Saturday, November 19, 2005

N.T.Wright and the Resurrection of the Son of God

The Gospels deny that the resurrected Jesus was a spirit. They claim the resurrected Jesus had flesh and blood and ate fish.

This contradicts the earliest writer about the resurrection, Paul, who said that Jesus became a life-giving spirit. Paul also said 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God', and that God will destroy both stomach and food.

The Bishop of Durham, NT Wright wrote a massive book 'The Resurrection of the Son of God', where he attempts to show that Paul and the Gospels are in unity about the nature of the resurrected Jesus.

He deals with Paul saying that the last Adam became a life-giving spirit by never quoting it in full once in his 700 plus page book.

Paul says 'The first Adam became a living soul, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'. Wright never quotes this in full, perhaps because it contradicts the claim in the Gospels that Jesus did not become a spirit. When Wright does quote 'life-giving spirit', he quickly starts to talk about a life-giving body.

I feel that if Paul wanted to talk about a life-giving body, he would have said so. But Paul says that Jesus became a life-giving spirit, because Paul felt that Jesus had become a life-giving spirit after the resurrection.

On page 290, NT Wright destroys the Gospel idea that the risen Jesus ate fish :-

'There is that about the body which will be destroyed; in the non-corruptible future world, food and the stomach are presumably irrelevant. So, for that matter (since find and stomach point metaphorically here to sexual behaviour and sexual organs) will human reproduction be irrelevant. Paul is again treading a fine line here, since he wants to say simultaneously both that the creator will destroy the bits of the body which are being touted by some in Corinth as those to do what they like with and that there is bodily continuity between the present person, behaving this way and that, and the person who will be raised to new bodily life.'

So it would appear that the Gospels conception of what the resurrected Jesus was like totally contradicts the beliefs of the earliest Christian writer , Paul.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Problem of Evil and Saving the Appearances

The problem of evil is a very powerful atheist argument.

There is suffering. Some of this suffering can be reduced. For example, if somebody is ill, curing that person will reduce his suffering.

People try to reduce the suffering of the people they love, and sometimes they can do that.

God loves us. Therefore, God will also try to reduce our suffering, and He can do even more than people can do.

Therefore, if there is suffering which can be reduced, and we can see that it is not reduced, we can conclude there is no omnipotent being who wants to reduce our suffering.

Perhaps a Biblical example will help. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a man is attacked and suffers. A priest and a Levite pass by on the other side, and do nothing to help his suffering. However, a Samaritan does not pass by on the other side. He helps the attacked man.

Can we conclude that the priest and the Levite were not omnibenevolent? That is indeed one of the morals of the story.

In the same way, if one of our children is stricken with leukemia, doctors and nurses will not pass by on the other side. The parents will not pass by on the other side. They will be grief-stricken and do all they can to get their child cured. Only God passes by on the other side. The child will either live or die, but only the earthly father will arrange hospital and surgery visits in the hope of a cure.

The Heavenly Father will not cure the child , although it would be the work of a moment for Him to do so. Perhaps this is because there is no Heavenly Father , who loves the child more than even the earthly father does, and who wants the child to be cured more than even the earthly father does.

In his book, ‘The Miracle of Theism’, JL Mackie allowed that there might be some evils which a god could allow, just as we allow the minor unpleasantness of a visit to the dentist to avoid much worse suffering later.

Mackie called these evils ‘absorbed evils’ because they lead to a greater good.

However many evils do not lead to a greater good and indeed lead to greater evil. If there is famine and drought, people will fight each other for the remaining resources. If an all-loving God wanted to prevent war, a good start would be to abolish famine and drought.

Mackie held that in the face of these gratuitous evils, it was positively irrational to believe in a powerful God who loved us so much he would move Heaven and Earth to spare us unnecessary suffering.

This is called ’The Logical Problem of Evil’, and is a very strong argument. It is at least as strong as the claim that it is irrational to believe that everybody except you has only one leg, because your memory and senses tell you that almost everybody has two legs.

It is such a strong argument that Christians have had to go to extraordinary lengths to ‘save the appearances’ - to try to claim that despite appearances, there really is an all-loving, all-powerful God.

‘Saving the appearances’ refers to what happened before it was established that the Earth went around the Sun. On the theory that all revolves around the Earth, Venus and Mercury appear to behave incorrectly. ‘Saving the appearances’ was the name given to extensions of the Earth-as-centre theory, so that despite appearances to the contrary, it could still be believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe.

‘Saving the appearances’ is a desperate measure to shore up beliefs. Professor Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame University has come up with a theory to save the appearances.

In fact , the defense used by theists to save the appearances is so extreme that it can be used to defend ‘unipedalism’ - the belief that , despite appearances to the contrary, everybody except me has one leg.

