Friday, December 4, 2009

The Rational Case For Christianity - Metaphysics

Previously, in my introduction to The Rational Case for Christianity, I established the criteria that we will use to determine if Christianity is a true and practically viable worldview. For it to be valid, it must be able to account for any aspect of reality or life and leave no contradictions. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, the basic philosophical question is why something exists rather than nothing. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with the existence of our universe and questions of how it came to be. Though a comprehensive study of metaphysics would require more than the scope of a single essay, all possible metaphysical answers can be categorized in just a few classes of answers. To simplify our inquiry, we will simply concern ourselves with human existence, which will allow us to circumvent the question of whether the universe itself has a beginning. We can do this because regardless of whether there universe has a beginning or not, it is universally accepted that human existence had a beginning.

The first metaphysical question we must ask is whether there is a logical, rational, intelligible answer to the question of human existence. There are two possible answers to this:

1 - There does not exist a logical, rational, intelligible reason for human existence
2 - There does exist a logical, rational, intelligible reason for human existence

Of these two answers, the first one is self-defeating for exactly the same reason epistemological nihilism is self-defeating... One cannot know that no reason exists unless he is omniscient, and one cannot know that the answer is not logical, rational or intelligible unless he comprehends it, which would result in a self-refuting claim. Therefore, of these two possibilities, the second one is the most rational answer to our first question considering metaphysical inquiry. Proceeding forward, we will assume that there does exist a logical, rational, intelligible reason for the existence of the universe.

The second metaphysical question we must ask is, by what means did human existence occur? There are three possible answers to such a question.

1 - Human existence sprung forth from absolutely nothing
2 - Human existence was caused by impersonal means
3 - Human existence was caused by personal means

Answer number 1, while technically possible, is not presently held by any sane person. It is quite preposterous that human existence sprung forth from absolute nothing.

Answer number 2, on the other hand, is a quite commonly held position. Belief that time plus chance plus matter eventually led to the process of macroevolution which eventually produced humanity is one such sort of answer. An impersonal universe birthed humans based on random physical processes that happened to interact in exactly the right way. Pantheism is another sort of answer that falls under the category of impersonal human origin. Pantheism suggests that everything ultimately is a unity, and that all diversity and personality will either melt back into oneness someday or all diverse and personality are ultimately illusory. The problem with any impersonal origin of humanity is that it cannot explain personality or what Francis Schaeffer calls the "mannishness" of man. Scientific materialism suggest that personality is nothing more than the impersonal plus complexity, and therefore you end up with theories of biodeterminism and evolutionary psychology which commit the fallacy of reductionism by claiming that what appears to be personality or freewill is just an illusion. Pantheism doesn't even try to use fancy words to hide the truth. Instead, religions such as Hinduism are quite clear on their stance that all diversity is an illusion and that at the deepest level, everything is one, which means that personality, too, is an illusion. While it is theoretically possible that personality is merely an illusion, there is no non-circular evidence for it being so. Therefore, unless personality is conclusively shown to be an illusion, no impersonal cause for human existence properly explains the world that we experience every single day of our lives. As such, it is irrational to believe that human existence is caused by impersonal means.

Answer number 3, therefore, must be correct. Since nothing with true personality can result from impersonal processes, and given the fact that humans have true personality, the only logical, rational answer is that human existence was caused by personal means. A personal being created humans. Some sort of personal God or god must exist.

The third metaphysical question we must ask is, is there one God or multiple gods or Gods? Obviously this simple question has two possible answers:

1 - There are multiple limited, personal gods
2 - There is one infinite-personal God
3 - There are multiple infinite-personal Gods

Answer number 1 is insufficient to explain the universe. As Plato correctly understood, without absolutes, nothing has any meaning. For that reason he recognized that the plethora of Greek gods was insufficient to explain existence, since none of the gods were infinite. None of them were powerful enough to create the universe and mankind. Because of this, in his writings he often referred to the Fates, who sometimes controlled the gods, and sometimes the gods controlled the Fates. This odd paradox was constructed because limited gods are not big enough to create and sustain the universe, nor human existence. No number of limited gods can possibly suffice as a metaphysical foundation for human existence, nor for the existence of the universe.

