Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims have the same God?

 photo edersheim_a_zpsxxc883eh.jpg

Alfred Edersheim

Due to Trump's antics this has become a big issue in Evangelical circles because it has theological implications.  I saw a post by famous apologist McGrath highlighting a blog by a theology professor who was discussing this idea:

Slacktivist blog  December 28, 2015 by

Here, again, is theologian Miroslav Volf, talking about the “same God” business that recently bubbled up due to Wheaton College president Philip Ryken’s ongoing efforts to Mohler-ize that school:
All Christians don’t worship the same God, and all Muslims don’t worship the same God. But I think that Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The referent is the same. The description of God is partly different.
Volf put this even more succinctly recently on Twitter, writing: “Xians & Muslims disagree about immensely important things about God, but they are disagreeing about *God*, not between gods, so to speak.”
The reason that Volf and other theologians are so emphatic on this point is because it relates to some basic and essential aspects of Christian theology. After all, if Wheaton’s Ryken and other white evangelicals are going to say that Muslims do not worship the same God because they’re not Trinitarian, then we’d also have to say that Jews don’t worship the same God. That would be a patently unorthodox claim that would have vast — and vastly horrifying — theological implications.[1]

In order to deal with the issue Christian theologians are breaking the question in two parts and dealing with the issue of  Jews and Christians first, so that is what I will do.

Jews and Christians

Of course Christians and Jews have the same God. This issue was never a problem for the Church. It was a problem for the Jewish segment of Christianity in the early days of the Trinitarian dispute, during the formation of the doctrine. Heggisepius tells us that there were Jewish-Christian groups that called Paul the anti-Christ and that did not accept the Trinity. Such groups receded into history and were probably assimilated back into Judaism.[2] The gentile Christians formulated doctrine's of God in the image of Plato's forms and rewrote the Hebraic aspects of the faith through Greek ideas. But it was supposed to be the same God. It was the redeemer of Israel (Messiah) Jesus claimed to be. That was the premise when Paul went to preach to the gentiles. The development of Christian doctrine was ad hoc, tackeling each issue as it arose. So they slowly began change to Greek idea. [3]

The gentile Christians had lost touch with the Hebrew theology and as they began to turn to Greek they created as doctrine that explains God in Greek terms, three peronsa in one essence, the Trinity. Unless you understand these concepts you can't understand the doctrine. That creates tye conflict because it necessitates that Jesus, a man (he was truly a man) shares essence with the divine, with God. That is the basis upon which Christians say "Jesus is God." That's the problem Jews have with Christianity (theoogically, pogroms excepted). Therefore the Trinity is one God; three identities belonging to one essence of deity. This is not three Gods; one God, one essence, one being, three identities. Beyond that, there are much more complex issues between the eastern church (which emphasizes Christ's deity) and the Western (which emphasizes his humanity--but not at the expense of his deity). We'll delve into these later. Deity of Christ The Trinity actually began as an attempt to explain Jesus' deity:

Many thinkers influential in the development of trinitarian doctrines were steeped in the thought not only of Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism, but also the Stoics, Aristotle, and other currents in Greek philosophy (Hanson 1988, 856–869). Whether one sees this background as a providentially supplied and useful tool, or as an unavoidably distorting influence, those developing the doctrine saw themselves as trying to build a systematic Christian theology on the Bible while remaining faithful to earlier post-biblical tradition. Many also had the aim of showing Christianity to be consistent with the best of Greek philosophy. But even if the doctrine had a non-Christian origin, it would would not follow that it is false or unjustified; it could be, that through Philo (or whomever), God revealed the doctrine to the Christian church. Still, it is contested issue whether or not the doctrine can be deduced or otherwise inferred from the Christian Bible, so we must turn to it.[4]

Trinity and Hebrew thought

They did not just change all at once. There are connecting links where Platonists influenced the doctrine but they were also Jewish thinkers. The major such example is Philo, a Jewish Platonist.

A direct influence on second century Christian theology is the Jewish philosopher and theologian Philo of Alexandria (a.k.a. Philo Judaeus) (ca. 20 BCE - ca. 50 CE), the product of Alexandrian Middle Platonism (with elements of Stoicism and Pythagoreanism). Inspired by the Timaeus of Plato, Philo read the Jewish Bible as teaching that God created the cosmos by his Word (logos), the first-born son of God. Alternately, or via further emanation from this Word, God creates by means of his creative power and his royal power, conceived of both as his powers, and yet as agents distinct from him, giving him, as it were, metaphysical distance from the material world (Philo Works; Dillon 1996, 139-83; Morgan 1853, 63-148; Norton 1859, 332-74; Wolfson 1973, 60-97). [5]

There is a basis for fixing the issue. There is appoint at which our understanding has to reach back to pre Greek days and draw upon Hebrew again, by the same token we must also be aware of a Hebrew basis (in principle) for some  kind of Trinity=like idea.The Trinity is n9ot in Hebrew scripture, nor is the doctrine f the Trinity patterned after Hebrew thought. Yet there is a basis for the claim that certain ideas in Hebrew scripture lend themselves to Trinitarian understanding just as the coiner of the term Trinity (Tertulian) was reaching back to Hebraic ideas when he thought of the concept.


There is a link between the Logos of John and the Hebrew concept of God's presence revealed in the world. The term used in the Tsrgamim is Memra. When they refered to it in Greek they called it logos.The Wisdom figure in Proverbs is translated with memra, but in Ben Sirach (an apocryphal work of 180s BC) Logos and Memra are both used interchangeably of this wisdom figure, which tells us that the Jews of that period thought of Logos as a term for Memra, God's presence.
As early as the first century A.D. interpretations (or paraphrases) of religious passages known as Targums, began to be written down in Aramaic for Jews who no longer spoke Hebrew. In the Targums the Jews used the Aramaic word memra meaning “word” as a personal manifestation of the presence of God. When Exodus 19:17 tells us that—“Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God” the Targums interpret this to mean that he brought them—“to meet the Word (memra) of the Lord.” When Psalm 2:4 declares—“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh” the Targums interpret it to mean—“And the Word (memra) of the Lord shall laugh them to scorn.” [6]
The Greek literally says "the logos became (transformed, turned into) flesh and pitched his tent among us." This refers to the tabernacle of God the dwelling place of God with humanity, and to the Greek conceptions of the soul, that the soul is in the body as a person dwells in a tent. The connection being, that the divine Logos became a human person, Jesus Christ. The context of the passages removed all doubt that it is Jesus under discussion. In v18 "one has ever seen God, but God the Only begotten son has revealed him to us." This is a literal rendering of the Greek. "God the Son." So here the Logos is linked to the Tabernacle, to God's presence among humanity, which will be crucial in examining the word Memra. Though logos is not related linguistically to sophia (wisdom) the associations between the Johanine Logos and the Sophia of proverbs is clear. "through him [Logos] were all things made, and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1, "let us make man in our own image). Prov. 8:27"...I was there when he set the heavens in place...then I was the craftsman at his side." Sophia began as the goddess of pagan religion, and naturalized and turned into a literary device, it became again the goddess of the Gnostic mythos, one of their abstract nouns used as a proper name.

