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March 26, 2008

Comments

Barbara

Time declared that God was dead on April 8, 1966. They later reversed themselves on June 21, 1971 when they reported on the 'Jesus Revolution'.

Anything for a story.

Ed Peters

Great post. What a scream.

Deusdonat

I found the article to be more speculation and uses poor argumentation skills than anything.

The more we learn about the universe the less sign we see of an intelligent designer.

This begs the question of where this "fact" came to be. This is obviously opinion, and the atheist Jew scientist (gee, there's a shock) sees what he wants from the evidence at hand to support his conclusion.

I don't think that we can ever prove that God does not exist. But if he does exit (sic) it might be possible to prove it.

This is a common trick people use, in that obviously he can't prove a negative under scientific method, so he later uses the cloying hyperbole of if God DOES exist then he would be able to send down lightening bolts to non-beleivers.

What I don't understand is why they are chosing the specific application of the Higgs boson particle discovery to the "Grand Unification theory" rather than more practical endeavors for us currently, such as Energy sources or output enhancement? It's too bad certain scientists are so wrapped up in their own agendas to see the "big picture". As noted, the reporter seems to be wrapped up in it as well.

labrialumn

God was pronounced dead late afternoon of A. D. 33 zulu.

As well all know.

But He was laid in a borrowed tomb, because He only needed it for the weekend.

labrialumn

Ok, granted that the Higgs boson has sometimes been called the 'god particle', but not because it is thought of as God, nor as replacing God, but because it is a sort of holy grail, an object of questing that has never been seen, but which would prove one particular grand unification theory. GUTs do not eliminate God at all, they simply tidy up physics.

There have been predictions that a Higgs boson would destroy the universe as it created a new one, or that it would create a new universe as a bubble off of this one, that it is sort of a big bang generator, but that is a pretty iffy conception, though used by some SF writers.

Clearly this journalist is out of her depth.

Deusdonat

Whoah! Beam me up, Scotty.

Tiro

atheist Jew
Isn't this an oxymoron with the Covenant and all?

Atlantic

No, it's not, even according to Jews.

Personally, I think the old adage corruptio optimi pessima applies primarily to Jews and Catholics.

LarryD

One day the scientists determined that they had once and for proven that belief in God was no longer necessary. So one was chosen from their elite group to tell God He wasn't needed anymore. After some calls and back and forth, God came down, cherubim in tow, and met the scientist in a park.

"You wanted to see me?" God asked, and he started to walk through the park. The scientist walked beside him.

"We've got it all figured out, God," the scientist said. "Thanks to the progress we've made in the past century or so, with all the advances we've made in genetics, nanotechnology, medicine, belief in you is unnecessary now. You can go."

"Really," God replied.

"Yep. In fact, if you haven't noticed, we can now create life, thanks to our discoveries in biology, cloning and subatomic research. We were stumped for quite awhile, but we've done it."

"I'm impressed," God said quite nonchalantly.

"You don't seem too upset," the scientist said, disappointment creeping into his voice.

God shrugged, and stopped. "Tell you what. Let's have a little contest, and if you succeed, I'll go away. Quietly. Willingly, even. But if you fail, I'll stay for eternity. You game?"

The scientist thought about it for a moment. He's playing for time, he thought to himself, or denying the obvious reality. It won't hurt to play along. After all, we've learned everything.

"OK," the scientist agrees. "What's the contest?"

"Well," God started to say, strolling towards a bare patch of ground, "you claim that you can create life."

"That's right."

"So with all your advances you could even, say, create life from dirt." God toed the ground beneath his feet.

"Given time, I'm confident we can do it," the scientist replied.

"Well, okay then, that's the contest. Create life from dirt, as I did back in the Garden of Eden."

The scientist stooped down to pick up some dirt, but God gently laid His hand on the scientist's shoulder. The scientist looked up, and God was wagging his finger. "Make your own dirt first."

Cajun Nick

LarryD,

If you don't mind, I've taken your story and used it as a post on the blog I run for the Ville Platte Catholic Youth Group (www.vpcyg.com). It was great.

LarryD

Thanks, CajunNick. But I won't take credit for it - it's a joke I heard many years ago. It's one of my favorites.

Not only does God always get the last word, he gave us the Eternal Word....

Paul

Just a funny take from the perspective of a working particle physicist.

Alright, let's say they find the Higgs Boson. Great! Fixes all our problems, and now we can sit back and worship the Standard Model. It's a Field Theory... an effective field theory, which means it only works for an arbitrary range, defined by the mathematics of the system and our experiments. Extend outside that system, and everything has infinite mass. So we already know the theory is broken.

But it's simple... well, it has three different quarks, of different colors, and flavors, so basically eighteen different configurations, plus anti-quarks of all these different flavors and colors, plus gluons, and there are only eight of these, and then there are photons, electrons, positrons, muons, anti-muons, tau and anti-tau, oh! and W-particles, anti-W, and Z-particles, and anti-Z, tau-neutrinos, muon-neutrinos, electron neutrinos, anti of these, possibly other species of the same sort as Dirac and Majorana terms, and Higgs bosons (at least one, maybe two, but definitely not four or more). And all this for a broken theory.

But wait, we can fix it! Supersymmetry is the answer. All we need to do is add superpair particles in some larger supergroup with a supercharge. Now we have electrinos, protinos, and all the other ino's for all the other particles. But this particular fix, along with the rest of the whole mess, requires ghost particles, which, by the way, are particles that by their very nature violate conservation of energy and unitarity, and so must be nonsense.

But we can fix this problem by increasing the number of dimensions from 4 to 10, and then by imagining everything is a bunch of vibrating strings.

And we can test this! Oh yes we can! By a particle accelerator the size of our galaxy. And any result will be a proof, because there are 10^500 workable theories of this nature (that's 10 with 500 zero's following).

Yes, I am quite sure, after all these small issues and complexities are ironed out, God will not be necessary. Just a couple easy questions away.

I'm not bitter, I swear!

Paul

Oh, just one more quick note and a correction.

Note: To show how simple the universe is, all particles can be reduced, via a broken theory that doesn't really work except when we rig it, like a beat-up twenty-year-old car, to a single, simple equation, that must be integrated.

http://nuclear.ucdavis.edu/~tgutierr/files/sml.pdf

Correction: That's "1 with 500 zero's after it".

TimPowers

It seems to me that if they find the Grand Unified Theory, that would be strong evidence for a Designer. I don't think elegance happens accidentally.

BobCatholic

I just do not have enough blind faith to be an atheist.

Memphis Aggie

I'm with you TimPowers - my thoughts exactly.

LarryD

TimPowers - just read "3 Days To Never" last month. Great book! When's it going to be made into a movie?

paddy the papist

We know "where" God comes from. Now, where does faith come from?

paddy the papist

We know "where" God comes from. Now, where does faith come from?

bill912

God.

bill912

God does not "come from". God is.

Deusdonat

"ego sum Alpha et Omega, principium et finis".

Sleeping Beastly

labrialumn wrote: GUTs do not eliminate God at all, they simply tidy up physics... Clearly this journalist is out of her depth.

My thoughts exactly. There seems to be something about journalism classes that damages the intellect.

Deusdonat

Sleeping,

let's put that in the "don't get me started" category. I think US journalism has for the most part degenerated into tight factions whose sole purpose is to support particular interest groups' particular leanings. These days it is mostly op-ed disguised as journalism.

paddy the papist

Notice I put "where" in inverted commas. We, according to our way of speaking, perceive God coming from somewhere. We perceive him in some way. But what is it that gives us that capacity to know him? This might sound like camels and needle eyes but how do we obtain this gift?

David B.

labrialumn,

Allow me to (respectfully) get something off my chest: Why did you attack Saint Thomas More's character in a recent combox?

SDG

Allow me to (respectfully) get something off my chest: Why did you attack Saint Thomas More's character in a recent combox?

FWIW, although this topic is germane neither to this post nor to the one in which the comment occurred, in my opinion it is less germane here, and my personal preference would be to discuss it in the thread where the comment originated. FWIW, I will offer a quick comment there myself.

Mr Flapatap

"I don't think elegance happens accidentally."

Can't get more elegant than Euler's identity:

e^(i*Pi) - 1 = 0

that simply unifies "1", "e", "i", and Pi, the three most important constants.

labrialumn

Historical facts are 'attacking character?' I didn't even mention the Star Chamber tortures that were sometimes performed -in his own house-!

Smoky Mountain

Mr. Flapatap,

I think the minus should be a plus in Euler's identity.

