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Hi All,

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.

 

Kevin H

 

 

Tags: Christianity, God, Science, and, atheism, blind, burden, creationism, earth, faith, More…gaps, god, naturalism, of, proof, the, theism, worldview, young

Views: 297

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Replies to This Discussion

Sounds like the Argument from Outrage, Doug. I am interested in why you think theism is illogical and unreasonable, but I am especially interested in why you think it is impossible.
How can anyone believe it is possible?  It's absurd, and inane.  Anyone who has worked with the chronically mentally ill, should recognize that Abraham was a paranoid schizophrenic.  There are uncountably many things I don't believe in, just because somebody can come up with a cockamamie idea, doesn't mean it's real.  Look at all the religions you choose not to believe in!
But please answer my question. Why do you think Theism is impossible?
Okay, I'll rephrase. Why is the existence of God impossible?
I wouldn't say my dragon is impossible, just wildly implausible and possessing a probability so low it is more likely that every atom in my body will simultaneously and spontaneously quantum tunnel to Mars and arrive in the precise arrangement they currently enjoy.
You're probably right. It's a fine point of distinction due in part to my dislike of absolute statements. Thus my favorite example of quantum tunneling as a measuring stick. :)

Is Zeus impossible?  Or Odin?  How about zombies?  Or vampires?

 

Actually, zombies ARE theoretically possible.  Should I be worried?

 

Or how about we just stick with the living religions?  Do you think the Hindus' pantheon is possible?  Shiva?  Brahma?  Vishnu?  Sacred cows and elephant gods?  What about Allah?  Do you think the moon was sliced in half?  Or Mormonism?  Do you believe in magical underwear?  Is all that possible?  If they're not "im"possible?  Does that make them probable?

And it's a good distinction between possible and probable. If something is impossible (contradictory, logically absurd, etc.) then there is no need to look for evidence for it.

If something is actually improbable we can discount it initially yet be open to any evidence.

The question I'm asking is, why is the existence of God either impossible or improbable? Comparisons to Pink Unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters is "village atheism" at it's worst! Those entities would be finite, contingent, localized, limited, etc. That's not what we're considering.

 

The existence of Yaweh is as improbable as that of Zeus, Ra, Odin, El, and so forth. The universe looks as we would expect without a deity intervening in it. Or, to be short, there is no evidence for a deity, and where we would expect to find evidence it is absent.

"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." 

 Theism fails in about every way an explanation can fail. "God did it" is (1) untestable, (2) violates Occam's Razor, (3) provides no mechanism, (4) makes no predictions, (5) has no explanatory virtue (6) is ontologically uneconomical, and (7) has a terrible track record of explaining things...etc...etc... 

 

"Classical (or Christian) Theism.... 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."

logical fallacy alert that is a false dichotomy. neuroscience posits a third option that minds are, like all other functions of livings things, physical and determined. This means that the concept of a non-physically embodied mind doesn't even seem meaningful. Since the minds we know of desire as a consequent of their physical environment are fully natural, the idea of one acting outside with a radically different concept  of desire (since it doesn't need anything) seems silly and weighs heavily against the probability of god being an intelligible concept. 

 

"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."

There is no independent data outside the Bible which confirms that life of Jesus. This means that all references that "prove" Jesus are in the Bible, and as a result, you are committing the logical fallacy of begging the question. Not only that, but it is the wide historical consensus that they for canonical books were not written till decades later after the estimated time of Christ. The books Matthew and Luke are consensusly agreed to be derived from Mark, which itself did not even originally have the happy ending about Jesus coming back (Mark 16, link). John is thought to have been made as early as 90 AD. If you could somehow get past the overwhelming historical consensus, there is also the fact that the new testament itself contains errors, such as the fact that there was not a Nazereth at the time of Jesus, the doctrine of the pharisees is brutally misrepresented (we know, there are sources that record them and show them to be of opposite character) and Jesus hilariously misquoting the old testament. 

 

"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."

What you are describing is philosophically appalling. If something is more likely, then you do not need faith because the more cogent answer is statistically more likely. This means it is supported by reason, not faith.  Also, if you care about truth, then faith is your enemy, It allows you to believe whatever you want without or in spite of the evidence. If you really cared about truth, then you would just all religions equally without special pleading. 

 

"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."

No one has that standard. In inductive reason, especially science, all a claim has to cross the threshhold of probability (be more likely than the alternative). I am looking forward to your proofs, because I am looking at graduate programs in epistemology and I have plenty of proofs that I think prove god does not exist. 

 

"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."

I am glad you think this way. This means we must start at unweighted agnosticism (the I do not know position) and argue our way, without special pleading to what system we grew  up with, to the conclusion and cross the threshold of 51% probability.

