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Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math & Meaning [Paperback]

By John Byl (Author)
Our Price $ 12.75  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   336
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.56" Height: 0.98"
Weight:   0.94 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2005
Publisher   Banner of Truth
ISBN  0851518877  
EAN  9780851518879  


Availability  0 units.


Item Description...
Overview
Revealing the failure of Naturalist and Post-Modernist philosophies to explain life as we experience it, Christian mathematician John Byl shows that only a Christian worldview, based on the Bible, can supply us with the necessary foundation for logic, mathematics, science and morality, while giving life coherence, meaning, purpose and hope. Since the beginning of time man has challenged God?s supremacy, striving to dethrone God and reinterpret the universe according to his own standards and purposes. In response God, who is determined to destroy the wisdom of the worldly wise and to unmask it for the foolishness that it really is, issues his own challenge to sinful man. Arrogantly, modern scientific man takes up that divine challenge, arming himself with scientific knowledge and technological power. Indeed, man has convinced himself that his rational wisdom has made foolish the wisdom of Scripture, with its tall tales of a personal God, of life after death, and of heaven and hell. ?Such notions?, Einstein declared, ?are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.? John Byl argues that the Christian worldview provides the only foundation for logic, mathematics, science and morality. The Divine Challenge aims to substantiate this bold claim. Byl shows the failure of today?s predominant philosophies to provide a coherent worldview that can yield a plausible account of the various aspects of life as we experience it. Only a Christian worldview, squarely based on the truth of the Bible and the comprehensive sovereignty of God, can give our lives coherence, meaning, purpose and hope.

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More About John Byl

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Byl is Professor of Mathematics and Head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He gained his PhD in Astronomy at the University of British Columbia.

John Byl currently resides in British Columbia.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Great book summarized in verse below.  Jul 5, 2007
Can be sung to the tune "Isle of Inisfree"

1. It has been said that mind is more than matter
Soul is not flesh, I hope you will agree
We cannot learn more math by growing fatter
We need real minds to seek infinity

2. Still all around we hear the modern clatter
Of those who say the mind is just the brain
They seek all truth through sense perceiving matter
But find the lies that drove Nietzsche insane

3. Empiricists have only sense perception
As "naked apes" they think they're only beasts
They can't explain how neurons form conceptions
And reason does not phase them in the least

4. Post-modernists reject truth altogether
Their math and morals are a private game
Just social constructs changing like the weather
Melting into the void from whence they came

5. Look up to God; ignore these mental bandits
We need true truth that's more than what we feel
True logic, meaning, math and Ten Commandments
Objective Mind where numbers are quite real.

6. It has been said that mind is more than matter
Soul is not flesh, I hope you will agree
We cannot learn more math by growing fatter
We need real minds to seek infinity


 
A Great Critique of Naturalism and Post-Modernism  Dec 25, 2006
I would actually have given this book a 9 on a 1 to 10 scale. It is a great critique of naturalism and post-modernism using presuppositional apologetics. It contains the normal arguments against naturalism, but it also makes use of transcendental arguments from abstract objects (i.e. logic and mathematics) and "the one and the many" to argue for the existence of an infinite, multi-personal God (such as the Triune God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures). It also gives a brief overview of the doctrines of Christianity (from a Reformed perspective), defends them, and shows how Christianity, unlike every other worldview, can account for the necessary conditions for intelligibility and existence.

Next, I will respond to the negative review below, and then, give the reasons why I would have given the book only a 9/10.

Schriftsteller writes: "The key to what is good and bad about the book comes on page 284, where the author opines that "The unbeliever wilfully suppresses his knowledge of God." As a result of this conviction, Prof. Byl can't seem to decide if he wants to argue with unbelievers or simply scold them for what he sees as their perverse denial of the truth."

Of course, this is misunderstanding of Reformed theology, and it is true that Byl could have elaborated more on the subject. The unbeliever suppresses the truth due to his sinful nature, and the only way that he will ever accept the truth is by God's grace through a miraculous change of the unbeliever's sin nature to a God-fearing nature. This is called regeneration, or some Evangelicals call it being "born-again". Now, as Byl noted, God works through secondary means, and the means by which God uses to bring about regeneration in an unbeliever is the preaching of the Gospel by Christians. A subset of preaching the Gospel is defending the faith (i.e. apologetics).

Next, the negative reviewer states that Byl argues by a process of elimination approach. The reviewer argues that Byl limits his possibilities only to naturalism, post-modernism, and Christianity, and as the negative reviewer argues, there are other worldviews that account for existence and intelligibility as well or better than Christianity.

It is true that Byl could have done a little bit more on Eastern religions, paganism, Islam, and a positive argument for the historicity of the Bible, but I believe that Byl's target audience is the Western world, who for the most part, see Christianity, naturalism, and post-modernism as the only real worldviews worth considering. Also, his transcendental arguments from mathematics (necessitating an infinite, timeless mind from which Platonic concepts can be instantiated into the material world) and the "one and the many" (which would necessitate a multi-personal God) would eliminate all other worldviews. As Byl notes, all the questions of existence and intelligibility reduce to the philosophical problem of "the one and the many". A worldview must have both the one and the many with the "one" being ultimate, and that "one" must have both "one" and "many" as equally ultimate aspects. Unless a worldview has this, it will reduce to global skepticism.

Lastly, the reviewer states: "The mathematical connection is incidental to the metaphysics." However, as Byl noted several times, many philosophers of mathematics are constructivists because they believe that classical mathematics would necessitate the existence of an infinite, timeless mind from which Platonic concepts can be instantiated into the material world. The transcendental argument from conceptual realism is valid and a great argument.

