Saturday, January 7, 2017

Enduring Personal Identity Requires God

By Mike Robinson

personal id enduring change
Everything proves God exists, even repaired boats

Enduring Personal Identity Requires God

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

If the world were not as scripture says it is, if the natural man’s knowledge were not actually rooted in the creation and providence of God, then there would be no knowledge. …The non-Christians have made and now make discoveries about the state of the universe simply because the universe is what Christ says it is. The unbelieving scientist borrows or steals the Christian principle of creation and providence every time he says that an “explanation” is possible, for he knows he cannot account for an “explanation” on his own.

The nonbeliever cannot account for the intelligibility of various things, even his own persistent personal identity. When someone says, “I’m Ernie,” and means that he is the same “Ernie” as the person in his high school yearbook named “Ernie,” he is unknowingly borrowing from the theistic worldview. Theism furnishes a reason one can be confident we are who we are. Our physical bodies change every moment and every day. Human beings lose one-sixtieth of an ounce of respiratory moisture and sweat every minute; there is a net loss every second, meaning that humans physically change every moment. Hence, under a pure materialist worldview, I am not the same person I was a second ago. The skin replaces itself once a month. The stomach lining is replaced every five days. The cells in the liver are replaced every six weeks, and the skeleton about every three months. The body of every human being changes constantly. The cells of a human body are in a constant state of flux and are always being modified. In one year the average person has ninety-eight percent of his atoms exchanged for new ones. In seven years’ time every atom in a person’s body has been replaced. Thus the person is a new and completely different being within the worldview of the firm materialist atheist (faster if you visit the dentist frequently).

   The atheistic materialist affirms that only the material world exists, claiming that nothing spiritual or immaterial exists. After seven years everyone is a different person. So the atheist cannot account for personal identity. By his standard of an unalloyed materialist world, everyone is a different person after seven years, because every atom has been replaced by a new one.

Since all material things change, materialistic atheism is impossible

   The rigid materialist, under his worldview, would not be married to the same woman he married nine years ago. They are totally different physically, due to the complete replacement of bodily atoms every seven years. If he has a child over the age of seven, then by the atheist’s standard he is not the same child who was born to them. Therefore, if he wanted to be consistent in his worldview, he should throw away all baby pictures along with his wedding album. Every molecule in his body has changed. And in a strict materialist world, he is a different person. But he will not throw away his baby pictures or his wedding album, because he is basing much of his life on the truth of theism. The atheist husband still hugs his wife without being unfaithful to her. He will still take his kid to the park and buy him a balloon. But he will not buy the stranger who is next to him a balloon. The atheist knows that his child is the same child who was born to him years before. He lives much of his life on the truth that the Creator exists. Can the information in one’s DNA be the basis for personal identity? No, since twins have the same DNA but they are two different individuals. Additionally, even though it is highly improbable, two or more distinct men can have the same DNA and yet remain totally different individuals.

Sartre … described his recent exposure to the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and the other “phenomenologists” delving into questions of experience and consciousness: “What is it for a thing to be? What does it mean to say that you yourself are?” Pointing at one of the apricot concoctions, Aron announced: “If you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!” (Sara Bakewell).

Bob and the Boat

A man named Bob builds a fishing boat and names it Dolly Mae. A couple of years later he replaces all the wood because the color is fading. He throws the wood in a pile on the side yard. Later Bob replaces all the nails and metal binders with new ones. He tosses them in the side yard with the wood. His friend sees the wood and nails and asks Bob if he can have them to build a canoe. Bob lets him have them, and the friend builds a canoe with all the wood, nails, and metal from the boat.

   Which vessel should be named Dolly Mae? This paradox exposes the problem that atheists have with human identity. The first boat has none of its original parts—the canoe has them all, but with a different shape. Hence, neither vehicle is the original; they have both changed. The first has changed in its physical parts and the second in its shape and design.

   In the strict materialist view of life, humans who lose body parts to disease or accidents are not the same people they were before the loss. The Christian professes that man is made in God’s image. We all have what scholars have called sensus deitatis, a sense of God or deity. We know who we are by looking at God and His revelation. God’s word announces who we are—our unchanging personal identity. Humans have a personal identity that transcends the physical world. Christians can hold their ten-year-old child’s hand and hug their grandparents and remain consistent within their own worldview. When the anti-theist performs these types of caring actions towards his loved ones, he is being inconsistent with his ultimate precommitments.

   The atheist knows that men have souls; and although they deny this obvious truth, they live as though it were true. If personal identity did not have an immaterial aspect, anyone who had lost a couple of limbs in an accident, had his skin burned off in a fire, or lost a couple of organs would not be the same person. His identity would change in a materialist’s worldview. Suppose a man lost all his skin due to a chemical accident. That same man had to have his kidneys replaced due to an adverse reaction to the medication. He got so depressed; he drank in excess and had to receive a new liver. One day, he was so despondent that he hurled himself out of his third-story window and lost all his limbs. New technology provided him with new limbs, new organs, and new skin. With almost his entire physical body replaced, is he still his mother’s son? Is he still his wife’s husband? Is he still the father of his little girl? Is he still the same man? The answer is yes—yes because he has a spirit and he is a soul. He is more than the sum of his physical parts; he is a human being created in the image of God.

   With the element determining intrinsic nature in mind, it would appear that the atheist’s worldview, a human being is just a bipedal blob of water and protein. There is no moral reason for the world to esteem a human being as anything more important than a bumblebee. Nevertheless, we see atheists affirming the dignity and value of man; when they do this they are living contrary to their own worldview.

Do the Crime and Do the Time?

To reject the notion that man has a spirit has implications for the penal system as well. According to the atheist’s worldview, all that exists is the material world; if this were true, after seven years the state should let all murderers out of prison. Remember that they have had all their atoms replaced by new ones. Therefore, they are now different people, according to the materialist worldview of atheism. The materialistic atheist should not kiss his wife goodbye if they have been married for over seven years. Materially speaking, they are totally different people, so he is not kissing the same woman he married. He should not choose to buy his nine-year old son an ice cream in preference to the stranger next to him. To live consistently within a firm materialist philosophy is unreasonable and bewildering.

   We sip champagne on our tenth anniversary with our spouses and buy birthday presents for our twelve-year-old daughter because the Christian worldview is true; it is impossible for it not to be.

In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

If there were no God, one could not ever say, “I do not believe in God.” One could not say, “I,” because there would be no interminable “I.” In principle one could not make any assertion at all; only if God exists can one account for self-identity and justify any personal assertion. It is not just that Christianity makes better sense in describing human experience than atheism; it is the truth condition for making sense out of human understanding.

   Who is the source of all truth, order, logic, mathematics, goodness, beauty, and philosophy? Bahnsen put it well when he said:

The Christian offers the self-attesting Christ to the world as the only foundation upon which a man must stand to give any “reasons” for anything at all. The whole notion of “giving reasons” is completely destroyed by any ontology other than the Christian one. The Christian claims that only after accepting the Biblical scheme of things will any man be able to understand and account for his own rationality.

For more see my book Reality and the Folly of Atheism HERE on Amazon