Pushing the Antithesis (5)

PTA.jpgDemar, Gary, ed.

Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen

Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007. Pp. xx + 285. Hardcover. $24.95..

Westminster Bookstore | American Vision | Amazon

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With thanks to Gary DeMar and Jane Freeman at American Vision for this review copy!

Chapter 9 deals with the problem of moral absolutes.  The Christian has an absolute standard of morality (God) while the unbeliever falls into moral relativism.  A number of humanists and philosophers, as well as a law professor and even a Wikipedia article (!) are cited to show the morally relativistic position of the unbeliever.  The problem with this position is that it is self-contradictory because:

In effect, they contradictorily have a morality about no morality. They say you should (“should” entails moral obligation or duty) believe there are no moral absolutes. This is illustrated by the ethics professor, committed to moral relativism and denying moral absolutes, who will absolutely demand that his students not cheat on his exams. [p. 172]

Then the problem of “good” comes into play.  Good is defined as that which “evokes approval” either social approval or personal approval.  The problem with good being that which evokes social approval is demonstrated with appeals to societies who have engaged in genocide, cannibalism, human sacrifice, infanticide, child molestation, widow immolation, and community suicide.  By the social approval standard all of these things must be viewed as “good,” but they aren’t!  Personal approval is meaningless because it is subjective.

Another approach to defining “good” is to see it as that which achieves certain ends, e.g., the greatest happiness for the greatest number.  The problem here is that we can’t truly know that this is good.  It assumes that the end is good without knowing how or why it is such.  The unbeliever builds his house on a sandy foundation so when the wind blows hard enough the house comes toppling down.  In other words, the unbelieving worldview cannot rationally account for morality.

In chapter 10 the focus is on the uniformity of nature.  “The uniformity of the universe predicts that what happens at any given time in the material world will, under sufficiently similar conditions, occur again.” [p. 187]  This entails two truths: (1) uniformity is valid in all places, and (2) uniformity is valid at all times.  Uniformity is important because “our everyday lives would be inconceivable without [it]. We would have no unity at all either in experience or thought.” [p. 188]  But accounting for uniformity presents a serious problem for the unbeliever if they are to account for it according to their worldview; “[a]ll sane people assume uniformity, but only the Christian worldview can account for it.” [p. 189]

The unbeliever attempts to account for uniformity by pointing to the past.  They say: “We know the future will be like the past because our past experience of the oncoming future has always been thus.” [p. 189]  The problem is that this only tells us about the past and not the future that lies ahead of us.  Bahnsen points to atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell’s appeal to the principle of induction which he admits “has no foundation in observation, in sense experience.” [p. 189]  This ultimately breaks down into relativism for Russell but the unbeliever has another problem in that they have no genuine assurance that the universe is uniform at all.

The issue boils down to this: Since man cannot know everything he must assume or presuppose uniformity and then think and act on this very basic assumption. Consequently the principle of uniformity is not a scientific law but an act of faith which undergirds scientific law. Thus, adherence to the principle of uniformity–though absolutely essential to science and the scientific method–is an intrinsically religious commitment. […] The unbelieving worldview requires faith in miracles, yet without a reason for those miracles. [p. 192, 194]

However, the uniformity of nature is consistent with the Christian worldview because the sovereign Creator/God of the universe reveals to us in Scripture and experience that “we can count on regularities in the natural world.” [p. 194]

To be continued…

B”H

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