I asked a Christian Professor of Philosophy, Professor Greg Welty, if Alvin Plantinga’s method could be used to show that believing in one-legged people was logically consistent, as logically consistent as believing in an all-powerful, all-loving God who allows millions of people to die painful deaths.

Professor. Welty said - 'Surely 'unipedalism' *is* 'logically consistent'.

Professor Welty wrote to me the following :-

(I quote him)

As far as I can tell, you presented the following two statements in your earlier email:

[1] Everybody except me has one leg.

[3] My memory is that almost everybody has two legs.

You then raised the issue as to whether [1] and [3] are consistent. I think it's obvious that they are. Surely it's possible for most people to have one leg *and* that my memory is inaccurate in this regard. For those who want a formal proof of the consistency of [1] and [3], we could find a possibly true proposition that is consistent with [1] and together with [1] entails [3]. In your last email, you helpfully provided such a proposition:

[2] My memory has been corrupted by demons.

OK, then. You've applied Plantinga's procedure as a means of proving that [1] and [3] are consistent. But then, with the above example, you are illustrating for us the *cogency* of Plantinga's procedure! You are not undermining it!

End of Professor Welty’s remarks.

I think logic which can be used to show both that evil is consistent with God and also that we can believe people only have one leg is not logic you can sell to the general public (with the granted exception of Long John Silver)

Plaantinga’s defense is clearly only aimed at ‘saving the appearances’ - so that he can claim, despite all appearances to the contrary, the existence of an all-loving God is compatible with horrific suffering.

Even if Plantinga has succeeded , he has done no more than people did when they wanted to show that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.

In my next 3 blog entries, I try to show why even Plantinga’s appearance-saving defense is dubious.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

William Lane Craig, Molinism and the Problem of Evil

William Lane Craig espouses Molinism, and uses it as a magic get out of jail free card, when faced with the problem of evil, or Ted Drange’s argument from non-belief.

Craig’s argument goes like this.

In every conceivable set of circumstances, free agents like us will choose one particular way (without , of course, those circumstances doing anything as theologically incorrect as determining our choices.). These free choices are out of God’s control, which is why, try as he might , God cannot prevent us choosing evil, or non-belief. In that particular set of circumstances , that agent will choose that way, and that is all there is to it.

All God can do is choose the circumstances which make the best of a bad job. God can do that, but he cannot affect the free will choices made in those circumstances.

How does this possibly work? How does this help Craig?

As an example, take two different sets of circumstances that I can conceive of.

1) I am sitting down to breakfast in an hotel at 8:30 am on Wed. 2/11/2005, and a waiter is asking me ‘Tea or Coffee’, and God has infallible knowledge that I will choose tea.

2) I am sitting down to breakfast in an hotel at 8:30 am on Wed. 2/11/2005, and a waiter is asking me ‘Tea or Coffee’, and God has infallible knowledge that I will choose coffee.

Clearly, I can conceive of both sets of circumstances, and they are both
possible, and they are clearly different to each other.

We can apply Molinism to each set of circumstances, and see if Craig's claim is true that a person will freely choose one particular way in each set of logically possible circumstances that could occur in a real world.

Craig’s Molinism works perfectly here.

In the first, I will freely choose one particular way, just like Craig said I would. I will choose tea.

In the second set of circumstances, Craig is right again. I will choose one particular way. I will choose coffee.

Of course, my choices are different in the two sets of circumstances, but I’m sure Craig will agree that free agents will choose differently in different circumstances, and it cannot be denied that the 2 circumstances are different.

And Craig is right once again that not even God can determine my choice in those 2 sets of circumstances. In set 1), I drink tea, and in set 2), I drink coffee, and there is nothing God can do to change the outcome of either set of circumstances.

So how can Craig’s proposal help him when he claims that God can do nothing about non-believers freely refusing salvation in certain circumstances?

All God has to do is choose the set of circumstances where God has infallible knowledge that the non-believer will choose salvation.

Even granting all of Craig’s assumptions does not prevent there being circumstances where non-believers will choose salvation or that people will freely choose good.

Quite the opposite. Craig’s Molinism guarantees that there will be such circumstances and that nothing can stop a human being freely choosing good.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Alvin Plantinga and the Problem of Evil

Alvin Plantinga defends against the Problem of Evil by saying that it may not be possible for God to create a world where people choose good of their own free will.

He claims that people can choose good of their own free will, and that a world where people do that is perfectly possible in theory, but , paradoxically, an all-powerful God cannot create such a world.

Plantinga's argument runs as follows :-

Suppose there are 2 possible worlds , World 1 and World 2, identical up to a moment in time , T, at which time a person makes a free will choice in the situation he finds himself in in both worlds. He can choose between ,say, to drink tea or to drink coffee.

