A Theist and an Atheist Walk into a Bar . . . | ORBITER

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“What I’ve always wanted to do as a philosopher,” [theistic philosopher Alvin] Plantinga said, “is defend a Christian way of thinking about things and argue that to be a Christian is not to be irrational or senseless or silly. It’s certainly not a unanimous view among philosophers that you can reasonably be a Christian; but that’s now one perfectly sensible view in the neighborhood.”

Source: A Theist and an Atheist Walk into a Bar . . . | ORBITER

For those of us who are Christians, there is nothing remotely irrational, senseless, or silly about belief in God; indeed, it is disbelief in God that is senseless and silly. But unfortunately, philosophy and religion have been on largely divergent paths for the last several centuries. As a result, many philosophers have been reluctant or flatly unwilling to seriously consider the perspectives of theologians, while as Plantinga points out, “Certain kinds of evangelical Christians thought philosophy was a bad idea.”

That is unfortunate, impoverishing both realms.

So, I am very glad to learn of this gentleman who seems to have been able to, at least to some degree, bridge the chasm between contemporary philosophy and theology. But at the same time, I also have to chuckle slightly at the idea that his thoughts – at least as expressed in this short article, I have not delved into his works – are novel discoveries, particularly when it comes to the problem of evil.

If contemporary philosophers have truly believed that the existence of evil nullifies the possibility for the existence of a good God, then I am disheartened to see how far philosophy has fallen.

Plantinga’s solution – which may be compressed (at least as expressed in the linked article) as the realization that true freedom must of necessity include the ability to choose evil; if God had created us such that we would always choose good, automatically, then we would not have free will at all – is something that I got out of reading Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae (“The Consolation of Philosophy,” c. 524 AD) while I was in college.

Nonetheless, I’m glad he has apparently been able to make this ancient and key concept comprehensible and at least somewhat acceptable to today’s philosophical “establishment.”

Regarding his assertion (with which, of course, I agree) that belief in God is not irrational, he points out that

“a very common attitude among those who don’t believe in God is mistaken. That attitude goes like this: ‘I don’t know whether or not there really is such a person as God… but I do know the belief in God is irrational.’”

To which my response would be, if you don’t know whether or not God exists – if the existence of God cannot be conclusively proven, as it cannot, then neither can it be conclusively dis-proven – then how can you say belief in God is irrational? If there’s even the slightest chance that He may exist, and it turns out that He does, then disbelief in Him would be the irrational course of action! Saying that belief in the existence of God is irrational, without being able to conclusively disprove the existence of God, is itself irrational.

Which I think is what Plantinga is trying to say. He goes on to add,

“My argument, very simply, is that if theism is true, then in all likelihood God would make his presence known to us human beings. And if this is so, then it would make sense to think of God as creating us in such a way that there is an innate tendency to believe in him, or at least to have some sort of inkling of his existence.”

Which is another way of saying something that I have said on many occasions, and in a number of fora: that the human religious impulse comes from God, and leads to God. That is why – although I am a Christian and a Christian cleric, and believe that the Christian revelation is the most true and complete revelation of God humans have been vouchsafed by their creator – I also believe that elements of truth may be found in many (indeed most, if not all) religions.

If we are, as the Scriptures inform us, created in the image of God, then we simply cannot (assuming our intellectual faculties are intact) avoiding knowing at least something about God, and / or at least have a yearning to connect with our ultimate Source. We can (having free will, since God wishes us to search for and choose Him freely, not through compulsion) ignore or suppress both the knowledge and the yearning, but that does not mean it’s not there.

As I have also said before – including in this blog – I have respect for an honest agnosticism, as there is so much we do not and cannot know about God. But I find flat-out atheism – which is asserting as an incontestable truth-claim the idea that God does not exist – to be rather absurd and even silly, since there is no way to conclusively disprove the existence of a God powerful enough to create the totality of the Cosmos.

