Monday, May 05, 2008

Sam Harris' standard of proof


I saw this in The End of Faith and it was just too good to not put out there.

We know that no evidence would be sufficient to authenticate many of the pope's core beliefs. How could anyone born in the twentieth century come to know that Jesus was actually born of a virgin? What process of ratiocination, mystical or otherwise, will deliver the necessary facts about a Galilean woman's sexual history (facts that run entirely counter to well-known facts of human biology)? There is no such process. Even a time machine could not help us, unless we were willing to keep watch over Mary 24 hours a day for the months surrounding the probable time of Jesus' conception (The End of Faith, p. 76, emphasis author's).

That will work though - we can play this game forever. No evidence will suffice to prove to me that the variety of organisms we see today are descendants of a single ancestor and that their variation is accounted for by natural selection acting on mutation.
Shoot, no evidence will be sufficient to prove that Sam Harris even exists.
I wonder if any other quotation of these New Atheist books displays the beast of presupposition more clearly. No argument, no evidence will sway him. The inductive reasoning he has employed to come to his decision is final and unquestionable.

Gone, ephemeral, is any claim he could make to impartiality.
Badly needed is the Holy Spirit's renewal of his mind. I thank God He changed mine.

45 comments:

Kyle said...

I wonder how Paul C would view this standard. We were last discussing evidence and he stated that almost no evidence would be enough to verify a historical miracle.

It is interesting that many people who don't believe the bible give an answer that basically boils down to "God, give me a sign because there isn't enough evidence".

Luke 11:29
As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.

There are those who even if they thought Christ rose from the dead they still wouldn't believe. For those who are using lack of evidence to avoid dealing with what Jesus said, consider what he taught about the Rich man who was in Hades. He wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to earth to warn his brothers.

Luke 16:27-
"And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house for I have five brothers in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' "But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' "But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Jesus thought that the evidence of the Jewish scriptures was enough and yet the inspired writings of the New Testament are even more clear. For the skeptic or doubters, I say that you are looking for the wrong kind of evidence. The evidence of God and the testimony that we are human souls with immaterial inner selves should be examined by hearing the scriptures and looking inside yourself to see if what the scriptures teach about man is true. Are you a sinner? Do you frequently act in ways or think thought you would be ashamed of others knowing about you? Do you hide your intent from others and deceive them? It is because we have souls that we can understand the spiritual nature of the bible. You must read the texts to discover God there but you can't see God without acknowledging your own sin and guilt before Him. The scriptures are the only evidence God gave and it is sufficient. But how can you know unless you carefully examine them?

Benjamin said...

"There are those who even if they thought Christ rose from the dead they still wouldn't believe."

I would say that N. T. Wright fits this description rather well, in so far as my study of his work has demonstrated. It is not inconceivable that a man might accept a phenomenon like resurrection and wholly miss its personal essence.

Seth said...

I tend to agree with this excerpt, though certainly not where the author is going with it. There is no physical process by which Mary could have been impregnated by a non-corporeal being. Perhaps we could more easily disarm these ‘standard of proof’ type attacks against Christianity if we were less eager to present proofs based on ‘overwhelming evidences’ and other physical rationalizations our opponents so quickly oppose. Our defense of miracles often looks more like defensiveness of miracles, effectively rendering justification by faith as justification for faith. (How's that for some mediocre turns of phrase!)

Rintintin said...

No evidence will suffice to prove to me that the variety of organisms we see today are descendants of a single ancestor and that their variation is accounted for by natural selection acting on mutation.

Ironically, you'd actually be accurate in thinking the second part of that, since recombination and random genetic drift are also considered vital (but non-adaptive) mechanisms in the process of evolution :-D

Rintintin said...

Actually I have another question - you seem to have read a few of the books by the 'new atheists'. Are any of them actually worth a read or, should I save my cash/time?

Rhology said...

Ah, RTT, you've come to the right place for unbiased, totally objective atheist book reviews! ;-)

You know, I really don't think they're worth it! I'm not impressed by Bertrand Russell, for example, but he seems to be far better than these New Atheists. I have a more favorable impression even of, say, Michael Martin.

Or even some Internet sources seem to be better. I had some respect for Debunking Christianity before it became John Loftus' personal crybaby-over-problem-of-evil playround. Maybe IIDB... certainly not the RRS. Talk.origins...
Those are just my general impressions, and I don't spend a tonne of time reading them, so, yeah.

G-man said...

Well I see it as a different standard of measure, I guess. See, the theory of evolution actually fits with natural law - if it didn't, it would have been rejected. Virgin birth, on the other hand, is incompatible with natural law.

So Harris is saying "I want a lot of evidence before I believe the impossible occurred," and you're saying you need the same amount of evidence to believe that the possible occurred. It's a different game for each of you.

I tend to side with David Hume - If it would be more miraculous that the person telling me about a miracle was lying or mistaken, in that case I will believe the miracle. In the meantime, it wouldn't be much of a miracle for someone to lie about her sexual history in a culture where virginity was the only standard of worth for a woman.

But yeah - there's no physical laws that Sam Harris' existence breaks, so it's a fairly ordinary claim to claim he does. However, claiming a virgin birth is an extraordinary claim, and I don't blame someone for wanting extraordinary evidence to accompany it.

Rhology said...

G-man,

That's not what Sam Harris said, though.

G-man said...

Re: kyle,

It's always interested me to know why miracles occur, if they do. It seems to me that miracles only happen to believers - if the same thing happened to a non-believer, he/she probably wouldn't think of it as a miracle.

Obviously if miracles were intended to convert non-believers, God would be able to come up with the appropriate miracle (knowing the heart, and all that).

But as it is, miracles just seem to be the sort of thing that believers say "hey, this miracle happened to me, you atheist, now you should believe!" And, of course, the atheist doesn't believe it because he/she didn't see it.

So what's the point? Miracles aren't necessary to help people, and they only happen to believers - the only possible reason I can think of is that they serve to confirm the beliefs of believers. I mean, wow... breaking the laws of the universe to strengthen the beliefs of believers? Also, doesn't that constitute a violation of *free will?* Doesn't that nullify *faith like a child?*

I really don't get it. Maybe you can give me your perspective.

Kyle said...

G-man said...
Re: kyle,

"It's always interested me to know why miracles occur, if they do. It seems to me that miracles only happen to believers - if the same thing happened to a non-believer, he/she probably wouldn't think of it as a miracle."

God can and does give miracles to unbelievers but only at his discretion. Paul the apostle received a blinding light from heaven and heard Jesus speak saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” So in his case a miracle converted him. The gospels are filled with examples of Jesus’ miracles which converted many and made others hate him or claim he did his miracles with the Devil’s power. The purpose of the miracles along with all of scripture was to present the person of Jesus Christ as the focus of God’s revelation. God authenticated Christ to his generation in time and space and we can look back and read about his deeds and the reception he received from his contemporaries. This took place one time to verify Christ and his message. Now that the message is in place, we should not expect miracles to occur for everyone. God’s primary means of persuasion and revelation is the scriptures.

