Thursday, June 22, 2006

THE FOOLISHNESS OF UNBELIEF

Dr. Greg Bahnsen made an excellent statement which I think sums up the foolishness of unbelieving thought. He said the following:

“It is not a mark of rationality for a person to assert one thing, but then to live contrary to it.”

He added,

“The life of the unbeliever is riddled with such inconsistency. He will presuppose human dignity and attend a funeral to honor a dead friend or relative, even though he previously argued that man is, in principle, no different from any other product of evolution like a horse or dog. The unbeliever will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of bio-chemical factors controlled by the laws of physics—and then kiss his wife and children when he goes home, as though they share love with each other. He will argue that in sexual relations ‘anything goes’ (there are no moral absolutes)—but then indignantly condemn child molesters or morally repudiate necrophilia. He will suggest that the things which happen in the universe happen randomly—by ‘chance’—but then turn around and look for regularities, law-like explanations of events, and uniformity or predictability in the things studied by natural science. The non-Christian does not have a workable worldview, and he exposes its weakness at every turn in his life.”

I put the above statement on my dorm door in college, and my unbelieving neighbor got offended. (Convicted, perhaps?)

Praise the Lord that He has saved us not only from His wrath, but also from the foolishness of unbelief.

O Lord, please continue to renew us in our minds and hearts, that we would more and more think Your thoughts after You. Make us more like Christ our First Love, in Whom are deposited all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In His precious Name I pray. Amen.

21 comments:

Josh Brisby said...

Hey all, this is Josh Brisby. I forgot to mention that the quote I referred to is from Bahnsen's book Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, p. 148. That book and Bahnsen's Van Til's Apologetic are the best books on apologetics I have ever read!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Josh Brisby

olly said...

Josh,

I was going to responde in comments, but it became a post:

http://doubtingthefish.wordpress.com/2006/06/27/in-response-to-josh-brisby/

-olly

olly said...

That link didn't come through very well, so here it is again:

here it is

Daniel said...

Josh,

The lack of god = man is no different than a horse?

Bahnsen was a brilliant strawman burner, it appears. [eye roll]

Francisco Rodriguez said...

Hiya. I hope you're doing fine.

Now to Bahnsen's quote.

"He will argue that in sexual relations ‘anything goes’ (there are no moral absolutes)—but then indignantly condemn child molesters or morally repudiate necrophilia."

Actually, all I've heard is that any form of consensual sex goes. Children are not psychologically mature to consent, hence it's a form of abuse. If a person likes necrophilia there's something really messed up with his/her self-esteem and moral compass. Furthermore, I see nothing in here that necessarily relates to atheism. Your friends on the other camp seem to be quasi-Objectivists, which would mean they think morality is objective as much as you do.

"He will suggest that the things which happen in the universe happen randomly—by ‘chance’— "

Uh huh. Some atheists think that way, yet many are hardcore determinists. If a generalization must be made - and I doubt one usually needs to - then please don't choose the people with the weakest argument. Heck, the reason for expecting "regularities, law-like explanations of events, and uniformity or predictability in the things" stems from the acknowledgement that reality is independent of what the mind wants it to be. For thoroughgoing materialists the mind of a God would be no exception. In fact, it would make logic wholly subjective; therefore internally incongruous.

As of now, I'm not an atheist, but it's not hard to see the strawman. This sort of thinking only makes Christians sound like would-be philosophers. On the other hand, the guys at Goosetheantithesis could start engaging in debates with contemporary non-presup apologists, rather than taking their shots at the circular Van Tillian approach.

Take care sir,
Francisco

olly said...

"...are the best books on apologetics I have ever read!"

Josh, the logical fallacies that Bahnsen falls into really discredit his work. If these are really the best books on apologetics you have read, then it's no wonder that apologetics never seems to do much for the skeptics.

-olly

Josh Brisby said...