Several New Testament scholars recognize a link between the wisdom of proverbs and the logos of John. For example,  Alice Lafferty.[7] The logos of John is, then, used in direct opposition to the docetic Gnositicizing Sophia.Helmut Koester argues that John's purpose is to write a Bibliography of wisdom. He concludes the anti-docetic aspects in saying "the word became flesh." The heavenly Sophia cannot have a biography, the flesh and blood Jesus can, and as such, God's wisdom is the subject of this biography.[8]

Logos is a Greek translation of the Aramaic word Memra [God's revealed will and wisdom] in the Targum [second century Aramaic translation of Hebrew Scriptures]. In his brilliant work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim lists hundreds of verses from the Targum Onkelos,in which Memra is used of God's presence itself!. In the same usage it also means The revelation of God.[9] Now these are entstances in which the writers of the Targumim (translations into Aramaic for use in worship services) translate other words into the word "memra." But these writers were Rabbis and they did understand their tradition and the Hebrew language far better than most Christian scholars ever will. ST. John applies to the Logos What the Targum understands of Memra.[10] (Edersheim, 660-62). Some groups, such as House of Yahweh, and Christadelphians, who deny the Trinity, try to argue that Logos merely means "plan." That Christ was merely merged with the divine plan. It's easy to see where they get the idea. From the meanings above where it means thought or reason. But this doesn't work because a plan is something formulated and set out, while logos means reason or thought more in the way that a thought is a message, or a spontaneous ongoing deliberation or reflection, logic itself. That's why I say that "Revelation" would not be a bad translation as in "message."

Edersheim complied an amazing list of several hundred instances of the use of Memra in Targimum translations:

(From Edersheim, p 663--partial list) Gen. 2: 8, 3: 8, 10, 24, ; 4: 26; 5: 2; 7: 16, 9:12, 13, 15, 16,17; 11:8; 12:17; 15:1; 17: 2, 7,10, 11; 18: 5; 19: 24;20: 6, 18;21:20, 22, 23, 33, 22: 1; 24: 1,3; 26: 3, 24,28; 27: 28,31; 28: 10,15,20; 29: 12; 31: 3,50; 35: 3, 9; 39: 2,3, 21,23; 41: 1, 46:4; 48: 8,21; 49: 25, 1,20;

Exodus 1: 21; 2: 5, 3:12; 7: 25; Lev. 1:1; 6: 2; 8: 35...

Examples: Gen 2:8 "Now The Lord God had planted a Garden in the East and there he put the man he had formed." (presumably Lord God is Memra).

Gen. 7:16 "And the animals going in were 2 of every kind as the Lord God had comanded."

(The original list is 16 rows long) The Notions on Memra and especially on the Kabala are very complex. Edersheim goes into it in much more detail. We do not have the space to follow this in that sort of detail. But I urge anyone who understands Hebrew and is familiar with Hebrew writings to get Edersheim's Book and read this section and contemplate it deeply. In fact I urge them to read and contemplate the whole book deeply.[11]

The Point of all of this:

1) John uses as the Greek for Memra.

Through looking at the way in which the Targumim translate certain words for God's presence as "memra," and the interchangeability of Memra and logos, we can understand the way that John used Logos in his Gospel; he used it in the way that the Targums use Memra. In other words, the logos is an emanation of God's presence.

2) Memra is the presence of God connected to emmination theories.

3)We can see the persona of the Trinity as emminations of Memra.

The emanation theories and the use of the term memra suggests an emanation theory of the Trinty. That is to say, we can translate the doctrine back into Hebrew terminology and connect it to the emanations of God. God manifests himself in stable eternal emanations which are roughly equivalent to the "persons" of the Trinty. We can see that clearly in the way the OT speaks of the Holy Spirit. Why speak of it? Why separate God form the Spirit of God so consistently? In passages like "I will pour out my Spirit" (Joel 2) there is clearly a distinction. We can also see as emanations notions such as the Shekinah glory which led Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and Pillar of fire by night and which rested upon the Ark of the covenant; the envelope of light surrounding God which shown as his glory. And in Memra, the downward revealing presence of God.

Kaufmann Kohler
Full Text 1906 version Jewish encyclopedia

"The Word," in the sense of the creative or directive word or speech of God manifesting His power in the world of matter or mind; a term used especially in the Targum as a substitute for "the Lord" when an anthropomorphic expression is to be avoided.

—Biblical Data:
In Scripture "the word of the Lord" commonly denotes the speech addressed to patriarch or prophet (Gen. xv. 1; Num. xii. 6, xxiii. 5; I Sam. iii. 21; Amos v. 1-8); but frequently it denotes also the creative word: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made" (Ps. xxxiii. 6; comp. "For He spake, and it was done"; "He sendeth his word, and melteth them [the ice]"; "Fire and hail; snow, and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling his word"; Ps. xxxiii. 9, cxlvii. 18, cxlviii. 8). In this sense it is said, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Ps. cxix. 89). "The Word," heard and announced by the prophet, often became, in the conception of the seer, an efficacious power apart from God, as was the angel or messenger of God: "The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel" (Isa. ix. 7 [A. V. 8], lv. 11); "He sent his word, and healed them" (Ps. cvii. 20); and comp. "his word runneth very swiftly" (Ps. cxlvii. 15). [12]
I don't expect Jews to say "ah there's no conflict after all." The issues is do we believe God would have manifested in the flesh as a man in history? But we are talking about the same God. There is a basis for theological discussion between Jews and Christians. We always have solidarity with any people or faith struggling against operation.

Please see my Trinity pages as they are voluminous. I deal with the Hebrew scriptural issue in greater depth:

Trinity pages on Doxa

More on Memra and Trinity

Please comment! Let me know someone read this thing! not on moderation.


[1]  , Slacktivist blog  December 28, 2015 URL:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2015/12/28/do-white-evangelicals-and-jews-worship-the-same-god/#disqus_thread  (accessed Dec. 28, 2015).

