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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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Best example: the all might avatar Sai Baba
The last time we heard from this michaeljacksonlikepedophile was when his indestructible majesty fell in bathroom and broken his hip :D
If you do not believe in the Divinity of Christ, but instead just his teachings, then doesn't that just make him a run-of-the-mill "I'm the Son of God" crazy person, at the very least, just another human being like Socrates?
That's a dilemma! If you hold to Christ's teachings then you're held to his divine claims. He taught that he was the Son of God. Is he crazy? Is he who he claimed to be? Or is the whole thing a myth?
I think the evidence supports that he was who he claimed to be.
"The best method for evaluating objective reality is the Scientific Method".
That's proposition about objective reality. Now, please prove it by the Scientific Method.
"I think the evidence supports that he was who he claimed to be."
BASED ON WHAT?!
So there's something OTHER than objective reality? Oh yeah. I know what it's called. It's called imagination.
How do you "prove" reality anyway? How do you define reality? There are many things that make up our perceived reality. Gravity. Light. Matter. Energy. We can all prove these with science. But the exact nature of reality is hard to pin down. Ultimately it's just a word. Can "gods" be proven by the scientific method?
"Can "gods" be proven by the scientific method?"
By materialistic, naturalistic physical scientific methods, no. In the same way, consider the proposition you're implying: "Only that which can be proven by the scientific method is real".
Now, please prove that proposition by the scientific method.
Of course not! What I'm showing is why the Empirical Verificationist Principle is self-refuting and thrown out of the academy in the 1960's. Not everything that is real or true is subject to empirical verification.
The EMP itself cannot be empirically verified so it fails its own test!
Says logic. If a what a person teaches is true, and the person teaches that he is X, then he is indeed X.
In a nutshell, I think the claims of Christ are supported by the eyewitness accounts which bear the earmarks of historicity, and the accounts of the contemporaries of the eyewitnesses and events, which are early, accurate, and preserved in thousands of manuscripts. These accounts describe Christ's sinless life, miracles, fulfillment of prophecy, and that he predicted and accomplished his own resurrection from the dead.
Further, I nothing in Islam that is a defeater of those claims. And if Christ is who he claimed to be, what Islam claims of Muhammad is not true.
Then let's clarify. What argues for Christ's character, teachings, authority, moral paradigm, and sanity, etc. argues for what he taught about himself. Being that it is difficult to deny all those positive aspects in Christ, that is evidence that we can trust what he taught about himself as well. Are there other explanations like the whole thing being a myth? Yes. But I don't think the alternative explanations are valid.
I am familiar with Dr. Ehrman's work. Check his debates with William Lane Craig and Michael Licona as well.
"And we have no eyewitness accounts. The earliest writings of the New Testament are dated decades after the purported events occured. Not to mention that eyewitness accounts are the least reliable form of evidence".
That view wipes out virtually all of ancient history and is not in keeping with professional historians. What we know of most ancient figures comes 500 to 1000 years after their lives. Not so with Christ. Most of the documents were written and circulated within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses and contemporaries of events.