Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Nature of Biblical Revelation


Atheists on the internet are always talking about contradictions in the Bible. These alleged contradictions fall into many categories. Most can be extinguished simply by remembering that all language had connotative meanings and all good writing uses literary devices, but many are based upon an inadequate understanding of the nature of divine revelation.

The problem with the notions of revelation in the Christian tradition is that they don't really conform to the earthly or human idea of what revelation should be. The human notion can be seen with the Book of Mormon—handed down from angels on high on Gold tablets—or the Koran—dictated by an Angel who grabbed Mohammed by the throat and forced him to write. The human notion tells us that there should be no mistakes, no problems, and the revelation should be ushered in with fanfare and pomp, clear and indisputable. But that is not the way of many religious traditions, and certainly not Christianity. There are problems, and even though most of them are conceived by ignorant people (most of the Internet atheists claims to "contradictions in the Bible" are based largely on not understanding metaphor or literary devices), there are some real problems and they are thorny. There are even more problems when it comes to the historicity of the text. But the important thing to note is that the revelations of the Christian faith are passed through human vessels. They contain human problems, and they are passed on safeguarded through human testimony. Even if the eye-witness nature of the individual authors of the NT cannot be established, the testimony of the community as a whole can be. The NT and its canon is a community event. It was a community at large that produced the Gospels, that passed on the Testimony and that created the canon. This communal nature of the revelation guarantees, if not individual authenticity, at least a sort of group validation, that a whole bunch of people as a community attest to these books and this witness.

The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

Most people tend to think in terms of all or nothing, black and white, true and false. So when they think about the Bible, they think it's either all literally true in every word or it can't be "inspired." This is not only a fallacy, but it is not even the "traditional" view. Even in the inherency camp there exists three differing views of exactly what is inerrant and to what extent. Oddly enough, the notion of verbal inspiration was invented in the Renaissance by Humanists! Yes, the dreaded enemy of humanism actually came up with the doctrine of inerrancy which didn't exist before the 19th century, in its current form, but which actually began in the Renaissance with humanists. The documentation on this point comes mainly from Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985. The humanist argument is documented on p. 36. He also demonstrates that the current Evangelical view basically dates form the 19th century, the Princeton movement, and people such as Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921). Proponents of this view include Carl C.F. Henry, Clark Pinnock, James I Packer, Francis Shaffer, Charles Warwick Montgomery, and others.

Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett

Basic Models of Revelation:

Dulles presents five models of revelation, but the faith model really amounts to little more than "the Bible helps you feel good," so I am presenting only four. This core summery will not come close to doing justice to these views. But time and space limitations do not allow a discourse that would do them justice.

Revelation as History:

The Events themselves are inspired but not the text. John Ballie, David Kelsey, James Barr. This view can include oral events; the inspiration of the prophets, the early kerygma of the church (C.H. Dodd) Creedal formulation, as well as historical events such as the atonement. This view was largely held by a flood of theologians up to the 1960s. According to this view the Bible is the record of revelation not revelation itself.

Revelation as Inner Experience:

This view would include mystical experience and views such as Frederich Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence (see argument III on existence of God). Religious doctrines are verbalizations of the feeling; the intuitive sense of the radical contingency of all things upon the higher aegis of their existence; part of the religious a priori.

Revelation as Doctirne:

This is the basic doctrine of inerrancy as stated above. In most cases it is believed that the autographs were inspired but some allow for mistakes in transmission and other inaccuracies of an inconsequential nature. This means that 90% of the criticisms made my atheists and skeptics on the internet don't count, because most of them turn on metaphorical use of language or scribal error. I take this position based upon personal experience on many apologetic boards.

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

The view that there is a dialectical relation between the reader and the text. The Bible contains the word of God and it becomes the word of God for us when we encounter it in transformative way. Karl Barth is an example of a major theologian who held this view.