[2] Hyam Maccoby (1987). The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. HarperCollins. pp. 172–183. ISBN 0-06-250585-8. , an abridgement

The Ebionites said Paul was a renegade w2ho abandonded the law. They said Jesus was Messiah but rejected Trinity. There was a more radical group that said Paul was the anti-Christ, such as the /Elkesites. Hippolytus of Rome (c.230) tells us that  Alcibiades of Apamea, a Jewish Christian taught from a book, the Revelation of  Elkesai, he took his teachings to Rome.  see Gerard P. Luttikhuizen The revelation of Elchasai ,    : Mohr Siebeck 85 p216

[3] Joseph Hinman,  "The Trinity: An Overview:" Doxa.ws, URL:
http://www.doxa.ws/Trinity/Trinity1.html (accessed 29  Dec. 2015).
Of course this is my page on Doxa. The overview to my Trinity pages. I quote the Nicene creed to show it reflects the concept of essence and trace Trinitarian formations through NT and many early church fathers, the major one's leading to Nicaea.

[4] Dale Tuggy, "Trinity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

[5] Ibid.

[6]  Kyle Pope, "In the Beginning Was The Word: a Study of the Logos Doctrine. Ancient Road Publications. (November 2003): 10, Website, URL:

Pope is a fellow Texan Church of Christ guy, he's a C of C preacher (Amarillo, West Texas).. He also has "...M. A. from the University of Kansas (2000) in Greek and Latin. He taught Greek, Latin, and Classical mythology while at the University of Kansas. He has formally studied Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, and Coptic, and has informally studied other ancient languages."

[7] Alice Laffey, An Introduction to The Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective, Miniapolis,MinisotaFortress Press; Edition Unstated edition , 1988.

[8] Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, London, England:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark,  2nd prt  1992,  199.

[9] Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Vol. II., Grand Rapids, MI:Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1953, 660.
Edersheim was from a wealthy family in Germany who had him educated privetly from childhood. That used to be common for rich people in the 19th century, His parents had him trained to be a Rabbi from early childhood, He attended university and became a Christian, He wrote The Life and Times Of Jesus The Messiah at night in his bedroom while living in poverty and running a mission to the poor in London. Eventually he became professor and taught at both Oxford and Cambridge at the same time, He was one of the top Bible scholars of the 19th century. There used to be a website about him ran by his great great nephew I used to correspond with that guy.
[10] Edersheim, Ibid., 660-62.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaufmann Kohler, Full Text 1906 version Jewish encyclopedia, on line resource published by Jewish Encyclopedia,com URL

Kaufmann Kohler was a German-born U.S. reform rabbi and theologian. Wikipedia, One of the most important scholars in Reformed Judaism in American history.
Born: May 10, 1843, Fürth, Germany
Died: January 28, 1926, New York City, NY

Departments of Theology and Philosophy.)President of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio; Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth-El, New York.

Jewish encyclopedia did exist as a print resource published in 1906. I have been unable to find any publication data but there is a mention Britannica website: Britannica article mentions encyclopedia


Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wig and the Man: Reflections on a Satment by Keirkegaard, with apology to "Anonymous."

On Christmas Eve a couple of days ago I did a piece called "Christmas and the crucified God." It was received pretty well but it's the third time I ran it. The last time was Christmas 2013. Looking back at it that copy I noticed a comment that was ironic and heart breaking.

This blog, comments, Dec. 13, 2013:

I will admit that having read you for a while now I do get confused about a particular thing - most of your theology seems to be based around a more nebulous, all-encompassing, almost deist view of god (vs the big man in the sky) and metaphysical transitions that are only hinted at in the Bible narrative, which you normally regard as allegory and mythology. Yet at one point or another, you will make a statement that implies a commitment to the Bible as a literal document demanding worship, water baptism, sinner's prayer, etc. If you hit a slow point in your writing next year I would love to see an explanation of how you marry these concepts. For me, if you don't accept that there was a literal ark of every animal on earth riding the flood waters past Everest, I don't understand how you believe that you literally need to be dunked in water and repeat a litany to be metaphysically transformed into a higher form of being.

I really must apologize to this reader, even though he/she will probably never see it. I meant to do a thing on that and on all your comments but my brother died before I could get to it. That was devastating and I forgot. Then Moving beyond that point I got sick and haven't really gotten well to this day (still in rehab),  Although, I've made a lot of progress. I only need to get back to walking now. The root of it all was infection that was resistant to antibiotic, coming through my legs due to Vinous ulcer disease. I'm not really prepared to answer the full comments which were really more about theodicy. I should have pointed you to my theodicy answers on Doxa or religious a priori, I did talk of that on the blog before those comments were made. I want to focus here upon the section quoted above. Recently a friend  on my message board said that I was straddling the fence between the fundamentalism and liberalism.

It is also ironic what this person said about water baptism because I never said any such thing. That person must be from a church of Christ background because they believe in being dunked totally in water and they believe that is necessary to salvation. I certainly do not believe that, nor have I since about 1970. The ironic bit is I was raised in the church of Christ, became an atheist in high school and got saved in 79 at age 23. One of the first things I did when I got saved was to reject the church of Christ teachings, blaming them for my atheism. I don't blame them now but I still don't believe in the necessity of water baptism. I did get baptized again but only as a symbolic link with the traditions not because I thought I was lost without it.

In explaining my over all outlook I am reminded of a parable Kierkegaard tells. I turn back to SK because is foundational to my understanding of Christian intellectualism. He was about the first modern Christian thinker I read and I discovered him long before I went to seminary. There are two statements the first I can't find don't remember where he said it. The second I will foot note

First he says a native witchdoctor in Africa praying with fetishes who is in his heart reaching out to the true creator is a better Christian than the baptized church going businessman who is in church to make contacts. I think there is a whif of xenophobia if not racism but it was early 19th century. He was Northern European in the mid 19th century.

The second is told as a parable by John Climacus (SK's pseudopigraphal character) in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. [1] The story is retold here by another writer:

It is supposed to have happened in England that a man was assaulted on the highway by a robber disguised with a large wig. He rushes at the traveler, grabs him by the throat, and shouts: Your wallet. He takes the wallet, which he keeps, but he throws away the wig. A poor man comes down the same road, finds the wig, puts it on, and arrives in the next town, where the traveler has already given the alarm. He is recognized, arrested, and identified by the traveler, who swears that he is the man. By chance, the robber is present in the courtroom, sees the mistake, turns to the judge and says, "It seems to me that the traveler is looking more at the wig than at the man" and asks permission to make an experiment. He puts on the wig, grabs the traveler by the throat, and says: Your wallet – and the traveler recognizes the robber and offers to swear to it – but the trouble is that he already has sworn an oath. So it goes with everyone who in one way or another has a "what" and pays no attention to "how"; he swears, he takes an oath, he runs errands, he risks his life and blood, he is executed – all for the wig.[2]
What the heck is he saying? The parable is about a figure SK used several times, the master criminal, Why is he using a thief for the Christian saint or hero? Because the important thing is not the what but the how. What the hell? What and how represent for SK two aspects of Christian life, the outer and the inner. The What is the trappings of the outer display of religiosity; The how is the process of inner reflection and seeking that leads to true knowledge of God. The traveler misses the true identity of the crook because he's only concerned with the outward appearance. This is symbolic of the one who sees herself as a Christian  because she goes to church and takes part in Bible studies. That does not mean one should not do these things but those are not what make us Christians. It is not as matter of outward trappings of faith,

Why is he a master criminal? Because that's the misleading nature of a "what," What is he? A criminal. How does he go about being a criminal? He undoes his crimes and dies for the truth, At that rate is being a criminal important? What was the thief on the cross? A thief. He died for being what he was but how did he do it? By repenting via an expression of faith in Messiah. It's the inner reality of what is going on in the heart that matters.