Matt

Guest

labrialumn,

Go here to see further comments: http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2008/03/an-actor-for-al.html

Deusdonat

As SDG stated, things must be taken in historical context. Being Lutheran (note: not simply a run-of-the-mill Protestant) meant treason at that time, as Luther had written documents directly condemning Henry VIII (when he was still Catholic) and urged people not to follow his authority. Also, it should be noted that More did not condemn the accused for being Lutheran. They had broken CIVIL law (i.e. the importation and distribution of banned literature.

Miller

I appreciate everyone's comments here, and I see the obvious ways to disentangle the truth from scientific blind faith.

Scientists go to great length to provide explanation for the workings of the universe (however convoluted), and we return by demonstrating the obvious failings of these theories. This is well and good.

But at the conclusion, we say, see that is why God exists. Or, because the theory doesn't disprove God, God must exist. Or that God is, end-of-conversation. A more logical response would be that the scientific theories fail, but that this failure doesn't suggest provide any evidence for the existence of God either.

So, what is our means of credible explanation when conversing with non-believers? References to the integrity of the Bible or Church? In itself, this isn't a credible tactic if the other person places no stake in the Bible being divined from a God that they don't believe in. To them, the Bible may share all the qualities and significance of Greek or Norse mythology? Since we are so critical of their explanations for the source of all that is, how do our explanations stand up?

I'm seriously asking this question, because from our answers here in the combox, we seem to mock the efforts of scientists without holding ourselves to the same scrutiny.

And we are enjoying taking science to the punching bag, but I hope no one here thinks the basic idea of scientific inquiry is somehow ill-conceived or fruitless. I have always seen it (in general, exceptions aside) as a holy, and worthwhile endeavor.

Tim J

"from our answers here in the combox, we seem to mock the efforts of scientists without holding ourselves to the same scrutiny."

I haven't seen any of that in the combox, Miller.

I don't believe anyone has denigrated real science or scientists, only pop-science or amateur philosophers posing as science journalists.

Miller

I took exception to the tone of Paul 9:00:28 post seems to be directing his disdain towards the science (that he apparently practices). He finishes with a line meant for sarcasm that the scientists would then claim that God is not necessary. My line of questioning extends that question to how do we explain the opposite, the necessity of God and by that sense, the existence of God.

Otherwise, you are correct. And mocking or simply adddressing the (complete lack of) effort of most journalists reporting on religion, science or their parallels is completely justifiable.

You are correct to correct me, Tim. I overstated.

Paul

To clarify, I love the science I practice. I just also become frustrated with the common idea, held by those outside the field, and some wackos within the field, that the particular theory is perfect, comprehensive, or even all that close to reality. I think it's rather far off. And that's exciting to me. It means job security. It means there's exciting new work for me and those my age to do.

labrialumn

Moore died heroically. I don't think that it is the teaching of the Church that saints were either perfect or infallible before death.

Sleeping Beastly

But at the conclusion, we say, see that is why God exists. Or, because the theory doesn't disprove God, God must exist. Or that God is, end-of-conversation... So, what is our means of credible explanation when conversing with non-believers? References to the integrity of the Bible or Church?

Naturally, no. It's not really possible to prove articles of faith. We believers can give our own personal reasons for faith, which are generally less than adequate for atheists. We can offer other reasons for belief, such as the delicate balance of the natural world or the complexity of life.

But we can't logically prove the existence of God to another human being. That requires a leap of faith- a very personal experience. Every person's turn to God is inherently personal. That's just the way it is. No one is simply "talked into" faith in God. We can be talked part of the way there, but the frightening final steps are always taken alone, or as alone as a person can be in the presence of his creator.

We can witness, but ultimately, conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.

David B.

Moore died heroically. I don't think that it is the teaching of the Church that saints were either perfect or infallible before death.

If you had said this rather than the other, I would have not complained. It was the stark condemnation of More, untempered by the acknowledgment of the good in More, that I objected to. Your above statement is reasonable and true. Peace out.

Miller

Paul - thank you for your explanation. I now understand your thoughts better and I share your enthusiasm, and also your frustration.

Sleeping - thank you also. I find myself frustrated often as I live in a major urban center and work in an environment often hostile to religion & faith.

I often find talking about faith hits an empty cord. And in that environment, discussion of tenants and practices of Catholicism are met with accusations that they are antiquated and foolhardy. As in, "why would anyone believe that because a certain guy says a few words that bread suddenly turns into the living body of a man who died 2,000 years ago?" It isn't easy to answer that if the people I'm talking to don't put much faith in the user's manual (the Bible) or the institution (the Church).

Anyway, it can be a frustrating experience that I'm sure many have shared.

Tim J.

I have found that it's much more profitable to try and get those kinds of people (those hostile to religion) to move back several steps and talk about first principles, rather than talking about specific doctrines of the Christian faith.

Start with the foundation... How do we know things? Can we know anything? Does Truth exist? If God exists, how can we know what He is like? etc...

You may not get very far in that direction, either, but until that ground is covered, talking about the Real Presence may be pointless.

Sleeping Beastly

Tim- you're correct in principle. If you don't agree on axioms, you won't even be discussing the same proofs with your co-debater. The problem I frequently find is that most hostile atheists aren't interested in discussing the foundations of their beliefs; as far as they're concerned, their conclusions are self-evident, and disagreeing with them automatically destroys your credibility. Ironic, in a way, considering the claims generally advanced against theists.

Miller- I was raised a hostile atheist, and my conversion is still a sore point with certain members of my family. I too live in an area full of anti-religious hostility: smack dab in the middle of San Francisco. I can understand how you feel; it can be upsetting in a number of ways when you feel like you're not able to talk to nonbelievers about your faith. Here are a couple of things I've found helpful:

-I remember my own conversion, and how long I spent fighting it. I argued against believers, and railed against religion. I don't know for a fact that my experience is representative of that of other militant atheists, but I will say this: the more I felt God's presence and his pull, the more frightened I was, and the more I fought against it. God was both incredibly brutal and amazingly gentle in the way he reeled me in, and this whole experience has informed my relationship with him and my sense of his love. Many believers contributed to my conversion through conversations we had, and the strange thing is that I've lost touch with most of them, and they will never see the end result of those conversations. None of them evangelized me in the way that the JW's do. They didn't knock on my door and aggressively try to recruit me. They lived good lives, made gentle suggestions, and answered the questions I had.

If there were a definite proof for or against the existence of God, all people would either be theists or atheists. Believe me, such a proof would spread very quickly, and we would all be convinced, one way or another. If God made himself easily seen and understood, the world would be a very different place. Knowing what I do about human nature, it's my belief that God has hidden and revealed his true nature so that we could woo each other. We get to know God better bit by bit, and we grow in love, the same way a married couple grows in love or a vocational worker grows in love with those he serves. God didn't want a simple acknowledgment of his existence- he wanted each person to walk an individual path to him and fall in love with him personally, rather than simply agree with him intellectually. Logic and intellect are important, but they will never get you all the way anywhere.

-Prayer will give you peace as you rest in your Father's arms, and it will give you the Holy Spirit, who will be able to guide you in your conversations. The Spirit's guidance may be allowing you to say the right thing to a nonbeliever (such as I was) even if you never see them convert. Your words may just need to percolate in their heads for a few years. Pray, conduct your conversations honestly and openly, and keep in mind charity for your neighbor. Remember what happened when God commanded Moses to go speak to Pharaoh: Moses objected that he wasn't a good speaker, and God let him know that he would give him the words when the time came. Similarly, when Jesus sent out his apostles, he told them not to worry about what they would say, and that the Spirit would guide them when the time came. Pray for the Spirit, and you'll do fine. If you've spoken honestly and humbly, and your listener rejects what you say, shake the dust off your feet, pray for those who persecute you, and go on your way. What more can you do?

-Keep in touch with other Catholics. Even just receiving the sign of peace during Mass is immensely comforting. It raises my spirits to be reminded that there are people who don't think that faith makes me an idiot. Maybe that's part of the reason I spend as much time as I do on blogs like this.

Tim J.

Thanks, Sleeping Beastly. I am a convert from Protestantism, and from mushy-headed New Age pseudo-spiritual pop Christianity before that... you know - Jesus as a Really Great Guy who loves you and is cool with whatever you want to do as long as your conscience is clear and your feeling well-adjusted and blah, blah, blah.

The actual words and actions of Jesus as I had come to know them from the Bible were there all along, though, in the back of my mind, and there was only so much of that nonsense I could get away with without knowing deep down that I was fooling myself.

I may not have accepted what anyone said *about* Jesus, but I couldn't dismiss his words - not because I had come to accept the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word, but because Jesus spoke like no one else I ever knew or heard of... "with authority, and not as one of the scribes".

