Thursday, March 26, 2009

Would I give it up?

zilch asked:

Is there any evidence that would make you believe that the Bible is not true? If not, there's not much point in further discussion.
This is an existential question as well as an evidential one.
Several things would need to happen.
Producing an alternative system of epistemology and morality to the biblical one that is self-consistent and consistent with reality would be a good start, so there'd be somewhere to go. Naturalism is not somewhere to go; it'd have to be sthg else, and I've never seen one so far.
Said system would have to be able to acct for the origin of the universe and of life as well (since we're talking about me here - this question always bothered me as an atheist).
And probably a plausible alternative to the Resurrection of Jesus would have to be fwded. The alternatives I've so far seen are pathetic, so sthg else would have to be thought up.
Finally, Jesus would have to let go of my heart. And that's never going to happen.

In short, nothing I've ever seen would do the job, and given that Christianity is actually true, it is impossible. My will belongs to Jesus, not to me.

So, zilch... is there any evidence that would make you believe that naturalism (or, insert your current worldview, if not naturalism) is false?

71 comments:

justfinethanks said...

Except that didn't really answer the question. He asked what EVIDENCE you would accept. If for example,the Bones of Jesus were exhumed tomorrow, and it was shown to be so definitively that they are indeed Jesus corpse bones that Plantiga, Habermas, William Lane Craig, and the Pope all offer their apologies for being so terribly wrong all these years about the resurrection, would you still believe? Even if you didn't find an alternative worldview that met your listed qualifications to your satisfaction?

Seth said...

justfinethanks:

And how would you know that said bones were definitively Jesus'? I'm sure bones could certainly be linked to a 30-something 1st century Palestinian male Jew. Perhaps even evidence of torture, crucifixion, etc. might be found. But that description could just as well fit either of the two thieves with whom Jesus was crucified. I'd like to see you develop this a little more, por favor.

justfinethanks said...

"And how would you know that said bones were definitively Jesus'? "

I honestly don't know how such a thing could be determined. In fact, even if we had Jesus bones, I don't think such a thing could be accomplished in reality. It's merely a thought experiment, so the "how" isn't relevant. Let's just say there was some sort of way such a thing could be determined so conclusively that all Christian scholars are forced to accept it as fact. Would that be sufficient to falsify Christianity, even in the absence of Rho's necessary alternative worldview?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Rho’s honesty, in that he freely admits he is unwilling to ever stop self deceiving.

“Producing an alternative system of epistemology and morality to the biblical one that is self-consistent and consistent with reality would be a good start”

You see Rho, the Bible is not self consistent, nor do many of the teachings in the bible match what are currently acceptable morals in today’s society. I know it is pointless to give examples, because Rho will never accept or acknowledge them.

Even his resurrection of Jesus, there is no proof of this event, and there is significant evidence that there never was a Jesus, not the least of which are the tax rolls from the census that caused Joseph and Mary to have to return to Bethlehem – your Jesus, Mary and Joseph ain’t in there.

But this does not matter to Rho, nothing ever does because he has granted a mythical being unquestionable authority over his life, and delightfully also can determine what these mythical beings will or will not do.

“Jesus would have to let go of my heart. And that's never going to happen.”

How delightful, not only is the mythical creature unquestionable, but it does what ever Rho decides it will do, or not do, unless of course Rho cant decide then it will do what ever it wants.

So zilch, you understand what anyone with the ability to think rationally already knows about Rho, debate and discussion is pointless, unless of course you are here only for entertainment, then it can be fun.

Seth said...

so the "how" isn't relevant

I cannot agree with that. What a feeble worldview that could be dismantled by posing contentless hypotheticals with no hope of being "accomplished in reality."

zilch said...

Thanks for responding, Rho. It sounds like your answer is "no", although as justfinethanks pointed out, you didn't say much about evidence, but rather about the kinds of philosophical satisfactions you would need, if you were to contemplate giving up Christianity.

Given that epistemology doesn't mean anything within naturalism, and morality is a complex of evolved plus cultural plus reasoned ways of behaving and not a list of rules, I doubt that you would be satisfied with the naturalist's only honest answer about them: "I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to learn as much as I can, and do the best that I can".

Same goes for the origins of the universe and of life. I'm perfectly willing to live with not knowing exactly how we got here. Of course, we are learning more and more about it every day, but it seems unlikely that we will ever know the whole story. That's okay with me. If you are not satisfied with that, but find "Goddidit" to be a satisfactory answer to questions of origin and morality, more power to you; but I don't see that "Goddidit" tells you much.

As far as the Resurrection goes, it seems to me to be a problem only if you already believe in it. I don't see any reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, any more than I believe that Gilgamesh and Enkidu fought the Bull of Heaven. If you have proof, let's see it.

What sort of evidence would make me become a theist, or a Christian? If God spoke to me, or appeared to me, in an incontrovertible way, that would be very convincing. It would be presumptuous of me, would it not, to dictate terms to God about how He must approach me? But He hasn't tried very hard, as far as I can tell.

From what I've heard, many Christians have had transcendental experiences. I'm still waiting for one, but until such time as one comes, I will believe in the age of rocks, not the Rock of Ages.

Anon: yes, I'm here partly for entertainment, but also because Rho is a worthy opponent: he's intelligent and honest. In real life, I don't care what people believe, as long as they behave nicely. And since I share the planet with a great number of people, most of whom are religious, I'm interested in finding common ground. That's why I'm here.

cheers from blustery Vienna, zilch

justfinethanks said...

""I cannot agree with that. What a feeble worldview that could be dismantled by posing contentless hypotheticals with no hope of being "accomplished in reality."

It sounds like someone isn't familiar with the concept of a "thought experiment." If you were to ask an unbeliever if they would accept Jesus if He appeared to them miraculously in the flesh, or if the rapture happened, would you accept "But how would a thing be accomplished in reality?" as an acceptable response? Virtually all thought experiments rely on hypotheticals.

So the question still stands. In the face of Jesus bones, are you still a Christian or not?

Rhology said...

zilch,

If your worldview can't account for the existence of evidence, which it can't, then there's no reason to care about it at all. You're borrowing from Christianity, in which evidence DOES matter, when you make a big deal out of evidence.
Or is this going to be another one of those things that materialism just doesn't explain? Your thirst for truth doesn't impress much either, to be honest.

Seth said...

...how He must approach me? But He hasn't tried very hard, as far as I can tell.

Zilch:

Perhaps the fact that you stumbled on to a Christian-hosted discussion forum, where you are actively dialoging with Christians about God could be viewed as evidence that He is trying to approach you. I guess you get to choose how to interpret your experience, eh?

justfinethanks:

Your still present a mindless argument. I'll rephrase your nonsensical question, "if you didn't believe something you believed, would you cease to believe it?" A Christian, like myself, presented with a hypothetical set of bones could say nothing other than that those aren't His bones. If I agreed that they were His bones, than I wouldn't be much of a believer, would I?

justfinethanks said...

" A Christian, like myself, presented with a hypothetical set of bones could say nothing other than that those aren't His bones. If I agreed that they were His bones, than I wouldn't be much of a believer, would I?"

Well, what you seem to be saying is that if you were somehow faced with unquestionable Jesus bones, you still wouldn't believe that they were Jesus bones because they COULDN'T be Jesus bones, because you believe in Christianity.

If this is the case, then you are indeed declaring that there is indeed nothing, even hypothetically, that could sway you from Christianity. If Jesus, even hypothetically, revealed himself to me like you believe he revealed himself after death to St. Thomas or Paul of Tarsus, that certainly would be enough for me. But are you actually saying that you couldn't be swayed even if hypothetical Jesus bones were exhumed? This is strange, most Christians, including respected philosophers like William Lane Craig say that this would be enough to falsify Christianity.

zilch said...

Rho: as I said, I get along just fine without solving the "problem of induction". So do you: you think you've solved it, but as your solution seems to be merely "Goddidit", which doesn't tell us anything about how things work in the real world, I'll stick with my humble admission of ignorance.

And as far as my having "no reason to care about it at all": as you may recall, I had this conversation at length with Peter Pike at Triablogue already. He also seemed quite certain that he knew what must be going on in my mind, and what I must care about and what not. Sorry, neither you nor Peter Pike are God: you have no privileged access to my thoughts and feelings, any more than I have to yours.

Seth: all I can say is, if the dialog here is evidence of God trying to approach me, then He is doing so in a most roundabout manner. And I didn't "stumble" upon this site, but came here via Triablogue, via Debunking Christianity, via Fallacio.us, via StupidEvilBastard, via, I don't remember. If that's "stumbling", then what isn't "stumbling"?

captain howdy said...

@seth--

And how would you know that said bones were definitively Jesus'? I'm sure bones could certainly be linked to a 30-something 1st century Palestinian male Jew. Perhaps even evidence of torture, crucifixion, etc. might be found. But that description could just as well fit either of the two thieves with whom Jesus was crucified. I'd like to see you develop this a little more, por favor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How's this: Toss the bones in water. If they float, they're Jesus's.

Stacey said...

Rhology,

Hoo-ah! I like it. You rightly put forth reason, self-consistency, and making sense of fundamental philosophical questions as the basis for your beliefs, and since much of the evidence of scientific materialism lies outside the realm of these things, they can do nothing to derail the truth found there.

