Philosophy

Tom Oord and why evolution is completely incompatible with Sovereign grace.

A few articles ago I made the statement that the theory of evolution contains propositions that are mutually exclusive to Christianity. I want to unpack that here. While I cannot give an exhaustive look at the all the propositions from all the proponents, let me examine a few that I think are somewhat universal. Christian propositions will be labeled with a “C” and Evolutionary ones with an “EV.” In order to be fair to Tom Oord, I will label the theological evolutionary position with “TEV.”

Proposition C1) The Bible is the inerrant word of God.

Proposition C2) God created all things.

Proposition EV1) God does not exist

Proposition EV2) All things came into being mechanistically

Proposition TEV1) Genesis is Allegorical

Proposition TEV2) God created all things with the eventual mechanics of Evolution.

There are multiple hidden propositions in the TEV position but I only need to identify one:

Hidden Proposition TEV1) Genesis is allegorical because (macro) evolution must be true.

Proposition C1 and TEV 1 cannot co-exist unless Genesis is interpreted allegorically. If Genesis is interpreted as having a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Cain and Abel, and a literal Moses, then the world it describes has man and the animals fully formed and functional from their first day of existence. The next question then must be, are there textual markers that suggest Genesis be taken allegorically. Is there a clear limit to the allegory and is it clearly started and ended? In other words, is only Genesis chapter one allegorical? What of chapter 8? What of Exodus and the rest of the books of the Pentateuch?

Genesis is not taken allegorically because the text itself suggests that reading. Now I suppose it could be argued that any story can be allegorical and since the opening Bible narrative reads like a story, it could also be allegorical. However if the Bible is similar to a Suzerainty treaty, which it appears to be in form, an allegorical rendering of the history of God and the creation of man would not make sense.

Genesis appears to be taken that way because Tom Oord and others of his ilk are accepting macroevolution as true a priori. They are insisting that science can somehow posit truth for an un-observable, un-repeatable event and that our understanding of Genesis needs to comport with their view.

Let that sink in for a moment. Science bases it’s truth claims upon the notion of repeatability. How can someone claiming to be a scientist claim true knowledge of a non-repeatable historical event? Oh sure a scientist can examine modern day events and try to extrapolate back with some theory, but they can never know with any degree of certainty what actually happened. It is epistemologically impossible. I repeat it is simply not possible.  I suppose I will be accused of not understanding the nuanced difference of extrapolating modern theory and making historical truth claims, but that is another can of worms.

If we consider the basis for the allegorical reading it is because readers suggest that the Genesis creation narrative doesn’t make sense anymore. Therefore the Genesis  story must be re-ordered to make sense in light of modern science. This presents a different problem. If someone is willing to re-interpret Genesis in light of evolutionary theory, why not the Gospels and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? To arbitrarily claim that science is authoritative in one area is to claim it in all, or be logically inconsistent. So when a scientist argues that human sexual disorders are natural, then we must re-interpret the Apostle Paul. We can’t accept one and reject the other.

Materialism and its account of evolution are completely incompatible with Christianity, the theory of humanity and God. I doubt any Atheist or humanist scholar would disagree with that statement.

Theological Evolution, in trying to compromise the the contradictory views, arbitrarily turns chapters into allegory so as to not feel ashamed of the crazy things the Bible teaches. It is a Gospel issue inasmuch as it is an authority issue. Either God is correct in his account or the faux-science of Tom Oord is.

Deconstructing 2: A Challenge to gun rights

I came across this article while perusing a fun philosophy blog. I was instantly intrigued by the article of Professor Jeff McMahan.

Before I deal with the substance of his article, first I must comment on his refreshing writing style. I think the points are clear and Prof. McMahan attempts to deal with a demanding topic in a short amount of time. Despite my disagreement with his conclusions, this was an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I will have to chop up his beautiful article for time’s sake and for that I deeply apologize. If you are to give Professor McMahan any grace, please read his article in full as he wrote it before reading my deconstruction.

The claim about principle is that each person has a right of self-defense and that this right entails a further right not to be deprived of, or prevented from having, the most effective means of self-defense.

Allow me to summarize his view.  He suggests that the pro-gun argument hinges on the following argument: If it is true that all persons (as opposed to each) have a right to self-defense, then they ought to have the most effective means of self-defense. So if you are only allowed to bring a knife to a gun fight, your right to self-defense has been violated. He also suggests that we deprive prisoners of that right and therefore it is not a right at all, rather self-defense is a privilege. It is a privilege that we do not need if we have police (or guards in his analogy) to protect us.

