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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.

Walter Hudson


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.

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Again, Bernstein's failure to articulate anything more than a riualistic approach to Objectivism in his debate is going to hurt the philosophy for a long time. He should admit his failure and retire.

Then, going to epistemology which you correctly identify as the crux of philosophy (along with the metaphyiscs upon which it is founded), a blind man can be given plenty of evidence about the existence of the color red that would allow him to effectively conceptualize it. Just like I can be given plenty of information about an atom to conceptualize it even though I may not ever see one in person.

This basically completely destroys your argument. But I will continue.

You said: "Consent lies at the heart of the Christian life, consent to an offer of salvation through grace, and consent to obey God’s commandments. It is impossible to spread Christianity by the sword. To the extent men have tried, they have succeeded only in compelling false conversion and distorting what Christianity is."

Uh, no. Christianity was the fountainhead of violence in the West for 1300 years. If you honestly believe that it would have the influence it has today without forced conversions, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Before the Roman legions started spreading your religion on the tips of their spears, it was just another crack pot attempt at explaining the universe by another iron age messiah.

Being a messiah was a very popular method of escaping the daily drudgery of life back then, you know. Sure, you were likely to be executed at some point but, hey, very few people lived past 25 back then. Might as well live it up if you can, right?
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
After the burning of the library we begin again with scraps and fragments and the little that we know.....

Hence, what is the rationality of reason? The faith in what you see and can take for granted as casuality. Reading the entry on wiki for 'reason' you can see that 'reason' cannot account for all the aspects of itself, either by explanation or justification......
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
I think therefore I am. I have faith in God therefore I will be.

Oh, and am I the only one around here who is grateful for the Crusaders who fought back the Muslim hordes intent upon subjugating the known world?
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Nope. The Western/White Culture hating Leftists in Acadamia have given us a false narrative on the Crusades as persecution of the poor Muslims who only wanted to practice their "religion of peace".

The Crusades were a morally mixed bag, like almost every major event in human history.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Perhaps I missed the thrust of the argument, but if the discussion is about the rationality of Christianity, both Bernstein and the commentor, Hudson, miss an essential point. For most of Christian history, Faith and Reason were seen as complementary, (Faith seeking understanding- St. Augustine and Understanding seeking faith - St. Thomas) not as contraries. In St. Thomas' case, he believed it was through reason people came to faith (why do you think there are so many catholic institutions of higher learning, and have you ever gotten into a logic argument with a Jesuit?) His Cosmological argument for God is exactly a cause and effect argument positing a First Cause because the universe cannot be eternal because a) it is dependent (at least on a Big Bang, which would preclude the eternal part) and b) because of entropy, for if it were eternal it would have experienced a cold death by now.
St. Augustine's argument is even stronger in that he argues that without God there is no reason! How many random, chaotic, chance, irrational events must transpire before a reliable reason emerges and by what measure do you test it to know that it is a rational intellegence? Intelligence comes from intelligence and so Augustine says he believes so he might understand. By this definition, only believers are rational!
To put it into today's more snarky style, --"you say you believe in reason? What color is it, how much does it weigh, does it speak to you, from where does it come, where is it located, and does it tell you right from wrong? What--- you believe in an unseen force, that speaks to you in your own head that none of the rest of us can see that tells you an objective truth about the universe and morality? You expect us to believe that?"
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
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