Recently a poster made a comment on the comment section:
If god does not exists, then N years of university an M doctorates from prestigious universities on theology are not worth anything, with regards to supernatural statements.
The fact is that the case for the existence of any gods is very weak, and until that has been remedied by the ones claiming such entities exist, musings on the true nature of the gods is just meaningless noise, hence the invisible pink unicorn.
Trying to impune my motives, as though I have some cognitive dissonance about going to seminary and to convince myself the money wasn't a waste I have to convince my self God really exists after all. This is quite an uninformed opinion. The case for God's existence has never looked stronger. I wonder why this person would think I have some sort insecurity about belief? But the truth of it is, even if I came believe somehow that God does not exist, that would not mean that my seminary training was a waste. This makes me think the only thing this guy knows about seminaries, if anything at all, is through some of kind of little bible college fundie gig. I can see why a washout from the fundie ranks, who knows nothing about theology anyway would be confused. There are two major reasons why going to Perkins would be good even if one did not believe in God:
(1) It's a fantastic education.
One can always treat the material as sociological artifacts. To graduate with a Masters degree from Perkins, especially in the academic side of it (not a professional degree which is for ministers but like mine, the academic side) one must become well versed in many areas in addition to theology: Philosophy, social sciences, literature, history, world religions. Yes, I studied world religions at a United Methodist seminary. The course was taught by a methodist minister but he lived in Japan and studies Japanese religion for about 30 years. He was a leading expert on what is called "the new religions" of Japan. That course alone made the education itself worth while.
(2) Theology would still be of value without God
AT Perkins I learned about phenomenology, my understanding of existentialism shot up from the level of an undergraduate to almost that of an expert, and I was exposed to a deep understanding of oriental religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto. There is quite a bit of theology to be done without God.
Of course there is no need for that becasue the case for God has never looked better. This guy's statement is quite false. The case for God is almost a certainty. first, before going into that, I will present a brief look at the problems at the heart of atheism. Lack of belief in God is fraught with problems. Essentially it's an illogical ideology.
Limitations of Naturalistic Reductionism
I.Closing off other valid forms of knowledge
and losing the phenomena.
The upshot of this entire argument is that scientific reductionism reduces the full scope of human experience and reduces reality from its full frame to preset conclusions than are already labeled "science" and "objectivity" and which screen out any other possibility. One of those possibilities is the phenomenological apprehension of God's presence through religious experience.
In the conclusion to his famous Gilford lectures, Psychologist William James, whose Varieties of Religious Experience, is still a classic in the filed of psychology of religion, concluded that reductionism shuts off other valid avenues of reality.
"The world interpreted religiously is not the materialistic world over again, with an altered expression; it must have, over and above the altered expression, a natural constitution different at some point from that which a materialistic world would have. It must be such that different events can be expected in it, different conduct must be required.This thoroughly 'pragmatic' view of religion has usually been taken as a matter of course by common men. They have interpolated divine miracles into the field of nature, they have built a heaven out beyond the grave. It is only transcendentalist metaphysicians who think that, without adding any concrete details to Nature, or subtracting any, but by simply calling it the expression of absolute spirit,you make it more divine just as it stands. I believe the pragmatic way of taking religion to be the deeper way. It gives it body as well as soul, it makes it claim, as everything real must claim, some characteristic realm of fact as its very own. What the more characteristically divine facts are, apart from the actual inflow of energy in the faith-state and the prayer-state, I know not."
"But the over-belief on which I am ready to make my personal venture is that they exist. The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that although in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in. By being faithful in my poor measure to this over-belief, I seem to myself to keep more sane and true. I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist's attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and of scientific laws and objects may be all. But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor of which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word 'bosh!' Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow scientific bounds. Assuredly, the real world is of a different temperament,- more intricately built than physical science allows. So my objective and my subjective conscience both hold me to the over-belief which I express. Who knows whether the faithfulness of individuals here below to their own poor over-beliefs may not actually help God in turn to be more effectively faithful to his own greater tasks?"
