Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Book Plunge: Faith and Reason, Three Views

August 18, 2014

What is to be the relationship between faith and reason in Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? So was the question of Tertullian around 1800 years ago. Today, we are still asking that same question. What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? How is it that faith and reason work together? Should we live in suspicion of reason? Should we welcome reason when it is used as tool for our faith, or are reason and faith remarkably similar both before and after conversion?

This is the question asked in this book edited by Steve Wilkens. 

Faithandreason

The book has there different views on it. One view is that faith and reason are in tension with one another. The other is that faith comes and then it seeks understanding. The next is that faith and reason are working together. Those who are familiar with me will know I naturally fall into the last camp where I see faith and reason as allies.

An aspect that made it all difficult however was the lack of a rigorous definition of faith. Too many times we talk about faith and we don’t define what the term means. Some writers did attempt to define it, but I wish there had been some set definition right at the start that all the writers would have agreed on prior to the writing.

The faith against reason approach I find the most problematic. It is more of a camp that I would think leans heavily on a presuppositional approach with what fallen man can and can’t do. It is a dichotomy that I really do not see in Scripture in that for all the talk about fallen man, it looks like Jesus appealed to these fallen men often in their reasoning capacity and asked them to believe the message that He brought.

In fact, the first sentence struck me as problematic when Carl A. Raschke in this section said “Christian faith and philosophy have for the most part been in tension for most of the last two thousand years.”

This is quite a difficult view to accept. Are we to say that truths discovered through reason have been in tension with Christianity for so long? I immediately found myself stunned at this sentence. In fact, it seemed quite dangerously close to the double-theory of truth. I am sure Raschke does not hold to that, but that is where my mind went immediately. If Christianity is the true faith and philosophy is seeking to give us true knowledge, won’t they work together?

Raschke when he gets to Aquinas just says that Aquinas accepted Aristotle carte blanche in order to argue vigorously for Christianity over the Muslims. This really ignores much of the impact of what was going on with Aristotle and gives the impression Aquinas just went along for the ride. Aquinas showed how it was compatible with Christianity, but even he jettisoned a number of aspects of Aristotle’s system.

So overall, I found this idea unimpressive and in fact problematic. If philosophy presents something true and Christianity does, there can be no tension.

The next essay was by Alan Padgett and it’s on Faith Seeking Understanding. There was much more of this to agree with and in fact, I was wondering what was so different about it and the last view that I do accept. The main difference is that in this view, reason really takes over once the faith has already done its work.

So let’s go to Craig Boyd’s view on a synthesis between faith and reason and why it is that I accept this.

My reasoning is simple. All truth is God’s truth. If something is true in the sphere of philosophy, or any other sphere for that matter, it will be true in the area of Christianity. Boyd points out that Christ and the apostles regularly point to the reasoning of their audience and why it is that they should accept the claims given.

Boyd also offers I think the most rigorous arguments going step by step about what faith is and what reason is and how different people view reason. He deals with misconceptions of reason and I think quite well points out that for the proponents of the first view who say that there is tension between the two, that essentially, the only thing people of that view can say to those who are outside is simply “Believe!”

For those interested in the faith and reason debate, this will be a valuable read and one that will benefit your study of it. It comes with my recommendation. My thanks to IVP for their generous gift to me of a copy for review purposes.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Last Superstition

July 23, 2014

What do I think of this book by Edward Feser? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TheLastSuperstition

As I finished this book, I must say I was disappointed.

I was thoroughly disappointed since I knew that when I went on Amazon I could only give it five stars. Just five! If only I could have somehow doubled that number!

Now that doesn’t mean I agree with everything Feser says. I don’t think he would even want me to after just a read of his book, but I do think he argues his case very well and quite humorously. As a Protestant Thomist, there are differences, but with much of his philosophy and metaphysics I am right there on his side.

Feser is quite angry in this volume, and he has all right to be. The new atheists are a symptom of the way that our thinking is going downhill. It is not because we are becoming more scientific. No no no. That is all well and good. There is no problem with that. It is because we are becoming more and more anti-philosophical.

This despite the fact that there are some philosophers amongst the new atheists. Yet when they do any philosophy, the results are atrocious. It would have been interesting to see what Feser would have written had “The Grand Design” come out already and there had been a response to Hawking saying “Philosophy is dead.”

With this anti-philosophical bias coming in, we are rapidly losing our ability to think well and becoming a more and more immoral people. Feser also ties this in with the cultural acceptance of redefining marriage and also about how he considers abortion one of the most wicked of all evils.