It seems a shame that naturalism/materialism disregards philosophy when philosophy is the foundation of reason and shapes our thoughts and the society we live in. These things cannot and should not be disregarded just because they cannot produce a data set. Rationality extends beyond the natural realm, kudos for Rhology to confessing it.

zilch,

It would be presumptuous of me, would it not, to dictate terms to God about how He must approach me? But He hasn't tried very hard, as far as I can tell.

As far as you can tell. And yet, here's a hypothetical thought game: You die, go to meet God, and He asks you why you have not believed. Do you think that your current excuses would be a good enough answer? (I really don't know what you would say here.) The question of the truth of Christianity is big enough that it ought to be investigated earnestly and answered as absolutely as possible, since more than your life hangs in the balance, the state of your soul in eternity does.

Rhology said...

Thanks for the kudos Stacey.
And I assume you agree with the post except for the "Jesus would have to let go of my heart, and that's never going to happen" thing, right? The RCC isn't too high on the doctrine of perseverance, is it? :-D

Stacey said...

Rhology,

You're a rascal :P I do agree that God will not let go of my heart, but merely acknowledge that I have the ability (though God bless me, never the desire!) to turn from Him.

So how's the newest addition to your cult? I hope you're letting the wife get at least a couple hours of sleep together, and I hope you aren't blogging in too sleep-deprived a state ;)

Rhology said...

Not too much sleep, no. ;-)

But I'll use that as a convenient excuse for the recent quality of said blogging.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Seth, I do think you're being a little hard on the hypotheticals. I am willing to admit, as St Paul himself was, that if it could be demonstrated somehow that Jesus had not resurrected, we would be of all men most to be pitied. The difficulty of course is that this late in the game it's thoroughly undemonstrable, and I don't see anyone proposing a practical method. But I see nothing invalid in the conditions of the counter-factual itself.

zilch said...

Stacy, you say (addressing Rho):

You rightly put forth reason, self-consistency, and making sense of fundamental philosophical questions as the basis for your beliefs, and since much of the evidence of scientific materialism lies outside the realm of these things, they can do nothing to derail the truth found there.

Very nicely stated, and I agree: that is indeed the difference between (epistemological, theological) philosophical truth and scientific truth. The question is, are the truths arrived at by means of epistemology (theological or not) accurate descriptions of the way things are (supposing the application of the "correct" epistemology and/or the "correct" religion)? You and Rho say yes; I say I don't know, pending further evidence. And as I've said, I'd rather live with my ignorance than with a "truth" that has no evidence and explains nothing.

It seems a shame that naturalism/materialism disregards philosophy when philosophy is the foundation of reason and shapes our thoughts and the society we live in. These things cannot and should not be disregarded just because they cannot produce a data set. Rationality extends beyond the natural realm, kudos for Rhology to confessing it.

Philosophy, in many guises, does indeed shape our thoughts and the society we live in. But saying that philosophy is the foundation of reason is simply your contention: it remains to be proven. And I most certainly do not disregard philosophy (religious or not): even if it does not produce a data set, it has salient effects on my life and that of everyone else, for good and for ill, even if it extends into a supernatural realm that only exists in our imagination.

And yet, here's a hypothetical thought game: You die, go to meet God, and He asks you why you have not believed. Do you think that your current excuses would be a good enough answer? (I really don't know what you would say here.) The question of the truth of Christianity is big enough that it ought to be investigated earnestly and answered as absolutely as possible, since more than your life hangs in the balance, the state of your soul in eternity does.

I don't know if my current excuse would be a good enough answer: how can I know how God judges these matters (supposing He exists)? For all I know, He might simply quote Martin Luther at me, and say "Reason is the Whore of the Devil", and chuck me into Hell. Tough luck for me being logically minded.

But I don't buy Pascal's Wager either: life is too short to chase every claim of "true religion". I've already read the Bible, parts of the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad-Gita, and bits and pieces of a lot of other stuff. So far, no clouds have parted, and I've seen no real-world evidence that Christians (or Jews or any other believers) behave in such a way that convinces me they're onto something. Quite the contrary, in some cases, such as the rejection of common sense and science, the bigotry, and the violence of some fundamentalists. So why should I believe?

Rhology said...

zilch,

Truths are arrived at thru all kinds of pursuits, as I'm sure you'd agree.
But what I'm usually talking about when I discuss things like this or like EAAN is the preconditions for intelligibility and knowing. Is Christian theism a proper and sufficient precondition for thinking I can know anythg? How about materialism? Naturalism? Islam? Etc...
After looking at it a little, I realised that materialism and naturalism are hopelessly unable to provide said preconditions. After interacting with materialists and naturalists for a much longer time, I've found their rebuttals and 2nd attempts fatally flawed. Those worldviews have nothing. If you can't acct for knowing anything, then you have no worldview worth holding. It glorifies Jesus b/c He made a world in which we CAN know stuff, and all these man-made worldviews don't hold any water as far as that goes.

You talked about standing before God. God has provided more than enough evidence for you. Your problem is that you WILL not be had. You suppress the truth that you already know. You know God exists but suppress it. You know you are guilty under His law but do your best not to think about it. He provided a perfect Savior but you scorn Him. You have no excuse.
The reason you should believe is b/c you are a sinner and need a Savior.

Seth said...

Joel,

being a little hard on the hypotheticals

Granted. But I don't think unfairly hard.

If Jesus somehow physically appeared today (assume scientists confirm his identity), held a press conference and said, "Hey this Christianity thing is all wrong!" Would you stop being a Christian?
for the non-bible thumpers here, see Matthew 24:23-24 for the answer.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Zilch,

I am unclear as to the distinction you seem draw between epistemological knowledge and scientific knowledge. Is not science simply another manner of grounding what we know?

Seth,

For Jesus to have resurrected and returned proves Christianity true; for him to deny it proves it false. So here I would grant that the hypothetical is meaningless - its conditions, being mutually exclusive and contradictory, destroy each other. But the point about his resurrection was at least in apostolic times subject to widespread debate; to me that still seems fair game, at least in a thought experiment. Why is it that you disagree?

zilch said...

After interacting with materialists and naturalists for a much longer time, I've found their rebuttals and 2nd attempts fatally flawed. Those worldviews have nothing. If you can't acct for knowing anything, then you have no worldview worth holding.

Well, Rho, I guess we're at an impasse then. I'm willing to say I don't know when I don't know. Despite the fact that I can't account for everything logically all the way down, I still manage to get up in the morning, and I still manage to do stuff with my ungrounded knowledge. My worldview may not be worth holding, from your perspective, but it works for me, and doesn't multiply entities beyond necessity (or at least, that's my aim).

You talked about standing before God. God has provided more than enough evidence for you. Your problem is that you WILL not be had. You suppress the truth that you already know. You know God exists but suppress it. You know you are guilty under His law but do your best not to think about it. He provided a perfect Savior but you scorn Him. You have no excuse.
The reason you should believe is b/c you are a sinner and need a Savior.


Sigh. I've heard this before. How do you know what's in my heart of hearts? As I said, you are not God: you have no privileged access to my thoughts, and thus cannot know what I think or feel. If I were similarly inclined, I would retort that you are afraid of learning more about evolution, because it might mean giving up your belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. But I'm not that arrogant.

All the best to you and your family from overcast Vienna, zilch.

Joshua said...

So there's nothing at all that would convince you? No level of evidence?

I'm curious about the following hypothetical (similar to the bones hypothetical but more concrete).

Suppose we discover early drafts of the various gospels which were written shortly after the death of Jesus and did not mention a resurrection. Would that be sufficient?

Rhology said...

zilch,

You are able to function in this world b/c you take for granted many things that don't make sense in your worldview but make perfect sense in Christianity. You just don't give credit to the source. Basically, you're plagiarising.
Given that you freely admit that your knowledge is ungrounded and your materialism can't acct for everythg, it casts doubt on just how serious you are in looking for the truth, to be honest.

*I* don't know your heart much at all, but God knows it far better than even you do, and He has communicated that part of your (and everyone's, including mine) heart in the Bible. So, no, I'm not God, but God let me in on this little secret.
If you really think I'm afraid of learning more about evolution, why did I read Dick Dawk's The Selfish Gene? Gee's In Search of Deep Time? Why do I have Coyne's Why Evolution Is True up next in my library reading list? Why do I spend time discussing it on my own blog and never moderate anyone's comments, ever? Why do I spend time at ERV? Why all the time spent at the Atheist Experience? Come now, surely I can get a little more credit than that...


Joshua,

For any evidence to be convincing, I'd first need a worldview that can account for evidence. All the 'evidence' in the world might be marshaled to support naturalism, but if evidence is 100% meaningless if naturalism is true, there is every reason to reject naturalism. See what I'm getting at?

zilch said...

I am unclear as to the distinction you seem draw between epistemological knowledge and scientific knowledge. Is not science simply another manner of grounding what we know?

Joel: epistemology, in my mind, strictly speaking, is the theory of knowledge: what can we know, and how do we know it? However, it is also often used to mean something like "philosophical ways of describing the basis of knowledge", and it is this usage that I take issue with, because it seems to me that such attempts, for instance epistemological attempts to derive the foundation of logic or beginnings of the Universe, are not grounded in any sort of real world evidence, but only show us what words do when they are freed to chase their own tails.