*I will address Olly, Daniel, and Francisco in this response.*

Olly, your whole post only said that you can mourn for loved ones, and you can do this and that. I don't deny that you can do that--I am saying that the reason you do that is because you have to borrow from my worldview to do it. I am asking you to give an account for it in your worldview, which you still haven't shown me. Then you claimed that Bahnsen had logical fallacies, even though he was a logician himself! Much of his book Always Ready deals with logical fallacies as well. What an incredible assertion! Are you able to prove this? Where did Bahnsen have logical fallacies? Can you back up that assertion? Show me just one. Just one.

Daniel, once again you haven't shown me what you just merely asserted. How did Bahnsen attack a straw man? I challenge you to show me.

Francisco, are all children not able to consent? What about 11-year olds? They certainly know about it--at least a lot do. Are you telling me, then, that sex with an 11-year old who consented would be permissible?

Why, in your worldview, is someone messed up or do they have a low self-esteem if they practice necrophilia? Account for it, don't just assert.

I'm glad you see the materialists' fallacies. If you present your claims, I would be happy to interact with them. Where did Bahnsen leave straw man attacks?

How does presuppositionalism make "pretend" philosophers? The "circular" reasoning of which you speak is called transcendental reasoning, which the philosopher Immanuel Kant did an excellent job of presenting. I think a lot of people misunderstand what this is. I think you do as well since you said it was circular reasoning. It is "circular" only in the sense that it is self-verifying, but we don't say "red is red because it's red." We do not commit the fallacy of circular reasoning.

BTW Francisco, I appreciate your respectful tone. Welcome to The Reformed Oasis.

olly said...

"The unbeliever will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of bio-chemical factors controlled by the laws of physics—and then kiss his wife and children when he goes home, as though they share love with each other."

Josh,

You asked for a logical fallacy, you are staring one in the face. Where is the logical connection between the beginning of this statement and the end? If we break the statement down, we have

Proposition a.) The unbeliever will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of bio-chemical factors controlled by the laws of physics

Proposition b.) and then kiss his wife and children when he goes home

Conclusion c.) as though they share love with each other.

He makes this claim, yet makes no assertion as to how a and b can lead to c. A and B are seperate premises, and I defy YOU a way to get to C based on the two of them, without adding in a third premise.

So you would probably, as an apologist, argue that there IS a third unspoken premise... but until it's a premise put forward, this is a logically unsound argument.

He could then argue that his third, unspoken premise, would be something along the lines of: Love is dependent upon a higher power, and cannot be solely chemically based. If he had made that statement, then yes, he would have a logically sound argument -- but one based on unproven, assumptive premises. Remember, when logic and reality collide, reality wins.

So either he is making a logically fallacious argument, or he is making a logically sound argument based on unproven premises -- you choose which you think is true.

I could easily make a logically sound argument that went:

All pigs are blue
All blue things are also dogs
--
Therefore all pigs are dogs.

My argument is logically sound, but it is based on absurd, unprovable premises.

So again Josh, you choose: is he being logically fallacious, or is he making a logical argument based on subjective, unprovable claims?

Either way, he's not really doing the apologetics movement any favors.

-olly

Mike said...

Bahnsen - and all the other apologists influenced by presuppositionalism - are notorious for their strawmen attacks on non-Christians.

He will presuppose human dignity and attend a funeral to honor a dead friend or relative, even though he previously argued that man is, in principle, no different from any other product of evolution like a horse or dog.

Man's taxonomic position is irrelevent to me. The efficient cause of any given thing is only part of its value to me.

I don't need to ascribe dignity to all humanity to care for the death of a friend. Caring for other humans doesn't even need a rational justification - it is an arational emotional matter.

The unbeliever will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of bio-chemical factors controlled by the laws of physics—and then kiss his wife and children when he goes home, as though they share love with each other.

So what? The free will / determinism debate is moot. Even if this is a radically determined universe, it will always appear to us as if we had choice in our actions.

And, of course, the unbeliever could simply say that he was determined to "feel" and "show" "love" for his wife and children.

He will argue that in sexual relations ‘anything goes’ (there are no moral absolutes)—but then indignantly condemn child molesters or morally repudiate necrophilia.

Well, I doubt Bahnsen ever actually heard anyone say "anything goes." "Anything consensual and private goes" has been the mantra of the west since the mid-20th century.

