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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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I consider many things. Doesn't make them true or untrue. Considerations stop at the brain. I've once considered a cartoon dimension. I've also considered the hologram universe.
Whether a god(not just God) exists or not is actually not even the point, because it has no bearing on what goes on in the world and in the nature of reality and its events. Any god that did exist would probably keep it that way.
No evidence that I have ever been presented has been able to pass muster. Usually, it falls into one of two primary categories. One, being dependent on a wide variety of logical fallacies, ranging from the ever-popular argument from ignorance (we don't know, therefore god and in specific my god) to the more complex multi-leveled false dilemma (Hello, C.S. Lewis), all the way down to Last Thursdayism. Two, making things so incredibly vague that the argument could support the existence of nearly anything, including Inter-dimensional, pan-galactic space ducks.
Since you have yet to post any proofs, I am going to post mine. What I am seeking to do is show that
the Probability of the hypothesis of indifference is much greater than the probability of the hypothesis of theism. This does not mean that i am proving that it is impossible that god does not exist, but I am showing that the cosmos is far better explained by indifference (there is no god intervening, no god that created the universe, we are soulless material beings). Since we are using inductive reason and not employing double standards, we will start from the unweighted agnostic (I don't know) position of an outsider that is not an atheist or a believer of deities, but is open to the probability of both positions.
When I say best explains, I mean the answer that has explanatory virtues, like (1) Scope: it explanations explain more types of phenomena, (2) Precision: it explains phenomena with greater precision, (3) Simplicity: better explanations make use of fewer claims, (4) Unification: it unifies apparently disparate phenomena, (5) Past explanatory success it fits within a tradition or trend with past explanatory success (e.g. astronomy, not astrology). *thanks csa for the list*
(1) problem of (both natural and human) suffering. Earthquake, AIDS, cancer, volcanoes, the violence in evolution, rape, murder, and holocaust fit much better with the idea that the cosmos is does not care about us and requires no metaphysical gymnastics, like theism.
(2) problem of nonbelief. the fact that there are so many people that have tried desperately to believe, but can not contradicts the idea that there is a God wants us to believe in him. This is an even worse problem if you believe in Hell, because then people who want desperately to believe, but can not, are going to suffer for all eternity.
(3) argument from scale. the universe seems to be completely different than the universe as predicted by theism. its size is unnecessarily big and life arrived very late in the universe. Humans are nowhere near the center of the scale and the universe is full of things hostile to life, such as radiation and black holes. Even weirder is that the universe is 95-96% comprised of dark matter and dark energy. Time is also a dimension in our "block universe", which goes completely against the intuitionist nature of the bible and puts the very idea of the universe "beginning to exist" in a category of nonsensical statements.
(4) the transcendental argument for the non-existence of God. Science has shown time after time that supernatural explanations are awful at explaining nature to the point that science now seeks out naturalistic explanations for phenomena. the fruitfulness of this tradition completely contradicts the idea that there is a god intervening in the universe, causing miracles and phenomenon. If there was such acts, then science would have failed to give natural explanations in the oldest and most fleshed out traditions of science. instead, God is forced to dwell at the frontier of ignorance, ever retreating into the never frontiers that are yet to be thoroughly examined.
(5) the problem of miscommunication. the bible is full of contradictions and passages that are so vague they could be taken many different ways. this is why there are thousands of theologies and nations used to go to war and ethnic cleanse over biblical passages. this ineptness hardly seems the work of an all-good, all-powerful, and all-wise. god. if it was divinely inspired, then it seems that God could at least be as clear as some of the smarter theologians, such as JP Moreland.
(1) appeal to faith. faith is the position of an insider and we are doing this inquiry from the position of an outsider, who is unbiasely examining the evidence. if we want to get to truth, then we can not special plead away the evidence. any religion could do this, so it is useless in getting use anywhere.
(2) god is mysterious or "has a plan". since we are an outsider, we have not accepted that God exists yet, so his mysteriousness can not be appealed to. again, there is the fact that any religion could do this makes it useless in determining what is true. also, this leads to a much larger problem of divine hiddenness. To quote Nietzsche, "a god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intentions — could that be a god of goodness?"