"Obviously if miracles were intended to convert non-believers, God would be able to come up with the appropriate miracle (knowing the heart, and all that)."

Which is not their primary purpose, and many would not repent even with a spectacular miracle such as resurrection which was the point of my previous post. This is why God does not rely on miracles (knowing the heart, and all that). :)

"But as it is, miracles just seem to be the sort of thing that believers say "hey, this miracle happened to me, you atheist, now you should believe!" And, of course, the atheist doesn't believe it because he/she didn't see it."

Sometimes God does amazing things in a person’s life but that should not be the basis for people to believe. If I told you what God has done in me you probably wouldn’t believe it. I would do so as a way of testifying about something that I know to be true but I would not want you to convert because *I* told you it was true. I point you to scripture to let you make up your own mind. If my simple witness encourages you to look at the scriptures, thank God, if not, I am not responsible to make you convert. :)

"So what's the point? Miracles aren't necessary to help people, and they only happen to believers - the only possible reason I can think of is that they serve to confirm the beliefs of believers. I mean, wow... breaking the laws of the universe to strengthen the beliefs of believers?"

Sometimes God does miracles to strengthen believers. God holds faith in high regard and wants all his children to have strong faith. What is a pitiful law of the universe to God who regards the faith of believers in such high esteem?

"Also, doesn't that constitute a violation of *free will?* Doesn't that nullify *faith like a child?*"

I don’t know anywhere in the bible where ‘free will’ as many understand it is taught. It does teach that we have choices, that we are responsible for them, and that God can influence the outcome to accomplish his will. It is too complicated for me to explain how man's intent and will is shaped by God's influence but it is FASCINATING to study.

God desires faith in us but he does not expect us to base it on nothing. He reveals many things about himself in the bible and even tells us that his existence is self evident and that every man knows who he is (Rom 1:19-21). The reason faith is needed is not so much to believe that God exists, but that he is good, holy, and that he will save us if we believe in Christ. Any evidence he gives us via Old Testament prophecy, witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, modern miracles, answer to specific prayers, etc can confirm faith but all these can be rejected if one doubts the goodness of God or his ability to preserve his Word from errors.

Kyle said...

"I mean, wow... breaking the laws of the universe to strengthen the beliefs of believers?"

Also, I should add that a miracle does not need to break laws of nature though God could easily if he chose to change gravity to go up, sideways, or oscillate. God can add whatever physical matter needed to produce the result he wants. Consider the lepers that Christ healed. He removed the bacteria that causes leprosy, the dead skin, and damaged appendages then replaced them with clean skin, new fingers, toes, noses, etc. I don't know how he did it but he could easily cause the bad skin and damaged flesh to unexist just as easily as he can cause new flesh to exist in its place. Nature was not violated because God added matter to a point in space that then physically interacted with the surrounding matter according to the laws of the universe.

G-man said...

Ok, so God gives miracles to unbelievers at his discretion. Why only to some? Did God love Paul more than He loves me?

Here's the deal with miracles, kyle: There is a possible miracle out there, for everybody, that would cause him/her to believe. Once convinced, you're right - it is up to the person whether or not to love or hate God.

But... the fact remains that everybody could be convinced to believe in God. Yet some, like the Disciples, seem to have been given preferential treatment. Why could Thomas say "I won't believe until I can touch the holes in your hands," and get into Heaven, yet when I say "I won't believe until I can touch the holes in your hands," I go to Hell?

The purpose of the miracles along with all of scripture was to present the person of Jesus Christ as the focus of God’s revelation.

Ok, can you cut the religious bafflegab and explain what that means? Are you telling me that the whole purpose of miracles was to establish, beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt, that Christ was the son of God? Because... I can think of some more lasting miracles than "the blind can now see."

And why did God seem to think authenticating Jesus to one generation would seal the deal? Did he not care about us as much? Did he think that we, after the advances of Reason and Science, would require less evidence than a bunch of superstitious kooks from back in the day?

In a time of globalization where people have to deal with hundreds of Scriptures and religions, we're supposed to see this one as special?

I know, it's tough for you to speak on God's behalf, but humor me with some ideas.

If I told you what God has done in me you probably wouldn’t believe it.

Fair enough. If I told you how incredible it was to deconvert and lose the faith, you probably wouldn't believe me either. You kinda have to experience it. I already had your experience, so I know how you feel. You should try mine sometime :)

What is a pitiful law of the universe to God...

Wow, it's interesting to hear that phrasing from a theist... I usually would expect "a magnificent law of the universe" or "a resplendent, fine-tuned, precise law of the universe." I love it.

Now I'm interested in your personal beliefs about free will. Could it be that you don't believe we have free will? How, then, do you justify the problem of evil?

And if, as I'm beginning to suspect, you believe God can change peoples' minds and choices according to His will... and if God wills that all men be saved... I have to wonder why I'm not saved. Any thoughts?

And as for Romans 1:19-21... it's a lie, kyle. It's simply incorrect, and when you consider the sheer number of agnostics who have ever existed, you should know better than to trust that quote. Did God bestow you with reason and then expect you not to use it?

Look... if God's existence is self-evident, why not go all the way? Why not the fireworks, astounding miracles, speaking through burning bushes...? Let's consider some ideas! You go first.

Also, I should add that a miracle does not need to break laws of nature...

I thought that's how "miracle" is defined.

God can add whatever physical matter needed to produce the result he wants.

...Which is breaking laws of nature. Matter doesn't just appear out of nowhere, which is why things like curing lepers through miraculous means is so special.

Paul C said...

Hey presto! Kyle invokes me, and thus I should appear. I would view this standard as being entirely reasonable, although Harris sets the bar too high. As you already know, I pull to Hume with regards to the evidence required to authenticate a miracle. Historical miracles in particular seem to me to be entirely out of reach, given what we know about human fallibility; as I said, the bar is much lower for me with a miracle happening in modern times.

The conclusions that Rhology draws are of course entirely fallacious (this is par for the course, which is why I was invisible on the comment thread prior to this one). In particular there is clear evidence that Sam Harris exists (at least in some form) - you've read his book, you can see video of him on YouTube, listen to recordings of his speeches, read accounts of him by many other people - and more mundanely there will likely be records of his existence with his bank, credit company, local government, academic institutions and so forth. This is sufficient evidence for most people - but should these be insufficient, of course, you can actually arrange to see him in person. So this conclusion is nonsense.

With regards to evolutionary theory, Rhology has comprehensively misunderstood what scientific theories do. Scientific theories are descriptions of the world; we can test those theories through experiment and experience, and if they do not adequately describe the world, we can discard them. This is why it is possible for people such as Rhology to discard the theory of evolution - it doesn't describe the world as he understands it. Personally I realised long ago that my perceptions are limited, and so it is likely that I don't properly understand the world; science is one way of helping me to understand it better. However very few scientists - at least in their scientific works - would claim that any theory is proven beyond refutation; all scientific theories are provisional.