II.Philosohpical naturalism based upon
Circular Reasoning and Contradictions
A. Cause and effect.
In fact this way of arguing is wrong on two counts. First, it is based upon circular reasoning. The reasoning behind this notion goes back to the Philosopher David Hume who argued that miracles cannot happen because we do not have enough examples of them happening."A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, form the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can be imagined." (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Open Court 1958, 126-27) We see this same sort of thinking used over and over again. Scientists sometimes resort to it. Nobel prize winning geneticist A.J. Carlson, "by supernatural we understand...beliefs...claiming origins other than verifiable experiences...or events contrary to known processes in nature...science and miracles are incompatible." (Science Magazine Feb. 27, 1937, 5.)
The great Theologian Rudolf Bultmann, "modern science does not believe that the course of nature can be interrupted or, so to speak, perforated by supernatural powers"(Jesus Christ and Mythology, New York: Schribner and Sons, 1958, 15). The context of Bultmann's comment was in proclaiming the events of the New Testament mythological because they "contradict" scientific principles.B. Hume's Argument against Miracles.The nature of this circular reasoning is pointed out by C.S. Lewis, who wrote: "Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely uniform experience, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all reports of them have been false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle." (Miracles: a Preliminary Study. New York: MacMillian, 1947, 105).
The circular nature of the reasoning insists that there can be noting beyond the material realm. Any claims of supernatural effects must be ruled out because they cannot be. And how do we know that they cannot be? Because only that which conforms to the rules of naturalism can be admitted as "fact." Therefore, miracles can never be "fact." While this is understandable as a scientific procedure, to go beyond the confines of explaining natural processes and proclaim that God does not exist and miracles cannot happen far exceeds the boundaries of scientific investigation. Only within a particular situation, the investigation of a particular case can scientists make such claims.C. Philosophical Naturalism based upon Metaphysical assumptionsPhilosophical naturalists go beyond the claims of scientific methodology to take up a metaphysical position. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy which seeks answers beyond the confines of the physical realm. Philosophical materialists claim to know that there is no God, or at least to be convinced of it. They rule out miracles from a philosophical basis rather than an empirical one. This is in fact a metaphysical position. But philosophical materialists also claim to debunk metaphysics. Since metaphysics holds to knowledge of things beyond the material realm philosophical materialists must count themselves its enemies. But to say that there is no God is to make a metaphysical statement. To claim to know that there is no God is claim to have knowledge of things beyond the material realm. Philosophical materialists are, in fact, taking up a position contradictory to their stated philosophy.What I am saying should not be construed as an argument against scientific investigation of miracle claims. Science should investigate with all the scientific techniques and assumptions fit for the task of valid investigation, but to the extent that such claims are ruled out science should not make blanket assumptions that God does not work miracles, but must pronounce only on those particular cases.
III. Reflections on Method:
Science vs. Philosophy
This post is partly aimed at RG for his instance that atheists demand "evidence." I don't think atheists care about evidence. Evidence just means that one has something to reason from. What atheists demand is absolute proof, and at a level that can't be given for anything. I would bet that if for some reason atheists didn't like science, no amount of scientific "proof" wood suffice to prove to them that science works; because they would demand absolute proof, which can't be gotten.
In thinking about the two other threads I initiative over the last few days, and the atheist take on my arguments and their 'dicing' of my thought processes, and their refusal to acknowledge standard resiances that I give all the time, I find the following state of affairs to be a good description of the current state of dialectic between atheists and theists on the boards:
(1) Theists have a vast array of knowledge and argumentation built up over 2000 years, which basically amounts to a ton evidence for the existence of God. It's not absolute proof, because true, sure enough, actual absolute proof is just damn hard to come by on anything--even most scientific things; which is why they invented inductive reasoning. Science accepts correlation's as signs of caudal relationships, it doesn't ever actually observe causality at work. But that kind of indicative relationship is not good for atheists when a God argument is involved. Then it must be absolute demonstration and direct observation.
(2) This double standard always works in favor of the atheist and never in favor of the theist. I suspect that's because Theists are trying to persuade atheists that a certain state of affairs is the case, and at the same time we are apt to be less critical of our own reasons for believing that. Atheists make a habit of denial and pride themselves on it.
