Saturday, March 21, 2015

Genesis, Science, and Humility

According to many young-earth creationists (YEC), non-Christian scientists falsely interpret Nature, and they do so on-purpose.  This is because they have their own, unbelieving worldview, and they also are trying to make people not believe in God.  Now of course, there are some scientists who "have an ax to grind" (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, and the like come to mind).  If only they knew the Lord, so the argument goes, they'd interpret nature aright.  While that may be true for some scientists, is it true of all of them who aren't YEC?  This claim is especially used with respect to the age of the universe and understanding starlight and time.  Let's examine this claim from the perspective of  both YEC and OEC (Old Earth Creationism).

Navigating the turbulent waters of YEC and OEC is like trying to cross a stream on slippery rocks without getting one's feet wet.  One false move, and whammo, you're in trouble.  Whatever one's position is, the important thing to remember is one's metaphysics (theory of reality).  Along with metaphysics, comes one's epistemology (theory of knowledge).  The crux of the discussion is the relationship of Scripture to Nature.  There is also the issue of arrogance, and there is a serious moral problem among many people in this discussion, of which I will comment toward the end of this post.

For many YEC's, Scripture trumps nature every time, and is the lens through which Nature must be interpreted.  For OEC's, Scripture and Nature are the "Two Books" God has given us, where both fit together in a mosaic, aiding human understanding of creation and Creator.  Now, given the fact that starlight takes millions of years to get to earth so that we can see it, YEC's say God created the light in transit during the creation week.  Hence, we can now see such light.  OEC's accept the prima facie understanding that because starlight takes millions of years to get here, that the universe is old.  I'm not going to discuss the science of that in this post, so much as the epistemological issues at stake. (For an easy-to-understand article on this see, Greg Koukl's "Starlight and the Age of the Universe" listed below.)

The YEC view often says things that, in my opinion, are harmful.  For example, I've heard arguments that scientists who think the universe is billions of years old are "darkened in their understanding" (Ephesians 4:18) and are hostile to God.  They have an "unbelieving worldview" and therefore, their interpretation of reality (metaphysics) is untrustworthy.  Well, I have two issues with this.

First, as a rejoinder, I'd like to point out that using Ephesians 4:18, and other texts like Romans 1:18, where unbelievers "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" are speaking of moral problems in men and women.  Of course, epistemology and ethics are interrelated, and unbelievers do "suppress the truth" and they do so in "unrighteousness."  Hence, there is such a thing as "moral knowledge."  Still, these texts aren't indicting humans as to their interpretation of the natural order with reference to its age. Romans 1 is concerned with idolatry, lack of thankfulness to the one, true, God (v. 21), and immorality (vv. 18-32).   Romans 1 is concerned with humans' interpretation of the natural order with respect to its nature and essence.  In Romans 1, the indictment is against the worship of nature, not age of it. Similarly, Ephesians 4:18 is about Gentiles who have a "hardness of heart" and live lives of greed, impurity, and "every kind of indecency."  Again, this is more of a moral problem, than a "scientific" one.

Secondly, would we say that an unbelieving doctor, or engineer, or math teacher has a faulty interpretation of reality?  "But," a YEC may counter, "If scientists really knew God, they'd believe the Bible and interpret Nature accordingly, as recent, young, and so on."  Well, if that were the case, then why do so many Christians understand Genesis as teaching something different than YEC?  Do we want to say that they, too, have capitulated to unbelieving understandings of Nature?  The burden of proof here is then for the YEC to show that such an interpretation of Genesis is the only viable one available.  But this is biting off a lot to chew: it requires intimate knowledge of hermeneutics and Hebrew.  On that score alone, things get complicated, and the YEC faces the dilemma of this fact: due to things being complicated, the YEC view loses its power, because the thrust of its argument is that the beauty of YEC is how very simple and easy it is to follow.

For example, in Genesis 1:2, it says "the earth was formless and void, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  Here, the earth is in existence prior to the completion of Day 1 (v. 5).  How long was the earth there before the completion of Day 1?  I don't know.  Do you?