So, for me, whereas I could never bring myself to dismiss or doubt Jesus himself, I did dismiss a great deal of the teaching of his Church (even watered down and filtered as it was through my experience as an apostate Baptist).

The perspective of someone like yourself who has been in active opposition even to the *idea* of God is therefore very instructive for someone like me, who has always held belief in God of some kind, even if very stunted and warped.

The Masked Chicken

Dear Tim J.,

I think you have unfairly castigated the reporter in this article. She is having a discussion with the Nobel Laureate in Physics, Steven Weinberg, about the possible ramifications of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. It is Weinberg (whom, I suspect is a well-known atheist) who is dismissive about religion.

This reporting is a classic example of the fallacy of argumentum ad vericundiam. Weinberg knows as much about religion as he probably does about fly fishing. In the article he is quotes as saying:

But religion has evolved along with science. It is something created by human beings, and as human beings learn more and more their religion changes.

Good grief, the man is daft. Which religion? Which numan beings? He has reversed cause and effect. It is perfectly possible for God to create man and this creation leads to a relationship with God which forms the basis for a religion (as in the Judeo-Christian case). Who says that man created religion. It is equally possible that man merely discovered that he had a religion.

Science, by the way, is an adjunct to philosophy. It was originally classified as "natural philosophy" or the philosophy of nature. As such, its end is to reach the same end as all correctly done philosophy: the threshold of faith - what St. Thomas Aquinas called the preambles of faith . Science cannot make the leap into the realm of faith, however, and it is arrogance to claim that it can say anything about forces beyond that of nature.

That having been said, science and mathematics can do interesting things to clear up poor reasoning within the faith. Would anyone be interested in a poof, in the form of a theorem, which I claim (although with trembling) can be used to conclusively demonstrate that the doctrine of sola scriptura is logically inconsistent? The logical machinery has been in existence since 1927 and I find it odd that no Christian mathematicians have pointed it out since then. I could be wrong, but have a look at it, if you decide I should post it (it sort of fits in with the topic of this thread).

The Chicken

Deusdonat

Chicken, No disrespect, but the statement "religion is created by human beings" is in fact correct. Even the Catholic religion was "created" by humans. The church was founded by God, our beliefs come from God. But the rubrics, the rituals, the prayers etc are all ways that we as humans have come up with to in effect codify the realities of God and His kingdom here on earth. Through religion, we put our beliefs into place and action in order to worship and glorify God (hopefully in our every day life as well). And because religion is created by man, it does in fact evolve (or devolve). The fact that our Blessed Pope Benedict (may God grant him 100 years!) has re-emphasized the divine in worship by welcoming back the Tridentine mass, yet at the same time underscoring our role and responsibilities as humans in being custodians of this earth on environmental issues, is a clear evolution of our religion and understanding from just 30 years ago. Meanwhile, you have the religion of Phelps Baptists who still think homosexuals are the root cause of everything from 9/11 to static cling and myopically hyperfocus on it to the detriment of reality and theology. This is clearly a devolution of Baptists (as if they had room to go backwards anyway).

When I read the article, I did so with an open mind and didn't want to "shoot the messenger" as it were. But the reporter's questioning does seem to slant towards setting up the Professor's comments and giving him an ample soapbox for his views, rather than a point-counter-point type interview. So, it would appear she has some leanings on the subject.

The Masked Chicken

Dear Deusdonat,

No offense taken.

You wrote:

"The church was founded by God, our beliefs come from God. But the rubrics, the rituals, the prayers etc are all ways that we as humans have come up with to in effect codify the realities of God and His kingdom here on earth."

The Catholic Encyclopedia, on the other hand, has this to say about the definition of religion:

'The derivation of the word "religion" has been a matter of dispute from ancient times. Not even today is it a closed question. Cicero, in his "De natura deorum", II, xxviii, derives religion from relegere (to treat carefully): "Those who carefully took in hand all things pertaining to the gods were called religiosi, from relegere." Max Muller favoured this view. But as religion is an elementary notion long antedating the time of complicated ritual presupposed in this explanation, we must seek elsewhere for its etymology. A far more likely derivation, one that suits the idea of religion in its simple beginning, is that given by Lactantius, in his "Divine Institutes", IV, xxviii. He derives religion from religare (to bind): "We are tied to God and bound to Him [religati] by the bond of piety, and it is from this, and not, as Cicero holds, from careful consideration [relegendo], that religion has received its name." '

Some rituals, such as killing the fatted calf and burning it in ritual sacrifice were, in fact, instituted by divine mandate (keeping the Lord's day holy is another example). In doing so, we bind ourselves to God. Now in binding, there are two parties. One party does not usually, exclusively, develop the ties that bind. At best, it is a mutual or cooperative effort and so, properly speaking, I think, religion is a joint effort between God and man, but whether it is of God alone or God and man working together, in nowise is it an exclusive effort of man.

The Catholic Church, for instance, could not, for instance, develop a ritual involving human sacrifice. This "development" in religion would have the effect of severing its relationship to God.

It is true that some aspects of religion are related to doctrines and doctrine develops, so things like married clergy may change in a religious environment, but these are secondary aspects of the binding power of religion, like the metal of the handcuffs.

It does, on second reading, seem as if the reporter were asking a few slanted questions, but what else could she do? Could she challenge a Nobel laureate during an interview she scheduled? She did challenge him on a few points, as well. I doubt that she knew about Weinberg's views well enough to seek him out as a way of presenting her own views in disguise, but it is possible. In any case, the issue does demand an equal-time response from a physicist (and possibly a reporter) who is not so biased in favor of aetheism.

The Chicken

Lawless

Speaking as an atheist, I do not think I would be persuaded purely by talking with Catholics and thinking "these are good people".

Even good people can be mistaken

Sleeping Beastly

I think you have unfairly castigated the reporter in this article. She is having a discussion with the Nobel Laureate in Physics, Steven Weinberg, about the possible ramifications of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. It is Weinberg (whom, I suspect is a well-known atheist) who is dismissive about religion.

A few of the questions asked by this reporter:

You've said that Darwin's theory of natural selection was the biggest step in [the direction of contradicting religion.] What about the possible findings in particle physics?

What about possible contributions toward finding a final theory? Would that upset religious believers?

Are they also going to be disappointed about our position in nature, our purpose?

At some point will it be possible to find proof that God or the Ultimate Designer does not exist?

These are leading questions by a reporter with no understanding of the subject matter. The interviewee is dismissive of religion, but he at least has a good grasp of the limits of science.

The most obnoxious thing about most journalists is that they decide on the story they want to tell before they investigate it, and then report that story anyway, regardless of what was turned up by their investigations. Normally I don't like to paint with such a broad brush, but I have yet to see a professional print or TV journalist prove me wrong.

Almost as obnoxious is the way they misuse words, phrases, and metaphors.

Tim: Being an atheist was a kind of denial. I felt the presence of God, but told myself I was imagining it. I didn't want to believe, fought it for awhile, and gave in when I finally had to. It's a long story- I'll write it out on my blog one of these days.

Sleeping Beastly

Lawless wrote:
Speaking as an atheist, I do not think I would be persuaded purely by talking with Catholics and thinking "these are good people".

Agreed. Good people are not necessarily informed people. The "goodness" of Christians is not really the best gauge of whether they have the right information; nor is their "badness" necessarily an indication that their beliefs are flawed.

Still, these are arguments that are sometimes used, and they can be somewhat convincing. Many people, for instance, left the Church following the priest molestation scandal. Other people have reported being drawn to one religion or another because of the virtue they found in its adherents.

Virtue and accuracy are not exactly the same thing, and can even exist independently of one another. Still, when I was an atheist, there were qualities that certain Christians had that I admired and even envied. Specifically, some Christians seemed to be blessed with a kind of joyful peace that I didn't see anywhere else. This was not enough, in itself, to bring me to the Church (I needed to be convinced in a number of other ways as well) but it did help to make me open to the possibility that Christ's message might be more than just a sack of fairy tales. If you get a chance, I'd recommend reading the Gospels. They'll give you a good idea of the heart of Christian doctrine, and they are absolutely the strangest, most unusual, and most amazing books I've ever read. You can read 'em online starting here:

http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/#matthew

Lawless

I have read the gospels, a good deal of the OT and looked at a number of web sites including the one by Dave Armstrong

I have also chatted with a number of Christians online
including in #catholicchat on undernet

While some may maintain that reason points to the truth of religion, it has seemed to me that faith is required.

