Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oldy But Moldy

This was a blog post that I did under the pen name 'Sal Monella' back in 2005. It got some laughs and good feedback from some notable Intelligent Design scholars and even a few scholarly detractors when first released. William Dembski even linked to it over at Uncommon Descent back then when he was still the operative moderator. Hope you get some renewed enjoyment from the current re-rehash of it.

Evolutionists Anonymous: A 12 Step Program for Those who Suffer from Methodological Naturalism 

The following 12 steps have worked for those of us who were previously suffering from the bondage of evolutionary theory. If you happen to be suffering as we once were, we suggest that you give them a try.
1. We admitted we were powerless over Evolutionary Theory and that our research in the various fields of science had become horrendously unfruitful as a result.

2. Came to the valid inference that an Intelligent Cause much greater than time, chance, and natural processes was responsible for the fine-tuning of the universe and complexity in biology. And we understood that such a postulate could restore us to scientific integrity.

3. Made a decision to turn our efforts and research over to the duty of detecting specified complexity in nature as it was placed by an Intelligent Cause and committed ourselves to leaving specific questions about said Cause open for later philosophical discussion.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of our scientific methods and our previous dogmatic, antisupernatural biases.

5. Admitted to an unspecified designer, to ourselves, and to another scientist the exact nature of our errors.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Supersessionism, etc.

Hey friends and bloggers, I am now blogging here.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Thought on what we take serious

Americans generally have an abysmal level of knowledge of the Bible. In this world of mass ignorance, to have headlines proclaim that this or that fact about [Jesus] has been declared untrue by supposedly scientific inquiry has the effect of gospel. There is no basis on which most people can counter these authoritative-sounding statements. - LUKE TIMOTHY JOHNSON

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Still Selling Books at Ebay

I am continuing to post theology, apologetics, philosophy, and other academic books for sale at Ebay. I will be selling about three hundred or more books over the next month or two, so keep checking back in. All but two of my current titles have sold, so be sure and bid strong if you are interested in a title.

If you are interested, my Ebay user ID is Marzzhill, or you can simply go to this - a link to my user profile page. All of my books will be listed there.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Books for Sale

If you are interested in buying some theology texts, general Christian reading, historical texts, apologetics, etc. Then know that I am actually selling a very large portion of my library at Ebay beginning today. I will be posting books for sale over the next few weeks. The ones that do not sell at Ebay will be taken to the local used book store and/or sold at our upcoming garage sale this summer.

To find my sales on Ebay - my user name is Marzzhill. You can search by member user name at Ebay - if you have trouble finding me at Ebay then here is a link to my user profile page.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Is God beyond Logic?

The other day I was asked this question:

My question involves an argument (debate) I'm having with a skeptical friend. He presented an argument I haven't heard before, and I would like to hear your thoughts (even a hint would be nice). His argument is as follows:

"God is suprarational...that is, he exists above man's logic. It is thus impossible to prove God exists with a weaker (or even if you want to give it equivalent) form of logic."

First, I don't think the conclusion follows. I've tried to find the hidden premise of the enthymeme, but I can't seem to do it without using four terms. So from a logic standpoint, I'm having a hard time checking for validity. Assuming it is valid, what do you think of his first premise? I may be way off, but doesn't his argument assume God exists in the first premise? Is that something I could use? Is there some material fallacy I'm missing here?

Here is my response:

OK let's see - first we need to make this argument plain by supplying premise (2). BTW: Sometimes just forcing the objector to make their argument clear shows its faults, and it avoids you accidentally arguing against a straw man, so I would avoid doing it for them. But just for fun I will assume that I have caught his implied point and look at it from that angle. So here is the argument reconstructed into a valid form by adding Premise (2):

1. God is suprarational that is, he exists above man's logic.
2. [Supplied] Things which exist above man's logic are impossible to prove with a weaker / equivalent form of logic.
3. Therefore, it is impossible to prove God exists with a weaker / equivalent form of logic.

There are numerous problems with this line of thinking. I will go premise by premise.