If anything forms the ground of what we know, it is science, and not philosophy, imho.

Seth said...

Joel,

[resurrection] fair game...

Certainly it is fair game. But the issue was whether a believer would cease to believe when confronted with new evidence, bones. This I said was absurd. A (Christian) believer is one who by definition believes Jesus. If I believe Jesus, and Jesus said trust no one who comes proclaiming to be the Christ (why not extend it to proclaiming to have His bones), then how could I even remotely consider the bones to be legitimate? The nonsense issue here is conflicting definitions for a 'believer'.

zilch said...

You are able to function in this world b/c you take for granted many things that don't make sense in your worldview but make perfect sense in Christianity. You just don't give credit to the source. Basically, you're plagiarising.
Given that you freely admit that your knowledge is ungrounded and your materialism can't acct for everythg, it casts doubt on just how serious you are in looking for the truth, to be honest.


Hey, we all plagiarize, Rho. I plagiarize from Christianity, sure, because I was raised in a Christian culture. I'm sure that my embracing "do unto others" comes pretty directly from Christianity. But as I'm sure you know, the Golden Rule is not unique to or even earliest found in Christianity. Christianity plagiarized from Greek, Hebrew, and Pagan cultures, which in turn plagiarized from still earlier cultures. In fact, evolution is nothing but elaborated plagiarism, in a way. Plagiarism makes the world go round. So what?

And as far as being serious in looking for the truth, I'm willing to open my mind, but not so far that my brain falls out into a Matrix vat.

If you really think I'm afraid of learning more about evolution, why did I read Dick Dawk's The Selfish Gene? Gee's In Search of Deep Time? Why do I have Coyne's Why Evolution Is True up next in my library reading list? Why do I spend time discussing it on my own blog and never moderate anyone's comments, ever? Why do I spend time at ERV? Why all the time spent at the Atheist Experience? Come now, surely I can get a little more credit than that...

Credit where credit is due: sure, you do expose yourself to more naturalist ideas than many Christians do. But as I said: I wouldn't claim to know of you what you claim to know of me by proxy. As far as Dawkins goes, I would rather recommend one of his more recent books, for instance The Ancestor's Tale.

Joshua said...

I didn't ask about naturalism. The question is about divinity of Jesus. Period. Are you saying that even if you the drafts of the gospels and could confirm that there was no resurrection of Jesus in any of them you would still believe that Jesus had been resurrected?

Rhology said...

Joshua,

If evidence doesn't exist, how does one "confirm" anything?

Joshua Zelinsky said...

Rhology, so you are saying that there is no circumstance in which you would decide that Jesus was not divine?

justfinethanks said...

"But the issue was whether a believer would cease to believe when confronted with new evidence, bones. This I said was absurd"

No, the issue is specifically the bones of Jesus. Here are the words of the Lee Strobel:

The discovery of Jesus' bones would be no joke. I once asked Christian scholar William Lane Craig, “What if we got a news flash from Jerusalem that it had been conclusively proven that the bones of Jesus had been discovered?” His response was crisp: “It would falsify Christianity.”

Clearly, Craig, one of the most respected Christian scholars, thinks that this would be enough for him to give up his faith, and he is at least willing to entertain this hypothetical. You keep saying that if you were confronted with "bones," then you would merely deny that they ever belonged to Jesus. But what if you were certain that they were indeed the bones of Jesus? Would you still believe?

And if you still reject this as an absurd question, exactly what kind of theological insight do you have that WL Craig lacks to declare it absurd?

Rhology said...

I can certainly see what he means, but unless my challenge is answered, there is no such thing as falsification --of anything-- since there is no such thing as evidence.

WL Craig is great as far as he goes, but his theology is faulty in several places. His neglect of the area of presuppositions is one of the weaknesses of his approach.

justfinethanks said...

I can certainly see what he means, but unless my challenge is answered, there is no such thing as falsification --of anything-- since there is no such thing as evidence.

I see, but what if,

1) You hold to a worldview that can account for logic, the reliability of the senses, and evidence to your satisfaction.

2) Logic, your senses, and evidence show that worldview to be false.

Wouldn't that be internally incoherent? Clearly, if indisputable evidence showed Christianity to be false, such as Jesus Bones, it would be nonsense to claim that only Christianity can account for evidence, because evidence falsifies Christianity. If you say that EVEN Jesus bones wouldn't falsify Christianity, then what you are really saying is that evidence is a meaningless means of finding truth in the Christian worldview.

Seth said...

...what theological insight...

Honestly, it doesn't make much difference to me what William Lane Craig says. We've each got to work these things out for ourselves.

...if I were certain...
We return to the issue of what does conclusive evidence look like? Would the weight of the bone evidence outweigh every thing else that I am convinced evidences that He is in fact alive?

Question: if someone brings you a set of bones in the next 10 minutes and tells you that they are mine, would you believe them? In addition to the bones themselves, you've got to ask a few questions.
(1) Did I die at the keyboard right after typing this entry?
(2) How did they get my bones out of my flesh and skin so fast, since you just read my post 5 minutes prior?
(3) Assuming you know where I live (and you know where you live), how'd they get the bones there so fast?
(4) What if I told you I'd reply back 30 minutes from now... you waited... and then I posted a message? Would you believe the bones or my latest post?

Methinks this conclusive evidence business is a quagmire.

Dr Funkenstein said...

You are able to function in this world b/c you take for granted many things that don't make sense in your worldview but make perfect sense in Christianity. You just don't give credit to the source. Basically, you're plagiarising.
Given that you freely admit that your knowledge is ungrounded and your materialism can't acct for everythg, it casts doubt on just how serious you are in looking for the truth, to be honest.


The problem is though on Christianity they don't make sense - for example, how can the law of identity hold when God possesses the ability to allow things to behave in a fashion that doesn't correspond to their nature?

How can uniformity of nature be presupposed when again God possesses the ability to perform miracles that will disrupt nature?

How can it account for sensory reliability when sin, evil spirits, determinism and an elect that excludes virtually everyone bar a tiny handful of people and so on are all part of its teaching?

Then when you start asking questions, you realise apologists don't actually have any answers:

As you know John Frame simply states in response to most questions about how he 'accounts' for his presuppositions (eg that the bible is the word of God, or how he separates revelation from delusion and so on with 'we just know' Or when Gene Witmer responded to Gene Cook's assertion that Christianity explains everything by asking 'does it explain why God exists?' Cook responded with 'ah, but that's just our presupposition' - this doesn't account for it though - if a naturalist accounted for logic and so on by saying 'we just know', or 'that's just our presupposition' what would be the difference in quality of explanation? None really.

Dr Funkenstein said...

I also meant to add the point about consistency doesn't necessarily equal truth - to use Frame's example, all the crazed student's beliefs are consistent with his presupposition that everyone is out to kill him, and he can make rationalisations so any situation can be bent to fit the presupposition somehow, yet his beliefs are false even though they are all consistent with his presupposition since his presupposition is simply arbitrary and not true. This is virtually the same method Gleason Archer uses when he states in his Biblical difficulties encyclopedia 'be persuaded in your own mind that a harmonisation exists, even if you have not thought of it yet' - it would be possible to achieve consistency of thought in any worldview with this approach, it tells me nothing of the presupposition's truth though.

justfinethanks said...

if someone brings you a set of bones in the next 10 minutes and tells you that they are mine, would you believe them?

This is nothing at all like the question I'm asking you. Obviously if I merely asked "What if someone brought you some bones and said they belonged to Jesus? Would you believe them?" then it would be a meaningless question, and I would only expect a "no" in response. In fact, I don't think anyone would believe them. Instead, I'm asking what if they belonged to Jesus IN REALITY.

You seem to be really, really hung up on the HOW, when its irrelevant in a thought expiriment. I Imagine you would have been a real pest to Einstein, who was fond of thought experiments. One of them involved a train traveling at the speed of light. Would you cut him off by saying "But HOW would a train travel at that speed?" Decartes imagined what if a demon controlled his thoughts.Frank Jackson tried to prove the existence of qualia by imagining a black and white girl named Mary growing up in a black and white room. None of these things can be accomplished in real life, yet they are all considered valid starting points for philosophical discussion. You are honestly the only person I have even heard of who will only discuss a hypothetical situation if it is realistically feasible.

If you rephrased your question to be "Suppose someone brought me my bones, would you believe that I was alive?" I would of course respond no, because I had your bones, according to your hypothetical. If I then saw you walking around, then I would think either that you had a new set of bones or that you didn't need bones to walk around, because again, I had your bones. If you give me a hypothetical situation in which I have your bones, then I merely assume that yes I DO have your bones. Its simply a given because that is the conditions of the thought experiment. Just like the existence of Jesus bones is a given in the situation that I'm presenting to you.

Entertaining hypotheticals is really a basic part of philosophy, and you really seem intent on dodging the question, and I don't even think its a tricky one. It's pretty straightforward: Would the existence of Jesus bones on earth falsify your faith, if they were discovered? It's a yes or no question.

Rhology said...

justfinethanks,

If a supposed defeater for my position (ie, Jesus' bones) were to pressure me towards an alternative worldview, I'd then consider the alternative worldview.
If, on said worldview, evidence doesn't exist and there is no reason to believe that my cognitive faculties are reliably aimed at producing beliefs that are true, the defeater would be stronger for the alternative. It would therefore be much more rational to continue to doubt the bones than to doubt EVERYTHING.