In that sense, it does seem that that does about wrap it up for God

Tim J

Yes, faith is required.

My point is that faith is just as much required to believe in science, or plain logic.

Lawless

The difference between reason and faith is in the leap.

Some religious people seem to have experiences which provide them with what they need to make that leap.

Lacking that experience of God, I look at the historical evidence and see if it supports Catholicism

SDG

The difference between reason and faith is in the leap.

Believing in other minds is a leap. Accepting your own thoughts as more than random and meaningless epiphenomena is a leap.

Lacking that experience of God, I look at the historical evidence and see if it supports Catholicism

Historical evidence is one important thread (though not the only thread). In particular, how and why early Christianity took the shape that it did makes a rewarding area of inquiry. In this connection I'm currently reading N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God and finding it quite compelling.

Tim J

"The difference between reason and faith is in the leap."

Not so. You have already taken the leap. There can be no reason without first principles, and the reliability of first principles is something we take on faith.

Why do we put our faith in reason? Because the alternative is madness; an arbitrary and meaningless universe. There is no more proof for the validity of reason than there is for the existence of God.

bill912

Indeed, Tim. If there is no God, how do we know that our reason is reasonable? That our rationality is rational? For, if there is no God, then what we call our "rationality" must have evolved out of irrationality.

Lawless

How does God tell us reason is reasonable?

Reason is reasonable by definition. Why is God needed for that?

Tim J

"Reason is reasonable by definition."

That is my point. There can be no reasonable proof of the validity of reason. The principle is accepted on faith, and all the reasoning comes afterward.

The foundations of reason are beyond the scope of reasonable argument, and are therefore evidence that reason does not - can not - account for everything that we accept as true. In fact, it appears that reason can't account for the *most important* things we accept as true.

Lawless

No, reason is reasonable by definition. Definitions are not faith any more than the definition of an elephant is an item of faith.

Trying to appeal to foundations is an argument by analogy which is not valid.

Any god at all can be "proven" if we appeal to such reverse logic.

Islam and all other religions become equally valid.

St Thomas might have evidence for his belief but we living years later have only ambiguous historical evidence.

The writing of the early church fathers we have but how to weigh them

Tim J

"No, reason is reasonable by definition. Definitions are not faith any more than the definition of an elephant is an item of faith."

You lost me. Are you saying that you trust in reason because you figured out by a reasonable process that it is reliable? Of course reason is reasonable. Water is also wet.

"Trying to appeal to foundations is an argument by analogy which is not valid."

You'll have to demonstrate that, and not just make the assertion.

"Any god at all can be "proven" if we appeal to such reverse logic.

Islam and all other religions become equally valid."

It is not reverse logic, it was just me establishing that you believe, accept and rely on things that are beyond the scope of reasonable argument. I was nowhere *near* arguing for the existence of God.

Reverse logic would be mistaking the building (reason) for the foundation (first principles).

"St Thomas might have evidence for his belief but we living years later have only ambiguous historical evidence."

Do you believe we landed on the moon?

SDG

No, reason is reasonable by definition. Definitions are not faith any more than the definition of an elephant is an item of faith.

<deconstructionist>
Definitions are matters of human convention. Of course what accords with the rules we create call "reason" has the quality we call "reasonable," just as what accords with the rules we call "law" or "sport" has the qualities we associate with those sets of rules. But the rules themselves are simply a particular set of agreed-upon conventions. They don't give us access to anything called "objective reality."

Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am small. If I exist at all.
</deconstructionist>

David B.

My head hurts. :C)

Grant

They say source of 80% of the gravity in the universe is unknown. How gravity works? Undetermined. What is light? Who knows? Dark matter? Black holes?

Yeah, there is no God. We've got it all figured out. From Cuttlefish to Neutron stars, all just big bang by-products....

God is hinding from us losers in the "dark matter"...

Or as Tom Waits says, "God's away, God's away, God's away on business, business!"

Tim J.

You know, I was a little disappointed that no one ever got the Hitchhiker's Guide reference in the title to this post.

:-(

It did turn into a good discussion, though.

SDG

You know, I was a little disappointed that no one ever got the Hitchhiker's Guide reference in the title to this post.

Duh! Of course I got it! :-)

I quoted that very section of the book at the top of my review of the 2005 film.

CT

"There can be no reasonable proof of the validity of reason. The principle is accepted on faith, and all the reasoning comes afterward."

This is not true. The validity or truth of reason or the truth of an instance of reason is intuited in a self-evident way. Foundationalist epistemology holds that there are certain truths which are self-evident, because their truth is transparent to us or because they involve our immediate experience. This is different from faith and I don't know of anyone who puts faith in the same category. Faith, as defined in Catholic circles, is belief in something based on someone else's authority and one's trust in that authority. So "divine faith" for example is belief in a proposition based on the "authority of God revealing." The problem here is that a proposition cannot be known to be something revealed by God and one cannot as a substitute have divine faith that a proposition is something revealed by God without rejecting foundationalist epistemology altogether.

For Catholicism to be fruitful in modern society, faith needs to be reinterpreted as excluding certitude. It needs to be reinterpreted as hunches or beliefs arising out of strong feelings or yearnings. Otherwise, it will serve to harm, not help society and will undoubtedly die out in time as it has in Europe, Australia and most of the Western world and as it is dying out even in Latin America. People point to Asia as a place where Catholicism thrives, but it is not the traditional Catholicism of the West that thrives there. Just ask the Asian bishops. If Catholicism were to fundamentally change, I would be more open to it.

David B.

For Catholicism to be fruitful in modern society, faith needs to be reinterpreted as excluding certitude.

Man needs answers, not more questions. The Catholic Church has survived for this long. The people of the modern age will not destroy her.

CT

DB, if man needs answers and not questions, then it would seem that the ideal would be for man to have all answers. But then it would seem that the ideal is for man to know all as having any answer to any question seems to entail omniscience at least if you define omniscience propositionally. But it would seem that under your own theology omniscience entails omnipotence which entails omnibenevalence -- with each entailing the other. It would also seem that it is impossible for man to attain such. So for you the ideal state of man is one that is impossible. I prefer to have my ideals be possible.

Furthermore, it would seem that your own theology characterizes the desire to be omniscient as an evil desire. Thus it would seem that what you consider ideal is evil to desire. Thus there is a contradiction between your statement here and your theology.

SDG

You say "Foundationalist epistemology holds that there are certain truths which are self-evident." Yes, but not everyone accepts foundationalist epistemology, so why do foundationalists hold that?

Certainly there are truths that we perceive as self-evident, but if someone proposes that perhaps what we think of as "self-evident" is just a quirk about our cerebral biochemistry, just as what we think of as "yellow" is a mental interpolation of adjacent firings of medium-length wave (green) and long-length wave (red) sensitive cone cells... well, it's hard to "argue" with that, since all argument depends on the validity of reasoning and self-evident truth in the first place. Of course our wiseacre also implicitly assumes the validity of reasoning in his argument, but he doesn't care about self-contradiction and we do.

Ultimately, you either trust your perceptions of self-evident truths or you don't. It is a form of faith, which does not mean what you say, "belief in something based on someone else's authority and one's trust in that authority." That is one form of faith but not the essential definition. By that definition how could we ever come to have faith in the proposition that God's authority must be accepted? By what authority could such a proposition be confirmed?

To reject solipsism and believe in other selves, much more to accept that, e.g., another person loves you, represents a type of faith act. Even to accept that you are a "self" at all might be thought to involve faith, given the skepticism on this point from some materialist/behaviorists who hold that consciousness is an illusion, or a linguistic phenomenon, or whatever.

bill912

"If Catholicism were to fundamentally change" that would be proof that it does not come from God, and, therefore, there would be no point in being a Catholic.

David B.

CT,

Since I once did not exist, I am not infinite. Since I am not infinite, I cannot know everything.

In response, I said "man needs answers," not "all answers."

Furthermore, it would seem that your own theology characterizes the desire to be omniscient as an evil desire.

Since your previous paragraph arbitrarily extrapolated, based on your own beliefs, so much about "my" theology, the second statement was doomed before you wrote it.

Those who desire to be all-knowing desire what only the Uncaused Cause is capable of. That a created being is not all-knowing is only reasonable, since man is created by the Supreme Being. To think otherwise is prideful, yes, but also illogical.

Tim J.

"This is not true. The validity or truth of reason or the truth of an instance of reason is intuited in a self-evident way."

That's weird, you start by saying it's not true, and then arge for it in your next sentence. All reasoning starts with a direct, intuitive understanding of foundational truths, and all the reasoning comes afterward.

