Friday, November 02, 2007

A God by any other name...?

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Loftus responds to responses to comments all still coming from the comment box. But I think this one needs answering in an extended format.



Joe said...why do we need propositional? Its' phenomenological and existential.

Isn't that a propositional statement about the content of your revelational beliefs?

Yes, bu that doesn't establish that the content of revelation has to be propositional, at least not always. Just because you make propositional statements about existential statements doesn't make the existential statements propositional. Anything can be a proposition. That doesn't mean the upshot of revelation must always be so.




Joe said...I challenge you to debate on them. I wanted to lead off with pro God arguments anyway.

Well, as I said, get in line. But if you'd like to debate me then do so on this proposition: "The Christian faith should be rejected by modern civilized scientifically literate people." I have already made my opening statement in my book! Take it on chapter by chapter and I'll respond.


Clearly you cannot pull off that proposition. To do do so you must show that Christianity is somehow opposed to modern scientific knowledge. Since Christianity is not a scientific proposition ipso facto it cannot be scientifically false. The extent on one's scientific literacy is a matter of the individual's choice of learning and has nothing to do with religion,.of course he's ignoring all the noble prize winning Christians.




Nobel Prize Winning Scientific Christians



Fritz Shafer, nominated for Nobel Prize in Chemistry, University of Georgia, himself a Christian: "it is very rare that a physical scientists is truly an atheist."
Martin Rees at Cambridge: "The possibility of life as we know it depends upon a few basic values which are constants. And it is in some aspect remarkably sensitive to their heir numerical values. Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences."
Arthur Schewhow, Nobel prize winner from Stanford, identifies himself as a Christian. "We are fortunate to have the Bible which tells us so much about God in widely accessible terms."
Charlie Towns Nobel prize winner: "The question of science seems to be unanswered if we explore from science alone. Thus I believe there is a need for some metaphysical or religious explanation. I believe in the concept of God an in his existence."
John Pokingham, theoretical physicist at Cambridge, left physics to become a minister. "I believe that God exists and has made himself known in Jesus Christ."
Allan Sandage, The world's greatest observational cosmologist , Caregie observatories won a prize given by Swedish parliament equivalent to Nobel prize (there is no Nobel prize for cosmology) became a Christian after being a scientist, "The nature of God is not found in any part of science, for that we must turn to the scriptures."


who is more qualified to judge the scientific compatibility of Christianity, noble prize winning scientist who is a Christian, or an atheist who naive enough to think that science is a straight forward proposition rather than a cultural construct. Atheists are so naive when it comes to this sort of thing. They've never read Chomsky, just close down the understanding of cultural and adopt a strict naivety of what you see is what you get. But Loftus seems to make no attempt to aim for the sophisticated versions of the faith. It's all the fundies but he never qualifies his statements to reflect this. Here's a real born burner.

I'm not interested in merely debating the existence of God, since what you must defend is the existence of YOUR Christian God.


Loftus is well read certain aspects of philosophy. He's clearly pretty bright. But he's clearly just bought a bill of goods, as do so many ship jumpers. He doesn't seem to remember what the higher level of Christian really entails. Suddenly it's all creation vs evolution and the big sky Daddy vs science. He expects all Christians to be uncle Jed in the Sunday school with the God of Samuel Beckett, who for reasons unknown loves us dearly and send us to hell, qua qua qua qua....

The page he links to is worth looking at because this illustrates so clearly what I'm fighting on both sides, and it gives me a chance to jump on a favorite hobby horse.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Theism Without a Revelation is Deism

Theism is used as a springboard for defending Christian theism, for if theism is true then Christianity isn't far behind. I disagree.

Theism without an adherence to a particular branch of theism reduces to deism, for the three main branches of theism (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) all depend upon embracing a particular revelation from their God, along with the "correct" interpretation of that revelation.