The question is whether the miracles that Sam Harris describes in this excerpt fit into the same category as the theory of evolution. The answer is fairly obviously no - they do not form an explanation for anything except themselves.

Paul C said...

I did have a question though. How do you - and I'm addressing the theists here, obviously - how do you tell if a miracle has happened? What are your criteria for a miracle, and how do you distinguish a miracle from something that's just very unlikely?

Kyle said...

“Ok, so God gives miracles to unbelievers at his discretion. Why only to some? Did God love Paul more than He loves me?
Here's the deal with miracles, kyle: There is a possible miracle out there, for everybody, that would cause him/her to believe. Once convinced, you're right - it is up to the person whether or not to love or hate God.
But... the fact remains that everybody could be convinced to believe in God. Yet some, like the Disciples, seem to have been given preferential treatment. Why could Thomas say "I won't believe until I can touch the holes in your hands," and get into Heaven, yet when I say "I won't believe until I can touch the holes in your hands," I go to Hell?”

I'm assuming you are familiar with the concept of regeneration or have heard the term? Those who have not been given a new spirit cannot understand the things of God, they are a mystery. These people are not always benefited by miracles. In fact, if God knows person X will never repent, and that any further evidence will increase their condemnation, it is merciful to not give them more miracles for which they will be judged for not believing. Maybe you wouldn't repent anyway. I don't know. It is incorrect to assume that God loves some people less because he doesn't provide them with miracles.

“Ok, can you cut the religious bafflegab and explain what that means? Are you telling me that the whole purpose of miracles was to establish, beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt, that Christ was the son of God? Because... I can think of some more lasting miracles than "the blind can now see."”

The bible is a long book. The reason God made Jesus so unique, and why Jesus did so many miracles was so that he would stand out as the main character and we could better understand the message which is that Jesus is the only Savior.

“And why did God seem to think authenticating Jesus to one generation would seal the deal? Did he not care about us as much? Did he think that we, after the advances of Reason and Science, would require less evidence than a bunch of superstitious kooks from back in the day?”

We have to look back in history to those events to see the truth. Prior to Christ, people looked forward to the Messiah. 99.99% of all generations were not contemporary with Jesus. Any unique incarnation of God in history would have to exclude all but one generation. The incarnation of Jesus was not meant to provide ‘proof beyond a shadow of a doubt’ to everyone, but sufficient evidence to produce faith for those God knew would be saved. To everyone else, it will not make sense and they will die in their sins and be judged for their sins. By the way, first century people were not much different than modern people. Cars, telephones, TV’s, and electric toothbrushes do not make us more capable of evaluating spiritual truth. You can define them as superstitious kooks but had God chosen our generation, 40th century people might look back on our time and say “Why would God choose 21st century post enlightenment people when clearly the 37th century super enlightenment has made us so much smarter than them and our standards of evidence are so much higher. Besides they hadn't even colonized a single planet and we are on our 7th. Sniff.”

“In a time of globalization where people have to deal with hundreds of Scriptures and religions, we're supposed to see this one as special?
I know, it's tough for you to speak on God's behalf, but humor me with some ideas.”

Yes. The resurrection of God incarnate is a big deal. And he foretold it with credible ancient prophecies and miracles through a well known nation of people, the Jews. I don’t spend any time worrying whether Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or other religions are true because when I have looked at them they all have inconsistencies that render them false. Besides, if Christ said he was the only way, and he rose from the dead, that is all one needs to know.

“Wow, it's interesting to hear that phrasing from a theist... I usually would expect "a magnificent law of the universe" or "a resplendent, fine-tuned, precise law of the universe." I love it.”

I was speaking of laws of the universe relative to God. God is not star struck in awe by his own laws, he is not a simple minded creature, like us. Compared to us the laws of the universe are magnificent and etc.

“Now I'm interested in your personal beliefs about free will. Could it be that you don't believe we have free will? How, then, do you justify the problem of evil?
And if, as I'm beginning to suspect, you believe God can change peoples' minds and choices according to His will... and if God wills that all men be saved... I have to wonder why I'm not saved. Any thoughts?”

I have been influenced by the Reformed understanding of man’s will but I am open to having my views further refined by scriptures. We have a will which we are responsible for. We want evil things and we are punished for pursuing those things. God is sovereign over us and directs us and may keep us from committing a sin we desire or may allow us to commit a sin. However it works exactly, God does not give us desires to sin. They arise out of our sinful nature and God never tempts us to sin. He uses secondary means to accomplish his purposes. He can use evil people with evil desires to accomplish good (Gen 50:20).
I believe that salvation, faith, and regeneration are a gift and that God gives those gifts to whomever he wills. Regardless of a Christian’s perspective of being saved, God ultimately brought it about. The ‘all men’ being saved part comes from 1 Tim 2:3-4 and we can walk through that together if you like. I believe that ‘all’ based on the context refers to ‘all kinds’ of men and not each and every person on earth. Therefore, it is a statement that God does not prefer one group over another and that the saved will come from all quarters of the human race, a message that was important for first century Jews who thought God cared mostly for them and not for Gentiles.

“And as for Romans 1:19-21... it's a lie, kyle. It's simply incorrect, and when you consider the sheer number of agnostics who have ever existed, you should know better than to trust that quote. Did God bestow you with reason and then expect you not to use it?
Look... if God's existence is self-evident, why not go all the way? Why not the fireworks, astounding miracles, speaking through burning bushes...? Let's consider some ideas! You go first.”

That passage says that unbelievers know God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This is why otherwise bright people make foolish mistakes of reasoning when it comes to God. Again, more evidence means more condemnation for those who refuse to repent. Be careful what you wish for. But by all means, if you are ready to repent, start asking God to reveal himself to you.

“...Which is breaking laws of nature. Matter doesn't just appear out of nowhere, which is why things like curing lepers through miraculous means is so special.”

Nature did not do it. God did it by superseding the law and interjecting matter/energy to a system. If God exists does it really matter if he 'breaks' his own law or 'supersedes' it momentarily?

G-man said...

Interesting. Regeneration is an unfamiliar term, but I'm familiar with the concept. In fact I've been through that process. I used to believe in miracles, but now consider them an illusion.

You mentioned cases where further evidence will increase their condemnation. What does that mean? Is Hell not the worst punishment possible? Or are there levels of Hell? Help me understand how a Hell-bound nonbeliever can have his/her condemnation increased.

I should also ask about my own situation: I spent most of my life repenting and submitting my life to what I perceived to be God's will on a regular basis. Would your hypothesis be that I used to be willing to repent, but no longer am? Does that seem to be a change in willingness, or a change in belief?

Does that also mean environmental factors are responsible for changing someone's salvability?

Jesus...would stand out as the main character and we could better understand the message which is that Jesus is the only Savior.

Ah, so miracles are a bit of an accompaniment to the Bible's proclamations about Jesus? Are there any Biblical miracles that are unrelated to this goal? What about God making the sun stand still during a battle? If the goal of miracles was to establish Jesus as the central character in the Bible, why did that happen?

Any unique incarnation of God in history would have to exclude all but one generation.

