Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bewitched

"Atheism is the belief that one knows everything and that all humans are actually machines with no freewill whatsoever. And that paramecia can think as well as dolphins. That's just stupid, and can twist the language to call it whatever you want. Show at least a minimum basic familiarity with the difference here."
-Rhology, 03June2008.

...

An impolite and fairly abusive atheist blogger has brought up an interesting "Quazy Quistian Question" that I thought would be worthwhile to dissect.
Apparently this is the sixth part of a series of QQQs, ranging from the serious (on the role of evidence to the Christian) to the lighthearted (including one on sushi that has me drooling and my tummy growling at this very moment).

The Exterminator attempts in a few of these QQQs to perform a critique on Christianity. The first problem with his approach is that he is employing an atheist worldview to approach the critique of Christian ideas, which is invalid on several counts.
-First and foremost, atheism cannot account for rationality, intelligibility, or the existence of evidence. A rational critique of some other worldview departing from an atheistic foundation is thus, obviously, eliminated as impossible.
-Following up on that, the atheist must therefore borrow from theism in order to
1) utilise rational discourse in his critique,
2) bring up evidence in said discourse,
3) believe that evidence means anything to anyone,
4) believe that other minds are capable of digesting and interpreting evidence,
5) believe that the laws of logic are not arbitrary, and
6) that they will not arbitrarily and spontaneously change tomorrow.
Among many other things.

-More specifically, The Exterminator is performing an external (rather than an internal) critique, which is the equivalent of the following:
Atheist: "There is no god."
Chrischun: "Yeah huh, the Bible says so, and you're just a fool."
Atheist: "But what abou-"
Chrischun: "Nope! Fool! In your heart! Said 'no god'! Fool! Nya nya nya!!!!"

How would The Exterminator consider that exchange? Useful? Rational? No, not at all, and rightfully so - the Chrischun here has performed an EXTERNAL critique on atheism, coming from the Christian worldview to the atheist worldview. According to the Christian worldview, the atheist IS a fool. But that doesn't mean that we use such language in a discussion with an atheist in explaining or defending our position!
Similarly, The Exterminator is employing his (uneducated, apparently ignorant, and willfully incorrigible) view of the doctrine of the Trinity, and calling it crazy. But of COURSE it's crazy from an atheist standpoint! As if anyone would argue otherwise.
Rather, TE's job is to show why it is internally inconsistent within its own worldview.


So, TE's main question is: Isn’t Christianity a polytheistic religion? If not, how do you account for all those super-beings running around? Explain your response.
He expounds on his leading-up-to-the-question thinking in the post, and it appears that these quotes sum it up:
-We’ve got three entities here, not one.
-I said, “technically it’s not one big salad. It’s actually four different salads, all on one plate.”
-Dad, Junior, and the Cosmic Goo

Here are some decent startup articles on identity and explication of the Trinity, data which TE has either neglected to read or to take into account:
What is the Trinity?
Is God a Trinity or a Triad?
Isn't the Trinity doctrine really a teaching there are three gods?
About the Trinity

In brief:
There is one God and one God only. He alone is omnipotent, eternal, uncreated, timeless, creator, omnipresent, omniscient, etc. One homoousios - one essence, substance, entity. One "What".
God is three hypostases, three persons, three "Who"s. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. None of these is the other. Each's personhood is distinct from the others, and all 3 are co-equal, consubstantial (which is a big word meaning "of the same substance", if TE is reading), and co-eternal. Each has a different role, each is God. The Father is not the Son, the Son not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit not the Father.

Now for a brief critique of some quotes from his post:
If you challenge Christians to explain how 3 = 1

Which an educated Christian won't do. Neither is it 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. All analogies fail at some point; the Trinity is mysterious, though neither irrational nor illogical nor contradictory.
"One essence and three essences" would be, though, as would "one person and three persons". But that's not what we say.

Atheists don’t believe in what the bible says, nor do we put any credence in the long, tedious, lying tradition of Christian apologetics.

As if anyone should care what atheists believe here. We already know you think Christianity is false. Show an internal inconsistency or admit you're preaching to the choir.

We’ve got three entities here, not one.