And the true moral relativist exists only in Christian apologetical literature. It's a boogeyman and a strawman roled into one. It's pathetic.

He will suggest that the things which happen in the universe happen randomly—by ‘chance’—but then turn around and look for regularities, law-like explanations of events, and uniformity or predictability in the things studied by natural science.

Again, this person exists only in Christian apologetical literature.

Presuppers have some valuable things to say about neutrality, but mostly they are the jokes of 20th century philosophy. There is a reason why they have little to no influence in the Christian academic academy.

BJ said...

Mike: you said....
Bahnsen - and all the other apologists influenced by presuppositionalism - are notorious for their strawmen attacks on non-Christians

Its not a strawman to argue conflicting worldviews. If you dont have our worldview than you must be in the absurd worldview. Take your pick...all other worldviews may have different skin, but they are all brothers underneath. That is to say they are all non-Christian. Thats is why we only believe in 2 ultimate worldviews...Christianity and non-Christianty (whatever it might be called). So when we reflect on the general concept of non-Chrisitanty, what you might call strawmen, we are talking about non-Christianty in general. If you would like to lay out your own philosophy on life we would be glad to show that you cannot avoid Subjectivism and Skepticism. If that can be done than your worldview is rendered Meaningless and arbitrary.


Mike:
I don't need to ascribe dignity to all humanity to care for the death of a friend. Caring for other humans doesn't even need a rational justification - it is an arational emotional matter


This statement is what I meant above by arbitrary. You pick and chose like a buffet line.


Mike: And the true moral relativist exists only in Christian apologetical literature. It's a boogeyman and a strawman roled into one. It's pathetic.


Yeah! I guess Bansen and company just made up the notion of moral realtivism so they could pick on it. Mike I dont want to sound rude, but are you asleep at the wheel? I can go to my college campus right now and find hundreds of students who would say something to the effect of "whatever floats your boat" is my way of looking at moral choices.

Mike: Again, this person exists only in Christian apologetical literature.

Presuppers have some valuable things to say about neutrality, but mostly they are the jokes of 20th century philosophy. There is a reason why they have little to no influence in the Christian academic academy.

We maybe the jokes given your perspective on how Philosophy should be done, but this brings us back to the question of is your approach to Philosphy the right one? Do you have an epistemolgy, metaphysic, and moral system which can render experience intelligible? I am up for hearing it. I had to listen to lectures for 2 years dealing with how other Philosopers approached the subject. My personal opinion is that since Kant and Hume, philosophy as a discipline is a "wash." That is to say, Kant and Hume destroyed the quest for automous man to find Objectivity in the universe and all that is left is what is in your own personal mind. Hence, Existentialism.

Mike said...

Take your pick...all other worldviews may have different skin, but they are all brothers underneath.

You know what this is? It's an excuse to ignore and dismiss details. That's your choice, but don't get all self righteous or surprised when you never convince anyone.

If you would like to lay out your own philosophy on life we would be glad to show that you cannot avoid Subjectivism and Skepticism.

You know what this obsession with being anti-subjectivism and anti-skepticism is? It's you sublimating - repackaging, if you will - your own resentment of the world. The possibility that reality doesn't automatically ratify your way of thinking or desire to see others as evil causes you a great deal of anxiety.

This statement is what I meant above by arbitrary. You pick and chose like a buffet line.

If my statement is "arbitrary," than everything is arbitrary. For example, I can say with equal justification that ever last one of the reasons you give for serving God are "arbitrary."

I can go to my college campus right now and find hundreds of students who would say something to the effect of "whatever floats your boat" is my way of looking at moral choices.

But you're also quick to point out that they (usually) reject pedophilia and the like - hence they don't actually mean anything. They mean anything consensual, and if you'd spend thirty seconds talking to them you'd discover this. Remember what I said about ignoring and dismissing details? Yeah.

Do you have an epistemolgy, metaphysic, and moral system which can render experience intelligible? I am up for hearing it.

Van Bahnsen says that all systems are circular, yes? The only way to decide between systems is to choose the one that best "renders experience intelligible." The problem is that Van Bahnsen - and all other presuppers - is that their idea of "experience" is a part of their circle. They insist that all systems must account for A, B, and C while ignoring that A, B and C are important/present for them only because of their system.