No one of these views is really adequate. I urge a view based upon all of them. In some sense, that is, the Bible manifests versions of each of these views. So it is not just governed by one revelatory model, but is made of redacted material which exhibits all of these views. For example, the prophets spoke from their experience of God--their inner experience of God's prompting. Their words are recorded as the books of the prophets in the Bible. The Biblical prophetic books are then the written record of the inner experience of these men. The Gospels exhibit all of these tendencies. Passed on from oral tradition, redacted by members of the communities which passed on the traditions, they represent the written record of the events of Christ's life and ministry. In that sense the events themselves were inspired. But Jesus teachings, which we can assume were transmitted accurately for the most part, represent the word actually spoken by Jesus, and thus by God's perfect revelation to humanity. Jesus is the revelation; the Gospels are merely the written record of that revelation passed on by the Apostles to the communities. Thus we see both the event model and the revelation as doctrine model (traditional view). In the Epistles we see the inner-experience model clearly as Paul, for example, did not know that he was writing the New Testament. He demonstrates confusion at points, as when (in I Corinthians) he didn't recall how many of Stephan’s household he had baptized, but when it came to his answers on doctrinal matters he wrote out of the inner-experience of God. We can also assume that the redactions occurred in relation to some sort of inner-experience, they reflect some divine guidance in the sense that the redactors are reflecting their own experiences of God.

I know these views sound wildly radical to most Christians, but they are based on the works of major theologians, including those of the most conservative schools. The dialectical model is vague and sounds unimpressive. It really seems to be tautological statement: the word of God becomes meaningful when we encounter it in a meaningful way. Therefore, I adopt a model of revelation based upon all four models (granting that we do encounter it in more meaningful ways at some times than at others, but provided we understand that this is not saying that it ceases to be the word of God when we don't so encounter it), and of the doctrinal model accepting the views that say inerrant in intent but not specific transmission. The transmission includes some mistakes but of a minor kind.

"The Bible is Just Mythology"

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

The purpose of myth is often assumed to be the attempt of unscientific or superstitious people to explain scientific facts of nature in an unscientific way. That is not the purpose of myth. A whole new discipline has developed over the past 60 years called "history of religions." Its two major figures are C.G. Jung and Marcea Eliade. In addition to these two, another great scholarly figure arises in Carl Kerenyi. In addition to these three, the scholarly popularizer Joseph Campbell is important. Champell is best known for his work The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a great book and I urge everyone to read it. Champbell, and Elliade both disliked Christianity intensely, but their views can be pressed into service for an understanding of the nature of myth. Myth is, according to Champbell a cultural transmission of symbols for the purpose of providing the members of the tribe with a sense of guidance through life. They are psychological, not explanatory of the physical world. This is easily seen in their elaborate natures. Why develop a whole story with so many elements when it will suffice as an explanation to say "we have fire because Prometheus stole it form the gods?" For example, Champell demonstrates in The Hero that heroic myths chart the journey of the individual through life. They are not explanatory, but clinical and healing. They prepare the individual for the journey of life; that's why in so many cultures we meet the same hero over and over again; because people have much the same experiences as they journey though life, gaining adulthood, talking their place in the group, marriage, children, old age and death. The hero goes out, he experiences adventures, he proves himself, he returns, and he prepares the next hero for his journey. We meet this over and over in mythology.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible 1976). But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God.

The mythological elements are more common in the early books of the Bible. The material becomes more historical as we go along. How do we know? Because the mythical elements of the first account immediately drop away. Elements such as the talking serpent, the timeless time ("in the beginning"), the firmament and other aspects of the myth all drop away. The firmament was the ancient world's notion of the world itself. It was a flat earth set upon angular pillars, with a dome over it. On the inside of the dome stars were stuck on, and it contained doors in the dome through which snow and rain could be forced through by the gods (that's why Genesis says "he divided the waters above the firmament from the waters below”). We are clearly in a mythological world in Genesis. The Great flood is mythology as well, as all nations have their flood myths. But as we move through the Bible things become more historical.

The NT is not mythological at all. The Resurrection of Christ is an historical event and can be argued as such (see Resurrection page). Christ is a flesh and blood historical person who can be validated as having existed. The resurrection is set in an historical setting, names, dates, places are all historically verifiable and many have been validated. So the major point I'm making is that God uses myth to communicate to humanity. The mythical elements create the sort of psychological healing and force of literary strength and guidance that any mythos conjures up. God is novelist, he inspires myth. That is to say, the inner experience model led the redactors to remake ancient myth with a divine message. But the Bible is not all mythology; in fact most of it is an historical record and has been largely validated as such.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no need to argue evolution or the great flood. Evolution is just a scientific understanding of the development of life. It doesn't contradict the true account because we don't have a "true" scientific account. In Genesis, God was not trying to write a science text book. We are not told how life developed after creation. That is a point of concern for science not theology.

How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? Not because it contains big amazing miracle prophecy fulfillments, not because it reveals scientific information which no one could know at the time of writing, but for the simplest of reasons. Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.