Why a unique incarnation? I assume you have a regenerated spirit, so you understand these things. Is it beyond God's power for Jesus to appear to each person at some point in their life? I'm mystified.

I have to wonder what the factor is that divides those who "can believe" from "those who can't." Is it related to upbringing or culture? Or is it a trait of some mental or emotional capability? In the latter case, could I make the argument that God should have designed those individuals differently? It seems to me that if God wants all people to be saved, God would make all people capable of being saved.

And if all people are capable of being saved/repenting, I can't think of any reason for God to give up on any of them.

You can define them as superstitious kooks

Yeah, but people in the 40th century would probably have just as valid a point. See, people in Christ's time were more superstitious than people today. They did not have such rigorous standards of knowledge. So the point still remains - our generation, which is experiencing more religious plurality and requiring more rational criteria for truth - needs a physical incarnation much more than a highly superstitious generation did. I mean, people at that time believed gods lived on top of a mountain and were responsible for lightning. We could have photographic records and press conferences which would convince the whole world and all future generations that Jesus really was alive and making miracles.

I have looked at them they all have inconsistencies that render them false.

I'm still curious, is "God is three beings, and is also one being, at the same time" an inconsistency? If not, why not, and what makes that less of an issue than the other inconsistencies you've found in other religions?

Besides, if Christ said he was the only way, and he rose from the dead, that is all one needs to know.

I couldn't agree more, kyle. However, consider how you phrased the last sentence: That is all one needs to know. There is a difference between belief and knowledge and - I hate to break this to you - but a group of religious fanatics writing to a superstitious audience and claiming that a bunch of people saw something... well, all you can get from that is a belief.

What we really need is knowledge. Could Jesus appear resurrected to everybody? Sure! Why were the Disciples the only ones who got first-hand proof?

I'm not familiar with a Reformed understanding of will. Why do we want evil things? Did God create us that way? I can't imagine why He would... Also, what (if anything) does a "sinful nature" tell us about God when we're made in His image?

Interesting perspective on the use of "all." Does that mean God really doesn't want each individual to be saved? Do you think God could have simply let the ones He didn't want to be saved never exist? That seems to be a merciful approach.

But by all means, if you are ready to repent, start asking God to reveal himself to you.

Been there, done that.

That passage says that unbelievers know God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Huh. Seems like nobody asked the unbelievers for their opinion on the subject :)Do you think unbelievers are more unrighteous than believers? You seem to believe that only religious people are immune to making "foolish mistakes" of reasoning.

If God exists does it really matter if he 'breaks' his own law or 'supersedes' it momentarily?

It sure matters to Deists. Thanks for sharing your views on this subject, kyle, I'm having a good time learning about what you think.

Kyle said...

Paul C said...
"I did have a question though. How do you - and I'm addressing the theists here, obviously - how do you tell if a miracle has happened? What are your criteria for a miracle, and how do you distinguish a miracle from something that's just very unlikely?"

Paul,
I did not set out on a quest to discover miracles and I hadn't developed a clear definition of what is a miracle and what isn't when I began believing. I operated on the intuitive level of what a miracle is which is something supernatural intervening in this world that is obviously not of natural causes. I experienced what I would call an intrusion into my unbelieving life by God who opened my eyes to see that I was sinful and living in self deception about myself. I was an atheist but I tried to be moral when I was young but my ethical standards went downhill as I got older. Later, I began to believe based on what I now understand from the bible was the drawing of God. God uses multiple ways and the miracles of the bible may play a major or minor role in one's conversion. Faith is something that results from the internal leading of God and is not 'psyched up' by the believer. All conversions have in common the recognition of Christ as God. His character, persona, even majesty shine through in the stories about him in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit of God uses these to directly witness to our hearts about the truth. We don't need to see a miracle, we need to perceive what Jesus said about himself and we need to repent and have our hearts changed by God. Then, we start to see that God has always been evident, but we were blinded by our attempts at self righteousness and we missed Him.

Paul C said...

Kyle - that's very interesting, but it doesn't answer my question. What do you know if a miracle has happened, preferably in such a way that is easily demonstrable to other people?

Paul C said...

Any unique incarnation of God in history would have to exclude all but one generation.

Not just one generation - it would have to exclude all but those people living in the immediate vicinity of Jesus while he was alive. This excludes the vast majority not just of humanity through the ages, but also the vast majority of humanity at the time of Jesus's life. Why?

Paul C said...

I have looked at them they all have inconsistencies that render them false.

As G-man points out, there is at least one inconsistency in Christianity. Now, I am sure that you (or another Christian) will be quick to tell us that we need to approach the issue of the Trinity with a heart more open to God, and then we'll understand. This may well be the case, but have you considered that maybe the same is true of those other religions? What if the inconsistencies that you perceive in (for instance) Islam will evaporate if you approach it with a heart more open to Allah?

Seth said...

G-man and Paul C :
re: Trinity... you probably ought to get your terminology straightened out before declaring the trinity concept inconsistent. The "trinity" has never characterized God in Christian orthodoxy as three 'beings'. Where did you come up with your definition of "trinity"?

Rhology said...

I have to second that, G-man. If you're really interested in these questions you're asking and points you're pursuing, how is it helpful to throw in strawmen like that? You should know better - there is TONS of into out there on the web, easily found, that describes the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
One being, three persons.
One What, three Whos.
One homoousios, three hypostases.

Of course, what should expect from atheists? They believe that they are themselves gods!

Rhology said...

For those of you keeping score at home, that last sentence was a strawman, much like G-man's comment about the Trinity. You see how useless that is?
Moving along, I hope...

G-man said...

Re: Seth,
Thanks for straightening that out. Whoever said blogging wasn't a learning experience? :)I suppose I picked up my understanding of the term "trinity" from the theology discussions I always hear at my university, but please feel free to expand.

Re: Rho,
Alright... before you blow me off and leave, would you explain how a "person" is not a "being?" Is a "person" a role or personality? I have to echo Paul's question - is this the sort of thing that seems like an inconsistency to outsiders, just as you see inconsistencies in other religions? I've always heard the Trinity described as a paradox. Are you telling me it's not?

Paul,
I guess you can't see miracles because you're blinded by your own attempts at self-righteousness. It's a little bit like a kid's invisible friend: No Mommy, you just can't see him because you don't believe in him!

I have to ask you, Kyle: Does the degree of one's faith impact how often they witness miracles, or how spectacular the miracles are? For instance, we have the atheist who doesn't see any miracles, and we have Jesus who saw Elijah and Moses... is there a continuum of some sort?

Rhology said...

G-man,

I didn't mean to express that I was blowing you off, so sorry about that. At the same time, it might behoove you to do a little bit of HW about a topic like the Trinity before you engage Christians on it. Unless you're just asking open-ended questions, which you haven't done here.

Start your homework at this decent article and then continue here. James White's The Forgotten Trinity is a good place to continue, or for a bit shorter, check N Geisler's article on it in the Baker Enyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.

