Posts Tagged ‘secular humanism’

Book Plunge: The Grand Central Question

April 21, 2014

What do I think of Abdu Murray’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Murray has written an interesting apologetics work coming at it as an attorney and as a former Muslim. That brings a unique combination as Murray knows how to argue and handle evidence. He in fact often starts by presenting the case that the other side has given and then responds to how that side is lacking in what it states. All of this goes around the idea of the Grand Central Question. The theme is that each worldview claims to answer such a question and that overall, the Gospel does a better job of answering the claims.

The first position that he goes after is secular humanism. With this one, the question is asking if there is a purpose to life, which also gets to questions of morality. Murray agrees with a view that I’ve had about atheism in that too often, it looks like atheists have moral worldviews that are just floating in the air. I do however disagree with Murray’s response to the Euthyphro dilemma. When we say that God is the good, it ends up still providing no content to what goodness is. If God = good, how does that tell me what goodness itself is? It’s just saying “God is good” but not explaining what is meant by that. Does that mean the same as saying that the pizza I had for lunch is good or that my wife is a good woman or the book I’m reading is a good book?

Still, that would be the main criticism that I have which means the rest of the material in this section is quite good. I would say with this and other sections that Murray’s work is just a start, but it turns out to be a good start.

The next worldview is the pantheistic worldview. In this, he deals with Hinduism, Buddhism, scientology, and various proponents of New Age thought like Eckhart Tolle. The question to ask is about the question of suffering. What is the solution? The pantheist solution that Murray sees is to say that suffering is an illusion and we need to realize our own divinity and overcome the illusion of suffering. Yet Murray is certainly right in that this answer rings hollow, particularly in the face of those who have suffered severe loss, such as the loss of a child.

It is when we get to the final part that in fact, Murray shines the brightest and this is in contrasting Islam and Christianity. Murray comes at this from the position of someone who was a devout Muslim who used to argue against Christians using the classic arguments such as the idea that the Bible is corrupt and has been changed. What was most shocking to him is that in studying the Koran, he found that the interpretation he had of the Koran could not allow that possibility. The more he compared the Koran to the Bible, the more he found the Bible to be reliable.

The question then to ask is “Whose God is greater?” Now I don’t hold to the idea of Greatest Possible Being theology, although I certainly hold that God is the greatest being, but it is an important question to ask with a Muslim who bases their whole life on God being the greatest. Murray argues that if they want to hold to a God who is great, it would be better for them to recognize who Jesus is and to learn about the greatness of a God who exists in Trinity. In my opinion, this response to Islam is the best part of the book as Murray uses his own experience and research directly.

Murray’s book is a good start. One won’t find all the answers here, but for an earnest seeker, one will find the answers to some of their questions.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Conclusion

February 25, 2014

What’s the final word on Carrier’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

So there’s not much left in this one so why not wrap it up and see what the overall conclusion is?

The first conclusion is that Carrier has drawn a line in the sand and stated who his enemies are. As he says on the final page to his fellow secular humanists:

“And we also gain a sense of community and conviction through fighting against our common enemies–the foes of reason, truth, and liberty.”

Yes. Everyone who is opposed to secular humanism automatically somehow is an enemy of reason, truth, and liberty. Now of course, if secular humanism is the truth (Which it isn’t), then fighting against it is fighting against the truth, but does that mean one is necessarily fighting against truth? No. They could honestly believe secular humanism is false and in that sense are fighting for truth. In reality, I am of the firm contention that everyone is fighting for truth.

Yet I have this problem with atheism automatically being seen as the party of reason. It is a kind of hubris that I think has led to the conclusion to many that because you are an atheist, then any conclusion you reach is automatically reasonable. After all, if you aren’t hampered by superstition, how could it be otherwise? You’re the one who is always going by the evidence then after all!

In reality, what I notice about atheists is they’re just as prone to believing falsities as the Christians that they condemn. It’s just harder to reason the atheist out of them because more often than not, they automatically do assume they use reason and their opponents don’t.

Take the claim of confirmation bias. It’s a claim I hear all the time. I go and present a case for the historicity of the resurrection based on evidence and what do I get? Well you just believe because you have confirmation bias.