"Faith, as defined in Catholic circles, is belief in something based on someone else's authority and one's trust in that authority."

Except, no, it's not. Where did you find such a definition of faith? I don't believe in God because some authority figure said to. The existence of God, when the idea was presented to me, was something that matched up to my own intuitive understanding exactly. I don't remember when it was, but at some point someone I suppose someone talked to me about a spiritual person being behind everything, that made everything, and my response was very probably "of course".

The existence of God is one of those self evident truths you mentioned earlier, and can be neither proved nor disproved. It can be shown to be reasonable, but it can't be proved, any more than I could PROVE to you that the sun is 93 million miles away.

"a proposition cannot be known to be something revealed by God". What do you mean by known? I'm not saying I believe everything the Church teaches because I have worked it all out on a flow chart, just like I don't believe we went to the moon because I have looked over every bit of evidence linked to it and found it all airtight. The overwhelming majority of everything I believe, I believe simply because it makes reasonable sense, because it fits. As C.S. Lewis put it "A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life".

You are very content to accept as perfectly true a thousand things that you can't prove or that you have very little evidence of, but when it comes to religion, you and many others suddenly go all mathematical and want proof of a kind that can't be shown for anything.

You'll accept that Abe Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address based on ordinary historical evidence, but the gospels you reject out of hand, and no amount (correct me if I'm wrong) of ordinary evidence could change your mind.

"one cannot as a substitute have divine faith that a proposition is something revealed by God without rejecting foundationalist epistemology altogether"

Except that I do have such a faith in a number of propositions, and my "foundational epistemology" remains as robust as ever.

"For Catholicism to be fruitful in modern society, faith needs to be reinterpreted as excluding certitude."

The divorce of faith and reason has been rumored many times, but the two remain happily wedded in the teaching of the Church. It was precisely this insistence on the incompatibility of faith and reason that killed the faith in Europe.

"If Catholicism were to fundamentally change, I would be more open to it."

I'm sure. I myself would be open to becoming an atheist, if only atheism would admit to the possibility of a personal God. Other than that minor sticking point, yes, I would almost certainly be ready to consider atheism.

If rocks were a lot more like apples, I WOULD consider eating rocks.

CT

"You'll accept that Abe Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address based on ordinary historical evidence, but the gospels you reject out of hand, and no amount (correct me if I'm wrong) of ordinary evidence could change your mind."

I believe that he made that address but I don't believe in it with an absolute certitude. It's not necessary to have an absolute certitude, only to be reasonably certain of such things and of various other things. You OTOH, believe that a man rose from the dead with absolute certitude. That is irrational. It may be that there is evidence that it happened. It may even be reasonable to believe that it did. It may even be unreasonable to believe that it didn't. But it is certainly unreasonable to believe that it did with absolute certitude when there is no grounds for it.

It's not true that no amount of evidence could change my mind about the gospels if by that you mean gospels as depicting historically accurate events. However, even if I were convinced that the gospels were accurate as history, I wouldn't thereby be tempted to be part of the religion that this man or super-man proclaimed. Even if it were so that he, somehow, was able to effect or give the appearance of effecting "signs and wonders" and even if it were so that he was able to reanimate from a lifeless state, that would not prove that his moral and religious beliefs were true, let alone that the religion built around his mythos was true. I find it puzzling that men would bow down before another man simply because they believe he rose from the dead. Others rose from the dead in Old Testament times, according to your texts, yet no one bowed down before them or bizarrely characterized them as god. It is just metaphysically impossible for a man to be god. The metaphysical gap between man and god is greater than the metaphysical gap between man and a microbe. A microbe cannot be a man and thus a fortiori a man cannot be a god.

@SDG

I do not need to "trust" that my perception that something is self-evidently true is itself true because my perception that something is self-evidently true is itself self-evidently true.

I don't think it requires an act of "faith" to believe that a certain other person loves you. It would require one to believe so with absolute certainty, but I don't do that. It's irrational for example for someone to believe with absolute certainty that his friend would never betray him since there are cases of people who believed so about their friend and yet were unexpectedly betrayed. It would be rational to believe that someone is in all likelihood your lover true, or friend faithful, and the like.

As for believing in other human selves. It would only be rational to seriously doubt that another self existed if one day in the distant future there were androids that were indistinguishable from humans. until that day, belief in other human selves, not with absolute certainty, but with reasonable certitude, is perfectly reasonable

The Masked Chicken

The issue here seems to be whether or not reason is, ah, merely reasonable or if certain propositions in reason are self-evident.

First of all. this sort of foundational epistemology, ultimately, leads to contradictions, as has been known at least since the time of Russell, although an argument can be made that this extends back to the Greek Skeptics. Score one for SDG.

On the other hand, some propositions can be self-evident without being contradictory only and exactly in the case that they concern God, since God is ontologically simple and unites all statement levels in himself. Score one for CT, although in a backhanded way, since he is trying to argue the opposite.

Then, the Masked Chicken swoops in and asks: are you gonna eat those fries? That seemed to clarify the situation. Are those fries merely reasonable or are they self-evident?

[It Friday night - you expect higher-order thinking?]

The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
First off, thanks for your patience. I know how taxing it is to be the single party in such a lopsided debate. I hope we've all succeeded in being fair to you and your arguments in our comments, since I know how off-putting it is when people refuse to acknowledge the points you actually make, and instead put words in your mouth. I'm certain (absolutely!) that this is our intention.

That said, I wanted to take issue with a couple of things you said:

You OTOH, believe that a man rose from the dead with absolute certitude. That is irrational. It may be that there is evidence that it happened. It may even be reasonable to believe that it did. It may even be unreasonable to believe that it didn't. But it is certainly unreasonable to believe that it did with absolute certitude when there is no grounds for it.

I have a few responses to this. First, you cannot know exactly how we regard our faith in Jesus' resurrection. I think you'd find that many Catholics acknowledge the limits of their own knowledge, and are willing to admit the possibility that they may be wrong. This is not the same as denying their faith. I believe that Jesus was resurrected in the same way I believe that I am sitting in front of a computer at this moment, typing a response to you. I could be wrong about either thing. Jesus could be merely a figment of my imagination, having never existed. This computer too, may be a figment of my imagination. It is entirely possible that I am sitting on the floor of a padded cell right now imagining all these things. Since I acknowledge the possibility that any of my beliefs and perceptions may be wrong, I obviously can't speak to anything with the kind of absolute certainty you describe.

However, I don't think that your distinction between belief and absolute certainty is very useful or even very relevant to anyone's life. Most people acknowledge the possibility that our minds and perceptions are subject to errors and hallucinations. But it's just not practical or even useful to walk around qualifying every statement and assertion with "I could be wrong about this, but..." Truth is, we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have, and we put our faith in things that we cannot ultimately confirm because it is impossible to ultimately confirm anything. At some point, we must simply accept our limited human minds and limited human perceptions.

That said, I understand why you take issue with the Resurrection. It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe it based simply on historical data. It is an event clearly contrary to all laws of nature that you know of, and all experiences you have had. As far as you can tell, such things just don't happen, so it's natural that you would expect more evidence to credit the story than you would to credit the story of the Gettysburg Address. It's a controversial topic for very good reasons.

You are right to say that our belief in the Resurrection is irrational, if by that you mean that reason alone does not provide enough weight to the story to believe it. Most Christians, as far as I can tell, believe in the resurrection for reasons beyond simple historical data. The apostle Thomas refused to believe until he had placed his hand inside Christ's wound. Paul, the evangelist to the Gentiles was a fierce opponent of Christianity until he was knocked down by the spirit of God.

I do not expect you to come to belief in God in Christ simply because we present convincing arguments. Arguments alone have never been enough to make converts- there is a supernatural element to conversion, and without experiencing this personally, you have no good reason to become a Christian or even give much credit to our claims.

However, our beliefs are not entirely irrational. We have historical evidence to support some of our claims, but more than that, we have personal experience of God. This personal experience is vital to the leap of faith that takes one over the line between atheism and Christianity. Without it, all the claims of Christians will continue to seem irrational. With it, Christian claims become irrefutable.

The reason for this is that God's existence and Christ's resurrection cannot be proven or disproved on the basis of physical evidence or abstract argument. The difference between an atheist and a Christian is the experience of a personal relationship with God. That's what makes the difference between "Not enough evidence to change my mind" and "Enough evidence to confirm what I already know."

I find it puzzling that men would bow down before another man simply because they believe he rose from the dead. Others rose from the dead in Old Testament times, according to your texts, yet no one bowed down before them or bizarrely characterized them as god. It is just metaphysically impossible for a man to be god.