Premise (1): What exactly does "above" mean here? Is he speaking metaphysically? Well, then all existing extra-mental objects are "above" logic - what does that prove? God's being "above logic" in this sense says nothing of logic's ability to deal with Him as a subject. I would ask if this is a rational or irrational idea. If it is irrational there is no need to deal with it. If it is rational then it is self-defeating for it is making a rational claim about God that rational claims about God cannot be made. In much the same way, if he wants to claim that God cannot be treated by logical argument then his whole project is self-defeating.

Premise (2): Ignoring the "weaker / equivalent" distinction (I have no idea how to put logics on a scale such as this), the biggest problem with this whole line of thinking is the idea that logic proves things about extra-mental reality in the first place. That is not logic's job. Validity (based on argument forms), which logic can prove, is not equivalent to soundness (truth based on correspondence to reality), which logic cannot prove. An argument's soundness comes from having valid form and true premises. But truth is dependant on a statement's correspondence to reality - not its placement in an argument. So, in this sense, logic cannot prove ANYTHING - much less God. Nor are we asking it to. HOWEVER . . . arguing logically is not the same as using logic (alone) to argue. Rather, our logical arguments must be supported by evidence from the real world. Then, if they are logically valid, they are also sound and the conclusions can only be rejected on pains of irrationality.

Conclusion (3): Because neither premise is true (at least in the sense he seems to mean them) the argument is unsound. If he means something else by premise (1) then I'd have to see it to properly comment on it.

Also, although his argument does seem to assume that God exists he may simply be speaking hypothetically, so I would not try to use that. His argument could be easily adjusted to avoid this flaw. All he would need to do is say, "If God existed, then [insert Premise (1)]."

Any additional thoughts or helpful criticism?

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Friday, February 02, 2007

why logic is crucial in theology

A Mormon buddy was witnessing to me over email the other day, citing Stephen Robinson on the a priori reasonableness of God having a body:

"The logic is not difficult: Jesus is God; Jesus has a body of flesh and bones; therefore, God, in the person of the resurrected Son, has a body of flesh and bones."

It took me a second. It took me another second. And then I realized: categorical logic is finally going to come handy. Okay, first, I took a prima facie look at Dr. Robinson's "not difficult" "logic":

S is P
S is R
Therefore, P is R


Okay, but why? Let's rewrite this a bit:

S - the person of Jesus Christ.
P - God
R - a body of flesh and bones.

So Dr. Robinson's logic, using the above key:

S is P;
S is R;
Therefore, P (in S) is R.

Problems are as follows. First, he uses four terms, and you can only have three terms in a syllogism. The fourth term is 'P (in S)' and this is neither P nor S. This is called either equivocation or four-term fallacy. Second, terms distributed in the conclusion must be distributed in the premises. Yet the group of statements does not have P (in S) distributed in the premises; it doesn't even show up in the premises; P itself is undistributed. This is sometimes called illicit process. Thus, he has broken two rules in this simple syllogism. Invalid.

My Mormon friend told me at this point that I was trying to refute him on a "technicality." I really wasn't.

On the contrary, I even considered collapsing that fourth term to be "God." The problem is that even with three terms like that, it is still invalid, because God is undistributed in the conclusion but not in the premises. That's illicit process of the minor term, as I mentioned. In other words, it is also wrong if thought:

1) Jesus is God.
2) Jesus has a body of flesh and bones.
3) Therefore, God has a body of flesh and bones.


1) Jesus is God (undistributed).
3) Therefore, God (distributed) has a body of flesh and bones.

This in itself does not mean that the conclusion is false, but just that the "argument" used to support it is invalid. Invalid reasoning is used to falsely support true conclusions all the time.

My reasons for rejecting the notion that God is immaterial are fairly common and so I will not lay them out here. But anyway, that was my beginner's analysis of what seemed to be a hopeless example of "not difficult" "logic," from a highly respected Mormon scholar. Does anyone know a way to salvage or rewrite Robinson's group of statements, so as to make a valid argument?