Christianity has never, ever claimed that.
But this is what TE is shooting for - *HE* wants to get to define what I believe; I don't get that privilege.
He even explicitly said as much:
Just because you announce that (Satan)'s not a god doesn't make that so.

Is he dealing with Christianity here? Looks like he wants the privilege of knocking down a strawman. That's easy enough to do - just see the first line of this blogpost. Ask yourself whether such is fair. Then ask yourself how intellectually honest TE is being.


when Jesus was on the cross, he cried out to his papa.

Son talking to Father, one person/hypostasis to another person/hypostasis. Yes. Now TE is reduced to recycling pitiful, old, Oneness, Unitarian objections.

So god and Jesus, at least, must be different beings

They are different persons. He's close.

unless the “savior” was just talking to himself like a crazy man. Was the “savior” a lunatic?

He was not talking to Himself.

And that third god is some vague entity used conveniently to plug the gaps into which neither Jesus nor the Big Guy fit

This shows a breathtaking and amazing ignorance of the way the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit. It's as if TE doesn't realise that the Holy Spirit is mentioned, identified, and named explicitly numerous times in the Bible. Does TE think we just made Him up? In the last, what, 20 years? 100 years? 400 years? Does he have any evidence of that, or is just pulling this out of his butt?

Most reasonable people would call the Satan character a god.

Why? Biblically, he is not any of the things I said of God above: Not omnipotent, eternal, uncreated, timeless, creator, omnipresent, omniscient, etc.
He is limited in power, created in time, not able to create, limited in knowledge and in scope and in presence.
But TE says he's a god, so dang it, he must be a god! TE would bewitch me, hypnotise me to make me defend sthg other than what I actually posit.

TE's methodology of proposing a strawman and refusing correction is tantamount, when taken to its logical conclusion, to the end of all rational discussion between worldviews. When you tell me what I believe and I tell you what you believe, what do we have? Can we communicate? Can we even disagree with any chance of even understanding the other?
Either that, or TE just wants to exert his power over Christians. *He* gets to define what he believes, and *he* gets to define what *I* believe. Let us pray TE never finds his way to a position of significant governmental influence.

Christians arguing that a god can be a god only if he’s omnibenevolent,

Which is not my argument. Thanks for playing.

In Christian belief, Satan has the power to challenge the divine personage they call “God” for people’s souls.

B/c God permits him a short time to do so.

He’s either immortal, or, if vanquishable at some future date, at very least unusually long-lived.

Yes, he will never cease to exist. But neither will any human or other angel.
He is supernatural; he does not die like humans die. Neither do any angel or demon.

He’s omnipresent, almost omnipotent, and omnimalevolent.

Again TE defines what Christianity teaches.
One wonders whether he simply ASSERTS and expects what he hath said to be thus, or whether he can cite any biblical text to support his assertions.

The Demigods of Christianity

Here he continues to perform his fallacious external critique. He's closer to the truth here than he is in other areas, and I join him in critiquing RCC and EOC.
Of course, since he's the authority, he apparently gets to tell me that I believe that Mary is a demigod. Too bad for me!

Finally, I love that TE also illustrates his own willful ignorance in this:
I’m going to have to insist that no quotes, links, or historical references be used.

It makes one wonder whether he would understand them.
Does that mean I don't get to use the terms "hypostasis" or "homoousios"? How about "person", "essence", "entity", or "substance"? These are all historical words; he himself uses "essence" (100% incorrectly, as it turns out) and "entity" (correctly) in his post to poke fun at the idea of the Trinity as salad. But *I* don't get to, eh?
Does this person care about what I have to say? Or is he just poking fun for the sake of scoring points with all his fundy atheist commenters? You be the judge.


I thank TE for this opportunity to expose these kinds of statements to the light of scrutiny.

33 comments:

Ordinary Girl said...

First of all, atheism is simply not believing in deities. Your definition at the top of the post is inaccurate. Atheist do not think that paramecia can think as well as dolphins or that they even think alike. Well, no atheist that I've ever met anyway. Most atheists also don't believe in the absence of freewill. There have been some studies that we may be predisposed to actions, but that's not the same thing.

I don't see anything in your refutation here that doesn't boil down to: "It's a mystery. You're not supposed to understand it." So I don't see how you answered Ex's question at all.

Rhology said...

