Reviews - What do customers think about The Clarity of God's Existence: The Ethics of Belief After the Enlightenment?
Unclear about clarity Mar 4, 2010
this book is not to long, but it sure seems foggy. the writer has the right aim, but i did not get any clarity on his statements that other apologetic systems lack this clarity. this is an interesting and unusual treatment of defending the faith, but for me it was hard to grasp. this is a it difficult to read and seems mainly targeted at scholars and not learned lay-people.
Romans 1:18-32 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
The Necessity of Clarity: Apologetics Jan 15, 2010
Foundational disagreements long have been a staple of the diverse and polymorphic Christian apologetic systems. But even the advocates of the most dissimilar systems can learn from one another--classical to evidential to presuppositional--truths propagated from their apologetic quest. That's why in "The Clarity of God's Existence" Owen Anderson has a leg up on some modish defenders of the Christian faith. When he discusses different apologetic positions, Anderson excavates the truth from that position and applies it to his own as he contravenes their subsidiary assumptions. Anderson argues that most apologetic systems ignore the fundamental role of of clarity. He examines the "constellation of clarity, responsibility, and inexcusability" in detail (Foreword: Stephen Webb). Hence this is a unique and fascinating analysis inspired by the sagacious philosopher Surrendra Gangadean.
Professor Anderson maintains that rational skepticism is self-refuting inasmuch as "if nothing is clear about basic features of reality, such as what has existed from eternity, can humans be held responsible or accountable for believing anything? There is a relationship between responsibility and clarity..." (p. xiv). He then builds on this: "For something to be clear in this sense is for it to be based on clear distinctions, such as between a and non-a, or being and non-being. The denial of clarity involves the denial that there are clear distinctions--the opposite of what is clear is impossible because it denies the very distinction necessary for intelligibility" (p. xiv). Nevertheless he writes that one should not commingle the Doctrine of God with soteriology (all sinners know God exists, but the sinner needs God's grace to come to saving knowledge of God: p.117).
The author presses that the "clarity of God's existence is a necessary presupposition to the Christian claims about redemption. If unbelief is excusable, then God's existence is not clear. If God's existence is not clear, then it cannot be inexcusable to fail to believe in God" (p. 14).
Anderson's arguments that claim to disallow inexcusability start with the notion that "there is no being from non-being, or its equivalent expression that there are no uncaused events. Arguing from the impossibility of being from non-being is a necessary assumption for all intelligibility..." (p. 19). Furthermore he asserts that "something has existed from eternity, and that only God can be eternal (in contrast to the material world or finite self)..." (p. 19).
He summarizes his apologetic by saying: "Clarity is necessary for inexcusability, the traditional proofs did not establish clarity, Hume and Kant challenged the ability of reason itself to know God, responses to Hume and Kant have not established clarity, and if Historic Christianity is to continue to claim that unbelief is a sin, then it must show the clarity of God's existence" (p. 19).
Anderson states that "maximum clarity requires proving the impossibility of the alternatives, thus leaving no rational excuse for believing them" (p. 44). The author engages the presuppositions of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Locke (p.p. 62-80). He opines that "Aquinas represents the best in the medieval tradition and in many ways is still among the best today. However, his empirical assumptions affect how he argues for God's existence and how he views the human condition. The conclusions of his arguments do not resemble the God of theism" (p. 76). Whereas one cannot justify universal conclusions based on observations of the finite (p. 84).
A fine statement is found on page 109: "Christian belief presupposes the existence of God. It also claims that the failure to believe in God is inexcusable." Later he rejects Craig's, Plantinga's, and Van Til's apologetic approaches as he confutes Craig's classical proofs and Plantinga's reformulation of the Ontological argument (p.p. 109-138). Additionally he rejects eivdentialism and cumulative case apologetics (p. 124-126).
I disagree with Anderson's evaluation of Van Til's presuppositional approach. He asserts that presuppositional apologetics (PA) "relies on a negative critique of non-Christian worldviews" (p. 128). Although PA readily refutes non-Christian worldviews, it also offers the biblical truth that only the triune God can account for anything and that it can account for all things. The proclaiming and defending Christian Theism (CT) is the thrust of the PA framework. It can take on all epistemic comers, but it demonstrates that the nature and revelation of the Triune God furnishes the epistemic edifice to account for the rational pre-essentials for intelligibility: immaterial immutable universals (the laws of logic, moral law, mathematical truths, etc.). He also stipulates that PA only provides a refutation of Naturalism (p. 128), yet it is Triune theism that PA affirms and defends, not mere theism (see the book which refutes the World Religions utilizing PA: "One Way to God" by Mike A Robinson). Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, and a host of PA advocates use a lot of ink contending that only Christian Triune theism can offer a solution to the problem of the "one and many" and this solution offers epistemic tools to account for language, science, mathematics, personal identity, other minds, etc.