Briefly stated, "person" is a (mediocre) translation of the Gk word hupostasis. It's best to think of the distinctions between each of the 3 persons as distinctions of role and relationship - each talks to the other, loves the other, etc. The Father sends the Son, the Son glorifies the Father, the Holy Spirit raises Jesus from the dead.
I guess "paradox" is an OK word for it, in a strict sense, as long as we remember that "paradox" =/= "logical contradiction". It would be if we said there were 1 person and 3 persons or 1 being and 3 beings, for example.
My guess is that the Christians who used the word "paradox" with you did so in a convo where you were pressing them with questions, and I have sympathy for that - it can be hard to phrase things correctly and carefully in such a situation when the adrenaline is flowing. So I hope this helps.

All that to say, I hope you'll be honest enough to stop using such imprecise language when talking to Christians. Anytime you do, you cease talking Christianity and start talking modalism, Oneness Pentecostalism (like TD Jakes) and Unitarianism, which aren't Christianity. You're welcome to go after those guys; it's just that I'd join you. :-D

Peace,
Rhology

G-man said...

Hey Rho,

I should probably explain - I don't really engage Christians anymore, especially on Christian topics. To tell the truth, I simply do not have much expertise on Biblical matters, and I don't have much of a desire to change that. Partially it's because "Biblical expertise" refers to a variety of possible explanations from a variety of Christians.

I ask questions instead. The thing is, I can ask a whole herd of Christians the same question, but get different responses from each. Generally I'm interested in how they arrive at their conclusions. Once I start to figure that out, I can start mocking and ridiculing where appropriate :)

I jest. But really, it's interesting learning how people approach their faith. Sometimes I wonder how I would approach the faith if I converted back to Christianity. My bigger concern is how people act and treat each other, and I know my reactions on this site have not always been the greatest. See, I like winning debates, not reaching stubborn impasses.

So thanks for the clarification, although based on Kyle's notes so far, I'm not sure what makes you think an un-rejuvinated mind like mine can understand what you're saying :)

Rhology said...

Ah, I see.
Does that mean you won't respond when I post within the next coupla months on Desire Utilitarianism? Might that bring you out? :-)

I respond to you in order to shut your mouth from expressing objections to my faith that someone else might find slightly to moderately credible. It's not for you. :-D But I hope you'll consider the advice worthy enough to do the small amount of edjamakashun I suggested. Or, if you're gonna ask questions, ask questions rather than making statements disguised as questions as ISTM you were making, and which I called out.

Peace,
Rhology

Kyle said...

Note to g-man:
I am working on a response to your recent round of questions. This weekend I had mother's day and two of my kids' birthdays so I was unable to get to it. I intend to respond sometime this week.

G-man said...

Rho,

Nah, desire utilitarianism has nothing to do with Christianity! It's fair game.

And hey - don't respond to shut my mouth. Respond to open my eyes! It gives you a chance to demonstrate your Christian patience and understanding to gently correct my knowledge gaps :)

Kyle,

Awesome.

Paul C said...

This is all very fascinating, but it illustrates my point rather than answering my question; to non-Christians, the concept of the Trinity appears inconsistent no matter how strenuously you try to make it coherent. However it is clear that to Christians such as yourselves, the concept of the Trinity makes perfect sense and is in no way inconsistent.

What I perceive as inconsistencies in your views are resolved by your faith - and this is perfectly acceptable to me. I don't pretend to have the perspective your faith gives you. However I am forced to ask if you've considered if what you consider inconsistencies (flaws, whatever you want to call them) in other faiths might similarly be resolved by the perspective that their faith lends?

Also, I'm still interested in answers to my previous question - how do you even know if a miracle has happened?

Rhology said...

Paul C,

All other worldviews are false, so why would I care whether they can account for some small perceived inconsistency or the other?

A miracle is meant as a sign of God's activity, and it is meant to be unmistakable. I know that the ones that Bible refers to as miracles are miracles. Modern ones are, when questionable, doubtful for that very reason.
Miracles also have meaning and are indicative of God's redemptive purpose. If the message conveyed or bolstered by that event is contrary to that, it is not a miracle, though it might (or might not) be a demonic action.

Thus, the appearances at Lourdes, for example, are not miracles as we mean them and as the Bible means them. Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead is.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

I've had a hunt around at various times and websites, and cannot seem to find a good explanation of the trinity - quite a few of the ones I dug up on google went on for a bit, then simply essentially tailed off with 'its a mystery, but whatever it all means its NOT a contradiction no matter what you might think'. Either that or they leave the distinct impression of 3 separate 'entities' (for want of a better word), and from what i have read on here polytheism is not considered a coherent worldview.

G-man said...

Rho,

I find it very entertaining that you took the effort to pointedly criticize what you perceived to be a strawman, and then came back with the question-begging, empty assertion that All other worldviews are false...

Were you being funny? It's hard for me to tell sometimes... although it is vastly entertaining, as it always is when there are multiple Christians around, to see you and Kyle responding to my questions with entirely different answers.

One says miracles are intended to show that Jesus is the central message of the Bible, and miracles are only meant to be understood among the faithful. The other tells me miracles are meant to demonstrate that God moves & shakes, and to do so in unmistakable ways.

This is why I ask questions! How can I possibly hope to get anywhere with Christians like you by making assertions? I always find - every single time - that each Christian thinks something vastly different from the other(s).

Or, to be fair, would you two like to explain how your interpretations of miracles are compatible with one another. *Gasp* is one of you not a true believer?

Rhology said...

RTT said:

cannot seem to find a good explanation of the trinity

I already linked to three good articles on that very topic. Did you not read the comments?

simply essentially tailed off with 'its a mystery

Yes, it's a mystery, but can be somewhat explained.
You'd need to make the argument that it's a contradiction, but 1st you have to show that you're at least familiar with the basics.


G-man said:
what you perceived to be a strawman, and then came back with the question-begging, empty assertion that All other worldviews are false...

It might be those things, but it's not a strawman.
And the proof is in the pudding of this blog every day.

Were you being funny?

It can be hard to tell... sometimes my friends mistake when I'm being serious for sarcasm, but no, it wasn't a joke. I was explaining my reasoning.
You function the same way, so don't get all bombastic and preachy on me! You start off by presupposing a worldview, besides which other worldviews are false. Yuo might change worldviews, but then all the other ones are false. Come on, work with me here.

One says miracles are intended to show that Jesus is the central message of the Bible, and miracles are only meant to be understood among the faithful. The other tells me miracles are meant to demonstrate that God moves & shakes, and to do so in unmistakable ways.

And your argument for how those are incompatible is...

to be fair, would you two like to explain how your interpretations of miracles are compatible with one another. *Gasp* is one of you not a true believer?

I honestly don't see the difference.
And there's another example of what I mean when I call you out for the way you ask questions. You don't really want to know, you're making an argument with a ? at the end.
You mentioned 4 elements mentioned by Kyle and me:
1) to show that Jesus is the central message of the Bible
2) miracles are only meant to be understood among the faithful
3) miracles are meant to demonstrate that God moves & shakes
4) to do so in unmistakable ways.