Why is it a double standard? Because when it works to establish a unified system of naturalistic observation the atheist is only too happy to appeal to "we never see" "we always see" and "there is a strong correlation." We never see a man raised from the dead. We never see a severed limb restored. The correlation's between naturalistic cause and effect are rock solid and always work, so science gives us truth, and religion doesn't. But when those same kinds of correlation's are used to support a God argument, they are just no darn good. to wit: we never see anything pop out of absolute noting, we never even see absolute nothing, even QM particles seem to emerge from prior conditions such as Vacuum flux, so they are not really proof of something form nothing. But O tisg tosh, that doesn't prove anything and certainly QM proves that the universe could just pop up out of nothing!
(3) "laws of physics" are not real laws, they are only descriptions, aggregates of our observations. So they can't be used to argue for God in any way. But, when it comes to miraculous claims, the observations of such must always be discounted because they violate our standard norm for observation, and we must always assume they are wrong no matter how well documented or how inexplicable. We must always assume that only naturalistic events can happen, even though the whole concept of a naturalism can only be nothing more than an aggregate of our observations about the world; and surely they are anything but exhaustive. Thus one wood think that since our observations are not enough to establish immutable laws of the universe, they would not be enough to establish a metaphysics which says that only material realms exist and only materially caused events can happen! But guess again...!
(4) The Theistic panoply of argumentation is a going concern. Quentin Smith, the top atheist philosopher says that 80% of philosophers today are theists. But when one uses philosophy in a God argument, it's just some left over junk from the middle ages; even though my God arguments are based upon S 5 modal logic which didn't exist even before the 1960s and most of the major God arguers are still living.
(5) They pooh pooh philosophy because it doesn't' produce objective concrete results. But they can't produce any scientific evidence to answer the most basic philosophical questions, and the more adept atheists will admit that it isn't the job of science to answer those questions anyway. Scientific evidence cannot give us answers on the most basic philosophical questions, rather than seeing this as a failing in science (or better yet, evidence of differing magister) they rather just chalice it up to the failing of the question! The question is no good because our methods dot' answer it!
(6) What it appears to me is the case is this; some methods are better tailed for philosophy. Those methods are more likely to yield a God argument and even a rational warrant for belief, because God is a philosophical question and not a scientific one. God is a matter of faint, after all, and in matters of faith a rational warrant is the best one should even hope for. But that's not good enough for atheists, they disparage the whole idea of a philosophical question (at least the scientistic ones do--that's not all of them, but some) yet they want an open ended universe with no hard and fast truth and no hard and fast morality!
(7)So it seems that if one accepts certain methods one can prove God within the nature of that language game. now of course one can reject those language games and choose others that are not quite as cozy with the divine and that's OK too. Niether approach is indicative of one's intelligence or one's morality. But, it does mean that since it may be just as rational given the choice of axioms and methodologies, then what that taps out to is belief in God is rationally warrented--it may not be only rational conclusion but it is one ratinal conclusion Now i know all these guys like Barron and HRG will say "hey I'm fine with that." But then when push comes to shove they will be back again insisting that the lack of absolute proof leaves the method that yields God arguments in doubt, rather than the other way around. I don't see why either should be privileged. Why can't we just say that one method is better suited for one kind of question, the other for the other?
and if one of them says 'why should I ask those questions?' I say 'why shouldn't we leave the choice of questions to the questioner?
The Case For belief
The standard for which I argue is not absolute proof. What I just said above should indicate why I think absolute proof is nonsense. But the standard I advocate is rational warrant. Belief in God is rationally warranted, and being so, it is rational and not irrational.
See my 42 Arguments for the existence of god.
I can defend each of these arguments just I will just present one here.
Argumnet: Cosmological Necessity
(1) The Universe is contingent upon "prior" conditions (conditions that existed "prior" to our understanding of space/time:
(a) Prior condition being space/time, or gravitational field.
Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singularity, the prior condition of which is...we do not know.
(b)All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.
