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Brian Auten interviews Jay Richards about Christian apologetics

Dr. Jay Richards
Dr. Jay Richards

Christian scholar Jay Richards was interviewed by Brian Auten of Apologetics 315.

The MP3 file is here.

Topics:

  • What is intelligent design (ID)?
  • Is ID specifically Christian?
  • How does ID helpful to Christian apologetics?
  • What does ID prove?
  • Is it OK to use an argument that doesn’t prove Christianity specifically?
  • What is the difference between deism and theism?
  • Do ID arguments get you to deism or theism?
  • What is materialism, and how can you challenge it?
  • How do opponents of ID define ID?
  • What factors do you need to make a habitable planet?
  • Are habitable planets common or rare in the universe?
  • What is “The Privileged Planet” hypothesis?
  • Is there an overlap between habitability and suitability for making scientific discoveries?
  • What is the “Copernican Principle”?
  • Has the progress of science made Earth seem common and ordinary?
  • What is the most Earth-like planet that we’ve ever discovered?
  • How should ID proponents respond to the objection that creatures aren’t perfect?
  • Does having a big moon make a planet more or less habitable?
  • Does a planet’s distance to the Sun make that planet more or less habitable?
  • How do these two habitability factors affect the observability of solar eclipses?
  • What does co-relation between habitability and “discoverability” tell us about God?
  • How important is training in philosophy to Christian apologetics?
  • What one thing should a Christian apologist work on to be more effective?

I’m hoping that Brian will do a follow-up interview with Jay on Jay’s new book on theistic evolution.

Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

What does it mean to say that God “used evolution” to create the world? Is Darwin’s theory of evolution compatible with belief in God? And even if Darwin’s theory could be reconciled with religious belief, do we need to do so? Is the theory well established scientifically? Is it true?

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin first proposed his theory of evolution, Christians, Jews, and other religious believers have grappled with how to make sense of it. Most have understood that Darwin’s theory has profound theological implications, but their responses have varied dramatically.

Some religious believers have rejected it outright; others, often called “theistic evolutionists,” have sought to reconcile Darwin’s theory with their religious beliefs, but often at the cost of clarity, orthodoxy, or both. Too few have carefully teased out the various scientific, philosophical, and theological claims at stake, and separated the chaff from the wheat. As a result, the whole subject of God and evolution has been an enigma wrapped in a shroud of fuzz and surrounded by blanket of fog.

The purpose of this anthology of essays is to clear away the fog, the fuzz, and the enigma. Contributing authors to the volume include Jay Richards, co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery; Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design; William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution; Jonathan Witt, co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature; Denyse O’Leary, author of By Design, or by Chance?; and David Klinghoffer, author of Shattered Tablets.

Those authors are some of my favorite people to read in the whole world. I think this group will be mostly fed up with theistic evolutionists, like I am, although they may not go as far as I do when I label theistic evolutionists “functional atheists” or “theistic atheists”.

Jay Richards is probably my favorite all-round Christian scholar, because he also writes a lot on policy and economics, and was interviewed on those topics by Frank Turek. He has a complete, well-rounded worldview.

Posts featuring Jay Richards

Interviews by Jay Richards

Related posts

What should a Roman Catholic think about naturalism and evolution?

Charles Pope on the Archdiocese of Washington web site. (H/T Joe Carter on First Things)

Excerpt:

It is common to experience a rather simplistic notion among Catholics that the Theory of Evolution can be reconciled easily with the Biblical accounts and with our faith. Many will say something like this: “I have no problem with God setting things up so that we started as one-celled organisms and slowly evolved into being human beings. God could do this and perhaps the Genesis account is just simplifying evolution and telling us the same thing as what Evolution does.”

There are elements of the truth in this sort of a statement. Surely God could have set things up to evolve and directed the process so that human beings evolved and then, at some time he gave us souls. God could have done that.

The problem with the statement above is less theological than scientific because there is a word in that sentence that is “obnoxious” to evolutionary theory: “God.” The fact is that most Catholics who speak like this over-simplify evolutionary theory and hold a version of it that most Evolutionary Theorists do not hold. They accept the Theory of Evolution uncritically.

Yeah, because what evolutionists mean by “evolution” is that GOD HAD NO DETECTABLE EFFECT ON THE PROCESS. They mean that THE PROCESS OF EVOLUTION OCCURRED ENTIRELY WITHOUT DIVINE INTERVENTION. That’s what evolution means – fully materialistic, fully random, no intelligence needed, emergence of all the diversity of life we see.

Now what this means is that God is excluded as a cause by evolutionary theory. It would be fine if evolutionists (as natural scientists) were either silent on the question of God. Or, perhaps if they simply stated that things may be acted upon by an outside force or intelligence but that is beyond the scope of their discipline. But that is not what is being said by most proponents of evolutionary theory. They are saying that biodiversity results MERELY from natural selection and random (i.e. non intended or non-purposeful) genetic mutations. They are saying that observable effects of biodiversity are wholly caused by something natural, random and without any ultimate goal or plan.

