by Justin Day
In his epic work Proslogion St. Anselm of Canterbury argued that God was a necessary being and that he could show it. Anselm said that God, given his nature, must exist. His argument went as follows:
- It is a conceptual truth (or, so to speak, true by definition) that God is a being than which none greater can be imagined (i.e., the greatest possible being that can be imagined).
- God exists as an idea in the mind.
- A being that exists as an idea in the mind and in reality is, other things being equal, greater than a being that exists only as an idea in the mind.
- Thus, if God exists only as an idea in the mind, then we can imagine something that is greater than God (i.e., a greatest possible being that does exist).
- But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God (for it is a contradiction to suppose that we can imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagined.)
- Therefore, God exists.
So what do you guys think? Does it show that God exists? Is it a trick of words?
by Justin Day
In his dialogue with his friend Euthyphro, Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In ethics this is known as Euthyphro’s Dilemma, one of the top critiques of Divine Command Theory. As it relates to Christians, the question is: Is something good commanded by God because it is good, or is something good because it is commanded by God?
At first this might not seem like that bad of a predicament, but once you think about it, it turns out to be a tough cookie. If the former is correct, then “good” is outside of God. If this is the case, then at best He is arbitrary to determining what is good. And at worst, “good” would be something above God, which He could not change. If this is the case then God is not truly sovereign, but subordinate to “good.”
However, if the latter is correct, then “good acts” have no intrinsic goodness to them and, theoretically, God could have made rape or lying good. Besides the repulsiveness of the idea of God making rape a “good act,” it also causes a problem with God Himself since He tells us that He is also subject to morality (in some sense). Hebrews 6:18 tells us that “it is impossible for God to lie.” If God is somehow bound to the same morality that He dictates, then the latter cannot, by logical necessity (unless we were to believe that the Bible is not inerrant or God does not exist), be true.
So what do you guys think?
1) Is my analysis of the two options incorrect? Have I missed something that solves the dilemma?
2) Is there possibly a third option which could solve this dilemma for Christians? Or are we stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one?
by Justin Day
Imagine this scenario: Let’s suppose that radical Muslims have had mass conversions in the United States. With their numbers, they have managed to run enough effective political campaigns to gain control of the government of Michigan. They are the dominant party in the legislature, hold the governor’s seat and four of the seven seats in the State Supreme Court. They have passed legislation, similar to Sharia (Islamic Law), that all females in Michigan must wear Burkas at all times in public. Citing a violation of their First Amendment rights, the state was sued by a female citizen and the case wound up in the US Supreme Court.
When the case was heard before the Supreme Court, the plaintiff argued that Islamic beliefs were being forced upon her and that by passing the legislation the state of Michigan was breaking the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, establishing an official religion. Although everyone knew that the real reason for the legislation was Muslim religious beliefs, the state argued their reasoning for the legislation in purely secular terms; they made no appeal to religion whatsoever. The Supreme Court, taking a very strict originalist stance, ruled in favor of the state.
Would this be acceptable?
Americans United for Separation of Church and State says no. They say, “When the government or government officials get behind one religious message, it sends the message to adherents that they are more valuable, and all others are less valuable, members of the political community.” For the government to treat part of its citizens unequally, in this respect, violates their rights because they cannot appeal to the religious beliefs of Islam unless they are believers themselves.
The American Center for Law and Justice says yes. Citing many historic Supreme Court rulings, they state: “The Nation’s history is replete with examples of acknowledgment of religious belief in the public sector. Our religious heritage is manifested in many ways that openly reflect government sponsorship and yet do not create an “establishment” problem.” If the Supreme Court was right when it ruled on Zorach v. Clauson (1952) stating that “”[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being,” do we not have the right to rule based on those presuppositions?
(1)Considering the given problem, do you think people should legislate based on their religious beliefs?
(2)Are we doing the same thing as the Muslims in the scenario above when we legislate against gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc? If no, what is the difference?
The Thought Initiative is a truly exciting concept, and my hopes are that the thoughts and questions posted every Thursday from here on out will spark interest and diligent thinking about the implications of scripture on our every day lives. Since this is the very first TI post, I thought it would be fitting that we start with the basic and most fundamental aspect of The Thought Initiative: thought.
More specifically I would like to discuss the two main arguments of thought. In the West, thought is often heavily rooted in the spoken word. While in the East, philosophical teachings say thought is found in silence. Secondly, if thought is rooted in words, is there power in words? If thought is found in silence, where could power be found?
One way to understand Western thought is to read western philosophy books. One of these would be Words, the autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre. In his book, Sartre places the characterization of human life within the interactions between people, mainly built upon words. In western philosophy, thought was quite often tied directly to words because words give meaning to thought. Words have the ability to reveal different shades of meaning, and thus allow for complex thought. Socrates primarily used words and discussion as a way to uncover truth and attain higher thought. Socrates would be unsatisfied with a discussion if it did not enter into a higher level of thought characterized by carefully selected words.
The ancient Eastern philosophers had different ideas. Confucius says, “Hear much, but maintain silence.” In a more direct manner the Chinese Tao te Ching declares “Those who know don’t talk, those who talk don’t know.” Unlike the Western religions, much of the Eastern tradition holds that silence was the foundation of the created world. In the East, thought is found in silence, and silence is the root of all knowledge.
Scripture also has a lot to say about thought. Paul writes to the Corinthians that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Here it can be seen that there is a lot of importance placed on thought, especially if we must take every thought captive in order to obey Christ.
As men, what does thought mean in our lives? What role do you give thought in your life? Do you take every thought captive and submit it to Christ? How do you do it, and what does it look like? What do you find yourself thinking about most often? Is there power in words? Which is biblical: words or silence?