Saturday, February 25, 2006

welcoming exotic visitors

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If the graphic comes out you can see the flag of Trinidad and Tabago. To be honest I had never herad of the place. It's off the coast of Brazil. I am honroed to have a viewer from Trinidad and Tabago, as I long to travel and this makes me feel connected to far away places. I am also happy to have viewers from the Coribian.That region is speicial to me since i was in Central America Solidarity movmeent.

As you can see the exotic visitors are down today, even though we have a couple of very exotic ones. But the day was avaerage for hit count, 41 unique hits.

Welcome, I hope you enjoyed it!


Can the Bible Be Trusted?

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This question was asked on CARM tonight. My answer: for what? For building air craft carriers? No not at all. The reason I answered this was because the question, when fleshed by the questioner, involved scientific information and literal historical information. This is an issue that come sup on these forums all that time: If there is a mistake in the Bible (i.e., any kind of inaccuracy = "Mistake") then the whole Bile is wrong and can't be trusted. Anther version of this that I find atheists and other skeptics using quite a bit is the historical inaccuracy or the cultural anachronism. There's a better version with failed prophesy. That's a bit understandable because one would expect a spiritual book to get the spiritual stuff right. In all of these the pay off is, if there is any "mistake" (discrepancy, inaccuracy) then the whole thing is no good. The corollary is we can't trust the Bible if there are any mistakes because the only alternative is to pick and Cohoes heat we like. Unfortunately the Christian apologists have bought into this too, fueled by their commitment to inherency. The Christian apologists believe the only alternative to total inherency of the text is "picking and choosing what you like."

On the face of it this seems like a reasonable question, can I trust the Bible? But the problem is it is too simplistic. For what are we trusting it? The permitters of trust in all three cases are empirical accuracy of a factual nature, science, history, and fulfillment of predictions. Why should we trust the Bible for those things? It's not a science text book, it's not a history text book, and prophesy is much more subtle and complex than some fortune teller's prediction game. We need to understand what it is we should trust the Bible to do, then we can answer the question. According to the Pastoral epistles Paul told Timothy all scripture is fit for reproach and correction. So Scripture is a corrective upon one's moral life, and one's spiritual life. Why would accuracy in science matter for that? The Bible was written over a long period by many different people. It's a collection of writings, and they are all made for different reasons. We can't just assume that the whole has only one purpose. The major purpose to which it is supposed to be put, however, as a canon of scripture, is doctrinal soundless and the bestowing of Grace upon the reader. Here I urge the reader to get hold of a copy of William "Billy" Abraham's ground breaking book Canon and Criterion. He develops this theme of Scripture as the bestowing of grace at length and allayers the tendency to turn Scepter into a form epistemology.

The tendency to turn the Bible into an epistemological system is understood by Abraham as one of the major hang ups of the faith since the Reformation. But skeptics and atheists have taken their que form the church which has taught this for centuries. The upshot has been to see the Bile as a proof text vouchsafed by its empirical accuracy, and that's the Christian's angle. The atheist angle is to compare that to scientific understanding in the modern age, show that the bible is lacking and dismiss it out of hand. The tendency toward a theory of inherency is the upshot of this epistemic kind of Bible. Warfidld and Draby, retreating form modernity, angry at Darwin, trying preserve what they saw as the truth of Scripture, understood the truth of Scripture in a literalistic fashion. Thus, Scripture must dements it's veracity by being right about everything and it must be right about things demonstrable. Of course I am lax not to discuss the contribution of Robert Boyle the latitudinarians before this, but that would be dissertation topic and I'm quite sick of that.

With this dichotomy between the epistemic Bible and the grace filled Bible we have issue of proof. I urge apologists not to torot out a bunch of poufs to show ha that edible is inspired. We are under no obligation to prove this. The Bible is the Scripture of a specialized community, those outside the community have no real right OT criticize it. Only if we are trying to prove it OT them that this matters. WE can prove it, but it works better rhetorically to let them come on our turf and argue the failures of the bible so we can defend. Much easier to defend against assertions of Biblical falsare than to prove inspirited status. Especially so when the rug will never accept one's notion of the thing inspiring it.

The answer is the Bible can be trusted to do the things its' supposed to do:

(1) Vouch safe the deposit of truth Jesus taught the Apostles and that was left to the church.

(2) Bestow grace upon the reader.

We test the veracity of the Bible by What it does for us in our lives. We test the veracity of the Bible by its ability to bring Jesus into our lives. This is what it means to bestow Grace upon the reader. We are not picking and choosing what we like, if we shed the verbal plenary concept. We use the historical critical method as a means of determining the base line so we always have a standard to work from. Christians have a bad habit of acting like there is a verse somewhere that says "this is the Bible, it is inherent, inspired, mistake proof a filled with hidden scientific facts that ancient people could not have known. Believe it all and have a nice life." There is no such verse. I say this from any persecutive. I could be a conservative Evangelical and make this argument: we do not have to prove the Bible by any sort of empirical test of veracity we need to be aware of the true purposes of Scripture and stop confusing our apologetical aims with the purposes of the Holy Spirit. We need to be aware of the true purses of Scripture and we need to understand historical critical methods so we can know the original intent of the authors.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Nature of Atheist/Theist Debate

One thing that bugs me to no end is the contrant atheist refrian "there's no evidence for god." What really gets me is people who deride my arguments. I sometimes feel like saying 'yea, but for God arguements they are pretty good." I mean come on, consider what they are. For proofs of nuceal fission they suck. But compared to other arguments for God they are pretty damn good. But I think atheists lose all criticial faculties and in the end are totally unable to think objectivley about God arguments.

I believe that it is not possible to be objective about evidence on a topic like this. Thus evidence is of no abail. We always conscutre evidence in likght of our pervious decisions about God.

There is a point to be made about the glass half empty/full. That usually is taken as donnoting pessimism or opimism but it goes with the atheist/theist debates too. If you can link that to pessimism/optimism I think it might be aprapoe. But be that as i may, the atheis sees the galss half empty, the theist half full. This is not meant in terms of negative/posative or pessimism/optimism but in terms of rational warrant. For the theist the warrant is rational if the chasim that the leap of faith must be traversed is half filled with warrant. But to the atheist the gap, however small, is isurrmoutable. Thus to the atheist there is no ponit in any warrent and the evidence is never adequate. To the theist evidence is more than adquate because they have already made the leap.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Can "Being Itself" be Personal?

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The fundamental problem in understanding the "personal" nature of the ground of being is that our understanding of the problem is backwards to the truth of the solution. We think of God as "a being" because we are laden with the big guy in the sky Even those of us who feel we know better cannot help but draw an analogy between God's mind and the human mind. We can't help but think of God as thinking a we do. This is just a symptom of a deeper aspect of the problem; our understanding of what it means "to be." We think of "being" as just an abstraction of the concept of the verb "to be." Thus we look around us we say "I see that I am, I see that this object before me [my desk, my chair, my cup of coffee, whatever) Is, thus these are examples of what it is to be. We habitually think of being as punctual facts, "I am therefore I have 'to be.'" So for us being is an abstraction of the fact of existing. There is more to being than just the fact of things existing. The fact that something is can't be personal, nor can it be a conscious person. The fact that something is can't have a will or volition and it can't love me or you. But there is more to being than just the fact that something is.