As Karl Popper said, empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)
(2) By definition the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since it would reuqire the explaination of still prior conditions (a string of infinite contingencies with no necessity is logical nonsense;the existence of contingent conditions requires the existence of necessary conditions).
(3) Therefore, the universe must have emerged from some prior condition which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything "higher."
(4) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the congtingencies function as necessities
(5) Therefore, since arbitrary necessities are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.
(6) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the definition of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!
The state of understanding most Christian apologists use for the cosmological argument is very bad. Most of us are still back in the enlightenment, or even earlier. In fact if one reads the Boyle Lectures (that's 1690's) one sees all the issues of a modern apologetics message board, with very little real advance by the Christian apologists.
The problem revolves around the notion of causality. Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time." Since time is the beginning of sequences there can be no scenic before the beginning of sequences; without sequences there is no begging and no "before." So the problem is that it is meaningless to say things like "everything that begins requires a cause." This is meaningless because we can't really speak of "the beginning" of the universe since the begging of the universe is also the beginning of time, and causality requires time. Thus there is no cause before the beginning of causes. Thus the whole idea of a final cause beginning the sequence that eventually leads to sequences is a lame idea. Yet most Christian Apologists use the Kalam argument (made so poplar by William Lane Craig) which begins "everything that begins requires a cause." The statement itself is self contradictory.
Of course the atheists muck things up even worse with their notions of Quantum theory (AKA "QM"). It seems that everything that begins doesn't require a cause. QM particles pop into exist seemingly out of nothing with no prior casual agent that can be decreed and thus, it seems something could come from nothing. Now it gets tricky at this point, because this not really what's happening, but the best that can come out of this observation is a big muddle.
It seems that we really don't find QM particles "popping" out of "nothing." They emerge from something called "vacuum flux." This is just a fancy name for more QM particles, that doesn't' matter, because it really is not actual nothingness. The problem is that physicists speak of VC as "nothing." So while one finds physicist speaking of QM being something from nothing, they know quite well its not. Now the tricky part is, the Christian apologist suspects, but we cannot prove, that there is a cause in there somewhere. But the skeptic can always elude the obvious implication of a cause since we don't have a direct observational proof of the need for a final cause. Our assumptions about final causes are pinned upon logic and not upon empirical observation (and this is of necessity, since we can't observe final cause since we can't observe "before" the begging of sequential ordering in time).
It seems that the skeptic has a built-in fail-safe to create a stalemate without he CA (cosmological argument) because our thinking as Christian apologists is often rooted in the thinking of the Robert Boil and the 1690's. We still think in terms of cause and effect, things begging, things needing causes and beginnings and logic proving this rather than empirical observation; although a large part of this argument is merely psychological, since in all fairness the skeptic can't prove anything either and we know darn well there has to be a cause back there somewhere.
I have developed an approach which I feel resolves this dilemma and lends a positive presumptive appeal to the CA. I feel that my approach changes the burden of proof in the debate because lends the apologist presumption, by meeting the prima facie burden of proof. This approach works in two phases:
(1) Sets up a "comfort zone" for the argument, or in other words, establishes criteria through which the bar is lowered for the standard of proof and the lower standard can be met; lower standard meaning "rational warrant for belief" rather than "proof."
We are not out to prove the existence of God. We are out to prove only that it is rational to construe the universe as the creation of God.
The outcome of a prima facie argument is that the burden of proof is reversed. Now it becomes the other side's burden to show that the PF case has not been made. What is it in my version of the CA that swings this point over from burden of proof to PF case? It's the way I deal with the notion need for causality.
The standard Christian apologetics approach is usually to say "everything we observe needs a cause, so the universe must need a cause." This leaves the skeptics cold and they just keep harping on their QM stuff. My approach is to move away from the need causes. I no longer call my argument "first cause." I use the term "cosmological" but not "first cause" or "final cause." I don't speak of causes and I never claim "everything that begins to exist recks a cause." Most skeptics will be expecting this, usually they are thrown into a state of total confusion when they learn that I don't bother with this.