Allow me to quickly digress and make a helpful distinction. A right is something you possess inherently while a privilege is something you are given. This line gets blurred so much and so often that the conversation gets muddied in the semantics.

So let us examine the premise: Is it true that all persons have a right to self-defense? Are there any persons who do not have that right? Furthermore where does the right originate? What principles can it be derived from and where do those principles originate?

1) Depending on your philosophy of history, rights may be considered a man-made construct and not some fundamental transcendent property of human existence. What do I mean by this? Let us consider a group of tribal warriors who determine that survival of the fittest means that a winnowing ceremony must occur where a stronger tribesman must kill a weaker. There is no moral right in this tribe for the weaker specimen to defend himself. The weaker tribesman has no right to self defense that he was born with. There is no right that “transcends” his existence. So in a modern philosophy we examine a belief such as materialism. If we are all basically atoms swirling in the cosmic ether, the concept of rights, morality, justice, etc are just lipstick on a pig. Most atheists, humanists, socialists, etc, ignore this basic tenant of their worldview and pretend that the construct is good in so far as it is good for them. I digress, if no person has the right to self-defense, as the preceding philosophy would suggest, then the issue is moot. We, meaning society, only use this construct as a form of ensuring social order. This is usually due to the simple fact that societies that have evolved to allow self-defense have been naturally selected to replace those who did not. However if a society that evolves and removes this right is naturally selected to supplant the prior, the right evaporates. I would argue that this does damage to the term right but that is a sidebar.

2) In a Christian worldview, self preservation is considered a right. This is due to the dignity and transcendent notion of the imago dei. If man is created in the image of God and derives his worth from that stamp, then man’s life has a transcendent value that cannot be co-opted. As you can probably see, if you have read the article, this presents a dilemma for escaping the teeth of the upcoming argument.

I will likely follow up with some points about the argument from statistics, but I primarily wish to deal with the Prison argument as it is the main point.

I think, however, that this is false.  Contemporary moral philosophers are noted, or perhaps notorious, for their use of hypothetical examples.  The example I have just sketched is hypothetical.  But it describes the conditions in an actual institution: prison.

I left out some of his preceding buildup. Here is the main argument in formal logic:

p1 – All men have the right to self defense

p2 A prisoner is a man

c1 A prisoner has the right to self defense

Let’s assume that the right to self-defense automatically requires the possible ownership of a gun. I don’t intend to quibble about that point. If a prisoner has the same God-given right as I have, then I should demand he not be deprived of that right. Otherwise I would be self-contradictory.

This is a tougher argument than many would realize. Especially when you look at the argument for where the right derives from. If the right is transcendent and based upon the imago dei, then it cannot be denied of any man, including a man in prison.

There are two solutions to this quandary. I will deal with one and suggest the other briefly.

This is a little complex so I will put it in a formal proof so we can see how it obtains (It will look wierd because I will be careful to keep the terms the same.)

p3) God is the only giver of rights

p4) The only giver of rights is the only taker of rights

c2) God is the only taker of rights

If God grants man rights by virtue of the imago dei, then God can also rescind those rights. This is no different from the right to freedom or even to the right to live. God grants the state the power of the sword to wield as an agent of justice and therefore transfers some of those responsibilities to the state. God revokes the right of murderers and false witnesses, adulterers, disrespectful children, and the like to live. Therefore it is not hard to surmise that he would revoke that person’s right to defend their person.

Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that a prisoner has effectively had the right of self-defense revoked by the agent who gave it to him in the first place.

The second solution argues more from the idea of using incarceration as a punitive measure at all. Is that a biblical notion?

Finally let’s assume that you are not a Christian and you are still pro-gun, how can you defend yourself against this argument?

Well replace God in P3 with “Societal Norms” and you have opened a new can of worms and the debate about which society is superior can resume unabated. In either scheme, the giver of rights can also take away those rights. This means that it is logically possible to argue that while all men have the right to self-defense not all men are entitled to keep it. The government can revoke the right to freedom in this scheme because that is what it means to be a prisoner. Why can it not revoke the right to self-defense (which technically it does when executing criminals)?

