Wednesday, June 29, 2005

What's a "Property"

Posted in: Philosophy

Since our blog has started we few but proud Moldy Thomists have been repeatedly chastised for our defense of divine simplicity. One of the chief criticisms of our view is that this position holds that God is identical with His properties. We would respond by saying that we hold that God does not have properties, He is a pure act of existence and has no form. This however is beside the point at this time (although I am sure it will draw some response nonetheless). What I would like to know is exactly what is meant by the term "property". It occurred to me that this term is used frequently but I have never seen it defined. I am not well versed in analytic philosophy (although I am now starting to delve into it) so I don't often encounter the term in what I read. Thomas doesn't use it. I would really appreciate it if some of you could help out here. It would greatly help me to better understand the criticism and to engage with those who do not share my views. I look forward to your input. Thanks! And here is the rest of it.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

When Did the So-called Corruption of the Christian Scriptures Take Place?

Posted in: Theology

A Response to the Islamic Challenge that the Holy Bible Has Somehow Been Tainted. By Area 51

There is an ongoing, heated debate that exists between Muslims and Christians over the validity of the Old and New Testaments. The common claim by adherents to Islam is that the Christian Scriptures have somehow been corrupted by man throughout history (besides the portions of the Bible that Muslims use to support Islamic theology, of course). Even though this challenge is severe, it is not one that goes unanswered by the brute facts of history.

In regards to the claim that the scriptures have been corrupted, there are some overall issues that must be considered in the scheme of historical evidence. Namely, it is important to note that before Christ’s time the Old Testament existed in Hebrew, Greek, and partly in Aramaic. Also, before Muhammad’s time there were entire compilations of the Greek New Testament as well as parts of Bibles existing in these additional languages---Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Armenian, and Gothic.

This means that in order for the Bible to have been corrupted after Muhammad’s time, the following events would have had to happen:

1. Representatives from every Jewish and Christian sect and denomination from at least seven or eight nations and languages, who were fighting with each other over controversial issues, would have needed to hold a conference and agree in detail on an explosive issue, namely, the changing of their Scriptures. (Of course, each sect would have wanted to change it to support the particular beliefs that split them in the first place).

2. They would have had to agree on how to issue their new, corrupted version of the Bible.

3. They would have had to convince everyone who had a Bible in any language to exchange it for a new, corrupted version.

4. All the original Bibles would have had to be destroyed, leaving no evidence to succeeding generations.

As one critical Muslim scholar comments on these far-fetched, hypothetical events that would have been necessary in order for the Muslim claim of corruption to be true:

If indeed these events did happen, then who can supply the date and place of such a conference and name the participants and their resolutions? Historical records before Muhammad’s time of events of far less importance exist. Thus it is highly unlikely that there is documented evidence to validate such a history-changing event. In addition, manuscripts exist from long before Muhammad’s birth that agree with
current translations of the Bible. (Accad, BB, 149-50)


In light of this information, the Islamic claim that the Old and New Testaments have somehow been corrupted does not seem to hold much plausibility. The fact that the Bible manuscripts from both before and after Muhammad’s time are in agreement with each other is enough to refute the Muslim challenge of corruption on its own. When did the corruption of the Bible take place if not before or after Muhammad’s lifetime? Why do the manuscripts from before and shortly after the time of Christ match up with today’s Bible translations? The Muslims have no good answers to these questions. Also, there is the issue of the validity of the canon of the Muslim’s very own Koran to be considered as well (e.g. Why was Uthman’s compilation the one standardized and all the others burned? Why is it that some scholars who critically analyze early Koranic manuscripts are either killed or banished from Muslim countries? Etc.) Because of these historical facts, it is quite reasonable to conclude that the Bible stands as credible against the Muslim challenge that the Christian Scriptures have somehow been corrupted over the course of world history.

Sources:
(Accad, Building Bridges, Navpress 1997) 142-51
(Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, Baker 1993)
(Sasan T. Lectures on Islam, Summer 2004)
(I was abducted by 17 aliens in 1998 and held captive for a period of 6 months where some of this information was revealed to me telepathically)

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Greatest Philosophers

Posted in: Philosophy

Greatest Philosophers
1. Plato - in terms of influence he really sets the stage for Western Philosophy
2. Aquinas - The only alternative to Plato and creator of the best philosophical system
3. Aristotle - Laid the foundation for Aquinas
4. Plotinus - If you are a Platonist today in any sense of the word it is most likely through Plotinus
5. Kant - In terms of influence I think he is the only modern that comes close to the "Big Four" above

I think greatness is a little pre-mature to be bestowing on any 20th Century thinker. If I had to choose based on influence I would go with Wittgenstein, Satre, Heidegger, Dewey (for his influence on Education alone - I was a high school teacher and endured endless amounts of Dewey) and Russell.