How does this answer the question "Anonymous" asked me? Look at why the thief was willing to go to jail for the wig? Not because it is important in itself but because it's a vehicle for truth. For that reason it symbolizes something and it is what it symbolizes that is important. I don't regard everything in the Bible as symbolic. I think is a core to the Gospel and we need to find that core and stick to it because that it's all about. The core is about knowing God. All the other things like doctrines are just wigs. But don't forget, the thief died for the wig. It made me angry that Philipse wrote off liberal theology as "making metaphors" as though metaphor equates to "fiction." [3] There is something on the other end of the metaphor that's really there and it is really important.

How do you know what is core? That's another reason to keep the wig. Don't be fooled into thinking the wig is the point but it does symbolize something. There are previous generations who have been down these roads before. There are guides in the tradition. While we don't want to be stuck with the surface trappings we also need to keep the wig, One of the first things I learned about knowing God was the reality of God's presence, Here I refer you to my testimony on Doxa. God started off getting my attention with the reality of his presence, Then one of the most important and productive Bible sturdies I did was on the terms "knowledge" and "knowing" in the New Testament. That reinforces the concept that it's all about the reality of experience of God's presence and not just ideas on paper.

One such example is the passage in first John saying "he who loves knows God for God is love," That term for know is not the word one would use for factual knowledge but for first had knowledge. We know it because we actually experienced it, (ginosko). That raises the question why value the Bible at all? Thebo0ok tells us plainly how to find God. Why trust it? Have to start some where I was blessed in that I had the experience I talk about in that link, because I said calling out to God the one my parents told me about and I got an immediate answer that told me "here is the way." What does the book say>

First of all it says Jesus is the word, not the Bible. The Bible never mentions itself. It says in former times God spoke through the Prophets  but in latter times he spoke through his son, Prophets are the Bible. Jesus' words are in part of the Bible but they are not the book itself. The crucifixion the guy get's killed seems top be a fairly important part of the story. He raises from the dead seems even more important. That must be core. I could see them as just symbolic but since I know from  my experiences that God does stuff why should I take them as only symbolic? Sure the resurrection is symbolic but does that mean it didn't happen? It is a true symbol, A true symbol participates in the thing it symbolizes.

I think part of the reason Philipse just wrote off the metaphorizers is because postmodern theology has forgotten the core that Tillich and Pannenberg and the great liberals of the 20th century were into. Instead of wigs they have black shirts but it's the same thing, Philipse doesn't see a core because those guys don't have one. My core is Jesus.


[1] Kierkegaard's Writings, XII, Volume II:Concluding Unscientific Post Pcript to Philosophical Fragments. Preinceton NJ: Preceton University Press translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H Hong Princeton U P 1992, 610

[2] Sara Katrine Jandrup, The Master Thief Alias S. Kierkegaard, And His Robbery Of The Truth,
Fredriksberg, Denmark. M. A., Roskilde Universitets Center, PDF URL:
http://www.sorenkierkegaard.nl/artikelen/Engels/025.%20THE%20MASTER%20THIEF.pdf  (accessed 12/26/2015)

[3] Herman Philipse, God In The Age of Science, Oxford, London: Oxford University Press, 2012, 3

see my review

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Is Belief in God Maqgical Thinking?

 photo Relativity_zps62e63e9b.jpg

On Huff post there is an article by Matthew Hutson, author of The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking. The article is called "All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking." (Posted: 09/19/2013 8:32 pm).

In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people -- that they have thoughts and intentions -- to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it's there in everyone, even atheistic heathens like me. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural -- until now.

He presents a tour de force in the form of a bunch of studies that supposedly prove that religious belief is magical thinking. "In the November 2013 issue of Cognition, Aiyana Willard and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia report on the relative influence of three cognitive tendencies on three types of supernatural belief, as well as the role of cultural influence." This study supposedly shows that "cognitive biases explain religious belief."
 several studies show that people who think more intuitively are also more susceptible to magical thinking. One intuition that's been proposed as a foundation for religious thought is Cartesian mind-body dualism, the idea that a mind can exist independently of a body. (See chapter 5 of my book The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, "The Soul Lives On.") This proposition allows for souls, ghosts, spirits, and gods, all made of disembodied mind-stuff. Explanations for dualism include belief in free will and the mutual inhibition of brain areas responsible for pondering feelings and physics.
Of cousre that doesn't say that any of these studies show that religious belief is magical thinking. Instead they present a possibility based upon the notion that more intuitive people are susceptible   to magical thinking. So that says "if you are not careful you  might do some magical thinking." Nor is a link provided between being more intuitive and religious belief. Although I would not doubt that believers are more intuitive, but the lack of prevision of that link is telling.

There just brings up a bait and switch that the Aiyana and Norenzayan study is pulling off. They discuss their methodology:

We used a path model to assess the extent to which several interacting cognitive tendencies, namely mentalizing, mind body dualism, teleological thinking, and anthropomorphism, as well as cultural exposure to religion, predict belief in God, paranormal beliefs and belief in life’s purpose. Our model, based on two independent samples (N = 492 and N = 920) found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking. Anthropomorphism was unrelated to religious belief, but was related to paranormal belief. Cultural exposure to religion (mostly Christianity) was negatively related to anthropomorphism, and was unrelated to any of the other cognitive tendencies. These patterns were robust for both men and women, and across at least two ethnic identifications. The data were most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life’s-purpose beliefs. Alternative theoretical models were tested but did not find empirical support.
Notice that anthropomorphism is not linked to religoius beilef but they are going to use it anyway because it's involved in belief. In fact all of these things are descriptions of various overlapping historical artifacts form religious thought because it goes back so far in human history. Most of them have not been disproved, none of them are magical thinking. What's the link bewteen teleology and magical thinking? Teleology means an end goal,  so religious thinking is teleological if and only if it assumes there's a creator who has a plan that's being fulfilled. Why is that in itself magical thinking? It's just logical if there is a creator. Has teleological thinking been proved to always be wrong? No, of course not and it's logical if there is a creator. So actually they are just begging the question. They are assuming there can't be a creator so therefore anything connected with belief must also be connected with magical thinking. This probably goes back to the biases of anti-clerical prejudice, that religion is superstition. So they start with the assumption religious beilef must be magical thinking because it's superstition, thus they just look for typical aspects of religious thought (many of which are connected to ancinet religious texts) and assume it's all magical thinking. No psychological link is provided that proves that teleological thinking is magical thinking.