They might, for example, argue that convicted criminals have forfeited their right to the possession of a gun.  Yet no one can forfeit his right of self-defense against wrongful attack.  Consider a modification of the advocates’ own example.  Suppose a convicted criminal has a gun and will be wrongly killed by an aggressor unless he uses it in self-defense.  Someone who then takes his gun away, thereby ensuring that he is killed, seems to violate his right of self-defense.  That might not be true if the criminal would, after defending himself, use the gun to threaten innocent people.  Similarly, prisoners might forfeit their right to effective means of self-defense if they could also use those means to threaten innocent people outside of prison.  But it does not seem that they forfeit their right to effective means of defending themselves from wrongful attacks by other prisoners.

Now here is a problem with stretching the analogy too far. So we have prisoner A, who forfeited his right to self defense and now should have a right to expect the guards to provide his defense. He is about to be killed by prisoner B… Who also should be in the same prison with the same forfeited right. They don’t have guns. But let’s assume that Prisoner A had a gun. If I disable the gun prior to the attack by some means, it is suggested that I will be taking away his right to self-defense. However I have argued that he forfeited that right when he did whatever he was incarcerated for. Once he is in Prison, his right to self-defense, freedom, and in cases of death row his right to life was already forfeit. The guard is now responsible for preventing prisoner B from killing prisoner A and if they fail to do so then they fail.

Yet no one can forfeit his right of self-defense against wrongful attack.

If one cannot forfeit the right of self-defense, how is it they can forfeit the right of freedom in order to be in Prison in the first place? Unless one can show some categorical reason to say the right to freedom is different than the right to self-defense the example implodes upon its very first premise. Namely the premise that there can be such a thing as a prisoner in the first place.

Nobody on the pro-gun side is arguing that certain rights cannot be forfeit in cases of criminal wrongdoing because that would be nonsensical. There are clear cases where God-given rights are revoked for cause. The difference is that God given rights cannot be revoked by the State without just cause. Societal Norm given rights are not really rights at all (they are merely privileges) and can be discarded upon a whim by any tyrant strong enough to enforce his or her will. That is a different argument for a different day however.

Final thought: History alone can warn effectively that governments are not necessarily benevolent and their agents are merely a collection of fallible individuals. Just as it is falsely assumed that all of the guards are benevolent protectors. One only need watch the Shawshank Redemption to see a plausible abuse of power from the supposed benevolent protectors. If one were to succumb to Professor McMahan’s position, one might find that the example he posed will become much more real. People will be living in something much like a prison, as they do now in most communist regimes. So in that regard, it is a most apt analogy.

The world of armchair philosophy

aristotle In the modern world there are thousands of voices demanding your attention. From advertising to politics to polite dinner conversation, someone is always practicing philosophy. I know philosophy is that oft maligned, and sadly oft neglected field of study. That barely stops someone from telling you what they think is right and wrong. Whenever someone says that this view or that view is good or bad, or whether or not this law is better, or even when they suggest that life is about “whatever makes you happy,” they are engaging in the discipline of philosophy. I use the term “discipline” loosely because, more often than not, there is no discipline involved in the person engaged in debate. In fact it is quite clear to even the modest thinker that everyone from the scientist to the housewife engages in Philosophy. This is easy to demonstrate.

Consider Lilith. She is a mother of three raising her two boys and one girl. She just disciplined the youngest child for stealing her brother’s cookie while he was busy looking for his dropped fork. How is she engaging in philosophy you ask? It’s simple really, she believes that stealing is wrong and she wishes to discourage her daughter from the act. She may not even know why she believes that stealing is wrong, but that doesn’t stop her from pushing her views onto her daughter. Everything about the situation, from the choice to discipline, to the manner of discipline, to the notion of parents teaching children are all questions of philosophy. Consider if Liliith’s husband were to arrive to the table, witness the discipline and suggest that their daughter was right to take the cookie and that if her brother wanted to keep his cookie, he should guard it better. What do you suppose the conversation would look like then?

Philosophy is inescapable therefore the question becomes, what is good philosophy and what is bad philosophy? I can’t give you a full answer without boring you to tears, assuming you have even read this far. However I can suggest that there are authors who make compelling arguments that are far from what would be considered strict rational arguments. You hear our politicians using hot-button, emotional fire starters like abortion and women’s rights and racism to convince people that their philosophies are correct. The most recent debacle in Ferguson devolved quite far from reasonable conversation yet it left a segment of the population utterly convinced that something so heinous as rioting, pillaging, and looting was completely justifiable. With philosophers like the anchors on major media networks, who needs morons?