First, Being is also an act. We are engaging in this act right now, even if we aren't moving. Rocks on the field that never change their relative position, and the stars in the sky that seem to be the most solidly fixed objects (even though relatively they do move) are all egging in an act as they sit apparently "motionless." That is to be, and the act of being is engaged in second by second. Moreover, Being is more than an act. We are looking at being existentially, that is to say--according to its appearance to us as a fact pertaining to existence -- but there are other ways to look at it. Paul Tallish, on the other hand, said explicitly (in Systematic Theology Vol. I) that Being Itself does not refer to an existential fact but to an ontological status. What is being said is not that God is the fact of the being of some particular object, but, that he is the basis upon which being proceeds and upon which objects participate in being? In other words, since God exists forever, nothing else can come to be without God's will or thought; and since there can't even be a potential for any being without God's thought, all potentialities for being arise in the "mind of God" then in that sense God is actually "Being Itself." I think "Ground of Being" is a less confusing term. God is the ground upon which all being is based and from which all being proceeds. The acts of being in which our individual lives engage flow out of that one primary eternal act which is God. The thing doing the action is NTO merely a fact, not merely an act, but an actor, a consciousness with will and volition. This consciousness forms the basis for all that is. God is The ultimate framework of reality, In that context God is the ground of being, and as such, God's will and volition and consciousness, such as it is, forms the agency through which subsequent acts of being can be.

It is the basic tension between the limitlessness of being (the infinite) Vs the limited nature of our own lives, the context in which our act of being are played out, that evokes the sense of the numinous; the basis of religious sensibilities. In this way we form the basis of our own religious nature. Atheists try to understand religion through the lends of empiricism, they cast it in the role of a primitive failed science; for them, religion exists as a failed explanation for why things work. But Clearly religion is much more than that, as I have documented elsewhere, mystical exprnice is at the center of all organized religion. The only real reason to believe is if and when and because God seems real to us. God becomes a reality in our lives, not because we can explain things, not because we need a crutch, but because we experience the power and presence of God. What we encounter in that power and presence is love. Those who encounter the power of God as a reality in their lives usually experience a sense of God's love. This experience can sometimes be so strong that it carries them on to spread love into the world. But it is foolish to think of an impersonal form of love that has no basis in reality. Love must be personal or it is not love. A mere force of attraction like magnetism cannot be called "love" beaus the very term implies will. Love = the will to the good of the other.

Several theologians, Tallish among them, have noticed a link between love and being. Joel Gravure's summary of Hans Urs Von Balthasar's Retrospecitiveof his theology (1988).

The meaning of being lies in love, and knowledge is only explainable through love and for love. The will which exists in the object to open itself and the will which exists in the knowing subject to open itself in receptivity are the double form of the surrender which manifests itself in these two ways. From this follows the insight that love is never separable from the truth. Just as little as there could be knowledge with the will, so also truth is hardly knowable without love.

Garver on Balthasar:

He starts with the philosophical wrangling of humanity: we recognize our own fainted and contingency as well as the contingency of the world of things around us—and yet we are aware of being itself as something absolute and unlimited. Various philosophical and theological attempts have been made at explaining the problem of being.

Some (such as Parminades) have tried to say that all things are infinite and immutable being, while others (such as Heraclitus) have said that everything is movement and becoming. The Parmenidean solution—which is also that of Buddhism and neo-Platonism—falters since anything finite must be non-being, an illusion to be discovered, and the One is attained only through mystical experience. The Heraclitean solution must end in contradiction, identifying life with death, wisdom with folly. We are left then with an inescapable dualism between finite and infinite, contingent and necessary, and so on.

In other words, Balthasar recognizes the link between love and being. That link is also the basis of knowledge, but all attempts to reconcile the sense of duality that emerges from the realization, outside of the Christian God have failed. The Christian God solves the problem through the Trinitarian solution, because God creates out a desire but not out of a need. Through Trinity God is self sufficient, containing both the other and the self at the same time. Thus, love, being, knowledge and community all wrapped up in one thing, and their place in world flows out of God's disbursement.

The basic link between love and being is marked by Tallish and John Mcquarrie as well: for both theologians the link is the giving nature of both love and being. Both being and love bestow upon the other; being bestows the act of being upon the beings, and bestows "the good" (the will for the what is best) upon the other. Both are active, they are "on" as opposed to off. When we think about the most basic distinction between being and nothingness, that would be the distinction between "on" and "off." On would be positive, there, acting, giving out, participatory, existent. Nothingness is "off," not being, non existence.
Nevertheless, we tend to ground our understanding of what being is in our experiences of what it is to be. We structure our sentences in such a way as to indicate that any particular thing is just one of many things existing along side one another in creation. I say that God is 'necessary being' not "a necessary being," not because I forgot the "a" but because God is not "a being." He is above the level of any particular being that participates in being, but exists on the level of the Being, the thing itself, apart from any particular beings. There is Being, and there is "the beings." This is a crucial distinction, but it leaves one wondering what it means and how it could be. What is being said here is not that God is some magical form of abstraction, but that God is the first, and highest and only necessary thing that exists, and thus, had God not created, God would be the only thing that exists? Could one somehow ponder a universe in which God had not created, in which God was all that was, one might well ask "what is it to be in this universe where there is only God?" In such a universe the only conceivable answer is "to be is to be God." In that sense God is Being Itself. In other words, the sense in which God is "being itself" is the sense in which all being is founded upon God as it' source and origin. God is the gate keeper of being, the foundation of Being.

The question is, was God more than just a Spinoza-like "ground of understanding" for Tillich? My reading of Tillich sees him as patterning his notions after the great Mystics of the Eastern church and that of Mraciea Eliade. Some readings see it as more of an impersonal principle. God is the "unbounded condition," "being itself," and being itself can't be "a person." Instead, Tallich calls God the personal itself. In other words, God is the ground of the personal, he basis upon consciousness can be found in the universe. We should not expect to recognize God as "a person" in the sense that we are persons, not with personality problems, and a limited persecutive of isolation and epistemological uncertainties, but this does not preclude the conscious. God would contain the basic structure of consciousness and thus would be able to have volition and personal awareness. This goes back to the problem with the way we understand being. Just as we think of being as the momentary individual instance of an existing thing, we think of consciousness as only the by product of an individual Brian for an individual organism. If consciousness is a basic property of nature than it might be "ground up" and shared by all "the beings" in differing degrees. In my own reading of Tillich's high theological parlance, and it's a matter of decoding a very dense set of terms, they do not so much reveal an impersonal foe as God, as they reveal an apophatic approach to understanding a view of God that embraces the mystical and cannot be defined according to human logic.This is similar to the Buddhist notion, Tillich's God is "neither a person nor a non person" (Buddhist = neither mind nor non-mind).
In answer to the question "can Being Itself Be understood as 'a personal being?" "No," because Being Itself is not "a being" and is not personal in the sense of human finitude. Now, does that mean that "it" (God = Being Itself) can't will, can't be motivated by volition and can't love? Tillich's view would allow for all of these, that Dionysius' view, that of Augustine and Luther and many others would allow for these things. God does love and does will. Tillich's langauge, while not really apophatic in the traditional sense I think is functioning in that way, rather than just being merely equivolcal. We cant' expalin everything. It would be foolish to pretend to explain everyhthing. Any theological view must speak to the faith concerns of the day without pretending to make God transparent. To that end Tillich must have a view which works within the mystery, and while shedding light, doesn't try to expose the mystery itself.He makes the point (Systematic Theology vol I) (p240) that religious symbol "has nothing to do with the empirical assertions involved in it, be they physical pschological, or historical." He goes on to say that a religious symbol must express a corrolation between the relation of the symbol and the thing it symbolizes and it is true if it adequately expresses the relation some person with final revelation. "Religious symbols are double edged, they are directed twoard the infinite which they symbolize and toward the finite through which they symbolize it." But than he says: as an example of the above, "If God is symbolized as father he is brought down to the relationship of father and child, but at the same time this human relationship is consecrated into a pattern of the divine human relationship."Than he begins to examine basic qualities or attributes and how they fit his notion of symbol.