My approach is to use the scholastic model of necessity and contingency rather than cause and effect. Now one might think this is so old fashioned and pre modern that it would be untenable. But no, it's the basis of model logic. One can easily argue, what with the return to the impotence of the model aspects from Hartshorne and Platinga, and with Godell's OA being based firmly upon necessity/contingency, that category is alive and well. Now skeptics will remain incredulous of course, but the category can be defended easily with Spinoza's chart of modalities. The categories are there in logic and cannot be denied.
Moreover, move on from that point to speak of "prior conditions," rather than causes. The idea of prior conditions is tricky, since we all there is a cause lurking somewhere behind it. But the skeptic is lambasting us for speaking of causes, and with this approach we need not speak of them. That way the obvious need for one is enthemimatic; that is the skeptic will pick it out himself, but he can't really say anything about it we aren't claiming it as part of the argument. If the skeptic brings it up, well it's a straw man argument, even though it's really there in the background.
Prior conditions is a tricky category and I have the following analogy. In QM theory we face the concept of the VC and the particle emerge from it. We know from observation that this slows way down the closer one gets to the singularity, and we know that we have no observations whatsoever from timeless state (how could we)? Three conditions obtain in which Amp's emerge: (1) the emerge amid physical law. Even though they seem to contradict our previous understanding of law, they are not opposed to it and QM theory is the business of showing how we can assume their harmonious existence with physical law; (2) They emerge in time; since we have no counter observation we must assume so; (3) They emerge from VF. Skeptics have howled and said "that must means more particles." But so what? that's still something. It means they aren't coming form real nothingness. As long as something exits prior to the "first" existent, that existent is not first and what prior to it must be accounted for. IF we don't wish to end up in an infinite causal regress, then we have to assume that there is some prior conditions which is the basic condition of all existence.
It's like fish. Fish are not caused by water. You can't say "water = fish." But, fish are always found in or near bodies of water. You dot' find fish living in the sand in the desert. There are fish which are native to the North American desert, but they live in water deep in caverns and have actually lost eyes because they live in total darkness. But again, the one prior condition we have for fish is water. Now someone will say "but there is causal relationship there." Yes, but my argument doesn't require that there be no causal relation, but I don't have to push the causal relation to win the argument; all I have to do is demonstrate that there must be some eternal prior condition that is necessary for all contingent conditions to be; and of course we construe this "eternally prior condition" as God.
Another important aspect of this argument is to get away form time. We must get over the simplistic idea that BB is the moment of creation and "before" that (which there is no "before") is God in eternity. That treats time like a place that one could go, where God is. Time may be running eternally, it has a "reassert" with the Big Bang but it doesn't' have to be a "place" one could go to visit. Thus it may not be that we can think of the timeless void as a realm beyond the natural realm.
In this argument I set up the contingency of the universe as the predication of an ultimate prior condition. Anything naturalistic is automatically contingent (this can be backed up by Carol Popper and many others). Thus the ontological necessity which predicates these contingencies is a priori some from of prior condition which must be understood as eternal and boundless, otherwise the idea of a contingent universe filled with individual contingencies makes no sense.
From there the argument that this eternal prior condition is equivalent to or can be construed as an object of religious devotion is easy. Of course atheists will fight tooth and nail to keep from accepting the notion that the universe is contingent. They will charge that this is the fallacy of composition. Don't let them! The fallacy of composition only works when the parts are different. In other words, if a brick wall is made up of all bricks then it is not a fallacy of composition to say "this is a wall of bricks." Thus, one case say "this is a universe of contingencies, thus, it is a contingent universe." Moreover, Dr. Kooks (Univ. Texas--our fine main branch in our Glorious UT system) uses mermeology (a funky kind of math stuff) to argue that wholly contingent parts make for a wholly contingent situation. In other words, a universe made up of all contingent parts is a contingent universe. Establishing this point will be the hardest part of the debate, but the skeptic will be scratching his head and asking "what's mermology?"
From there one directs them to Dr. Koons' Website.
I think this approach offers some unique features that get us way from the 1690s and put Christian apologetics in the 21st century.