The person has free will, so suppose in World 1, he freely chooses to drink tea, and in World 2, he freely chooses to drink coffee. Remember , these worlds are identical up to the time the person makes his free will choice. Plantinga's definition of free will means that a person can choose one way or the other in identical situations.

Plantinga then introduces an axiom, which he just assumes to be true.

He says let us suppose that , when a person finds himself in the situation he found himself in world 1 and in also world 2, he always freely chooses to drink tea. Let us give this situation a name and call it situation Tea/Coffee Choice.

Plantinga then says that God cannot create world 2, where the person would choose coffee, because the person would choose to drink tea instead.

Plantinga says that world 2 is a perfectly possible world, because libertarian free will means that if a person is in the situation he finds himself in world 2, he can freely choose to drink tea or freely choose to drink coffee, but it is a fact that he will freely choose to drink tea, so world 2 cannot be created.

Of course, Plantinga has contradicted himself here.

To take one obvious error, the two situations are not identical at all. In one situation, God has infallible knowledge that the person will drink tea, In the other situation, God has infallible knowledge that the person will drink coffee. That is quite a huge difference for circumstances that Plantinga claims are identical.

There are other contradictions in what Plantinga writes.

He has defined 2 worlds as worlds where situation Tea/Coffee Choice applies, and defined one world as the world where coffee is freely chosen by the person and the other world as the world where tea is freely chosen by the person..

Therefore, by Plantinga's own definitions, the claim is false that whenever Tea/Coffee Choice applies, tea is freely chosen.

Plantinga's claims are as follows

1) In world-1 , when Tea/Coffee occurs, tea is chosen

2) In world-2 , when Tea/Coffee occurs , coffee is chosen

3) Whenever Tea/Coffee occurs, tea is chosen.

These 3 claims contradict each other. This explains why Plantinga has never given any evidence that 3) is true or ever attempted to prove that it is true. It is hard to prove something is true, when you have defined it as being false.

Let me illustrate by applying Plantinga's logic to geometry.

Euclid's 5th Postulate supposes that if you have a point and a straight line, only one line can be drawn through the point that is parallel to another given line.

This seems obviously true, but what seems obviously true is not always true.

Surprisingly, it is logically consistent to say that there is no parallel line, and you can make a logically consistent world where there is more than one parallel line.

If Euclid was right, then the angles of a triangle add up to exactly 180 degrees.

However, let us use Plantinga's logic to show that it is logically possible for there to be worlds where the angles of a triangle add up to more than 180 degrees, but that not even an omnipotent God can create such a triangle.

Define 3 possible worlds, all having an identical point and an identical straight line.

It is logically possible that you can draw 0, 1, or more than one line through the point, parallel to the straight line.

World 1 has 0 parallel lines. World 2 has 1 parallel line. World 3 has more than 1 parallel line.

This means that it is logically possible for the angles of a triangle to add up to less than 180 degrees, exactly 180 or more than 180.

Now suppose that whenever this point and line occur in any logically possible world, Euclid was right and you can only draw one line parallel to the original line.

This means that you can only create triangles where the angles add up to exactly 180 degrees.

So it is logically possible for the angles of a triangle to add up to more than 180 degrees, but not even an omnipotent God can actualise such a world.

The fallacy is , of course, that you cannot say that Euclid was right in every logically possible world, as you have defined some worlds as being worlds where Euclid was wrong.

Euclid was a genius and he was quite correct to say that if his parallel line axiom was correct, then it is logically impossible for the angles of triangles to add up to anything other than 180 degrees. Euclid knew better than to claim that the angles of a triangle could logically add up to more than 180 degrees, but that such triangles can never be created. Euclid started with axioms and then worked out what was logically possible, given those axioms. He did not start by working out what was logically possible, and then introduce axioms later. All of his proofs of what is logically possible depend upon the axioms he has stated he is using before he gives his proof.

Perhaps Plantinga could learn from Euclid and state that if Plantinga's axiom is correct , that people always freely choose the same way in a certain situation, then it is not logically possible for them to choose differently in that situation.


There is a nice exposition of Plantinga’s argument at

This confirms that Plantinga’s argument depends upon contradicting his own definitions.

It says :-

Transworld Depravity
Now consider the following: Suppose that there is a maximal world segment S* that obtains in W* such that Curley always does what is right in W*:

a. S* includes Curley being free with respect to A but does not include his performing A or refraining from A,

b. S* is otherwise as much like W* as possible, and
c. If S* had been actual, Curley would have gone wrong with respect to A.

This means God could not actualize W*. If he did, then he would have to actualize S*. But then Curley would have gone wrong with respect to A.

If God makes Curley do right by A, then Curley will not be free. Thus, God cannot actualize W*.

This confirms that Plantinga’s argument depends upon defining a world where somebody freely chooses right, and then assuming that people do not choose right in that world. By definition, that assumption is wrong.