cracks knuckles Let´s get to work!
Up until 12 months ago I always thought that I have never really lost the Christian faith that I learned of in elementary school or in the confirmation lessons. Well, looking back, the way I though about some things leaves me with embarassment now, the way I thought about Christianity at the age of 16 was merely childish and contained of little more than wishful thinking while knowing deep down that what I believed is probably not true. This is why I consider it a conversion from Agnosticism or even weak (and certainly unhappy) atheism what happened two years ago. I have stated elsewhere several times that the German church suffers from the decades of Bultmann theology which dominated it in the 20th century which resulted in the todays, at least in the public church, support of fideism, or what I would call “Existentialism with a little bit of God”. This is by the way also why I´m currently becoming catholic and why I am not really a friend of the bishops in the western european protestant denominations.
Two thing happened in that order:
First, while reading here every blogpost offered, I focused on NT history. I won´t go into too much detail here, since we worked through that so many times. By all the standards I judged it rational to hold on to christian teachings because under the scopes of critical history they hold up and I summarized for myself, that if a completely agnostic person was to be confronted with the evidence for either side, he would have to give a notch to the historicity of the resurrection, which is the central christian claim. Great I thought. We have a rational basis in terms of history for the believes. That was already a lot more than I ever expected. I credit Gary Habermas for this and will always be thankful for his work. Today I especially enjoy Richard Bauckham, as well as Larry Hurtado, the late great Martin Hengel, John P. Meier, Daniel Wallace, Brant Pirtre and bit of Dale Alisson.
Then I went on to philosophy, what could human reasoning tell us about God and can we make a good claim? Well, two interesting things happened. First, rational reason turned for me into conviction that on logical ground Theism has too be true, at the same time I started to reject most philosophers positions offered here. For example, apart from a few things like the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, I can´t really find much in Alvin Plantinga. The same goes with William Lane Craig, whom I like to classify as a world-class philosopher with the wrong argument, namely the kalam cosmological one. Over time I found Ed Fesers blog which resulted in me having every of his books ever published on the philosophy of religion on my shelf within a few months and it led me to adapt the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy and its proofs for the existence of God which I became convinced to be valid. I will lay it out a bit here, for example the Aristotelian proof.
First it has to be said, “what does proof mean here?” A philosophical proof is if the premise leads logically to a conclusion and only one possible conclusion exists. If two conclusions are possible in a philosophical line of arguments, then it is mere evidence.
Aristotle (and later Thomas in his first way) argues for an unmoved mover. The premise is that change occurs and, because nothing can come from nothing, the potential of a change in state has to be intrinsic in one thing. But in order for change to occur, another thing has to actualize the potential of another thing to change. This sounds pretty heavy, but is very easy when understood. My cup of coffee has the potential to become cold, but the cold air surrounding it has to actualize that potential and make it cold, it wouldn´t happen on its own. Let´s take instrumentalization into consideration. The stick actualizes the potential of the stone to move, because my neurons actualize the potential of my muscles to flex while the atoms actualize the potential of the neurons to spread the electrical signal in the first place. We get into a hierarchichal series which requires a first cause in order to give another thing the potential to exist in the first place. This is also where much confusion is put into the place for the reader and I judge the paltry state of academic philosophy to be guilty of this, because those philosophers like to tear down strawman, namely that Aristotle either argues that “Everything has a cause. God is the cause” or for a beginning of time for which God is responsible, which is the Kalam cosmological argument Craig is defending, while Aristotle believed in an eternal universe and Aquinas vehemently refused to argue for a beginning of time, because philosophy can´t get us there. No, the argument for the unmoved mover works in a finite universe as well as in an infinite multiverse, because temporal serieses ( Series per accidens) aren´t interesting while the hierarchy (Series per se) is the crucial point. And here we have to have an unmoved mover. Why? Like I already stated, in order to have causal power in a series, this power has to be rooted in one thing. Consider for exampe that you want to put books on a shelf, the shelf on two brackets, but instead of nailing the brackets to the wall, you just let go, which results in the whole construct collapsing.
Remember now that change and causality are systems about act and potency. The first cause has to be pure actuality, because if it would have any potentials, those would need another thing which underlies it in order to actualize those potentials. So the first cause is pure actuality and unchanging. Because it can´t change it is immaterial , infinite and eternal. It has to be perfect and thus all good, albeit not in the moral sense as we would describe good for now. It is also only one thing and doesn´t contain out of different parts, because these would once again underlie it, which wouldn´t make it the first cause. Now it gets interesting: All the potentials of e.g. material things exist in an abstract or virtual way within the first cause, which requires an intellect and thus makes it personal. Because it has every potential known within t and the causal power to actualize every potential, it is omniscient and omnipotent. It can also be only one, because in order to exist more than one first cause, there have to be ways to distinguish it. But because the first cause is purely actual and has no potency to change, there would be no way to distinguish it, which makes it one. We have arrived at an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good, personal, immaterial, infinite and eternal being. This is what we call God.