It seems much more likely that there is not a God and the cosmos is indifferent. This explanation does not involve intellectual gymnastics and explains the cosmos and our place in it in a nice, clean way. Note that this is my first round, and I have about 30 or so more arguments if this persists and much more rebuttals. I however wanted to make this readable, so I limited my length.
I think this is excellent and I want to spend some time on it. Asap.
I’ll offer some thoughts that may strengthen the argument as well as my conclusions to it.
(1) Problem of (both natural and human) suffering. While the Problem of Evil (POE) or the Problem of Suffering (or Harm) remains a thorny issue, calling Theism “metaphysical gymnastics” is hasty. Compared to what? The phrase implies that Theism twists, perverts, or adds baggage to the “real” or better worldview. And since that remains to be seen, it begs the question.
The various Problems of Evil are problematic due to (1) no one having shown that the propositions “God exists” and “evil (or suffering, etc.) exists” is necessarily contradictory. (2) It is difficult on Naturalism or Atheism to justify the view that suffering is evil or wrong. It’s just molecules in motion and blind processes with no moral dimension accept those imposed upon it by humans – which is arbitrary.
However, I would keep the POE in a cumulative case against Theism due to the sheer magnitude of the problem. But even on the outsider test, one could consider that if God exists he may well have sufficient reasons for allowing evil or that he will eventually destroy it via a process.
(2) Problem of nonbelief. The problem assumes several things. First, God, if he exists, is obligated to communicate with people. Second, that God is obligated to reveal himself only in the way I designate. Third, that God does not sufficiently revealed himself to individuals in ways compatible with free will and relationship. Fourth, there actually exists people who have actually desperately sought God but were ignored by God. The outsider who wishes to affirm that bears a huge burden of proof.
This is in the category of Divine Hiddeness that you mention below because it examines how, why, or when, etc. God, if he exists, would communicate with people. The outsider could consider whether and in what way God communicates given Theism.
Also, Hebraic or Christian theology is available to the outsider that (1) God reveals himself in ways that promote relationship with God rather than mere knowledge of his existence. (2). God reveals himself in ways that can’t be “faked”. Sagan’s suggestion of a “glowing cross” in the night sky might cause some to reluctantly accept Theism (and perhaps resent it), or more likely to recognize that it could be natural phenomena, a hoax, a human invention, or even aliens! But it’s rather difficult to fake the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of the initial conditions and constants for intelligent life found in the Big Bang, the widespread recognition of objective moral values and duties, overwhelming complexity and design in the universe, man’s perpetual obsession with God and overwhelming belief in him, and the historically overwhelming impact of a penniless preacher from a far region of the Roman Empire who got himself humiliatingly executed by the enemies he was to overthrow.
(3) Argument from scale. This argument assumes Theism predicts a particular size of the universe. Christian theology for one predicts a HUGE universe to the glory of God! Astrophysicists point out that the universe has to be at least the size it is to allow star formation, and thus carbon atoms for intelligent life. All of that is compatible with Theism.
Secondly, it assumes only a certain position and time is compatible with Theism.
Thirdly, it assumes the B-Theory of Time in a block universe. The B-Theory is in no way proven and more philosophers think the A-Theory is correct.
(4) The transcendental argument for the non-existence of God. I think this argument serves to establish appropriate methodological naturalism in the physical sciences. The outsider can consider that on Theism all nature was created by God and is therefore intrinsically good and can be explored. God did not bypass the material world and punt to some other form of strictly spiritual existence impervious to physical examination. Since God created nature to behave in normative ways, God’s intervention would be non-normative and therefore rare as well as within a certain context.
But there is no reason to think that God is a deceiver who monkeys with our lab experiments, observations, and field tests! Such a “God” would not be the “greatest conceivable Being” of Anselm.
(5) The problem of miscommunication..I would like to see how you propose God should have communicated via the Scriptures, which cover about 1,500 years, on three continents, about 40 authors, 66 books, in three languages, in times of war and times of peace, from the depths of despair and the heights of joy, in various literary genres, all the while not bypassing frail humanity in its transmission!
You’ll need to show how it could have been written so that man would not go to war over it! Good luck, being that people have a penchant for going to war over virtually everything!