Chalk ONE up to missing the whole point. I shouldn't be surprised that it was the 1st comment, I guess.

Ordinary Girl, read the whole post and THEN comment, please. Do us all a favor.

David Bryan said...

A good explanation of the Trinity, albeit you started (though in good western fashion) with the divine nature and moved to the divine persons later. The Eastern approach is the reverse.

We usually say that there's one God because there's one Father; the God referred to in the OT (and much of the NT) is seen to be the Father ("God raised Jesus from the dead" and all that).

For a great (and very semetic) discussion of how the Greek philosophical categories of hypostasis and homoousious can be communicated to muslims, you can go HERE for the whole article and HERE for an excerpt from said article on my blog.

The Ekthterminater said...

uh no you orthodox fools believe in three gods.

tergiversant said...

OG pointed out that you completely missed the point of what atheism is really about (gods are fictional, nothing more) and you dismissively berate her for missing the point? Sometimes I wonder if this much self-satirization can be unintended. I was going to comment on all that trinitarian jumbo-mumbo but it hardly seems worthwhile. What do we care about the metaphysical properties of disembodied minds? The theologians can man anything up at all on such points and need never worry about evidence.

Rhology said...

tergiversant,

The quote at the top is SATIRE, SATIRISING the TE's statements.
Score: 2 points missed, 0 points understood.
It's lookin' bad for the atheists so far.

What do we care about the metaphysical properties of disembodied minds?

Whether you do or don't is your business.
Since you don't, to act like you DO know what you're talking about is utter, pathetic nonsense.
You've proved my point as well. It's a good day.


David Bryan,

Cool stuff, thanks. I'd argue, however, that occurrences of the God of the OT is very often the pre-incarnate Christ. 'Specially when He's *talking* to Moses, when He's seen, etc. 1 Tim 6:16 and all that.
That'd be an interesting discussion sometime!

Peace,
Rhology

The Jolly Nihilist said...

It's interesting that you say this person is "an impolite and fairly abusive atheist blogger."

Just yesterday, in a comment box, you said this: "NAL, you are a fool. And an idiot. And quick to condemn. In short, nearly worthless."

That is impolite. It is also fairly abusive.

You have not been abusive toward me (nor I toward you), but still I found the snippet to be excessively nasty.

Rhology said...

You must not have taken the time to read all the interactions that NAL and I have had over the months.
Not that I expect you to. TE and his cohorts act like that all the time, and at first encounters too.

Cookie jar, again, JN. They taste good, don't they?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I disagree with your use of “cookie jar” here. (I do admit, though, from a stylistic point of view, I like the two-word invocation.) I was not making any kind of prescriptive moral judgment; rather, I was noting abusive language used by you. To recognize language as being abusive is not necessarily to imply the user of the language is immoral or was behaving wickedly.

tergiversant said...

Utter pathetic nonsense? Like claiming that three distinct persons coexist outside of time and space as a single immaterial substance? That sort of utter pathetic sophistry? Or worse?

Rhology said...

JN,

"Abusive" implies that there exists a proper way to treat someone. That is moral and teleological, both of which you'd deny as a matter of course.

Paul C said...

"Abusive" implies that there exists a proper way to treat someone. That is moral and teleological

No, it is clearly neither a moral or a teleological statement; it is a purely social description.

Looks like Rhology can't help stealing from your morality, JN - without even realising it! That's okay though - your cookie jar keeps on giving, while his imaginary friend stopped giving a long, long time ago.

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings

On the subject of the trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Rhology said...

Paul C,

If "abusive" is just a social description, then that has all sorts of implications for other things, such as child abuse, sexual abuse, etc. You're welcome to take that on as baggage on your position as well! Have fun with it.

As for my stealing from JN's morality, what do you mean?
What's your argument for that?


Adam Pastor,

So you're a Unitarian, eh? Oneness?
You're welcome to that junk. Thanks for stopping by, though.
For anyone wondering, I don't consider Adam a brother in Christ; he's a heretic with his own worldview, with its own problems.


Peace,
Rhology

Paul C said...

If "abusive" is just a social description, then that has all sorts of implications for other things, such as child abuse, sexual abuse, etc.

