Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Oct 28 2007 - 16:14:54 EDT

John -

In a post of 23 October I pointed out some of the problems with the type of appeal to Rom.1:20 that you keep trying to make. In the real world in which all people are sinful, one can speak of "knowledge" of God from creation only in an extremely limited sense since the result of trying to develop such a knowledge from observation of the world alone is inevitable idolatry. That is Paul's whole point in that passage & it's a serious mistake to try to make it into an argument for natural revelation.

& in fact "the project of natural theology" to which Groothuis refers is simply the project of idolatry. An attempt to base the claim that "there is a God" on observations of nature may be just barely defensible, but any attempt to say who or what God (which is what a "theology" will do) will always produce some false god.

Again, it's a quite different matter to look at the natural world in the light of God's historical revelation which is centered on Christ & to try to develop a "natural theology" as part of explicitly Christian theology. But that doesn't seem to be what either Groothuis or you are talking about.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: John Walley
  Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 3:50 AM
  Subject: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science

  Below is an excerpt of a blog posting of a review of a recent debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Christopher Hitchens at King's College by philosopher and professor Douglas Groothuis.

  I am curious to get any comments from the list on his observations because he charges Dinesh with selling the farm "epistemologically and apologetically" because he concedes faith beliefs are not valid knowledge and knowledge can only be what is empirically proven. This is very similar to the recent discussion on the philosophical foundation from Rom. 20 of God having revealed real knowledge (and not just faith) in his creation. And in fact from this scripture that says that those that reject this knowledge are "without excuse", it is clear God considers this revealed knowledge to be valid and binding and manifest to all and not some subjective idea that is subject to interpretation or the approval of science.

  I think Groothius may have articulated it here better than I but I think we are in agreement that as soon as we surrender this revealed "knowledge" as not being valid and instead replacing it with only "science" then we have already lost the debate. And this does appear to be the strategy of atheists and therefore the danger in siding with them too strongly in their marginalizing the arguments from ID.



  Debate: Christianity and Atheism
  Dinesh D'Souza (author of What's So Great About Christianity) and Christopher Hitchens (author of God is Not Great) recently debated at King's College. I will not give a point by point commentary, but limit myself to three comments, the first of which is the most important.

  1. At 1.26 D'Souza completely sells the farm epistemologically and apologetically--despite the many fine points he made throughout the debate. He claims that his religious belief is not knowledge. He does not know it to be true; he only believes it. In so doing, he seems to restrict knowledge to what is empirically verifiable. But there is no reason to do. We know many things apart from empirical evidence (such as basic moral claims). Moreover, we can infer the existence the supernatural from the natural (the project of natural theology; see In Defense of Natural Theology, which I co-edited and to which I contributed a chapter.) D'Souza goes on to say that while he leaps toward God, Hitchens leaps toward atheism. I groaned loudly to myself when I heard it (although my wife probably heard me). Many in the crowd applauded.

  This is tragic. We must enter the public square making knowledge claims, not mere faith claims that are allowable, just as allowable as theism or some other worldview. We need to try to out argue the opposition by marshalling the strongest possible arguments for Christianity and against atheism. In fact, D'Souza gave some strong arguments not adequately rebutted by Hitchens by the time he sold the farm. There was no need to do so; and in so doing, he sets a terrible example for Christian persuasion in the public realm (despite the virtues he exhibited in the debate).

  2. The form of the debate was poor. Neither speaker has enough time for opening comments or for rebuttal. The supposed "cross examination" devolved into haranguing at time, with the moderator (Marvin O'laski) failing to intervene to keep order. Serious debates should have strict rules.

  3. Both speakers issued cheap shots by insulting the other speaker in ways not required by their arguments. This may get applause, but makes no logical point.

  Apparently, D'Souza has come to a more mature Christian conviction recently. He is not known as a philosopher, but as a social critic and political writer. I never detected an overt Christian worldview in the several books I've read by him over the years. At that crucial time of 1:26 this weakness showed. I have not yet finished his book, however. Perhaps I'll say more then.

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Received on Sun Oct 28 16:18:14 2007

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