Presuppers want to have a basically modern, post enlightenment world; the world as basically knowable, catagorizable, controllable. Then they insist that everyone else explain how the world could be catagorizable and controllable - even if some of us don't think the world is like that at all.

BJ said...

Mike:You know what this is? It's an excuse to ignore and dismiss details. That's your choice, but don't get all self righteous or surprised when you never convince anyone.


B.J.: What? I was only pointing out that everyone from Decartes to Van Til to Bahnsen to you to me are arguing in circles, or rather from underlying presuppositions. Hence Van Til's doctrine on neutrality being a myth. As far as covincing people goes...I dont convince anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can change the heart of a man. Even if there were an argument that proves belief system "x", you wont submit to it because of your precommitments to your own autonomy. Said person will kick and scream to the end if need be to avoid submission. Thats because said person is not neutral.



Mike: You know what this obsession with being anti-subjectivism and anti-skepticism is? It's you sublimating - repackaging, if you will - your own resentment of the world. The possibility that reality doesn't automatically ratify your way of thinking or desire to see others as evil causes you a great deal of anxiety.

B.J.: Two things:

1) My obsession with anti-Subjectivism and anti-Skepticism is that I dont have an obsession with it. If a person wants to espouse such a ridiculous system of interpreting reality than be my guest, but dont be upset when someone calls you out on demanding that someone adhere to said persons own value system they have built for themselves. That is to say, if I ran into a Subjectivist like Kant or Kierkegaard and slap them in the face and they get angry, iwill merely point out that thats just the way my mind is working and they are merely collateral damage. They should understand.

Mike: If my statement is "arbitrary," than everything is arbitrary.

B.J.: Explain how this follows. Your statement is arbitrary because it was based on your own feelings which has no rational justification. As you pointed out it was a-rational. That doesnt mean that everything is now arbitrary.


Mike: For example, I can say with equal justification that ever last one of the reasons you give for serving God are "arbitrary."


B.J.: Okay. Reasons:

1)I serve God because His Holy Spirit has shown me that I am a sinner and am desperatly in need of a Saviour.

2) I accept the Bible to be God's revealed word to man on its own self-attesting authority. That is to say, the Bible claims to be the Ultimate authority and there is none higher. This is the starting point for all Christians. We trust in God's revelation to man as the highest source of knowledge, and to go outside the Bible to help interpret reality is to assume your own autonomy on the matter. That is to say, to consider your own mind as higher than God's word. When this is done by an unbeliever, no matter what it may be for, it starts them on their path of Subjectivism and Skepticism. I mean if you arent going to trust God and His revelation than who can you trust? You are only left with your mind and its interpretation of the "Facts." Hence, Kant and Kierkegaard.



Mike: But you're also quick to point out that they (usually) reject pedophilia and the like - hence they don't actually mean anything. They mean anything consensual, and if you'd spend thirty seconds talking to them you'd discover this. Remember what I said about ignoring and dismissing details? Yeah.


B.J.: I have spent 30 seconds with them. I have spent 4 semsters with them. And you are right...they do think child molestation is wrong, but when I ask them wht all they can offer as justification is arbitrary conjecture. Again I must point out that it is because they have decided to hold there minds above that which God has said and set themselves up as their own "Standard." So there are your dismissed details. What you call dimissed details are nothing more than arbitrary demands, or like and dislikes if you will.


Mike:Van Bahnsen says that all systems are circular, yes? The only way to decide between systems is to choose the one that best "renders experience intelligible." The problem is that Van Bahnsen - and all other presuppers - is that their idea of "experience" is a part of their circle. They insist that all systems must account for A, B, and C while ignoring that A, B and C are important/present for them only because of their system.


B.J.: No! You have misread Bahnsen. Presuppers say that if "you" are going to act like experience "is" intelligible than you need the Christian worldview to make it so. However, if you want to say that beliefs A, B, and C are unimportant....Okay. I guess thats fine, but dont complain or indict someone else for being illogical, or commiting immoral acts to other humans. Presuppers are taking the "house" of epistemology that everyone seems to be working with and bringing it together in a "concrete worldview" (making it experience intelligible).