"The basic ontological structure is transcendent in the divine life without providing symbolic material. God cannot be called a self, because the concept of self implies seperation from everything that is not self. God cannot be called the world even by implication. Both self and world are rooted in the divine life, but they cannot become symbolic for it...But the elements which constitute the basic ontological structure can become symbols because they do not speak of kinds of being (self and world) but of qualities of being which are valid in their proper sense when applied to all beings and which are valid in their proper sense when applied to Being ITself..."

Furthermore, he goes on right after this, still expliaining how these ontological forms can work when God trasncendes them, still speaking of the problem that God is not a person, but is he the ultaitme person itself, and he says:

"The Solution of the difficulties of the phrase "personal God" follows form this. Personal God does not mean that God is a person, it means that God is the ground of everything personal and that he carries within Himself the ontological ground of personality.He is not a person,But he is not less than personal"...and goes on... "God is the principle of individuation as well as the principle of participation.The divine life participates in every life as its ground and aim. God participates in everything that is..."(Ibid, 245)


HOw can being itself be consciuos, or "personal?" Being itself is more than just the fact of existence and more than indivudal act of existence, it is also the source of existnece; it is the foundation or basis upon which thigns come to be. That source is the personal itself, the bassi of consciousness, which is a basic property of nature. The nature of God's consciousness would ot appear as personality to us. We cannot be sure that God diliberates or indulges in ratiocentination, but can be relatively sure that God seeks to fulfill a will and a volition.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Welcoming Exotic Vistors

Country Name

United States

United Kingdom







United Arab Emirates

Notice the UAE and Jamaca! I think we have had UAE reders before but not Jamaca! I am always so thrilled to know that people around the world are reding my blog. Hope you all enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Traces of God

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An argument was raised on CARM tonight that seeks to reverse the design argument. It does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non existence of God. If it is illogical to reason form the old to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God. For this reason I swore off design arguments years ago. I have violated that oath twice, but for good reason (I'll get to those in a minute). In any case, there is a great deal wrong with this argument, and in figuring up all the many problems I see it I began to think of two things:

(1) Perhaps it would be instructive to delineate the cases under which one can argue from the state of the world to the existence of God.

(2) In pondering this question, I began to think about perhaps what might be the ultimate God argument.

The problem is that really if you think about it almost all probabilistic arguments are really arguing from the state of the world to the probable existence of God. But somehow this seem less drastic in some cases than other. I know there are those who just turn off at any kind of God argument. But for us consolers of God arguments, this should be a thorny issue. after all, what's the real difference arguing form the contingency of the world, and arguing from the design of the world? Well, off hand the real difference is that one can be compared TOS something, the other can't. That's one of the major problems with this atheist argument, which was advanced at one point by Richard Carrier before begin brought up by others on CRAM recently.

The argument says if we were to consider a random universe that came about by accident, you couldn't do better than our own. It really looks accidental. Life is precarious and rare, the universe is very hostile to it. It's vast, far more vast than it has to be. On the one tiny oasis we know of where life took root Dan blossomed into something as glorious as Richard Carrier's ego, we have no really obvious clue that God exists. If we were to condor what a puroespful logical creator would do we should expect sign sots to his existence everywhere, right? Well, maybe. maybe not. That's the problem the argument is nothing more than begging the question. It assumes we know what God would do, and after constructing a straw man God who behaves the way we want him to, we just assume we know what he would do and than access the tragic fact that it hasn't been done. So by golly, there must not be a God, because this non God doesn't' follow my advice! Of course the model for his straw God is fundamentalism. no, Athens are so afraid to take on liberal theology honestly, but it's because they are all secretly fundamentalists.

The difference in this argument and one that actually has something to compare, a base line fro which to work, should be obvious. The atheist who argues for Carrier's idea mutt forge his own base line by setting up a straw man (um, God) and then priviliating his assumptions about the nature of religion in such a way that he just pus the possibly of any other kind of theology. That's not a real comparison. The fine tuning argument can compare fine tuning to lack thereof. The contingency arguments (qualm and other forms of cosmology) can compare contingency to necessity. Religious experience arguments are drawn from the results of experience, they compare experience to non experience. The two instances in which I do use design arguments are those in which comparisons can be made between the nature of the world and state of existence know to lack that attribute as known non designed reality; the use of the "God Pod" as evoking innate ideas. We can compare reactions to God talk to other kinds of talk and see that our brains only react to God talk in the way that they do. Thus we can compare the innate ideas of God to reactions to other ideas. The other instance is the fine tuning arugment,which has already been explained. But the Carrier reverse design argument has nothing to compare except Richard's ego. With that as the standard for assumptions, we have no basis upon which to draw conclusions about the nature of God format he state of the universe.

This argument does have one other troubling application. It could be a "possible defeater" for proper basically. To be properly basic an idea must be logically apprehended as it is, with no possible alternative explanations, or as Quoin called them "defeaters." The argument is a possible defeater only if we understand it to be indicative the kind of universe God would not make. But we can't make that assumption beaus we can't pretend to know all the things God would do. Once can find many alternative theological explanations that involve both Evangelical views of God and non Evangelical views. The most obvious non Evangelical view is that of process theology. The atheist can only think of God as a big man upstairs. This is the basic image they rebel against. The will of the father is their Kryptonite. They foresee a big man on a throne who decides and deliberates such a potentate wants to be served, they reason, and thus must make a universe in which know he is there. So we should expect the universe to smaller, easier to navigate, easier to understand, filled with sign posts of God. No disease, no problems and everyone automatically given tons of faith so the world would be a paradise. If some serpent spoiled it, it should be put right immediately so that we can go on in our little praesidia, where no doubt we get to listen to Richard Carrier directing the chores of angels.

The God of process theology, on the other hand, is more like the Helena dialectic, or like some organizing principle. This is not a God deliberates and decides. this is a God who is potential in one realm, and who micro manages (literally) creation in the other; almost a law of physics, changing with creation, bringing subatomic particles into being and ushering them out of being. This is more of a stage director in the play of the universe (and in other dipolar structure stage director and producer) than a big king on a throne. Such a God would start the process of life and allow it go where it will, then embrace (to whatever extent possible) any beings that evolve sufficiently to come up to its level.

Another version would be my own idea of God as being itself (Toilet's idea--but my version of Tallish ideas). This version of God is much like the process God, but I fell that God is too sacred a mystery to pin down to dipolar structures or to analyze all of "his" ("her," "its") doings. God is the great wholly (Holy) other. WE cannot know except through mystical union what God is doing. But such a God is the basis upon which being proceeds into concrescence and the basic reality of the Platonic forms. Such a God does not design or make plans, but the whole of creation is a non deliberating plan in the sense of being an expression of God's charter indwell; yet not necessity the result of raciocentination. Thus God starts a principle of life emerging from the nature of being, because that's what being does it spreads the beings, it "let's be" (John McQuarrie). The evolutionary course that is followed may be assisted in an automatic sort of way, not as a plan, not as a deliberate gesture, but as the result of a nature that has to manifest itself creatively. This being doesn't' say "I will make men, and men will serve me." But men evolve out of the storm and the wastes of the abyss and they naturally come to find God because theta's he nature of beignet is there to be found in the sense of the numinous. When humanity reaches a point where it comprehends the numinous, to seeks God and finds God.

Humanity finds God in a million different places. It finds God in flowers and trees, in brooks (and in books), in grass, in each other. It finds God in storms and scary things, and in the night. It finds God in the sky and the stars in the darkness of a vast and endless expanse. It reaches out for what is there because it has been put into it to do so; not because God sat and said "I will make men and men will seek me" but because God provided for the reality of the Imago Dei to evolve and develop in whatever species reached the point where humanity has come to. God did this automatically as an aspect of self expression, as an outgrowth of consciousness. This kind of God would make a universe of the type we see around us. This type of God would also place in that universe hints so that whatever species reaches that level that God's manifestation would be waiting to show them God's solidarity with them. God would plant a thousand clues, not as a matter of deliberation like one plants Easter eggs, but as the result of being what God is--self communicating and creative. Thus we have design arguments and fine tuning arguments, and contingencies and necessities and the lot. We can find the God Pod in our heads that lights up when it hears God ideas. We can do studies and determine that our religious experiences are better for us than unbelief, because the clues are endless because the universe bears the marks of its creator.

