A Philosophy Instructor's Observations on the ABC Nightline Face Off... and other thoughts (blasphemy challenge, etc.)
Hello Kelly and Sapient,
As a human being first, a christian second, and a philosophy instructor, I have several observations to make. First of all, thank you for promoting rational civilization. Secondly, thank you for taking life seriously enough to challenge beliefs that appear to you to be false and sometimes dangerously false.
The letters G-O-D don't mean anything until they are filled with content, and the christianity I know claims to be truth of the sort that can be rationally responded to And of course if they don't have any rational meaningly content, then of course "blaspheming the holy spirit" becomes meaningless and harmless.
Since Mr. Comfort claimed to be able to prove God's existence without using the bible, I think it was a bit dishonest to then bring it into the debate. And, when he did so, I believe he did so in part by way of using the biblical teachings as a kind of magical incatation. That is to say, proclaiming the teachings forcefully and loudly as if the words themselves were somehow magical; as if the hearers didn't need to understand, but just listen and believe... or go to hell. Although Mr. Comfort would be the first to deny using the bible in this way, he can't help it. The bible has been used this way by well-meaning, but sadly misinformed christians for at least the last 60-70 years. Curiously, when you offered your rational responses to their presentations, they failed to respond because they were unprepared. It makes me suspect that in their preparations and prayers they were possibly hoping they would not need to respond because they were possibly praying that God would convince and/or convert everyone during their presentation. (Of course I could be wrong about this.)
I want to finish up with two substantive observations in defense of Mr. Comfort's presentations. Regarding the painting demands a painter argument, I was reminded of the atheistic philosopher Anthony Flew, and his parable of the garden:
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, "There is no gardener." So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener." So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves." At last the Sceptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"
Flew doesn't answer and Mr. Comfort didn't answer, but I know of a good answer. What is the difference between an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?
The existence of the garden demands an explanation... a reason... a sufficient CAUSE for it's existing rather than not existing.
Which leads to my final observation regarding your comments about the third law of thermodynamics and your suggestion that maybe the universe itself is eternal and therefore doesn't need a God or a cause.
If the universe is eternal, then there must be an explanation... a reason... a sufficient CAUSE WITHIN ITSELF for it's existing and being eternal.
The philosopher A. J. Ayer defined "sufficient cause" as being either a necessary condition or a sufficient or both. More precisely, the cause of a given event (its effect) can be defined as that set of conditions, among all the conditions that occurred, each of which was necessary and the totality of which was sufficient for the occurrence of the event in question [see The Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Causation].
I offer these observations respectfully.
p.s. I plan to post this to The Way of the Master website and to my blog: http://www.madisonthacker.com