Negative Aspects of the Book:
A. He could have pushed more transcendental arguments from things such as language (which he goes into a little but not enough) and the laws of physics.
B. He could have stated the goal and scope of his transcendental arguments a little better.
C. I thought that his discussion of quantum mechanics was a little boring. He did use it in later chapters to argue against chance and chaos, but he could have stated that he did have a reason for discussing it for us impatient folk.
D. As the negative reviewer noted, Byl used the cosmological argument in conjunction with the ontological argument. Now, there are a growing number of philosophers that would argue that God is a necessary Being (from such things as the transcendental arguments), and Alvin Plantinga has created a modal form of the ontological argument. However, why would you use those two traditional arguments which are fairly complicated and hard to understand when you could just use transcendental arguments from abstract objects such as logic and math?

Overall, however, it is a great book for both beginners and long-time followers of the debate between Christian theism and naturalism.
 
Competently done, but won't convince anyone not already in the choir  Jul 6, 2006
This is a competently-written Christian apologetic, but it won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with its conclusions. The author offers some good arguments but, at crucial points, tends to get a little sloppy.

The key to what is good and bad about the book comes on page 284, where the author opines that "The unbeliever wilfully suppresses his knowledge of God." As a result of this conviction, Prof. Byl can't seem to decide if he wants to argue with unbelievers or simply scold them for what he sees as their perverse denial of the truth.

Byl speaks, for example, about the philosopher Bertrand Russell's "contempt of God" when God's existence is precisely the point at issue. Russell did not have contempt for God. Instead, Russell thought that the Christian concept of God was ill-defined and that to the extent it could be understood at all, there were insufficient reasons for thinking it described anything that exists.

Byl has considerable insight into the structure of knowledge and belief -- such as his observation, true if not original, that all world views (including scientific materialism) rest on unproven assumptions. However, he's more inclined to preach than to argue, and hence veers from scrupulous applications of logic to straw man characterizations of the views he opposes. A larger problem is that while his arguments lend support to theism, they don't support (let alone prove) the full-blooded fundamentalist Christianity that Byl claims as his conclusion.

His main argument seems to be that fundamentalist Christianity gives a fully adequate explanation of the world, while competing explanations (such as materialism) do not. There is much truth in his criticisms of materialism and post-modernism, though as far as I can tell, none of it is original, nor does he claim that it is.

His apparent strategy is to sidestep the problem of world-views resting on unproven assumptions by arguing pragmatically: which world-view works best?

The central flaw in this approach is that Byl artificially limits the choices: materialism, post-modernism, or fundamentalist Christianity. He seems to think that by arguing against the flaws of materialism and post-modernism, he can thereby prove that fundamentalist Christianity, as the only world-view left standing, must be true. But such a disjunctive argument is valid only if it starts with a complete list of the possibilities, which Byl's argument doesn't. There are many other possible world-views that explain the world as well or better than fundamentalist Christianity but do not have the flaws of materialism and post-modernism. As a result, simply disproving materialism and post-modernism fails to prove that fundamentalist Christianity is true. (It might be true, but Byl's argument doesn't show it.)

Most interesting to me was his deployment of what he calls "the principle of sufficient reason" to argue that the universe must have a cause, which is, of course, God. In essence, he combines the first-cause argument with the ontological argument for God's existence.

The first-cause argument is familiar: (1) Every thing must have a cause. (2) The universe is a thing. (3) Therefore, the universe must have a cause, which is God.

An easy rejoinder is that the first-cause argument rests on the fallacy of composition: Every barber has a nose. The set of all barbers is a barber. Therefore, the set of all barbers has a nose (a very big nose). Likewise, every thing must have a cause. The universe (the set of all things) is also a thing. Therefore, the universe must have a cause, which is God.

Of course, every schoolboy since John Stuart Mill has replied, "Then what caused God?" When the theist replies that God doesn't require a cause, the sceptic points out that the theist has abandoned premise (1) of his argument, which holds that everything must have a cause. If God doesn't require a cause, then why suppose that the universe requires a cause?

To answer the objection, Byl implicitly falls back on the ontological argument, contending that God is a "necessary being" who doesn't require any causal explanation. It requires years of academic or theological training to find such an argument convincing.

In summary, it's a competently-written book that won't convince anyone not already in agreement with the author. The arguments are interesting but full of holes. The mathematical connection is incidental to the metaphysics.
 
Description from the book's back cover  Mar 27, 2005
Since the beginning of time man has challenged God's supremacy, striving to dethrone God and reinterpret the universe according to his own standards and purposes. In response God, who is determined to destroy the wisdom of the worldly wise and to unmask it for the foolishness that it really is, issues his own challenge to sinful man. Arrogantly, modern scientific man takes up that divine challenge, arming himself with scientific knowledge and technological power. Indeed, man has convinced himself that his rational wisdom has made foolish the wisdom of Scripture, with its tall tales of a personal God, of life after death, and of heaven and hell. 'Such notions', Einstein declared, 'are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.'

John Byl argues that the Christian worldview provides the only foundation for logic, mathematics, science and morality. 'The Divine Challenge' aims to substantiate this bold cliam. Byl shows the failure of today's predominant philosophies to provide a chorerent worldview that can yield a plausible account of the various aspects of life as we experience it. Only a Christian worldview, squarely based on the teuth of the Bible and the comprehensive soverignty of God, can give our lives coherence, meaning, purpose and hope.
 

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