But a Catholic cannot accept all of this. Even if a Catholic wants to accept that things have evolved in some way (whether through macro or microevolution) a Catholic cannot say that this process is simply random, chance, blind, or with no purpose. We believe that God alone created all things, and that he sustains all things. Neither do we confess some sort of “deist” God who merely started things off and then lets them take their own course. Rather, God sustains and carries out every detail.

Joe Carter adds:

In my experience, most people haven’t considered the issue of how the theological and scientific claims can be compatible. For instance, to be a “theistic evolutionist” in the sense that modern scient will accept, requires one to adhere to polygensism (the theory that Adam was not one historical man but, rather, a euphemism for “mankind”). That position, however, is not compatible with the teachings of the Bible, the Church, or of Jesus.

The dividing line between theists and non-theists is as follows: did God act in history in a way that his creative agency and intelligent agency is discernable to us using the objective methods of science? Atheists (and theistic evolutionists) say that God’s creative agency and intelligent (selection/sequencing) agency is neither necessary to explain what we observe in the universe, nor are the effects of agency detectable through science. Theists (and deists) say that God’s creative agency and intelligent agency is necessary in order to explain what we observe in the universe, and these effects of agency are detectable through science.

That is the dividing line. I don’t how I could be much clearer.

Do miracles imply a violation of natural laws?

Article here.

Excerpt:

Are miracles really possible? I’m not talking about how some describe a baby being born as “the miracle of life.” I’m talking about biblical reports of Jesus walking on water, healing the blind, and physically rising from the dead. Atheists sometimes say miracles overturn the laws of nature—and that’s not possible. Before considering the evidence, however, many skeptics have already decided that naturalism is true. But what about this? Do miracles—by definition—really overturn the laws of nature?

In the foreword to The God Conversation, Lee Strobel notes how J.P. Moreland responded to this challenge with a simple defense: ”The laws of nature are the way we describe how the world usually works. If someone drops an apple, it falls to the floor. That’s gravity. However, if someone were to drop an apple and I were to reach over and grab it before it hit the ground, I wouldn’t be overturning the law of gravity. I would simply be intervening. In a similar way, God is able to reach into the world that he created by performing a miracle. He isn’t contravening or overturning the laws of nature. He’s simply intervening” (7).

Human beings are non-material minds. We have bodies that our minds can control. We cause effects on our bodies by using our free will. And God is a non-material mind just like us. Only he doesn’t have a body, so he can intervene at any point in space and exercise his will. It’s not a violation of natural laws when we do it, and it’s not a violation of natural laws when he does it.

John Lennox on the god-of-the-gaps and the progress of science

The god-of-the-gaps fallacy is a charge made by naturalists against theists.

First, some introduction. Naturalists believe that every effect in the universe has a material cause. Theists believe that it is possible that God, who is not material, can cause effects in nature. Theists think that these effects are detectable because the creating/designing capabilities of material causes are insufficient to explain certain effects either deductively (creating out of nothing) or probabilistically because of the limits of time and space available for material processes to act within (biological information). The naturalist thinks that all effects in nature have physical causes, the theist things that some effects in nature are caused by non-material causes.

In the past, some effects in nature were thought to be caused by God but later were found to be the result of natural (material) processes, often through the scientific method. Because the trend has been to explain these “gaps” in our knowledge with material causes, the naturalist now assumes that every effect in nature will be found to have natural causes. Even discontinuities in nature that are real, like the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of biological information, etc. are now assumed to have material causes, even though the progress of science has made these effects MORE DIFFICULT to explain with natural causes. The naturalist calls any attempt to attribute an effect in nature to a Creator/Designer a “god-of-the-gaps” fallacy, because the naturalist points to the past and asserts that a natural material cause will eventually be found for whatever gaps we have in nature.

But suppose a material explanation of every effect in nature could be found. Does that mean that there is no role for God anywhere?

Glenn Peoples writes:

Let’s imagine that the following is true: God does not intervene in the world. Once upon a time people who were more ignorant than we are thought that gods, angels, demons, spooks or spiritual forces lurked behind everything that we didn’t have a handy natural explanation for. But in fact, this is all god of the gaps reasoning, and God doesn’t intervene in nature at all. Never. There is a true natural account for everything that goes on in the universe that we know of.

If you don’t think that’s true, relax. We’re imagining, OK? I don’t think that the above is true, since I’m one of those crazy people who thinks that at least some miracles have taken place. But let’s suppose that the above account were true. Here’s where things take a step off the cliff of logic. Take the above account, and then add the following statement: “Therefore, since God isn’t required to explain any phenomenon, we have no need of the God hypothesis at all, and we have as good as shown that he need not be thought to exist.” God, some have said, can now be treated as a redundant hypothesis that explains nothing at all. Nothing.

