As a result of several factors, Steve and myself have decided to take a hiatus from blogging (which the one or two regular readers have probably already realized from our month-long lack of activity).  For one thing, we have both been somewhat busy, and it has been hard to keep up with our commitment of one post per week.  For another thing, we feel that we need to reassess the purpose sand methods that our blog has used.  We are shooting for a re-launch date of January 2015, once we have had adequate time to think things through.

In the meantime, we will continue to check, and respond to, new comments on our existing posts.   Until next year, goodbye for now.

Several years ago, a blogger for The Secular Outpost name Keith Parsons wrote an article titled The Strongest Argument for Christianity. If you are unfamiliar with Keith Parsons, he is a very outspoken atheist who taught philosophy of religion for a number of years, and published several books on the subject. So unfriendly to Christianity is Parsons, that he reportedly had this to say about why he decided to stop teaching Philosophy of Religion (I say reportedly because the original post has been taken down and I can only find others quoting it):
I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest; I don’t think there is a Bernie Madoff in the bunch. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it. I’ve turned the philosophy of religion courses over to a colleague.

He still writes extensively on the subject at the Secular Outpost blog and other mediums, even if he does not teach. He has written much against the arguments for Christianity, focusing especially on the historicity of the resurrection and the Gospels. I give such a lengthy introduction to this man, because with such an obvious disdain for the Christian faith, we should all be very interested to hear what he considers to be the strongest argument in defense of that faith. In the post linked above, he tells us very frankly that he considers the "inherent rottenness of human beings" to be the key:

Whether science and religion are compatible has been a debate for some time (probably ever since modern science got rolling).  Anyone who has written a book, been a part of a debate, or given lectures on the subject of science, religion, or philosophy has taken a stand on the issue.  There are many differing views.  Obviously, it's impossible to cover it all in one blog post.  This will serve only as a very cursory - and rather meandering - introduction.

A recent conversation with a friend initiated some reflection about the value of truth. It started with us sharing what we'd been reading as of late; I mentioned that I recently started The Book Thief and that it has reminded me of how much I love fiction.  This began a bit of a debate where we were trying to determine the value of reading, especially of reading non-fiction.  My friend expressed the opinion that while our culture (or at least the so-called intellectuals in this culture) places a high value on being "well-read," it really has no benefit over, for example, playing video games or watching television. It all has to do with how we choose to spend our time, he insisted. Some people choose to spend their free time reading, while others choose to spend their free time playing video games. But is this true? Is there no benefit to reading over and above watching Sherlock on TV, playing the newest Halo game, or  some other hobby?

While Part IV of this series covered the Exodus itself, this post will focus on the Sinai covenant.  This will be the last post in the series for a while, as I'd like to take a break and cover some other topics.

The importance of the covenant formed at Sinai is that it established a formal relationship between the people and their deity as divine liberator.  "...the deity had liberated them, and now constituted the group as his people; so their proper response was to obey his commands and laws in running their corporate and individual lives as his subjects."1
As noted in a previous post, the understanding of many Christian doctrines has been influenced by an eroding faith in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. While we have seen that a strict adherence to biblical inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it is surely an important doctrine for the health of the Church at large. I have recently quoted BB Warfield arguing that the biblical testimony of its own authority and inspiration is like an avalanche; while each individual stone in an avalanche may be easily avoided by one with some presence of mind, avalanches do not come one stone at a time, but all at once. In the same way, while a single verse of scripture testifying to its own inspiration may be disregarded with some clever interpretation, one would have to throw out the entire Bible to avoid the clearly biblical doctrine.

I should note quickly that I am not intending here to make a robust argument for the actual inspiration and authority of the bible. That may be tackled at some later time, but is not currently my intention. Rather I am simply trying to show that the Bible does teach the doctrine of its own authority stemming from its divine origin. It will take much more work to show that the Bible is correctly teaching this doctrine.