Mike:Presuppers want to have a basically modern, post enlightenment world; the world as basically knowable, catagorizable, controllable. Then they insist that everyone else explain how the world could be catagorizable and controllable - even if some of us don't think the world is like that at all.


B.J.: Thats fine if you concide that the world isnt like that. I wont argue with you about that, because arguing assumes unity, rationality, categories, intelligiblity. And as you have already pointed out you dont see the world as such. So according to you, this dialogue is meaningless, uncategorizable, unknowable. Did I miss any details this time?

Josh Brisby said...

Olly,

No offense, but you still haven't pointed out logical fallacies from Bahnsen. I meant to say what *specific* logical fallacies (such as named ones--> sweeping generalization, et tu, slippery slope, etc.) have you seen?

Furthermore, again no offense, but you need to brush up on your skills when it comes to creating syllogisms. You didn't even have real syllogisms.

This is just another example of why the unbelieving world of scholarship looks so bad.

Mike: all you keep saying is that you can account for things we are saying you can't account for. We're still waiting.

Do you really believe that the relativist is only in Christian apologetical literature? Are you familiar with postmodernism?

--Josh Brisby

Josh Brisby said...

Mike,

Another point. You say you don't think in terms of absolutes, but you really do, and you borrow from the Reformed Christian theistic worldview to do it. Is 2+2 always four, Mike? Always? Do you think that numbers are absolute? What about the sun rising tomorrow?

B.J. is right--if the world is unknowable and uncategorizable, and not absolute, then why even debate? After all, the meaning of my words may change tomorrow. This is the intellectual foolishness of postmodernism.

You keep doing this rational-irrational dialectic. This is what all unbelieving worldviews do apart from the epistemological ultimacy of Christ.

--Josh Brisby

Mike said...

I haven't forgotten the conversation, I'm just busy. I'll respond sometime in the next 24 hours.

(I tell you this because I get impatient waiting for people to respond to me too)

olly said...

Josh:

http://doubtingthefish.wordpress.com/2006/07/07/josh-brisby-fails-to-respond-with-an-amazing-lack-of-grace/

Josh Brisby said...

Olly,

I assure you that I did not mean anything in an offensive way. Of course, this is one of the shortcomings of blogging--we aren't able to communicate using facial gestures and tones of our voices.

I apologize because I did not intend to come off that way. That is why I tried to clear it with the words "no offense." I truly do believe that you would benefit from the suggestions. I do thank you that you said you were open to it.

If you think that Bahnsen made a non-sequitur, then you have to prove that it is a non-sequitur. You can't just assert it.

--Josh Brisby

Mike said...

This discussion is going to become increasingly scattershot, Josh, and I don't like doing things that way. If you like, we could pick one particular point and discuss that.

That is to say, if I ran into a Subjectivist like Kant or Kierkegaard and slap them in the face and they get angry, iwill merely point out that thats just the way my mind is working and they are merely collateral damage. They should understand.

I'm not interested in speaking for Kant or Kierkegaard, since I'm hardly an expert on either. That being said, it's always a bizaare experience to hear a Christian of any flavor dumping on Kierkegaard. He was an orthodox Christian, through and through. All of his writings are geared to the thesis that one should make Jesus the ultimate authority in their life. Francis Shaeffer - with whom I think this anti-Kierkegaardian streak first appeared - was a terrible historian and philosopher. Form your own opinion on the K man; don't siphon off someone elses'.

It is the presupper view of Kierkegaard that largely prompts my statments about presuppers basically wanting a controllable, catagorizable world where all mystery is boxed up and held by the tongs of the word "Trinity."

Your statement is arbitrary because it was based on your own feelings which has no rational justification.

Um... I think think we've both been confusing justification with explanation. Justification would be the desire to have an Other (other people, God, whatever) agree with the desirability of your actions. Justification is psychologically important, but it is not an intellectual requirement. If you can't justify something, so what? Explanation, on the other hand, is about fitting something into an interpretive framework. Often times, when I talk with presuppers, I get the impression that they are expecting me to justify my conclusions and actions to them, and not merely explain them. I attempt to explain myself and say "I believe and act by way of X" and then they say "X is unimportant!" thus confusing justification with explanation.

