Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of Talking Animals

The other day I was perusing YouTube videos of debates between Christians and atheists about whose position was more in accord with sound reasoning.

In the debates I saw, the Christians relied on logic and reason (naturally, as atheists would accept no argument from authority) and formulated correct and reasonable syllogisms in support of their positions.

The atheists, meanwhile worked in their normal claim of appealing to logic. But then they generally turned -- without any warning or explanation -- to moral arguments for why Christianity is wrong. Interestingly, they used a Christian moral code to fault the position of their opponents. It's certainly reasonable to appeal to moral considerations when evaluating a belief system, but one needs to first lay the groundwork for the moral code in a rational, logical way. This they failed to do; instead, they simply accepted certain things as given and went from there. Christian philosophers of the moderate realist school who know their stuff don't, as a rule, make this fatally flawed mistake.

One atheist chap said that he simply would not even attempt to have a discussion with someone who believes in a talking snake (c.f. the Garden of Eden). It was a flippant remark, which deserved a dismissive answer -- perhaps one like this: if you believe humans are kin to apes and other primates, and humans can talk, why will you allow the world to be inhabited by nearly seven billion talking apes, but not allow a single talking snake?

Or this: yes, not only a snake, but a talking donkey too (c.f. Balaam's tale).

For the record, nobody was suggesting a normal snake began to spontaneously talk. Rather, the Devil in the form of a serpent deceived Eve. It was a miraculous event, without precedent, and as far as I know without repetition.

Consider 14th entry in the Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenæus, a saint of the second century AD:

How is it possible to say that the serpent, created by God dumb and irrational, was endowed with reason and speech? For if it had the power of itself to speak, to discern, to understand, and to reply to what was spoken by the woman, there would have been nothing to prevent every serpent from doing this also. If, however, they say again that it was according to the divine will and dispensation that this [serpent] spoke with a human voice to Eve, they render God the author of sin. Neither was it possible for the evil demon to impart speech to a speechless nature, and thus from that which is not to produce that which is; for if that were the case, he never would have ceased (with the view of leading men astray) from conferring with and deceiving them by means of serpents, and beasts, and birds. From what quarter, too, did it, being a beast, obtain information regarding the injunction of God to the man given to him alone, and in secret, not even the woman herself being aware of it?

The point being that many factors converge in support of the fact that the encounter between Eve and the serpent was an exceptional one, an event that cannot be explained by materialist notions.

To insist on materialist limitations and then fault non-materialists for not being slaves to materialists assumptions is contrary to reason and logic. In discussions about miracles, one must first determine if miracles are possible. If no, then any miraculous event is going to have to be explained away. If yes, then events which claim to be miraculous can be examined on the merits of the case. The religious man is simply open to the possibility of supernatural events -- he is not obliged to uncritically accept every claim of amazing events. The person who is constrained by unreasonable limitations is the atheist, who argues a priori that such things cannot happen (he never explains why), and therefore a given miraculous event in history did not happen. He does not logically and reasonably consider the evidence; he merely, in unscientific fashion, adheres to the dogmatic notions of his ideology.

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