Presently, I shall discuss three New Testament verses which are explicitly relevant to the doctrine, and explain what they do and do not tell us. In a future post I may discuss the dozens of verses which less directly attest to the doctrine. Most of the content of these posts comes from Warfield's The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.

This is the fourth part in the series on Kenneth Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament.  For some introductory remarks on the Exodus, see Part III of this series.

Now on to the exodus itself.  First off, from the 18th century (BC) onwards, there were several attempts (some successful, some failed) by people groups to move out of their rulers' land.  This provides some precedence for the exodus of the Israelites.  So, the criticism that the exodus itself is a ridiculous idea because no one could possibly escape the iron grip of Egypt is off-base.

Looking at the text of the book of Exodus, it is worth trying to surmise the Israelites' likely path based on topography, conditions, and logistics.  For example,  the "sea" - yam suph in Hebrew - plays an important role in the Israelites' journey .  The translation "Red Sea" is based upon the Latin Vulgate which itself follows the Septuagint; however, the original Hebrew, suph never meant "red".  The translation should be "reeds/rushes, marsh (plants)", as it is in Exodus 2:3-5 (reed basket to conceal Moses) and Isa. 19:6-7.  The term yam suph is also applied to the Gulf of Suez (Num. 33:10-11) and the Gulf of Aqaba (Num. 21:4 and others), which both extend from the "Red Sea".  This also solves the problem of how the Israelites crossed a yam suph but passed others later; if it were simply a single "Red Sea", it would not make sense; as it is, the term yam suph could have been applied to several bodies of water.

Continuing on with my series summarizing the book Four Views of Divine Providence, this post will cover the the view of Molinism, defended by William Lane Craig. Previous posts in this series can be read here, here, and here.

Craig begins his section by noting that orthodox theologians have always agreed that God's omniscience includes his "hypothetical knowledge of conditional future contingents."1 This knowledge is called knowledge of counterfactuals, which are "conditional statements in a subjunctive mood."2 For example, God knows that if Austin owned a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart, he would be playing it right now instead of typing a blog post.

 What Christian theologians have disagreed on for centuries, however, is "when" God has this knowledge.  Since God is timeless and eternal, I am not referring to some actual time when God obtained such knowledge. Rather, the question is where this knowledge falls logically relative to God's other knowledge: that is, his Natural Knowledge and his Free Knowledge. Theologians have always agreed that God's Natural Knowledge came logically prior to his creative decree. This includes knowledge of those propositions which are necessarily true, such as his knowledge of all possible worlds that he could create. His Free Knowledge, knowledge of contingent truths that obtain in the actual world that he created, is agreed to be logically subsequent to his creative decree. But what about his knowledge of counterfactuals? Traditionally, the Dominicans and Calvinists have argued that God's knowledge of counterfactuals is also subsequent to, and a result of, his creative decree. God knows what is because he created it as such, and he knows what would have been, because he could have created it as such. The Jesuits, influenced by Luis de Molina, argued that God's knowledge of counterfactuals is prior to his creative decree; this would put it in between his Natural and Free Knowledge, which is why it has been called God's Middle Knowledge. Under this view, instead of exhaustively determining a world which would bring about his ultimate purposes, God created a world in which he knows that his creatures will freely choose those actions that will bring about his ultimate purposes.

File:Poussin Nicolas - The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites copy.jpg

After a hiatus, we continue with our series on the book On the Reliability of the Old Testament by Kenneth Kitchen.

Before diving into everything about the time of Joshua, it is important to note one thing Kitchen stresses in the section bridging the time of Joshua and that of the judges.  With respect to overall archaeological background, Joshua's conquests were not a sweeping blitzkrieg wiping out all the inhabitants.  When this reality is kept in mind, there is no tension between Judges and Joshua, contrary to some claims that Judges is an alternative narrative of conquest or an outright contradiction.  Judges starts soon after Joshua's death with more campaigns to further consolidate the land given.  More detail on this will follow.
I will now summarize the objections to Paul Kjoss Helseth's view on divine providence, discussed in my previous post.