Another example of how Genesis 1 & 2 are complex is the use of the word "day" (Hebrew, yom).  In Genesis 2:4, it says, "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the day (Hebrew, yom) that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens."  Of course, in chapter 2 v. 4. there is no numerical adjective followed by the phrase "evening and morning" in chapter 1.  But that's just the point, isn't it?  The text is complex.  Further complexity is seen in that God made them male and female on the 6th day (1:31), but in chapter 2, Adam seems to have lived for at least more than a single day before the creation of his wife, as Adam worked the ground, named the animals, and listened to the Lord's command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Did all of this happen in a 24-hour period?  Maybe it did.  However, to say it is a hard-and-fast interpretation seems a bit stretchy, like those old toys I had in the 70's.  (Stretch Armstrong.  Remember the weird, green goo inside of them?  I bet it was toxic, for sure.)

Does it make sense why some Christians see complexity in the text and have reasons to believe the YEC understanding isn't as simple as it seems?

Now about the knowledge of unbelieving scientists.  Does my allergist not know that if she gives me my allergy shots that I'll get better?  This is a common theme in presuppositionalism which feeds a number of YEC's, that unbelievers don't truly know reality, because they don't know (or, rather, believe) that the Triune God is the author of that reality.  Ok. Here, we would get into some serious metaphysical and epistemological discussions about the justification of knowledge, univocal and analogical reasoning, and so on.  Do we really want to go there when talking about whether my Hindu, atheist, Jewish, or Muslim heart surgeon truly knows what he's doing in making me better?  He understand my heart, and its mechanical workings, yes? This is a simple, practical question that has a simple answer, doesn't it?

The OEC view follows the Belgic Confession's "Two Books" doctrine whereby Scripture and Nature both speak of God's acts and ways.  Scripture is special revelation, and Nature is general revelation (Psalm 19:1-6; Matthew 6:26; Romans 1:18ff).  Both Books inform us of what God is like, and what He has done, is doing, and will do.  Scripture, of course, tells us more about God's actions and ways, and His future plans.  Nature, though, is something that humans, with the aid of their God-given reason, can discover, manipulate, cultivate, and use to His glory, and for the good of mankind. The Belgic Confession would seem to eschew the idea that in order to understand Nature on a practical, truthful level, we would need Scripture to tell us about it.  While it's true that some in the unbelieving world hold to metaphysical notions that are untenable and indeed impractical, such as that reality is an illusion (some forms of Hinduism).  But that's not everyone, and it's still the case that such people eat, sleep, and carry on with their lives.  It seems to me then, that the YEC presuppositionalism needs to be jettisoned for a better fusion of Scripture and Nature as understood by the Belgic Confession.  Unbelievers do understand reality at a good, practical level and extent.  Agree?

Now about arrogance.  Without naming names, I have told people time and again, the main problem I have with YEC's is their arrogance.  There is a flippancy in argumenation, and also an ungodly attitude towards OEC's (and other brothers and sisters in Christ) that is prevalent among YEC's.  It's true that arrogance can be found among theistic evolutionists, OEC's, and ID theorists.  That's part of the human condition.  However, I have witnessed and have personally experienced terrible arrogance at the highest levels in the YEC movement.  I wonder how it can be, that is someone has the correct understanding of Scripture, that such an ungodly demeanor can be manifest so expressly among people?  Is it fear?  Perhaps it is fear.  For fear will override the rational faculties in people, and cause them to operate on emotion.  Maybe that's it.  Whatever it is, it needs to stop, for "the Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Proverbs 3:34, cf. 1 Peter 5:5).  There is a better way than to treat people with a different point of view who still hold to orthodox Christianity.  Take the Apostle's Creed for example.  If we can agree on that, can we love each other, even as we are called to love our enemies--people who don't hold to such a statement of belief?