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Some Reviews on Bart's Gospel

Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus is meant to be an lay introduction to textual criticism, and it was quite popular. It also suffers from bias. This is not at all surprising to me. I took his Introduction to New Testament while at UNC-Chapel Hill. Even to a then-freshman like myself, it was obvious how opinions were easily shaped by the bias of a professor.

Daniel Wallace is an accomplished scholar in the field of textual criticism. As I read his review "The Gospel According to Bart" a month or so ago in a journal, I thought to myself, it would be cool if this was on the internet. Indeed, there it is.

While we are at it, here is another critique by well-renowned scholar, blogger, and fellow UNC alum, Ben Witherington. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Thom Howe's review is online here and presents some important criticisms not necessarily found in the other reviews. Enjoy.

Also, a lively debate between Bill Craig and Ehrman on the issue of the historicity of the resurrection. (hat tip: Davis)

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

TuQuoque hits the big time!

So I got this e-mail a while back from Loyola Press asking if they could use one of my TuQuoque articles in an upcoming book. The book turned out to be The Best of Catholic Writing - 2006. I found it rather humorous that a Protestant ("and fiercely proud of it!") author should be included in a Roman Catholic "best of" book but hey - I'll take it!

Anyway, it's been released to at least one rave review. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review saying that "[Editor, Brian] Doyle assembles a truly "catholic" compilation . . . a true sign of the times—excerpts from Web logs ("blogs"). Kudos to Doyle for recognizing the creativity and vitality within this modern electronic medium. Catholicism, Doyle believes, should not be afraid of contemporary culture. Nor should it be afraid of a variety of perspectives. Doyle includes . . . a Thomas Aquinas–inspired spoof called "The Existence of Chuck Norris" by ordained Protestant minister Douglas Beaumont. . . ."

Woo Hoo! Anyway, TuQuoque is mentioned several times in the book so perhaps all of us will start contributing more even though we've all sort of moved on to our own BLOGS as of late.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Five Point Thomism?

In partial response to the Roman Catholic who seemed upset that a bunch of Protestants would create a BLOG on Thomism, I don't think there is anything incoherent about being a thomist and not Roman Catholic because thomism is not a strictly religious designation.

Anway - I think we need some statement - minimal description / definition - of what we mean by "Thomism".

(Plus it would be cool if we could make it into a cool acronym like TULIP or CHRYSANTHEMUM.)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Universe by Design: God and Cosmological Constants

Perhaps the most compelling arguments for design in the universe are found in what are known as cosmological constants. These facts are commonly referred to as arguments from the fine-tuning of the universe.

When scientists speak of the fine-tuning of the universe, they are generally referring to the extraordinary balancing of the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe. The result of these constants is that the universe has just the right conditions to sustain life. The coincidence of all of these constants being so life permitting are too amazing to have been the result of happenstance. These cosmological constants all work together to keep the universe perfectly dialed in order to make life possible. In his article titled God, Design, and Fine-Tuning, physicist Robin Collins gave the following illustration to help explain these constants:

"I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago. At the control panel they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life. The oxygen ratio is perfect; the temperature is seventy degrees; the humidity is fifty percent; theres a system for replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of wastes. Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure."

According to recent findings in physics, the universe is analogous to this "biosphere" that Collins illustrates. Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razors edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation. The dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident. Somebody, as Fred Hoyle quipped, "has been monkeying with the physics." The point is that when scientists look at the universe from an objective perspective, every knob in the discipline of physics seems to be intelligently dialed to a perfect degree in order to permit life in our universe. It is this evidence that leads to the conclusion that there is an Intelligent Designer behind these harmonious scientific facts. The following are some amazing examples of the finely tuned cosmological constants that balance the universe:

1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10-60 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)

2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5% life would be impossible.

3. Calculations show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10-40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.

4. Further calculations show that if the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.

5. In the formation of the universe, the balance of matter to antimatter had to be accurate to one part in ten billion for the universe to arise.
6. Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 186,282 miles per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.

