Saturday, August 31, 2013

Make Sure it is Christianity We are Defending

Stephen Mumford said, “It is tempting when metaphysics is under attack to retreat to some ground that is easier to defend. In doing so, however, it may no longer be metaphysics that is being defended.”[1] Mumford, while certainly no Christian theist, has a salient point regarding Christian apologetics. I think there is value in recognizing that certain dire consequences regarding Christianity’s truth and God’s existence do not necessarily follow from some purported claims (e.g., evolution). However, we must be careful to avoid trimming Christianity so much that we distort the central truths of the Gospel. Even in our pragmatism, we must maintain that God is a Trinity, Jesus is God the Son and the Son of God, that he lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and God raised him from the dead. We must hold that the Word of God is authoritative, and that salvation is by grace through faith. If we fail to do this, and retreat to a position more easily defended, then I am afraid we will no longer be defending mere Christianity at all.

1 Stephen Mumford, Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2012), 102.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Question About Comparing God as the Greatest Possible Being

This particular post is in response to a comment I have received. It is as follows:

I think there is a problem with premise 1; or more specifically the notion of 'greatness' or even 'excellence' used here. Namely, you have to justify the possibility that two objects can be compared for how much greatness they have in any sense.

Imagine if I asked 'which is greater, an apple or a Porsche'. How would you even attempt to answer that question without appealing to contingent facts or relative factors?

The notion that some things are greater then other *sounds* intuitive, but I've never seen an account that wasn't basing this claim on human prejudices.
Now, strictly speaking, the problem isn’t that we need to justify the possibility that two objects can be compared for greatness in just any sense, but a metaphysical sense. We must also remember the mere fact that some pair of two objects cannot be compared in the relevant sense does not imply that it is the case that no pair of two objects can be compared in the relevant sense.[1]
Next, there seems to be a misunderstanding of justification and prejudices. If something is truly intuitive, then what is the problem? In the absence of a defeater, we are justified in holding rational intuitions. Nonetheless, none of that is a positive case for comparing two objects in the relevant sense; it is just a defense against the objections. However, Yujin Nagasawa, of the University of Birmingham, has recently published a paper entitled “Models of Anselmian Theism.”[2]
Your example is, specifically, a display of what is called “universal value commensurability”[3] (UVC). Quoting exactly, UVC claims that “every possible being is value commensurable,”[4] which, as you have shown, is at least highly problematic (if not flatly false). But why should the theist be compelled to embrace UVC?
Instead, all that is required is that at least some commensurability is possible; namely, between God and all non-divine objects. For lack of wanting to re-type Nagasawa’s article, the point is that God is a metaphysically-greater being because of great-making properties on an absolute scale. What that means is that such a property, if gained, would make its bearer greater, and it would not be any worse for any other being to have such a property. What Nagasawa offers us is a type of “extended radial model” of greatness, where a kind of “comprehensive greatness” is held.[5]
This greatness means possessing great-making properties, each to a greater degree than non-divine beings (even the merely possible ones). A great-making property is one it is better for some being to have than to lack. Take omniscience, for example. Reduce it simply to the property of knowing. Surely knowing is a property it is metaphysically better to have than to lack (if one doubts this, I would ask if it would be better for you to know that you doubt it than to lack that knowledge)! Therefore, knowing is a great-making property (of course, it may take all sorts of objects, and that is a story for another time). So, we see this objection really does not get off the ground; it is clear that God can be compared to possible, non-divine beings in such a way. In fact, the only way this objection can succeed is to show that God is actually comparable with no possible non-divine beings whatsoever. That seems unlikely.
1 That would be like someone claiming that because some fact is not logically necessary, no facts are!

2 Yujin Nagasawa, “Models of Anselmian Theism,” in Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 2013:), 3-25.

3 Ibid., 6.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 16.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Hiatus is Over

I know I have been gone for quite some time, so I’d like to take this opportunity to update everyone on what’s been going on this summer. First, my wife and I wrapped up our secular jobs in mid-June and mid-July, respectively. Then, we took a two-week trip to Zambia, Africa, to visit my sister-in-law and her family, who are missionaries there. We flew into Livingstone via Munich, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa. We had a wonderful time visiting with family, participating in ministry, and seeing the sights (including a safari!).

After the Africa trip, we had exactly five days to adjust to the time change, pack up all of our belongings, and drive a U-Haul from Jacksonville, FL, to Wake Forest, NC. I am preparing to start a second master’s degree, one with a lot of electives I intend to fill with philosophy courses. The school I am attending is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I am already excited. We have met new friends, bought books, and are looking for a new church home. We intend to decide soon, so we are praying for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance in this area. Neither of us have full-time jobs, and Jodi is looking for one while I go to school full-time and do adjunct work for Trinity. We may add a donation link through the website for anyone who would feel led to help during this time (but no one feel any pressure! I don’t roll that way). All we ask for is your prayers, if we could.

I intend to resume writing again as soon as tomorrow. Until then, God bless you, and thanks for your patience with the lack of content!