Yet these marks are sublet for a reason. This is where the Evangelical view of God can also be a sophisticated view. The Evangelical God can also be the God of Tallish and the God of process, after all, these are all derived from the same tradition and the Evangelicals have as much right to escape anthropomorphism as anyone. The Evangelical God seeks a moral universe. This God wants believers who have internalized the values of the good. We do not internalize that which we are forced to acknowledge. Thus God knows that a search in the heart is better to internalizing values than is a rational formally logical argument, or a scientific proof. Thus we have a soteriological drama in which we can't tell if there is or is not a God just by looking at the nature of nature. That must remain neutral and must illud us because it is not given to us to have direct and absolute knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is a privilege. We must seek it through the heart, that's where it isthmian to be found. It's a privilege but faith is a gift.

Natrue of the Atonement

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The following essay is from DOXA. I put it up because tonight on CARM I ran into an argument I've seen a number of times, but not until now did it dawn on me why people make it. I suddenly realized so few people understand why there was an atonement. The average Christian understanding is so screwed most of them can't explain it to another person. This is reflected in the answers to this argument.

The argument goes like this: So what if Jesus was crucified? what's the big deal? There re much worse ways to suffer. Crucificition 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."

Now this is incredibly ignorant, but it occurs to me there re some resins for this kind of chaotic thinking, b ut also one big hidden premise. Before launching into that analysis, however, I would like to comment on the inadequacy of Christian understanding.

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 beundestood 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 si true, and while my pious side feels the prier sense of reversions Dan gratitude to our savior for this 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 t moderns. God is so very angry with us that he can't stand the sight of us, he hats o 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 Jesus took our place, he received the penalty our sins deserved. This comes in two verities. One is financial translation, Jesus paid the debt. the other is closer to moral government, Jesus was exiducted 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. The thing is in real Fe 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 actuals 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 antes seem to think, as was argued on CRAM tonight, 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, inconveniencing 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 entitaled to whatever goodies 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 caued as creator. This sort of atttitude is very troubling.

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 analogus to a finacial 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 inadqueate. Matters of the soul are much more important than any monitary arrangement and buiness transactions and banking do not do justice to the import of the issue. Moreover, there is a more sophisticated model; that of the sacrafice for sin. In this model Jesus is like a sacraficial lamb who is murdered in our place. This model is also inadequate because it is based on a primative notion of sacrafice. The one making the sacrafice pays over something valuable to him to apease an angry God. In this case God is paying himself. This view is also called the "propitiatior view" becuase it is based upon propitation, which means to turn away wrath. The more meaningful notion is that of Solidarity. The Solidarity or "participatry" 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 inthe mannar of a premative 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 verious 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 charactor, 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 cuase as needy humans is Jesus death on the cross, a death in solidarity with us as victims of our own sinful hearts and socieities. 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 preipiatory.

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 ouselves to Chrsit, entered his death and been raised to life, we participate in his death and ressurection thourgh our act of solidairty, 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 thorugh 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 cretaes the grounds for reconciliation. IT says we were enemies then we were reconciled to him thorugh 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. Chrsit died in Solidarity wiht victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposly angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all vitims 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 ourselve up and secure our condiitions 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 ultiamte consquences 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 Guartemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escourt 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. govenment funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focussed 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 vitimized, 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 Primetive Concept?

This charge is made quite often by internet-skeptics, espeically Jewish anti-missionaries who confuse the concept wtih the notion of Human sacrifice. But the charge rests on the idea that sacrafice itself is a premative notion. If one committs 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 premative concept. None of this applies with the Participatory view of the atonement (solidarity) since the workings of Christ's death, the mannar in which it secures salavtion, is neither through turning away of wrath nor taking upon himself other's sins, but the creation of the grounds through which one declairs one's own solidarity with God and the grounds through which God accepts that solidairty and extends his own; the identification of God himself with the needs and crys of his own creation.

F. Unfair to Jesus as God's Son?

Internet skeptics sometimes argue that God can't be trusted if he would sacrafice his son. This is so silly and such a misunderstanding of Christian doctirne and the nature of religious belief that it hardly deserves an answer. Obviously God is three persons in one essence, the Trinity , Trinune Godhead. Clearly God's act of solidarity was made with the unanimity of a single Godhead. God is not three God's, and is always in concert with himself.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

ATheists and The Laws of Physics

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Atheists cannot have a God. But many times I've seen atheitss propose that the laws of phsyics are eternal and they are what caused everything. This really sort of casts them in the role of the God that I serve. But you know what they dont' seem to understand is that they cannot have a competing god figure. It is not enouigh fo rthem to just not have the god of the Bible. They can't have anykind of God at all.

There is also another place where they are actually arguing for my position and think they are disproving my arguments. They seem to argue that nothingness could not have been a prior state to the univrse. But that's exaclty my point in speaking of a state of total absolute nothingness. I never argue for nothingess as an origin, my whole point has always been that nothingnes as a putative stae of affairs is impoissible. But they seem to think they disprove this when they, as Hans in anotehr thread, blurt out "nothingess is not possible as an origin."

In the same fashion they are actually proving my God argument no.3 when they propose the laws of physics as an erzots god, or as a competing god figure. Because my whole point in that argument is that prior to the universe's existence, the laws of phsyics can't be haning about in some abstract Platonic realm. That is most unmaterilaistic and if they think that they certianly have no room for sketpicism about God. But where else would laws of physics hand out? What are these laws but transciendnetal signifer? That's God. These laws of physics are God in every since in which I've argued for God:

(1) eternal

(2) necessary

(3) creative

(4) free in their volition (since they apparently would not be determined by some higher set of laws or the contingencies of a universe that didn't exist).

where else would they be but a mind? Given my Platonic background, would saying that they are in a Platonic realm really be so different than saying that they are in the mind of God?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

You Can't Make That Argument Until You Prove it

There are two really silly debate ploys that people sometimes use. I don't say they are peculiar to the atheist camp, but since I am more familiar with their arguments, than those of creationists, for example, I will use them. My aim is to raise consciousness about these fallacies in an attempt to get people to stop using them.

these two fallacies exist in an interchange, a sublational interplay where one builds upon the other.

The two fallacies are:

(1) privileging one's own position

(2) Truth by Stipulation.

As it turns out the kids who offer the $500 to prove Jesus existed employ no. 1 fallacy in spaces. They have erased the comments but before they did so they informed one commencer that he could not use Raymond Brown as an authority because Brown was a priest. It's just so obvious that a Priest is not objective, and they said explicitly that no one with a theology degree could be used. What's really buzzer is that they themselves use religious thinkers all the time, and they use them to support their own views? It has not yet dawned on them that they are quoting liberals and that liberals have the own faith. One striking example of this is their use of Bualtmann. They even declared "Rudolf Bluesman is a non Christian." The reason they thought he wasn't a Christian is because he doesn't take the Bible literally. So they know so little about theology they dot' even know that there is a liberal wing of the theological world. All they know of Christianity is the funds, and yet they are so sure they know all about it, so much so that they can dims Ray Brown as "subjective." Rayon Brown is one of the top textual critics in the world, or he was before his death (1998). But they wont allow him in the discussion because he was a priest. As though this immanently rational scholar just goes gaga when he sees the Bile, but he can still learn Greek, decipher manuscripts in ancient script, do hard textual criticism, but somehow his judgment is so impaired that he's just out of control.