Neither of us limited the definition by saying "A miracle is ONLY these 2 things", did we?
They're not contradictory; think of this as harmony and amplification. It's all 4 that are true, not 2 against 2.

Christians disagree

That's often how I get when I try to pin down an "atheism"... So I feel your pain.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

I already linked to three good articles on that very topic. Did you not read the comments?

I did. I was also reading some stuff on the Stanford Philosophy encyclopedia last night, which gave some ideas on the current thought on the matter as well as the associated problems with each explanation.

Yes, it's a mystery, but can be somewhat explained.
You'd need to make the argument that it's a contradiction, but 1st you have to show that you're at least familiar with the basics.


I get the basic premise, and I'm not saying really saying much either way as regards contradictions. However, you've touted the explanatory power of the bible, yet this idea seems fraught with problems. I don't think it would be that unreasonable for someone to conclude that the matter seemed contradictory if they had no real preconceptions.

My view is the confusion is exactly what I'd expect from something written by different people over 1000's of years - not necessarily contradictions, but certainly incoherencies in the 'storyline'.

And your argument for how those are incompatible is...

If they were unmistakable, wouldn't that mean everyone would be capable of agreeing that a miracle happened, believer or not? After all, if they are only unmistakable to believers, there's the argument that believers might just be seeing what they want to see rather than what's actually going on. Plus, there are many non-believers who have converted after becoming convinced of 'miracles' - so surely miracles are not only apparent to the already believing?

Rhology said...

Hey RTT,

I don't think it would be that unreasonable for someone to conclude that the matter seemed contradictory if they had no real preconceptions.

I thus assert the same for the theory of evolution.
What value does this statement have?


not necessarily contradictions, but certainly incoherencies in the 'storyline'.

Like what?


If they were unmistakable, wouldn't that mean everyone would be capable of agreeing that a miracle happened, believer or not?

Pretty much.
But that's not the same as "understood" as I think Kyle was using it, but maybe we'll have to wait for his clarification to know what he meant.


so surely miracles are not only apparent to the already believing?

Some people do believe and miracles are part of that. Others are hardened in their unbelief by the occurrence of a miracle. There's no other halfway-decent explanation for it but they just can't give credit to God for it, so they are hardened.

G-man said...

Rho,

The thing is, we're asking if you believe other worldviews are wrong because of your personal perspective alone. In other words, the question is "Are you incorrect when you say other worldviews are wrong?" Your response is "Other worldviews are wrong, so why should I care to investigate them?"

And you were not joking. That, literally, is your reasoning. I'm... well, it's hard to know how to respond. No, I didn't say you were making a strawman. I just said it was funny that you'd claim I was making a strawman, and then turn around and beg the question in justifying your own worldview.

You function the same way...

Hardly! I reject other worldviews because of a set of philosophical beliefs, not because I make an apriori rejection of the other worldviews on the grounds that I believe mine is true, therefore the others must be false.

About miracles:

Yeah, I think the claim that miracles are only meant to be understood by believers is incompatible with the claim that miracles are supposed to be unmistakable signs that God is real. They wouldn't be unmistakable if people mistook them.

You don't really want to know, you're making an argument with a ? at the end.

I don't want to know the "answers," I want to know how you arrive at them. That's the interesting thing, not the nuances of nebulous apologetics.

Rintintin said...

Hi

I thus assert the same for the theory of evolution.
What value does this statement have?


I don't think the ToE argues that everything has been worked out and that there are no sources of dispute though (although these are not the same disputes ID would have us believe exist).

Plus not every non-believer accepts the ToE.

Like what?

the topic in hand seems to puzzle even the best philosophers and theologians for example.

Pretty much.
But that's not the same as "understood" as I think Kyle was using it, but maybe we'll have to wait for his clarification to know what he meant.


I suppose so - I'm sure I could be convinced of a miracle though (see below) and if it was in line with the actions of the Christian God, it would certainly be very persuasive to my mind.

Some people do believe and miracles are part of that. Others are hardened in their unbelief by the occurrence of a miracle. There's no other halfway-decent explanation for it but they just can't give credit to God for it, so they are hardened.

My main problem with what gets attributed to miracles in our age is compared to what could be possible they seem so low key - the example I gave before was of cancer. A few people recovering isn't really anything to raise eyebrows, but if everyone spontaneously recovered, that'd certainly be something.

Rhology said...

G-man, you've misunderstood me.
The "response" you have me saying is incorrect. Now, I may not spend a lot of energy pursuing every single other worldview out there, since mine is right, but if one catches my eye, I might. You do the same thing.

We're close about the a priori thing, but you think that some other conflicting worldview could be true while yours is also true at the same time? Must be tough to be you.

Yeah, I think the claim that miracles are only meant to be understood by believers is incompatible with the claim that miracles are supposed to be unmistakable signs that God is real. They wouldn't be unmistakable if people mistook them.

OK, well, don't know what else to say. They're not contradictory, but if you want to be obstinate, knock yourself out.


RTT said:
the topic in hand seems to puzzle even the best philosophers and theologians for example.

It does? So that it's inexpressible, totally inexplicable? Do all of them throw up their hands and just say "It's a contradiction!"?
No, they don't. It's a mystery, yes, but not 100% undefinable.


A few people recovering isn't really anything to raise eyebrows, but if everyone spontaneously recovered, that'd certainly be something.

You didn't answer my question on that. How many is a "few"? 4? 40? 400? 400,000?

Rintintin said...

"It does? So that it's inexpressible, totally inexplicable? Do all of them throw up their hands and just say "It's a contradiction!"?
No, they don't. It's a mystery, yes, but not 100% undefinable.


All I can say is that all the examples I read also had pretty clear rebuttals or problems highlighted with them.

You didn't answer my question on that. How many is a "few"? 4? 40? 400? 400,000?

Pancreatic cancer has about a 5% survival rate at the 5 year point. So if 7% survived I wouldn't be shouting it from the rooftops, put it that way. But then God could leave no doubt whatsoever and just go the whole hog and do all 30,000/year or so cases in one fell swoop.

The situation kind of reminds me of this cartoon:

http://russellsteapot.com/comics/
2007/omni-impotence.html

Kyle said...

Response to G-man:
“Interesting. Regeneration is an unfamiliar term, but I'm familiar with the concept. In fact I've been through that process. I used to believe in miracles, but now consider them an illusion.

You mentioned cases where further evidence will increase their condemnation. What does that mean? Is Hell not the worst punishment possible? Or are there levels of Hell? Help me understand how a Hell-bound nonbeliever can have his/her condemnation increased.”

There are degrees of punishment in Hell and degrees of rewards in Heaven. The following examples should make it clear that it is better to never hear the Gospel or see miracles than to have heard or seen God at work and then to reject Jesus.

"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." Mt 11:21-24

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, “and again, "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Heb. 9:29-30

Read 1 Cor. 3:12-15 to see that there are degrees of reward in Heaven for believers too.

