“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” C. S. Lewis
Welcome to the Virtual Office of Dr. Richard G. Howe
ApologeticsDefending the Faith.A thorough presentation of the evidence for the Christian Faith. This study treats the nature and task of apologetics, philosophical foundations, the existence of God, the historical evidence of the origin, transmission, integrity, and reliability of the Bible, and what it has to say about who Jesus is and what He taught about Scripture. The presentation can be conducted as a multi-part series, or any particular part can be presented as a unit in a one-time situation. The contents are: The Existence of God.A treatment of the standard arguments for God’s existence: The cosmological argumentContemporary version: God is the efficient cause of the “coming-into-existence” of the universe.Thomistic version: God is the efficient cause of the “current existing” of the universe. The teleological argumentContemporary version: God is the efficient cause of the design, fine tuning, information, and irreducible complexity of the universe.Thomistic version: God is the final cause of the universe. The moral argumentContemporary version: God is the ground for the objectivity of moral goodness.Thomistic version: ‘Good’ and ‘being’ are convertible and God is ipsum esse subsistens (subsistent existence itself). Attention is paid to the important distinctions to be drawn between the Thomistic versions of these arguments (predicated upon the classical categories of Aristotle and Aquinas) and the contemporary versions employing current scientific (albeit inadequate) views about the mechanistic nature of material reality and the degree to which human experience can be reduced to material processes. Even granting these current views, a strong argument can be made that God is the best, if not the only, explanation for many truths that even secular scientists grant about the universe. (top)Atheism.Answering the Apostles of the New Atheism: An analysis of the "new atheism" of Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith; Letter to a Christian Nation), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), and Daniel Dennett (Darwin's Dangerous Idea; Breaking the Spell) and others. We examine what exactly is “new” about the new atheism and then answer specific arguments they set forth in defending their view that God does not exist. (top)Answering the Arguments of Popular Atheism: An analysis of the phenomena of “t-shirt” or “bumper sticker” atheism (clever one-liners or popular myths) along three categories (1) Rhetorical Arguments (e.g., “Atheism is merely a lack of a belief in God”); (2) Scientific Arguments (e.g., “Christianity has always stood against the advances of science.”); and (3) Philosophical Argument (e.g., “If God created the universe, who created God?”). (top)Faith, Reason, or Both? An Examination of Presuppositional Apologetics vs. Classical Apologetics.Two of the most common methods of defending the faith are Classical Apologetics (or some version thereof) and Presuppositionalism (or some version thereof). This presentation gives a summary of each to the end of defending Classical Apologetics as the only viable way to defend Christianity. (top)Relativism. A definition of relativism in contrast to skepticism and pluralism. Includes a critique of: Relativism and Truth (ways in which some truths are subjective and others are objective); Relativism and Knowledge (contrasting the Classical understanding of knowledge with Modernism and Postmodernism); Relativism and Ethics (show how moral goodness is grounded proximately in human nature and ultimately in God); Relaticism and History (an examination of the historical relativism (“History was written by the winners.” “History is always an interpretation.”); Relativism and Religion (examining the challenges of religious pluralism and the problems with the common “functional” view of religious truth); Relativism and Faith/Reason (contrasting the classical, historical understanding of the relationship of faith and reason in contrast to the views of the New Atheism, other atheists, Neo-orthodoxy; Presuppositionalism, and Postmodern); and Relativism and the Gospel (defending the exclusivity of the Gospel against universalism, inclusivism, and pluralism). (top)Miracles: A Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetic. An exploration of what miracles are (philosophy), why miracles occur (theology), and are miracles believable (apologetic) and how miracles fit into the task of apologetics. Also reponds to challenges, including the challenge of atheism (every event has only a natural cause), the challenge of other religions (many religions claim miracles so no religion can be confirmed by an appeal to the miraculous), the challenge of history (miracle stories were common in the ancient world), and the challenge of epistemology (the philosopher David Hume marshalled formidable against believing in miracles. (top)What about Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?An examination of the problem of the unreached. Various options are surveyed including universalism, pluralism, and inclusivism. The conclusion (exclusivism) maintains that no one goes to heaven without knowingly trusting Jesus as Savior, but tries to show how this works out for those who have never heard the specifics of the Gospel by factoring in the roles of General Revelation and Special Revelation. (top)PhilosophyAquinas on Existence and the Essence / Existence Distinction.An exploration of Aquinas’s argument for God’s existence from his On Being and Essence employing the distinction he draws between a thing’s essence and its existence. The argument shows that in the created order this distinction obtains. Thus, there must be something that exists whose very essence is existence itself, which is to say that there must be something for which the essence / existence distinction does not hold. This thing must have all the prefections of existence without limit. (top)How Theology Needs Philosophy.A study of the various ways that philosophical topics and categories are utilized in doing theology. Includes a look at the relationship of faith and reason, the laws of logic, answering objections to the use of logic, detecting self-refuting statements, the role of presuppositions, natural law morality, science and religion, how philosophy helps clarify theology in issues such as truth and biblical inerrancy, and more. (top)On Building a World View. One hears the expression ‘world view’ quite often in apologetics. What constitutes a world view? Why is the common “rose colored glasses” metaphor misleading when talking about how a world view functions? This talk examines how the Christian’s use of his mind is a matter of stewardship and that stewardship requires us to be deliberate in building our world view such that it informs us about the truths of reality. A world view should not merely be chosen, but should be built out of sound reason based upon the nature of reality itself. To that end, we discuss understanding the nature of truth, the nature of religion, the relationship of faith and reason, and the role of classical empiricism as the beginning of knowledge. (top)Classical Philosophy.This study is a survey of philosophical thinking with particular emphasis on areas relevant to theology, apologetics, and ethics. It is an introduction to philosophy (a systematic approach) with an emphasis on the Classical (Aristotelian/Thomistic) tradition, taking a look at the basics of philosophy in general and then focusing on certain major issues in metaphysics (being), epistemology (knowing), and Ethics (doing). (top)The Kalam Cosmological Argument.The Kalam Cosmological Argument is an argument for the existence of God based on the fact that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. Borrowing heavily from the pioneering work of William Lane Craig in his important book by the same title, together with his and others’ contributions to the argument of the data of contemporary scientific thinking, the argument shows (1) the universe began to exist; (2) whatever begins to exist must have a cause; therefore the universe must have had a cause. (top)A Thomistic Argument for the Existence of God.An in-depth philosophical look at Aquinas's notion of existence as an act, his essence/existence distinction, and how these can work into an argument for God's existence. (top)Thomistic Responses to Objections to Aquinas' Second Way.Many of the criticisms of Aquinas’s efficient causality argument for the existence of God (the second of his famous arguments for the existence of God known as the “Five Ways) stem from a misunderstanding (or outright ignoring) of Aquinas’s metaphysics, especially his doctrine of esse(existence), the primacy of esse, and the essence/existence distinction. (For a discussion of these issues, see my “Thomistic Responses to Some Objections to Aquinas’s Second Way” in the Papers section.) (top)Two Notions of the Infinite in Aquinas.Many thinkers have misunderstood Aquinas’s statement, “… and this cannot go on to infinity” found in several of his arguments for God’s existence to mean an infinity back into the distant past. I show that this is a misunderstanding arising from a failure on these thinker’s part to recognize two different notions of the infinite in Aquinas’s thinking and that this was not at all what Aquinas was alleging in his theistic arguments. I show how Aquinas’s arguments for God’s existence is completely indifferent as to whether the universe ever began to exist or has existed from all eternity. (top)God Fading Away.An examination of how the classical attributes of God (e.g., omniscience) are fading away in contemporary evangelicalism and how we can contend for these attributes. (top)Seeing Is Believing? For many today (and especially scientists) “seeing” is believing. By this, they mean that nothing should be believed unless and until it has been confirmed by the latest scientific research. Such an approach to human knowing has been referred to as empiricism, logical positivism, or scientism. A strict application of this view of knowledge (at least in its most extreme forms) invariable leads to the rejection of the viability of religion, morality, logic, and God. This talk examines how such an empiricism is a relatively new arrival