I made the same mistake in my youth, so I cannot judge these guys too harshly. Stung by an encounter with a preacher who taught at a local preaching school, who wiped me out in a debate with the use of Josh McDonnell (I was fresh out of highschool and McDowell'sEvidence that Demands a Verdict was still pretty new), I went in search of Biblical scholars who would counter McDowell. I discovered Brunet Hillman Strutter. Strutter published The Primitive Church in 1924, he was killed in a plain crash in India in the 40's. He was the cancan reader at Cambridge in the 20s-40s. One of the finest scholars of the early part of the 20th century. Streeter was a liberal of his day, meaning, a ninetieth century style liberal. He did, however, have a strong faith which manifested itself in mystical consciousness. He even found Saudi Sunder Sing, an interesting case of Christian mystic who had grown up a Ski in India and had a Damascus Road experience in which Jesus spoke to him out of a great light. Streeter was very impressed with Sing and cultivated a friendship. I was heartened to find his book on the Primitive Church. He seemed to tear the Bible to pieces. Little did I know he loved the Bible, he was not tearing it at all but merely preparing the reader to read it intelligently. The Primitive Chruch rapidly became one of my favorite books.

One day as I read Streeter I came across a statement he makes in which he declares his faith and speaks in a devotional manner about "our Lord." I was stocked! he was a believer after all! How could this be? He tears the Bible to pieces. He even say it has mistakes in it. He must be mad. That was when I realized there's a lot more to the theological world than I realized. It's not all just a matter of Christians are stupid fools with simplistic little zombie brains and atheist are all smart little bastards like me (as I was then). That realization was truly schocking to me, and it was one of the first stepping stones that put me on the apth to conversion. But some atheists, the less adapt at argumentation, have learned to privilege their position, and they do so in such a way that the create a simplistic formulation along the lines of their own ideological conceits: objectivity is good, our side is objective. Subjectivity is bad, their side is subjective. We good, they bad. That privileging is seen at work creating a king's x to rule out the use of any epistmic authority of scholarly expertise that would coition against their position. In this sense fallacy 1 bleeds into fallacy 2 as it becomes truth by stipulation. The privileging of the position works itself into truth by stipulation.

We can see this dichotomy of privilege at work in the exclusion of the NT as any sort of artifact in evidence of the historical Jesus. The atheist community (SEC Web, infidel guy) have it down to a point where the New Testament, especially the Gospels are almost irrelevant to any discussion of the historical Jesus. Once the potentates of mediocrity at the SW decided to declare the Gospels fictional (truth by stipulation) they just wiped out any need to use them. Any references to them are just met with the magical king's X, this is wiped away because we declare it to be fictional and end of comment. A snowball effect occurs whereby the privileging leads to stipulating and the stipulating undergirds the privileging. Before long they just ignore anything any Christian has to say. We see this already happening in the exclusion of any priest or anyone with a theology degree. Of course their ignorance binges theologians back into the picture but only because they are haplessly unaware of their own fumbling. How cod anyone logically fight such a syndrome? If we try to play the same game and stipulate our side it's just mattress taste in conflict. If we try to remain steadfast to the scholarship they have that ignored and it doesn't matter to them. So little by little they cut themselves off from any rational discussion. How ironic for the children who call themselves "The Rational Response Squad." Those are the one's offering money to prove that Jesus existed. They could save their money and read my historical Jesus pages, but we will let them find that out for themselves.

Fallacy no two I have seen employed in many ways at many times. It was most recently employed at CARM in arguing about religious experience studies. But I have it used a lot in every God argument. I called this "truth by stimulation" but it works in a particular way. It works out to be truth by stipulation, but it begins iwht the assertion "you can't make that argument until it is proven." I first encountered it in making a God argument. The atheist says 'you can't start an argument by referring to God because that's assuming God exits.' I say "but this argument is an argument to prove God exits. So how do I speak of God in order to prove he exists," "you can't, you must first prove he exists, otherwise you ear begging the question." I swear that's what he said. It destine' take a rhetorical genius to see that if this is taken literally or seriously one can never make an argument. To make an argument one must first make it, then the making of it proves something. But how can you prove an argument before you make it? But the fact is, that's what these guys want. They want a cheap way to shut up talk of God because they know they can't go toe to toe on the logic of God arguments. That's why God arguments are back. So this position works itself out to be a stimulation, "there is no God" period, no need for proof, that's just the way it is. That means you can't begin a discussion about God becasue even to prove God that would beg the question.

Both of these fallacie are arrived at from a basic starting point in the subject/object dichotomy. That starting point is one of fear. These people fear anything subjective, so much so that they have to plac themselves in a strick postion of stiulation that no subjectivity must ever cross thier path. Of course they privilage their own guys as good and objective. That means that they use their own sbujective taste to affirm the objectivity of their camp. AS it turns out their critical principle is nothing more than supreme arrogance. This kind of atheist, I shall call them the stiulationists, assert their view point based upon the assumption that all knowledge is empirically derived and inductive. Thus only objective observation can be used to understand knowledge. Subjectivity has no plac ein knowledge, because knowledge must be absolute. There is no room for error.

Of course the amuzing part is, they have no objective data for any of their views. They are so horrably subjective they dont even know that there are liberal theologians. They are so horribly subjective that their basic myther position is made up almsot entirely of an argument form silence, lacks any kind of objective data. The Christian postion on historical Jesus has a lot data behind it than the myther positon does. We have sources from the frist century that at least assert that Jesus was a guy in history. But the mythers have not one single source that denies this, not unitl the eighteeth century! The reason the stipulationists must privilage their position and wipe out all evidence that counts agains them by stiulating it under the King's X is becuase they are afarid to actully argue honestly.

Atheists, Win Metacrock's House!

Here is a chance for an atheist to win a free house.

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dramatic representation, not my actual house

This offer is true and valid. All you have to do is prove Jesus never existed and I will deed my house to you.

by "prove" I mean furnish a veriafiable quotation from a frist century source that says Jesus didn't really exist as a man in history.

Free house, peer and beam foundation, real wood floors, no foundation problems at all. (you have one month to produce the results).

Moreover, here are more prizes in exchange for proving other things:

Prove the miracles at Lourdes are a fake, win my car.
Prove JFK was not assasinated win my dog.
prove bigfoot doesn't exist, win a free year of posting unmolested by Metacrock
prove the earth is falt win $10,000 dollars, personally given by me (avaible only in "blue country" currency).

I have had experinces with the cheap ploy of offering money to prove things before. The alledged amazing Randy offers some large sum of money for proof of any miraculous or sueprnatural event. Oddly enough, we wont accept the idea that the host is infussed with supererogatory merit as a supernatural event. That's dumb, my theology books form Perkins all say it is.

The somewhat amazing Randy has never included any analysis of the miracles at Lourdes. I emailed him and asked him why he had not. He did not respond. I told him he should give the Catholic chruch the money. His answer is not repreatable in this forum. This lead to a rather raw exchange and a ridiculous exchange of very amazing emials. I thought, I am having a "p-ing contest with this famous guy--if i have to have ctant with a famous person, why this person and why this way?" Not at all as fulfilling as my email exchange with Judy Collins. After that I was in love with her again. I thought, well, when she see I have all her albums its sure to mean something. That didn't work out either.

It is such a cheap ploy because the one giving the money always structures the argument in such a way that on one can fulfill the requirements. Thus the illusion is created that the test is accruate because no one ever wins.When I lived in New Mexico there was a minster of an extremists funadmentalist chruch who ran an on going add in a little thift sheet, stating that he would give $5000, to anyone who would prove that the Bible teaches that Jesus is our "perosnal savior." Well, I aruged until I was blue in the face that what it says means that he's our personal savior, but because it doesn't use that exact term, of course he doesn' thave to give the money.