“I should also ask about my own situation: I spent most of my life repenting and submitting my life to what I perceived to be God's will on a regular basis. Would your hypothesis be that I used to be willing to repent, but no longer am? Does that seem to be a change in willingness, or a change in belief? Does that also mean environmental factors are responsible for changing someone's salvability?”

The bible has many places where it speaks of false professors who have a claim of faith but their faith lacks substance. Sometimes these people later repent genuinely and find salvation. I do not believe that a person can genuinely repent and then lose their salvation but there are those believers who live in habitual sin and are a poor testimony for the Gospel. So the question I have is did you ever truly repent and believe the Gospel? If you had false repentance or did not believe the true Gospel, it was in vain. Perhaps my next post can define true repentance and the Gospel and you can say if you believed these things and repented truly or not. Environmental factors are very important in the choices we make and how we live. Ultimately though, salvation is of God and therefore all who find eternal life owe their total conversion to God and can take no credit for being more humble, patient, willing to repent, et al, since without God’s enablement they are dead in sin and do not desire to repent.

“Ah, so miracles are a bit of an accompaniment to the Bible's proclamations about Jesus? Are there any Biblical miracles that are unrelated to this goal? What about God making the sun stand still during a battle? If the goal of miracles was to establish Jesus as the central character in the Bible, why did that happen?”

Yes the miracles are an accompaniment to the Gospel of Jesus. God used miracles in various stages of revelatory history to establish prophets who foretold Christ and to guide the nation of Israel which existed to receive the scriptures and to bring Jesus into the world. The sun standing still (Joshua 10:1-5) was part of bringing Israel into the promised land. Many of the Old Testament events and stories provide real life metaphors for spiritual truths which were all fulfilled in Jesus. The symbolism of Israel is an archetype for Jesus who is God’s chosen one. The promise land is a metaphor for heaven so that miracle in Joshua is part of God’s plan to establish a nation through which to bring the Messiah. More could be said but moving on…

“Why a unique incarnation? I assume you have a regenerated spirit, so you understand these things. Is it beyond God's power for Jesus to appear to each person at some point in their life? I'm mystified.”

Honestly, are you being snarky with the ‘regenerated spirit’ comment? Do you think that I believe that anyone who is born again (regenerated) has instant, complete knowledge of the Bible and all spiritual truths or are you confused? I can understand the Gospel because God has given me a new spirit which loves him and seeks to glorify him. I can’t unravel all spiritual insights for everyone but with God’s help I’ll do my best when someone is honestly seeking understanding and not simply looking to pick at my explanations. Is that what you are up to?

Of course Jesus could appear to everyone but unless people repent as I pointed out above, it is worse to know more about Jesus and reject him than to be ignorant. I tremble at the thought of what God is going to do to apostates and false teachers. In my better moments I have even shed tears for them though at times they make me angry because of the damage they are doing to others in turning them away from the Gospel.

“I have to wonder what the factor is that divides those who "can believe" from "those who can't." Is it related to upbringing or culture? Or is it a trait of some mental or emotional capability? In the latter case, could I make the argument that God should have designed those individuals differently? It seems to me that if God wants all people to be saved, God would make all people capable of being saved.

And if all people are capable of being saved/repenting, I can't think of any reason for God to give up on any of them."

I take the position that salvation is wholly of God and that he chooses from among dead sinners, for reasons known to himself and apart from any goodness, worthiness, or attractiveness in the ones he chooses. No one can thank themselves for making themselves more savable than someone else. This next sentence will probably take you by surprise a bit. God does not owe anyone salvation or even the OPPORTUNITY for salvation. Humanity is guilty because our God-appointed representative, Adam, fell into sin and drug us down with him. It is pride to think you would have done any better, so no use crying foul. We are justly condemned in Adam. If you deny that, then you are fundamentally at odds with the Christian God and there is no reconciliation possible…unless you repent.

“Yeah, but people in the 40th century would probably have just as valid a point. See, people in Christ's time were more superstitious than people today. They did not have such rigorous standards of knowledge. So the point still remains - our generation, which is experiencing more religious plurality and requiring more rational criteria for truth - needs a physical incarnation much more than a highly superstitious generation did. I mean, people at that time believed gods lived on top of a mountain and were responsible for lightning. We could have photographic records and press conferences which would convince the whole world and all future generations that Jesus really was alive and making miracles.”

Your point about us REQUIRING more ‘rational’ criteria for truth flows out of your atheist presuppositions which are not rationally defensible. We need the same thing the ancients needed, revelation through the witness of the Holy Spirit to our hearts and the testimony of the Gospel which is “the power of God for salvation”. There is a power in the Gospel which you appear not to be aware of, that God uses to confound the wise and save the ‘foolish’ who humble themselves and believe the Gospel.

“I'm still curious, is "God is three beings, and is also one being, at the same time" an inconsistency? If not, why not, and what makes that less of an issue than the other inconsistencies you've found in other religions?”

Rho has answered this but I will in short say that no, the Trinity is not like the inconsistencies I have found in other religions. The Trinity does not require a contradiction such as Hunduism’s multiple all powerful Gods (which one would win in a fight? Obviously they can’t all be ALL powerful) or Mohammed’s teaching which claims repeatedly that the Bible is God’s word and then denies the doctrines taught in it. Three divine persons co-existing in the one divine being is not something that would have occurred to me apart from the revelation in scripture but it is not a contradiction either. The Trinity may be difficult to explain because we don’t have any analogies for it but this shouldn’t surprise us. If for the sake of argument, you admit the Christian God is real, should he be so simple that I should be able to adequately describe him in a blog post?

“I couldn't agree more, kyle. However, consider how you phrased the last sentence: That is all one needs to know. There is a difference between belief and knowledge and - I hate to break this to you - but a group of religious fanatics writing to a superstitious audience and claiming that a bunch of people saw something... well, all you can get from that is a belief.

What we really need is knowledge. Could Jesus appear resurrected to everybody? Sure! Why were the Disciples the only ones who got first-hand proof?”

For the record, Judas saw the miracles too and he betrayed Jesus so given the Christian understanding of the sinfulness of men, more miracles doesn’t serve God’s purpose. He chose to use the Gospel to bring salvation. That may not make sense in an atheist worldview, but hey what does? :) (hint: nothing since there is no basis for rationality in a universe that is random and has no meaning).

“I'm not familiar with a Reformed understanding of will. Why do we want evil things? Did God create us that way? I can't imagine why He would... Also, what (if anything) does a "sinful nature" tell us about God when we're made in His image?”

We want evil because Adam fell into sin and we are born with the inherited desire for sin from Adam. Adam started off sinless and God did not tempt him or force him to sin. The sinful nature does not tell us about God except what darkness says about light. The absence of light in ourselves makes God’s holiness all the more beautiful by contrast when we finally perceive it.

“Interesting perspective on the use of "all." Does that mean God really doesn't want each individual to be saved? Do you think God could have simply let the ones He didn't want to be saved never exist? That seems to be a merciful approach.”