Koukl's article:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PZ Myers & Fazale Rana Debate - Darwinian Evolution and Knowing Truth

Last month on February 12 at the Ramada Inn in Fargo, N. Dakota, Drs. PZ Myers (atheist) and Fazale "Fuz" Rana (Christian theist) held a debate on whether there is evidence for God's existence, based upon the notion of whether there is design at the microbiological level.  Myers (Ph.D., Biology, University of Oregon) is a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, and Rana (Ph.D., Chemistry, Ohio University) is a biochemist by training, who works in research at Reasons to Believe, an old-earth Christian thinktank and apologetics ministry.  

The debate is almost two-and-a-half hours long.  I'm only commenting on one question Fuz asked PZ during the ten-minute cross-examining portion of the debate just before the 1:30:00 mark.  Fuz's question had to do with epistemology (the theory of knowledge), as it relates to the evolutionary process (by "evolutionary process," I mean the undirected, strictly material process of evolving life-forms wrought by means of random, genetic mutations acted upon by natural selection.  In short, I mean materialism as a metaphysical worldview, or, the notion that only matter exists).  Earlier in the debate, PZ also said much of the debate regarding the existence of a Creator based upon observation of biological processes is epistemological in nature.  Hence, Fuz's question about truth-identifying capacity given the evolutionary paradigm is very much in accord with the thrust of the debate.

To Myers comes essentially the question from Darwin himself with an echo from Patricia Churchland, a non-theist philosopher (Churchland's quote will appear subsequently).  The question - or doubt - about the truth-knowing capability of the human species given materialism and hence, naturalistic evolutionary processes, is documented in a letter from Darwin to William Graham:
With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.  Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? [1] 

In other words, if the human mind has developed over gradual eons of vast amounts of time from the primordial slime, emerging into more complex life forms, and morphing into the common ancestor from which all humans come, then this means that the human brain (or, mind - an oxymoron given materialism), has, as its genesis, a pool of slime.  Not much better for Darwin is the human "mind's" near relative, the monkey.  

Alvin Plantinga notes a number of "doubters" from the non-theist world of philosophy with respect to a naturalized epistemology wrought via materialist evolution: Nietzsche, Nagel, Stroud, Churchland, and of course, Darwin.  Churchland's quote is as humorous as it is famous:
Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing.  The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive.....Improvement in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organisms chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost. [2]

For Churchland and others committed to a naturalistic epistemology, the notion of truth qua truth "takes the hindmost." That is, truth is relegated to the unimportant back seat in the vehicle of existence where the driver is Four F, on his way to do a survivalist's party.  Truth, according to Churchland, is a non-essential in the propagation of the human species.  Truth doesn't matter, and neither should it.  In fact, evolutionary advantages have nothing whatever to say about truth.  Rather, they have everything to say about survival.  If truth happens, it happens not on purpose, by chance, and not with truth for truthfulness' sake. 

Myers' answer to Rana (again, at the 1:28:50 mark and following) is rather simple (or, simplistic). While Myers agrees with Rana that the human mind - or brain, more accurately, given his materialist position - is subject to error such as logical fallacies, poor memory, and the like, his answer for the reliability of the truth-identifying capability of the human knower is Science.  Science, says Myers, is a coherent mechanism that exists outside of the human mind with the purpose of collecting and interpreting data, albeit on a provisional basis.  On the surface, this makes good sense.  Science is, after all, a coherent system whereby human knowers can build an edifice of knowledge by means of quantification of the individual species or things of the world, and also by noting their qualities as well.  Quantification and qualification are indeed part and parcel of the scientific enterprise.

However, we have to ask if Myers actually answered the question of Darwin's doubt.  The question, basically, is, "How do we know truth, given materialism?"  The answer is, "Science."  The answer may as well have been, "We know truth given materialism because we have a system (Science) whereby we know truth."  But how do we know that the system is giving us truth?  Well, Richard Dawkins answers the question by saying, "Because it works."  He pauses for a moment and richly adds, "Bitches," in a near murmur, as if that settled the question.  But an appeal to pragmatism just doesn't work (heh: a pun) in a question of truth given an naturalistic epistemology. We could play the child's game and ask, "Well, how do we know it works?"  And of course, the appeal would be to observe the results, and we're back to square one again.