All religions seek to do three things.

All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.

Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.

The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science text book? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration than we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).

One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and redactions are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.

After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were complied from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as scripture or as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of scripture is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is Self Sacrafice Ethical?


I am having a good discussion with Rob Yerginson on my boards, Doxa Forums. His position is something like obejctivism, but he disavows the extremes of Ayn Rand. I think he does advocate a self oriented perspective as the basis of value and rejects self sacrifice. I feel that self sacrafice (when it's reasonable does some good--not just a martyr complex) is the highest expression of ethical behavior. I think what's lost in our society today is a understanding of the spirit as the basis of value and that self sacrifice has become a dirty word--we live in an extremely self obsessed age.

That’s too bad. Somehow man in his effort to identify and pursue value has duped himself into believing that the very thing that gives rise to the notion of value needs to be devalued itself. Such a travesty. It’s like a disease that has infected our minds, causing us to view good as evil and evil as good.

I'm not doing that. What enables us to value is not just our own selfishness, that's not a very stable value. What enables valuing is the transcendent nature of truth. The society we live in has gone totally material and has totally forgotten and turned against all spiritual things. Value is a spiritual thing.

If you reduce it all to the material valuations of the individual then those can controlled by 1DM. (one dimensional-man).

The good news is that logic still works. Even in our severely confused state we can go back to the source of our confusion and expose the error. The trick is to get to the root, which means that we have to be willing to “test all things.” When we discover an arbitrary presupposition without base, we root it up. So, allow me to lay it out again:

You can't do logic without accepting the transcendent nature of truth.It's basically the concept of non contradiction. so you can't have logic without truth.

Rob:1. It is fundamental to our nature to prefer to live and thrive.

we can also direct our thriving to the group rather than the individual. We are able to give ourselves to higher things and care about others. This is the one thing upon which I agree with Mill; there is a distinction between higher pleasure and the swinish pleasure. Swinish values rooted in me ME! MY wants becuase they are ME! the higher values in "what I care about which goes beyond me."

Rob2. If we are to obtain living and thriving there are actions that we ought to take.

we may have to sacrifice lour own living and thriving for a greater good.

Rob3. While there are many values worth pursuing, we must avoid pursuing lesser values at the expense of greater values.

swinish values are lesser. the value system that puts me first above the higher values is lesser.
(not to say that Rob--who is a fine fellow-- is "swinish.")

Rob4. So long as our existence is required in order to coherently discuss those things that are of value to us, our existence is at the bottom of our value chain, whether we grasp that fact or not.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say. IF you are saying you have to secure your own good in order to support things you care about; true but there are also times when you have to give up your own good for those things.

Rob5. Since moral actions are those actions that we ought to take, then this hierarchical order of values and actions is what gives rise to objective morality (morality that is actual, that is rooted in reality, in our nature, and the natural order rather than an arbitrary morality based on whim, tradition, and the dictates of others).

I still don't accept the concept of objective morality, nevertheless, you are getting something out of place, unless I'm not following you accurately. You are doing a bait and switch you stick the necessity of our own participation into the works then make a value higher than the values we would participate to preserve. that's like he corporation becoming an entity that works for it's own survive and thus abandoning the reason for which it was founded.

Rob6. This is the correct morality for us all whether you and I happen to agree or not.

No offense that's a ridiculous thing to say. That's like truth by stipulation. I"m right whether you know it or not. then what's the point of discussion?

Now, these statements are either true of false. If you are going to accuse me of “destroying ethical thinking” you are going to have to offer some support for your claim by demonstrating the error rather than referring me to some "deontological" rabbit hole. Given these six points, where is the error?

I've already apologized for putting it on such a personal basis. we don't have to keep dragging that into it. we aer not saving the world from each other we are just exchanging views.

I think in the comments I've made I've demonstrated what is feel is the problem with each of your statements.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Realizing Answers to Dave's Comments on Realizing God Part 2


I think one misunderstanding that might have brewed out of the exchanges in comment section is that Dave is saying there are other possible explainations. He seems to not hear me saying 'yes there are other possible explanations but i think mine is the most likely." That's what I'm saying, he seems to hear me saying "No I've proved this is the only one." I don't want to second guess what he thinks. I am not claiming I have absolute proof. My argument has always been a prima facie justification argument. That means it's not a claim of proof it's a claim that the case I make is justified on face value (prima face) given the evidence.