7. For the universe to exist as it does requires that hydrogen be converted to helium in a precise but comparatively stately mannerspecifically, in a way that converts seven one thousandths of its mass to energy. Lower that value very slightlyfrom 0.007 percent to 0.006 percent, sayand no transformation could take place: the universe would consist of hydrogen and nothing else. Raise the value very slightlyto 0.008 percentand bonding would be so widely prolific that the hydrogen would long since have been exhausted. In either case, with the slightest tweaking of the numbers the universe as we know and need it would not be here.

These examples are just some of the many amazing constants that are present in the universe in which we live. The astronomical amount of fine-tuning that we see in these constants weighs heavily in favor of a Great Designer of the universe. There must have been a Super Intelligence who set the dials perfectly in order for galaxies, stars, and planets to be positioned just right in order for life to be possible here on earth. To put it in terms harmonious with William Paleys argument, the incredible amount of design in the universe leads to the conclusion that there is an incredible Designer of the universe.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Comments on Mere Comments

In my last post on the important Bush / Beaumont summit, Flavis sent a link to an article on predestination. He asked for comments on it:

The author of this article is a (pontificator corrected me here, the author is a catholic) named Anthony Esolen. Let's start by giving some quotes from the Angelic Doctor himself that are relevant to what Esolen said.

Chapter 89 of SCG Book 3, Part 2, concerning "That the movement of the will is caused by God and not only the power of the will" Aquinas says,

“God not only gives powers to things but, beyond that, no thing can act by its own
power unless it acts through His power… man cannot use the power of will that
has been given him except in so far as he acts through the power of God. Now,
the being through whose power the agent acts is the cause not only of the power,
but also of the act… Therefore, God is for us the cause not only of our will, but
also of our act of willing.”

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles: Book 3: Part 2, (United States:
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1955.), 36.

In the next section Aquinas shows that mans will is subject to divine providence. In this context he says, "since [God] is the cause of our act of choice and volition, our choices and will-acts are subject to divine providence." page 37. Concerning "How human events may be traced back to higher causes" Aquinas says "Of course, acts of choice and movements of the will are controlled immediately by God." He continues, "So, the movement of all wills and choices must be traced back to the divine will, and not to any other cause, for God alone is the cause of our acts of will and choice." page 40-41.

Clearly, for Aquinas, God's causal power extended beyond the fact of free will to the very acts of free will. No choice is made independently of God's causality. Of course this raises a ton of questions, but Aquinas has a keen ability to see potential questions and answer them.

The reason God must be the cause is because He is simple. Since He is simple, He cannot be affected by creatures. Also, because he is simple, His knowledge is immutable and His knowledge cannot be affected by creatures. God is related to the world as Cause is related to effect. God knows the world because God is the cause of the world. God's causality, like His knowledge, does not stop at the power of free will.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange states Aquinas' definition of predestination as "The type of the ordering of some persons towards eternal salvation, existing in the divine mind... The number of the predestined is certain to God, not only by way of knowledge, but also by way of principal preordination" You CANNOT say of Aquinas that he thought that God was passive with regard to our free choices. NOTHING is outside of God's providence and control.

Calvinists who use Aquinas often times don't realize how far Aquinas goes. Many of the Calvinists that I have spoken with suppose that we have free will with regard to most of our choices. Of course they claim that we are free only to choose among evil options before God regenerates us, but I often hear them make distinctions between common choices and the "choice" of salvation. For them, we are free to make whatever choices we want before and after salvation, but salvation is marked by it's being uniquely caused by God. (And though they almost always deny it, God causes our salvation against our will because, on their view, we would never will it apart from God's causing it.) For Aquinas, no choice is made independently of God; whether it be the choice of salvation or the choice of eating a banana or a candy bar.

If that is the case, the most obvious question deals with whether or not man is free. I don't think Aquinas was a compatiblist. (Though I think my philosophy professor disagrees) I don't know if Aquinas was a liberatarian. However, it does seem that Aquinas believed that we had a genuine ability to make choices. Not independent from God, but free none the less. I think that most Aquinas scholars hold that Aquinas held to some kind of dual causality. Some think that man's choices involve two efficient causes, where God is the primary efficient Cause and man is the secondary efficient cause. Others think that God is the formal Cause of our actions and that we are the efficient cause of our action. I am not qualified to debate the issue either way.