And then Glenn cites John Lennox:

Science has been spectacularly successful in probing the nature of the physical universe and elucidating the mechanisms by which the universe works. Scientific research has also led to the eradication of many horrific diseases, and raised hopes of eliminating many more. And scientific investigation has had another effect in a completely different direction: it has served to relieve a lot of people from superstitious fears. For instance, people need no longer think that an eclipse of the moon is caused by some frightful daemon, which they have to placate. For all of these and myriad other things we should be very grateful.

But in some quarters the very success of science has also led to the idea that, because we can understand the mechanisms of the universe without bringing in God, we can safely conclude that there was no God who designed and created the universe in the first place. However, such reasoning involves a common logical fallacy, which we can illustrate as follows.

Take a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone from a remote part of the world, who was seeing one for the first time and who knew nothing about modern engineering, might imagine that there is a god (Mr Ford) inside the engine, making it go. He might further imagine that when the engine ran sweetly it was because Mr Ford inside the engine liked him, and when it refused to go it was because Mr Ford did not like him. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take the engine to pieces, he would discover that there is no Mr Ford inside it. Neither would it take much intelligence for him to see that he did not need to introduce Mister Ford as an explanation for its working. His grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be altogether enough to explain how the engine works. So far, so good. But if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine works made it impossible to believe in the existence of Mr Ford who designed the engine in the first place, this would be patently false – in philosophical terminology he would be committing a category mistake. Had there never been a Mr Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand.

It is likewise a category mistake to suppose that our understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works makes it either unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal creator who designed, made, and upholds the universe. In other words, we should not confuse the mechanisms by which the universe works either with its cause or its upholder.

John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford: Lion, 2007), 43-44.

I’m with Glenn – I think that God is a real agent who exists in time subsequent to Creation just like you and I. He can cause effects in nature like you and I, the same way that you and I can – by using our immaterial minds to affect the natural world freely. But even if everything has a mechanistic explanation – which I don’t for a minute agree with – that still would not rule out an intelligence acting to bring the entire universe into being fine-tuned for complex life, with certain potentialities that would unfold over time.

What made the most famous atheist philosopher abandon atheism?

I first heard about Anthony Flew while reading a book-debate between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen. Flew was one of the respondents, and he impressed me with his honest weighing of the evidence. Things got even more interesting when Flew debated William Lane Craig in front of over 4000 students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Here’s the audio and video. You can also buy the book!

During the Q&A, an angry atheist asked Dr. Flew why he had not appealed to the speculative oscillating model of the universe in order to escape the force of the kalam argument and the Big Bang. And that’s when Flew said a very strange thing. He said to the questioner that he could not appeal to the oscillating model of the universe because the big bang was the current best theory and the oscillating model was a speculation.

And that’s when I first knew that Flew would abandon atheism. You see, he was not interested in appealing to idle speculations against the evidence in order to justify his atheism. He was willing to go where the evidence led. He was not willing to play games with speculative theories like the oscillating model, the multiverse theory, unobservable aliens seeding life, etc. in order to weasel out of the demands of the moral law.

You can read all about his conversion to theism at Thinking Matters. (H/T MandM)

Excerpt:

Two of the most striking things about Antony Flew are his honesty and humility. He is prepared to admit where he has been wrong on a number of philosophical issues, not just on the existence of God. There is a humility and an openness to follow the evidence where it leads that is often lacking in the so-called “new atheists.” He is keenly aware of how easy it is to let preconceived ideas shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our ideas. Therein, he says, “lies the peculiar danger… of dogmatic atheism.”

So, just what evidence has brought about this remarkable turn-around in Flew’s convictions? In his view, modern science spotlights three dimensions of the natural world that point to God. The first of these is the existence of the laws of nature. After spelling out their precision, symmetry, and regularity, he asks how did nature come packaged like this? The point is not just that these laws exist but that they are mathematical. That is, they are not found through direct observation, but are discovered through experiment and mathematical theory. The laws are “written in a cosmic code that scientists must crack.”

[…]The second area of recent scientific study that leads Flew to the God conclusion is the investigation of DNA and the life of the cell. For Flew the key philosophical question here is: how can a universe of mindless matter produce self-replicating life?

[…[The third area of evidence that leads Antony Flew to God is the consensus among scientists about the big-bang theory.

And there are some gems in the article, such as Flew’s comments about atheists who embrace the unobservable multiverse as an alternative to the fine-tuning argument. If you would like to learn more about arguments that work, and responses to atheistic arguments that work, check out my index of Christian arguments and counter arguments, or the debate page for some academic debates.

What Christians should take away from this

Feminized-postmodern-relativist-universalist Christians need to understand what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. Any appeal to emotions and felt needs, parental authority, tradition and convention, or threats of eternal damnation do not result in authentic faith.

There are three reasons Christian use such subjective methods instead of the objective methods that worked on Flew. First, most Christians don’t know these arguments. Also, they don’t want to do any studying to learn these arguments. Finally, they are afraid of getting into public debates because they don’t want to be different from others and diminish their own comfort and happiness.

How about we try something different? Something that actually works?

This is all particularly distressing now that a new survey has come out indicating that America could be 25% atheist in 20 years.

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