When he says "several studies" he links back to his own website for the book 7 Laws of Magical Thinking (he uses the number 7 rather than writing "seven" seems infantile). So his article is just a rehash of his website. What are these studies what do they really show? Those are the ones that supposedly show that intuitive thinkers are apt to be suckers for magical thinking if they are not careful, but does it access the percentage of the time that they are not careful? Can't we still check the results by our own logic and empirical data?

One such satment in disclosing these "several studies:"

Psychologists who study the origins of religion say belief in God relies on several intuitions, including a teleological bias (the assumption that certain objects or event were designed intentionally) and Cartesian dualism (the belief that mind can exist independently of the body). So to become an atheist one must second-guess these automatic ways of thinking. And recently a number of studies have supported the idea that belief in God is influenced by cognitive style–how much of a second-guesser you are.
Why is teleology "intuitive" any more than it is logical? If God is what you believe in then is it not logical to assume God has a purpose in crating? it's not prove that necessarily intuitive. Not that they link intuitive thinking with magical thinking. His comment about Cartsteian thinking is ironic since major aspects of atheist thinking is also based upon Cartesian thinking. E.O. Wilson's world view is largley Cartesian and he produced evolutionary psychology which is important to atheist thinking.

One such  study: paper published last year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by Amitai Shenhav studuents took cognitive reflection test and answered questions. This is so telling he says "The number of intuitive (incorrect) responses they gave on the CRT was correlated with their belief in God and immortal souls," so in other words intuitive means "wrong." How could one possibly study the validity of intuitive thinking when one defines it as "wrong form the outset? Moreover, they are judging it wrong because it's connected to God, is that not also what makes it "intuitive?" They are just running around in circles demanding that what they believe has to be true and using their baises as the basis for proof. When we look at the actual tests on the study (see link above) we find that the real way they administer it (reported badly by Hustson) was to compare math answers arrived at intuitively with the persons individual belief in God. They compared believers answers to non believers answers. We are infer that the believers missed more. Actually that would mean that intuitive thinking does not correlate to belief in God and that the better intuitive thinking is done by non believers. Why? Because they got more math problems right by intuitive means. That would destroy their link from intuitive thinking to magical thinking. Wouldn't it also matter what one used intuitive sense for? Perhaps intuitive sense is better at God finding than at mathematics. What if that's what it was made for? Massimp Pigliucci sights research and argues that intuition is domaion specific. Some things lend themselves to it and some don't. [1]  
Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)[2]
So in other words because they have some evidence that initiative thinking is part of the stronger religious belief that means that religious belief is produced by intuitive thinking which is mostly wrong and is magical thinking. There are a number of things wrong with that methodology. That's not the same as proving that religion itself is derived from intuitive thinking. That is not even investigating the logic that goes into it. Nor does it investigate the right answers in one's personal life that lead to believe, they don't even offer a theological measuring devices for such answers. Putting up a bunch of math problems is not valid. People don't arrive at belief by just saying "I sense that God is really there." There is a sense of God's presence that people  have and they are totally confusing that sense with 'intuitive' thinking,' they don't have it they don't know how it feels or works so they assume it's "intuitive." Moreover, the term "intuitive" can refer to different things. There's no link that the kind of intuitive thinking (guessing) about the math is the same kind done by religious thinkers.

 There's an article in N.Y. Times that illustrates scientific work depending upon and being  conformed by intuitive thinking. The article is a chapter form a book by Philip Lieberman, Eve Spoke, Human Language and Human Evolution.[3]  The book is based upon scholarly work.

Over the past thirty years my colleagues and I have studied monkeys, chimpanzees, infants, children, normal adults, dyslexic adults, elderly people, and patients suffering from Parkinson's disease and other types of brain damage. We have also examined the skulls of our fossil ancestors, comparing them with those of newborn infants and apes. The focus of these studies has been the puzzle surrounding human evolution. Why are we so different from other animals, although we are at the same time so similar?...In some deep, unconscious way we "know" that dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and other intelligent animals would be human if they could only talk. Intuitively we know that talking = thinking = being human. The studies discussed below show that this intuition is correct.
 This may upset young earth creationists, which I don't  mind doing, but it doesn't disrupt my Christian faith because I don't see evolution as a disruption. Nor does it disprove the existence of the soul because that depends upon answering the question "why is it we did evolve to talk and other animals did not? There are two points that refute Hutson's ideas: (1) not only does religious belief depend upon intuitive thinking of a kind (at certain points) but so does scinece as well. (2) this scientist thinks that the intuitive thinking is proved correct by the scinece. So intuitive thinking is not always wrong. Some studies backing this up have shown that the correct results of intuitive thinking, while not better than other forms of knowing, are not worse.[4]

 U.S. Navy reserach has yielded so much scientific data backing the notion that there is an intuitive sense that aids troops in battle that they started a program to teach troops how to be more intuitive.

 Research in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a "sixth sense" through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies.[5]
 Ivy Estabrook, program manager at the office of Naval Resarch, says, "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions."[6]

 Published in Popular source Sarah Moore form Alberta School of Business and colleagues from Duke and Cornell have produced research that proves that the first choice one makes is often the right choice. [7] That certainly implies an intuitive choice. While Trisha Greenhalgh discusses research that shows that intution is a valuable aid in medical diagnosis and that it improves with critical thinking about the process.

Intuition is not unscientific. It is a highly creative process, fundamental to hypothesis generation in science. The experienced practitioner should generate and follow clinical hunches as well as (not instead of applying the deductive principles of evidence-based medicine. The educational research literature suggests that we can improve our intuitive powers through systematic critical reflection about intuitive judgements--for example, through creative writing and dialogue with professional colleagues. It is time to revive and celebrate clinical storytelling as a method for professional education and development.[8]
 Not only is it not unscientific, not only can it assist in medical care, but it there's a large body of literature that shows it can be improved. How can it be improved (meaning the answers are right) if it's no good and it never works and it's just magical thinking?