This is one of those major questions where sincere Christians may strongly disagree. I don’t think that God desires every person to be saved or else he would save them. If what I understand from the scriptures is right, God allows unbelievers to exist and go to Hell to demonstrate his just wrath and to express his holiness (Rom 9:22-23) and to contrast the greatness of his mercy to believers. This may seem troubling to you, and it has bothered me too. I accept that even if God had chosen not to save me, I justly deserve his wrath and could not complain against him for sending me to Hell. I trust that God in his goodness has good reason to do it this way. Other Christians who I love and respect say that God does want every individual to be saved but doesn’t want to violate their free will so he lets them die in their sins. I’ll let them answer for their own perspective.

“Huh. Seems like nobody asked the unbelievers for their opinion on the subject :)Do you think unbelievers are more unrighteous than believers? You seem to believe that only religious people are immune to making "foolish mistakes" of reasoning.”

Unbelievers stand in their own sins before a holy God who has declared all men unrighteous. God regards believers as righteous because he has punished their sins in Jesus and by grace given them the righteousness of Jesus. So from God’s point of view, believers are righteous and without sin. Practically speaking, a believer may be a very unlikeable fellow with many sinful habits still clinging to his life and there are many unbelievers who are more agreeable than many Christians. But no one is righteous before God on their own. We either stand with Jesus’ righteousness credited to us or we stand condemned in our sins. I don’t think that religious people are immune to foolish reasoning. But when intelligent atheists make very basic logical errors about religion that they don’t make in other areas of life, I attribute that to spiritual blindness and not lack of intelligence.

If I missed a question or you want clarification I will be happy to respond. If your intent is to attack and when rebutted come back with a different attack I don't think this conversation will be profitable for either of us. If you genuinely wish to know, I am at your service.

--Kyle

G-man said...

Rho,

Sorry if I misunderstood you, but here's the deal: I reject worldviews that include the supernatural, based on philosophical ideas. You, on the other hand, cannot rule out all supernatural worldviews at once, because you already accept one.

So yes, I have good reasons to carefully consider other naturalistic worldviews when they cross my path... But don't you have an obligation to consider other supernatural worldviews before you come to your conclusions so firmly?

Rho, you have left a question unanswered, and I'd like you to answer it. What if you accept Christianity only because you have a special perspective on your religion? If that is the case, is it possible that other people accept their supernatural religions solely because they have their own special perspective, that they feel is granted them by their own God?

Do such people use "special perspectives" as an excuse to justify their belief despite contradictions/paradoxes that outsiders see clearly?

You cannot answer this question by asserting "Mine is right," and then tossing all the others aside. It'll take a little more than that, and I think it's a really worthwhile question to answer.

you think that some other conflicting worldview could be true while yours is also true at the same time? Must be tough to be you.

No, of course not, and I'm not even sure how you got that impression from what I wrote.

They're not contradictory, but if you want to be obstinate, knock yourself out.

Well then, let me see if in the process there's a way to knock some holes in the rusty box of your worldview and let some sunlight in :)

Seriously, it's pretty simple:
A) Miracles are only meant to be understood by believers. They cannot be understood by unbelievers.
B) The purpose of a miracle is to be a sign that God is real.
C) To understand a message, you must grasp its purpose.
D) Understanding miracles = seeing the sign that God is real.

E) If only believers can [see the sign that God is real (D)], then unbelievers cannot [see the sign that God is real (D)].

F) Therefore, unbelievers cannot understand miracles. From (E: Unbelievers cannot see the sign that God is real, because A: Miracles cannot be understood by unbelievers.

G) To mistake something, one must misunderstand it. Therefore, unbelievers mistake miracles. (F and G)

H) Therefore, miracles are not unmistakable signs that God is real.

Because miracles are not understood by unbelievers, and to misunderstand a sign (like a sign from God) is to mistake it for something else.

Thus we have H) Miracles are not unmistakable signs that God is real, and your claim: miracles are unmistakable signs that God is real. That strikes me as a contradiction.

I'm not trying to criticize you as a person Rho, I just occasionally enjoy a brisk bout of bashing my head against a wall from time to time.

Rhology said...

G-man said:
I reject worldviews that include the supernatural, based on philosophical ideas.

Such as?
Do you believe that immaterial things exist?


You, on the other hand, cannot rule out all supernatural worldviews at once, because you already accept one.

I rule out the ones that a posteriori, upon examination, contain internal inconsistencies at their base.
It's the same thing that I've done with naturalistic worldviews. It's the same across the board.

What if you accept Christianity only because you have a special perspective on your religion?

Do you mean b/c I have more exposure to it?
No, I'm a Christian b/c God has had mercy on me and given me a totally undeserved gift. I was blind before, now I see. I remember what it was like to be blind. It stunk.


is it possible that other people accept their supernatural religions solely because they have their own special perspective, that they feel is granted them by their own God?

Feelings can deceive, as I'm sure you're aware. They are not a test for truth, either in my view or yours.


Do such people use "special perspectives" as an excuse to justify their belief despite contradictions/paradoxes that outsiders see clearly?

Yes, and I see it in you all the time.
This is why dialogue like this is so important and helpful. Too bad more people don't have an appetite for it, you know?


You cannot answer this question by asserting "Mine is right,"

Which is not what I do, so, yeah.
Having examined the question so many times before, from so long ago, eventually does there not come a time when one can say, "mine is right," and go from there? I've been over questions like yours many times; give me something new and maybe I could use that kind of language if it is more interesting to you.
'Course, that's not your fault per se; rather, it's your worldview's fault. It is, OTOH, your fault for continuing to hold to it in spite of correction.


I'm not even sure how you got that impression from what I wrote.

B/c you said:
not because I make an apriori rejection of the other worldviews on the grounds that I believe mine is true, therefore the others must be false.

You apparently don't go into this with the idea that there is ONE true worldview out there.
Or maybe you misspoke, which is OK. Just let me know which.


A-H

OK, I see what you're saying.
Maybe a better way of saying it would've been "Miracles have various facets to them, some of which can only be understood by believers."
I stand corrected.

I'm not trying to criticize you as a person Rho, I just occasionally enjoy a brisk bout of bashing my head against a wall from time to time.

Sure, no problem, I understand. :-) Same here!

Peace,
Rhology

tergiversant said...

Sam Harris concedes right off that possible to validate virgin conception and birth, merely by having a thorough gynecological exam followed by 24-hour surveillance throughout the conception window. It is really just that easy. Any god worth the title could engage the AMA or the NAS to repeat this experiment under controlled (i.e. semen-free) conditions readily enough.

This is really rather far from the statement that no conceivable evidence can convince one of the truth or falsity of a given proposition. Truth be told, virgin conception is really very easily tested under lab conditions.

Rhology said...

Any god worth the title could engage the AMA or the NAS to repeat this experiment under controlled (i.e. semen-free) conditions readily enough.

Yes, He **could**. No one is arguing He couldn't.

Sorry, though - that's not what Harris says. Read the quote again. ***NO*** evidence would be enough.
Look, it's not that hard - just say that you disagree and move on. The more you defend him the worse you look.