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Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by caddy, Apr 17, 2008.
Van Til Diagrammed
Just starting to read Muether's Bio of Van Til now...
Could someone explain this to me? He keeps saying that Atheism is an appeal to an ultimate irrationality, but doesn't say how (that I can tell). How is the non-rational ultimate for the Atheist?
Not sure, but it is never rational to assume that something comes from nothing, that we are here by blind chance and random forces. The ultimate starting point is non-rational for the atheist. Ours, while it can't be ultimately proven, is definately rational.
Atheism, says C.S. Lewis turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.
I suppose it depends on your definition of "rational." If we're speaking technically, being irrational should have something to do with committing true logical fallacies. The Atheist is also allowed to have his starting points, so can you explain your assertion that "it is never rational to assume that something comes from nothing, that we are here by blind chance and random forces"?
I'm still interested in an explanation of the quote I listed above, if anyone cares to help me out. It seems to me as though the author is claiming that the Atheist makes assertions about the irrational nature of Christianity, and then turns the Atheist's assertion on its head by merely asserting that the Atheist is "expressing believe in an ultimately non-rational universe."
"The definition of faith as a leap beyond reason makes sense in terms of the atheist worldview because in that view an Absolute Mind is denied, making the world ultimately non-rational. The ultimate mind in the universe is the finite human mind (or maybe a finite alien mind); thus anything beyond the finite human mind is beyond reason."
I think what he means by irrationality is that the atheist CANNOT explain the origin of ANYTHING. If we keep pressing and digging into the beginning of all things, we have to stop somewhere. That is, something cannot come from nothing. That would be irrational. The atheist's faith in "chance" is really a faith in magic.
Don't know if that helps, but that's how I understand it.
Okay, but I still don't understand the assertion. That the Atheist does not believe in the Christian concept of an ultimately rational mind does not imply that "the ultimate mind in the universe is the finite human mind." Aristotle believed in a transcendent mind.
I see what you're saying, although I don't see how you can prove that it's irrational that something can come from nothing. It sounds to me like it could be an indemonstrable axiom. That we've never seen something come from nothing doesn't logically imply its impossibility.
Also, see the first part of this post. Pointing out that we need to stop somewhere and then saying that the 'somewhere' must be the Christian God is the same error that Aquinas made when he baptized Aristotle's argument of the first mover. Perhaps Zeus and the other eleven Olympian gods are the starting point, or Aristotle's infinite mind, or Alah, or (since we're talking about Atheists) laws of logic that somehow exist but can't be proven (in the that we don't prove God's existence or the truth of the Scripture).
What is a "transcendent" mind if it is not God? If there is a transcendent mind, and it isn't God, and it isn't ultimate, then what is ultimate? Clearly, it would be something non-rational.
Also, atheists do not believe in a transcendent mind...not the new atheists, and not the avg Joe Atheist.
If something coming from nothing can simply be axiomatic, then I can say anything I wanted to, and simply say it undemonstrably axiomatic...it's a baseless assertion. Something coming from nothing violates the Uniformity of Nature that we rely on for induction...so it does logically follow that nothing comes from nothing...if it is not necessarily so, then you cannot trust induction (which is a major problem for atheists).
What is the "Uniformity of Nature" that we rely on for induction? Induction is just as much a problem for us as it is for the Atheist. Furthermore, even if your premises are granted, the assertion that "something cannot come from nothing" is not even a testable hypothesis. Since induction requires observation, the validity of induction has no bearing on it. If the concept is a "baseless assertion," then so is our assertion of God's existence, since we can prove neither. What we shouldn't do is demand the right to have indemonstrable first principles while claiming that Atheists are being inconsistent for doing the same.
What I mean is: if we are allowed to assert that God exists without proving it, why can't the Atheist assert that the universe is uniform and that reason exists without proving it? I get your point about Atheists not believing in a personal mind, but is it not the failure of the transcendental argument, admitted even by some Van Tillians, to say that a personal mind like God is the only explanation for concepts such as order, reason, and morality? "If God exists, reason, order and morality will exist. Reason, order and morality exist, therefore God exists" is not a valid argument.
"The future will resemble the past"
It's the reason you didn't expect your toothbrush to turn into a gila monster this morning
How so? I've talked to a bunch of atheists that say the same thing...but they simply appeal to miracles...and then I explain what a miracle is...then they go back to the straw man they constructed...I have yet to see a persuasive argument demonstrating what you (or they) assert.