In contrast, as Plantinga points out,

“many philosophers have argued that belief in God is indeed, irrational; and of course if it is irrational, we ought not to accept it. They think as follows: it would clearly be irrational to believe in God if there were not good evidence for the existence of God . . .

“Now what I’ve argued, in a nutshell, is this. First of all, that there are some pretty good arguments for theism, for the existence of God. More important, though, what I’ve argued is that if belief in God is true—if there really is such a person as God—then belief in God is not irrational.”

Indeed! Needless to say, I agree. At any rate, Plantinga seems like a very interesting fellow, and I look forward to hopefully having a chance to read some of his writings in the relatively near future.

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Primo de Rivera: “Freedom does not exist except within an order”

Freedom does not exist except within an order

I was very pleased to have one of my young driver’s education students, in response to a comment on the importance of following “the rules of the road,” respond, “Without order, there’s chaos.” Maybe there is hope for the rising generation, after all!

Indeed, freedom is only possible within order: in chaos, or raw anarchy, the only persons to have “freedom” are those in the highest positions of power. An orderly society both protects the rights and also enunciates the responsibilities of all members.

The Constitutional, representative Republic bequeathed us by our Founders is one way of accomplishing this end, and, so long as their prescription was faithfully followed, an effective one. But it is not the only approach; King Charles I of England, executed by the “Roundhead” Parliament during the English Civil War, articulated another:

“No man in England is a better friend to liberty than myself, But I must tell you plainly that the liberty of subjects consists not in having a hand in the government, but in having that government, and those laws, whereby their lives and their goods may be most their own.”

James Kiefer goes on to elaborate,

“one may reasonably ask of a government that it establish justice in the land; so that judges do not take bribes, so that innocent men are not convicted of crimes, while the guilty are convicted and punished, so that honest men need fear neither robbers nor the sheriff. One may further ask that taxes be not excessive, and that punishments be not disproportionate to the crime. Charles would have said, ‘Do not ask whether the laws were made by men whom you elected. Ask whether they are reasonable and good laws, upholding justice and the public weal.'”

These principles are equally manifest and necessary whether the source of orderly government and society is viewed as “top-down” (from God, through a Monarch, to the people) or “bottom-up” (ultimately from God – if you read the Declaration of Independence – but flowing through the sovereignty of the people to those elected to perform the functions of government).

Like a human person whose physical being is defined by skin and skeleton, a cell defined by its walls, a poem defined by form and meter, a country defined by its borders, or art or music defined by the conventions thereof, one’s freedom can be expressed most fully within an orderly society. The alternative is indeed chaos, and the “freedom” thus engendered is temporary and illusory.

The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

Modern society, if there are any doubts, is in serious trouble. Over the last two centuries, the institutions of civil, religious, and domestic society — State, Church, and Family — have been revised, reformed, and reinvented to the point that these chief props of human dignity have become, to all intents and purposes, meaningless.

Source: The Just Third Way: I. A Question of Human Dignity

“Nevertheless, the real issue is not encroaching State power, but human dignity: the sovereignty of the human person under God. Human beings, as Aristotle put it, are ‘political animals.’ Institutions, up to and including the State itself, were made by people, for people. This is so that people can meet their own wants and needs (primarily acquiring and developing virtue, ‘humanness’) by their own efforts within a justly organized society, ‘the pólis’ — hence ‘political.'”

We forget this proper order – that the State (whether a representative Constitutional Republic or a Monarchy) exists to serve the best interests of the People as a whole, not the other way ’round, and that the proper goal of people is to become more fully human, not merely to acquire wealth, at whatever cost to our humanness – at our peril.

And then there is this:

The common good is not, however, the aggregate of individual goods. It is the vast network of institutions within which individual human beings as political animals realize their individual goods, primarily the acquisition and development of virtue — ‘human-ness’ — a seemingly subtle but important difference.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding of human nature and essential human dignity has resulted in social justice and socialism being confused in both Church and State. This has changed Church and State from the chief props of human dignity outside of the Family, to the principal obstacles to virtuous human development.

