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27 November 2011

The Agnostic Inquirer | Introduction

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This is part of a series of posts in response to "The Agnostic Inquirer" by Menssen & Sullivan.
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Having just finished two heavily philosophical apologetics books (this and Letters to a Doubting Thomas), I'll start by saying that the more I experience philosophy, the more I'm convinced I hate it. I don't think this is because I only took rudimentary courses in philosophy during college, either. I think it's because I'm less and less convinced that philosophy offers us much that even has a hope of intersecting with testable reality (much like theology, actually). In other words, after 331 pages of heady literature, I'm left wondering whether any of the conclusions drawn would lead to any noticeable differences in the world if they weren't true.

The case laid out by Menssen and Sullivan is as follows:
1) If it is not highly unlikely that a world-creator exists, then investigation of the contents of revelatory claims might well show it is probable that a good God exists and has revealed.
2) It is not highly unlikely that a world-creator exists
3) So, investigation of the content of a revelatory claim might well show it is probable that a good God exists and has revealed.
4) So, a negative conclusion concerning the existence of a good God is not justified unless the content of a reasonable number of leading revelatory claims has been seriously considered.

You might read that and think, "That's it?" Indeed, you would be correct to ask that. After trudging through this book, I think the same thing. Even if Menssen and Sullivan succeed, all they've shown is that one should add revelatory claims to the list of evidence to be considered. They don't list which revelatory claims, mind you; they simply make the case for including them in the apologetics arsenal. Perhaps I'm not as philosophically savvy as I need to be to realize if this is a massive leap in the land of apologetics, though.

From this outline, they spend a reasonable amount of energy on premise 2. To their credit, they handle a whole slew of possible objections to the possibility that god might exist, including:
  • The world might have popped into existence
  • The world might have caused itself
  • Am immaterial minor cannot interact with the physical order
  • There is no need to examine revelation due to the problem of evil
  • No method exists for examining revelatory claims
  • Revelatory claims lack explanatory power

That's essentially the book -- a defense of why one can't be an intellectually justified non-believer without examining revelatory claims. To be fair, they actually cover a fair bit of the traditional apologetic grounds in order to defend their premise that one can't outrightly dismiss revelation as having no value (such as their treatment of cosmology and the PoE). For this review, I'd like to comment on a few of their specific rebuttals above. Find these in separate posts that are part of this series.

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