Our assertion about God existing is not baseless because He is the necessary precondition for things like deduction and induction to be intelligible. It can be "proven", but then we have to discuss what constitutes "proof"...I don't think proof is limited to what is observational.
This is just as much an assertion as anything I would say about the unreliability of induction. How do you prove that the future will resemble the past? By looking at examples from the past? So the future will resemble the past because the future has resembled the past. This is circular, which is ultimately okay, I suppose, if someone is using it as an indemonstrable axiom. But it shouldn't be considered demonstrable by the supposed supply of "evidences."
Of course I didn't expect my toothbrush to be a gila monster. That is a good example, but it doesn't take into account all of the expectations we have on a day to to basis which don't end up being verified by experience. I could just as easily choose another example and say "what I expected didn't happen, therefore the future isn't like the past."
Our assertion about God existing is not baseless because He is the necessary precondition for things like deduction and induction to be intelligible. It can be "proven", but then we have to discuss what constitutes "proof"...I don't think proof is limited to what is observational.[/QUOTE]
And, again, we assert that God's existence is not baseless because He is the necessary such and such, but the Atheist can then assert the existence of His own principle, which is the necessary precondition for the same such and such. It's the problem of the Transcendental Argument again.
True the atheist is ultimately circular in this assumption because he can only appeal to the past and his experience of the future always being the same. However the Christian appeals to God's providence, as demonstrated in the Bible, to prove that the future will be like the past.
The atheist can assert his own principle but then we need to evaluate that. What proof does he have of that principle? Does his principle explain reality? etc...
We have the Bible as our standard, which provides us with a complete world view that completely accounts for reality.
The atheist, at least the Enlightenment guy, appeals to the human mind (reason, whatever) as the basis for all truth. But the human mind cannot know all things and situations, past present and future, nor can he accurately apply that knowledge in all situations past present and future.
Simply put, the human mind doesn't have the criteria to be the basis for all truth. Such an appeal is irrational.
Seems like this leads directly to theonomy vs autonomy as the source of rationality - with autonomy proposing "something from nothing" without the demonstrated capability to make it so vs theonomy in which the eternal source does have ex nihilo capability.
I am just starting Bahnsen's Van Til's Apologetic.
I have just finished Greg Bahnsen's Always Ready, but I am scared to start that volume.
it IS quite the tome, isn't it? A friend gave it to me - good summer reading...
Being a complete wimp I just listened to Bahnsen's cd series on Defending the Christian Worldview, I believe that "Always Ready" pretty much replicates its contents.
Because the ultimate presuppositions (the foundational assumptions or presuppositions) are arbitrary and unprovable even by their own standard of reason. They can construct elaborate worldviews and theories, use logic to prove many conclusions, but ultimately their worldview is true not because they can prove it, but because they say "that's just the way it is." In other words, the most basic assumptions (universal logic, universal natural laws, moral judgments) are presuppositions for which they cannot account for rationally.
The Christian on the other hand, builds his entire worldview on the revelation of God. We know that logic, inductive reasons, deductive reason, sensory data, etc. are reliable because God created us with the capacity to understand his revelation so long as we submit our minds to him. There are things we cannot understand because of our finite limitations, but everything is known exhaustively by God alone and in him all things consist.
The atheist (and any unbelieving system) builds his worldview on 3 main principles; ultimate chance, brute facts (facts existing without interpretation or meaning), and autonomous (independent) human reason. His belief in chance undermines any confidence he can have in induction. His belief in brute facts undermines any actual purpose or meaning in the universe (or himself). And his belief in autonomous reason undermines any possibility of reliable knowledge since he as a finite being does not have the capacity to know all things at all times, which is required in order to make any universal truth claims.
So ultimately, the atheist worldview is irrational. It is founded upon assumptions which undermine his own worldview, and assumptions which he cannot prove or understand.
The Christian worldview is ultimately rational because God provides the unity, meaning, and purpose to it all. There is no such thing as chance. God created and sustains every molecule and directs everything to accomplish his own glory. There are no brute or meaningless facts because God upholds and directs every fact of the universe for his own glory. The only reason our minds can comprehend anything at all is because God endowed us with the ability to understand his creation and revelation and we can only understand something correctly by recognizing that God sustains the world in a consistent manner and using our reasoning and observational faculties in a manner consistent with how he created us, in submission to him.