Although admittedly limited, my experience with friends and students suggests that the average theist doesn't really understand the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Rather, they accept the view that God created the universe from something like a reservoir of energy within him. As the chart above illustrates, this has serious implications. For if you're like them, then you are not a classical Anselmian theist. Rather, you're either a pantheist, a panentheist, or a demiurgist.
Now you might be fine with accepting that, but notice that you've also given up a lot in doing so. For example, you've given up most of natural theology. For now you accept that the stuff of the universe is eternal and uncreated. But perhaps the deepest problems lie ahead. For now you have a choice: you can say that (a) the materials are at least part of God, or you can say that (b) they are distinct from God. If you accept (a), then it's now hard to distinguish you from other pantheists …
**Revised in light of Jason Thibodeau's excellent comments.***
I've argued for both unqualified and defeasible versions of the principle of material causality (PMC), according to which concrete objects that have an originating or sustaining efficient cause have an originating or sustaining material cause, respectively. I've also argued for the claim that PMC, when combined with classical theism's doctrine of God as the creator of the world out of nothing, entails that classical theism is false. However, while I think PMC is clearly correct, the conclusion can be reached whether one accepts PMC or not.
The long version of the argument is for another day, but here's the short version. Consider the following principle, which I'll call the Impossibility of Uncaused Concrete Objects (IUC):
(IUC) It's metaphysically impossible for a concrete object to come into existence if it has neither an efficient nor a material cause.
IUC is just an instance of the more gen…
(Rough Draft) Consider the following thesis, which I’ll call Possible Ex Nihilo Creation (PEC): (PEC) It’s metaphysically possible for concrete objects to be created out of nothing.It’s often taken as axiomatic among theists that PEC is true, on the grounds that it seems to be a part of scripture and tradition that God created the universe out of nothing, without the use of prior materials. However, suppose you are not a theist, and you don’t take PEC as axiomatic. It already comes to the table with heavy strikes against it: Ordinary experience speaks strongly against it. And given the long and distinguished pedigree of the principle, ex nihilo nihil fit, reason seems to speak against it, too. What, then, could the theist offer to the atheist or agnostic in support of the principle? Perhaps the theist will here appeal to putative sources of modal evidence to support PEC, viz., rational intuition, imaginability, or conceivability. Thus, one might argue that one can conceive of (or intuit…
New Insights in Religious Epistemology
23–25 June 2015
St Anne’s College
Oxford, OX2 6HS
Richard Cross, Notre Dame: “Testimony and Rational Belief in
Keith DeRose, Yale: “How to Appear to Know that God Exists”
Hans Halvorson, Princeton: “Foundations of the Fine-Tuning
John Hawthorne, Oxford/USC: “Fine-Tuning Fine-Tuning”
Peter van Inwagen, Notre Dame: “The Rev’d Mr Bayes and the Life
Jennifer Lackey, Northwestern: “Norms of Testimonial Uptake”
Paulina Sliwa, Cambridge: “Show and Tell”
Richard Swinburne, Oxford: “Phenomenal Conservatism”
Roger White, MIT: “Reasoning with Plenitude”
To register, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information about the New Insights in Religious Epistemology project, including podcasts of talks, can be found here.
It has been called to my attention that William Lane Craig has replied to a post of mine on his podcast. Unfortunately, Craig neglects to mention the blog and the post in his reply, leaving his listeners unable to track down, verify, and evaluate the criticism for themselves. His main reply is that a belief need not enjoy the doxastic and epistemic force and vivacity of a Moorean fact if it is to qualify as properly basic at all. That's of course obviously correct, which is why I'd never assert such a thing.
My rejoinder was already present in the original passage containing my objection, in the crucial portion of the last sentence that was omitted in Craig's discussion: I think there is a simple yet decisive criticism of Craig's Holy Spirit epistemology: at least for the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (if such there be) fails to present the truth of Christianity in such a way that it's anywhere near being on a par with ordinary Moorean facts. In this rega…
Bogardus, Tomas. "Only All Naturalists Should Worry About Only One Evolutionary Debunking Argument", Ethics (forthcoming).
The paper aims to make trouble for naturalists, arguing that, given the facts of evolution, they should abandon moral realism, accept a rationalism in tension with naturalism, or give up naturalism. In this way, it brings out an apparent epistemological tension between atheism and moral realism.
...is now out, and looks to be an excellent volume on a sorely neglected topic. The book is in keeping with the important new trend of doing philosophy of religion in a way that's unmoored from Christianity. I look forward to giving it a careful read.
Eastern Regional Conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers
Thursday, September 24th through Saturday, September 26th, 2015, Messiah College
Featuring a debate about the existence of God
Paul Draper (Purdue University)
Robin Collins (Messiah College)
Robin Collins will offer a new argument based on the fine-tuning of the cosmos. He will argue that the universe has been finely tuned to optimize the discoverability of physical laws and entities, which neither random chance, nor the multiverse can explain. Paul Draper will construct a pro tanto case against orthodox theism based on its immodesty and on its poor fit with a variety of known facts about pleasure and pain, love and hate, autonomy and heteronomy, achievement and failure, and virtue and vice. Collins and Draper will each respond to the other’s presentations.
Conference Theme: The Existence of God
The theme should be interpreted broadly. It includes not only arguments for or against the existence of God, but a vari…