Trust nobody?

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I’m officially sick of it. Stop linking to articles to make an argument for something that you believed with or without evidence. The line between information and propaganda is as faint as it has ever been.

I’m diarying a little here, and partly ranting. This would not pass peer review. I may also irritate some of my more liberally minded friends, but I hope that liberal though you may be, you will see that I have a point. I’m getting ever-wearier over the way people (and I’m even tempted to say “you young people,” such is the wearying effect) treat the notion of being informed. Being informed can now just mean that you’ve read a Buzzfeed article stating that all the research says X. You don’t have to think, it’s already packaged, with a dozen articles in the sidebar about how to fix everything that’s wrong with the world with “this one weird trick.” A while ago (maybe two months ago – in the age of education via social media, this is quite a long time) people (although in retrospect, people who advocate what they would call social liberalism) were passing around a link to just such an article. All the research, the enthusiastic writer told his readers, shows a clear link between spanking (i.e. as a form of punishment for children, you naughty readers) and mental illness later in life. Quick scan, existing beliefs reinforced, link shared, mission accomplished. I wonder if those who shared that link could even make it past this paragraph without rolling their eyes and declaring tl;dr. Continue reading “Trust nobody?”

Name that Fallacy! Robert Peterson on Annihilationism

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In the “name that fallacy” series I showcase some examples of how not to argue; cases of either formal or informal logical fallacies. The latter of these two categories covers a significant range of possibilities, and it’s sometimes a matter of some controversy whether someone’s comments really fit into any of them – especially when they’re your comments! The intent of the series is to help people (and help people to help each other) recognise fallacious reasoning when it occurs, whether it’s used in defence of a position they share or not.

For this “name that fallacy” post, let’s step into into the territory of theology. This time the topic is hell, and our subject is one Robert Peterson. Dr Peterson is a well-known evangelical opponent of annihilationism. Annihilationism is the view that those people who are not saved, or redeemed, or counted among God’s people – or call that state what you will – will not have eternal life, and will finally die and one day be no more. The following is an excerpt from Peterson’s closing comments in an article called “Does the Bible Teach Annihilationism?” It’s important that you bear the title in mind, as it sets out what the argument is about: Whether or not the Bible teaches annihilationism. Without further ado, I give you the words of Dr Robert Peterson:

Annihilationists insist that the obliteration of the wicked is a terrible destiny when measured against the bliss of the righteous. However, it is simply not that bad to cease to exist, especially in comparison to suffering in hell forever… This leads to the final implication. If annihilationism is widely accepted by Christians, the missionary enterprise may well be hindered. True, some evangelicals such as John Stott and Michael Green have consistently shown a zeal for evangelism while holding to annihilationism. Nevertheless what would be the effect on churches and denominations that once held to eternal conscious torment, if they were to shift to annihilationism? Their missionary zeal might well wane.

NOTE: This series is called “name THAT fallacy,” but bear in mind that in some cases there may be more than one.

Have fun – name that fallacy!

Glenn Peoples

Turnabout on the "actual infinite" argument?

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In an interesting turnabout, Fancois Tremblay has sought to turn William Lane Craig’s use of the kalam Cosmological argument against him.

Part of the argument, namely premise 2: “The universe began to exist,” draws on, among other things, Craig’s argument against the possibility of an actual infinite (it also draws on the empirical scientific evidence that the universe did begin to exist). Basically, the argument is that if the past is infinite in duration, then an infinitely large number of days (or months, or years, take your pick) has been traversed. But since an infinite number of things cannot actually be traversed, the past cannot be infinite.

Temblay has accepted this premise, but he thinks it is damaging to the Christian faith traditionally expressed, or to a number of faiths, I suppose. Why? Because, says Francois,

This is where I must now part ways with William Craig. While his argument against infinite regress is reasonable, we also have to contend with his belief in an infinite god. And we have to ask, what does it mean for a god’s knowledge, power, benevolence, and presence to be qualified by “infinite”?

Since an actual infinite cannot exist, says Francois, an infinite God cannot exist either, and so if there is a God, he must be finite.

The main question I would want to ask is who the argument is supposed to be directed against. Are there any philosophers of religion who defend a concept of Theism whereby God’s knowledge is said to consist of an infinite number of propositions? And if there are, does it do any harm to traditional Christian theism to show that they are wrong? After all, all it takes is a simple internet search for the words “God,” “knowledge,” “propositional” and “intuitive” to find out that omniscience doesn’t have to be viewed as having an infinitely large collection of true beliefs. God’s knowledge, as Aquinas noted, can be (and should be) construed as intuitive, rather than propositional or discursive. Likewise, omnipresence need not be defined in terms of being present in an infinite number of places (in fact if God is literally not extended in space, it is just obvious that this is not what it means), and so forth.

Turnabout is fair play, but in this case it did not pay off.

Glenn Peoples