Does that answer my case at all? Not one bit, but it sure allows my opponent to ignore my case. To show what a problem this is, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that I do have confirmation bias. (I would not deny we all have bias, but confirmation bias is something different.) How does that change my case? Could I not have confirmation bias and my belief still be true? If you want to show my belief is false, what you have to do is to address the evidence that has been presented.

After all, in reality, we can all believe true things for terribly wrong reasons. Someone could be an atheist because they don’t want a God watching over them and want to get to sleep with their girlfriend and any other woman that they want. Is that a bad reason to be an atheist? Yep. Does that prove you’re wrong if you hold atheism for that reason? Nope.

Suppose someone wants to be a Christian just because they want fire insurance as it were. They have never once studied the historical evidences of the resurrection. They’ve never asked themselves the big questions. They like going to church and having a good worship time and seeing their Christian friends.

It’s hardly the life of discipleship that Christ calls us to, but is such a person wrong in their opinion because of that? No. This person truly has taken a leap of faith (In the atheistic sense). They’ve just landed in the right spot fortunately.

As for liberty, our nation was founded on Christian principles. (In fact, if you really want to see Carrier taken to task on this one, look at this two-part series starting here. Somehow in all of that, we did maintain our liberty. America was a place where you could go for freedom.

Somehow, Soviet Russia was not that place.

Carrier by saying he is fighting against us has already got me concerned. Considering the statements he’s made on abortion and that he will disavow any opinion because it is a religious opinion, why should I think his secular country will truly be a place of liberty?

So suppose I don’t go along with this, and I don’t. What’s the word to me?

“Failing that, if you’d rather pass, then I would like to extend another plea: for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding.”

So I’m going to be declared an enemy of reason, truth, and liberty, and your response to declaring me your enemy is that you want me to tolerate, accept, and understand you?

Now tolerance in the classical sense can be done! We can agree to disagree on this point! But note that we will disagree and that will change and the best way to move forward is to keep discussing the ideas. Even if you’ve already decided my belief system is nonsense, the best way to handle that is not to just declare it but to show it.

Too many atheists today do what I call atheistic presuppositionalism. It is assumed that their belief is the way the world really works. There really is nothing outside the natural world. Matter really contains the principle of its own existing in itself. There really are no miracles. The Bible really is not reliable at all. Jesus definitely did not exist. Etc.

These positions aren’t really argued for, they’re assumed. Then when you disagree it’s “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Whose worldview is considered extraordinary? Why it’s the theist after all! Why not have each of us argue for our position? You think miracles are nonsense. Okay. I understand it. Argue for it. Don’t assume it. I think miracles can happen. Yeah. I’ll also argue for it.

So barring that I don’t buy into the system, I can of course try to understand where you’re coming from, but why accept it? Isn’t that just a way of saying “Knuckle under and submit?” Now in a country like America you can say “We won the vote so we get to do this for awhile provided it’s all done legally.” Sure. Of course. But the minority still has a voice. It doesn’t mean you have to follow, but it does mean that they can speak and be heard still.

Carrier can talk all he wants about how fine a secular humanist system will be, but based on what I’ve seen in this book and in history elsewhere, I’m quite sure that such a system would in fact become a tyranny.

So in the end, what do I think of Carrier’s book?

I think Carrier has the problem of thinking he is an authority on everything and that that will undermine him greatly. I also think too many atheists are placing all their eggs in the Carrier basket and that will hurt them later on, particularly as more and more NT research is done which will in fact do further damage to any Christ-myth hypothesis. Unfortunately for them, no matter which scholars you cite about the reality of Jesus’s existence, you’re always given back “Richard Carrier.”

Carrier is not the authority that he thinks he is. Oh he’s popular on the internet to be sure, but how many papers does he have published in the Society of Biblical Literature? Go ahead. Look for yourself. Compare this with others like N.T. Wright, Michael Licona, John Dominic Crossan, William Lane Craig, Marcus Borg, and others.

But in the end, the Christian community needs to be thankful that Carrier is out there.

After all, what this is doing is simply lowering the standards of atheists everywhere. They’re showing they’re willing to believe it if it comes from their favorite authority. Who cares if the entirety of the scholarly community sees the Christ-myth as a joke? Carrier says otherwise and we will believe!

So if someone wants to follow Carrier down this path, well by all means let them do so. We’ll just wait around 10-15 years to see what happens when all the eggs in the basket turn into egg on the faces of our intellectual opponents.

In Christ,
Nick Peters