Fuz's question remains unanswered because he is asking not only an epistemological question, but also a metaphysical one.  From the vantage of metaphysics (study of the nature, essence, and existence of things as they truly are), Fuz is asking how truth can be known given the ever-changing material world of which we are a part.  If the material world is constantly changing, and only the material world exists, then also the human knower's brain is a part of that every-changing world.  As such, knowledge remains not fixed, but unfixed and ever-changing along with the material world external to itself.  (I'm surprised Myers even accepted the term "mind" when debating with Fuz, due to its immaterial implications).

What Myers, Dawkins and others espouse is called Scientism. Scientism is an epistemic paradigm which states that only Science gives humans true knowledge of the world.  Of course, this "system" cannot prove itself without arguing in a circle: Science, and Science alone gives us knowledge about the world, and we know this because when we do Science, it helps us (by working) in order to thrive, survive, and flourish.  Stated differently:

1) Science (quantification and qualification) gives us knowledge2) Science alone gives us knowledge3) This knowledge gives us desirable results (It works...bitches)4) Therefore, Science alone gives us knowledge (see #2).This is a circular argument.  Theologian David Bently Hart also sees the circularity of the materialist worldview:
Physics explains everything, which we know because anything physics cannot explain does not exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by physics, which we know because physics explains everything. [3]

This is pretty much the answer that Myers offers to Rana.  Just insert "Science" for "Physics" and you have the skinny.  Now, ditching materialism for immaterialism (whereby a universal mind or intelligent agent exists as the primary cause of all that came into existence) is a constructive task for a different venue.  However, it should stand to reason that Scientism and its pretensions feign a superiority over "superstitious" non-naturalized epistemologies (ones that include a deity).  After all, Scientism cannot even prove its own tenet that Science and Science alone gives humans knowledge about the external world.  In doing so, it would have to submit to a source outside of itself.  Indeed it does and must, and that is where an immaterial world of universals (essences) of things come into play.  On that very playing field of course, come arguments from pure reason as to the existence of God from Aristotle to Aquinas, and it is this playing field where Myers' dog will not hunt.  In fact, it can't, but it isn't allowed in that neighborhood.

[1] Qtd. in Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism                   (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2011, p.316.[2] Ibid., p. 316.
[3] Qtd in Edward T. Oakes, S.J. "God Against Materialism," National Review, September 24, 2013, 4:00am.  Accessed on March 11, 2015.

For the Myers/Rana debate, visit YouTube:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Take a Religious Development Survey for a PhD Candidate

I'm posting this for a friend who is doing research, especially directed toward those who were raised in church, but have left church, for whatever reason.  This survey takes special interest in the home life and experience with one's parents with respect to religious training, beliefs, and development.  Do please take the survey (see the age limitations).  
Study of the Development of Religious Views in Young Adults
If you are an American between 18-30 years old, you are invited to participate in an online research study on the development of religious views among young adults.  Identity protection is provided. 

Every 20th participant (up to 20 participants) will receive a $10 gift card to Amazon if you are willing to leave a mailing address.  Anyone who asks may receive information about the study findings.  Just leave an email, twitter handle, or mailing address when prompted at the end of the study.

To participate in the survey, please access the Web link below.  You will then be directed to complete the study, requiring no more than 15-20 minutes.

Thanks for your help!  
Beth Matthews
PhD candidate
Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Opinion on the Dewey Hill Cross

My Opinion on the Dewey Hill Cross.
From a former resident of Grand Haven.