Answer number 2 is sufficient to explain the universe. From our second question we determined that a personal entity is needed to create a human with ture personality. Given the vast nature of the universe and the metaphysical necessity for absolutes, this personal God must also be an infinite* God, else He is not big enough to fit with the evidence of reality. This God must have the capacity to imagine and bring into existence the physical universe and human beings, as well as serve as the integretion point for everything else. The concept of God's necessity as an infinite integration point will be explained more in depth in the essays on morality and epistemology.

Answer number 3, could also be sufficient to explain the universe. However, presently there are no worldviews that postulate multiple infinite-personal Gods. Pantheism suggests that there are many gods, but that really there are none. The Greeks and Romans suggested multiple limited personal gods, but no infinite ones. There are several major worldviews that postulate the existence of a single infinite-personal God, but none that suggest multiple infinite-personal Gods. Therefore, given that one infinite-personal God is suffcient to explain human existence, and there that is no evidence for the existence of more than one infinite-personal God, it is rational to accept that there is just one infinite-personal God.

The fourth metaphysical question we must ask is, what sort of infinite-personal God can best explain the unity and diversity of human existence and the universe? To this question there are only a few possible answers; namely, the Gods suggested by Islam, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and the Judeo-Christian God.

While all of those Gods sufficiently explain the unity that we see in the universe, everything from the natural order of molecular structures to the highly organized and complex ecospheres that cover the planet, since any single being is necessarily unified, only one of those answers sufficiently explains the diversity found in the universe. Perhaps it makes sense for there to be one kind of plant, but why are there so many kinds? Perhaps it makes sense for there to be one sort of planet or star, but the universe is full of widely divergent planets and stars. Perhaps the existence of one kind of animal makes sense, but why are there so many, and why are the various species so similar and yet so diverse? A unifed infinite-personal being can explain the unity of creation, but not the diversity of our universe. Only a God who is both intrinsically unified and intrinsically diverse can explain what we unarguably see in our universe. The only answer that sufficiently explains this is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. That there is just one God, but that He is a triune being who exists in three persons is the only possible monotheistic explanation for the universe's diversity. Returning to even the more limited scope of human existence, given the fact of human biodiversity, only a God who is both unified and diverse can explain the unity and diversity of humanity. You may search through all of philosophy and all of the world's religions to find another satisfactory answer, but you will not find another infinite-personal God who is both unified and diverse no matter how many ancient manuscripts you read, nor how many modern philosophical tomes you digest.

As I stated in my last essay, any worldview that declares to be the truth must perfectly match all the evidence of reality. The existence of the universe and of humanity, and the unity and diversity we witness in both demands a certain kind of metaphysical answer. For any metaphysical stance to be true and applicable, it must be able to explain why humans exist at all, why true personality exists, why humanity is existentially unified, and why humanity is existentially diverse. Having looked at all the various categories of answers to each of these four fundamental questions, the only metaphysical explanation that makes sense of those four things is the metaphysical answer offered by Christanity. There exists an infinite-personal God who is both the creator of the universe and the creator and sustainer of human existence. One God, eternally existing in three persons, is the only satisfactory answer for explaining the unity and diversity of human existence and of the universe at large. As such, Christianity, since it both offers the only philosophically satisfactory answer for human existence and since it neither contradicts nor denies any aspect of human existence, is the most rational metaphysical worldview. All other worldviews necessarily deny or contradict one or more of those four factors. Therefore, not only is Christianity the best rational metaphysical answer, it is the only rational metaphysical answer. Apart from Christianity, it is impossible to make sense of our universe or of human existence.

* Strictly speaking, it is not metaphysically necessary that God is infinite, in the sense of completely unbounded power or ability. All that is necessary is sufficient capacity to imagine, create and sustain the entire universe and human existence. When I refer to God as being infinite, it is a shorthand way of saying that He is necessarily at least powerful enough to do that. When I refer to limited gods, such as the Greek and Roman gods, I simply mean that no one of them possesses enough power to do so. Each of the Greek and Roman gods had their own domain, over which they possessed a great deal of power, but outside of their individual domains, they were just about as limited as any mortal man. As such, it is no contention with my basic point if you argue that infiniteness is not strictly a metaphysical necessity. I use the term "infinite" in this shorthand manner along with the term "infinite-personal," because Francis Schaeffer uses those term in like manner.

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