Rhology said...

Dr Funk repeated an old canard, forgetting he's been corrected on this:
How can uniformity of nature be presupposed when again God possesses the ability to perform miracles that will disrupt nature?

Bottom line. Miracles are very rare and are always classifiable under an act of redemptive history by God for a specific redemptive and/or identificatory (ie, sign, testimonial) purpose.
Virtually all the time, there is every reason to believe the uniformity of nature holds. There is no reason to think such if naturalism is true. That is what I said in BEAR 1.
You keep trying to make a point, not realising this point actually cuts the throat of your own position.

Joshua Zelinsky said...

The presupposition claim taken to this level just doesn't make sense.

One can have a presupposition and still reject it when it doesn't work well. In trials we presuppose that people are innocent. We don't then insist on interpreting all evidence in that light even when that position becomes logically untenable.

justfinethanks said...

If, on said worldview, evidence doesn't exist and there is no reason to believe that my cognitive faculties are reliably aimed at producing beliefs that are true, the defeater would be stronger for the alternative. It would therefore be much more rational to continue to doubt the bones than to doubt EVERYTHING.

Is it? Obviously, according to you at least, if there is a defeater for Christianity, or something that shows Christianity to be incoherent, it's pointless to declare one thing more or less rational or another.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but seems to me that if Jesus bones are discovered and Christianity is falsified, the only places that you would be willing to go would be Radical Skepticism or Nihilism, since you don't think there is any accounting for knowledge or reality without your faith.

Seth said...

justfinethanks,

Following your rationale for getting my bones, here's a few possibilities for Jesus' bones, assuming you've got the real set:

(1) Jesus got all new bones - Christian faith in tact
(2) Jesus' new body requires no bones - Christian faith in tact
(3) Jesus' duplicated his bones - Christian faith in tact

These are all pretty ridiculous, and my "oh-gag-me" reflex has kicked in full force. However, I suppose if I'm apt to believe something so naturalistically implausible as resurrection and glorified bodies and the like, and then you force me to dive into philosophical meaningless, then why not go for the gusto: Jesus left behind a trail of cloned bones. Sigh, what a let down.

Anonymous said...

"Virtually all the time, there is every reason to believe the uniformity of nature holds."

Yes, but only virtually and so his point stands.

I never thought it was possible for somebody to troll their own blog until I read this guy.

Rhology said...

jft,

then only places you would be willing to go would be Radical Skepticism or Nihilism

Both of which are self-defeating. So you're stuck. Far better just to doubt that the purported bones of Jesus are actually the bones of Jesus.


Anon,
You apparently have a poor concept of "troll".
And no, his point doesn't stand b/c on naturalism there is NO reason to expect uniformity. None vs virtually always = victory for the virtually always.

justfinethanks said...

(1) Jesus got all new bones - Christian faith in tact
(2) Jesus' new body requires no bones - Christian faith in tact
(3) Jesus' duplicated his bones - Christian faith in tact


Firstly, that's a big "no" to my question, and secondly it seems that instead of believing that Christianity was false, you would radically rewrite mainstream Christian accounts of the resurrection in order to maintain your faith. That's actually a fair answer. It shows that you would rather totally alter the foundation of your belief in Christianity than abandon it, but its fair.

Stacey said...

justfinethanks,

You are honestly the only person I have even heard of who will only discuss a hypothetical situation if it is realistically feasible.

Haha... my husband's another one. I've beat my head against a wall trying to get him to answer hypotheticals like "If the pope denied Christ, would you still follow him?" and he only replies with "That can't happen." (I agree with him, but the hypothetical question is worth asking.)

justfinethanks said...

Both of which are self-defeating. So you're stuck. Far better just to doubt that the purported bones of Jesus are actually the bones of Jesus.

Well, this is strange, then. You are also saying that if there was a Christianity defeater, then it would be still rational to stick with Christianity. But doesn't this require a basis for rationality that is independent of Christianity?

I still think it's a little incoherent to say "Yes, the foundation of the Christian worldview, the resurrection, is false, but it is rational to stick with it because its the only basis for rationality." Clearly, it CAN'T be the basis for rationality if rationality shows it to be untrue. This is internally inconsistent. If logic and evidence show Christianity to be untrue, you are only left with a few choices.

1)Christianity isn't true.
2) Logic isn't a valid way to find truth.
3) Evidence isn't a valid way to find truth.

And you can't adhere to any of those and still be a Christian.

But if you declare that logic and evidence do indeed show Christianity to be true, then you have just moved away from your theistic foundationalism and are attempting to use logic and evidence in manner independant of Christianity, which is impossible according to the presupper.

Stacey said...

justfinethanks,

If the resurrection were proved false, I would no longer believe in Christianity. I would probably drift in some kind of worldview ether until I found something that made sense of the world, because like Rhology, Christianity is the only thing that does make sense of the world for me.

You say:
If logic and evidence show Christianity to be untrue, you are only left with a few choices.

1) Christianity isn't true.
2) Logic isn't a valid way to find truth.
3) Evidence isn't a valid way to find truth...

But if you declare that logic and evidence do indeed show Christianity to be true, then you have just moved away from your theistic foundationalism and are attempting to use logic and evidence in manner independant of Christianity, which is impossible according to the presupper.


At least in my view (I cannot speak for Rhology), logic and evidence can point to Christianity and are consistent with it. But logic and evidence are not the only way to find truth. Logic is very important, reliable evidence should be considered, but there is something to be said for intuition. Also, reason (as in philosophy, not scientific evidential logic) is necessarily the basis of all beliefs. You don't just start with Christianity as your presupposer, then use logic and evidence because Christianity allows you to. On the other hand, you can't use logic and evidence as your presupposer and then prove Christianity from it. In relying on logic and evidence alone, the naturalist has cut off his legs and attempts to stand on them, since his reason must tell him that his senses are reliable in the first place. All of these inputs must be accepted together and sorted out into a coherent picture.

DesCartes began with only being certain of "I think." Honestly, isn't that what we all begin with? The naturalist can't be certain that he's not a brain hooked up to a machine sending electrical impulses deluding him as to the nature of reality. DesCartes went on from there, and concluded he could trust his sense because God is not a liar. He understood the necessary back and forth between evidence, philosophy, and intuition.

justfinethanks said...

Logic is very important, reliable evidence should be considered, but there is something to be said for intuition.

Yes, a lot of Christian philosophers say that the most important evidence for Christianity is "the witness of the Holy Spirit."

Also, reason (as in philosophy, not scientific evidential logic) is necessarily the basis of all beliefs. You don't just start with Christianity as your presupposer, then use logic and evidence because Christianity allows you to.

Well, then you are more of an evidentialist (which is unsurprising of a Catholic). Every Bahnsenian presupper I've ever spoke to said that logic exits because of God's logical nature. They claim that they believe not because logic points to God, but because logic COMES FROM God. Their first premise is "The Bible is true" and build their worldview from there.

The naturalist can't be certain that he's not a brain hooked up to a machine sending electrical impulses deluding him as to the nature of reality.

I've never quite understood how theistic foundationlism solves the "brain in a box" issue. Couldn't you be a brain in a box who believes that Jesus is Lord? All manner of unfalsifiable and undetectable things might be true, but they generally should be elimianted by parsimony.

Here's quandry I don't think the theist can solve: How do you know that God is Benevolent and not Malevolent? If God was malevolent, he would naturally appear Benevolent (as he does now to you) because he would be deceitful. And if you try to use logic or the Bible to solve this issue, it just won't do because this hypothetical deceitful God would have instilled in you a false sense of logic and a misleading Bible in order to maintain the deceit. Given that an all good and an all evil God would look identical to you (all good), how can you know that He is indeed good and not evil?

Stacey said...

zilch,

Sorry I've taken so long to respond, I'm trying to answer you properly and the kids only just went down for a nap :)

The question is, are the truths arrived at by means of epistemology... accurate descriptions of the way things are?... You and Rho say yes; I say I don't know, pending further evidence. And as I've said, I'd rather live with my ignorance than with a "truth" that has no evidence and explains nothing.

Do you mean that you want direct evidence to prove the epistemological reasonability of something? What kind of evidence are you talking about? If I understand you correctly, that means you disregard any non-evidential idea because you can't be sure? Even physical reality is about playing the odds (I'm thinking of quantum mechanics), are you satisfied with a high certainty that God exists based on reasoning from our experiences and intuition? And, like I said above, the naturalist has a philosophy based on belief. He has a set of axioms, taken a priori, believed in unquestioningly, including:

- The world is knowable.
- Our senses are reliable.
- The scientific method works.
- The world is as it appears to be.

But saying that philosophy is the foundation of reason is simply your contention: it remains to be proven.

By saying philosophy is the foundation of reason, I mean what I said above. Any system of thought is based on beliefs arranged into a philosophy. Good philosophy, like Aristotles rules of truth, are most decidedly the foundation of reason. They lay the foundation for scientific investigation though most are unaware of it through ignorance of history. His two rules of truth, self-consistency and universality, are at the foundation of scientific thought, are they not? (factoid, Martin Luther rejected these rules in forming his theology during the Reformation). I'm not sure how you would like "philosophy is the foundation of reason" to be proved. What kind of proof are you looking for?

how can I know how God judges these matters (supposing He exists)? For all I know, He might simply quote Martin Luther at me, and say "Reason is the Whore of the Devil", and chuck me into Hell. Tough luck for me being logically minded.