Please do explain what the implications are. Does it also have implications for abusing animals, abusing authority or abusing public transport?

Rhology said...

Yes, for all. B/c the "ab" is the negative indicating that it is a twisting, an improper, of "use".
Teleological.
As if there were a goal, a purpose, in this example, for human communication/manners, etc.

Paul C said...

As if there were a goal, a purpose, in this example, for human communication/manners, etc.

There is. That purpose is social, and has to do with enabling smooth interactions between different parties to ensure social cohesion. Using the word "abusive" merely means that one party has the opinion that another party has over-stepped the bounds of social convention in a particular way.

This has nothing to do with philosophical discussions of teleology, and I notice that you have now dropped the assertion that "abusive" has any moral content in this context.

Rhology said...

Paul C,

Those interactions don't matter on nihilism.


Adam Pastor,

I'm halfway thru the movie, and I'm appalled - you apparently don't think that Trinitarians believe that Jesus Christ was a man. A 2 hour movie based on a complete misunderstanding of the position you're attempting to refute! Amazing. If you're still around, I'd encourage you to do the most elementary reading on the nature of the hypostatic union.

Peace,
Rhology

Paul C said...

Those interactions don't matter on nihilism.

I believe that JN is confusing nihilism with existentialism, and - as a result - you are as well.

In any case, your point is irrelevant. Those interactions exist because they matter - if they did not matter, the individuals would not interact in the first place, no matter what philosophical framework one ascribes to.

However this is a self-evident fact, and you have in the past demonstrated a remarkable capacity for failing to recognise self-evident facts. Let's hope that you surprise us this time.

Rhology said...

Ah, so now you're educating the JN about HIS worldview as well.
So at least it's not just my worldview that you get to define.
Where did you acquire this enviable power to define others' worldviews? Who bequeathed it to you?

Paul C said...

Ah, so now you're educating the JN about HIS worldview as well.

Ah no. I am merely explaining where I believe there might be confusion. JN is welcome to respond, and my answer is simply an opinion. Hence I said "I believe" at the beginning of the sentence.

Where did you acquire this enviable power to define others' worldviews?

I have no such power, mainly because I think the whole concept of worldviews is essentially meaningless. When I express an opinion about somebody's beliefs, it's based on their writing - such as JN, who has been very clear about what he believes.

Paul C said...

You, on the other hand, seem to have no such reservations about telling everybody else - particularly atheists - exactly what they believe. Such is the strength of your power, in fact, that you continue to tell them even after they've explained that you're mistaken and laid out their beliefs quite clearly!

Rhology said...

What I often do is called the argument ad absurdum. I take the position expressed and take it to its logical conclusion. What we have then is the endgame of what the person believes. That's why these last two posts have represented for the JN.

If you disagree, you'll need to provide an argument for how I've made an unwarranted jump away from the logical conclusions/implications of the worldview I'm critiquing.

Paul C said...

What I often do is called the argument ad absurdum. I take the position expressed and take it to its logical conclusion. What we have then is the endgame of what the person believes.

Only if a) you've correctly understood their position and b) you possess the intellect necessary to take it to its logical conclusion. Both of these seem to be in question here, don't they? JN has provided quite a comprehensive explanation of his actual position - but for some reason you prefer to ignore that and rant about the strawman they taught you in presuppositional apologetics 101.

If you disagree, you'll need to provide an argument for how I've made an unwarranted jump away from the logical conclusions/implications of the worldview I'm critiquing.

My argument is that your characterisation of JN's position bear little if any relationship to his actual position. As far as I can tell, JN agrees with this argument, which doesn't really leave you with much to stand on. Do you really think that this is the way to serve God? I had no idea.

Rhology said...

Paul C said:

Only if a) you've correctly understood their position

Make the argument to the contrary if you disagree.

and b) you possess the intellect necessary to take it to its logical conclusion.

He who throws the 1st insult is usually seen to be the one losing the argument. Insult me all day long.

My argument is that your characterisation of JN's position bear little if any relationship to his actual position.

In what way? This is not an argument; it's a naked assertion.

Do you really think that this is the way to serve God?

What in the Bible would make you think that God dislikes the argument ad absurdum?

Paul C said...

Make the argument to the contrary if you disagree.