I will abstain from the underdog category except to echo a comment I read and add my vote for Berkeley as the ultimate underdog.

Most Destructive Philosophers - In terms of Impact on the Christian Worldview
1. Nietzsche
2. Hegel
3. Kant
4. Wittgenstein
5. Hume

I would also add 6. Spinoza, 7. Descartes, 8. Feuerbach, 9. Kierkegaard, and 10. Husserl

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Ten Questions about Messianic Jews

Posted in: Theology

I often recieve questions about my Jewish identity. Here are some.

1. What is a Messianic Jew?

A Messianic Jew is a Jew who believes that Jesus (henceforth Yeshua) is the Messiah.

2. Is that like a Christian?

Um...I guess it would be *like* that. Yes.

3. So you're not Jewish anymore.

That's a declarative sentence. What shall I do now.


4. Oops. So how are you still Jewish, then?

Because belief in Yeshua does not remove Jewish identity, and we happen to think its the most Jewish thing you can do. He is the Jewish Messiah.

5. How do other Jews who don't believe in this Yeshua feel about you guys?

For the most part, not so well. The Orthodox consider us 'meshumdim', or traitors, and many more think we have abandoned the true Jewish faith, deceptively dressing up Christianity as a valid Jewish option, whereas they argue that its anything but. Some more 'liberal' Jews are willing to tolerate us, some even engaging in dialogue. But that's more an exception to the rule.

6. Aren't they right? About you being traitors and decievers and all that?

No. We have been rejected by the mainstream Jewish community, to be certain. Also, it is true that they do *feel* betrayed by us. But the feelings of the majority do not determine truth. We serve in the Israeli army (for those who live in Israel), celebrate the Jewish feasts, circumcise our sons, and want to see our children grow up Jewish.

7. Yeah, but they will be fake Jews.

You're doing it again.

8. Right. Sorry. Won't they just be fake Jews?

No. For Messianics, if your mother or father is Jewish, you're a real Jew (Orthodox and Conservative Jews go by the mother only; Messianics and Reform go by either parent). You can hide, pretend it isn't there, but it won't change the facts. Belief in Jesus doesn't alter it either.

9. You are just equivocating on the word "Jew," right? Everytime we ask, we mean religiously, and when you answer you go by ethnicity. Isn't that illogical?

There might have been equivocation, so let's fix that now. Ethnically, a Jew is defined according to the above. Religiously, there is a debate. Messianics think that Yeshua's claims to be the Messiah actually correspond to the facts--for Jews and everyone else. Jews who don't believe in 'that man' obviously differ on this point. So the question is whether what the New Covenant (also called the New Testament) says about Yeshua is true. If it is, Messianic Jews are Jewish religiously. If it isn't, then they aren't. But, ethnically, they would be Jewish in either case.

So, in the end, it is those who would say that Messianic Jews somehow *can't* be Jewish who are confusing you. Either they mean we cannot be Jewish religiously (and so avoid the real issue behind the claim, which is whether or not Yeshua actually is the Messiah), or they mean we are no longer Jewish ethnically (in which case their claim is wrong).

10. What's your problem? Why do you waste your time trying to say you're Jewish?

Because its a fact, and we seek to speak the truth. Moreover, we find what the Bible says about God's love and promises toward the Jewish people to be compelling. Therefore, it is part of an authentic testimony for Jewish believers to maintain their identity in Yeshua.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

How Can "Being" Be Predicated of Many Individuals?

Posted in: Philosophy

The simple fact is that we only encounter individual beings or existents in our experience. In fact non-individuals cannot exist, as such, in themselves for this would result in a contradiction. If a non-individual were to actually exist in itself it would have to be both a singularity in itself and plurality in its existence in other things. However, an existent cannot be both a singularity and a plurality at the same time. The question then becomes if all beings we encounter are individual existents, how is it that we can predicate "being" as something that all of these existents have in common? How can there be a plurality of being? This was the chief question addressed by Parmenides, who reasoned that a plurality of being was impossible. Parmenides asserted that in order for there to be more than one being, beings would have to differ in some way. However, beings could not differ by being because that is what makes them same; moreover, beings could not differ by non-being because non-being is nothing, and to differ by nothing is not to differ at all. This conclusion however is contrary to experience and does not seem to fit reality in which we clearly encounter a multiplicity of individual existents.