You wouldn't start off assuming first God and Hell exist, then ask "How will He judge me?". An entire working system is presented to you in Christianity (maybe I should stick with saying "Catholicism" so people don't mingle what I say about things with what Rhology says? We believe differently). The system is self-consistent and consistent with the world around it. If you investigate this system and find it to be true, you would then have a reliable way of determining how God would judge you and how best to be saved by Him, given the things in the system: the Bible and the Traditions of Christ's Church. Thankfully, the Church loves reason, and reason will guide you to her, if you are earnest.

But I don't buy Pascal's Wager either: life is too short to chase every claim of "true religion". I've already read the Bible, parts of the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad-Gita, and bits and pieces of a lot of other stuff. So far, no clouds have parted, and I've seen no real-world evidence that Christians (or Jews or any other believers) behave in such a way that convinces me they're onto something. Quite the contrary, in some cases, such as the rejection of common sense and science, the bigotry, and the violence of some fundamentalists. So why should I believe?

The only good reason to believe something is because it is true. The question is, what would convince you that something is true? What does truth look like? "Truth" as we are discussing, can't be found through strictly naturalist evidence, and in fact "truth" is the foundation of accepting such evidence. Truth makes sense out of our existence, out of the world around us, the behavior of individuals, and the course of history. Truth is universal through time and space, and must be consistent with itself and the things around it. Truth, when you consider it honestly, will change you.

As far as all the religions of the world go, I know many people view it as unreconcilable that there are many different beliefs. But are they all so different? There are three categories of religion: self-revealed religion, God-revealed religion, and atheism. Under self-revealed religion, I put all things that have their origins in humanity (before you protest, let me explain). These things include altruistic philosophies, ideas like reincarnation, attributing godlike qualities to material things, pantheism - things that don't even claim themselves to be revealed by God, but think some brilliant man had a good idea. God-revealed religion is a short list: Judaism, Catholicism and the various heresies thereof (i.e. Protestantism, sorry Rhology :), and Islam). Catholicism fulfilled Judaism. The heresies that have broken off and changed a religion are not likely to have more truth than the original. Then there's atheism.

You really have a choice between Catholicism, atheism, or some amorphous inconsequential (I don't mean to brush them aside, but to say they do not profess immortal consequences) religion. A few simple questions can navigate these three options. Does your experience and intuition lead you to believe God exists? Hopefully, you're at least willing to entertain the "yes" long enough to investigate the other two options besides atheism. Is there any reason throughout history to believe that God has revealed himself? Considering the influence that Christianity has had on our civilization, you ought to think yes. Reason leads you to Catholicism. Obviously, there's more to it than all that, but that's the basic outline that a reasonable individual might follow to navigate the various religions of the world.

As for the bad behavior of individuals, isn't that to be expected with the worldview that people are fallen creatures? I wouldn't expect Christians to be automatically good, and although I believe Catholicism is true, I don't expect Catholics in general to be less bad than other people. I do expect that good Catholics will be better than everyone else. A proper system used properly will provide better results. The saints of the Catholic Church testify to the truth of Christianity. The goodness of the institution of the Church (disregarding fallen members), the aid they give to the needy around the world, the solace they give to the poor in spirit, the thing itself is divine in nature. The Catholic Church embraces reason and contributes to science (although as you say, some crazy fundamentalists at different points in time may have behaved differently). That's why you should believe. Because although there are sinful individuals, the living Church of Christ is a good thing, marked with truth.

Anonymous said...

"And no, his point doesn't stand b/c on naturalism there is NO reason to expect uniformity. None vs virtually always = victory for the virtually always."

Yeah, unfortunately that's bullshit. First, the position of "naturalism" is irrelevant to whether your own position allows the assumption of the uniformity of nature. Second, his question was "How can uniformity of nature be presupposed when again God possesses the ability to perform miracles that will disrupt nature?" If there's a single exception to the rule - which you admit there is - then no uniformity can be assumed.

Craig said...

Christianity is also something that is experienced. And my experiences have confirmed my the truth of the scripture. Therefore in order to abandon the Bible, I woulld have to find a plausible explanation for my expereinces seperate from the Bible, and that aint gonna happen.

NAL said...

Rho:
Producing an alternative system of epistemology and morality to the biblical one that is self-consistent and consistent with reality would be a good start, ...

YEC is consistent with reality? You're only kidding yourself.

Rho:
Said system would have to be able to acct for the origin of the universe and of life as well ...

Your ignorance of the origin of the universe and of life is your basis for belief in God?

Rho:
And probably a plausible alternative to the Resurrection of Jesus would have to be fwded.

Your view of the resurrection is based on presupposition, therefore your view is not reasoned. Why would you insist on a reasonable alternative?

Modusoperandi said...

Craig "Christianity is also something that is experienced. And my experiences have confirmed my the truth of the scripture. Therefore in order to abandon the Bible, I woulld have to find a plausible explanation for my expereinces seperate from the Bible, and that aint gonna happen."
Replace the religion and the text with virtually any other religion and text (or even just your location) and those sentences don't change at all.
In Rome, you'd be RC. Go east and you'd be EO. Go farther; OO. In the USA you'd potentially be laying on the ground babbling or dancing with snakes or sitting quietly, and your individual Jesus would be just as supportive as every other Christian's Jesus is of their version. In the right place and time, you could've been a Millerite. Fast forward a bit and you'd be a Seventh Day Adventist. Go back and you could've been like Tomás de Torquemada, while forward could've made you Mormon. If you were in Saudi Arabia, those same experiences in a different culture with a different text would make you sure that a literalist version of Islam was true, while in Iraq, you'd probably be mystic, and your personal Allah would be just as supportive in either event. On a different tack, in different places, you'd probably be Hindu or Buddhist or Shinto or any number of other "pagan" religions/sects, and Ganesha or your spirit guide or Mother Earth or a general sense of something would lend support to your beliefs. In a different time, the Aztec priests and Huitzilopochtli would help you along. More recently you could have been absolutely sure that you were about to tag a ride onto a spacecraft behind Hale Bopp.
While the argument from personal experience is quite powerful to the experiencer (my own mystical experience years ago still makes me, an atheist, occasionally deist), once you get outside your own head, you're competing with everybody else's personal experiences and their texts and their interpretations and their cultures and their...

zilch said...

Stacey: first of all, thanks for taking me seriously, instead of just zapping me with snarky one-liners. I will do my best to accord you the same courtesy.

You say:

Do you mean that you want direct evidence to prove the epistemological reasonability of something? What kind of evidence are you talking about? If I understand you correctly, that means you disregard any non-evidential idea because you can't be sure?

No, I don't want proof for everything I believe. Absolute proof is only forthcoming within systems of formal logic such as mathematics; I cannot be sure that my senses and models of the world are perfect, so there is always uncertainty. As I've told Rho, I don't have a solution for the problem of induction: I must live with not being able to logically justify my beliefs all the way down. I have no proof that I'm not a brain in a vat, or part of a memo from one demon to another.

But as far as I can see, Rho (or any other theist claiming this kind of certainty) doesn't either. He says he does, in the form of a God, where the buck stops. But this God, as I've said, doesn't explain anything that my worldview doesn't explain, there's no evidence for this God, and this God hypothesis is a great deal more complex than mine.

Even physical reality is about playing the odds (I'm thinking of quantum mechanics), are you satisfied with a high certainty that God exists based on reasoning from our experiences and intuition?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean here, but yes, I would be satisfied with believing with a high certainty (no absolute proof required) that God exists, but based on my experience and reasoning, I don't believe that God exists. I'm open to new experiences, though.

And, like I said above, the naturalist has a philosophy based on belief. He has a set of axioms, taken a priori, believed in unquestioningly, including:

- The world is knowable.
- Our senses are reliable.
- The scientific method works.
- The world is as it appears to be.


I would almost agree with that. I would just say that I do question my axioms all the time, and I would tweak your slightly:

- The world is knowable, to some unknowable extent.
- Our senses are more or less reliable.
- The scientific method works quite well, in the long run.
- The world is.

Good philosophy, like Aristotles rules of truth, are most decidedly the foundation of reason.

I don't have any problem with Aristotle's rules of truth, because they work: formal logic, done correctly, yields formal truths. What I object to are philosophies that apply syllogisms to the real world and come to conclusions that are merely words chasing their own tails, such as saying that God is the "Uncaused Cause", to avoid having to explain His existence.

The system is self-consistent and consistent with the world around it. If you investigate this system and find it to be true, you would then have a reliable way of determining how God would judge you and how best to be saved by Him, given the things in the system: the Bible and the Traditions of Christ's Church.

If the system were self-consistent and true, and contained information about God's character such that one could reasonably expect to know how He would judge me, then I would agree with you. However, if your system is based on the Bible (with or without the Apocrypha), then I have to disagree. The Bible is not self-consistent, at least parts of it are demonstrably not "true" in any common-sense meaning of the word, and God's character is rather unpredictable. Why do you suppose that there are about thirty thousand different Christian sects, all of which disagree with one another (more or less contentiously) about what the Bible "really" means? Why are there many former Christians who became atheists because they read the Bible carefully?

