“The Godless Delusion”: my truth-in-advertising concern

Image result for Patrick Madrid and Kenneth HensleyA Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism is the subtitle of Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley‘s 2010 The Godless DelusionI applaud their popular presentation of the presuppositional approach to Christian apologetics in the course of taking down contemporary atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and many others. They rack these naturalistic bowling pins and knock them down, with strike after strike. Readers can cull a rich bibliography from the reference notes.

But what is distinctively Catholic about their challenge to atheism?

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Patrick Madrid

Granted, Madrid and Hensley are Catholics. So are some (but not all) of the authors they cite in illustration of their arguments. Paragraphs of The Catechism of the Catholic Church are cited on many of the book’s pages. But, unlike virtually every other book by Madrid, it’s not a primer of Catholic apologetics, that is, a case for joining the Roman Catholic communion.

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Kenneth Hensley

They argue that the Christian worldview alone makes sense of our sense-making. But that approach to apologetics has been a Protestant, largely Reformed (Calvinist), enterprise for more than a century. Madrid and Hensley do not make that clear. Continue reading ““The Godless Delusion”: my truth-in-advertising concern”

Christ, our philosophical GPS

Image result for christ the wisdom of godThe Apostle Paul speaks of “gnosis falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Why not also “philosophy falsely so called”? How would that differ from philosophy according to the elements of this world? (Colossians 2:8)

And what should stop a Christian who accepts Paul’s line of reasoning from suggesting “misosophy” as le mot juste for the false gnosis, the foolishness, the vain babblings?

Taking Christ’s words seriously, we conclude that neutrality toward Him and his claims is not possible. It is a self-deceptive feint. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (Matthew 12:30). One is either in Christ or at enmity with Him (Ephesians 2:16), a hostility only He can overcome.

Therefore, a discourse rooted in the fatal conceit, namely, that the term “unaided reason” has real reference, is not open to the claims of Christ. Its proponent hates Christ and does so “without reason” (John 15:25, alluding to Psalm 35:19).

The fatal conceit of “unaided reason” is incapable of taking Christ’s self-identification seriously. It not only bakes no bread, but it is a vine that bears no edible or press-worthy grapes. Continue reading “Christ, our philosophical GPS”

Philosophy: its descent from loving wisdom to studying problems

The fifth footnote to the Wikipedia article on “Philosophy” cites an introductory textbook as follows:

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Philosophy is a study of problems which are ultimate, abstract and very general. These problems are concerned with the nature of existence, knowledge, morality, reason and human purpose.[1]

What is the relationship between the study of problems and the love of wisdom? Has the former been finally detached from the latter, assuming the one arose out of the practice of the other?

If the progressive, historical untethering of the study from the love is a fact, is it worthwhile to evaluate it, or need we only adjust to it? May we ask about it critically or would it be unfruitful, even unwise (in the sense of imprudent, impractical, or pointless) to do so?  Did not Pythagoras, who coined the term, intend for the love to guide the study? Did he not assume that the study flowed out of and expressed the love?

Since the very beginning of the discourse called “philosophical,” its practitioners have held one conceit, namely, that reason is autonomous and therefore can identify, study, and perhaps solve general and fundamental problems.

Image result for rescher the strife of systemsEven if self-identifying “philosophers” disagree about proffered solutions, they would all agree (if asked) that such diversity, what Nicholas Rescher called the “strife of systems,” can in no way discredit the conceit. I say “would,” for taking that conceit for granted is so ingrained that it takes considerable research to find its self-conscious articulation and defense.

Consequently there’s rarely been an occasion for philosophical rivals to express such solidarity. They hold that conceit implicitly, but absolutely. For them it is non-negotiable—ethically, metaphysically, and epistemologically—and, as such, invulnerable to discrediting.

Continue reading “Philosophy: its descent from loving wisdom to studying problems”

Bill Vallicella on Cornelius Van Til: An open mind and heart

Image result for bill vallicellaBill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, is currently reading Cornelius Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith, and that delights me no end. Bill was the first philosopher to welcome my old site (now 15 years old) and greet the launching of this one (which occasioned his republishing a generous and stimulating critique of one of my efforts).

I thank Dave Lull (the “Omnipresent Wisconsin Librarian,” now retired) for alerting me not only to Bill’s “Van Til and Romans 1:18-20,” but also to “God, the Cosmos, Other Minds: In the Same Epistemological Boat? The latter is Bill’s response to my “God: “behind the scenes” (or “under the floorboards”) of every argument.” (I’m grateful to Dave for many other unsolicited yet invaluable leads he has sent my way over the years.)Image result for dave lull

After reading the second post, though, I wonder whether after a few chapters Bill’s thrown Defense against the wall in exasperation—one of my reactions, decades ago—figuratively speaking, of course.

In a blog post I can address only some of the issues Bill raise. That is, what follows does not answer Bill point for point. I’ll only suggest the lines of a fuller response.

Bill is ambivalent about Van Til: his “presuppositionalism is intriguing even if in places preposterous.” Bill doesn’t specify what merits that assessment. In any case Van Til’s distinctive charge was that all non-Christian thought—including much that is professedly Christian but infected with non-Christian presuppositions—is preposterous at its roots.

Continue reading “Bill Vallicella on Cornelius Van Til: An open mind and heart”