There are two keys to solving this puzzle. The first is to make the distinction between being (esse) and a being (ens). "Being"(esse) is not a thing, but the act of existing. Parmenides phrased the question wrong when he said "Being is . . ." Being is the "is" it is not an object of the "is." Being as such is not something we experience but an act that we judge to be true of the beings or existents which we encounter. Each being (ens) which we encounter has its own unique act of existence (esse). Thus the being (esse) of each existent is unique to it.

But how do we explain how this is possible for a multitude of existents. No two existents can have the same act of existing for if they did then you would still have the problem of a single act of existence being a plurality of existential acts. So how is it that esse can be predicated of many beings?


When we predicate esse of some existent we must be careful how we are doing this. We cannot predicate esse of existents in a univocal (completely the same manner) way for this would mean all existents have the same existential act. At the same time, we cannot predicate esse of existents in an equivocal (completely unrelated) manner because the opposite of existence is non-existence. Esse, is properly predicated of existents in an analogous manner, that is, when being, as such, is predicated of existents there is something in the relationship of esse to the existents that is similar, and something in this relationship that is different.

What then is this analogous relationship in which esse can be predicated of many existents? Esse is predicted of multiple beings via a proportional predication. That is there is a similar relationship of proportionality between esse and its various analogates. For instance we can correctly predicate the word "good" of both a shoe and a steak, or the proportion ½ to the numbers (5 and10) and (3 and 6); however, the way in which (5 and 10) related to ½ is not the same as (3 and 6), nor does a shoe relate to the predicate good in the same way as a steak (at least lets hope not). In the same way, being can be predicated proportionally of different beings. For example, being can be predicated of a dog and a building or even a dog an another dog. Each proportionally relates to esse but in its own unique way. Thus the analogy of being is an analogy of individual communication. One existent relates to its esse in a similar and proportional way to the relationship of another existent to its esse. Being is therefore realized individually in each existent with each existent having its own esse.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ockham and Limited Atonement

Posted in: Theology

One of the things that fascinates me is the connection between philosophy and doctrine. Delving into the ways in which philosophical presuppositions direct the development of doctrine, affecting them for either good or ill, is something that I find incredibly interesting. Many of my papers at seminary have sought to gain some glimpses into just this type of occurrence. Below you will find a link to one such paper titled "THE INFLUENCE OF WILLIAM OF OCKHAM ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE STRONG CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF LIMITED ATONEMENT." Should you take the time to read it I would be very pleased to hear any thoughts you may have on the matter.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Some Highly Effective Ways to Argue Theism

Posted in: Humor

One time I was open air preaching at Virginia Tech University when a skeptic in the crowd yelled to me, "How do you know that God exists?! You can’t know such a thing!!" I immediately replied, "I’ll show you that God exists right now!!" I then stepped down from my podium and ran directly towards the scoffer while cocking back my right arm as far back as it would go. I was quickly in the scoffer’s direct proximity, and, when I saw that I had an open shot, I punched him right in the nose as hard as I could . . .

. . . I then shouted in his face "There! That should be enough convincing evidence for you, pal!!"

The thing is, this scoffer was rather tough and he didn’t drop to the ground and repent as quickly as I thought he would. He came right back at me and threw some kind of unorthodox combination of punches towards my head. I was able to duck the first two punches thrown, but he caught me with the third shot and hit me right in the temple. I was a bit rattled by this action and I almost hit the ground as a result. Fortunately, I was able to regain my composure and I came right back at him with two stiff jabs and a solid right to the face, followed by a left hook to the body. I barely missed him with one of the jabs, but successfully connected with all of the other shots thrown and the scoffer then fell directly to the ground—he was actually knocked out cold.

Now, this should certainly be a lesson to any potential scoffers—that they shouldn’t mess with me while I am preaching. But, this can also be seen as a great lesson for those who desire to effectively argue theism as well. You see, after the dust had settled from the scuffle, two observers approached me who had seen the whole exchange take place. They said they had been contemplating theism for quite some time and were very impressed on how I handled the situation. After some brief follow-up discussion, they both converted to theism right on the spot and they are now doing graduate research on the topic as we speak.