Here he's pulled a very clever bait and switch. He has substituted his own straw man Christianity for the real thing on pretense that unless the real fits his version then it collapses to something else. But if you buy his straw version it collapses anyway. This is what gets me. Loftus seems like a bright guy and he seems to have taken a lot of graduate level stuff, studied with Craig, while Craig was totally unknown to anyone Perkins, he's big stuff in the Evangelical end of things, academically speaking.. Yet this grad student of Craig's doesn't seem to remember the nature of Christian thought outside the insular world of biblical literalism and sure you would think he would. I mean do you really think Nicholas of Cuza, of whom Tillich said "this is one of the most sophisticated concepts of God in human history" really just collapses into deims if it isn't a big sky daddy on a throne? Of course Cuza is just one idea. We could bring in any number of great Christian philosophers. But Loftus' straw man is predicated upon a big fallacy. He doesn't say the term "sky daddy" and he doesn't specify but we know that's what he's talking about. He's talking about the so called "God of the bible." But he can't read between the lines where God tells Moses "I am being itself." Or where it says God is beyond anything we can conceive of. Like so many as soon as you say "God is beyond anything we can conceived of" then immediately they have to try to conceive of it. If they can't they either revert to a very simplistic metaphor or just proclaim it a hazy concept not worth thinking about. What is the atheist fascination with the sky daddy? one would think if Freud was right about religious people and the super ego, surely atheists are living out their adolescent desire to kill the father.



"Without a revelation from God theism collapses into deism,"



No that is absolutely wrong. The difference in Christianity, theism and deism is specific concepts about what God want,s not the nature of God himself. The two very different things. They make a huge difference. To assume God wants all sinners to be saved one need not assume God is the big sky daddy on a throne. Concepts about what God wants are totally different from concepts about what God is. All concepts of God must orient around necessity as opposssed to contingency. The basic permaiters for any view of god are necessity, eternality, and relation to being. God is eternal necessary being. Any concept that posits eternal necessary being as the basis of reality is talking about God. The difference then is merely one of understanding what God wants. If Loftus view is right than process theology is deism. He certainly should know better than that. That is an ultra simplistic formula for dismissing theology.

Where I will agree with him on the statement that Christianity requires revelation is that this is what makes the specific difference, not God concepts per se but our ideas of what God has done to community. But Loftus concept of revelation is far too conditioned by the fundies. The true revelation is not an inerrant Bible but Christ himself. To that existent it is not propositional but experiential.

which is basically equivalent to the philosopher's god, since deism is not a set of beliefs;



Here he does the bait and switch. Unless you are willing to settle for the cartoon God, the angry sky daddy, then you are deist. Unless you have the literalistic God of the bible, translate big mean sky daddy, then you ant got no God at all. That is the most unsophisticated approach to theology I've ever seen. Carly this guy is hanging at the secular web too much. He should just know better than this.


it is a method whereby a particular theological viewpoint is adopted based upon reason. Anything not supported by reason is to be rejected by the deist.



what he's really saying between the the lines is that the kind faith that uses reason i the based kind tha is opposed to Christianity; ergo Christianity is unreasoning and opposed to reason.

And moving from deism to Christian theism is like flying a plane to the moon. [Deism went through four stages which traveled from continent to continent and flourished in the 16th-18th centuries, although people still maintain it today.


Of course that's only because your straw faith says the do. You label anything not the fundie sky daddy as "deism" so then it flourishes. and you have dismissed the major theological movements of the 20th century so you only have to deal with the five year old who are easy to beat up.




Next I'll give the reader a break and pick on another atheist. But I'll get back to Loftus with some God arguments next week. I'm determined to make him debate sooner or latter. Without reading his book. but I do want to thank him. It makes it so much more interesting to dialog with an intelligent person who does not assume one is a fool. I may not ever go back to CARM. Loftus is so much more fair and reasonable and intelligent than most atheist their. I forgot what it was like to deal a real dialog partner.

4 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Joe said…Just because you make propositional statements about existential statements doesn't make the existential statements propositional. Anything can be a proposition. That doesn't mean the upshot of revelation must always be so.

Since we were talking about dialectical theology, I was arguing that with an infinite distance between God and man that one could not describe the content of that revelation. Only God can reveal God. The question I raised was that if someone cannot describe that propositional content, then what basis does he have for describing it at all? Still, if I grant your point, then that’s all you can say about that revelation. This is the more impotent point.

John said…But if you'd like to debate me then do so on this proposition: "The Christian faith should be rejected by modern civilized scientifically literate people." I have already made my opening statement in my book! Take it on chapter by chapter and I'll respond.