Obviously, I like the cross because I am a Christian and think it should stay.  I will try to explain those reasons here.  As a caveat, it makes sense that such a symbol on display atop a place like Dewey Hill should appeal to me: it is a fitting crown on the crest of that giant knoll across the river from which many fellow believers worship on Sunday mornings and evenings (on public property!) during the summer.  Still, fairness to others behooves us to consider those who either do not identify with the symbol, or are offended by it, for whatever reason, whether personal or allegedly legal.  So, what if instead of a cross, fastened upon the peak of Dewey Hill stood a looming hammer and sickle, the symbol of Soviet Communism—and a few people liked it?  Or, what if the symbol was that of a giant molecule, with protons, neutrons, and electrons circling around a giant letter A, where A stands for atheism—and a few people liked it?  And so on with the Star of David, and symbols for Hinduism, Islam, etc.—and a few people liked it?   These questions are raised by many, actually.  And even though those scenarios are a bit zany, the point is made: it’s about fairness to all. Well, in order to resolve the issue, we have to ground the argument in three principles: (1) the symbol of the cross and its meaning, and (2) the law: the Establishment Clause, and (3) the will of the people. 

First, the cross is first and foremost an obvious symbol of Christian belief: that Jesus, the divine son of God, atoned for the sins of the world, and is risen from the dead, being victorious over the grave, and coming again to judge the world, putting an end to evil, and making things right.  The cross, from this perspective, communicates an entire metanarrative that makes astounding claims over the true nature of reality, and hence history, and consequently, our individual lives.  The majority of people who “get in the fight” either for or against things like the Dewey Hill cross understand it according to this paradigm.  A second view however, is that the cross is simply a symbol of American heritage, freedom, and prosperity, and it does not necessarily carry the deep, personal devotion of the aforementioned worldview.  Finally, a third view is that the cross is a symbol of hope, good luck, or fortune.  This third category appeals to people who aren’t necessarily “followers of Jesus” per se (similar to folks in the second group), but they simply like the symbol because it stands, in the abstract, apart from a Christian worldview, for victory over oppression, overcoming addictions (for example), or even good karma.  Or, they may simply “like it” for no reason whatsoever.  And that’s ok, too. 

Now, some would argue that in order to keep the peace in Grand Haven, no religious symbols should be allowed in the public square at all, because in order to be fair to all religions, all religions would need space for display in a particular chosen area.  This is impossible, and dies the death of a thousand qualifications.  After all, who wants to see a circus of religious symbols atop Dewey Hill competing for attention?  Therefore, the argument goes, no religious symbols should be had on public property.  This keeps it fair.  Call this view “Thousand Island Nihilism.”  For a thousand religions, let none be present on public property, lest we have the eyesores of kitch scattered like broken teeth along the otherwise pleasant, undulating landscape of Pure Michigan.  However, there are two problems with this view.  First, declaring a symbol to be “religious” is not as easy as it seems, as seen in the prior paragraph: not everyone thinks of a (or, “the”) cross in the same way.  Heck, the ancient Romans had an idea about crosses, and so did Jewish victims or anyone else who got in the way of Caesar.  (Enter here a fourth category: instrument of torture imposed by the State upon dissenters!).  

Therefore, while the cross on Dewey Hill is most certainly a Christian symbol for many, it means other things for others.  In other words, symbols derive their meanings from their history, usage, and interpretation of people, and are therefore not always what they may seem.  The same symbol can be both religious and secular simultaneously: it depends on the origin and history of the symbol, how it has been used by people throughout history, important epochs or events related to it, whether there is text (a written message) on it, and how current understanding is held by the people.  The Nazi swastika is a prime example.  It was a religious symbol rooted in eastern religion until the Nazis used it for their own evil purposes.  No one would try to use the swastika now for good intent as in the days prior to Hitler, because its meaning has been ruined by the Germans.  The point here is that religious symbols may mean one thing to one person, and an entirely different thing to another.  Therefore, the Dewey Hill cross is not necessarily a Christian symbol.  It has American heritage tied to it, and it also has "good karma" tied to it as well.  "But it's hoisted up on Sundays," you say.  Yes it is.  And?  Are Sundays a Christian day to you?  If not, then the time or day of the cross's appearance should make no difference to you.  