Possible responses: If it’s not Special Pleading to posit that something of the order of matter is ontologically ultimate, then it’s not Special Pleading to posit that something of the order of mind is ontologically ultimate. Especially since Big Bang cosmology increasingly demonstrates that matter and energy came into existence a finite time ago and is therefore not ontologically ultimate. And it makes more sense that something personal could will to bring about something, rather than something impersonal and causally impotent, or nothing bringing about something!
As to God’s plan or “mysterious ways”, the outsider could, after determining that the concept of God was not contradictory, impossible, nor implausible, consider that if Theism were true God could certainly have a plan and that there would be mysterious aspects to be explored. These would be secondary considerations.
Conclusion: I think this argument at most shows there are physical mechanisms in the universe that are indifferent to people, and there are people who are indifferent to other people, which boils down to the Problem of Evil and Suffering.
"I would like to give you some kudos for you effort. It is better than most attempts made here. An attempt to reach a mutual understanding of the meaning of the terms to be used is always respected. I do however disagree with most of it after a first read through. You state that you are philosophical Christian Theist. Most of what you write is based on a Revealed Theology with that assumption that the Christian god is the one to consider. Therefore it would be difficult to use Natural Theological arguments?"
Thank you! I would only begin with arguments for Natural Theology (NT) on this forum. They would be first in building a cumulative case. For example, as to Christian Theism, I think NT arguments (like the Kalam Cosmological Argument) get us in the stadium, proofs for the claims of Christ can get us to home plate.
"As the promise of Infinite life after death is a major part of Christianity I would really like some evidence of it, even a tiny scrap".
I'm not sure what Augustine meant but I think his statement was in the realm of Revealed Theology (the Scriptures) stating if we "draw near to God, he will draw near to you". If we're faithful with the broader revelation of God in nature, we'll get more revelation from him. FWIW, I have personally found this to be true.
While we might consider a (very) few good cases of Near Death Experiences, work in Mind/Body Dualism, etc., I would cut to the chase and look at Christ's resurrection. If the historical arguments go through, then it seems we have a divine miracle on our hands!
The Ontological Argument is getting a major second look due to the work of Alvin Planinga. It has come roaring back lately. But I am way behind on it.
"Faith is the friend of theology. I have no need for either. Science is however the ally of philosophy of reason and logic".
Apparently you do have a need for it! You're engaging in and apparently interested in Theology! Your whole post is theological! Yet, thankfully you have also included nods to science, reason, and logic. That's all I'm trying to do. In the same way, theology is the ally of science, philosophy, reason, and logic. Theology is the study of God and all those things come to bear in that study.
That’s why I suggested getting the meaning of terms used here understood first. My whole post is not Theological. It discusses Philosophical arguments that have been put forward in the past. I cannot see how theology is the ally of science. I do not see theology as a study of God. It is a study of religion insofar as it helps people understand their specific religion or any other one if they wish to study it. Theology assumes god exists, i.e. it is a given that HE (not she or even It in the spirit sense) exists. It then goes on to defend itself. Philosophy ponders whether god exists or not. It is because of this assumption that god exists and my assertion that god is only “known” by having Faith that I said I have no need for either for faith or theology.
Alvin Plantinga makes assumptions in his rehashing of the ontological argument. It is again assumed that god exists and is the perfect being or is the maximum greatness something can be. But “Existence is not a predicate” as Kant said. That is we have to ASSUME that something exists before we can give it characteristics. I however don’t give him too much credence because he started lecturing on Intelligent Design. I cannot give intellectual assent to anyone in the Ken Ham school of thought.
BTW looking to the wonders of nature or near death experiences are not evidence of a god. If they were why the Christian god ?
Define something as you wish but you are using non-standard definitions. They are typically called non-standard because they aren't good. Theology is broadly the study of God and can include the study of religion. It is a theological study to even determine whether a particular theological view can be defended! One does not have to assume God exists in order to study the concept. That is Theology. You and I are doing theology right now.
You are rigorously defending "Scientism", the view that physical science is the only way to determine truth, or that our current scientific theories best describe reality. Scientism, however, fails it's own tests! You cannot determine whether Scientism is true via the material scientific method!
I said earlier I agree with you that something is not "known" by faith.
BTW looking to the wonders of nature or near death experiences are not evidence of a god. If they were why the Christian god ?
That's not what you asked. You asked for "one tiny bit of evidence" for an afterlife. I suggested a few headings.