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

From: <mlucid@aol.com>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 12:27:12 EDT

 

 From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>

 

> From the New Testament perspective there
are no strong arguments for Christianity. 
>  Christianity was not a set
of understandable teachings that could be comprehended
> by outsiders but
a power that brought people into relationship with God.  This
power
> was the Spirit of God, unknown and incomprehensible to those who did not
have him.

I think we can begin to make some arguments for religion in general and Christianity
specifically in terms of instinctive survival traits being asserted in the human experience
the only way they can --through faith.  On a basic level, how do you trust anything in
life that is illogical or without clear rational associations?  You trust your feelings. 

Sometimes feelings are all we have to fight survival threats beyond our understanding. 
But Jesus insists that treating each other as absolute equals (turning the other cheek,
forgiveness, etc) is mandatory.   Our personal (rational) self-interests being
relegated for the common good by strength of faith is the same thing as our instincts
being naturally selected to overcome the survival threats of reason. 

We are rationally over-specialized.  Like any species our most successful survival
traits (like reason) will inevitably work to our detriment.  The species with the sharpest
teeth will have
competition issues.  The most prolific
reproducers will exhaust their
food supply. 
Over-dependence on any evolutionary specialization inevitably leads
to
vulnerabilities. 
Our reliance on rational brain function is not immune to this
inevitability. 

But overcoming reason is monumentally difficult.  That is why we have evolved a
belief in God, faith in God.  Faith in God is the instinctive Truth that will lead us beyond
wars, beyond the haves and the have-nots, and beyond the threats we pose to our own
survival through rational excess.  Faith is an instinctive evolutionary truth about the
ultimate nature of Creation. 

Whenever we choose to go with our feelings over our reason it is through strength of faith
in the survival "rightness" of the feelings that allows us to do so whether we believe in God
or not.  Some people see that feeling of  "rightness" only in terms of their personal survival,
(unevolved feelings like sex, gluttony, jealousy) going against all the most highly evolved
feelings that are taught in religions all over the world.  Others recognize the most evolved
feelings of all as taught by Jesus (love thine enemies!) to be absolutely necessary beyond
any rational conclusions of personal survival.   This is our highest evolutionary trait.  Love
and faith are far more difficult to assert than any scientific discipline and far more essential
to our survival especially now that we have devised the rational means to destroy ourselves.  

Faith in God is the ultimate instinctive understanding of the survival truth behind all things
seen and unseen as  naturally selected in pursuit of our salvation.  Religion is the monumental
effort to assert the authority of our faith (our most evolved instincts) over the zealous, rigid,
unbending demands of our reason. 

This view is itself a rationalization, and as such incalculably short of the true scope and
purposes of our faith, just as any rational assessment will always be.  It is our instincts
that eternally range ahead in our evolution, to our destiny, to our salvation.  Instinct
was here 300 million years before our first rational conclusion dawned in our minds
and will be here, our conduit to the Spirit forever if we remain faithful to its calling. 
If not, we will die at our own hands for our arrogance.

-Mike (Friend of ASA)

 

 

"My message and my preaching were not with
wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so
that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."  1
Cor.  2:4. 

 

"...The Spirit of truth.  The world
cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know
him, for he lives with you and will be in you."  John 14:17. 

 

"...You have an anointing from the Holy
One, and all of you know the truth."  1 John 2:20. 

 

So NT Christians had knowledge, all right,
but it was not the kind of knowledge that could make headway in the public
square.  Rather, it was the kind of knowledge that changed lives, and those
transformed lives had power to change still other lives. 

 

Any set of facts can have multiple
interpretations, including the one that denies they are facts. 
So facts by themselves, whether about the world or about God's Word, won't
convince anyone of anything.  In science people become convinced by getting
familiar with the data and the interpretations; in religion people become
convinced by latching onto the power they see in the witness.  

 

If there is any value for Christianity in
debating the likes of Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, it would come less from words
said than from everything else about the witness. 

 

Don

 

 

  
----- Original Message -----

  
From: Randy Isaac

  
To: asa@calvin.edu

  
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 7:14
  AM

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

  

  
This debate occurred last Monday and was aired on
  C-SPAN2 last night. I happened to see it while searching for the Red Sox game.
  I ended up seeing the debate and missing the start of the Red Sox game. Maybe
  I have to work on my priorities.

  
You can see and hear the debate in its entirety
  at http://www.tkc.edu/debate/

  
The section to which Groothius objects is at 1 hr
  26 minutes. A couple of minutes later, Hitchens repeats his bashing of Francis
  Collins but Dinesh doesn't bite on that one.

  
 

  
My own reaction to this was quite different from
  Groothius but I may have misunderstood both of them. It seemed to me that
  D'Souza was drawing a distinction between empirical knowledge and faith-based
  knowledge. On this point, I am very concerned about Groothuis's position. He
  seems to feel that our knowledge/belief in God needs to be based on empirical
  knowledge. Isn't this going in the wrong direction? He may be concerned that
  D'Souza has sold the farm but I'm concerned that Groothius has handed the
  scepter to scientism, conceding that scientific knowledge is the only
  legitimate form of knowledge.

  
 

  
Randy

  

    
----- Original Message -----

    
From:
    John Walley

    
To: asa@calvin.edu

    
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.

    
 

    
Thanks

    
 

    
John

    
 

    
http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2007/10/debate-christianity-and-atheism.html
    

    
 

    
 

    
 

    

    
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 Tue Oct 30 12:28:36 2007

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