on the scene and that the classical version of empiricism is to be preferred. Argument is made that empiricism, properly understood, is the epistemology (theory of knowing) of both the Bible and sound reason. We look at attacks on this way of human knowing from various quarters, including philosophical and spiritual. (top)The Design Argument: Aquinas vs. Paley.The design argument for the existence of God has made a serious comeback in contemporary Christian apologetics. God's existence is argued for from the fine-tuning of the universe, the complex nature of life, and the absence of natural explanations for life's origin and diversity. These arguments, in many ways, are a resurgence of William Paley's watch-maker argument. Long before Paley and contemporary scientific discoveries Thomas Aquinas argued in the fifth of his famous “Five Ways” that design demonstrated God's existence. But are the contemporary design arguments the same (in principle) as Aquinas’s argument? I argue that they are not. But if not, how does Aquinas’s argument differ from Paley’s? Is one argument better than the other? After explaining the differences, I go on to offer the strengths and weaknesses of each. (top)Natural Law Theory. An exploration of the model of morality known as Natural Law theory and how it arises from an understanding of some basic elements in metaphysics and theology, including: what is human nature?, what does the term ‘good’ mean?, what is the connection between good and God?, and more. (top)The Euthyphro Dilemma.This philosophical ethical dilemma poses the challenge to Christians as to whether God wills something because it is good or whether it is good because God wills it. It is a dilemma because either option seems to entail something false about God according to the standard, contemporary, evangelical view. Several solutions are proposed, including the most common one offered by contemporary evangelical apologists together with how the Classical theistic (i.e., Thomistic) approach would quality that solution. (top)The Problem of Evil.An examination of the famous challenge to theism (particularly Christian theism) from skeptics and unbelievers. We cover the responses that are out of bounds for the evangelical and responses within the bounds of evangelicalism. (top)Think Like You Mean It! Exposing Logical Fallacies. This presentation deals with the differences between formal logical fallacies and informal logical fallacies to the end of exposing some of the most common informal logical fallacies one might encounter in various discussions. The fallacies include: the category mistake, the false dilemma, the argument of the beard, the argument from ignorance, special pleading, poisoning the wells, the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of division, fallacies of generalization, the burden of proof, argument to the future, the selection effect, and the genetic fallacy. (top)The Truth about Truth. This presentation covers the distinction between theories of truth and tests for truth and looks at several theories of truth one might encounter. I defend the correspondence theory of truth and look at the different ways that a statement can correspond to reality, including literally, allegorically, metaphorically, analogically, symbolically, hyperbolically, phenomenologically, informally, and metonymically. I then cover the laws of logic, taking a look at common objections some bring up to logic. (top)Other ReligionsNew Religious Movements.This expression is gradually replacing the term ‘cults’ to refer to that group of religions that fall outside historic, orthodox Christianity but are not classified as a world religion. A study of new religious movments takes a look at some preliminary matters including “What is a cult and how is that term used?” “What is the difference between a cult (or new religious movement) and a world religion?” “How is one to know spiritual, theological, or doctrinal truth?” “Is it proper to disagree with others about matters of religion?” “Why are there false religions?” “Aren’t all religions the same at the core?”Following these preliminary matters, the study examines “The Marks of a Cult.” We look that the four major characteristics that identify the contemporary cults: (1) All Cults Weaken or Deny the Authority of the Bible; (2) All Cults Deny Salvation by Grace Through Faith apart from Works; (3) All Cults Deny the Trinity; (4) All Cults Weaken or Deny the Work of Jesus Christ. With a “bird’s eye view” we see one or two examples of how the cults exhibit these marks. If desired, we can look more in-depth into a number of specific cults listed below. (top)Mormonism.An examination of one of one of the largest new religious movement showing its departure from historic, orthodox Christian truth. We show how Mormonism exhibits the “marks of a cult” in its views of additional revelation apart from the Bible, its views of salvation, the Trinity, and the work of Christ on the cross. Additional departures from Christian truth are explored including Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and the nature of humans. (top)Jehovah's Witnesses.An examination of another of the new