William Lane Craig (Molinism)

Before getting into the Reformed view as stated by Helseth in the chapter, Craig comments that he thinks AA Hodges' six point summary fails to give an adequate account of the "radical distinctives"1 of that view. The Molinist has no problems with any of the points, except maybe the last because it "punts to inscrutability rather than provides an account of the nature of divine action in the world."2 Helseth's own explanations, as well as his characterization of the view as "omnicausality," are preferable because they better describe the divine, causal determinism that the view entails. While God could causally determine all things, it is hard to see why we should think that God does do this. "Why should we think that our experience of indeterministic freedom is illusory?"3 After this introduction, Craig takes two different approaches to his criticism of the chapter. First, he argues against each of the reasons that Helseth gives for his view, and second he offers five arguments against the view itself.

There are few more pathetic lives we see a glimpse of in the Bible than that of the thief on the cross, yet it has fascinated me recently.  Luke mentions relatively little about him, though there are some things that can be gleaned from the passage.  Unfortunately, the center of the story is often overlooked as the passage is usually used to draw implications about the necessity of baptism.  As is so often the case, the debate surrounding the verse completely misses the point.  The setting is the narrative of Christ's crucifixion.  It is obvious that the story is there because it furthers our understanding of who Christ is and what He has done for us all.  The issue of the necessity of baptism an important one, but it is not the crux of this scene.  I digress.

While he has been given the title, "the thief on the cross," we do not actually know what his crime is.  Thievery does seem likely.  We only know it was enough for the Romans to see fit to put him to death.  Before his crime, he must have known the severity of the Roman laws, yet he committed the crime anyway.  It may have been out of desperation, out of stupidity, or both. I have trouble believing this was an isolated incident.  It seems likely - though not certain - that this was the last and greatest of the many misfortunes of his life.  A life that was likely filled with failure, and that was certainly ending in failure.  And ending too soon.
As it is difficult and time-consuming to write an entire post on every interesting idea that one of us comes across in our reading of various authors, we will begin posting occasionally to simply relay longer quotations which we feel convey interesting or thought-provoking ideas.  The following quotation was written by B.B. Warfield, on how hard it is to deny that the Bible itself teaches the doctrine of plenary inspiration.

The effort to explain away the Bible's witness to its plenary inspiration reminds one of a man standing safely in his laboratory and elaborately expounding-- possibly by the aid of diagrams and mathematical formulae-- how every stone in an avalanche has a defined pathway and may easily be dodged by one of some presence of mind. We may fancy such an elaborate trifler's triumph as he would analyze the avalanche into its constituent stones, and demonstrate of stone after stone that its pathway is definite, limited, and may easily be avoided.  But avalanches, unfortunately, do not come upon us, stone by stone, one at a time, courteously leaving us opportunity to withdraw from the pathway of each in turn; but all at once, in a roaring mass of destruction. Just so we may explain away a text or two which teach plenary inspiration, to our closet satisfaction, dealing with them each without reference to its relation to the others: but these texts of ours, again unfortunately do not come upon us in one solid mass.  Explain them away? We should have to explain away the whole New Testament. What a pity it is we cannot see and feel the avalanche of texts beneath which we may lie hopelessly buried, as clearly as we may see and feel an avalanche of stones! Let us, however, but open our eyes to the variety and pervasiveness of the New Testament witness to its high estimate of Scripture, and we shall no longer wonder that modern scholarship finds itself compelled to allow that the Christian church has read her records correctly, and that the church-doctrine of inspiration is simply a transcript of the biblical doctrine; nor shall we any longer wonder that the church, receiving these Scriptures as her authoritative teacher of doctrine, adopted in the very beginnings of her life, the doctrine of plenary inspiration, and has held it with a tenacity that knows no wavering, until the present hour (B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 1948, pp. 119-121).
Check out this excellent post from The Gospel Coalition:

"Who cares what Aristotle thinks about a severed hand," retorted an exasperated philosophy student on a wintery night in a Midwestern university. My lecture screeched to a halt. As the class stared at me, enjoying the showdown, the subtext of my student's comment was not lost on them or me: "Aristotle's view of substance provides me with no 'real world' benefit, so it is useless knowledge."