JN has repeatedly explained exactly how you've misunderstood his position. Although you don't seem able to grasp his arguments, I see little reason why I should have to repeat them.

He who throws the 1st insult is usually seen to be the one losing the argument.

Let's go over this thread, shall we? Oh look - in your second comment, you accuse tergiversant of talking "utter, pathetic nonsense". Looks like an insult to me - does that mean that people see you as the one losing the argument?

In what way? This is not an argument; it's a naked assertion.

It's not a naked assertion; as I've pointed out, JN has repeatedly explained that your accusations do not match his actual beliefs.

What in the Bible would make you think that God dislikes the argument ad absurdum?

I was thinking more of your increasingly inadequate witness, actually. Also, I'm not sure you actually understand what reductio ad absurdum actually means, but God's probably okay with that.

John Morales said...

I second Paul C.

Rhology's claim is:
What I often do is called the argument ad absurdum. I take the position expressed and take it to its logical conclusion. What we have then is the endgame of what the person believes. That's why these last two posts have represented for the JN.

Reductio ad absurdum (AKA proof by contradiction) is a method to show a premise to an argument must be false, where a valid argument leads to a formal contradiction.

This, Rhology has not done.

To do this, Rhology needs to use logic and not just rhetoric.

I lack any confidence that Rhology has any grasp of the mode of thinking JN uses to guide his day-to-day morality; rather I think Rhology applies his own mode of thinking to what he perceives to be JN's metaphysical basis, and thinks his absurd conclusions demonstrate a problem with the worldview.

Just as reductio ad absurdum requires a valid argument for it to apply, accurately modelling JN's conclusions requires a rational rather than a magical mode of thinking.

John Morales said...

Re: the Trinity.
I just can't help it.

Rhology, boiled down, your claim is:
There is one God and one God only who is three equal consubstantial entities, none of which is each other, and each of which is God.

I laugh.

Semantically, that is a self-contradictory definition.

Logically, it ignores the law of identity (A ≡ A).

Theologically, as a Catholic, I was taught it's a Mystery that is beyond human understanding.
I guess the Jesuits were too smart to claim it made any sense.

I do like the way you are earnest about important things like this!

:)

John Morales said...

re: consubstantial

(from Wikipedia, my edits)
Also based on the doctrine of the homoousian, consubstantiation holds that during the sacrament the fundamental "substance" of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present.

Heh heh heh.
I took Communion many many times, and know this substance is utterly indetectable. Having been an altar boy, I've sampled the wafers both before and after consecration*, so I'm not guessing.

The idea of trying to accept this ridiculous concept I'm sure must've played a part in my deconversion, back when.

Anyway, while browsing the Wikipedia Trinity article, this caught my eye:
---
The Nicene Creed, which is a classic formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, uses "homoousios" (Greek: of the same essence) of the relation of the Son's relationship with the Father. This word differs from that used by non-Trinitarians of the time, "homoiousios" (Greek: of similar essence), by a single Greek letter, "one iota", a fact proverbially used to speak of deep divisions, especially in theology, expressed by seemingly small verbal differences.
---

I wonder if that's the true origin of the expression - I'd always vaguely thought it referred to the infinitesimal quantity used in math.

* I admit it now, the altar wine too :>

Rhology said...

John,

Since I don't believe that God is "three equal consubstantial entities", the point is moot.
I believe God (essence, substance, ousios) is three co-equal consubstantial PERSONS (hypostases).
Since ousios =/= hypostasis... I don't know what you're complaining about.
And this is of course a total diversion from the topic of the post. Not that I mind, but here you're attempting to critique my ACTUAL view rather than a view that you would, thru sheer ignorant rhetorical bludgeoning, impose on me regardless of whether that be my actual position, as The Ext has done.

As for the substance of the Eucharist, you might have more luck at Catholic.com or sthg; I don't hold to that dogma.

Peace,
Rhology

John Morales said...

Heh.

Sure, I'll lay off.

Just one thing puzzles me, what's with this "co-equal" terminology?

Could you explain the distinction between "co-equal" and "equal"?

Rhology said...

Hmm, I guess it's to emphasise the "co" part.
So, yeah, "equal" would work. It's a bit reflexive to add the "co-" on my part.

John Morales said...

Thank you.