First of all, we do not bow down before Jesus simply because he rose from the dead. If that were our reasoning, we would worship Lazarus as an equal of Christ, and I've never heard of a Christian doing that. We worship Jesus because we do believe that he was God incarnate, and our reasons for that have to do with more than just the Resurrection.

Second, where in the OT did people rise from the dead? I must have missed those passages.

Third, while it may be impossible for a man to be God, why do you say it would be impossible for God to incarnate as a man? We regard it as one of the mysteries, but certainly not as an impossibility.

The Masked Chicken

There is a very simple way to cut through all of this. Very simply, one may ask CT exactly what would it take to convince him:a) of God's existence and b) that Jesus is God? If he can provide no test that God may pass, then arguing is pointless.

If there are some self-evident propositions in reason (hmm...Euclidean geometry was supposedly built on self-evident propositions), then why is not St. Anselm's proofs for the existence of God acceptable? He left two: the more classical one - God is that of which nothing greater can be thought, has been argued against by some philosophers on the basis of what it means to think or conceive of something (and other arguments), but he also left a second one.

It is this: if necessity is a stronger state of existence than possibility and God has no weaknesses, then God must be necessary. That which is necessary must necessarily exist. There has been no known refutation for this form of the ontological argument found by any current logician of which I am aware. When one uses the word God (as in the supreme being) one must refer to a necessary being, since a merely possible one is inferior, by nature.

The idea of "necessary" and "possible" seems to meet all of the criteria of self-evidentialism that CT wants in his reasoning. A self-evident proposition must be either necessary or possible, because those are the only two forms of positive evidence available.

Simply put, if there is a God, there must, necessarily be a faith, because if not then all of the propositions put forth from God would be merely possible, which would contradict the nature of God. Thus, arging the existence of faith with CT is too far down the chain of reasoning. First, argue to the existence of God (a preamble of faith) and then see if faith follows.

There are a few other things to point out:

1. The statement that CT made:

I do not need to "trust" that my perception that something is self-evidently true is itself true because my perception that something is self-evidently true is itself self-evidently true.

may be put in the form:

The statement,

"my perception that something is self-evidently true is itself true"

is true if and only if it is really the case that "my perception is

actually self-evidently true" is true,

but statements of this form in logic have been known to be contradictory for at least seventy years. SDG is right about this. I am not talking about self-evident or perception. The form of the argument, itself, guarantees the contradiction.

2. CT made the point:

The metaphysical gap between man and god is greater than the metaphysical gap between man and a microbe. A microbe cannot be a man and thus a fortiori a man cannot be a god.

This does not follow. Man and microbes are in the same ontological category, so a comparison is possible; God and man are not - one may compare God and man only by analogy, not property. CT has made the comparison cat1:cat1:cat2, which breaks the comparison. If a man is greater than a microbe in property A, then one must also have property A in God in order to make a comparison. That this property exists he has not proven, nor even identified.

God is in a different ontological category. He can pretty much do what he wants. He can certainly become man. The Church has never taught that a man became God (in fact, that is a heresy called, Apollinarianism), but rather that God became what he was not - a man, while, nevertheless, remaining God.

The Chicken

CT

Could you describe this "supernatural element to conversion" and "personal experience of god"? Whatever experience you have which you take to be divinely caused may well be caused by biochemical processes in the brain or even if being the result of external influence, not necessarily the external influence of god but just of some undefined being which has the power to influence us so for ill or for good, we would not know.

I found your post to in general be remarkably reasonable for a believer ;)

On your question, see 2 Kings 13:20-21

It's impossible for God to incarnate as a man just as it is impossible for a man to incarnate as a micrcrobe. The latter is impossible due to the immense metaphysical gap between a microcrobe and a man. In the case of the former, the metaphysical gap is even greater, infinitely greater, and so a fortiori it is impossible here as well. Interpretation the Christian Incarnation as god simply revealing himself through a human instrument would pose less philosophical issues and would also IMO be better for Christians and for the world.

Mrs. Smith's Fish Sauce Shop

where in the OT did people rise from the dead? I must have missed those passages.

Perhaps he's referring to 1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 4:34-35 and 2 Kings 13:20-21. Some may also include 1 Samuel 28:14 in this category.

bill912

"It is impossible for God" may be the ultimate oxymoron.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

There is a difference between people being raised from the dead and a person rising (himself) from the dead. There are no Old Testament examples of a person rising from the dead. There are many examples of people being raised from the dead. The difference in words is fundamental, here. Christ rose form the dead of his own power. There are no Old Testaments examples, none. There are many examples of people being raised from the dead by an outside agency (God, acting through man). IN the case of Christ, it was God acting, directly.

As regards your statement:

It's impossible for God to incarnate as a man just as it is impossible for a man to incarnate as a micrcrobe. The latter is impossible due to the immense metaphysical gap between a microcrobe and a man. In the case of the former, the metaphysical gap is even greater, infinitely greater, and so a fortiori it is impossible here as well.

See my comment, above.

Your logic is, simply, wrong. You have crossed two different ontological (metaphysical, as you call them) categories in making your comparisons. To say that there is a metaphysical difference between a microbe and a man, first of all, is wrongly stated. A microbe and a man are, at least in part, of the same metaphysical nature (up to the concept of soul). To say that the metaphysical gulf between God and man is even greater confuses the issue because there is no straight line in metaphysical properties between a microbe, man, and God to lay a comparison on. In fact, if anything, if God were greater, metaphysically, then, just as we have certain properties, such as self-reflection, that a microbe does not, do to our own increased metaphysical standing, why not is it possible that God, having an even higher metaphysical standing, also has abilities that we do not, such as the ability to become man? Thus, God could have properties that we do not, even if only a simple metaphysical progression were assumed, but this is not the case. A microbe may become, evolutionarily speaking, a monkey (let's leave other issues out), but it is impossible for a man to evolve into God. They are in two different ontological classes and as such, may be presumed to have two different classes of properties, not connected by a simple linear progression.

Your argument does not prove that God could not become man because God, in becoming man, does not have to become simply a lower metaphysical entity. He can simply become man and still stay God. His ontology allows for this, since it is not connected to man in the same way that a man is connected to a microbe(both of which share a material nature, in part, in their normal ontology).

As to the last part of your statement:

Interpretation the Christian Incarnation as god simply revealing himself through a human instrument would pose less philosophical issues and would also IMO be better for Christians and for the world.

The problem is: how does one define that instrument? If everyone claims to speak for God, then no one speaks for God. If God does speaks through a human instrument, then that human instrument must be defined as such, by God, in order to avoid more than one speaker, which would be either redundant or lead to multiple contradicting revelations.

On a side note: I appreciate your presence on this site. There have been a few atheists (am I correct in assuming this?) posting, here, before and they have, for the most part, acquitted themselves, well.

The Chicken

P. S.,

There are other Christological heresies related to a man becoming God, such as Monophysitism and the Actistetae

Mrs. Smith's Fish Sauce Shop

There are many examples of people being raised from the dead by an outside agency (God, acting through man). IN the case of Christ, it was God acting, directly.

People laid out the body of Jesus, did things to it and wept. Jesus rose. In 1 Kings 17, people laid out the body of a boy, did things to it and wept. The boy rose. In 2 Kings 13, people dumped a body into a tomb containing bones, departed (NAB) and the man rose. In each case, there is described involvement of people, yet only in one case is it (said) that the man "rose form the dead of his own power."

Inocencio

Masked Chicken and Sleeping Beastly,

I thank you both for your example of charity and patience in your responses to CT. My hat is off to you both.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tom Simon

In no case, however, is it said that laying out a body, doing things to it, and weeping, will cause the body to rise. Your attempted analogy, Mrs. S.F.S.S., concentrates exclusively upon irrelevancies, and ignores entirely the question of agency. Those who laid out the bodies, those who did things to them, and those who wept, did not cause any of the bodies to rise from the dead — neither Christ's nor any other. The 'involvement of people' of which you speak was purely incidental.

You can test this for yourself in any mortuary, if you can get permission from the deceased's next of kin; and I think I can promise you that you will get no results. The effective procedure of resurrection from the dead does not consist of these things.

Mary

It's impossible for God to incarnate as a man just as it is impossible for a man to incarnate as a micrcrobe. The latter is impossible due to the immense metaphysical gap between a microcrobe and a man. In the case of the former, the metaphysical gap is even greater, infinitely greater, and so a fortiori it is impossible here as well.

By that logic, it's impossible for something to be a wave and a particle both. The gap is even greater than the gap between God and man -- it's more like the gap between a verb and a flower.