The author continues his misconstrued analysis as he suggests that PA "becomes fideistic and based on question-begging appeals to scripture" (p. 129). Per contra Van Til and PA adherents have stated, restated, and defended the truth that all proof presupposes and requires Christian theism. They offer transcendental arguments that prove the necessity of CT.
Anderson proceeds to do what he does best: defeat the ground and framework of unbelief. He states that one is inexcusable if: 1. One holds to contradicting beliefs. 2. One does not have integrity: one does not live up to one's own principles. 3. One does not know what is clear. 4. One does not see what is clear. Clarity requires distinguishing between a and non-a. An example of a basic belief that is clear is the distinction between being and non-being. There is no excuse for failing to distinguish these because their distinction is the foundation of all thought--to give an excuse requires this distinction (p.p. 141-142).
Professor Anderson dismantles Hume's skepticism by showing "that reflection upon sense information leads to ideas about what is eternal, and second, by expanding on Hume's claim that a contradiction between ideas is meaningless." For "change is constant with respect to sense data. This has been noted from the beginning of philosophy ... and arguing past change to universals is a problem for all empiricists" (p. 146). Furthermore eternal means "what is without beginning and therefore changeless... This is because any being that has unique change, and has existence form eternity, would already have achieved such change ... we cannot have sense data of what is changeless and eternal." Because the claim that "none is `eternal' is a contradiction, then it is meaningless, it cannot be true, and its contradiction `something is eternal' must be true" (p.p. 146-147). This is a powerful argument but the author seems at places to admit that it doesn't prove God is the eternal ground (many PA advocates claim that the immutable God of CT must be, and that PA does prove CT; see Bahnsen's book: "Always Ready" and my book: "God's Necessary Existence"). Anderson brings this excellent work to a close as he contends: "All knowledge claims presuppose causation to hold, and when I tell you something I presuppose that my claim will cause some understanding in you... If there is no causation then there can be no intelligibility... The only consistent option is silence. And yet Hume is not silent ... He must presuppose causation--he wants his words to cause us to think" (p. 151). I would further contend that this type of argument can be expanded to maintain that language, meaning, and conceptions require and presuppose CT inasmuch as they necessitate causation as well as induction (that the concepts I utilize will hold in the future: CT can account for this a priori essential).
Anderson goes on to marvelously confute Kant's TA with the truth of being and the necessity of an eternal epistemic wellspring. He adds that Kant's stultifies himself "because of his failure to apply his own method" (p. 160). Additionally he writes that the "basic idea of being and non-being are presupposed by all other intuitions, judgments, and perceptions" (p. 163). And I would add that one should employ Van Til's and Frame's arguments that intelligibility rests on God's aseity: God's ontic independence and His self-contained being. And Van Til noted that the "immutability of God is involved in his aseity." There must be a foundation, somewhere that is unchanging and has aseity. Van Til elucidates this: "We must rather reason that unless God exists as ultimate, as self-subsistent, we could not know anything, we could not even reason that God does not exist, nor could we even ask a question about God." There must exist a certain, absolute, self-sufficient, and unchanging basis for the intelligibility of our world: God. He must exist to account for the unchanging and transcendent laws of logic. Fallible and mutable humanity cannot supply the required pre-necessities for absolute and unchanging realities. Only the Lord God can. The Triune God alone has the ability and character to provide that which is necessary to make sense out of reality.
Van Til remarked that "God is absolute. He is autonomous." Man cannot be autonomous (not subject to the rule or authority of another) in thought or deed. For strict autonomy, one must have aseity, self-rule, and supreme sovereignty which only the true God has. Much of mankind has rebelled against the authority of God and that rebellion culminated in non-belief. Men seek escape from a holy God through actively disbelieving. Still, God lives, and all men will be accountable to His righteousness and justice (for more see my books: "A Letter to An Atheist Nation" and "Presuppositional Apologetics Examines Mormonism").
Furthermore when Professor Anderson delivers the proof for God's existence through the necessity of reason, being, and eternity, he must then go to a TAG to offer the moral law which provides the "ought" needed to require one to affirm what is true. Proper presuppositional framework delivers arguments based on the entire Christian world view grounded on the Triune God and His aseity. The Necessary Existence of God: The Proof of Christianity Through Presuppositional Apologetics