Last month’s issue of Christianity Today and Books & Culture had some interesting articles on atheism, naturalism, and the resurgence of theism in academic philosophy. Lots of good deep reading.
William Lane Craig kicks things off with a lengthy article entitled God Is Not Dead Yet making a play on an old TIME magazine cover that asked the infamous question, “Is God Dead?” In it he describes how the philosophy of religion has recognized the revitalization of classical arguments in light of the demise of verificationism—a defunct doctrine that says the only things that can be known are those that can be empirically verified. Any talk about metaphysics or ethics (things that cannot be verified) is nonsense, and can only be couched in subjective terms. The principle fell on its own rigor of standard, because its teaching could not verify itself, thus making it nonsense! If you haven’t familiarized yourself with this piece of intellectual history, Craig’s article is a great place to begin.
The most interesting part of Craig’s piece is where he critiques postmodernism, or the kind of thinking that emergent Christians tend to have in their dismissiveness of the apologetic enterprise. Aren’t the classical arguments for God’s existence useless? Aren’t they relics of modernity that should be abandoned in favor for a more communal story-telling approach that invites people into our created narrative? Craig answers,
This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.
He could not be more correct. It reminds me of something Peter Kreeft once said in response to the tendency of postmoderns to dismiss apologetics: orthodoxy demands defense. It is only natural for emergents to dismiss apologetics because it dismisses orthodoxy in its propositional form.
Alvin Plantinga gives us an introduction to his famous evolutionary argument against naturalism. It’s an elusive argument to grasp, but well worth studying. Basically, he argues, if naturalistic evolution is true we have no reason to trust our minds in forming true beliefs. The money quote:
Consider a frog sitting on a lily pad. A fly passes by; the frog flicks out its tongue to capture it. Perhaps the neurophysiology that causes it to do so, also causes beliefs. As far as survival and reproduction is concerned, it won’t matter at all what these beliefs are: if that adaptive neurophysiology causes true belief (e.g., those little black things are good to eat), fine. But if it causes false belief (e.g., if I catch the right one, I’ll turn into a prince), that’s fine too.
Philosopher Doug Groothuis, a personal friend of mine, also writes about The Great Debate surveying a few good books on the subject. One of note that has gone on my wish list is called God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist published by Oxford University Press. More summer reading!