Of course this is all in response to the "Ratioanl Response squad" and their offer to give money to anyone who canprove jesus did exist, of course they demand a frist century person saying that Jesus existed, and guess what? This person has to be "objective." So of coruse if we show Paul or Clement of Rome or any Christian well they aren't objective. Josephus of cousre they will never adit, regardless of what schoalrs say that the TF isn't tweeked. Atheits will say anything (at leats the myther kind). To the other passage in Jospheus, the "brother" passage, which is rarely criticiqued as a forgery, they say "well prove its the same James? the same Jesus?" So even when you produce some evidence they just refuse to see it as evidence.

After all, its not objective because their subjective view ponit says it's not!

It's easy to prove your view point when nothing ever coutns against it. It's easy to make your view immune to evidence, just recognize anything as evidence except that which supports your claims.

BTW my house is up for forecosloure, but I will deed it to you for a month if you can prove that someone in the first century said Jesus of Nazerath didn't exist. After that, its up to you to make the mortgage company care.

This contest broght to you by The Hysterical Ninja Christian response squad (Hilarius the Aussie Pope founder).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

You Take the High Road, and I'll Take the Low Road; I'll win the Argument before Ye!

Me and critical thinking will never meet again...
on the Bonnie, Bonnie Road to the secular web.

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True Christians at Prayer

There is a ploy practiced by many atheist of the type who inhabit places such as the Secular Web and Infidel guy. It's been so institutionalized it's almost a mortar. In fact I've seen this kind of things so many times now, when the Christian apologists get together they can stamp it out, but no soon will they rid the net of one institutionalized atheist fallacy, than another will rear its ugly head.

The fallacy to which I reefer here is the "No true Scotsman," fallacy (NSF). I dot' know the etymology exactly, but the general idea is that in the heat of argument one is likely to say something like "no true American would ever (do whatever)" The way it's used is this:

Atheist claims something like "Hitler was a Christian." The Christian makes the mistake of saying "O but he wasn't a true Christian because bah, so the atheist says 'that's the NTSF So without even thinking about it, they just dogmatically declare anyone was ever a Christian of any kind to have always been one. Once a Christian always a Christian (unless you become an atheist a post on the secular we) and then anything you do that's negative pertains to Christianity as the upshot of being a chrisiatn. So Mao was a Christian because he heard a Bible verse once, therefore, Christianity makes you become the Chairman of the Chinese communist party and write little red books.

This has become such a mantra that it cancels any kind of critical thought. Anytime any apologist comes near any sort of questioning as to one's Christian credentials the atheist says something like "I hear bag pipes playing." We need to make up a Nam for the fallacy of calling everything the no true Scotsman fallacy. What really amusing is that they are using the fallacy in the wrong way, as though they dot' really know what it means! The true fallacy is aimed at people who try to use patriotism to win arguments. No true American would call for pulling out of Irk (or Vietnam or whatever hopeless mess we've gotten ourselves into this decade). But that is not the same saying that any time one says "so and so Is not a Christian" it's the fallacy. That fallacy has nothing to do with the commitment level of a particular individual. It has to do with the way in which I construct another perinea's commitment level. If the commitment level of an individual can be demonstrated toward some affiliation then obviously that person can be said to be or not to be "a true so and so" (whatever it is). The only requisite criteria would be that there must be clear guidelines as to what a true so and so is about. That's why the no true Scotsman thing is a fallacy, because there is no way to know what a true Scotsman would say about any given issue, since being a Scotsman (or an American) is rarely a voluntary affiliation. Of course there are cases in which we CNA say no true Scotsman would do X and it not be fallacious. Fore example; no true Scotsman is born in China of Chinese patrons who no relation of any kind of with Scotland and who have never been to Scotland. Such a person hardly had any claim to being a Scotsman, but even in such a case the idea of being a Scotsman is still rather vel. Perhaps one coulee be a true Scotsman if one pinched pennies, played golf, kept sheep, ate fried Mars bars, and wore lad, even if one had never been to Scotland and was not Celtic origin.

The idea of being a Christian is a bit more voluntary than being a Scotsman, thus it is a big less difficult to pin down. This is true, moreover, because Jesus did says something about what is followers would do and would not do. We can say "no true Christian would be anti-Semitic" since Christ was Semitic. Since worshiping Jesus of Nazareth as the son of God is part of being a true Christian, and this is stated in the manifesto (the Bible) then we just might conclude that one who doesn't' do that is not a Christian. Moreover, the church itself laid down guidelines for being member of the Christian community (the church invented the word "Christian" not Jesus). Those guidelines are embodied in the creeds. So in fact yes we can exactly say with no fear of contradiction or of fallacy that no true Christian would ever say anything contrary to the creeds. Because to say that is to be an untrue Christian. Paul said no one by can say by the power of the Spirit "Jesus be cursed" (1 OCR). He was not committing the no true Scotsman fallacy. He was laying down a statement of spiritual fact. So we can say based upon this fact, "no true Christian prophet can say by the power of God that Jesus is cursed." This is a factual statement, given the assumptions of Christian belief. and not the NSF.

It would not be smart to concentrate too hard on stamping out this silly mortar of the atheists. They will only replace it with another. In the mean time, we know to deal with it, we can always use it to our advantage. If it is a fallacy to argue that so and so wasn't' a Christian, because Christianity is very diverse and we can't say who is and who is not and the attempt to try is always a fallacy, then it must also be the same fallacy to say "all Christians do x." The idea that Christianity causes all these social harms and leads people to be right winners is also the same fallacy.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Welcoming exotic visitors

Perc. Country Name
81 81.00% United States
5 5.00% Netherlands
4 4.00% Canada
3 3.00% Norway
3 3.00% United Kingdom
2 2.00% Dominica
1 1.00% Spain
1 1.00% Saudi Arabia

We have a nice little crop of exotic readership this time. The Dominican reader is new, but has vistied several times in the last few weeks or days. Our Saudi friend is fairly new. All are welcome. I get a real kick out of seeing that people around the world are reading it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Defining God into Existence?

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the problem:
I am so sick of the atheist ploy to denude Christianity of its' intellectual heritage by throwing up smokescreens of ignorance at the best arguments. A good example of this is found on my message board, Sense of the Numinous: (the Advantrue of faith board) when an atheist friend says:

If it is stupid to ask who created God then its stupid to ask who created the universe. Some "stuff" always was, it seems but who says that stuff is God? Maybe if your theist brethren's had not tainted that word throughout the century.

There are things that we do not know but filling that gap with God really does not do us any good. Generally I see theists trying to define him into existence. All God arguments are silly to me.

He had asked who created God, in repines to consideration of the origin of the universe. I responded by saying that Naturalistic phenomena are contingent, God is necessary and not contingent (given all necessary covets--if God exist, God exists necessarily and as ontological necessity). Thus God is eternal while nature is not. Therefore, we can ask how nature got here, we cannot ask how God came to be for there was no becoming, God Always was. To this he responds

I find it somewhat disingenuous to try to prove God's existence by defining God as Being Itself. You have admitted you believe God to be the traditional concept of a personal agent of infinite power, wisdom and benevolence who created the universe.

It is certainly not obvious that "Being Itself," if that term has any real meaning other than the totality of everything that exists, has any of these attributes.

Of course he's ignoring all the special analysis as to why that would be the case. On the other hand, we are getting the cart first again, because I never actually sad that I believe God to be "the traditional personal agent of infinite power..." I have said God is a mystical reality that is beyond our understanding. I do think God loves, and has will and volition, but I avoid using the term "personal" as it connotes an anthropomorphic kind of prosiness that thinks and ponders and has personality hang-ups. I prefer the term "consciousness" when speaking of God and I capitalize it: "Consciousness." God is the Conscious itself.