The point is that there are ways of affirming, without contradiction, that God and man are both involved in mans acts of free will. It is difficult to respond to Dr. Esolen's post because he is speaking more in theological terms. I would be interested in seeing what he makes of this post.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm the 100th post, I'm the 100th post!!!!

Uh . . . I guess I should say something thomistic or something.
Um . . .
OK, act in the order in which it is act is unique and unlimited unless cojoined to passive potency.
There, now doesn't that feel nice???

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dan Brown and the Illuminati

I was on the porcelain throne the other day and in a moment of bladder emptying bliss I had a moment of frightening clarity. I think I can prove without a doubt that DaVinci Code author Dan Brown is a member (if not the leader) of the Illuminati and is pushing the world to the brink of a worldwide crisis.

My first thought was that in Brown’s ridiculous theory concerning the Holy Grail that about the only group he does not reference in connection with the greatest cover-up in world history is the Illuminati. It’s not bad enough that DaVinci Code mangles historical fact beyond recognition, or that Brown implicates everyone from the apostle Thomas to the curator of the Louvre in this conspiracy, but then he misses a prime opportunity to involve the Illuminati! It all seemed so foolish until I flushed . . . then the oblivious became obvious.

For those of you who have lived in a cave for the last few centuries, or who have never listened to Art Bell, the Illuminati are well known as the instigators of . . . well . . . everything that has ever happened, I think. Of course no one knows who they are or how they manage to pull it all off, but if there is a conspiracy you can pretty well bet the Illuminati had a heavy hand in it coming to pass. So how could such a magnificent researcher as Dan Brown fail to include them in his Grail plot???

I’m glad you asked.

The answer, of course, is that Dan Brown IS an Illuminati (“Illuminatus”?)! Just as the actor playing “Chef” on South Park was happy to disrespect every major religion and race until the show had some fun with Christian Scientists, Dan Brown isn’t going to tip his hand and put the spotlight on the Illuminati - the true force behind all of world history and beyond. Duhhh!

But then I thought to myself: “Self, isn’t this a bit too easy?” I mean, c’mon – this would be like Michael Jackson crusading against all crimes against children except sleeping with them. No – there must be something else going on here. Then I considered the format of the book. Virtually everything in the book is not what it seems – pictures are messages, numbers are maps, men are women, truths are lies, authorial integrity is grandstanding crap, names are . . . anagrams. Anagrams. Was this the hidden key that unlocked the door containing the vault wherein lay the footlocker holding the briefcase securing the envelope sealed around the paper that revealed the mystery?

So as I zipped up I mentally listed all possible anagrams of Dan Brown. While I stared vaguely into the swirling bowel it hit me: Dan Brown . . . Bran . . . Down . . . DOWN BRAN. Good Lord, could it be that simple?


Or could it?


"Bran Down." Bran is down. A simple Google search confirmed what virtually all scientists and serious scholars already know – the world is facing a bran crisis of epic proportions. Just look at the cost of cereal over the years. Has it gone up or down? Up of course! Why? Supply and demand of course. Less supply equals more demand which equals higher prices - of course. I am now 100% convinced that the Illuminati are somehow affecting the world Bran production in their overall plot to rule the world (even more than they already do).

Oh sure – gas prices tripling in the last year SEEM to be the big issue. Think again. These are merely smokescreens to cover up the more insidious rise of Bran prices. Think I’m wrong? Try this simple experiment: how much did you pay for your last gallon of gas? You can probably guess to the nearest nickel, but can you tell me how much your last box of Raisin Bran or muffin mix cost? I doubt it.

So while we are rallying to have congress do something about gas prices, and promoting gas boycott days, we blissfully and ignorantly and stupidly continue to pay whatever price is asked for Bran or Bran related products.

And the Illuminati are laughing all the way to the banks. Which they own.

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