(1) None of the studies demonstrate a real link between intuitive thinking and religious belief. They make an unsupported assertion that teleology and other quasi religious ideas are intuitive thinking. The closest thing to a link is one study that shows that believe was strengthened apart form family tie, but that does rule out logic, empirical data, discussions with friends and individual thought.

(2) The studies that claim to link religious belief with magical thinking are doing a bait and switch whereby the substitute intuitive thinking. They don't bother to consider the venue or the domain but merely assume that if intuitive thinking is wrong for math then it must be wrong for all things. They assume intuitive = magical, probably because they think belief in God is magic or supernatural is magic. Then they assert that since intuitive thinking doesn't work in one domain it work in any domain. Since that tag that as religious thinking then religious thinking is wrong. They actually prove nothing at accept that they are biased against religion.

(3) A vast body of scientific research disproves the idea that intuition is always wrong and doesn't work. It's not only backed by science it's part of science. I give examples of scientific work that is based upon intuitive thinking. It's not more special and unique to religious thought than is logic. Nor is it always wrong. The scientific reserach shows it has it's place where it's right, that including not only some scientific work but also medicine.


[1]Massimo Pigliucci, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life , New York: Basic books, 2012.

Massimo Pigliucci (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmassimo piʎˈʎuttʃi]; born January 16, 1964) is the chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College.[1] He is also the editor in chief for the journal Philosophy & Theory in Biology.[2] He is an outspoken critic of creationism and advocate of science education.

[2] Shenhav, Amitai; Rand, David G.; Greene, Joshua D. "Divine intuition: Cognitive style influences belief in God." abstract on line: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 141(3), (Aug 2012), 423-428 abstract on Apa Psychnet http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/141/3/423/  accessed 10/2/13.
[3] Philip Lieberman, "The Mice Talked at Midnight," except from Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, New York: W.W. Norton, published in New York Times, on line http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lieberman-eve.html  accessed 10/2/13
[4]AJ Giannini, ME Barringer, MC Giannini, RH Loiselle. Lack of relationship between handedness and intuitive and intellectual (rationalistic) modes of information processing. Journal of General Psychology. 111:31-37 1984.
[5] Office of naval research Basic Research Challenge: Enhancing intuitive deicsion making.
Solicitation Number: 12-SN-0007
Agency: Department of the Navy
Office: Office of Naval Research
Location: ONR
 accessed 10/2/13.
[6] Ivy Estabrook, uoted in Channing Joseph, "U.S. Program to Study How Troops Use Intuition," New York Times, Wednesday (Oct 2, 2013) story filed March 27, 2012, 5:09 pm on line
 accessed 10/2/13.
[7]Leon Watson ."why we are right to trust out gut intincts:Scientists discover First Decision is the Right One." Mail online updated 30 (August 2011)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2031848/Why-right-trust-gut-instincts-Scientists-discover-decision-IS-right-one.html accessed 10/2/13
[8]Trisha Greenhalgh, "Intution and Evidence--Uneasy Bedfellows?" BJGP:British Journal of General Practice. 52, (478) May (2002) 395-400. On line article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1314297/  accessed 10/2/13

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas and the Crucified God


This is my annual Christmas article. I have a guest article for friday and so I'll be off until after New Years. So I wish everyone a Mary Christmas!
Please Comment!!!

Christmas, God talk, incarnation, Jurgen Moltmann, Matthew Lamb, Solidarity with Victims, The Crucified God,

The Christian part of Christmas, that's the nativity scene with no trees or elves. That's the part you go to chruch to talk about. Show some mangers and some wise men and play the drummer boy song (eeeeee can't stand that son, p-rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum...enough already!) and you've done your bit for Christmas. I actually love Christmas, I like the manger and the baby and all that. Yet that is not what it's about. The entrance of Christ into the world in a lowly birth, worshiped by wise-men and heralded by angles and a star, those are nice folk tale elements. That masks what it's all about in the guise of cute fluffy heart warming imagery. Christmas is about the birth of Christ, God come in the flesh, and that signals to us the death of Christ; its meaning, it's end, it's un-final end and new beginning. The birth heralds more of the positive side of Jesus time in the flesh, his career, his mission, the promise and the possibilities. After all the angels said "peace on earth, good will toward men." How does that connect to a kid born in a manger?

Even with the positive possibilities of peace the birth hearlds the death and since we are compelled to think of both they both remind us of the meaning of Christ's mission and the reason for his coming. I used to read a book every Christmas, the same book. It was one of my all time favorite books; The Crucified God, by Jurgen Moltmann. The subtitle is very important: The Cross of Christ as the foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. That book seemed to most adequately sum up what the incarnation is about.

Motlmann was from the 60's to the 90's and maybe even up to the present was the greatest living Protestant theologian. He was best known for this book and his Theology of Hope. both of which served to dramatize and legitimize the theology of liberation and the struggles of Latin America. Moltmann's book is actually an argument for placing Praxis on the front burner of theology and leaving the dray musty doctrinal stuff on the back burner. Praxis is the idea of reflection upon material need, how to apply the lessons of theology in a practical way to people's needs.
To get to the core of the book and it's relation to Christmas, the argument goes like this: So what if Jesus was crucified? what's the big deal? There are much worse ways to suffer. Crucifixion is bad but it is far from the worst thing that can happen to you. So why was it a sacrifice, I mean after all he is God, what would it matter to him if he dies? And he got to come back."

First, most Christians try to answer this out of a need for piety. They do not give a theological answer, they give a pious one. The pious answer can't be undestood by modern people, they lack pious feelings, so it just makes it worse. The pious answer of course is to try and mount up the pain and make it seem so very much worse. O. Jesus suffered in hell and he suffers every minute and he's still suffering and he felt all the agony in the world. Of course it doesn't' really say that anywhere in the Bible. While I think this is true, and while my pious side feels the proper sense of devotion and gratitude to our savior for his work, we can't use this to answer the question because modern impiety can't understand the answer. They just hear us reiterating their hidden primes.
The other Christian answers are Propitiatory atonement, Substitutionary, or Moral government. These are the tree major ways of looking at the atonement. Propitiation means to turn away anger. This answer is also incomprehensible to moderns. God is so very angry with us that he can't stand the sight of us, he has to stick Jesus between himself and us so he will see Jesus and turn away his anger. This just makes God seem like a red faced historical parent who couldn't comprehend the consequences of his creation when he decided to make it. Substitutionary atonement says that Jesus took our place, he received the penalty our sins deserved. This comes in two verities. One is financial transaction, Jesus paid the debt. the other is closer to moral government, Jesus was executed because he stepped in and took the place of the guilty party. Both of these are also problematic, because they really allow the guilty to get off Scott free and persecute an innocent person. Again modern people can't understand this kind of thinking; you could not go down to the jail and talk them into letting you take another prisoners place. We can harp on how this is a grace so fine we can't undersigned it in the natural mind, and relapse into piety again singing the praises to God for doing this wonderful act, but it wont answer the atheists questions.
I realize that the view I hold to is a little known minority view. I know I'm bucking the mainstream. But I think it makes a lot more sense and  actually explains why there was an atonement. Before getting into it, however, I want to comment upon the atheist hidden premise. The explicit premise of the atheist argument is that atonement works by Jesus suffering a whole lot. If Jesus suffers enough then restitution is made. But wait, restitution for what? For our sins? Then why should Jesus suffer more than we do or more than our victims do? Why do atheists seem to think,  that Jesus must suffer more than anyone ever has for the atonement to work? It's because the hidden premise is that God is guilty and the atonement is the time God pays for his own mistakes. Jesus has to suffer more than anyone to make up for what God has done, in conceiving of us by creating us. The sickness of the modern mind can scarcely comprehend Christian theology now. I wonder if it isn't too late and we are just past the day when people in the West can really be saved?