6:43 AM
Dave said...

Nor should we limit this to sense data. It is also true that we can have flaws in our reasoning, so that we come to erroneous conclusions. This is especially true of basic, everyday reasoning that is largely subconscious and which results in what are referred to as common logical fallacies.
That's why I don't make the argument in terms of "proof" but rational warrant. I don't claim anything absolute.

So your assumption that assumes that if we have an impression of something, a sense that something exists, that we can assume that A) it exists and that B) it is what we think it is, is flawed.

That's a flawed description of what I said. Here's the argument as I make it on Doxa:

Thomas Reid
Theory of Knowledge lecture notes.
G.J. Mattey
Philosophy, UC Davis

"Consider the question whether we are justified in believing that a physical world exists. As David Hume pointed out, the skepticism generated by philosophical arguments is contrary to our natural inclination to believe that there are physical objects." "[T]he skeptic . . . must assent to the principle concerning the existence of body, tho' he cannot pretend by any arguments of philosophy to maintain its veracity. Nature has not left this to his choice, and has doubtless esteem'd it an affair of too great importance to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings and speculations. We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body?, but 'tis in vain to ask, Whether there be body or not? That is a point, which we must take for granted in all our reasoning." (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV, Section II)

Mattey again:
"Thomas Reid, who was a later contemporary of Hume's, claimed that our beliefs in the external world are justified.'I shall take it for granted that the evidence of sense, when the proper circumstances concur, is good evidence, and a just ground of belief' (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX). This evidence is different from that of reasoning from premises to a conclusion, however."

"That the evidence of sense is of a different kind, needs little proof. No man seeks a reason for believing what he sees or feels; and, if he did, it would be difficult to find one. But, though he can give no reason for believing his senses, his belief remains as firm as if it were grounded on demonstration. Many eminent philosophers, thinking it unreasonable to believe when the could not shew a reason, have laboured to furnish us with reasons for believing our senses; but their reasons are very insufficient, and will not bear examination. Other philosophers have shewn very clearly the fallacy of these reasons, and have, as they imagine, discovered invincible reasons agains this belief; but they have never been able either to shake it themselves or to convince others. The statesman continues to plod, the soldier to fight, and the merchant to export and import, without being in the least moved by the demonstrations that have been offered of the non-existence of those things about which they are so seriously employed. And a man may as soon by reasoning, pull the moon out of her orbit, as destroy the belief of the objects of sense." (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX)

"Here Reid shows himself to have foundationalist tendencies, in the sense that our beliefs about physical objects are not justified by appeal to other beliefs. On the other hand, all he has established at this point is what Hume had already observed, that beliefs about physical objects are very hard to shake off. Hume himself admitted only to lose his faith in the senses when he was deeply immersed in skeptical reflections. But why should Reid think these deeply-held beliefs are based on "good evidence" or "a just ground?" One particularly telling observation is that a philosopher's "knowledge of what really exists, or did exist, comes by another channel [than reason], which is open to those who cannot reason. He is led to it in the dark, and knows not how he came by it" (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX). Philosophers "cannot account for" this knowledge and must humbly accept it s a gift of heaven."

"If there is no philosophical account of justification of beliefs about the physical world, how could Reid claim that they are justified at all? The answer is the way in which they support common sense."

"Such original and natural judgments [based on sense-experience] are, therefore, a part of that furniture which Nature hath given to the human understanding. They are the inspiration of the Almighty, no less than our notions or simple apprehensions. They serve to direct us in the common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the dark. They are part of our constitution; and all the discoveries of our reason are grounded upon them. They make up what is called the common sense of mankind; and, what is manifestly contrary to any of those first principles, is what we call absurd. (An Inquiry into the Human Mind, Chapter VII, Section 4)"

"One might say that judgments from sense-experience they are justified insofar as they justify other beliefs we have, or perhaps because they are the output of a perceptual system designed by God to convey the truth. (Of course, if the latter is what gives these beliefs their justification, the claim that we are designed in this way needs to be justified as well.)"
In other words, We accept the existence of the external world as a matter of course merely because we perceive it.

(me on Doxa)

1) Acceptance of Perceptions about the world.

But it is not merely because we percieve it that we accept it. It is because we perceive it in a particular sort of way. Because we perceive it in a regular and consistent way. This has been stated above by Reid. The common man goes on with his lot never giving a second thought to the fact that he can no more prove the veracity of the things around him than he can the existence of God or anything else in philosophy. Yet we accept it, as does the skeptic demanding his data, while we live out our lives making these assumptions all the time.