Sleeping Beastly

CT, you wrote
Could you describe this "supernatural element to conversion" and "personal experience of god"? Whatever experience you have which you take to be divinely caused may well be caused by biochemical processes in the brain or even if being the result of external influence, not necessarily the external influence of god but just of some undefined being which has the power to influence us so for ill or for good, we would not know.

What you say is true. All of my experiences could be caused by biochemical processes in the brain. As I said in a previous comment, I could be hallucinating all of my experiences, including my experiences of God.

As an aside, I am not too fond of the notion that experiences can be caused by biochemical processes in the brain. As far as I can tell, experiences and biochemical processes are related, but that is not the same thing as the experience being caused by the biochemical process. The chemical interactions in my brain are simply the method by which I perceive experiences in which I am actually participating. They are not so much cause as intermediary between my mind and the real world. As far as I can tell. But yes, who knows? Maybe I am plugged into The Matrix, and all my experiences are just blips on a computer screen. Maybe there is no real world. I decided a long time ago that it was much more useful to interact directly with my experiences, and not focus too much on what might be happening behind the reality I perceive. I have spent enough time trying to second-guess the reality I experience, and it was all time wasted. I'm happy to examine my assumptions about reality given good reasons, but I don't generally bother trying to imagine every possible explanation for what I perceive when there is an obvious and reasonable explanation at hand.

So how did I go from being an atheist to a Christian? Surely the paradigm and explanations I was raised with (atheistic materialism) should have sufficed to explain any of the experiences I have had. Here's the plain and simple truth:

All of my experiences, including those I regard as supernatural and divine, fit within the materialist's worldview as well as the Christian's. I suppose I could (purely intellectually) explain away all of my experiences of God as hallucinations and delusions. In fact, I did try to do precisely that for many years.

I have witnessed some minor physical miracles that seemed to break the laws of physics, but this was well after my conversion, and I would still be as much of a believer if I had never witnessed them. I have also seen enough stage magic that, if I wanted to explain them away, I could probably call them charlatanism. Physical signs are one of the ways God makes himself known to man, but they are not in and of themselves enough to make converts. Many of the claims of Christianity are darned hard to believe. Even Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples who had seen him raise the dead, had a hard time believing that Jesus himself had risen from the dead.

Believing Christian claims can be darned hard, so how is it that there are over a billion Christians in the world? The popular explanation (and the one I used to believe) is that most people are pretty stupid, and will believe anything so long as it is somehow useful to them. It makes them feel better about themselves or about death, or it makes them feel superior to other people. I don't really have the space to write about all the weak points of this view. The short story is that Christianity is at least as frightening and unsettling as atheistic materialism, what with all the moral imperatives, the threat of eternal damnation, and the commands to be perfect while forgiving imperfection in others.

The supernatural experiences I refer to revolve mostly around a felt presence of God and the clear reception of his messages. I have felt God's presence and received his "words" to me, and these experiences are as real as any others. Could they be hallucinations? Sure, but if they are, I have not been able to get rid of them, even by trying not to believe in them. Also, I am not prone to other kinds of hallucinations or delusions as far as I can tell, so once I accepted the existence of God, the experience of his presence and communication fell right into place. I spent many years trying not to hear him, but he never went away, and I was not ever really at peace until I acknowledged him and started to listen.

Those experiences were the central supernatural experiences in my life, but there were others. The most powerful were instances of prayer (before my conversion!) I had gotten myself into some terrible fixes involving sex and drugs and compulsion that I was not capable of getting myself out of. In each case, it took only one heartfelt prayer, and God freed me completely. Again, these experiences can probably also be explained away by a materialist, but materialistic explanations don't seem to fit the facts as well as Christian explanations, and I would have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to believe them. I would have to tell myself things that just feel untrue and contrived, and I would know in my heart that I was just being a hypocrite.

These are the ways in which I feel God has touched my life, but his relationship with each person is unique because real love is always very personal, and real love is what God ultimately wishes of us. One of the reasons I think he doesn't overwhelm us with intellectual or physical evidence is that for love to be real, both parties have to have the freedom to turn from it if they choose.

I found your post to in general be remarkably reasonable for a believer ;)

And I find your arguments to be in remarkably good faith for a nonbeliever. 8]

On your question, see 2 Kings 13:20-21

Huh. Learn something new every day. I now get to say I have been schooled in Scripture by an agnostic!

It's impossible for God to incarnate as a man just as it is impossible for a man to incarnate as a micrcrobe. The latter is impossible due to the immense metaphysical gap between a microcrobe and a man. In the case of the former, the metaphysical gap is even greater, infinitely greater, and so a fortiori it is impossible here as well.

I'm sorry, you have completely lost me. I am not a theologian or a philosopher (my major in college was language) so I'm afraid your arguments have gone right over my head. Is this something that can be dumbed down a bit and argued in plainer English for a simple guy like me?

Interpretation the Christian Incarnation as god simply revealing himself through a human instrument would pose less philosophical issues and would also IMO be better for Christians and for the world.

In a sense, I agree that it would pose fewer theological issues. That's one of the reasons it was so controversial for the Jews at the time. They had no problem believing that God had human agents; they acknowledged Moses and the prophets as agents of God, and instrumental in God's revelations to his people. The Christian claim that Jesus was God incarnate seemed blasphemous to them, and was even a tough line to swallow for the Gentiles, since it seemed so unnatural and wrong. When a part of the Christian faith seems hard to swallow, we call it a mystery, and we spend time meditating on it, because it is through mysteries that God best reveals his nature to us.

It is my opinion that the loss of Christian mysteries (especially that of the Incarnation) would greatly impoverish Christianity and the world. It is central to our faith for a very good reason: it reveals the depth and power of God's love for us. If you don't believe in God, it is not particularly meaningful- just a fairy tale, really.

But imagine for a second that you are living in a world created by an omnipotent being, and that you are a member of a people who have thrown away friendship with that being. In order to bring you back into his friendship, he does not simply thunder down commands from the mountaintops. He drops down into space and time, and takes on all the pains and difficulties of being one of you. He eats and craps and bleeds and suffers. He watches the rest of you doing much the same, and he even suffers torture and death as part of the mystical process of bringing you back into his friendship. When I think about the Incarnation, I discover new aspects of God's love all the time, and I feel like I am getting to know him better.

In the same way that a story told second-hand can give you further insight into a person you already know, the story of the Incarnation (and actually any of the Christian mysteries) can give us further insight into the true nature and character of God. In this way, we can continue to fall deeper in love with him throughout our lives.

As far as what's best for the world, I don't really see how Christianity would have been better for us all if it had denied Christ's divinity. Maybe you can clarify?

Finally, going back to the question about experiential reasons for faith: Basically, I think people feel the Holy Spirit working in them and in their lives, and eventually they acknowledge it, or else they never do. There is an element of choice involved, but there are also currents pulling towards and away from faith. That leap of faith is terrifying, and I certainly can't promise a better life on the other side, in a material sense. But the spiritual peace of God's friendship is really beyond words, and if we pray for your conversion, it's because we want you to experience it as well, and not just so that we can be proven right. So I hope you won't take offense when I say I pray that God's peace be with you.

Mrs. Smith's Fish Sauce Shop

The 'involvement of people' of which you speak was purely incidental... You can test this for yourself in any mortuary.

Dear Tom,

It cannot be determined from the described physical details alone, as scanty and vague as they are, whether the involvement of people was purely incidental or not, or whether any body did or did not rise by itself. Your idea of testing it yourself in a mortuary (a test which itself involves people) would no more prove the involvement of people was purely incidental than it would prove that it wasn't, or that these stories are frauds. If it took billions of years before those events in those Bible stories happened, why should you think it can be reproduced or disproven at will whenever one wants to see it again? It may be you'd need the exact same bodies, the very same people touching the bodies in precisely the same ways, the same weeping, indeed even the same time, place, etc. in history to be successful – i.e. some subset of an infinite set of possibilities. Change a single thing, whether it be an extra blink of the eye or one less tear shed or the most "incidental" thing you can think of -- even what you might do tomorrow -- and maybe it'll happen or wouldn't have happened at all. Indeed, what involvement of people is purely incidental when nothing in this world exists outside the divine plan of creation and redemption, when the order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them, when creatures exist *only* in dependence on one another, to complete each other, in service of each other?

Tim J.

Mrs. Smith's Fish Shop -

Did any of those OT people who rose from the dead predict over and over that they would do so?

Any of them? Anyone? Bueller?

