both commands from God) for an interesting point. He didn't say what I thought was the most obvious thing to say, which is that magic in Harry Potter isn't what's condemned in the Bible, since it's a natural ability of the characters in that fictional world rather than a supernatural ability not of one's own but sought out through practices involving demonic beings.

My list of favorite posts is getting fairly long, and I've decided to remove some of the earlier ones. I still want to have a link to them, so I'm linking to them in this post, and then I'll put this post in the list of favorite posts. That way the list will be shorter, but I'll be able to find them fairly easily without having to search the whole site.

New low for racist left looks at a poster making fun of National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice that I believe to be racist. I explain why in the post, and somehow some slack-jawed yokels found the post, completely ignored my reasoning and everything about me that a quick look around my site would reveal, and proceeded to call me a racist. It was probably the most commented-on entry in the history of my blog, and the comments are quite characteristic of the average response to the kind of point I was making, which is simply to ignore it and change the subject, to charge me with things I never said and don't believe, and to take everything I said in the most uncharitable way possible.

Pacifism links to my fairly comprehensive teaching notes on arguments for and against pacifism, including both philosophical and biblical arguments.

Personhood and Abortion summarizes some of my views on abortion, in response to some statements by Senator Sam Brownback (R, KS). Careful-thinking people realize that personhood is the central issue in the debate (not life or humanity), but personhood by itself itself doesn't decide the issue one way or the other, giving pro-life and pro-choice reasons for thinking that. I offer two considerations that should also come into play, one having to do with violence and the other from the fact that we view very early miscarriages as unfortunate but not as bad as losing a child at a later developmental stage.

Update: I've removed some of the posts originally in this entry and put them into a topical one on apologetics, because they belong there. This one's a little haphazard themewise.

Update 2: I've moved more into Christian Ethics Posts. This post is getting smaller and smaller.

Weekend Roundup I

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While I was in New York City for the weekend I was able to do a little writing for posting when I went online with an incredibly slow connection, but I couldn't do much that involved looking around at other blogs and blogging about them, so it's time for another roundup.

Stuart Buck has a helpful post about cable companies and bundling packages. A number of conservatives and libertarians have been arguing that cable companies should charge by the channel, and then people would only pay for what they watch. As much as I'd like not to have to pay for ESPN or any other sports channel, since those will never be watched in my household unless my dad or Sam's dad is around, this sort of proposal doesn't make much sense once you learn a little more about how cable companies work.

Stuart also has a good quote from philosopher C. Stephen Layman that I think shows two things. First, a lot more arguments beg the question than most philosophers will admit. Second, begging the question isn't always all that bad. Many good arguments are question-begging. See my comment on Stuart's post for a little more on why I think this, if you can't see the reasons from Layman's quote.

At Digitus, Finger & Co. we have a striking diversity of feminist responses to Abu Ghraib.

I've got eight windows open now full of other things to read more carefully before deciding if they deserve linkage, but I'm too exhausted now to do more. We've been up late every night, partly from kids not sleeping due to the unfamiliar location, and I have to tutor football players at 8am, so I need sleep. To be continued...

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