2) Consistency and Regularity.

If every time we woke up in the morning it was in a different house, with a different family, but one which make the assumption that we did nevertheless belong there and always had, and if the route to work changed every morning, if we never went to the same job twice, if our names and our looks were always different each day, we might think less of direct observation. But because these things are always the same from moment to moment and they never differ, we learn to trust them and we trust them implicitly as a matter of course. We do not try to prove to our selves each day when we get up "I am the same person today that I was yesterday," precisely because we learn very early that we always are the same person. We observe early on that we cannot penetrate physical objects without leaving holes and so we do not try to walk though walls; we know that doesn't work because it never works.

Hume observed that when we see two billiard balls we do not really see the cause of one making the other one move. What we really observe is one stopping and the other one starting. But, in practical terms, we do not observe the causality of a car running over the pedestrian as causing the pedestrian to fly across the road, but we know from experience that these two factors usually go hand in hand and so we don't play in the street.

a) Empirical proof?

In making this argument on boards many skeptics have argued "I see that the world is real with my own eyes." That's the point, why trust your eyes? You cannot prove they are seeing things properly. Everything could be an illusion everything we observe could be wrong. We cannot prove the existence of the external world, we assume it because it is always there. Some try to claim this direct observation as empirical proof. But they are confusing the notion of scientific empiricism with epistemological empiricism. Before we make the assumption that scientific data is valid we first make the epistemological assumption that perception is valid. Otherwise there would be no point in assuming the data. So epistemological empiricism is prior to scientific methods. In fact we have to simply make this assumption a priori with no proof and no way around the problem in order to able to make the assumptions necessary to accept scientific data. WE do usually make these assumptions, but they are assumptions none the less.

Just because a sense of the numinous *feels* extremely important, profoundly meaningful, and strongly connected to something greater than oneself, it does not automatically follow that this is so. That is, that one has found and plugged into some pre-existing transcendent order to the universe. That is certainly a possibility, but it isn't necessarily true.
Meta:At that point all you are saying is that everything can be doubted. I never claimed to offer absolute proof. That's also a bit of straw man argument, because the basis upon which you are arguing ("feels extremely important") is not the basis upon I make the argument. I never said this is true because it feels important. I based the argument upon the way it fits epistemic judgment criteria (regular, consistent,inter-subjective).

That alone leaves the door open for other potential explanations of why some people have such experiences, which supports the assertion you were contesting. But that isn't all. Because there isn't just an opening for other explanations, other explanations exist.
Meta:Just giving an alternative is not enough. You must prove the greater likelihood of it.

Nor do they involve dismissive claims such as saying that people who have a sense of embracing and nurturing transcendence are just victims of brainwashing or wishful thinking or perhaps mentally ill.
Meta: Ok


Take an evolutionary argument. A currently popular hypothesis is that the human brain didn't just get better and better at particular tasks by increasing neural processing power to particular area; rather, the increased interconnections between these various functional loci in the brain was just as if not more important.

All brains try impose artificial meaning on the world based on certain goals such as finding food, detecting danger, and the like. This can include making general assumptions about the nature of the world and its properties based on experience and sense data.

This also extends to making predictions about what will happen next. In more sophisticated brains, this includes an assumption of agency on other living creatures, which itself extends to attributing purpose and motive to what is happening around the organism.
sure but we do not assume as a matter of course that what we perceive is merely imposing order on the world.If we assume this why do we act as though our perceptions are true. If it is the case that we impose order why does acting consistently with our perceptions work to get us by? The order must be there or it wouldn't work to act as though it is. Moreover, the basic assumption of science is that it is there. Otherwise why study it?

An even more advanced feature is empathy, the capacity to guess what another creature is experiencing and to mimic that experience; examples would include sharing another organisms fear or pain. This is thought to be more common among more social animals with more sophisticated brains.
Meta: that doesn't prove that pain isn't real. We are not imposing a non existent order on the world by sharing fear of pain, pain is real and it should be avoided. That's real order. Your arguments seem to be assuming that perceiving something is the worst evidence for its existence, yet that is still considered the best evdience in all quarters.

Now if we take these and similar features and qualities of the brain, and we boost their capacity and then increase the interconnections of their circuits, we might expect that this would lead to new properties of the brain and qualities of the mind. Complexity theorists would call them emergent properties.