I wish I could tell you my student's comment that night was an exception to the rule. It is not. Her comment highlights a widely held misconception about the discipline of philosophy and those of us who like to think of ourselves as philosophers: philosophy provides no worldly good, no non-cognitive benefit, and is of limited value. Those of us who have committed the double sin of being a Christian and a philosopher risk further marginalization, often viewed with suspicion by the church as well. Like Socrates and his uneasy relationship with Athens, Christian philosophers can be seen by the faithful as unwanted "gadflies" that ask annoying questions in Sunday school and instigate doubt in the minds of young believers.

As we navigate an increasingly pragmatic university setting and the suspicious gaze of the church, it is easy to feel—like a severed hand—a bit homeless. But before you pass the hemlock, I plead my case: the church needs philosophers and philosophers need the church.


The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church

A recent discovery in cosmology and the associated excitement in the scientific community has stirred up the debate related to the Multiverse Hypothesis.  Let's take a look at the new discovery, how it relates to the multiverse, and some of the shortcomings of the multiverse hypothesis.  But first, a little history.
Upon finally finishing up my series of posts on Robert Kane's A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, I will continue on with a related subject: the theology of providence. While the previously mentioned series discusses the philosophy of whether or not man has free will, and in what sense he has it, this series will cover what sort of relationship God has with the universe and how that affects man's free will. This will be the first of four posts in which I will summarize the views of the four authors who contributed to the book Four Views on Divine Providence. I will also summarize each of the author's objections/responses to each other. It should be noted that while I did lean more toward one view than the others before reading this book (in the spirit of being forthright, it was Molinism), I will do my best to convey each author's view in the most charitable and accurate manner possible.

The first view explained in the book is called "Omnicausality," and is defended by Paul Kjoss Helseth. Helseth is Associate Professor of Christian Thought at Northwestern College in St Paul, Minnesota. The tagline of the chapter is "God Causes All Things" because Helseth defends the idea that God actually causes all things that come to pass by decreeing them. This is the view of "pre-motion" held by Thomists on the Catholic side and Calvinists on the Reformed side. Helseth begins his argument by telling a story about Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War from the film Gods and Generals. When asked how he could be so composed and tranquil in the heat of battle "with a storm of shells and bullets raining about [his] head," Jackson replied: "my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death; I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live; then all men would be equally brave."1

Since it took so long to finish up my series of posts on Robert Kane's A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, I thought I would do a quick recap post, linking to each of the posts in the series.

In this post from November 18, 2013, I introduced the so-called Freewill Problem, and explained the classical compatibilist position attempting to solve it:

In this post from December 19, 2013, I discussed some of the more recent, more sophisticated, compatibilist solutions to the Freewill Problem:

In this post from January 2, 2014, I introduced the Libertarian position in the Freewill debate and discussed briefly the concept of Agent-Causation:

Finally, in my last post from March 13, 2014, I explained Kane's theory on how freewill, especially the libertarian sort, might be reconciled with (and aided by) modern science:

And now, enjoy the great philosopher Geddy Lee's mistaken thoughts on the subject:

This is the second part in a five part series on the reliability of the old testament, based on the book by Kenneth Kitchen.  Here are links to the introductory post and Part I.
The last post ended with Saul's rule over Israel.  We now continue studying the United Monarchy by looking at the ruling periods of David and Solomon.  This is a long post; but as it is a historical study and not a post on philosophy, it is somewhat easier to digest.

