Saturday, February 20, 2010

Appeals to Human Conscience Not Considered Harmful

In discussions on Facebook, I have appealed to conscience several times. This has been met with the accusation of "special pleading".

But the human conscience would seem to be more reliable to Christians than others would posit.

Some people naturally obey the Law's commands, even though they don't have the Law. This proves that the conscience is like a law written in the human heart. And it will show whether we are forgiven or condemned, when God appoints Jesus Christ to judge everyone's secret thoughts, just as my message says.


Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

So let's not have any more hand-waving about the human conscience. I'm not talking about quibbling points of conscience -- I was talking about infantcide.

Unless someone's conscience is damaged, they know infantcide is evil. Therefore, if a so-called quote "scripture" says that such was done at the command of God, we know there is something suspect with the text.

Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

I maintain that God would not order such a thing, and that it is absurd to defend infantcide (if it did, in fact, even occur) -- or defend the text, which we know to be defective because of this absurdity.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Advice to Rational Philosophers (who may happen to be Theologians)

The Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers is _Faith and Philosophy_, on whose web site appears an article by Alvin Plantinga, "Advice to Christian Philosophers".

The gentleman's article is flawed. Because of circumstances, his article becomes the jumping-off point for my own advice. Dr. Plantinga writes:

Many Christian philosophers appear to think of themselves qua philosophers as engaged with the atheist and agnostic philosopher in a common search for the correct philosophical position vis a vis the question whether there is such a person as God. Of course the Christian philosopher will have his own private conviction on the point; he will believe, of course, that indeed there is such a person as God. But he will think, or be inclined to think, or half inclined to think that as a philosopher he has no right to this position unless he is able to show that it follows from, or is probable, or justified with respect to premises accepted by all parties to the discussion-theist, agnostic and atheist alike. Furthermore, he will be half inclined to think he has no right, as a philosopher, to positions that presuppose the existence of God, if he can't show that belief to be justified in this way. What I want to urge is that the Christian philosophical community ought not think of itself as engaged in this common effort to determine the probability or philosophical plausibility of belief in God. The Christian philosopher quite properly starts from the existence of God, and presupposes it in philosophical work, whether or not he can show it to be probable or plausible with respect to premises accepted by all philosophers, or most philosophers at the great contemporary centers of philosophy.
So in terms of modern philosophy -- with our modern understanding of epistemology -- the gentleman thinks it "quite proper" to putting the cart before the horse. His paper, in my view, should be titled "Advice to Christian Theologists" -- because his advice, thus outlined, does no scientific good for philosophy in general -- Christian or otherwise.

Now, I happen to hold the position that there are very good reasons to believe in a God -- reasons which, alas, would never be admitted as "scientific" by modern epistemological standards. If I'm reading Dr. Plantinga right -- and please, correct me if I'm wrong -- it would seem that the gentleman is advising against any philosophical discourse about the possible existence of God for his audience, whom he calls "Christian Philosophers".

I think we human beings would benefit from much more rigor in this discussion: by my lights, too much of it has been weasel-worded into unproductive semantics that do more to hide one's own motivations that honestly express ideas. To me, a "philosopher" who argues her points with the a-priori position that God exists, is better termed a "theologian".

Because otherwise: If one were to rise in support of the philosophies attributed to Jesus Christ, without discussing the _theology_ of Jesus, then how would we term such a person? Can we agree that such people could be called "Christian philosophers", even if mainstream Christianity doesn't consider them "Christian" by their standards?

If you accept my definitions of "philosopher" -- "Christian" or otherwise -- as well as "theologian", then I daresay we've managed to find the title of a most interesting paper, which one might call: "A Philosopher's Defense of Theism." Because it seems to me that that is as close as one can get to theology in today's English usage and epistemology.

But if a Christian philosopher decided to defend her philosophy with rational existentialism? Those ideas would be beneficial to all philosophers, regardless about what the believe about the theology of Jesus.

My next article will be "An Existential Defense of the Golden Rule".

The Prisoner's Dilemma problem in Game Theory is discussed in terms of the very fabric of the Universe: the strategy for maximum benefit in multiple iterations of Prisoner's Dilemma's is -- counterintuitively -- cooperation. This ontology is explored in terms of the Golden Rule.

Scott Doty

Santa Rosa, California