What is a god?

(Book: First Apology, by Justin Martyr, courtesy of The Christian Classics Ethereal Library.)

We’re taking a break from the shenanigans of modern day apologists and digging into the roots of modern apologetics, just to see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. So far, Justin has proven to be something of a liberal, appealing to Caesar not to condemn people just because they belong to a certain ethnic or religious group, and urging him to investigate the actual conduct of the accused, and only punish them if they’ve truly done wrong.

Ironically, one of the chief “wrongs” Christians were accused of was atheism, and Justin has an interesting defense.

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Moderation announcement

With apologies to all concerned, I have not been following the comments here too closely, and have neglected a long series of comments by David Roemer that seem to be simply a case of someone taking advantage of my blog in order to preach his own private opinions to a captive audience. I am therefore asking David to limit himself to comments that are specific and on-topic to the posts at this blog, and to reserve his preaching for his own blog (which you can get to by clicking on his name in the comments here).

As a precaution, I am adding David to the moderation list to ensure compliance. It is not my intention to deny him the opportunity to offer comments about the material I am posting here, and if he wishes to make any such comments, they will be approved. I have put a lot of time and effort into cultivating an audience here, however, and it is a misuse of my hard work for someone to come in and use the comments to preach to an audience they have not earned. As a courtesy to my readers, I am not going to allow such abuses to continue.

Thank you.

And now for something completely different

I’ve been having a hard time picking a new book to go through now that we’ve finished On Guard. I happen to have a copy of Lee Stroebel’s The Case for Faith, but you know it’s just going to be more of the same old same-old. I thought about picking some articles from some of the big name apologetics web sites, but I looked through a few and there’s just not much substance there. It’s mostly just inspirational stuff designed to pep up people who already believe.

I’m in the mood for something different, and I think I’ve found something that fits the bill. We’re going to take a break from trendy modern rationalizations for God and go back to the roots of Christian apologetics. I’m talking about Justin Martyr, the Father of Apologetics, as translated and published by Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). I’ve been doing some reading there, and I’ve got to admit, it’s a lot more interesting than I expected. The language is a bit over-embellished for modern tastes, but his perspectives and assumptions regarding Christianity are fascinating. Evidently, some things have changed a lot since the early days of Christianity. And then again, some haven’t.

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Curtain call

(Article: “God Is Not Dead Yet,” by William Lane Craig, published in July 2008  in the online edition of Christianity Today.)

I was planning to start a new series today, but as I mentioned in my other blog, I came across a fascinating quote by William Lane Craig, as reported by The Uncredible Hallq, and today I want to look at the whole article, because there’s some really juicy stuff in there. [Caveat: The discussion that follows is based on a casual/superficial understanding of what Craig meant by “verificationism.” Thanks to some informed commenters at my other blog, I now know that verificationism is a highly specific and somewhat esoteric technical term within philosophy, and that Craig’s discussion of its implications are somewhat misleading. My remarks below should be understood as addressing the more general principle of verification and its implications for Christianity.]

Craig begins, as usual, with the declaration that atheism is losing and Christianity winning in the intellectual battles of the late 20th century and beyond.

You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene…

The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat.

Sounds optimistic, but can he back up those claims? What is this “revolution” that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy—and why has it only influenced philosophy that happens to be Anglo-American?

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Is human sacrifice morally justified?

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

When you’ve dug yourself into a hole that you can’t climb out of, step one is to stop digging. Unfortunately, if you stop digging, people might think you’re admitting that you’ve dug yourself into a hole you can’t get out of. In theological contexts, the way to handle that dilemma is to dig yourself in deeper.

But we can push the argument a notch further. We can show positively that it’s entirely possible that God is all-powerful and all-loving and that many persons never hear the gospel and are lost.

As a good and loving God, God wants as many people as possible to be saved and as few as possible to be lost. His goal, then, is to achieve an optimal balance between these, to create no more of the lost than is necessary to attain a certain number of the saved. But it’s possible that the actual world (which includes the future as well as the present and past) has such a balance. It’s possible that in order to create this many people who will be saved, God also had to create this many people who will be lost… It’s possible that in order to achieve a multitude of saints, God had to accept a multitude of sinners.

What Craig is arguing (without realizing it) is that it’s possible that there is some greater power than God, some power that forces God to do things He would prefer not to do. There’s no logical necessity that requires one or more souls to be damned in order to save someone else’s soul, even given free will. You might think that free will would reduce the chances of everybody being saved, but there’s no logical necessity that says the salvation of one soul requires the damnation of another. (Plus, an all-loving, all-powerful deity would not leave such an important matter to mere chance.) There must be some other power, then, that forces God to do what He would not wish to do. And if there’s some greater power than God, then God by definition is not all-powerful.

And Craig is only starting to dig himself in.

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