Feser also brings in some strong polemics to this. Why? He is responding to the new atheists with what they have been dishing out and it adds a nice punch to the work. It’s hard to not be amused when you read that Richard Dawkins would not know metaphysics from Metamucil or that Daniel Dennett should have realized that anyone walking around saying “I’m a bright!” looks like an idiot. Also noteworthy is being told that the sophists are still with us today except they’re called lawyers, professors of literary criticism, and Michael Moore.

Surprising to most atheists will be the bare interaction with Scripture or church tradition that Feser has. The only place I recall Scripture being used is in a section talking about the resurrection. This is really the only place in the book that emphasizes Christ as well. Why is there so little mention of Christ and Scripture? Because Feser is showing that if all you have is just the tools of reason, you still have more than enough reason to hold to the existence of God and deal with the new atheism. It could be that Christianity is false and the new atheists are still wrong after all.

Readers of this book will also see a sustained argument that gives you a brief history of philosophy and why people like Parmenides, Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas matter. Feser throughout the work shows that the arguments of the new atheism do not hold water and also lack explanatory scope.

Feser also argues that the teleology that Aristotle says exists in reality is inescapable and the more we deny it, the more and more absurd that we become, including describing a couple known as the Churchlands. This is a pair of philosophers who are husband and wife and wish to speak of us as material beings entirely and I mean entirely.

““She said, ‘Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.’ ”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/02/12/two-heads

Feser does point out that as the article says, the Churchlands claim to have shared a lot of Oxytocin over the years, yet I’m guessing this is a claim that doesn’t exactly scream romance. Although, it is humorous to imagine being in a singles bar and going up to a lady and saying “Hey babe. How would you like to have a little Oxytocin tonight?

Feser says that this will be the end result of the thinking of the new atheists. In the end, we will lose morality, we will lose free-will, and in fact, we will lose science itself.

If the new atheists have been looking for a powerful opponent, they have found one in Feser and one who can roll with the punches just as good as they do, if not better. Feser’s sharp wit and powerful argumentation provide a powerful counter to the new atheist movement.

If you want to read the best response I have seen to the new atheists, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How Do We Know

March 7, 2014

What do I think of Foreman and Dew’s book on epistemology? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Foreman and Dew have written this in order to explain epistemology to people who have never really considered it and in our day and age, it’s more necessary than ever. After all, you have people like Peter Boghossian out there wanting to train up “street epistemologists” to deconvert Christians from their faith. In addition to that, there is a rampant scientism in our society that says science is the way to know the truth. If what you say is not scientific, then it is not a fact.

So how is it that we do know anything at all and what is knowledge? Naturally, you won’t find a comprehensive refutation of positions in this work. Instead, it’s more to get you thinking about what the different positions are. The authors themselves do not come down on either side in the debate. After reading it, I cannot tell you what position either one of them holds.

The authors also go through the classical problems in studies of epistemology. One such example that will be well-known to students of philosophy is the Gettier Problem. (To which, I remember when this was discussed in my epistemology class one of my classmates immediately asked the professor about Gettier. His question? “Did he get tenure?” Yes. He definitely did get tenure after that.)

Gettier’s problem was to show that you could have a belief that was justified and that was true, but even then that might not be enough to say that you had knowledge. This is problematic since the prior definition of knowledge has been justified true belief, which means that now philosophers are looking to see if a fourth item might need to be added to the list.

Those dealing with new atheist types will be pleased to see the authors make a statement about faith and how faith is not a way of knowing but is rather a response of trust to what one is shown to be true. Of course, we seriously doubt that Peter Boghossian and others like him will pay any attention to anything that goes against their beliefs.

Along those lines, there is also a section on whether one can know through divine revelation which includes a short apologetic for Christianity. The authors are both Christians and do hold that divine revelation can be a valid way to possess knowledge.

If there’s a concern I have with the book, I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the medieval period. Too often we talk about Plato and Aristotle and then jump ahead to Descartes. A few times Aquinas is cited but not often. I do not remember Augustine being cited but that could have been something I overlooked. There were plenty of great thinkers as well in the medieval period and it does help to see how we got from the ancient to the modern era.

Despite this one misgiving, I find that this book will be an excellent start for those wanting to learn about epistemology. You won’t walk away with a firm conclusion most likely, but you will walk away hopefully knowing that you need to look.

In Christ,
Nick Peters