Now, of course this isn´t the whole picture, because if it were, then revelation wouldn´t be necessary. But we have rationally come to the conclusion, that God has to exist. Now can the seeking person go on with a solid basis in his hand.
This is a mere comment, so don´t expect further elaboration, since St. Aquinas spent hundres upon hundreds of pages arguing for his ways, defending it against every possible critical objection and giving arguments for the divine attributes. I am only giving a broad picture of the first way. Because reading takes too much time, if you are interested give the Podacst Pints with Aquinas a chance to learn about it.
So normally I would end it here. But I mentioned that I have found Atheism to be the least plausible explanation and even if I were somehow to loose my faith in the Christian religion, Atheism is certainly no option anymore. To explain it we have to shortly dive into the “Rationalistic proof for the existence of God”, defended by the likes of Leibniz .
In order for science to work, it has to make some metaphysical presuppositions. That causality exists and that the universe is rationally built and that we are able to explore it for example. The second presupposition can be summed up in the Principal of sufficient reason (PSR), that every thing has an explanation for its existence and its attributes, either within itself or through methods requiring other things. But the explanation exists. Edward Feser showed in his latest book Aristotle´s Revenge in which way modern science presupposes Aristotlelian metaphysics but for this point I need another of his books, namely Five Proofs for the existence of God. He argues, as well as Leibniz did, that this principle of sufficient reason leads to (classical) theism (It is by the way no surprise that all the arch rationalists were theists). If a thing has the explanation for its existence through other things, it is contingent. But as we have seen with above, those serieses of contingent things have to end in a necessary thing, a thing that has the explanation for its own existence within itself, in order to have their existence explained and giving the PSR, this explanation has to exist at every time. “At every time” is important, because remember that we don´t argue for a benning cause, but for an explanation why anything exists at any given time. If the thing is necessary it can explain the existence of any contingent (able to change) thing at any given time. But for something to be necessary it has to be purely actual and thus this argument converges with the argument for the first cause.
Admittedly, this is a very short version and I didn´t make it to make a full defense of the rationalistic proof. These are found on p. 153-176 in Fesers book. What I want to show is why I judge atheism to be deeply flawed and inplausible. For that let´s have a look at the PSR itself.
The PSR is presupposed by science, because if things happened uncaused or don´t have an explanation in principle, what would be the point of science? It couldn´t work. It´s also counterintuitive. Noone here denies that e.g. physic and mathematics are finding real principles in nature which enable us to alter our environment, for example with the development of technology. Also we don´t experience things to appear out of nothing (No quantum physics hasn´t shown that it happens, for more information please read “What Is Physics?” by Quantum Field Theorist Nigel Cundy. He´s a great, and while being a physics professor, also literate in the deep philosophy, which makes people like him rarer than unicorns). If it would happen it would also go against what science expects or rather presupposes. Every scientific discovery and every moment that nothing pops into existence for absolutely no reason in principle is a data point in favour of the PSR. However, as the Rationalists have shown, PSR leads to theism. So what would atheism mean in this context? Atheism would mean that there are brute facts, which don´t have an explanation wfor its existence or attribute in principle. If that were the case, one cannot asssume that of something unintelligible an intelligible, rational series could arise, like the ones we find in logics. It would also mean, that what we meant to have found in science is not a real picture of how the universe is at all. If the PSR fails, then things within the universe are unintelligible, which goes contrary to what science and human reasoning assumes, which ultimately means, that our mental faculties aren´t reliable. The real problem now becomes that we have landed within a vicious circle. Because if my mental faculties aren´t reliable, then I have no reason to suppose that my conclusions are correct, which means that the atheistic position and thus the denial of the PSR gives birth to the skepticism against its own position. If naturalism were ultimately true, we would find out by accident, since rational reasoning won´t come to that conclusion.
Boy, this took a long time and I only gave a splitter of what I have found within A-T-philosophy, but these are my rational reasons for my conviction that Theism is true, history led me to Christianity. However this position is controversial, especially among evangelicals, since most of them aren´t big fans of givig philosophical arguments for God. But I think if you are in a discussion with people who want real rational reasons, you won´t get any better. So do with it what you want! If you´re further interested maybe find other arguments more convincing, but like I said, since this is only a comment on Biologos, I can´t give the reasonings and defenses of any more arguments, especially because even those two I wrote about here have been argued for in way greater forms, especially the first cause.