But wait, there’s more!

There was another time where I was in a formal debate with a prominent Atheist professor at Brown University. During the second round of verbal exchange in the debate, he said something that really ticked me off, so, I walked over to him at the podium and shoved him right in the chest. He tried to come back at me with a clinched fist, but the moderator of the debate stepped in-between us and temporarily broke things up. I immediately flashed back to my wrestling days in high school and I then dropped to the ground assuming the three-point bottom position that is standard in the second round of a tournament style wrestling match. My debate opponent must have been on the exact same page, because, he subsequently hit the floor and assumed the required tournament top wrestling position, grabbing my right arm that I had placed beneath my sternum. Then, out of nowhere, the moderator of the debate blew a whistle—and it was on from there!!!

To my good fortune, right after the whistle blew I was able to perform a textbook spin-out-and-turn-around reversal on the Brown University professor with a subsequent two point take down (on his home turf, even!). After the reversal and take down, I was able to get the professor in a regulation half-nelson and then successfully "Iowa" his leg, rendering his attempts at reversal to no avail. After about 45 seconds of further grappling, I was able to pin his back to the auditorium stage for a full three seconds. The moderator blew his whistle again, and, when I stood up, he raised my arm to the ceiling indicating that an expedient, lop-sided victory had just taken place. The debate judges also saw things in my favor and voted unanimously (5-0) that I was the victor of the debate!

Immediately following my victory in the exchange, a crowd of students who were in attendance approached me and asked questions about theism for nearly and hour! Also, some time later that night, my opponent came to me in private and candidly acknowledged that he had actually been doubting his anti-supernatural positions as of late, and, because of the result of the debate, he was thinking about taking a sabbatical at Southern Evangelical Seminary sometime in the near future in order to further contemplate theism.

Well, all of that being said, I would just like to encourage fellow theists with a few words: When the opposition pulls anything even slightly out of step with you in a debate, don’t just throw up your hands and say "fowl." Feel free to get tough and employ some of the tactics that I have shared with you here today. As you can see, they are fun, exciting, and most importantly, they are highly effective in advancing the cause of theism!

Be strong!!!

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Book Meme Three: Revenge of the

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Number of Books I Own: Although I have never counted, I have about 110 feet worth of books based on my last set of bookcases. If the average is, say, 2 inches that's . . . um . . . (struggling . . . to . . . do . . . math . . .) 660 or so.

Last Book(s) I bought: The Dharma of Star Wars , Star Wars and Philosophy, and Skywalking - for two reasons: one, to keep up with Hipsley and, two, to prepare for a presentation on the religion of Star Wars.

Last Book(s) I Read: Being and God, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate, plus I started the Chronicles of Narnia series.

5 Books that Mean a lot to Me:

  • 1. Decision Making and the Will of God: great criticism of the popular view, not so great on the positive explanation.
  • 2. Mere Christianity: Lewis is the master, what can I say?
  • 3. When Skeptics Ask: One of my first apologetics books.
  • 4. The Albion Trilogy: I am not into fantasy literature but these tales are worth hearing - morally virtuous and courageous, just what we need in times like these.
  • 5. Ecclesiastes: Had to get at least one Bible book in here, this one is exactly what needs to be heard today.


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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Contra Islam’s Claim of Rigid Monotheism: Plurality in Eternity is an Inescapable Aspect of Islamic Theology!

Posted in: Theology

The religions of Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic in their beliefs about God, although there is a key distinction that sets them widely apart from one another. Christianity believes in the existence of God who possesses unity and plurality in the form of the Trinity, while Muslims believe that Allah has a strict unity without any aspect of plurality in eternity (this is what they teach on the surface, anyway).
As experts on Islam, Norm Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, point out, "Islamic monotheism is rigid and inflexible. Its view of God’s unity is so strong that it allows for no plurality in God at all." (Geisler–Saleeb, Answering Islam, p. 134) Unfortunately, this Islamic distinctive creates an overemphasis on the unity of God. Allah is so unified in himself and withdrawn from his creation that there can be very little understood of him by Muslims. The adherents to Islam put such an emphasis on God’s unity that they are virtually agnostic in their understanding of who he is. As missionary to Muslims, Jay Smith, asserts:

According to Islam, Allah is one dimensional; that is he has only one character, which is powerful and imposing. He is an omnipotent and impersonal God, one who is completely transcendent, and therefore quite distant and distinct from his creation. (Smith, The Hermeneutical Key, p. 4)

Although there are many philosophical problems with this understanding of God, the main issue is that their view of Allah’s strict unity causes them to completely deny the theological possibility of plurality in eternity. Along with various passages from the Koran that teach against the triune nature of God (Sura 4:116, 170; 112) this overemphasis of God’s unity is what ultimately leads Muslims to reject the Christian concept of the Trinity altogether.