The United Monarchy (continued)


With respect to David, Kitchen first makes it clear that the nature and scale of the mini-empire of David and Solomon was not unique in the ANE at the time, "A fact that is almost totally unknown to nearly all commentators on 2 Sam. 8 to 1 Kings 11."1  However, such mini-empires only occurred in the time period around 1200-900BC, as it was a period between the mega-empires.  Kitchen describes three other mini-empires of the time that also had 1) a core "heartland", 2) lands gained through conquest, and 3) vassal-like lands that were gained either by diplomacy (for example, a smaller kingdom coming under an empire through an alliance of sorts) or threat.  Such lands could break away politically when the mini-empire weakened, in stark contrast to the the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires, that had other nations assimilate completely.  Both the king's court and the lands claimed by Israel expanded significantly under David.  The kingdom David built was very much like other mini-empires.

Kitchen does not discuss the likelihood of a shepherd boy becoming king, but he does show that poetry, music, and hymn-writing were not unusual for both the common man and the official artists of the the time period.  Further, kings participated in such arts.  The hymns and psalms written by David were not written in a vacuum - they have clear connections with longstanding traditions in the ANE (Ancient Near East).  "The forms and conventions of biblical poetry, so familiar in the Psalms, go back in origin two thousand years before David's time."2

While it may require an uncomfortable amount of effort due to such a long break, the reader should try to recall where this blog left off in its series on free will. In the case that the reader has failed to achieve this, let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Most recently in our epic, we have seen that the libertarian must come up with some additional factor in order for her views to be coherent, and avoid accusations of randomness or arbitrariness. We have also seen the Cartesian Dualist and Kantian Noumenalist make valiant attempts to discover such a model, only to fail splendidly. At this point, the Agent-Causalist entered the story, boasting of a model which would at long last quiet the foes of libertarian freedom forever, and loosen the shackles of determinism. Our hero began constructing his model, which holds that choices are made when an agent immanently causes an action. Such an action, then, would not have been caused by circumstances, events, or states of affairs, but directly by the agent. The Agent-Causalist insists that agent-causation is unique from event causation in the sense that it is neither determined, nor random. But this appears to set the free agent up as some sort of mysterious Unmoved Mover, like God, and this fact has not been lost on critics; they have been quick to point out that until the Agent-Causalist can explain more about the nature of agent-causation, it is no less mysterious than the models of the Body-Mind Dualists, or the Kantian Idealists.

Altogether, it seems that libertarians have not done a good job of explaining how their views of free will can be reconciled to modern science. This is one reason why determinism has become so popular-- right or wrong, we understand how mechanistic causes and effects work, so the view is not as mysterious. But all the so-called extra-factors appealed to by libertarians have not had much success doing this. In the last chapter of Robert Kane's A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will that I will be posting on, Kane attempts to reconcile libertarian free will and modern science, as I will summarize.
This is the first part in a five part series on the reliability of the old testament, based on the book by Kenneth Kitchen.  For more, check out the introductory post.

The Divided Kingdom

The divided kingdom is recorded in both Kings and Chronicles, as well as bits from some of the prophets.  To measure historicity, external historical sources (records from Assyria and Egypt for the most part), bullae (seals of various kings and royalty), and archaeology are used.  To boil things way down, 9 of the 14 kings of Israel are mentioned in external sources and bullae of others have been found; for Judah, 8 of 15 (and other evidence as well).  Each date given for a king of either kingdom in the external sources agrees with the record in the Bible.  Kings and Chronicles also mention kings of many other nations.  Of the records we have, those mentions corroborate with that nation's own records.  Events which are recorded in both the Bible and external sources corroborate well, once propaganda is taken into account.1  In short, the idea that someone in the 2nd century just made this stuff up and happened to line up the dates, names, and events perfectly with Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Edomite, and other records through 350 years of various reigns is quite frankly an embarrassing hypothesis.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield has become a bit of a hero of mine, which is odd, because until tonight I had not finished a single complete work of his. B.B. Warfield, as he is known, was a professor of theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 until his death in 1921.  He is considered by many to have been the last of the great conservative theologians at Princeton, an institute which also employed famed theological thinkers Archibald Alexander, and Charles and A.A. Hodge.  I was first introduced to Warfield several years ago by Daniel B. Wallace in his article, My Take on Inerrancy, which I have commented on previously.  Since I have read a great many of Wallace's papers and have come to admire his expertise in a number of subjects, it was inevitable that I should also come to respect Warfield, a man who he respects.  Steve and I have begun reading Warfield's The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, and will likely post on it in the future.  Tonight, while out of town for business, I found an excellent used bookstore near my hotel where I happened upon a compilation of papers written by Warfield.  The book, called Evolution, Science, and Scripture1, claims to be an unedited selection of his works which articulate his views on... well, evolution, science, and scripture.  I will presently summarize and comment on the first of these essays, entitled The Divine and Human in the Bible.2

