Thanks to our lazy David, this gallery was delayed but thankfully, I can finally post these up! Alfredo, David, and me both attended a conference at Biola University entitled “Christian Scholarship“. I had a blast listening to speakers like Alvin Plantinga, Paul Moser, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Though to be honest, there were a number of presentations that just bored me. I’m not interested in art, for example, and the nudity in there was not particularly appropriate. Because of that, some brothers left while others put their head down. They should’ve at least provided a warning. The worst lecture of all time was the one on Karl Barth. I swear, that lecture could’ve just said “Christianity says we’re made for God, therefore naturalism is false” but instead, it went into a long verbose speech about the theistic criteria of human nature and how it refuted naturalism, idealism, and other positions. Frankly, it just so blatantly begged the question that I am just dumbfounded that the speaker could even dare suggest that this thinker was comparable to Thomas Aquinas.
Paul Moser’s speech was more like a sermon, but I do admit that it was one of the most interesting lectures. He has this way of speaking about Christ that just draws you into the glory and majesty of His work in us, with us, and through us. There are a couple problems that I had with his explanation of God, however. He holds to a more anthropomorphic conception that seems to treat God as some volitional force that sways with the tides or something, rather than some unmovable force as typically conceived in a more scholastic tradition. From a more general perspective, I do think the conference was worthwhile but it just seemed like everyone had their own ideas of how to do christian scholarship. Nicholas, for example, seemed to have conflicted with Moser. Each person had particular insights to offer from their field but I wanted a more unified approach that appealed to more general principles for how we are to do scholarship from a christian perspective. Unfortunately, it ended up feeling like these incompatible puzzle pieces only served to be more confusing. It’s perfectly fine for each person in their field to target the specific needs and methods of that field but it still needed some kind of guiding principle.
Another aspect that I did not particularly appreciate was the unsettling “presuppostionalist-like” approach that was primarily evident with Alvin Plantinga. Now, I know that the work of the Holy Spirit can indeed provide inner witness but to then bring in your assumptions about Christianity into the public square is just questionable to me. Then again, I guess what other way should there be? He did raise a good point in saying that even naturalists have to assume their own view as an interpretation of the data. I suppose it’s just Plantinga’s disconnect with natural theology that bothers me. Afterwards, I had the most fun when I hung out with the David, Alfredo, Marco, my dad, and Sean. Multiple discussions on catholicism, justification, baptism, neo-theism, thomistic salvation, etc was perhaps even more engaging than the event itself. Unfortunately throughout all of this, I had not slept well for over 2-4 days and it was killing me. Some of the effects were seen by David, who complained that I did not say much. Other times, I just felt like falling asleep in the lecture. Overall though, I had a FREAKIN BLAST. Thanks guys!
I guess I’ll be starting a mini-series where I’ll just blog my thoughts and/or any quotes from books that I’m currently reading. I hesitated to say this would be a series because then I’d feel obligated to really follow through with this, but I guess it’s not a bad idea to obligate myself because then I’ll have something to post!
After following Plantinga’s lectures, reading his papers, and hearing so much about his work, I finally dished out the money to purchase a couple of his books. I decided I wanted to start with his simpler work God, Freedom, and Evil.
So far I’ve read about 20 pages into the book. Plantinga starts off with a discussion of Natural Atheology (where philosophers present arguments against the existence of God) and the problem of evil. The first issue Plantinga tackles is the question “Why does God permit evil?” He cites Hume criticism that if God were benevolent, omnipotent, and almighty, then God would not allow evil to occur. This is the typical question that atheists will raise against the theist. Plantinga, however, asks an interesting question; one that I’ve never really thought of. If God has a good reason to allow evil, as many theists would claim, why should the theist know the answer to why God permits the evil? A lot of times when the theist replies, “Well, I don’t know why God allows evil, but I’m sure He has a good reason to do so,” the atheist will count this as a point against the theist (though I admit the answer might not be as satisfactory as the atheist [or anyone else] would like). But why should this answer somehow be a point against the theist? Plantinga observes, “The theist observes that God has a reason for permitting evil; he doesn’t know what that reason is. But why should that mean that his belief is improper or irrational?” (11).
The next question that Plantinga deals with is “Does the Theist contradict himself?” Here Plantinga presents John Mackie’s claim that the doctrines the theist would hold to are inconsistent. In response, Plantinga explores Mackie’s claim and explains the different types of contradictions there can be. In doing so, he breaks down Mackie’s claim to see in what ways he believes the doctrines are inconsistent, that is, does Mackie believe there is an explicit contradiction in what the theist holds to? Is there a formal contradiction? Platinga does a great job of explaining these differences, and it’s helped in giving me a primer on logic (need to get back into gear for my logic class!).
The set of propositions that Mackie claims theists hold to, explains Plantinga, is:
- God is omnipotent (O).
- God is wholly good (G).
- evil exists (E). 
Plantinga shows there is no explicit contradiction contained within this set of propositions. When we take the contradictories of each proposition, we see that none of the contradictories are in the set. The contradictories are:
- God is not omnipotent (~O).
- God is not wholly good (~G).
- evil does not exist (~E). 
Next, a formally contradictory set “is one from whose members an explicit contradiction can be deduced by the laws of logic” (14). Plantinga then tries to see if the first set of propositions deduce a contradiction. In order to show if a given set is formally contradictory, more propositions or statements must be added to the given one to see if a contradiction can be deduced. Plantinga shows that Mackie provides these propositions and they are:
- A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can.
- there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. 
Immediately, point number 2 is blown out of the water. Plantinga notes that many theologians and theistic philosophers believe that there are limits to what God can do, namely, that God can only do that which is logically possible and not logical impossibilities like bringing about the existence of square circles or meat-eating vegetarians (17-18).
And this is as far as I’ve gotten. Plantinga is about to get into explaining his reasons against the proposition “A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can”. I’m really enjoying this book so far. Plantinga is very straightforward and it’s not so difficult to follow this book. I can’t promise that my other read alongs will be as detailed as this one. There was just a lot of interesting stuff to chew on. If you don’t own the book, check it out on amazon and get yourself a copy. There’s only 112 pages, and if I devoted myself, I’d probably finish this book up in one day. I just have a lot of other reading commitments and reading assignments for my political philosophy and deductive logic class (woohoo!). Hope you enjoyed!
Here is a video of Edward Feser giving a talk on “Natural Theology Must Be Grounded in the Philosophy of Nature, Not in Natural Science.” I’m personally a fan of Feser’s work (Thank you to Gil Sanders and my other good friend Tim Hsiao for introducing me to his books), and I think Feser has a great deal to say about this. He is the author of Aquinas, Philosophy of Mind (Now in its second edition), and The Last Superstition–and I must say I own all these books and they are excellent!
Here is Alvin Plantinga giving a talk on his most recent book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. This is another great philosopher whose work I am a fan of. Sadly, I don’t own too many of his books! That will change in this coming week when I purchase a few of them including his tide turning book God, Freedom, and Evil. Enjoy!
This video is simple and straight to the point. Gotta love how the free will defense is condensed to this simple video.