ENTRY 1208 | DECEMBER
time, I referred to two of the classical logical arguments or proofs
for God, one of which I named, the ontological argument that says
that if anything exists it points to the existence of a Higher Being
capable of creating it and other lower forms. I also referred to the
teleological argument, but did not name it. Teleology means purpose,
and the simplified take on the argument is that if anything exhibits
purposeful design, that demonstrates a Purposer and Designer behind
it, To flip it the other way, it holds that if there is no God, life
has no purpose. The other major logical argument is known as the cosmological,
which says that whenever an a effect can be observed, it always points
back to a cause and a Causer. There is no effect without a cause,
my Edwardsian friend likes to say. All of these arguments sound to
me like variations on a single theme.
arguments are called logical proofs because thus far there has been
no logical argument that can irrefutably "disprove" them.
Though these arguments mesh well with the popular conception of the
philosophy of Plato (c. 424 - 347 BC) which, simplified, says that
every phenomenon in the material world is but a "shadow"
of its ideal or perfect prototype in the spiritual or perfect realm,
these arguments had their greatest support among Christians during
the age of reason, in the eighteenth century. The Platonic approach
to such a view was popularized in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia,
especially the final book in the series, The Last Battle, in
which the material Narnia is destroyed and the followers of Aslan
(the original Lion King, the Messiah of Narnia) are transferred to
the ideal Narnia, or heaven.
rationalism argues that reason is the only thing needed for
a full life (excluding religion, faith, and revelation from the Scriptures
and the church) Jonathan Edwards and other Christian thinkers tried
to use rational arguments in a biblical context. I think the Bible
supports that approach. Unlike the Hindu vedas discussed here last
time, there is never a logical disconnect in the Scriptures of Old
and New Testament. There is never an assertion that is then followed,
as one of the assertions in the vedas last time was, by a skeptical
rejoinder like "this could be how it happened, or not" or
"the cosmos may have been the work of a creator, or may have
come about in some other way." The Bible is written in the prescientific
vocabulary of its writers, but it has never at any point been shown
to be wrong scientifically.
the anti-theistic rationalism and its biblical version were soon superseded
by later philosophies, probably the most influential of which was
empiricism, which can be described as turning the "scientific
method" into a philosophy. To empiricists, the only "valid"
proof is that which can be demonstrated in a laboratory sense, and
to such thinkers "logical proofs" prove nothing. This is
also known as modernism, which may have had its apotheosis (highest
point) in the 1940s when modernist theologian Rudolph Bultmann declared
that anyone who has flipped on an electric light switch or used modern
medicine cannot believe in miracles (his claim is not sensible, of
course, but many "higher thinkers" of that ageincluding
most of those in the media, in the establishment universities and
the Washington establishmentthought that way).
Christians who have wanted to affirm empiricism while defending orthodoxy
have tried to prove that God answers prayers by doing double blind
studies of healings or failures to find healing that were supported
by prayers and comparing an equal number of healings or failures in
patients who had no prayer support. Lewis is one of many Christians
who considered such experiments misguided (is God likely to honor
an "experiment" in which prayer has been withheld, when
He has specifically commanded that His followers are to always
course the teleological argument can be used in an upside-down way
to support the religion that denies purpose. Many people obviously
would rather believe the world has no purposethat the cosmos
is irrationalthan give up their freedom to sin or to have things
their way than live the way the Judeo-Christian God would have them
live. So it seems likely that they will prefer scriptures, like the
vedas, which encourage open-ended skepticism than a closed system
of rational faith.
I'm seeing the extremes while overlooking a larger middle?
do you think?
Webmaster Jon Kennedy