Religion — ‘Church’ — has been reoriented and updated to focus almost exclusively on people’s material wants and needs. At the same time, politics — “the State” — has changed from overseeing institutions that make it possible for people to meet their own needs through their own efforts, to meeting them directly, after those in power decide what wants and needs are legitimate [emphasis added].

Follow the link for a much fuller and more detailed discussion of these issues.

Evola: “Capitalism just as subversive as Marxism…”

Capitalism just as subversive as marxism

I have not read much Evola – just a few quotes here and there – but I agree with this. Economics, while important for survival (the word means, literally, “household management” – Greek oikos + nomos), is a means to an end: one which is too-often treated as if it were an end in itself.

The high and ultimate things – religion, e.g., the proper relationship between God and Man, and philosophy, including ethics and morality, e.g., the quest for a right relationship between and among humans, as well as something like Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” – must come first, and serve as the basis for the practical, instrumental considerations which follow, including economics.

By placing economics at the forefront and letting our values flow from there, I believe, we as a society are currently putting the cart before the horse!

You will note that these “high and ultimate things” are closely interrelated, not separate and distinct: I have spoken and written elsewhere about the importance of re-weaving the connections between and among God, Nature, and Humankind – that is to say, adopting a truly holistic view of the world (cosmos) and our place within it.

Economics has a role in this process, and it is an essential one. But it is or should be a supporting role, not a lead role. An analogy might be architecture, in which support structures such as pillars, arches, etc., are absolutely essential to the construction and support of a building – and which ones are chosen is far from irrelevant! – but they are not the purpose of the building.

This is where we have gone wrong in our treatment of economics, in my opinion, whether capitalist or Marxist in orientation. And this is, I think, the point of the Evola quote, above.

Universities’ war against truth | Spectator Life

Having beliefs and expressing them is no longer tolerated and the contagion is spreading

Source: Universities’ war against truth | Spectator Life

“However, as soon as inclusiveness itself is questioned, freedom is cast aside. Students seem to be as prepared as they ever were to demand that ‘no platform’ be given to people who speak or think in the wrong way. Speaking or thinking in the wrong way does not mean disagreeing with the beliefs of the students — for they have no beliefs. It means thinking as though there really is something to think — as though there really is a truth that we are trying to reach, and that it is right, having reached it, to speak with certainty. What we might have taken to be open-mindedness turns out to be no-mindedness: the absence of beliefs, and a negative reaction to all those who have them. The greatest sin is a refusal to end each sentence with a question mark.”

Sadly, there is a great deal of truth to this.

Ooops, did I use the word “truth”…? Or assert a definitive belief? Shame on me! I meant, “there might be, like, something to this…?”

George Washington’s wisdom

Just created this a little bit ago. It seemed apt, in light of the Las Vegas massacre, among many other things…

George Washington - Believe me now?

The words are from then-President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” (1796). By “religion and morality” is meant Christian religion and morality, or at any rate the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition which has formed one of the major underpinnings of Western civilization for the last 1500+ years.

We have, as a culture (if one can use the term, currently…) and society, been abandoning this “great pillar of human happiness” – along with other pillars of our civilization, such as the Greco-Roman political and philosophical tradition, and the courage, passion, and physical prowess of our Celtic and Germanic forebears – at an alarming rate over the last 50 to 75 years, and I think it is not coincidental that we have also seen our civilization in steep and accelerating decline over the same period.

A tree cut off from its roots does not grow, blossom, and bear fruit: it withers. The same is also true of a culture.

Dum spiramus tuebimur

Dum spiramus tuebimur
“While we breathe, we shall defend.”

We’re still breathing.

 


 

(Borrowed, with gratitude, from a friend.)

Dum spiramus tuebimor” is the motto of the 133rd Field Artillery Regiment, US Army (National Guard). I strongly suspect it has older origins, but I have not so far been able to determine them. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment. Thanks!