The reliability of the Old Testament is at once a fascinating subject and a contentious issue.  It is maligned by some for its historical inaccuracies, while at the same time it is praised by others as being a valuable primary source for ancient history.  Needless to say, it is also held by those within the church to be the very word of God.
If the Old Testament is not historically accurate, if it is riddled with inconsistencies and contains fables that have been dismissed by other ancient sources, then it seems the faith on which it is based is on shaky ground.  Indeed, if the veracity of its historical claims is suspect, why should the supernatural claims be trusted?  Doesn't it seem likely that the one book in all the world that faithfully sheds light on the supernatural should be extremely reliable historically as well?  If on the other hand, it is historically reliable, shouldn't it be considered a valuable source of history and its supernatural claims seriously considered, rather than simply being dismissed?

Those are the stakes.  The debate has often taken place in popular culture.  With films like Noah and Exodus coming to theaters this year, there will likely be a flurry of discussion.  Once in a while some new archaeological discovery finds its way to the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and the question is submitted to the American public once again: Is the Old Testament reliable?
After having finished Free Will: A Contemporary Introduction by Robert Kane, I quickly jumped into another called Four Views of Divine Providence. This is a book that I purchased several years ago when I started going to an Evangelical Presbyterian church because I had become internally conflicted on which view of God’s providence was likely correct. Growing up, I had not thought about it much, and probably just assumed that human beings have a free choice to accept or reject Christ’s gift of salvation; that is, humans can choose whether to believe or disbelieve the efficacy of Christ’s atonement. This fits into the larger view that while God is in control of the overall fate of the universe, He allows us many individual decisions on a day-to-day basis.

This view of God’s providence was challenged when I started going to a so-called Reformed church which holds to God’s providence as complete active control of every detail of the universe, as claimed in the Westminster Confession of Faith1. I began to realize that this issue has been debated for millennia and is not simple by any means. The book, which I have finally picked up again, allows four different views of God's providence to be defended by four different theologians, and then allows each theologian to respond to the others’ views. In this post I will introduce the topic and recount the history of this view in the Christian Church. In subsequent posts, I will summarize each view and the criticisms raised for each view. In the final post, I will discuss my updated stance on the doctrine, as well as any outstanding issues with any of the views.

The work of Alvin Plantinga has not garnered much attention outside the world of philosophy.  I thought it worthwhile to spend some time on his work, so that readers could gain an appreciation for some of his arguments and realize the profound influence he has had on Christian philosophy.  While most of his work has not entered the general public's consciousness, one argument has gained the attention of the atheist community, and therefore their ire.  It is known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

While the argument has found serious consideration in the philosophy community, some of the reactions from the outside have been downright vitriolic.  It's a rather curious phenomenon.  Part of it has to do with the fact that Plantinga recently wrote his first popular-level book - Where the Conflict Really Lies, which has found a wider audience than his previous books.