The only good reason to believe something is because it is true.

No: another good reason to believe something is because it works. For instance, accepting induction, even without knowing if it is true, gets me (and everyone else) through the day, most of the time. Everything that science tells us is subject to revision: but it works well enough to enable us to be chatting on the internet, and lots of other things as well. The theory of evolution is true in the sense that it is a model which fits the data very well, and is able to make predictions about further discoveries. But it is not absolutely true, in the sense that it is absolutely true that 2+2=4 in base ten arithmetic.

The question is, what would convince you that something is true? What does truth look like?

As I said, what works is true, or rather provisionally true.

"Truth" as we are discussing, can't be found through strictly naturalist evidence, and in fact "truth" is the foundation of accepting such evidence.

Well, if by "truth" you mean something like "accepting induction and living with uncertainty", then I would agree.

Truth makes sense out of our existence, out of the world around us, the behavior of individuals, and the course of history.

Do you mean "science" here?

Truth is universal through time and space, and must be consistent with itself and the things around it.

I don't know enough about time and space to say if there are any such universals.

Truth, when you consider it honestly, will change you.

Basically, it seems to me that you are conflating several different meanings of "truth" here.

There are three categories of religion: self-revealed religion, God-revealed religion, and atheism.

That is a rather broader definition of "religion" than I would use. If atheism is a religion, is not collecting stamps a hobby?

More later, I had a long day digging up trees. Cheers from finally warm Vienna, zilch

NAL said...

Regarding induction:
The very foundations of science

... the concept of probability might rescue science and reason from the problem of induction. It goes something like this: granted that induction (unlike deduction) does not guarantee truth. Perhaps, however, we can rephrase what induction allows us to do in terms of probable statements. That is, we don’t really mean that we know that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that the car will turn to the left. We mean to say that, based on past experience, we think there is a high probability that those events will happen again in the future.

Bayesians to the rescue. Probability theory is the logic of science.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Bottom line. Miracles are very rare and are always classifiable under an act of redemptive history by God for a specific redemptive and/or identificatory (ie, sign, testimonial) purpose.
Virtually all the time, there is every reason to believe the uniformity of nature holds.


It's hardly a canard to point this out - theists can deny it all they want, but just the mere possibility of miracles or any supernatural agent that can bend reality or people's minds to its will rules out being able to assume uniformity of nature, since reality becomes entirely subjective given theism/supernaturalism (particularly given the acknowledgment that evil supernatural beings that do not have humanity's best interests at heart exist on Christianity).

It doesn't matter if miracles are rare or only centred around specific events - the fact is if they can occur at all, it leads to radical skepticism re: induction, since you have no way of knowing when they will occur in the future - if even just hypothetically a miracle can occur at any given time, then there are no grounds for assuming uniformity of nature on Christianity. You wouldn't even have to put it down to miracles from God either as I say - the existence of other supernatural beings could as easily disrupt the uniformity of nature (eg the devil)

In addition to the usual problems facing everyone on these matters, Christianity piles even more on top.

zilch said...

NAL, you quote and say:

"... the concept of probability might rescue science and reason from the problem of induction. It goes something like this: granted that induction (unlike deduction) does not guarantee truth. Perhaps, however, we can rephrase what induction allows us to do in terms of probable statements. That is, we don’t really mean that we know that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that the car will turn to the left. We mean to say that, based on past experience, we think there is a high probability that those events will happen again in the future.

Bayesians to the rescue. Probability theory is the logic of science.
"

That's the way I deal with the problem of induction, in a nutshell. But no need to invoke Bayes. It's just common sense, as far as I can see: Where certainty does not obtain, go with what works, and be open to new information.

Stacey: you say-

You really have a choice between Catholicism, atheism, or some amorphous inconsequential (I don't mean to brush them aside, but to say they do not profess immortal consequences) religion.

Why do I only have these choices? Is it just because the consequences of being wrong about Christianity are the most dire? That's simply Pascal's Wager again; and while I have no direct experience to guide me, I don't see that there's any reason to fear Hell more than Jahannam, so based only on this criterion, it's a tossup between Christianity and Islam. Or better yet: I should find or invent a religion that has an even more horrific afterlife for heretics, perhaps one were my impiety results not only in my eternal torment, but the eternal torment of all the sentient denizens of the entire Universe, with my full knowledge that I've blown it big time. Now that's a real Hell.

Speaking of Hell, did you know that Aquinas claimed that the saved in Heaven would be allowed to watch the writhings of the damned in Hell, so as to increase their bliss even more by comparison? I've met some Christians on the internet who positively gloated about the prospect of watching their Hellevision sets...

A few simple questions can navigate these three options. Does your experience and intuition lead you to believe God exists? Hopefully, you're at least willing to entertain the "yes" long enough to investigate the other two options besides atheism.

No, my reason and intuition does not lead me to believe God exists, otherwise I would be a theist. I have investigated religions, including Catholicism, and I've seen nothing to change my mind so far.

Is there any reason throughout history to believe that God has revealed himself? Considering the influence that Christianity has had on our civilization, you ought to think yes.

But in other times and places, different religions have had great influence on civilization. Unless there's some reason to believe that "our" civilization (roughly speaking, the West) has a hotline to truth, there's no a priori reason to prefer one religion over another. In fact, as MO eloquently points out, there is a strong geographical component to religious choice. This is one of the first things that made me doubt that some one religion was likely to be true, and all others false.

Explaining this strong statistical correlation between birthplace and religion of choice, and the ethics of who gets saved, has led to some impressively byzantine dance steps by apologists such as W.L. Craig, in trying to reconcile God's presumed goodness and fairness with accidents of birth. Craig's answer, by the way, is that where we are born is no accident: God finessed Creation by placing exactly those people who would have rejected the Gospel anyway in the villages just beyond where the missionaries reached. Now that's gerrymandering with a vengeance!

Reason leads you to Catholicism. Obviously, there's more to it than all that, but that's the basic outline that a reasonable individual might follow to navigate the various religions of the world.

Color me unreasonable, then. My reason has not led me to Catholicism, despite some very impressive cathedrals and music, nor to any other religion.

As for the bad behavior of individuals, isn't that to be expected with the worldview that people are fallen creatures?

That's the Christian explanation, sure. But why should I believe it? There are plenty of naturalistic reasons to explain bad behavior, starting with our inborn tendency to Look Our For Number One, and mitigated by our nature as social animals, that is, to Look Out For Kin and Tribe, plus lots of cultural and other complications.

The Catholic Church embraces reason and contributes to science (although as you say, some crazy fundamentalists at different points in time may have behaved differently). That's why you should believe. Because although there are sinful individuals, the living Church of Christ is a good thing, marked with truth

Certainly the Catholic Church embraces reason, at least up to a point. They did finally revoke Galileo's excommunication in 1992. But it's a matter of opinion whether the Church embraces reason or is slowly being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern world. Probably some of both.

I certainly don't dispute that there are Catholics who are very good people, even by my standards. For instance, my best friend here in Vienna, Stefan, is a very pious Catholic and a brilliant scholar who fully embraces the scientific method in his work. And lots of stuff in the Bible, especially some things that Jesus said, are timeless good advice for living well and building societies. But that doesn't mean that they are a) God-given, or b) incapable of improvement.

Cheers from rainy Vienna, and allow me to repeat my invitation to anyone here to come visit me if they're in town, which includes the SF Bay Area this summer. I'm actually quite nice in person, and I'm sure you and Rho are as well. Drop me a line and lunch is on me.

NAL said...

Dr Funk:
if even just hypothetically a miracle can occur at any given time, then there are no grounds for assuming uniformity of nature on Christianity.

Good point. I'll file that away for future use.

Stacey said...

On the topic of miracles:

I was reading through some Augustine sermon's on the gospel of John last night and came across his discussion of feeding five thousand with five loaves of bread. He is eloquent as always and I think he might give insight to the Christian view of miracles for the non-theists who see problems with it.

"The miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ are indeed divine works, and incite the human mind to rise to the apprehension of God from the things that are seen. But inasmuch as He is not such a substance as may be seen with the eyes, and His miracles in the government of the whole world and the administration of the universal creation are, by their familiar constancy, slightly regarded, so that almost no man deigns to consider the wonderful and stupendous works of God, exhibited in every grain of seed; He has, agreeably to His mercy, reserved to Himself certain works, beyond the usual course and order of nature, which He should perform on fit occasion, that they, by whom His daily works are lightly esteemed, might be struck with astonishment at beholding, not indeed greater, but uncommon works. For certainly the government of the whole world is a greater miracle than the satisfying of five thousand men with five loaves; and yet no man wonders at the former; but the latter men wonder at, not because it is greater, but because it is rare. For who even now feeds the whole world, but He who creates the cornfield from a few grains?"

Augustine views miracles as works beyond the usual course of nature as we know it that are done to call our attention to God and help us understand Him. He does not view these things as greater works outside the usual order of nature, but only as uncommon in comparison. For as he says, "the government of the whole word" is a greater work than a single miracle.

