Friday, February 28, 2014

Updating the sidebar

When I started this blog I wrote posts describing most of the categories on the sidebar, and made the title of each category on the sidebar link to the corresponding post. But I've decided to rewrite them because I've made enough changes to justify it. I wrote a new post for the Ministries category , and I just updated the Posts of Interest category on the sidebar to include more links but making it more concise. Just so you know, I'll be doing that for the other categories in the coming months.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two witnesses

I've encountered Christians who, in an attempt to argue for a young earth, claim that we could only know if something took place if there were people there to witness it. Since there weren't any people before there were any people, we can't (or at least don't need to) accept the various scientific evidences showing the earth and universe to be billions of years old. The only person there was God, and -- so the young earth proponent argues -- God tells us in the Bible that the earth and universe are young.

Now I have contested the claim that the Bible actually states or implies that the universe is young. Additionally, I have argued  that the Bible states that the universe, the cosmos, nature, is an understandable revelation from God to everyone who has ever lived -- that is, people who lived in times and places that had no access to the Bible still received revelation from him through nature, and this revelation was understandable to them without the Bible. In other words, nature does not have to be viewed through the lens of Scripture before we can trust what it seems to say. But in order to take this claim about human witnesses head on, we can more specific: in the Bible the elements of nature are sometimes called upon as witnesses of the events which took place in their presence. For example, God states that heaven and earth will be a witness to his promises to the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; Psalm 50:4-6). The prophets call upon nature to bear witness to the truth of their message (Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 6:19; 22:29; Micah 6:1-2). Often, stones are set in place or altars are made -- Hebrew altars being simply uncut rocks piled on top of each other (Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5-6; Joshua 8:30-31) -- so that these elements of nature can bear witness to promises made between God and people, or just between people (Genesis 28:16-19; 31:43-53; Joshua 22:26-34; 24:26-27; Isaiah 19:19-20). Obviously these latter cases are not exactly the same as the former cases, since they involve human beings altering nature in order to bear witness to something. I'm including them because they alter nature in an extremely limited way, by simply moving a rock into a different position, or moving several into a pile.

The witness of nature (general revelation) is even put side by side with the witness of the Bible (special revelation) (Deuteronomy 30:19/31:19/31:26-28; Psalm 19). This isn't because either of these witnesses can't be trusted by itself -- that we need one of them in order to verify or falsify the other -- but because they are complementary. That is, they are equally valid and true, although not necessarily equally illuminating (obviously, special revelation tells us more about God than general revelation).

This contrasts strongly with the biblical statements about the reliability of human witness. We are warned that we need more than one person as a witness, for the simple reason that people lie (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 1 Timothy 5:19). A moment's reflection will make evident why there is such a disparity between the witness of nature and the witness of human beings: nature and its elements don't have wills, and thus cannot lie or misrepresent. They can't give a false impression of what has transpired, because they can't alter the effects that events have had upon them. Were this not the case, then all of the Scripture passages which tell us that God reveals his faithfulness and steadfastness through nature would simply be wrong.

So, contrary to this claim that we need human witnesses before we can be justified in believing something took place, the Bible suggests that the witness of nature is more trustworthy. Again, this witness is limited: nature can't tell us about Jesus, it can't tell us about God's salvation plan. But we can't use the fact that it's limited to reject nature's witness altogether. The Bible doesn't allow us to.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

AC/DC's fast tracks

Back in the day, I had all of the AC/DC albums up through The Razor's Edge except Powerage which underwhelmed me (my favorite was Let There Be Rock which is just the hardest rocking thing I've ever heard). I've always had a special appreciation for their fast tracks, so below are those I remember. If I'm missing any, let me know.


Baby Please Don't Go

Beating around the Bush


This Means War

Fire Your Guns

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Sorry readers, I've been really swamped for the last few weeks and didn't have time to blog. Here are a few tidbits to tide you over.

1. If you're feeling a little down about how badly people suck, read this.

2. You can play Sid Meier's Civilization online. Yes, this was part of the reason why I didn't have time to blog. Sorry.

3. Theist philosopher Edward Feser and atheist philosopher Keith Parsons look like they're going to have an online debate. It should be interesting.

4. My post on the appearance of age issue generated some comments over at Quodlibeta, to which I've just responded.

5. Here's a publication list on philosophy of mind. I'm particularly interested in the subcategory of Gödelian arguments.

6. A friend back in Belgium emailed me an interview with Alvin Plantinga in the New York Times: "Is Atheism Irrational?"

7. 17 great films you might have missed. Of them, I've only seen Sunshine, which is absolutely brilliant, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which I bought cheap, saw once, and haven't seen again. Not that it's bad, it's just over-long. A friend described The Man from Earth before I found this list, but didn't remember the title. Now that I know it, I very much want to see it. And I just read Children of Men a few months ago, and wouldn't mind seeing the movie.

Friday, February 7, 2014


 Alonzo Church was "A deeply religious person [and] a lifelong member of the Presbyterian church." I never knew that. Heaven certainly has more than its fair share of logicians.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I have put a short list of ministries at the top of my sidebar. The reason they're at the top (except for the brief explanation of what my blog's title means) is because they're more important than anything else. I won't be adding more ministries to this list, for the simple reason that there would be no justifiable stopping point. There are simply too many worthy ministries, and I would always be guilty of excluding very deserving ones. For example, while I recently mentioned Heifer International, I didn't put them on the sidebar because it would just open a floodgate. The sidebar list is just a few ministries I knew of and was (and am) encouraged by when I started this blog. However if you want to mention some more ministries in the comments (with links if possible) have at it.

The first is International Justice Mission. I love these guys. They go to countries where child prostitution is illegal but the laws against it are largely unenforced, and work together with the local authorities to rescue children out of it. In other words, they go in and get the children out. They walk the walk. And it's not just with child prostitution; they work against manual slavery, and other forms of violent persecution. Several years ago I read a book by the president of IJM, Gary Haugen, entitled Terrify No More about a particular project in which they freed dozens of children. If you have some extra cash, you might want to consider donating it to IJM. Organizations like this are what money is for.

Second and third are Medical Teams International (formerly Northwest Medical Teams) and Mercy Corps. I know these organizations because they're both based in Portland, where I'm from. They go all over the world getting people the food, medicine, and amenities they need. Ditto with the money thing.

Finally, the Hunger Site. You might already know about this: you simply go to the site, click on the button, and food will be donated (by advertisers) to people all over the world who need it. You can only click once a day. I had it as my homepage on my old computer, and that made it very easy to remember. I've fallen way out of the practice over the last few years, and part of the reason I'm writing this post is to shame myself into getting back on board. If you're wondering whether it's on the up-and-up, here's a Snopes article on it. The Hunger Site also has a topbar linking to similar sites, which you can also click once a day, focusing on literacy, breast cancer, animal rescue, etc. You can click on each one of them once a day, and it only takes a minute out of your time, so there's no reason not to do it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

To read

"Teleology: A Shopper's Guide" by Edward Feser (Philosophia Christi 12/1 [2010]: 142-59).