 

"God of the Gaps. Theists need not argue from what we don't know. Arguments for God can be based on what wedo 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)."

What we do know from science is that theistic explanations have a long history of being displaced and miserably failing. What we do know from philosophy is that the concept of God seams meaningless and the hypothesis of indifference fits with the cosmos betters. Because of this, I am interested in how these things that have been increasingly more hostile to "god did it" for about the last 150 years could do anything but smash deities. Also, the second type of causation you mentioned committs the logical fallacy of ad-hoc and violates Occam's razor. 

 

"God and Science. An eternal, transcendent Creator does not preclude us from rigorously exploring the universe and discovering how it works."

Ummm, yes it does. Science is based around that fact that nature has orderly and uninterrupted processes and theism is based around God interfering in the cosmos and making exceptions to nature to help people. Science could not be so successful if theism was true. Also on a side note, several studies, such as those done by the MAYO clinic shows that prayer does not do anything to help the sick. 

Theism fails in about every way an explanation can fail. "God did it" is (1) untestable, (2) violates Occam's Razor, (3) provides no mechanism, (4) makes no
predictions, (5) has no explanatory virtue (6) is ontologically
uneconomical, and (7) has a terrible track record of explaining
things...etc...etc...

 

Well, all of that is what I'm here to discuss! I've presented no argument so how can we apply any of it yet?

logical fallacy alert that is a false dichotomy. neuroscience posits a third option that minds are, like all other functions of livings things, physical and
determined. This means that the concept of a non-physically embodied
mind doesn't even seem meaningful. Since the minds we know of desire as
a consequent of their physical environment are fully natural, the idea
of one acting outside with a radically different concept  of desire
(since it doesn't need anything) seems silly and weighs heavily against
the probability of god being an intelligible concept.

 

I'm giving a basic definition of Theism in that paragraph, not a defense of it. And it sounds like you're saying "there is nothing beyond the human mind",
or "nothing outside the perception of the human mind is meaningful". One
would have to go beyond the human mind to know that, so it is
self-refuting.


There is no independent data outside the Bible which confirms that life of Jesus. This means that all references that "prove" Jesus are in the
Bible, and as a result, you are committing the logical fallacy of begging the question.

 

What you are describing is philosophically appalling. If something is more likely, then you do not need faith because the more cogent answer is
statistically more likely. This means it is supported by reason, not
faith.

 

You cannot prove that proposition you just offered 100%. There is an element of trust or assent in what is "more likely". That's what I'm saying. Faith does not necessarily support the truth of
something, it is the application of what is supported by reason, etc.

 

What we do know from science is that theistic explanations have a long history of being displaced and miserably failing.

 

 

 

What we do know from philosophy is that the concept of God seams meaningless and the hypothesis of indifference fits with the cosmos
betters.

 

That assertion remains to be seen.

 

Because of this, I am interested in how these things that have been increasingly more hostile to "god did it" for about the last 150 years
could do anything but smash deities. Also, the second type of causation
you mentioned committs the logical fallacy of ad-hoc and violates Occam's razor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do not place much validity on prayer studies. They are too problematic.


 

Well, all of that is what I'm here to discuss! I've presented no argument so how can we apply any of it yet?

If you are using any IBE arguments, which you said you would be if you are arguing that god makes the best sense of things (the design argument, the moral argument, etc..etc...), then that applies. QED

 

I'm giving a basic definition of Theism in that paragraph, not a defense of it. And it sounds like you're saying "there is nothing beyond the human mind",
or "nothing outside the perception of the human mind is meaningful". One
would have to go beyond the human mind to know that, so it is
self-refuting.

 

NO. I am not saying the universe is only physical. I am saying that theistic doctrine's conception of god seems to be completely incoherent and not appear to be capable of making sense. Theologians have tried for thousands of years to make the idea of a bodyless mind acting on the world make sense and have failed every time.

 

You cannot prove that proposition you just offered 100%. There is an element of trust or assent in what is "more likely". That's what I'm saying. Faith does not necessarily support the truth of something, it is the application of what is supported by reason, etc.

 

I assess the data, and make an inference. I adjust the data accordingly to new information. Bayes' theorem, the method used, was shown to be true mathematically and deductively. If you understand deduction, you will get that this does not involve any faith or unwarranted trust. It sounds like you are making another logical fallacy by equivocating the word faith to mean confidence. This is a pretty common blunder actually. 

 

That assertion remains to be seen.

(1) the Earth doesn't sit on a pillow, (2) the Earth goes around the sun, (3) the Earth is more than 6,000 years old, (4) the Jews didn't build the pyramids (5) God didn't directly create all of the species that are around today, all these are massive concessions made by religion due to the  sciences. I could go on and on.

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