You may be able to see from this that in the Christian view, everything is a miracle. It is no wonder to us that God may perform extraordinary works outside the ordinary course of nature. Additionally, in the Catholic view of things, our walk with Christ and our purpose to abide in Him will bring us to restore the perfect order of nature such that our resurrected glorified bodies will be as Christ's. This suggests that miracles are part of the perfecting of the order of nature, but are not outside of nature itself, just uncommon to our view of it. This might be a problem for someone who bases their view of reality strictly on empiricle evidence of nature, but it is not a problem for someone who bases their beliefs on experience of nature and reasoning from our very existence and purpose found in philosophy and theology, history of human nature and social events, and reality that is known apart from the material world.

zilch, I will wait to answer you later so I can take my time.

zilch said...

Stacey- thanks, and take your time. If you have small kids, they need you more than we do. Mine are big now, but I remember well what it was like.

cheers from still rainy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

The points directed to me/that interest me:

Anonymous said:
the position of "naturalism" is irrelevant to whether your own position allows the assumption of the uniformity of nature.

I was just showing how even his own position doesn't allow for a 'satisfactory' answer to the problem.


If there's a single exception to the rule - which you admit there is - then no uniformity can be assumed.

I wouldn't claim it's absolute uniformity. Just most-of-the-time uniformity, and usually these changes can be restricted to certain areas of inquiry, like:
-creation and surrounding events
-flood and surrounding events
-apostolic and prophetic miracles of the Bible
-Christ's miracles
-Resurrection of Christ and events surrounding
-the occasional ongoing medical miracle here and there, out of compassion

That's pretty much it. I may have missed one or two. But outside of that, there's no reason to expect alot of unexpectedness.



NAL said:
Your view of the resurrection is based on presupposition, therefore your view is not reasoned.

Only in the sense that EVERYthing that EVERYone believes is based on his presupps. But then that would cut the throat of everyone's position.
The Rez is not a presupp, actually, I wouldn't say. It's an event I believe b/c there is great evidence for it.



Modus said:
In Rome, you'd be RC. Go east and you'd be EO

Maybe, maybe not. And maybe if YOU lived in Rome, you'd be Romanist and not atheist. So what? And it's not as if there aren't Bible-blvrs in the East or Rome or even Saudi Arabia.
This is a completely empty point, and it assumes w/o proof that God did not ordain the world as it is and has been. Your birth is not an accident.
Besides, we access the truth of God by personal experience in many ways. No one is a robot, and God speaks to us thru our minds and hearts and spirits, the whole man. If someone comes to believe in sthg that's true b/c he merely feels it to be true, he still believes the thing that's true. So, it's all good. It may not be the best way to discover truth, but it's not always going to be wrong.
Finally, we would expect, as Christians, that one would have the internal witness of the Holy Spirit when one believes in Christ, and that experience would not be available to an Aztec.


zilch said:
But this God, as I've said, doesn't explain anything that my worldview doesn't explain, there's no evidence for this God, and this God hypothesis is a great deal more complex than mine.

You have admitted multiple times that your worldview doesn't explain everything. I claim mine can. Why don't we put this to the test? Name me one thing you don't think your wrldview can acct for and I'll tell you whether and how mine can acct for it.
There's no evidence for your wrldview either, and I don't see you complaining about THAT. Why even bring it up?
And so what if it's complex? True things are sometimes complex, sorry - read any physics manuals recently?


NAL quoted:
We mean to say that, based on past experience, we think there is a high probability that those events will happen again in the future.

...but we don't know. Fair enough.
And of course, this extends to times before observation. You don't know very much even about natural processes just 100 yrs ago.



Dr Funk said:
the mere possibility of miracles or any supernatural agent that can bend reality or people's minds to its will rules out being able to assume uniformity of nature, since reality becomes entirely subjective given theism

An interesting point.
See above - miracles are limited in scope and occurrence.
Only God has the ultimate power over bending reality and people's minds and will. And God has an overriding interest in drawing the repentant (ie, those who actually care about the truth, rather than caring more about suppressing the truth they already have) to knowing the truth. So He works towards that goal. It's not nearly as sinister as you make it out, but it ends badly for YOU b/c you suppress the truth. There's no future in that, my friend.


the fact is if they can occur at all, it leads to radical skepticism re: induction

So what? We don't rely on some nebulous high probability of processes carrying on. We have God's promise that they will until the end of the world.

zilch said...

You have admitted multiple times that your worldview doesn't explain everything. I claim mine can. Why don't we put this to the test? Name me one thing you don't think your wrldview can acct for and I'll tell you whether and how mine can acct for it.

Okay. My worldview cannot explain the relationship between gravity and electromagnetism. Can yours? Hint: "goddidit" is not an "explanation".

Rhology said...

Mmm, I don't guess that was the kind of question I was thinking of when I consider "can account for" type questions.

zilch said...

Perhaps you should suggest some questions that are answered by your worldview and not by mine, then, Rho. I'm willing to bet that my answer to all such questions will be either "I don't know" or "this question makes assumptions I don't share/see no evidence for, so the question is meaningless to me". But I'm willing to be surprised.

Modusoperandi said...

Rhology "This is a completely empty point..."
No. That would be your comment.

"and it assumes w/o proof that God did not ordain the world as it is and has been."
So is He in control or isn't He?

"Your birth is not an accident."
/me scratches Argument from Free Will off of apologetics list

Rhology said...

MO,

God is in control of everythg, no matter how minute.
And I don't use the argument from freewill, so no big loss.

Stacey said...

zilch,

I'm sorry I've taken soooo long in replying. I hope you get a better response this way :) Although I fear you may not have much else to say to this massive post other than "Well, that's what you think, have a nice day!"

No, I don't want proof for everything I believe. Absolute proof is only forthcoming within systems of formal logic such as mathematics;

Ah, I love math. Except when at the bottom of a ten page problem you have to write "No solution". Even then, non-Euclidean will twist your brain and you're forced to accept axioms a priori in any system. That's all we can really do though, is choose what we believe are correct axioms for reasoning in this world and work from there.

But as far as I can see, Rho (or any other theist claiming this kind of certainty) doesn't either. He says he does, in the form of a God, where the buck stops.

I've been slightly confused about this aspect of Calvinism. At one point, it seems doubt was seen as unforgivable infidelity toward God, but then allowances were made. So, Rhology, do you leave room to say that you don't know that God exists with absolute certainty, but that for all intents and purposes you do know? I would describe that as my position. It allows room for doubt, but in reality I'm very certain of my beliefs. It's like someone has just told you Maxwell's equations (i.e. God exists) and then you try to mindwarp yourself to imagine a world in which electricity and magnetism are not related (i.e. imagine God doesn't exist) and forget all about electromagnetic wave theory. In theory, yes, it's possible, but everything you know tells you otherwise and everything explained by this new revelation demands you acknowledge it.

But this God, as I've said, doesn't explain anything that my worldview doesn't explain, there's no evidence for this God, and this God hypothesis is a great deal more complex than mine.

So are you a naturalist, or have you just been arguing that position? This is the heart of the matter for me, because there is a whole world of issues in which science can have no part since it deals only with physically observable and testable phenomena. There is the obvious matter of consciousness, which you may try to explain away with the holonomic universe theory, or with something silly like emergence that doesn't explain anything, certainly not answer "what is this thing?". But then there are more practical questions, such as:

- Why are we here?
- How can we be happy?
- Should we pursue happiness, or is there something better, like peace?
- What is morally right?
- Is there anything after death, or a spiritual counterpart to the physical world?
- Are there consequences to violating this strange universal moral code? (I beleive I can call it universal because there are underlying universal currents in morality, such as "courage is good", although granted there are differing levels of intensity of morality in different societies)

Then there are other questions, more directly related to experience instead of philosophy, such as:

- Why did Maximillian Kolbe volunteer his life for another at Aucshwitz, only to sit in a starvation cell, encouraging the nine others there with him until a guard came to administer poison and commanded him to look away because he couldn't stand the peace in his eyes?
- Why has a simple religion declaring good, evil, and the way of redemption drawn so much hatred and cruelty from others all throughout history?
- Why is there extraordinarily good behavior and extraordinarily evil behavior in people? Think Mother Teresa vs. Adolf Hitler.

You may be content in these cases to answer "I don't know", but that shows remarkable lack of curiosity for a scientist ;) I can testify, and perhaps Rhology can as well, that once you do answer these questions and as you answer them more fully and understand them better, the way the world looks changes. It's a paradigm shift, hard to explain unless you experience it. The answers are better than I ever imagined, and offer more peace, insight, strength in character, and ability to live life without getting beaten down by it because you understand it. I could go on, and will if you like. I could perhaps say more on email or we could move this discussion to my blog, since I don't think Rhology would like me testifying to the Catholic gospel on his blog. Really, though, the more you know about it, and the more you know about history, the more it makes sense of the world around you.

yes, I would be satisfied with believing with a high certainty (no absolute proof required) that God exists, but based on my experience and reasoning, I don't believe that God exists. I'm open to new experiences, though.

Good to know :)

What I object to are philosophies that apply syllogisms to the real world and come to conclusions that are merely words chasing their own tails, such as saying that God is the "Uncaused Cause", to avoid having to explain His existence.