I mean consider the idea that usually acompanies this argument: well he is God after all, a little torutre death cant' hurt him. In the old days, when we had a culture that ran on Christian memories, people said how great that God would do this for us when he didn't have to! Now the argument is "Of course he had to, it's the least he can do, after all I didn't asked to be born, so I'm entitled to whatever goodies I can get in compensation." That's why I think the hidden premise is to blame God; its as though they are saying God has to suffer more than anyone to make up for the suffering he caused as creator. This sort of attitude marks the disease of the modern mind.

In any case, my view is the Participatory atonement. It was embraced by several church fathers and modern theologians supporting it are mentioned below:

I.The Atonement: God's Solidarity With Humanity.

........A. The inadquacy of Financial Transactions

Many ministers, and therefore, many Christians speak of and think of Jesus' death on the cross as analogous to a financial transaction. Usually this idea goes something like this: we are in hock to the devil because we sinned. God pays the debt we owe by sending Jesus to die for us, and that pays off the devil. The problem with this view is the Bible never says we owe the devil anything. We owe God. The financial transaction model is inadequate. Matters of the soul are much more important than any monetary arrangement and business transactions and banking do not do justice to the import of the issue. Moreover, there is a more sophisticated model; that of the sacrament for sin. In this model Jesus is like a sacrificial lamb who is murdered in our place. This model is also inadequate because it is based on a primitive notion of sacrifice. The one making the sacrifice pays over something valuable to him to appease an angry God. In this case God is paying himself. This view is also called the "propitiation view" becuase it is based upon propitiation, which means to turn away wrath. The more meaningful notion is that of Solidarity. The Solidarity or "participatory" view says that Jesus entered human history to participate in our lot as finiate humans, and he dide as a means of identifying with us. We are under the law of sin and death, we are under curse of the law (we sin, we die, we are not capable in our own human strength of being good enough to merit salvation). IN taking on the penalty of sin (while remaining sinless) Jesus died in our stead; not in the manner of a premature animal sacrafice (that is just a metaphor) but as one of us, so that through identification with us, we might identify with him and therefore, partake of his newness of life.

.......B. Christ the Perfect Revelation of God to Humanity

In the book of Hebrews it says "in former times God spoke in many and various ways through the prophets, but in these latter times he has spoken more perfectly through his son." Jesus is the perfect revelation of God to humanity. The prophets were speaking for God, but their words were limited in how much they could tell us about God. Jesus was God in the flesh and as such, we can see clearly by his character, his actions, and his teachings what God wants of us and how much God cares about us. God is for humanity, God is on our side! The greatest sign of God's support of our cause as needy humans is Jesus death on the cross, a death in solidarity with us as victims of our own sinful hearts and societies. Thus we can see the lengths God is will to go to to point us toward himself. There are many verses in the Bible that seem to contradict this view. These are the verses which seem to say that Atonement is propitiatory.

.......C. Death in Solidarity with Victims.............. 
1) Support from Modern Theologians

.......Three Major Modern Theologians support the solidarity notion of atonement: Jurgen Moltmann (The Crucified God), Matthew L. Lamb (Solidarity With Victims), and D.E.H. Whiteley (The Theology of St. Paul).In the 1980s Moltmann (German Calvinist) was called the greatest living protestant theologian, and made his name in laying the groundwork for what became liberation theology. Lamb (Catholic Priest) was big name in political theology, and Whiteley (scholar at Oxford) was a major Pauline scholar in the 1960s.In his work The Crucified God Moltmann interprits the cry of Jesus on the cross, "my God my God why have you forsaken me" as a statement of solidarity, placing him in identification with all who feel abandoned by God.Whiteley: "If St. Paul can be said to hold a theory of the modus operandi [of the atonement] it is best described as one of salvation through participation [the 'solidarity' view]: Christ shared all of our experience, sin alone excepted, including death in order that we, by virtue of our solidarity with him, might share his life...Paul does not hold a theory of substitution..." (The Theology of St. Paul, 130)An example of one of the great classical theologians of the early chruch who held to a similar view is St. Irenaeus (according to Whiteley, 133).

..............2) Scrtiptural

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore burried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certanly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

.......In Short, if we have united ourselves to Christ, entered his death and been raised to life, we participate in his death and resurrection through our act of solidarity, united with Christ in his death, than it stands tto reason that his death is an act of solidarity with us, that he expresses his solidarity with humanity in his death.

.......This is why Jesus cries out on the cross "why have you forsaken me?" According to Moltmann this is an expression of Solidarity with all who feel abandoned by God.Jesus death in solidarity creates the grounds for forgiveness, since it is through his death that we express our solidarity, and through that, share in his life in union with Christ. Many verses seem to suggest a propitiatory view. But these are actually speaking of the affects of the solidarity. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if when we were considered God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! What appears to be saying that the shedding of blood is what creates forgiveness is actually saying that the death in solidarity creates the grounds for reconciliation. IT says we were enemies then we were reconciled to him through the death, his expression of solidarity changes the ground, when we express our solidarity and enter into the death we are giving up to God, we move from enemy to friend, and in that sense the shedding of blood, the death in solidarity, creates the conditions through which we can be and are forgiven. He goes on to talk about sharing in his life, which is participation, solidarity, unity.

.......D. Meaning of Solidarity and Salvation.

