A Reason for Faith: Christianity on Trial
Objectivist philosopher Andrew Bernstein accused Christianity of rejecting reason in his recent debate with apologist Dinesh D'Souza.
February 14, 2013 - 7:00 am
This final statement, that the universe is eternal, has particular relevance to the discussion because it highlights a slim point of agreement. Eternity is real. There exists an infinite past and an infinite future. What distinguishes the concept of eternity in both worldviews is that which is thought of as eternal. Christianity sees eternity as a characteristic of the supernatural realm while Objectivism sees it as a characteristic of a “metaphysically given” universe. As Bernstein put it, the universe is not the product of creation or chance but of causal laws based in the nature of reality. Water behaves as water, not because it was designed that way, but simply because it is that way.
Here we bump up against the epistemological wall Objectivism builds around itself. While the concept of eternity is induced from our observation of cause and effect, Objectivism defaults to the only inductive conclusion it can make — that the universe is somehow eternal — because it is incapable of reaching beyond what a thing is to address how it got that way. Like a rat in a maze, we are meant to content ourselves with having cheese, and not question from whence it came. D’Souza put it another way. “Faith goes where evidence [and therefore Objectivism] can’t reach.”
In truth, Bernstein’s characterization of Christianity as violating the primacy of existence is a strawman. The Christian worldview does not regard God as a consciousness independent of existence. The Christian God has always existed and always will exist. His is the eternity which Objectivism ascribes to the universe. What’s more, the primacy of existence goes further to suggest that God does exists than to prove He does not.
There is another primacy to consider, the primacy of consciousness over information. It takes a mind to conceive of language. We behold language in every aspect of our world, from the biological blueprints of DNA to the mathematical precision of physics. To regard the vast amount of information contained in a pair of microscopic cells, adequate to direct the formation of a new human being, as nothing more than a “metaphysically given” is to regard the Library of Alexandria as a curious bit of rubble. As the ongoing Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) will attest, information from an alien source is a sure sign of an alien consciousness. Just as archeology properly regards an ancient text as evidence of an ancient people, the language written within us is evidence of a consciousness which conceived it.
To this point Bernstein would argue that we must account for who designed the Designer. That question proceeds from a false premise, that everything has a cause. In truth, only effects have causes. The First Cause is eternal. In any case, it seems odd for Bernstein to assert that the universe is eternal while insisting a creator god would require a cause.