I see what you're saying. The seemingly annoying lack of answer. But really, with the example that you've given there are only two possibilities: an endless chain of causes or a final uncaused cause. Rhology and I answer "the Uncaused Cause" although this doesn't satisfy you. Perhaps it's unsatisfactory, not because there are better alternatives since there aren't, but because you don't understand it yet. I think I can claim to understand God better than someone who doesn't believe in Him, and this seeming paradox begins to make sense to me. The nature of God is different than our own, of course, and as you begin to understand Him better you can understand these things as well. God calls Himself "I AM", and that is one of the greatest descriptions of Him, and one of the biggest mysteries about Him. A better question to begin with, especially since the two alternatives of an endless chain of causes and an uncaused cause are equally befuddling, is whether God exists, not how.

However, if your system is based on the Bible (with or without the Apocrypha), then I have to disagree. The Bible is not self-consistent, at least parts of it are demonstrably not "true" in any common-sense meaning of the word, and God's character is rather unpredictable. Why do you suppose that there are about thirty thousand different Christian sects, all of which disagree with one another (more or less contentiously) about what the Bible "really" means? Why are there many former Christians who became atheists because they read the Bible carefully?

I have answers to these questions that Rhology will not like or agree with. I agree with you that we cannot solely base our worldview on the Bible since it can be taken many different ways. Catholics believe the Bible and Tradition work together harmoniously to reveal God to the Faithful. There is a tradition handed down through the Apostles and their successors as taught by Christ, with the promise of Christ that His Church will not fail. This Faith has been professed in the creed, the same since the time of the Apostles. It has always believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which once understood reveals a deep relationship between spiritual and natural things. This Faith has always believed the grace of God in real things, like baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the necessity of the grace of God to be drawn to Him, and the ability of us as sinners to turn away from him of our own free will. This Faith makes beauty of our relationship with God and puts not only meaning, but also value, in our sufferings on this Earth when they are united with the suffering of our Savior on the cross. God has promised a return for our actions on this Earth, and all you must do to share in the sonship of Christ is believe in Him, take up your cross and follow Him. That is what Catholics have believed for 2000 years and those who know their faith will profess to you now.

The reason there are "about thirty thousand" different Christian sects is because they are heresies of Catholicism, like Islam. They have taken some truth found in the Catholic Faith of Christ, denied authority except for the Bible, shot themselves in the foot while doing so, and have no defense or tradition to appeal to when a random church on the corner decides for themselves, based on their interpretation of the Bible, that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Or any other myriad of variant theologies you can find in Protestant Churches. Hilaire Belloc said there is no such thing as Christianity, only Catholicism. And there is only one Catholic Faith professed.

I have many answers to why Protestants fall from their faith when they read the Bible carefully. They all boil down to, because they answers they find in their Protestant theologies are not consistent with the Bible and the Truth. Take, for instance, a couple friends of mine, one who rejected Calvinism, another who rejected modern evangelical Pentecostalism. They both believed with the instantaneous and complete salvation taught by Protestantism that they ought to be changed and stop struggling with their sins. The Catholic Faith teaches, justified and being justified, a continual battle to your death with your sins. It not only explains why you're not perfect as a saved follower of Christ but puts meaning on your continuing walk with Him and growth to be like Him. There are Catholics who fall away as well, or turn to Protestantism, and it would seem to me those people had lacked faith in Christ in the first place. Of course, all is naught without faith.

No: another good reason to believe something is because it works. For instance, accepting induction, even without knowing if it is true, gets me (and everyone else) through the day, most of the time.

Then you really ought to look into the Catholic Faith more, the history there, and the grace it can give you to get through every day, not just scrapping by but get through it beautifully. It works.

"Truth makes sense out of our existence, out of the world around us, the behavior of individuals, and the course of history."

Do you mean "science" here?


LOL. You can make sense of the behavior of people throughout history with science? Something as repulsive as pouring silver into the eyes of your enemies and then burying them alive is explained by the scientific method? Or perhaps why a lover is lost is explained by science? Or the secret to a happy and committed marriage?

Basically, it seems to me that you are conflating several different meanings of "truth" here.

I'm going with the definition: something that is absolute in all cases, whether it is known or not.

That is a rather broader definition of "religion" than I would use. If atheism is a religion, is not collecting stamps a hobby?

Yes, collecting stamps is a hobby. And atheism is a belief about God. Namely, that He doesn't exist.

"You really have a choice between Catholicism, atheism, or some amorphous inconsequential (I don't mean to brush them aside, but to say they do not profess immortal consequences) religion."

Why do I only have these choices?


Because that's all that exists. Honestly, I don't see any other religions out there. Like I said, Catholicism fulfills Judaism, and Islam and Protestantism are bonafide schisms from Catholicism - heresies. Unless you believe a heresy can contain more truth than the original or that God can be understood by human wisdom alone and not revelation, you're left with: Catholicism.

Speaking of Hell, did you know that Aquinas claimed that the saved in Heaven would be allowed to watch the writhings of the damned in Hell, so as to increase their bliss even more by comparison?

Yes, I know. Put on the hypothetical POV of a Christian for a moment. Have you heard that we will know all in heaven? Would you have the people in heaven, who are aware of hell, be tormented with sympathy for the damned or their joy be untainted since they have complete understanding? I don't know how, but there is the only logical reconciliation.

I have investigated religions, including Catholicism, and I've seen nothing to change my mind so far.

If you are willing to look into it further, seeing as how you already must accept uncertainty in your current worldview and there are questions that cannot be answered by it, I am willing to answer any questions you have. Again, perhaps on my blog or in email since Rhology won't like what I have to say here.

But in other times and places, different religions have had great influence on civilization. Unless there's some reason to believe that "our" civilization (roughly speaking, the West) has a hotline to truth, there's no a priori reason to prefer one religion over another. In fact, as MO eloquently points out, there is a strong geographical component to religious choice. This is one of the first things that made me doubt that some one religion was likely to be true, and all others false.

Unless you believe that God has written His law on our hearts, and those that believe in Him as he is preached (when possible) and those who follow His commandments whether they have been preached or not are saved by the same sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Accepting the gospel of Christ is absolutely necessary once the message has been heard. But ask yourself, can someone accept Christ even if they have not heard of Him? The answer is yes, they can conform themselves to what they know is right, search to become like Christ though they don't know His name.

Color me unreasonable, then. My reason has not led me to Catholicism, despite some very impressive cathedrals and music, nor to any other religion.

Do you know much about Catholic theology? I'm willing to share if you want to know more.

I certainly don't dispute that there are Catholics who are very good people, even by my standards. For instance, my best friend here in Vienna, Stefan, is a very pious Catholic and a brilliant scholar who fully embraces the scientific method in his work. And lots of stuff in the Bible, especially some things that Jesus said, are timeless good advice for living well and building societies. But that doesn't mean that they are a) God-given, or b) incapable of improvement.

Do you have another explanation for "lots of good stuff" other than that it contains truth? Is this another thing that you're very incurious about? ;)

Cheers from rainy Vienna, and allow me to repeat my invitation to anyone here to come visit me if they're in town, which includes the SF Bay Area this summer. I'm actually quite nice in person, and I'm sure you and Rho are as well. Drop me a line and lunch is on me.

Thanks :) Unfortunately I don't get out of KC much at all. If you're around here, drop me a line. My husband always worries about serial killer visitors, but I'll talk him down from that!

Rhology said...

Stacey,

If you saw the filth that justfinethanks has been writing in another thread, you'd know that I don't care what ppl say in my comboxes, in terms of moderation or "Get outta here." So testify away. Just so that everyone knows that you and I will not be in agreement on many issues.
You're bold to call "separated brethren" (from the Catechism) members of a heresy - Protestantism. Might want to tone back your itchy trigger finger, actually. If your priest believes the CCC, would he be happy to see you writing stuff like that?

You asked whether I know that God exists with absolute certainty, and I'm unsure how to answer. The post should have made clear that God is my fundamental presupposition, so I believe in Him more strongly than I believe in anythg else, including my own experiences and thoughts. For doubt to make its way in, an alternative would need to present itself as I explained in the post. Hopefully that helps answer the question.

I do hope you'll at least be courteous enough to inform zilch that his "30K denominations" is a highly bogus claim, the guilt for which lays at the feet of RC apologists. See here and here for more information. Don't let the presenter of the facts or your feelings about him get in the way of those facts. Anyway, that's all.

Stacey said...

Hi Rhology,

Do you object to the word "heresy" or just the connotations associated with it? As a word, describing deviation in doctrine with the orthodox or previously accepted doctrine, I think it's appropriate. I tend to think of it in the same way as Belloc does in The Great Heresies. He describes it as a retention of most parts of a system of belief, but a change of some vital part of it. In the case of Protestantism, at the Reformation, they retained all of the Bible, who Christ is, what He taught, but rejected papal authority and much of how God's grace is given to us as well as drawing different lines in the method of salvation. Regardless of how the word makes us feel, "heresy" it is. You are my brother in our faith in Christ, but we are separated by variance in doctrine, by heresy.

As far as the 30K+ denominations, I only quoted zilch and didn't correct him because I'm not sure myself of the number or the qualifications that go with it. I think the number he's referring to was qualified as "autonomous institutions". I really don't know how many denominations are even possible if we only regard variance in essential doctrines of the faith.

Rhology said...

"Heresy" means more than just "difference". Come on now, I think you're playing a little fast and loose with the word.
Surely you won't suggest that a Benedictine would have good cause to call an Augustinian a heretic.