Archive for March, 2012

March 31, 2012

Parallelomania and the Chronological Fallacy

by Max Andrews

Pagan Copycat Theory: The story of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospels is a myth incorporating various aspects of other ancient pagan religions.

–“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysius, Adonis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem.” (Freke and Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries, 9)

The Chronological Fallacy

  • In order for the copycat charge to work the parallel must chronologically precede the development of Christianity.
  • Some of the mystery religions developed after the birth of Christianity
    • Example:  Appolonious of Tyana was a contemporary of Jesus (3BC-97AD) but was not written about until 220-230AD
    • While several of the religions preceded Christianity themselves, many of the parallel claims about them do not.
      • While the Horus myth precedes Christianity by 3000 years, claims that Horus  birth was marked by a star in the east  or three kings adored him are found only in post-Christian secondary sources.
      • While there is evidence of Christianity employing some aspects of mystery religions late (4th -5th c.) evidence of borrowing earlier (3rd c.) suggests reverse: mystery religions borrowed from Christianity.
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March 30, 2012

Parallelomania and the Terminological Fallacy

by Max Andrews

Pagan Copycat Theory: The story of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospels is a myth incorporating various aspects of other ancient pagan religions.

–“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem.” (Freke and Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries, 9)

Common religious figures Jesus is usually compared to:

  • Appolonius of Tyanna (Greek)
  • Horus/Osiris (Egypt)
  • Dionysus – Bacchus (Greek/Roman)
  • Attis (Phrygian)
  • Mithra (Persian/Roman)
  • Zoroaster (Persian)
  • Krishna (Hindu)
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March 30, 2012

Unbelievable? The Conference: Giving a Skeptical World Reasons to Believe

by Max Andrews

Most of my blog followers are from North America but I do have several followers in the UK.  I want to promote this conference coming up hosted by Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? hosted by Justin Brierly and partnering with Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe.

We live in a sceptical world. Atheism has taken on an evangelistic tone in the UK. Secularists claim to have a monopoly on reason. So how should the Church respond?

Premier Christian Radio presents an apologetics day conference aimed at equipping everyday Christians with reasons for the truth of their faith. The conference will also focus on how to share these truths in a fruitful and engaging way.

This year’s Conference partner is Reasons To Believe – a Christian apologetics teaching and research organisation with the mission to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research consistently uphold, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible.

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March 30, 2012

The Artistry of Evil

by Max Andrews

It seems, by all evidences, that man is the only creature that can make evil artistic.  Not only can we be merely evil but we add artistry to it.  Consider this section from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

“By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow,” Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother’s words (Alyosha), “told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a general rising of the Slavs.  They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them–all sorts of things you can’t imagine.  People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.

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March 30, 2012

Why Does God Love Us? — I Don’t Know

by Max Andrews

One of my friends, who is also in the philosophy class I help teach, emailed me several weeks ago asking why God loves us?  It’s a great question.  In light of our sin and the darkness within us why would a perfectly moral and holy being love us?  I responded to her question and I thought I’d share it online here.  So, to jump to the end and give you my answer up front: I have no idea why God loves us.

This is one of those things that you can surely put the puzzle pieces together to say that God is just and that God is loving. Any philosophy of religion text or systematic theology can articulate the theological coherence of these things.  The hardest thing about this is that, like you, I still don’t get it. It’s certainly not a simple answer in my opinion.  I’m an existentialist at heart.  I think we find ourselves on the scene thrusted into existence without any ability to say otherwise.

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March 29, 2012

Famous Philosophy Majors

by Max Andrews

You may be quite surprised to find out which famous people have majored in philosophy.  BestCollegesOnline recently did an article discussing fourteen famous philosophy majors.  Most you’ll probably recognize.  If you don’t, you’re probably familiar with their associations or affects they’ve had in the world.  These people range from politics to comedy.  One person that was not mentioned was Bill Clinton.  When you realize Clinton was a philosophy major you won’t mock him when he asks what the definition of ‘is’ is.  Is ‘is’ an identity claim or is ‘is’ a predication?  Perhaps, we just laughed out of ignorance?  Anyways, enjoy the likes of Alex Trebek, Steve Martin, Bruce Lee, and …