But, the $64,000 question is this– *Do Muslims really deny plurality in eternity?*

I will assert that Muslims would like to deny plurality in eternity at all cost, but they cannot consistently do so no matter how hard they try. The reason is this: Even though Islam strongly rejects the eternal unity and plurality of the Christian God, their own beliefs come back at them with an unavoidable aspect of plurality in eternity. How is this the case? Simply put, Muslims believe that Allah is eternal, and that the Koran is eternal as well. But no Muslim believes that Allah and the Koran are identically the same. What Muslims must realize is that by accepting another distinct eternal entity (i.e. the Koran) in their theological system, they are actually including an aspect of *dual-plurality* within their view of God and eternity. Basically, Muslims try to deny the possibility of eternal unity and plurality for Christians who believe God is an eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But they do so while being guilty of maintaining plurality for themselves by believing in the simultaneous existence of an eternal God and the eternal Koran. Because of the Muslim view of the eternality of the Koran (and its complete distinction from Allah), plurality in eternity is an inescapable aspect of Islamic theology.

This fact blatantly contradicts the Muslim position of Allah’s rigid eternal unity, and, this contradiction greatly weakens Islam’s argument against the eternal plurality and unity of the Christian Trinity in the process. This seems to pose an unavoidable *shirk-o-rama* for devout Muslims who wouldn’t dare assign any partners to God–that is, except for Allah’s eternal companion and partner–the Holy Koran. Since Muslims are always trying to accuse Christians of being tri-theists because of the plurality of the Trinity, perhaps they should analyze their own plurality in eternity before pointing the polytheistic finger at anyone else. Maybe this would be a major step for Muslims to take on the way to realizing that plurality is a necessary aspect of an eternal God; and therefore, the Christian God is the more plausible deity to adhere to.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Book Meme Too

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Sorry I couldn't resist either.

Number of Books I Own:
Not even close to enough. Over 450

Last Book(s) I bought:
The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bartolin; Star Wars and Philosophy by Kevin S. Decker (Editor), Jason T. Eberl (Editor), William Irwin (Editor) [these two are for a paper I am preparing and which I will be posting, on the Ethical System of Star Wars]; The Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Spirit of Medieval Philosophy by Etienne Gilson; Primer on Post Modernism by Stanley Grenz; The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity by Carl Raschke

Last Book(s) I Read:
On Being and Essence by Thomas Aquinas; Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul C. Vitz; Christian Ethics by Norman Geisler; Christianity and Bioethics by Mark W. Foreman; An Introduction to the New Testament: Three Volume Collection by D. Edmond Hiebert

5 Books that Mean a lot to Me:
1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - This is the first book I read after becoming a Christian and it is the one that got me started in my study of Apologetics and Philosophy.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien - A truly timeless work and one that I can read over and over again without ever tiring of the characters and the story.

3. Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages by Etienne Gilson - My first steps into the world of Thomism were taken through this book. Its clarity and depth were astounding as well as its ability to capture the beauty and eloquence of Thomistic Philosophy as it related to the relationship of faith to reason.

4. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman - Besides philosophy my other great passions are teaching and discipleship. This book captures the essences of most of what I have learned about both.

5. Being and God: An Introduction to The Philosophy of Being and Natural Theology by George P. Klubertanz and Maurice R. Holloway - This book may be the quintessential introduction to Thomistic Metaphysics. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Runnerups:
Biography:
Truman by David McCullough
Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie

History:
The Killing of History by Kieth Windschuttle
A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester


Literature and Fiction:
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Persian War by Herodotus
Harry Potter (all of ‘em) by J. K. Rowling (I don't care they're great stories)
The Collected Essays of Montaigne

Theology:
Systematic Theology I-IV by Norman Geisler
Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation by Thomas Howe
How to Read the Bible as Literature and Get More Out of It by Leland Ryken
He Is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer
Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharius


Philosophy:

God and Philosophy by Etienne Gilson
The Portable Nietzsche
Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley
The Republic by Plato



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