.......Jurgen Moltmann's notion of Solidarity (see The Crucified God) is based upon the notion of Political solidarity. Christ died in Solidarity with victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposely angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all victims of oppression. Sin has a social dimension, the injustice we experience as the hands of society and social and governmental institutions is primarily and at a very basic level the result of the social aspects of sin. Power, and political machinations begin in the sinful heart, the ego, the desire for power, and they manifest themselves through institutions built by the will to power over the other. But in a more fundamental sense we are all victims of our own sinful natures. We scheme against others on some level to build ourselves up and secure our conditions in life. IN this sense we cannot help but do injustice to others. In return injustice is done to us.Jesus died in solidarity with us, he underwent the ultimate consequences of living in a sinful world, in order to demonstrate the depths of God's love and God's desire to save us. Take an analogy from political organizing. IN Central America governments often send "death squads" to murder labor unionists and political dissenter. IN Guatemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escort the leaders of dissenting groups so that they would not be murdered.

.......The logic was that the death squads wouldn't hurt an American Student because it would bring bad press and shut off U.S. government funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focused on the Gospel. Jesus is like those students, and like some of them, he was actually killed. But unlike them he went out of his way to be killed, to be victimized by the the rage of the sinful and power seeking so that he could illustrate to us the desire of God; that God is on our side, God is on the side of the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, and the lost. Jesus said "a physician is not sent to the well but to the sick."The key to salvation is to accept God's statement of solidarity, to express our solidarity with God by placing ourselves into the death of Christ (by identification with it, by trust in it's efficacy for our salvation).

.......E. Atonement is a Primitive Concept?

.......This charge is made quite often by internet-skeptics, especially Jewish anti-missionaries who confuse the concept with the notion of Human sacrifice. But the charge rests on the idea that sacrifice itself is a prematurity notion. If one commits a crime, someone else should not pay for it. This attack can be put forward in many forms but the basic notion revolves around the idea that one person dying for the sins of another, taking the penalty or sacrificing to remove the guilt of another is a premature concept. None of this applies with the Participatory view of the atonement (solidarity) since the workings of Christ's death, the manner in which it secures salvation, is neither through turning away of wrath nor taking upon himself others sins, but the creation of the grounds through which one declares one's own solidarity with God and the grounds through which God accepts that solidarity and extends his own; the identification of God himself with the needs and cry of his own creation.

The Blogging Parson
Moltmann's theodicy is the great strength of this work, in that it directly engages the protest atheism of the mid twentieth century without negating the powerful emotional impact of its claims. We are returned to the cross as the heart of the Christian message repeatedly - it is no accident that Luther features so strongly and so positively in these pages. Further, the rigour of his penetrating search for the implications of the cross for God himself has led him rightly to the trinity, and stands as a rebuke to the western tradition for neglecting this understanding of God for so long. The atonement is necessarily a trinitarian event/process. The sense of God identifying with human beings in Christ is also very strong. Moltmann develops a theology of the atonement with a cosmic scope, and does not fall into the trap of individualising the work of the cross.

Moltmann's work turns out to develop a "Trinitarian history of God." This works through a dialectic through which God rejects the Son, then accepts the son, then raises the son to a hope and a future in which we can participate. This also raises a dialectical relation between God and man because the son becomes part of humanity then humanity becomes part of the son through adoption to sonship and participation in the future. Christ particpates in our life and We in his. That's quite a philosophical turn on for a German.

Blogging Parson again:
We might complain that Moltmann's doctrine of God suffers from an overdose of Hegelianism, by presenting the history of the world as God's history, the process by which he realizes himself. By rejecting impassiblity and divine aseity, does he allow a compromise of God's freedom? This having been said, is God still as impersonal as he ever was under the scholastics? Further, the God presented here seems almost dependent on, or at least intrinsically tied to, the world. His is a vulnerable God. Moltmann's trinitarian reflection leaves him open to the charge of tritheism - however, he more than responds to such a charge in The Trinity and the Kingdom of God; and he is recapturing a biblical emphasis, after all.
While the cosmic vision of Moltmann's theologia crucis is admirable, it says almost nothing about individual salvation - in fact, it almost non-soteriological. He describes God's judgement in the terms of the "giving up" of human beings to their godlessness, as in Rom 1 (p.242). The atonement is achieved not by any substitutionary work of Christ but by his identifying with human beings in their lostness, by solidarity with them. In the end, his panentheism leads him to a universalist model; and the preaching of the cross becomes a following of God's example in identifying with the lost and godforsaken.
This last criticism I think is valid on the surface. Mostlamann doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on individual piety I think the implications for the individual are obvious and it's up to the individual to step into a relationship with God. For me I find Chrsitmas can be a great way to do what but only if you overlook the commercial crap and read a book like the Crucified God..

Online copy of Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Belief in God rationally warranted: Argument from God Corolate

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This is the argument I make in my book (see side bar) but this version I used on Doxa before I thought about the book. The research is bolstered with studies I used in the book. I thought it's time I began discussing some of my best God arguments.

Decision Making Paradigm:

God Corrolate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisible man in the snow. You can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the world.The only question at that point is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? The answer is in the argument below. Here let us set out some general parameters:

We can set up criteria based upon what we would expect from encounter with the divine:

A. Life Transforming and vital in a positive life=affirming sense

B. It would give us a sense of the transcendent and the divine.

C. No alternate or naturalistic causality could be proven

These criteria are based upon the writings of the great mystics and religious thinkers of history, especially in the Christian tradition, and distilled into /theory by W.T. Stace. The theory is verified and validated by several hundred studies using various methodologies all of them published in peer reviewed journals. The following argument is based upon the findings of these studies. All of this, the studies, the methods used, Stace's theory, these studies and their methodologies are discussed in depth in The Trace of God: a Rational Warrant for Belief by Joseph Hinman, (all proceeds go to non profit) available on Amazon

Read much about the book on the Trace of God blog..


(1) The affects and effects of mystical experience are real in that they are measurably transformative in a positive sense.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explanations and the affects are real we should assume that they are genuine experiences of something transcendent of our own minds.

(4)Since mystical experience is usually experience of something, the Holy, the sacred, or some sort of greater transcendent reality we should assume that the origin of the experience is rooted in transcendent reality.

(5)Since mystical experience is usually about the divine we can assume a divine origin.

This fulfills the criteria for the trace: therefore, e are warranted in asserting that mystical experience is the trace of God, and this gives us warrant for belief in God.


Real Affects of Mystical Experience Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experience is only one aspect of religious experience, but I will focus on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious experience are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experience can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integrationm (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback


Gackenback website is Spiritwatch

"The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining charactoristics.


"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.

3)Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experince scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.



"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation" (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).

4) Incidence.



"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973".

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;

B. Empirical Studies show Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

(1) Studies Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.

Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

(2)Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

(3) Trend toward positive view among psychologists. Spiriutal Emergency MYSTICAL OR UNITIVE EXPERIENCE "Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation." (4) Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive. (Ibid) "Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".