Monday, February 22, 2010

What is the Cosmological Argument?



There is much discussion in the debate on the existence of God between Christian thinkers and those embracing this thing called the "new atheism." One good starter for a conversation is dealing with the question of the origin of the universe within the realm of "cosmology." One argument from cosmology is called the cosmological argument. Here is a definition for your portfolios.

Cosmological arguments: A family of arguments for the existence of God that postulate God's existence as the ultimate cause or ground or explanation for the cosmos (the universe). Cosmological arguments normally make use of some principle of explanation, causality, or sufficient reason. Thomas Aquinas and Samuel Clarke are among the more famous proponents of this type of argument. (Source: C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics: Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002. s.v. "cosmological arguments".)

I will be addressing one argument called the 'kalam cosmological argument in a post in the very near future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Does Theism Mean?


Over the past several postings, I have been sharing some definitions of some of the "isms" of belief. Of all things, here is one that seems I overlooked. I guess I saved the best for last, eh? This word theism covers a broad array of isms.

Theism: The view or belief that God, is understood as one infinite, all powerful, all knowing, completely good person, exists and has created the universe. Equivalent to monotheism. In contrast to this view, see atheism, pantheism, panentheism, and polytheism. (Source: C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics: Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002. s.v. "theism".)

In the definition you see the core views of theism dealing with the essence of how God's existence is understood, from nonexistent to everything being god, to God being in process and recreating Himself and finally to there being many gods.  But there are different views of theism within a monotheistic framework that I will deal with in a latter time: neotheism (a.k.a. "open theism"), and Islamic monotheism.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What's the Difference Between Revelation, General Revelation and Special Revelation


The idea of "revelation" can stir up some interesting conversations. In conversations between Christians where one believes that there is still "special revelation" the conversation can get interesting one way, contrast to a conversation with an atheist that does not believe in any kind of revelation.  

The definitions that are in this post, refer to how God discloses Himself, that reveals who He is and how He shows that He is.  So here are the definitions.

Revelation: What God has made known about Himself and the process by which this insight is given. Most theologians have distinguished between the general revelation of God given in nature and quasiuniversal human experiences (such as our sense of dependence) and special revelations given to and through specific individuals in history, particularly the prophets and Jesus Christ Himself -- God's supreme revelation.[1]

General Revelation: The term used for the knowledge of God that He makes possible through the natural world, including general religious experiences of awe and dependence. Defenders of general revelation have usually claimed that it is sufficient only to give us knowledge of the existence of a powerful Creator, though some have argued that the goodness of God can also be seen in the natural order. General revelation is distinguished from the special revelation God has provided on particular occasions in history through the prophets, apostles, and supremely (for Christians) Jesus of Nazareth. Special revelation provides concrete knowledge of the character and actions of God in relation to His creation.[2]

Special Revelation: Revelation given by God through particular persons, experiences, writings, or historical events. Special revelation is normally distinguished from general revelation.[3]

It is the position of this writer that the canon of Scripture is closed, and that there is no new special revelation today. At the same we do not live in a closed universe, which means that the God, who is there is very capable of revealing His hand in miracles, which confirm His existence.

Notes

[1] C. Stephen Evans.Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, s.v. "revelation."

[2] Ibid., s.v., "general revelation."

[3] Ibid., s.v. "special revelation."

[Author's note]: While we do see the creation as a means of general revelation, general revelation itself does not have the capability of pointing anyone to saving faith. It does and has been used by God as a means to show and demonstrate His existence and His glory (Psalm 19:1). Special revelation on the other hand is closed. What I mean by that is there is no new special revelation that will point a person to salvation. We have the written historical records of sacred Scripture, the Bible and we have the One who is revealed in the Bible, the risen Jesus Christ. Anything that professes to be a revelation from God, must line up with the Bible and/or the character and nature of Jesus Christ...the canon is closed.


Monday, February 1, 2010

What is Rationalism?


Last week, we looked at one side of the faith and reason discussion from side of "blind faith" (fideism). This week, we look at it from the other side of the debate.  

Many atheists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarian Universalists, and liberal "Christians" would fall under the category of rationalism.  What does rationalism mean?

Rationalism: Conviction that reason provides the best or even the only path to truth. In philosophy, rationalism as an epistemological theory is often contrasted with empiricism, which emphasizes the role of sense experience in the acquisition of truth. In this context reason is understood narrowly as a faculty distinct from sensation and memory. Rationalist philosophers of this type include Renee DesCartes, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Liebniz.

In theology the term rationalism often designates a position that subordinates revelation to human reason or rules out revelation as a source of knowledge altogether. In this sense an empiricist can be a rationalist who gives precedence to human reason over revelation (understanding reason here in the broad sense that includes such faculties as sensation and memory). (Source: C. Stephen Evans. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, s.v. "rationalism".)


Note: Next week we will look at what is meant by revelation.