Some of these properties might be beneficial, some might be detrimental, and some may be neither. Some may also be both depending on circumstance. If we assume this kind of model, a more balanced system may lead to artistic and intellectual genius, intense creativity, and a heightened capacity for social perceptiveness. A less balanced system could lead to obsession, neurosis, schizophrenia, etc.

6:44 AM
Dave said...

Now, consider a species where fitting in, security in belonging, social and personal empathy was important; where agency detection and theory of mind (being able to "get inside someone else's head) was important; where recognizing or creating sophisticated and overarching patterns of causality is important; and where attributes such as creativity and suspension of disbelief (needed as much for activities such as thought experiments as for enjoying a good story) are important.

It is not at all unlikely that such a species, when the connections between the circuits for these attributes are increased, might have develop a tendency for an innate sense that the world is ordered and logical, that this is due to a greater intelligence or consciousness, and that one is connected to this greater whole. It would need not be something clearly articulated, say, in the strictly logical aspects of conscious awareness. It could instead hover as a profound sense of wonder and interrelatedness. It could even seem to precede the subjectively created experience of the world that one takes for granted as actual reality.

Now, could this suffice as an explanation for the sense of the numinous? Sure it could. It could also explain why some people have such a sense or have it more readily and experience it in a more pronounced way while others seems to lack it or to experience it less frequently or in a more subtle fashion.
Meta: not really. that's not adequate to account for all of the aspects of the phenomena. Yet, moreover, it's also just playing off of this assumption above that if perceptions work out then they must be false. you are really just arguing that my argument works too well. There is no premia facie reason for assuming your answer. we don't normally assume that if things work out they must be false. We don't assume "I perceive order therefore I'm just projecting it and it's not there." Sure that could be the case at some point, it also has to be that order is really there when it consistently works out that we follow it and we wind up walking off a cliff. We see the road ahead is clear and of all the amazing things we make it. We don't assume "wow that must have totally false as a perception, that's why it worked out." There's no reason to make that connection.It's a possibility as you say,I never claim an absolute proof. It's not a likely hood.

It doesn't account for all the phenomena. Why is the sense of the numinous the same in all cultures and all times, and its' always beneficial and life transforming? The prima facie sense, On face value, is that our perceptions have paid off. The mere possibility that they might be false is not a likelihood when they consistently work out. The sense of the numinous is transmitted by brain function, is it a mis fire? An imbalance, or just some perceptual sense that is normal but not often noticed and is now begin taken as a reflection of some reality when in fact it really serves some other purpose in the evolutionary endowment? This is a fair question, but to the extent that it's consistantly positive, that doesn't seem likely that it's an imbalance or"misfire" when those usually are not beneficial.

The possibility that it serves another purpose and we are misapplying is a real possibility, but that in itself doesn't disprove the argument. It's a justification argument not a proof. That means assuming the conclusion is valid based upon the result of following the perception is a valid assumption. There is no prima facie reason to assume it's wrong just because it worked out, when all our other assumption are prima facie that the perception is true when it works out. That amounts to dogmatic doubt for doubt's sake. This especially true as long as one doesn't show this alledged hidden purpose for the experience.

One could counter that the same evolutionary process and reconfiguration of the brain could have enabled people to sense an actual pre-existing transcendent order in the same way that the evolution of photosensitive cells allowed for an awareness of the phenomena of light, but this would still pre-suppose the existence of this transcendent order. And it would also mean that some people would, biologically, have little or no access to it.
Meta: At this point that's just an empty possibility. In order to over turn a prima facie assumption you must show that the evidence justifying it isn't enough. That requires more than just a mere possibility that "this might be the case."

Again, the point at this time is not an argument over which explanation is best, but rather that there are multiple explanations. Peak experiences, the sense of the numinous, etc, COULD point to God but don't necessarily do so.
Meta: just hanging out bunch of possibilities is not enough to overturn a prmia facie argument. If the standard is a prima facie case, then the presentation of empirical studies that back the case in all its major aspect with no counter data is a strong PF case.

Here's a good book, one which I actually researched from and quoted from in my book in making this argument. It's a fine defense, by a great philosopher (William Alston) better than I can ever do. This is a google book so this link will take you to an online copy of the actual book.
Perceiving God William P. Alston.