Secondly, to the Establishment Clause.  It reads,   

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Historically, this law was enacted so that people coming to America could worship freely without the Church of England imposing upon them any laws with respect to worship in a church (hence, “establishing religion”).  Separation of Church and State (not written in the founding documents) has taken precedent in our nation (rightly so), and merely states that the United States government would not establish a State Church, like the Church of England.  This in no way meant that public displays of religion could never manifest themselves on public property.  Heck, remember Puritan England?  One had to be a Christian in order to hold public office!  I’m not saying that should be the case today, but the point is clear: there is indeed a rich, Christian heritage in our nation, and therefore symbols of such a heritage (#2 above) are more than appropriate in the public square. 

Thirdly, the problem with both Thousand Island Nihilism the threat of a petty lawsuit dished out by a small minority of people that are offended by the cross whether due to personal reasons or by appealing to "Separation of Church and State," is that it leaves out the very important American ideal called the Voice of the People.  It seems clear from social media (at least) that the majority of people in Grand Haven desire the cross to remain.  In America, the people vote, and the majority wins.  That’s a principle that guides our nation, and has done so since its inception.  That's democracy.  Sadly, that cannot occur in Grand Haven with respect to the cross on Dewey Hill, merely due to the threat of a costly lawsuit. 

Lastly, I agree with Mayor of Grand Haven, Geri McCaleb, who is saddened by the petty threat of a lawsuit by Brian Plescher.  The Dewey Hill cross only gleaned attention and adoration from the gazing eyes of the good people of Grand Haven for 15 days out of an entire year: 10 days during summer on Sundays, and 3-5 times over Easter Weekend.  This fact adds more evidence to the obtuse nature of Plescher’s petty complaints. That the majority of the people of Grand Haven desire the cross, that religious symbols on public property do not necessarily violate the Establishment Clause,[1] and that the cross on Dewey Hill makes minimal appearances for a fraction of the year, make a strong, undeniable case that it belongs unchanged, and open to all for public viewing.  

There is an ironic twist to all of this:  the anchor is an adopted Christian symbol that stretches back to at least the 1st A.D.  The letter to the Hebrews makes reference to Jesus Christ as the anchor of our souls (6:19).  The early Christians adopted the anchor as a symbol for their salvation in Christ, and disguised the cross by means of the anchor, mostly decorating their tombs with the mariner's symbol.  I understand that the cross on Dewey Hill will be converted to an anchor.  I wonder if Plescher will be offended by the fact that the anchor has been used as a Christian symbol for nearly 2,000 years?  Will it remind him of the cross?  Will a future complaint be lodged as to the anchor's historical use as a religious symbol and therefore in violation of the Constitution?  The only thing that may rescue the people of Grand Haven from the likes of Plescher is the sheer ignorance that such a symbol is enjoys a rich, Christian heritage, stretching back into times of great Christian persecution, and undaunted Christian ingenuity and perseverance.    

 The above text reads in Greek uncial script, Ichthus, which in an acrostic which stands for  Jesus (I=J) Christ (Ch), God's (Th) Son (U), Savior (S).  The Greek in the middle tier underneath the D and M reads, "Fish of the living."  This engraving is located on a tombstone of the second or third century: Museo Cristiano, Vatican Rome.  Photo taken from Clifford M. Jones, New Testament Illustrations, London: Cambridge University Press, 1966, p.144. 

[1] The Pew Research Center (June 2007) reports: “In 2005, the court ruled divergently in two cases involving permanent displays of the Ten Commandments. In one instance, the court decided that the relatively recent placement of the Ten Commandments in courthouses in two Kentucky counties violated the Establishment Clause because a “reasonable observer” would conclude that the counties intended to highlight the religious nature of the document. In the other case, however, the court ruled that a display of the Ten Commandments that had stood for more than 40 years on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause because a reasonable observer would not see the display as predominantly religious.”  See, Religious Displays and the Courts, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, June 2007,  Accessed February 21, 2015.   

