Friday, July 10, 2015

26. Another guest blog, 5Books4Atheists2Read

Yes, I should know these books like the back of my hand.  I freely confess that I don't.  C'est la vie.  But now they are brought to my attention.  Thank you Ethika Politika, and thank you John Ottens.

I'm am not particularly a fan of either Platonism or Neo-platonism, but here we are.


Five Books a Smart Atheist Should Read

By  | July 9, 2015
The overwhelming majority of atheists have no idea where to find the best arguments for God’s existence. The same can be said of many theists as well, which may be part of the problem.
Many atheists, when they want to argue against the Christian God’s existence, set about attacking the Bible, as though Christian Scripture had a list of proofs for theism that atheists could refute. The Bible is a great book, and justly important to Christians, but if you go searching through the Christian Scriptures for a list of the great philosophical proofs of God, you’ll surely be disappointed.
The best arguments for God’s existence also have little relation to the theistic arguments familiar to students of philosophy in our day. Today, a beginning philosophy student will learn about the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments for God’s existence and perhaps some sort of argument on the basis of human morality. And however many years of post-secondary philosophy students may take today, the majority will never move beyond this limited approach, although they may at some point study the question of God’s existence in more detail. These aren’t bad arguments, though they’re often badly presented. My point, however, is that they are not the best.
Below, I recommend five books, all available in good and inexpensive English translations, which will introduce the contemporary reader to what is in my view the most convincing proof of God ever formulated, an argument that is furthermore (as Neoplatonists have claimed) the necessary basis of all philosophy, of all thought. It is a difficult proof, which is why I recommend five books in order to make sure the argument is adequately explained. But it is a powerful proof.
Read these five books in their entirety. Read all five, carefully, repeatedly, for understanding. It’s difficult, boring, exhausting work, but you should do it anyway, because these might be some of the most important books you’ll ever encounter. Read them all, read them in order, and don’t skip any of them. Each writer on the list would want his readers to be as familiar as possible with the works and arguments of the writers preceding him.
Plato’s Parmenides: This is the book where it all starts. It is very short, but very difficult. I remember the professor who taught me this book relating how he had seen students reduced to tears before this book in the past. Read slowly, reread, and don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t make sense quite yet. The reason for having four more books on the list is that there’s a lot to mine from this text, and most of us won’t be able to extract and understand those insights without a bit of help.
Plotinus’s Enneads: Here is the soul and center of the argument. It’s the longest book on the list, but it is also the most important. If you have to choose just one of these books to read—and I don’t recommend doing so—choose this one. Read the whole thing. It will be a big challenge, especially for those not familiar with Aristotelian terminology, but if you can grasp it, you’ll have grasped the basic argument for the existence of God.
Dionysius the Areopagite’s Divine Names: (Pseudo-)Dionysius may help you understand the Platonic argument more clearly, but also, he’ll help bridge the gap from the terminology and tradition of the monotheistic pagan Platonists, to the terminology and tradition of the monotheistic Christian Platonists, a gap all too difficult to traverse for most of us on our first engagement with Platonic literature.
Aquinas on the simplicity of God (Summa Theologica, First Part, Q3): Aquinas explicates a further (important) step in the argument, and he shows how the entity discussed by the Platonists can be identified with the God of the Abrahamic tradition.
Ficino’s Platonic Theology Books 1–3: The first three books of Ficino’s Platonic Theology will step back and survey much of the ground covered by the foregoing authors. If you must skip one of these five books—and I don’t recommend doing so—this is the one to ignore, especially since it will be the most expensive to purchase, at about $35 for the Harvard University Press translation. It will, however, be very helpful in cementing the argument picked up in the preceding books.
An atheist, after studying these books, probably won’t become a Christian. I admit it. But no intelligent atheist who gives these books a fair read can fail to become a theist.
Few atheists who read this article will act on the recommendations here offered, I’ll wager. But I hope that, in rejecting the reading list, there will appear a small seed of doubt in their thoughts—doubt of that mastery they supposed they’d already acquired of all the important theistic proofs, and doubt concerning the real reason why they first became, and more so why they still remain, atheists and agnostics.

25. excursus

He's not talking about the manipulation of symbols, he's talking about the ontology of arithmetic. Does that make him a neoplatonist?
If it does, is his argument sound?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

24. 40 Questions for Christians Waving The Rainbow Flag

Forty questions for Christians who wave the rainbow flag.

I like questions.  Asking questions is probably one of the best ways to find out answers, don't you think?

I'll post the 40 Questions here, then attempt to answer them one at a time, revising the page as answers get written.  Feel free to add your responses as you write them.

These questions are meant for people who believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible (or for Catholic and Orthodox, the Church which will still include the Bible in the end).

Thanks to The Gospel Coalition for these questions.  Here's the link.  Kevin DeYoung wrote them.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
18. How would you define marriage?
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
24. If not, why not?
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?