Joe said…Clearly you cannot pull off that proposition. To do so you must show that Christianity is somehow opposed to modern scientific knowledge. Since Christianity is not a scientific proposition ipso facto it cannot be scientifically false.

A scientifically literate person is someone who rejects beliefs that are based in superstition. A scientifically literate person is someone who has adopted methodological naturalism. A scientifically literate person is someone who demands some good evidence for what he believes. Now it’s true there are things we all believe without evidence, but whether or not God exists isn’t one of those beliefs. And when the evidence goes against what the theist believes, in case after case, then the theist is wrong to explain the evidence away so often.

Does this mean that scientists who believe are not scientifically literate? No. There are plenty of them. But for every one of them you can point to who believes, I could probably point out one who does not believe.

Joe said…But Loftus seems to make no attempt to aim for the sophisticated versions of the faith. It's all the fundies but he never qualifies his statements to reflect this.

I am not taking other conceptions into account for the most part, because that’s not my focus, so on this point you’ve got me. But I can, since I was briefly a liberal Christian and studied at Marquette University with the liberals.

Joe said…The page he links to is worth looking at because this illustrates so clearly what I'm fighting on both sides, and it gives me a chance to jump on a favorite hobby horse.

I believe the agnostic is the one who is fighting both sides, not the liberal Christian. Both sides of what?

Joe said…Yet this grad student of Craig's doesn't seem to remember the nature of Christian thought outside the insular world of biblical literalism and sure you would think he would.

Again, this isn’t my focus at DC. But it can be. You are correct that there are other mystical versions of Christianity that are not reduced to deism.

Joe said…I do want to thank him. It makes it so much more interesting to dialog with an intelligent person who does not assume one is a fool. I may not ever go back to CARM. Loftus is so much more fair and reasonable and intelligent than most atheist their. I forgot what it was like to deal a real dialog partner.

Thank you so much. I feel likewise with you. There are other Christian sites you may be interested in. They are not your normal fundy sites. Like Vic Reppert’s blog, and Chris Baker’s Blog.

Gribble The Munchkin said...

Interesting discussion.

I don't know John Loftus so i can't speak for him, but when i talk with others about atheism and Christianity (i'm in the UK so its usually Christians and muslims religiously round these parts) i concern myself with the positions that bother me most. While you appear to have a very developed and nuanced approach to the existence of god yours is far from the only view. It is also far from the most popular view.

Reading the bible alone makes it quite clear that the writers did indeed think of god as a "sky daddy" sitting on a throne in a mythical afterlife. In this way he shares much with the older pagan gods from which christianity drew much of its mythology.

While its certainly true that many christians don't view god this way, many still do. Fundamentalists do, and they are the main focus of atheist attention since they are the people doing the most to afflict us with their beliefs.

Its not just the fundies though. All manner of otherwise moderate people hold really quite literal views of god, simply because they never really think about it much, and also because they are not challenged on these beliefs. Certainly this was what my church was like (I was raised Church of England).

Its generally only the more intellectual of believers that hold much more nuanced positions. I would argue that the reason they do so is because the more literal readings of scripture lead to what are now considered rather cartoonish images of god. The problem of moving further from scripture however is that you have less to base your faith upon. A fundamentalist, no matter how crazy, at least lives in a consistent world. If its in the bible its true. Hence the world is only 6000 years old, god made man in his own image, the flood happened, etc. He may be demonstratably wrong but since he doesn't listen to arguement anyway, thats not a big problem for him.

Liberal christians are on shakier ground. If they don't base their faith on the literal bible, what do they base it on? If they admit that bits of the old testament are myths and not to be considered real, what bits do they then take as literal and which bits as myth? Did god send a flood to destroy mankind? If not, what is the message here?

If christians base their faith on revelation then basically they are just making it up, taking bits and pieces of bronze age writings to fill in the gaps. This is an incredibly weak basis for a belief system as it basically justifies anything that anyone has "revealed to them". If revelation is a good basis for faith then scientologists are right to believe in L Ron Hubbard and the Waco crowd were justified in listening to Koresh.