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March 29, 2012

Theology Thursday: John Chrysostom

by Max Andrews

The name “John the Golden-mouthed” was given him over a century after his death.  Of the great preachers of the fourth century, which included Ambrose and Gregory Nazianzen, none was greater than John Chrysostom.  Yet great as his oratorical skills were, greater still was his personal integrity and boldness in confronting the rich and powerful of his day. Chrysostom was born in Antioch. His mother, Anthusa, became a widow at age twenty when John was an infant. She refused to remarry, instead devoting herself to her son.  John received training in rhetoric and was being groomed for a profession in law by the most famous orator of the day, Libanius. In fact, when asked who should succeed him, Libanius answered: “John, but the Christians have laid claim on him.” In keeping with his mother’s wish, John entered upon his catechumenate at the age of twenty, and three years later was baptized by Bishop Meletius of Antioch.

John studied theology under Diodore of Taursus, leader of the Antiochene School. Early on he felt called to the monastic life, but put off entry into a monastery so long as his mother was alive so that he could care for her.  Shortly after her death in 373 he joined a monastery in the Syrian mountains, living as a hermit for two years. So great were his austerities that he did lasting damage to his health.

He was ordained deacon in 381, serving in Antioch under bishop Flavian. Flavian also ordained him presbyter in 386 and, in view of his gifts, appointed him to devote special attention to preaching.  While at Antioch, John achieved fame for preaching that sought to instruct and reform those who were only nominally Christian.

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March 28, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Modal Realism

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Modal Realism

Definition: Modal realism is the idea that all modal possibilities are actual.

More about the term:  Anything that is possible actually happens.  However, modal realism is, in a sense, modally limited.  The state of affairs of the non-existence of anything cannot be true if something does exist so by definition modal realism must entail ~∃!W with W being the non-existence of anything—nothing, lest it suffer the consequence of being intrinsically incoherent (~∃!W = There does not exist just one W).  In order to avoid an inherent incoherence perhaps there are logically antecedent reasons to affirm ~∃!W (i.e. actuality is logically prior to possibility, which makes possibility somewhat superfluous). Under certain multiverse scenarios different regions of space will exhibit different effective laws of physics (i.e. difference constants, dimensionality, particle content, relation of information, information propagation, etc.) corresponding to different local minima in a landscape of possibilities.[1] 

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March 28, 2012

The Laws of Nature and the Metaphysical Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

The role of counterfactuals serves to make distinctions in regularities.  Concerning the RT and counterfactuals the regularist may claim that laws do not purport what will always occur but what would have occurred if things were different.  NT claims that it is difficult for RT to account for certain counterfactual claims because what happens in the actual world do not themselves imply anything about what would have happened had things been different.[4]  This is only a mere negative assertion on behalf of NT and carries no positive reason to adopt the NT position.  However, RT does have a limited scope in explanation. C.D. Broad argued that the very fact that laws entail counterfactuals is incompatible with regularity theory.[5]  He suggests that counterfactuals are either false or trivially true. If it is now true that Q occurs if P causally precedes Q then the regularist may sufficiently account for past counterfactual claims.  Given the present antecedent condition of P at tn and P implies Q at tn and it was true that P implied Q at tn-1 then using P as an antecedent for R at hypothetical tn-1’ then R is true if P was a sufficient condition R at tn-1’. Thus, RT accounts for past counterfactuals, but this is trivially true.  However, in positive favor of the NT, there is no reason to expect the world to continue to behave in a regular manner as presupposed by the practice of induction.  Consider Robin Collins’ illustration of this point:

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March 27, 2012

Hume on the Teleological Argument

by Max Andrews

Below is a brief outline of David Hume’s criticisms of the teleological argument found in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion] and responses to them.

  1. The argument doesn’t get us to God, at most it just gets to a designer.
    1. This is not arguing for God, just an extremely intelligent mind, which exists apart from the universe.
    2. Constructive empiricism[1]
  2. You can only use analogy to argue for things that are similar, but the universe is unique.
    1. As long as the two things being compared are relevantly similar in the properties under consideration, they can be analogized.  Everything is unique in some way; however, we can still compare things where they are similar.  The universe is not unique in all its properties for it shares some properties with other things (design).
  3. You can only use analogy about things you have empirically experienced, but no one experienced the origin of the universe.
    1. Scientists infer the existence and operations of empirically inexperienced entities on the basis of analogizing from what they do know from experience (i.e. particles)
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