CT

It would seem that crediting Jesus with making an accurate prediction is akin to crediting Nostradamus with making an accurate prediction. In both cases, their respective followers come up with the prediction only after the fact. If Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead "over and over" he certainly didn't make that prediction clear to his followers since none of them expected it to happen. It's much more likely that the followers of Jesus experienced a "risen" Jesus in terms of a sense of his presence.

It's not clear why anyone should worship the god that they "personally experience." Who is to say that the being that they "personally experience" is worthy of worship? In your bible a story is told of someone who has a personal experience of an angelic being and based on that experience begins to worship him. Then the angelic being tells him not to do so that only some greater being is worthy of worship. Well, who is to say that it is not the case that some greater being than the god you are familiar with is the one worthy of worship?

I wonder how many people believe in God not because they think it true but because they fear that not believing would put them in jeopardy.

bill912

Well then, they based the rest of their lives on a lie of their own making, as they preached that Jesus truly rose from the dead. For their efforts, they experienced loss of their livelihood, exile, imprisonment, torture, and death. Peter, Andrew, and Philip were crucified; James, the son of Zebedee, and Paul were beheaded; James the Less was thrown from the roof of the temple, then beaten to death; Jude and Matthew were beaten to death; Thomas was stabbed; Bartholomew was flayed alive; Mark was dragged to his death through the streets of Alexandria. All for a lie of their own making.

bill912

Jesus claimed to be God. Either He is God, or he was a liar and charlatan or insane. His recorded words are not the words of an evil man or a madman. The one thing He could not have been was a good man who was merely a man. We can revile Him as an evil man, dismiss Him as a madman, or worship Him as God. But we cannot say He was merely a good man. As C.S. Lewis put it, "He did not give us that option; He did not intend to."

Mrs. Smith's Fish Sauce Shop

Did any of those OT people who rose from the dead predict over and over that they would do so?

The Bible doesn't say, so it neither affirms nor denies whether they did. If they did or did not, what would it mean? Many Jews anticipated rising from the dead. I've also had people "predict" their recommended stocks would rise. Some were right, some were wrong. Of those who were right, some had inside advance knowledge and some were just guessing. Some had believers who so followed on every prediction that they worked to make the predictions come true. Some couched their predictions in language that could be interpreted a number of ways to support most any outcome. And, of course, there are those whose stories of predictions past were just that: written after the fact, and for whatever reasons, such stories are typically quite glowing. And then there are also those whose stories are not literally true.

CT

@bill
I do not believe Jesus was an evil man, or rather any more evil than the average man of his day or the average man of our day. I do believe however that some of the ideas he taught were evil (or at least the ideas ascribed to him in the gospels) I am not inclined to believe that Jesus knew he was not god and lied about it but I wouldn't say that someone who did that was an "evil man" anyway, not any more evil necessarily than the average man. There are men who lie about their occupations to achieve romantic ends, yet we do not characterize them as "evil" whole and entire and neither should we characterize men who lie about their spiritual status to achieve whatever spiritually-oriented end so.

Secondly, I do not know that Jesus claimed to be god. In fact even in your gospels, his followers are described as not being aware of Jesus claiming to be god. It seems that should it be the case that they preached he was god, that they came to that apparent realization after he had already died. As I said, it is also the case that his followers are described as not being aware of Jesus claiming he would rise from the dead.

Thirdly, even if his followers knew he did not literally speaking rise from the dead, they may have felt it still truthful to say that he did as it was true in their understanding in a spiritual sense. When a story-teller says, "And the light once more shone upon the land" when there was no literal light to speak of here but rather the light of moral truth or virtue or grace and beauty rising again, that story-teller is not lying; he is expressing a truth, a higher truth in non-literal language.

Fourthly, even if his followers believed it to be untruthful or misleading, they may have, in some kind of misguided altruism thought it best to allow for this deception if they saw the value in the new religion in giving hope to the poor and oppressed and lifting the spirits of man to higher things.

If they did indeed love mankind as your tradition states, then the above fourth suggestion is entirely plausible. Of course if they were not "saints" and instead just ordinary selfish men, then the above fourth suggestion is not plausible.

David B.

I wonder how many people believe in God not because they think it true but because they fear that not believing would put them in jeopardy.

I wonder how many atheists don't believe in God not because they think He doesn't exist but because they fear what responsibilities they would have toward Him.

Which statement above gave reasons or evidence for its questioning of motives? Which really had any power in it?

Neither version did.

David B.

Ct,

Fourthly, even if his followers believed it to be untruthful or misleading, they may have, in some kind of misguided altruism thought it best to allow for this deception if they saw the value in the new religion in giving hope to the poor and oppressed and lifting the spirits of man to higher things

Few man have held to their a beliefs in the face of death threats even when they do know that what they believe is true. The opinion that any sane person could die for what they know to be a lie is absurd and unsubstantiated.

Do you know of any such case?

bill912

If Jesus knew He was not God, but still claimed to be God, He was evil to the point of being a devil of hell.

bill912

Well put, David.

CT

Sure David.

There are false flag terrorist operations where suicide attackers die in a way that perpetuates something which is not literally true out of their misguided belief in the value of their larger cause.

Also, there's no known case of any of claimed witness to Jesus' resurrection choosing to maintain his belief in it when given the opportunity to recant with the guarantee that recanting would lead to restoration of life and liberty. The fact that someone died because he was Christian or because he claimed to witness Jesus' resurrection is not the same thing as someone dying so while having had an opportunity to escape it by renouncing it.

bill912

My 6:17:49PM post give the refutes the second paragraph above.

David B.

There are false flag terrorist operations where suicide attackers die in a way that perpetuates something which is not literally true out of their misguided belief in the value of their larger cause.

I asked for an example of a sane person. People who murder others in the name of God don't count.

Also, there's no known case of any of claimed witness to Jesus' resurrection choosing to maintain his belief in it when given the opportunity to recant with the guarantee that recanting would lead to restoration of life and liberty.

The are many points in the NT where they Apostles could have saved their lives by answering questions the way their persecutors wanted. They didn't.

Moreover, if they were going to be killed anyway, why were they threatened, or given the chance to recant? Why did the baddies not off 'em quick as they could?

David B.

Another point: The Apostles made many claims about Jesus while many who would have witnessed the actual events were still alive, yet no one denied any of their stories about Jesus' life. They weren't accused of imagining His existence, or his actions. They were only attacked when they said that the miracles He preformed were done by the power of God and that He rose from the dead.


I won't be able to answer any more things tonight: I must heed the words of Benjamin Franklin. :-)

See ya'll soon.

Sleeping Beastly

@CT
It would seem that crediting Jesus with making an accurate prediction is akin to crediting Nostradamus with making an accurate prediction. In both cases, their respective followers come up with the prediction only after the fact. If Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead "over and over" he certainly didn't make that prediction clear to his followers since none of them expected it to happen.

The fact that Christians wrote down the Gospels after the Resurrection is not the same as saying that they "came up with" Jesus' words after the Resurrection. If you don't like to think that Jesus' words were words he actually spoke during his life, then you can say that parts or all of the Gospels were falsified. But your saying so doesn't make it so. It seems to me pretty unlikely that the synoptic gospels were all false accounts, but I can understand why you think the events described are also unlikely. This is why Scripture alone is never enough to effect a conversion. No one says Jesus is Lord except through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's much more likely that the followers of Jesus experienced a "risen" Jesus in terms of a sense of his presence.

Not sure exactly what this means, but I will agree that his disciples would not have been able to spread the gospel if they had not been given the Spirit on Pentecost. Is that what you meant?

It's not clear why anyone should worship the god that they "personally experience." Who is to say that the being that they "personally experience" is worthy of worship? In your bible a story is told of someone who has a personal experience of an angelic being and based on that experience begins to worship him. Then the angelic being tells him not to do so that only some greater being is worthy of worship. Well, who is to say that it is not the case that some greater being than the god you are familiar with is the one worthy of worship?

Good question. For one thing, God has never refused my worship; on the contrary, he was never satisfied until I gave it him.

I wonder how many people believe in God not because they think it true but because they fear that not believing would put them in jeopardy.

I have met people like this; most of them were born-again Protestants. I think this kind of thinking comes from the error of the sola fides doctrine. The error lies in thinking that you can control absolutely whether or not you are saved by choosing to believe or disbelieve.

While there is an element of choice in faith, the central factor in salvation is grace. Catholics don't believe that faith is, in and of itself, the determining factor in salvation. Salvation is ultimately up to God's discretion; he can grant saving grace to anyone he wants. This is why we can never be smug about our own salvation or despairing about that of another. God is perfectly capable of surprising us all. See Matthew 25:34-46.

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