I de-converted very young in my life (about age 10) and i've been fascinated by religions ever since. One thing i've found lately is that with the rise of the so-called New Atheists, Dawkins, Harris etc, atheists seem a lot more comfortable debating theologians and theists in public. Many of the debates i've seen between intelligent and highly qualified theists and atheists have come off as terrible defeats for theists. Watch the Dawkins/McGrath debate as an example. Mcgrath, professor of theology at an Oxford university is hardly an intellectual slouch but against an opponent such as Dawkins, he has to take such a non-literalist approach to christianity that it ends up with him having no strongly held beliefs at all.

This is the position an atheist finds himself in now. Religious people assert their faith on say the bible. When we point out the bits in the bible that are either deeply immoral (slavery, genocide, etc) or just plain wrong (creation of man, flood) then these bits suddenly become metaphor, although metaphors for what is never clearly explained. Who chooses what is metaphor and what is not? If its down to each believer then you are basically making up your own religion and scripture has no authority. If its down to theologians, what gives them the authority beyond human reason to do so? And if human reason can trump scripture, then i am afriad that the atheist is in a much strong position in not believing than the christian is for believing.

J.L. Hinman said...

Interesting discussion.

I don't know John Loftus so i can't speak for him, but when i talk with others about atheism and Christianity (i'm in the UK so its usually Christians and muslims religiously round these parts) i concern myself with the positions that bother me most. While you appear to have a very developed and nuanced approach to the existence of god yours is far from the only view. It is also far from the most popular view.

but it is my view, so what other would I defend?

Reading the bible alone makes it quite clear that the writers did indeed think of god as a "sky daddy" sitting on a throne in a mythical afterlife. In this way he shares much with the older pagan gods from which christianity drew much of its mythology.

Not when you read it closely. I covered that in the post. If you would go through it and look for how many times the image God by animals and nature you would see how wrong that is. Yes, they did that, but they also knew better.

While its certainly true that many christians don't view god this way, many still do. Fundamentalists do, and they are the main focus of atheist attention since they are the people doing the most to afflict us with their beliefs.

fundamentalism is a minor part. if you spend your whole life just worrying about them you never get anywhere.

Its not just the fundies though. All manner of otherwise moderate people hold really quite literal views of god, simply because they never really think about it much, and also because they are not challenged on these beliefs. Certainly this was what my church was like (I was raised Church of England).

so what? You should aim your criticisms at the best the thign ahs to offer not mediocrity.

Gribble The Munchkin said...

I'll comment your comments and leave my bits out or this'll get really long quite quickly.

"but it is my view, so what other would I defend?"

True of course you can't defend other positions. However, we aren't attacking your position, we're attacking the position that really annoys us, fundamentalist and literalist interpretations. I think you are wrong if you believe in the christian god but i don't care what you do unless you inflict it upon me. Since you don't come across as the type of person whose beliefs require public prayer in schools or creationism or other impositions on my life, i don't mind your religion except where it supports those that do impose.

"fundamentalism is a minor part. if you spend your whole life just worrying about them you never get anywhere."

A minor part? Really? Fundamentalist evangelicals make up about 30% of the voting electorate of the US, thats not minor. Even being a UK citizen, what happens in the US affects me in the UK, witness Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush was backed heavily by the fundie right and he started those wars which then sucked my nation in.
The few times religious types actually bother me are all fundamentalists. The 7/7 bombers and the glasgow airport bombers are all fundies. The creeping spread of creationism in our countries city academies is driven entirely by the fundamentalists. The idiots that campaigned outside parliament against the new anti-discrimnation laws (that would stop them preaching hatred of gays) were fundies.

If i attack fundies its because they are the ones imposing their faith on me. I attack the religious views of moderate christians only in so far as they support fundamentalism, mainly by perpetuating a faith based world view.

"so what? You should aim your criticisms at the best the thign ahs to offer not mediocrity."

Nope, you attack the viewpoint of your enemy. I don't go after the sihk religion because they never impose their beliefs on me. I might decrie any inhumane things they do and i certainly think their beliefs are wrong, but they don't bother me. Those that bother me are the anti-science, anti-intellectual fundies. Thats why i go after them and their religion.