religious movements showing its departure from historic, orthodox Christian truth. We show how Jehovah’s Witnesses exhibit the “marks of a cult” in their denial of the Trinity, their denial of the deity of Christ, their denial of hell, and their denial of salvation by grace through faith apart from works. We also expose the corruption that characterizes their own tendentious translation of the Bible known as the New World Translation. (top)A Christian Perspective on the Occult.We unpack the essential elements of an occult view of reality and show how those elements manifest in Extreme Occultism (Satanism), Moderate Occultism (Wicca, Witchcraft), Mainstream Occultism (New Age Movement), and "Christian Occultism (the Word of Faith Movement). Each group can be a separate study. (top)Satanism.After a quick look at what constitutes an occult world view, we look at the specifics of Satanism, primarily as a religious (as opposed to criminal) phenomenon in America, including both Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and Michael Aquino’s Temple of Set. (top)Witchcraft.After a quick look at what constitutes an occult world view, we look at the specifics of Witchcraft, examining both its common concerns with Christianity (e.g., peaceful co-existence with others, conscientious concern for the environment) as wall as its fatal contrasts with Christian truth (e.g., the existence and nature of God, the nature of humanity, sin, redemption, and the world’s need for the Savior). (top)The New Age Movement.After a quick look at what constitutes an occult world view (from which the New Age Movement arose), we look at how the New Age Movement is affecting various parts of society in new age science, medicine, education, politics, religion and more. (top)The Word of Faith Movement.An examination of the increasing influence of aberrant and heretical teachings upon the Christian landscape from The Word of Faith Movement in the teachings of such individuals as Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Benny Hinn, and others. (top)Religion of the Force.Based on the book with the same title and with the use of multi-media excerpts from the famous Star Wars™movie series, we examine exactly what is the world view and message that is being portrayed and how that message compares and contrasts with Christianity. Order the book here or here. (top)Religious Pluralism.With more and more religious diversity in the world (as exhibited by the seeming ubiquitous “COEXIST” bumper sticker) we take a look at “What is Religious Pluralism?” “Do other religions make claims conflicting with Christianity?” “What does it mean for a religion to say it is true?” “Why can a religion be true for one person and not true for another?” “What is a religion?” “How do the major world religions compare and contrast respecting their core vs. peripheral beliefs?” (top)On the Da Vinci Code.Though Dan Brown’s novel has fading the most people’s mind, the issues the novel raises are of abiding importance. Those issues include: whether the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus was a later developement, reaching its full form at the Council of Nicea in AD 325; whether the books of the Bible were not settled until the Council of Nicea; whether the story of Jesus is more accurately contained within the Gnostic documents than in the New Testament and shows a mere human Jesus; whether the story also shows that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered children; and whether the Christian religion is an amalgamation of themes from several ancient mystery religions. (top)Dan Brown Revisited.Complimenting the presentation “On the Da Vinci Code,” the presentation examines Dan Brown’s historical skepticism, his views of the relationship of faith and reason, his religious relativism, and his relativism regarding truth (top)
Welcome to the Virtual Office of Dr. Richard G. Howe
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I. IntroductionA. What Is Apologetics?B. Why Do Apologetics?C. What Apologetics Can DoD. What Apologetics Cannot DoE. How Apologetics Is Done: The Three-Step ApproachII. Foundation: How Can We Know Anything At All?A. Relationship of Philosophical DisciplinesB. EpistemologyC. Theory of Truth vs. Test for TruthD. The Laws of LogicE. Answering Objections to LogicIII. Arguments for the Existence of GodA. The Coming-into-Existence of the universeB. The Current Existing of the universeC. The Design Proof (Teleological Argument)D. The Moral Proof (Moral Argument)IV. The Historicity of the New TestamentA. The Integrity of the New Testament: Is the New Testament that we have today an
accurate copy of the original New Testament?B. The Reliability of the New Testament: Did the events attested to in the New Testament really happen?1. Responses to Reasons against believing the testimony of the New Testament writers2. Reasons for believing the testimony of the Gospel writersV. The Bible on JesusA. Jesus Claimed to be GodB. Bible Portrays Jesus as Jehovah GodC. Lord, Liar, Lunatic ArgumentD. The Resurrection of JesusVI. Jesus on the BibleA. Jesus' Authentication of the New TestamentB. What Jesus affirmed about the Bible (top)