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Utilitarianism and the Moral Life

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The Goal Of Normative ethics is to develop a comprehensive, coherent system of morality that answers difficult questions. For advocates of biblical Christianity, whatever system we embrace should square with our considered, commonsense moral intuitions derived from natural law, and it should he consistent with, shed light upon, and help extend the morality contained in Scripture. Currently, there are three competing normative systems. Virtue ethics does not focus primarily on moral rules (e.g., "don’t steal") or moral actions but on describing the good person or community and the features present in a virtuous character. Deontological ethics (from deon meaning binding duty") focuses on moral rules and actions and emphasizes duty done for duty’s sake. Certain moral rules are intrinsically correct and should be followed simply because they are right. Virtue and deontological ethics are easily harmonized. But that is not the case with a third normative theory: utilitarianism.

The Euthanasia Debate: Assessing the Options

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In Part One of this series I examined two central aspects of the euthanasia debate. First, several important background concepts in ethical theory were explained. Second, the main features of the libertarian and traditional views of euthanasia were set forth. The libertarian view, advocated by philosopher James Rachels, states that there is no morally relevant difference between active and passive euthanasia. Moreover, Rachels says, it is biographical life (which includes a person’s aspirations, human relationships, and interests), not biological life (being a human being), that is important from a moral point of view (see Part One, p. 13). And if passive euthanasia is morally justifiable in a given case, then so is active euthanasia, since there is no relevant distinction between them.

The Euthanasia Debate: Understanding the Issues

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In June of 1990, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a 63-year-old retired pathologist, was charged with first-degree murder after he helped an Oregon woman with Alzheimer’s disease commit suicide in June 1990. The charge was dismissed in December 1990. (Michigan has no law against suicide.) In October of 1991, Marjorie Wantz used a suicide machine devised by Kevorkian to take her own life. Kevorkian also assisted Sherry Miller in an act of suicide by pulling a mask over her face so she would inhale carbon monoxide from a tank. Miller’s veins were too delicate for a needle involved in Kevorkian’s suicide machine. The police found both bodies in a cabin 40 miles north of Detroit. Miller was incapacitated by multiple sclerosis and Wantz suffered from a painful pelvic condition. Neither condition was life threatening.

Knowledge of God

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In this essay I shall explore the possibilities for knowledge of God that are opened up by recent developments in epistemology that go under the title externalism; more specifically, I shall be concerned with the version of externalism known as reliabilism. I shall set this up with a consideration of how those possibilities look from a more internalist epistemological stance. I shall be working from within the Christian tradition, though I take my remarks to have a wider bearing.

The Justification of Theism

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Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all; why there are the scientific laws there are; why animals and then human beings have evolved; why humans have the opportunity to mould their characters and those of their fellow humans for good or ill and to change the environment in which we live; why we have the well-authenticated account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection; why throughout the centuries men have had the apparent experience of being in touch with and guided by God; and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does so better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true. This paper seeks to justify this answer; it presents in summary arguments given in more detailed form in my book The Existence of God,1 and seeks to rebut criticisms of those arguments given in J.L. Mackie’s book The Miracle of Theism.2

The Morality of Suicide: Issues and Options

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On December 2, 1982, 62-year-old Barney Clark became the first human to receive a permanent artificial heart. In addition he was given a key that could be used to turn off his compressor, if he wanted to die. One of the physicians, Dr. Willem Kolff, justified the key by stating that if Clark suffered and felt that life was not enjoyable or worth enduring anymore, he had the right to end his life. Clark never used the key. He died 15 weeks after the operation. This case illustrates the growing importance of ethical reflection regarding suicide. Today it is the 10th leading cause of death in the general population, and the suicide rate is on the rise in groups ranging from teenagers to the elderly. The purpose of this article is to clarify important issues and options involved in the ethical aspects of suicide. It is crucial that pastors and other Christian leaders understand how these issues are being argued, apart from reference to the biblical text. This will enable the Christian community to argue in a pluralistic culture for positions consistent with the Bible and to understand how others are framing the debate. This article focuses on three issues: the definition of suicide, the moral justifiability of suicide, and moral problems involved in paternalist state intervention to prevent people coercively from committing suicide.

Horrendous Evil and the Goodness of God

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In an earlier article on the problem of evil, Adams argued: "Where the internal coherence of a system of religious beliefs is at stake, successful arguments for its inconsistency must draw on premises … internal to that system or obviously acceptable to its adherents; likewise for successful rebuttals or explanations of consistency. The thrust of my argument is to push both sides of the debate towards more detailed attention to and subtle understanding of the religious system in question." Here Adams considers an especially thorny kind of evil, what she calls "horrendous evil". A horrendous evil is one that instinctively causes us to doubt whether the life of the victim in such a case could possibly be worth living. The magnitude of the evil and suffering is so great that it overwhelms any good in the participant’s life. Adams believes that none of the standard responses to the argument from evil adequately address evils of this sort. Building on her previous argument ? that solutions to the argument of evil are only possible within a particular religious framework ? Adams suggests that horrendous evils can only be defeated by being overwhelmed by something far greater in its goodness than is the evil in its horror. For the Christian, intimacy with a good and infinite God in life after death promises the hope that such evils will in fact be defeated, and that the lives of victims in such cases can be deemed worth living by the victims themselves. ~ Afterall

The Resurrection of Theism

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This article is Dr. Craig’s Introduction to volume three of the Truth Journal on “New Arguments for the Existence of God.” It charts the resurgence in our day of Philosophy of Religions and interacts briefly with the thought of such important theistic philosophers as Plantinga, Swinburne, and Leslie.

Theism, Atheism, and Rationality

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Alvin Plantinga argues that a natural way to understand such notions as rationality and irrationality is in terms of the proper functioning of the relevant cognitive equipment. Seen from this perspective, the question whether it is rational to believe in God without the evidential support of other propositions is really a metaphysical or theological dispute. The theist has an easy time explaining the notion of our cognitive equipment’s functioning properly: our cognitive equipment functions properly when it functions in the way God designed it to function. The atheist evidential objector, however, owes us an account of this notion. What does he mean when he complains that the theist without evidence displays a cognitive defect of some sort? How does he understand the notion of cognitive malfunction?

The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe

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The kalam cosmological argument, by showing that the universe began to exist, demonstrates that the world is not a necessary being and, therefore, not self-explanatory with respect to its existence. Two philosophical arguments and two scientific confirmations are presented in support of the beginning of the universe. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, there must exist a transcendent cause of the universe.