People's justifications of how they feel will commonly enough only make sense to them. Surely you've experienced this in arguments with, say, your wife? It does not mean their feelings are "without rational justification" - it just means their justification uses statements that are - to your subjective eyes - peripheral.

If someone starts talking about, say, Evolutionary psychology in connection with their human ties, then they are attempting to offer an explanation. They could be right or wrong. What is my rational explanation for why I love certain people? To reframe the issue, is there a rational explanation for the existence of human ties? Yes, there is. Certain people are a part of my own identity. When they die, a piece of myself threatens to die with them. Don't confuse your belief that my identity is a trivial issue with the statement that what I'm saying is incorrect.

Going through all of the reasons that you serve God would take a long time, and I don't have it. But here's the crux, as I see it:

That is to say, the Bible claims to be the Ultimate authority and there is none higher.

To which I say, no, it doesn't. The "Bible" - as a collection of seperately written documents - does not claim to be the Ultimate authority. It just doesn't. Case closed. It is Christians that make that claim. Relying on - you guessed it - human reason. The Bible's place in Christian doctrine is a fascinating subject, at least to me. I think it's a subtopic a bit removed from the larger issue here, however.

Thats fine if you concede that the world isnt like that. I wont argue with you about that, because arguing assumes unity, rationality, categories, intelligiblity. And as you have already pointed out you dont see the world as such.

Oh, I would use all those words to describe the world, but I would mean them in a different way from you. In a nutshell, I tend to see the world as a huge book, rich with possibilities for interpretation. The world is "intelligible" because we impose the intelligibility by "reading" the world and engaging with it. We like to think that science provides "explanations" for particular phenomona, but these "explanations" are rooted in what is basically an exegesis of the world.

Do you really believe that the relativist is only in Christian apologetical literature? Are you familiar with postmodernism?

Indeed, I'll be starting a Masters in what you would call postmodernism this fall. This is what I think of the term "postmodernism."

Another point. You say you don't think in terms of absolutes, but you really do, and you borrow from the Reformed Christian theistic worldview to do it. Is 2+2 always four, Mike? Always? Do you think that numbers are absolute? What about the sun rising tomorrow?

Mind if I get you to do a bit of reading? There are two posts on my blog that are relevent here, and if I cut and paste the appropriate bits, this post will be must about twice as long as it is already.

This post
And this post.

So respond point by point if you wish, but I do think it would be a good idea if you choose a particular point and started a new thread dedicated to that particular point. The issues will then be given the proper sharpness.

olly said...

Josh,

Fair enough, and I apologize if I over reacted.

As for proving that he made a non-sequiter, what specifically are you looking for from me, more than I have said? As I said, his conclusion doesn't follow from his statement: moving from the first part: 'The unbeliever will insist that man is nothing more than a complex of bio-chemical factors controlled by the laws of physics—"

And then from that, moving to "and then kiss his wife and children when he goes home, as though they share love with each other."

He doesn't show, in any way, what the problem is. He assumes that there is a problem with not believing in design, but believing in natural processes, and yet still being capable of love, yet he doesn't show any evidence or logic as to why. It would be the same as me saying "Christians believe in Jesus, yet they kill". This statement as a standalone makes no sense. If I said "Christians believe in Jesus, who was against killing, yet they kill" then it would make sense... the italicized part becomes the bridge that ties them together logically.

-olly

BJ said...

Mike said:

That being said, it's always a bizaare experience to hear a Christian of any flavor dumping on Kierkegaard. He was an orthodox Christian, through and through. All of his writings are geared to the thesis that one should make Jesus the ultimate authority in their life.

O.K. Perhaps I should not have used Kierkegaard as an example. It was only because many consider him to be the father on existentailism. I actually enjoy him as strange as that may sound, and at many places find him hard to get around theologically or philosophically.

Mike said...

Is this conversation going to continue...?