The idea that being itself has consciousness, or actually is consciousness per se, is not something any atheist can refute. Perhaps I can't prove it, but it is logical. If consciousness is "ground up," it makes sense that it's foundation is rooted in the ground of all being. But just as water is based upon dipolar molecules yet that doesn't mean such molecules are wet, so we cannot say that the foundation of all consciousness is anthropomorphic. We don't know how things register on the consciousness of God. But what I assume is that in some sense, perhaps beyond my understanding, God loves. But really none of this is an actual reason to quibble with the concept that God is being itself.

He argues that it is not established that God is being itself because there are conceptual problems with understanding Being itself in personal terms. Of course he fails to establish why those are the terms we must accept. I've always argued that consciousness is not a primary quality of God. In other words there are many kinds of being that are conscious, so that is not something that makes God uniquely God. Thus it really seems irrelevant to pick out this trait to base an attack against defining God as being itself. The problem is a lot more complicated, however, because the very idea of challenging the defineition in no way proves that using it in the first place is "defining God into existence." The whole issue is really just a white rabbit and stems from that typical atheist outrage at being given a version of Christianity that doesn't' suffer from any of the conventional woes. OF course his overall argument merely overlooks all the reasons I've given as to why Tillich thinks of God as Being. But I will get back to that later.

Atheist #2 goes on:

MMP is quite right. This seems little more than an effort to define God into existence by reducing the definition of God to an absurdly minimal form.

It really is little better than this argument for the existence of God:

1. My best friend Larry had his name legally changed to "God."

2. Larry is alive.

3. Living things exist.

4. Therefore Larry exists.

5. Larry is God.

6. Therefore, God exists.

This argument is valid and establishes the existence of God, but only in the sense of a person whose legal name is "God."

Of course this is mererly arguing form a straw man argument and has nothing to do with the logic of any of my arguments. He adeptly sees I've taken up the ploy of finding some aspect of reality that we know exits, and linking that to God. But what he forgets is that there is no particular reason why this is an invalid way of doing things, especially if some aspect of reality just happens to manifest the primary qualities that we think make God. After all, if we are seeking to remain in the Christian tradition we cannot choose an aspect of nature, such as moutin or a tree and say "here is God." Being itself is about the only thing we can use. Look at it logically, before God creates what exists? God. What potential for being exists apart from God? None. So in a very litteral sense God is being, since all being stems from God. Notice I have not tried to link God to any physical aspect of the natural world. He also makes the mistake of thinkign that being is just the analogue of all things, he still doesn't' understand the concept. Of course the difference in his straw man and the real argument is that the real argument doesn't' take something we know cannot be compared with God and calls it "God," it actually takes something that evokes the sense of the numinous, the basis of religious feeling, and thus something that is an actual object of religious devotion. This is hardly doing what the straw man argument is doing.

It is a waste of time to debate whether being exists. If you believe that Being Itself has the attributes of infinite power, wisdom and benevolence, as you have previously admitted and that Being Itself created the universe in an act of volition, of conscious choice, then give us an argument for these things.

Give us an argument! Give us an argument!!!!!!! what do you think my whole website, ey my whole presence on the net is about? How about the three pages of arguments Here. The Tillich argument
And my another version of the argument here and, yes, I did link to that first one in the same thread. Atheists are notoriously lazy about clicking on links. That's been my experience.

Simply arguing that "Being Is" and thinking that proves anything is only marginally better than Larry's Logical Proof of the Existence of God.

If that's what I was doing I would agree with him. Of course he's just ignoring the reasons I constantly give, never deal with the analysis and admits he doesn't undersigned the concept. He's never read a page of Tillich, and he doesn't even try to read any theologian who might be able to explain it better than I. But the net is full of people who pontificate upon theology having never read a page of it in their lives.

Now let's move from the sorrows and woes of message board hi jinx and present again some of these arguments. This time I shall try to make the grand summary and somehow to explain it better than I have before.

Grand Summary:

Why do we do we talk about "God" anyway? To the atheists this makes little sense because they can only think in terms of a big guy with a white bread. Where did he come from? Well, they can't really be blame because the laziness of mind of churches has led Christians to settle for this Santa Clause-like figure. To account for it the atheists fall into lock step with the answer atheists have been giving since the days of August Compt (early 19th century). That answer is nothing more than the warmed over assumptions of scutructural functionalism in sociology: there is a need in society for a certain function, religion fills that need for the moment, when more sophisticated answers come religion will dwindle away. That need, of courses is to explain the physical world. Thus, they cast religion in the role of afield primitive science. Yet structural functionalism had very ideological reasons for pursuing materialism. It was no more a scientifically objective account of the origin of religion than is Mr. Data's discourse on his desire to be human an objective scientific account of the possibilities of AI.

Modern students of world religion, such as Huston Smith, realize that the sense of the numionious is at the heart of religious experience:

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

"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."

Mysticism stands at the core of all organized religion:

David Steindl-Rast

Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., is a monk of Mount Savior Monastery in the Finger Lake Region of New York State and a member of the board of the Council on Spiritual Practices. He holds a Ph.D. from the Psychological Institute at the University of Vienna and has practiced Zen with Buddhist masters. His most recent book is Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer (Ramsey, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1984).

"If the religious pursuit is essentially the human quest for meaning, then these most meaningful moments of human existence must certainly be called "religious." They are, in fact, quickly recognized as the very heart of religion, especially by people who have the good fortune of feeling at home in a religious tradition."

All religions hold this in common:

Cross currents

Thomas A.Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

Smith considers transcendence to be the one dimension common to all peoples of religious faith: "what they have in common lies not in the tradition that introduces them to transcendence, [not in their faith by which they personally respond, but] in that to which they respond, the transcendent itself..."(11)

So the basis of all religous impulse is this sense of the nunionous, which is the foudnation of mysticism. The sense that something is unique, something is different. We see it in Japan where a water fall is designiated as a "Komie" and thoguht of as divine, because it has some outcrop of rock, or some amazing height or some rainbow quality, something that sets it apart form everything esle. Little rock islands around Japan are held to be Komie because they sit in isolation and thrust up out of the sea in defience to their sourroundings, they are the exception, t he opposition to the rest of their environment; something special about them. We see it in the Bull jumping of ancient Spain, or the mound building cultures of the American south, anytime anywhere where people realize a unique feeling about something, that something is sublime, set apart from the rest, otherworldly. We see it in the very primitive Hebrew prohibition on eating pork. This sense shows up in idolatry where the divine energy is thought to be collected in a single physical object. This is the basis of religion. This is why some aspects of life are "sacred" and other are profane. In the Levitical books God tells the Hebrews they must learn to see the distinction in that which is divine and that which is profane; this is how he introduces ritual purity laws to them. So even the most legalistic laws about how to dress and eat are nothing more than outgrowths of this sense that there is something special, something different, something that connects to a transmission of life and that explains not just the physical workings of the world, but the reason for our being.

There is a continuum from phenomenological apprehension, to formal logic. Now I contend that what Anselm really discovered was what Schleiermacher really discovered, the feeling of utter dependence (which is a speicilized sense of the numinous). Lacking the conceptual tools averrable to Schleiermacher to explain phenomenology, Anslem trnalsted it into formal logic and tried to make an argument. Schleiermacher, having read Kant, having been born at a time when the scholastic thing was pretty over in Europe except in a few little monestaries--Maithaus Joseph Scheeben would publish Nature and Grace just a few decades latter--Schleiermacher had the rudimentary machinery to make a phenomenological descrition and thus did not try to translate the feeling into formal logic. So I see a continuum of God reasons, ranging from the phenomenological to the formally logical. At this point we are discussing the latter end, latter I will say a few things about the form, as both end offer reasons to think of God as "being itself."