Saturday, December 6, 2014

With Love from North Africa: St. Augustine on Math and the Existence of God

You like math?  Or, if your're from certain parts of the world: You like the maths?  Oh, don't turn away.
St. Augustine (354-430) has an argument for the existence of God based on the reality of number, of 
mathematical law.  Here it is in summary form below in 11 points.  Of utmost importance is the first 
premise, which states that God, as the Highest Being or Good, is greater than the human mind, and 
whatever is greater than the human mind would be the highest good.  Maybe you think the universe 
itself is greater than the human mind.  You'd be wrong, of course.  The universe doesn't contemplate the 
meaning of itself.  In this argument, the intellectual giant from modern day Algeria is having a 
conversation with his friend, Evodius.  Augustine already knows that people know God exists by the 
mere observation of nature, as it says in Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:18-20.  But, just in case people 
need rational argument, Augustine is ready with the whip to snap people to attention of things greater 
than the human mind: wisdom and the laws of mathematics.  These, in turn, speak of Truth, and the 
Truth is the greatest good.  God is also the greatest good, and the embodiment of Truth in the person of 
Jesus Christ.  Here it is.  I wrote a paper on this subject, replete with Latin footnotes!  Doesn't that make 
me special?  I'll spare all that, and just let you contemplate the argument.  If you want a copy of the 
paper, just email me.  It's not been graded yet, so I can't say it's worth the read.  Augustine is 
worth reading though, and here is a summary of his argument in his discourse with Evodius in The Free 
Choice of the Will, Book II.  Pay special attention to point number 7.  

1)   “You (Evodius) granted that if I could prove that there was something above our minds, you would admit this is God, provided that there was still nothing higher.”[1]

2.    Augustine systematizes the natural order into three categories: a) things that exist, b) things that exist and live, and things that exist, live, and also understand. 

3)      The act of understanding is “most excellent”[2] among things that exist and live.
4)      Sense-perception (or, the five senses) exist in the human being, and in animals.

5)      Animals, as well as humans, share an “inner sense,” which we might call “instinct.”  (Instinct is that sense which enables an animal to “seek and acquire things that delight and to repel and avoid things that are obnoxious.”)[3]

6)      Reason exists in man only.  The “inner sense” of 4) is the servant of reason in the human knower.

7)   Numbers (or, mathematical laws), differentiated from corporeal bodies i.e. food and water, are infinite, unchanging, eternal truths.  Reason shows these things to exist.  For example, take any integer, n, and double it.  The distance between n and its double and n zero is the same, ad infinitum.  We know this to be true, of course, even though we cannot observe all numbers.  Therefore, this mathematical law, or "rule of the double" exists outside the human mind, for it is neither dependent upon the mind in order to be observed and named (nominalism), nor is it created by the human mind (conceptualism), for this would lead to epistemological relativism, which is self-refuting.  These things are real, ya'll (realism).  

8)      Number and Wisdom are identical (or, number is “contained” in wisdom).  And yet, even if they are not identical, or, if it cannot be shown that the former is contained in the latter or vice versa, it is certain that both number and wisdom are true and unchangeably true (immutable).  These truths are discovered, not invented, for if the latter, they would change with the human mind, which changes.

9)      These truths come from one Truth itself, which is higher than reason. Truth is the highest conceivable concept.

10)  This truth, as the highest good and most excellent thing, is God Himself, per the first premise. 

11)  Therefore, God exists, by reductio ad absurdum. It is absurd to believe that Truth does not exist, and it is impossible that anything is higher than Truth, which, according to the first premise, is God.[4]

Now, the greatest part of the argument that needs teasing out is the conflation of "many truths" found in 
mathematical laws and wisdom, with One Truth, from which all truths come.  A metaphysical system 
similar to the Aristotelian/Thomistic paradigm that deems Truth as Being would do the trick.  Or, a 
Principle of Sufficient Reason as a Cause of truth from which all truths come would do that as well.  The 
next time you look up at the stars or contemplate the rule of mathematical law, think on this argument, 
and the great wisdom in the Mind of God.


[1] Andrew B. Schoedinger, Reading in Medieval Philosophy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p.22.
[2] Ibid., p.6.
[3] Ibid., p. 7.
[4] Douglas Groothuis argues similarly for the ontological argument in Christian Apologetics, (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, IVP Academic, 2011), p.188.