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I recently responded to the "I'm Not a Christian Anymore" thread. As a philosophical Christian Theist, I hate to see people reject Christ due to misconceptions. I offered some thoughts.
I was challenged on God's existence and nature so I'll offer some thoughts for anyone who would like to discuss. I find it's always necessary to dispel straw men and define terms first.
Motivation. I am interested in civil dialogue on what I think is the most important issue of all time. I think there are more distractions keeping people from the knowledge of God than at any time in history. Yet, I think there are more reasons to believe Theism is true than at any time! It's too important to just view these discussions as a contest - to win the debate at all costs.
No matter how one feels about the "Religious Right", an obnoxiously religious family member, or atrocities done in the name of God, etc. Theism just may be true.
Humility is required in the quest for truth. Respect is required for those on the quest. I hope to offer both.
Worldview. It all comes down to which worldview best explains the data of the universe. If Naturalism is true, then atheism follows. If Theism is true, I think Christianity is the best theistic option.
Classical (or Christian) Theism. Something is ontologically ultimate and therefore eternal and necessary. It is either something of the order of matter, or something of the order of mind. Theism holds to the latter and a conceptual analysis leads to God who is the personal Creator, is powerful, transcendent, and distinct from "his" creation yet active in it.
Christianity. The view that God revealed himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ's claims concerning himself are true and he is authoritative in everything he taught or affirmed.
Faith. Broadly, faith is the assent, or trust, or affirmation that a proposition is true. It has been defined on a scale from "blind faith" (fideism) to reasonable (or informed, supported) faith. I hold to the latter.
Faith is not a way of "knowing something", it is the application of what you know (or think you know). Some form of faith is a component of virtually everything in life - from the scientific method to personal relationships. But faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. All the faith in the world will not make something true.
One ought to place one's faith where the evidence points, even if one cannot prove the proposition 100% or does not have exhaustive data.
Proof. While it is difficult to prove something 100%, one can nevertheless offer and consider proofs (reasons or evidence). 100% certainty is not necessary for a view to be justified or considered knowledge. I offer proofs for Christian Theism not "100% proof".
A cumulative case is also often necessary. I think various arguments combine to show Theism is true.
Burden of Proof. When debating a question, (e.g. does God exist?) anyone offering answers to the question bears the burden of proof. All views make truth claims. All truth claims bear the burden of proof. Whether one defends Naturalism or Theism one ought to offer reasons why.
God of the Gaps. Theists need not argue from what we don't know. Arguments for God can be based on what we do know from science or philosophy.
Further, God can employ Secondary Causation, wherein initial conditions or systems produce perpetual effects (e.g. weather systems produce lightning).
God and Science. An eternal, transcendent Creator does not preclude us from rigorously exploring the universe and discovering how it works.
(You may be interested that I reject "Young Earth Creationism". I don't think it's the best biblical explanation and it certainly is at odds with known science. "Yom" in Genesis can denote long periods of time).
Thank you for reading this far. If anyone is interested I can sketch out some arguments for God for discussion.
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It would surely strengthen the case if the miracle occurred within a given context, i.e it was predicted, verified a claim, or vindicated a particular proclamation, etc. And we must avoid ruling out an explanation a priori.
Indeed, holding a view due to one's birthplace may explain why one holds the view but does not make it true or false (Genetic Fallacy).
I think one true God would entail one true "religion". But, given freewill, humankind certainly can fail to be united in it. If Quantum Mechanics is true, why are there disagreements and about ten different interpretations of it?
Am I the only one bothered by his seeming implications that a multitude of different belief systems concerning the nature of God, or even the many denominations of just Christianity, is okay concerning the "truth" of God's existence but that disagreements over Quantum Mechanics means that it is not true?
With science, we can only interpret the data, and scientists will come to different conclusions. But at least we CAN get data. We can't get data on gods. And better data, instruments, technology and measurements lead to better conclusions until they all start to look the same. If the existence of a god is true, and god lies within the realms of science, then it can be studied through the scientific method and either affirmed or denied.
"Because science is all about provisional truths, about fitting the data as best we can until new data forces us to reinterpret and re-analyze, and if necessary, build new models".
I don't disagree. What I pointed out was even if people disagree on the truth of a proposition does not mean the proposition is not true.
"It is very important to analyze the historical, psychological, and cultural origins of specific religious beliefs, and I dare to say that once we analyze these foundations when it comes to Christianity, there are very good reasons (lack of evidence being one of them, but the historical context is another good reason as well) to think that these beliefs are false, as false as those of other very important world religions".
"The unexamined life is not worth living" and I think the unexamined faith is not work believing. And I certainly think the historical, psychological, and cultural grounds are very solid supporting the claims of Christ.
Because he's "an X" not "Y or Z", therefore as "an X" "X is true" and "Y and Z" are false. It makes perfect sense.
But he said it himself. "and I think the unexamined faith is not work(sic) believing." And when I asked him if that makes Islam, Hinduism, or Wicca worth anything because they've been examined, he states "I don't think there are good grounds for holding to those views."
Backpedaling hypocrite. Ever asked members of these religions what makes these faiths worthwhile and true to them versus all the others and specifically yours?
"'Ive always hared that idea of "True to me." Things are either true or untrue. There might be an elaboration behind a truth or untruth, but "true to me" is simply silly."
It IS silly!
Free will? What free will? There is no free will in religion, given the problem of exclusivity. And since there IS not one religion but that they ALL claim to be true, the two most likely conclusions are ALL the gods are real or ALL the gods are not.
Or. Third scenario. There is one god but all the religions ever created describing it are STILL false. A true religion would imply a true god. A true god doesn't imply a true religion.
But seeing as how mankind's imagination has allowed it to create a wealth of different belief systems and fantastical stories, all varying and often contradictory, where is this all-powerful god's ability to instill universal truth in his supposed followers and let himself be known?
Everbody knows 2+2 = 4. It doesn't matter what you call the numbers, that computation is a universal truth. Mankind's myriad beliefs and fantasies and confusion indicates to me that neither gods nor religions are universal truths.
"Religion" is rather broad. However, there is the concept of free will in Christianity.
God's "ability" to reveal himself to his followers is a question of how God reveals himself rather than whether God exists.