First, we will cover the argument itself, then briefly discuss some of the reactions to it.
I recently read the book Unended Quest which is an intellectual autobiography of Karl Popper. Karl Popper is likely the most influential philosopher of science ever. The book is a good mix of details of his life, accounts of his interactions with some famous scientists and philosophers, and explanations of his own big ideas. I highly recommend it. One of the first ideas Popper remembered pondering during his younger years was the amount of time spent on precisely defining words. Interestingly enough, this turned into a passion of his as he aged, when analytical philosophy was just beginning to catch on in Europe. With Wittgenstein leading the way, it became a prominent characteristic of the analytical school of philosophy to rigorously define all technical terms ahead of time in order to prevent misunderstandings during the presentation of a theory or argument. Popper was notably against this trend, arguing that it amounted to a waste of time and effort.

Part IV of this series ended with somewhat of a cliffhanger.  Marx and Freud seemed to think that religion arose through purely naturalistic processes.  Not only that, but the aim of religion was not truth, but something less legitimate - for Marx it was an escape from the harsh reality of existence, and for Freud it was "wish fulfillment."  At any rate, this all makes religion irrational, whether or not it's true.  This Alvin Plantinga came to call the de jure objection.  The root issue is whether or not religious belief - and Christian belief in particular - has any justification.
It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out. 
-Prov. 25:2, ESV

Often when studying theology, especially some of the more controversial doctrines of Christianity, I can get pretty discouraged. Occasionally, it will get bad enough that I even begin to doubt the Christian faith as a whole. If Christians have not been able to come to an agreement on a doctrine after two millennia of study and discourse, how can I be sure that there is a correct stance to begin with? Things certainly don’t seem so ambiguous and confusing in other knowledge seeking enterprises, so why wouldn’t they also be straightforward with theology? Depending on the doctrine itself, the intensity of this period of doubting has varied from thought-provoking to panic-inducing. Recently, while studying the doctrine of divine providence, I had a spell of this, though it was on the minor end of the spectrum. While thinking through this specific issue, and the larger meta-issue, I had some thoughts that might be helpful for Christians in similar situations.

In Part II, we looked at Plantinga's analogy between belief in God and belief in the existence of other minds.  In this post we will look at some later work of Plantinga that also deals with the rationality of belief in God.  Obviously, his earlier work could not tackle all the possible objections, and some of his work in epistemology since then has also shed light on the issue.

De Jure vs. De Facto

In order to determine whether or not belief in God is rational, or intellectually acceptable, Plantinga makes a distinction between two types of objections to Christian belief: de jure and de factoDe facto objections argue against the truth of Christianity.  The Problem of Evil is a good example, as it seeks to show that God cannot exist.  There are other objections that are de facto as well, such as the claim that some doctrine or other is incoherent, and therefore Christianity cannot possibly be true.  There are also arguments that Jesus couldn't possibly have risen from the dead.

De jure objections, on the other hand, do not deal with the truth of Christianity; they seek to show that Christian belief, "whether or not true, is at any rate unjustifiable, or rationally unjustified, or irrational, or not intellectually respectable, or contrary to sound morality, or without sufficient evidence, or in some other way rationally unacceptable, not up to snuff from an intellectual point of view."1  It covers a broad spectrum.  The two things to keep in mind with respect to a de jure objection is 1) it doesn't seek to prove Christianity is false, in fact it has nothing to say as to whether or not Christianity is actually true and 2) it does seek to show that one shouldn't believe in Christianity.
In this installment on the philosophy of free will, I will be discussing libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position. In previous posts, I discussed mainly the compatibilist attempts to show that free will and determinism are both true. While this position has its share of problems, the reader will soon see that the libertarian position is not without its own issues. As with the other posts in this series, much of the information contained here is taken from A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane.

Libertarian Free Will and Its Critics

I'll begin here with a concise definition of libertarian free will: in short, a libertarian holds the position that free will and determinism are incompatible, that agents have free will and therefore determinism is false, and that this free will entails that agents are able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances. Anyone arguing for the libertarian position, then, assumes responsibility for two tasks: they must first show that free will and determinism are incompatible (which we have already seen attempts of in the previous posts), and then they must provide a coherent positive account for how free will is possible. There are a number of prima facie objections to libertarian free will that I will try to summarize.

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