So where does the idea of God come from? The athiest answer of structural funciotnalism, reilgion is primative failed sicnece, would see God in particular as the ghost of the father. The father used to take us on the hunt and protect us. Then stopped moving and we had to stick him in the ground. But should he not continue to take us on the hunt and protect us? Is it not he who is at work when the trees shake? When spirit moves, that is his spirit." Some such rot, which is the litteral answer given by H.G. Wells in his Outline of World History. The probmle is this model assumes so many things, why would they automatically euqate wind with spirit, and spirit with father? Father was not in the picure, why would they have a concept to transur him to some position in the coulds as unsee protector? It also assumes, like account of religion itself, that religion exists just to epxlain things, not because one has this basic evockative sense of the sublime which gives way to the need to worhsip. Even if the atheist accounts are true in shedding light upon the development of the guy in the sky notion of God, this is far from the only notion of God.

So why do we talk about God? Because we have a sense of the numionous. We sense the sublime, the speical nature of things, the speicial sense of how our own being in the world is laid out in relation to everything else. and "everything else" this gaint web of related things, in relation to some higher sense of the speicial. That is the core essence of the religious a priori. Why else would one talk about God? What's the point of even beileving in God if it isn't some sense of the speicial? If it is not life transformation, why bother with it? If there were no sense of the "big religoius fix,"If that wasn't real for me I would still be an atheist, so I would say the atheits are right. But they are not right because I do have that snes of the sublime in relation to thoughts of the divine, and a sense of utter dependence in the face of God talk.

Now why is this a reason to understand God as being itself? Well, let's just think about what that term means for a second. It's the very essence of the thing that being is, the apprehension of being in the very act of doing what it does, so to speak. So Being itself is the foundation or the basis upon which being is, that's why it is also so called The ground of Being. What is that basis? So many atheists baulk at the idea that it would be bound up with conciousness, but that makes ultiamte sense, which I will get to in the next instuallment, but I must spend a bit more time explaining why we should think of God as being itself. So Being itself is the ground of being, the basis upon which being is, and the core nature of what being is. What is being? Being's basic fucniton is being. Being is, thta's what it does.

Why equate it with God? First, because what we have said so far inplys that we find in the nature of being the naure of the Holy.We find an aspect of being Which John Macquarrie calls "Holy Being." In other words its a certain aspect of all of these senses of the religious a priroi that we find the link, we find it phenomenologically. when Tillich gives his basic notino of God as Being itself, he is speaking i the sense of Phenomenolgoicla method no 2, in other words, the approach to describing a phenomeon by listing or explicating all the aspects of it uncqiturally to paint the clearest picture possible of the phenomena free of pre concieved bias. So a phenomenological account of the way we find being and its relation ot our own being in the world, vis the feeling of utter dependence, we sense this nuninal quality abuot it. We recongize in it the divine.

Now of coruse the atheits will say,irrelivantly, "thas subjective!" Why irrlivant? Because at this point there is no better to reason to speak of anything in live much les God. There is no other reason or no better reason to find belief in God than that God is real to us. If we sense God in the nature of Being itself, then who is the atheist to quibble. Of course it's subjective, so what? Tahts' their magic word, wave that word over something and it goes away. But we do not have to subject God matheamtical forulas, we don't have to take his blood presusure we don't have to shoot himto space, sow e don't need "objective." Of cousre they will amke as though this s jsut tanamount to making it up. That is just an index to their confussion about the subject/object dichotomy. Since we ahve no objective data to go by around the most fundametnal epistemic truths, there is no reason to think we have to be objective about God. What we can be, however, is inter-subjective. We are not just one lone kook, this sense of the numinous is multipled by every believer in the world ni any kind of religious outlook. In one form or another they all have it. It may not always be the same, but it is all a sense that something speicial about life desreves resonse through emotions like awe, reversense, worship and devotion. I can't imagine that there could ever be any better reasons.

But before we turn to formal laigc, let's just complete the thoguht by syaing that Tillich hmiself aruges that whatever form being takes, some form of being has always existed. He doesn't give my analysis about how we can't start form a position of absolute nothingness, but he does argue that being is eternal. Being eternal, the juxtoppossition between the finite and the infinite is the thing that evokes the religious sensablities. I don't think it's the only thing, but it is definatley one of the triggers for this sense of the numinous. That would mean that the notion of eternal being itself is clearly a valid object of religious devotion. That is God. This is what my friend's straw mana argument fails to consider. It's not just picking something at random, it's centering on the very thing evokes religious sesibilites. There can be no better resaon to be a religious believer. That is even more valid an than kind of formal logic such as the ontological argument. Formal logic can only be hypotehtical; the sens of the numinous is direct confrontation with the divine.

This is not for people who just hear about it on paper. This is the real thing. This is the outgrowing of really confronting God and having God be real for you. How could there be a better reason? This is the sumation of the existneial moment, thsi is C.H. Dodd's "zero hour." The fact that this comes to us through our apprehensions of our own being in the world, and the unity of our life world, and our relation one to the other, and that ot the higher preication of the whole, this is the very heart of understanding why being itself evokes the sense of the Holy. It is the feeling of utter dependence, and in that sense our own existential conditions is revelaed to us, our need of transofmative power, the nature of the human problematic, this the very heart and soul of religion. It was out of this realization that the redactors and trasnlators of the LXX translated God's words to Moses as "I am being itself." Which is a third reason because it's in the bible.

so that's three reasons on the phenomenolgoial side of the continuum as to why we should identify God with being:

(1) The phenomenological realization that Being is holy

(2) The sense of the infite nature of being evokes the numinous

(3) It's in the LXX.

Now we can move to the formal logic side of the continuum.

When we say that God is being itself, we are not speaking a single being like a man, who stis on a throne. We are speaking of a whole category which is totally by tiself unique and apart form anyother. There cannot be two being itselfs any more than there can two frist causes. There cannot be two versions of "that which nothing greater than could be concieved." They would cancel each other out, which one would be greater? This is the same with being itself. It has to transcend any kind of category becuase it's one of a kind. We say "a bird" we mean one bird out of many. When we say "a being" we mean one being out of many. Atheits expect us to talk this way of God, because they don't understand the distinction between the contingent non crative creatures of pagan myth and the one of a kind unqiue in a category byitself nature of that which Christians call "God." So we cannot call God "a person" we canot call God "a being." We cannot think of God as being along side other beings in creation. God is the foundation of creation the foundation of creatureliness.

The formally logical reason for speaking of God would be because God is the supopssed origin of the universe. This is the religious person's account of how things came to be, why there is something rather than nothing, and atheits see that as the only reaosn to believe in God at all. In thinking of God as the origin we are forced to think of the origin in this unique way. Why? Because as the Ultiamte orign, nothind could come before it. Thus the question "who created God" is idiotic to begin with because by defition there cannot be anything before God. It's the same as asking what comes before time? Now here's where it getes tricky because the atheits stick in their no one trick of equating a defitional answer with defining something into existence. But I've already given plenty of reasons why we should think of God as being anyway. We really don't need another one, but there are a couple. This is not defining God into existence, its' merely keeping the conept stairght. If God is what and who we claim God is, than God really can't be the product of any other things. That means that God has to be synonimous with the ground being at least functionally because they ocupy the same lignauistic space; the ground of being is the basis upon which being is, God is the basis upon which being is. There can only be one Being iself, remember? So we have to see the two as synonious. Just like if we see Suerman and Clark Kent share the same DNA, fingerprincts Hair folecles, superpowers, the only logical conclusion is that Kent is Superman.

If the two, God and being, share the very same qualifies, and if those qualifies are mutually exclsive, then it is a mere matter of the law of identiy (a = a) that God and being itself are the same.

For my next number I will deal with objections to seeing God as personal and as being itself at the same time, and with the quantifier argument.


(1) The phenomenological realization that Being is holy

(2) The sense of the infite nature of being evokes the numinous

(3) It's in the LXX.

(4) Ultimate Origin cannot be contingent: Both Being and God share idenity as the necessary eternal origin of all things.

Coming SOON to a blog near you!