Realizing Answers to Dave's Comments on Realizing God Part 1


This Dave character who has been arguing with me in the comment section is actually a long time friend. He also helped proof some of my forthcoming book we talk about here. That's how it comes to be that he's read chapter 3 in a book I haven't published yet. I think he's bored but that's not to dismiss the concerns he voices. Nor am I saying he's not serous about them. Dave is one of the brightest people I know so it's important to take his views seriously. He raises questions in regard to the thing about "realizing God." I was going to follow up on some of the concerns he voiced anyway, then he lays this huge set of questions and arguments on me over the week end. I thought it would be good to just put them up front and answer them here. I break it into 2 parts. I'll do part 2 tomorrow or Wednesday.

Dave wrote: Moreover, many people do in fact participate in religion and or assume God exists as a sociological phenomenon, not as an unambiguous revelation of God's presence. That cuts down the numbers a bit. Peak experiences cannot be seen as clear evidence of God, as there are many different ways to explain or understand them. God is one possibility but not the only one.

William James theorized and Wuthnow and Nobel back him up with data from their studies that there is a continuum of experience. So we find people at all levels of awareness from shedding a tear at the sight of a sun set to full blown mystical experience, to complete sainthood. There is a good reason to think that no one just holds a purely intellectual belief based either only upon logic or entirely upon society, culture, or family. everyone has had some kind of experience of of God's presence even if it is just a fleeting sense. Peak experience can most certainly be seen as clear evidence of God, the alternate explainations are easily disproved and have been debuncked in my book.

My arguments are not an attempt to show some empirical proof that God is there. My argument is that the fact of sensing a presence proves the presence is real in way that seeing a red patch proves that we can see red, or not in the way that seeing a crime proves a crime was committed. I argued that we should understand it as proof, we should see it that way. One of the major reasons is the experiences fit the criteria we use to determine the reality of experiences.

William James--famous Shrink

Metacrock replied: that's not true, read chapter 3 of my book.

It isn't true that God is one of the explanations for peak experiences, or that God is only one potential explanation? Seriously though, you are incorrect. And I am well aware of what you wrote in Chapter 3 of your book.

It isn't true that God is ONE of the exhalations it sure as hell is! You must have mistyped that because all I have to do is show someone saying that God is one explanation and voila, it is so! Just read Hood! The above argument about criteria was in chapter three, you have no answered, neither you nor anyone. No one arguing against my argument has ever even addressed the issue, nor have you. You did not say a word about the epistemic criteria and until you do you have not answered the argument.

The problem with your assertions there and here is that you seem to presume that a sense of the numinous or a connection to the transcendent must be extra-physical and even extra-mental. That is, that it extends to something beyond the body and even beyond the mind as these terms are conventionally understood.

First of all I don't know what you mean by "extra mental" unless you mean outside of the mind. That's the standard assumption of mysticism; if by that you mean "beyond our understanding." If by extra mental you mean that reality is outside the mind, yes that's my assumption, I think it is the assumption of all people, most of us anyway. As for assuming that it has to be beyond (extra) physical I think that's a pretty reasonable and safe assumption. The current of thinking that everything must be physical is stupid. Eventually it's all going to collapse into nothing becuase it already has reduced from solid mater to energy. The term changed from "materialism" to "physicalism" because they realized that energy is a form of matter but is not solid or tangible like a brick. If you unravel the phsyics of electricity you see that subatomic particles are "charges" not little balls (which I am sure you well know). What charges are, we cant' say because so far all we have said is that charges are made up of smaller charges. you keep peeling away the solid and find there is nothing solid there. If physical means solid it ant physical.

Yes I am still convinced that eventually we will get down to mind. I am certain it will turn out that energy is mental. Reality is the thought in a transcendent mind. So does that make it "physical" or beyond physical? I don't know. You tell me. What does "physical" mean? In my opinion the meaning has changed. In the old days it meant tangible, something that can be touched. Now in phsyics and with physicialism it appears to mean something like "whatever can be taken as actually real, weather it's tangible or not." That means it's really a tautology. They might as well be saying "that which we agree to."

Even granting that we are not talking about sense impressions from external sources, that does not tell us anything about what is actually happening other than the subjective descriptions offered by those who have so-called peak experiences. Your logic assumes that if we have an impression of something, a sense that something exists, that we can assume that A) it exists and that B) it is what we think it is.
That's a contradiction to your previous criticism. Above you seem to be criticizing me in part because I think that God is beyond our understanding. This is how I read the assertion that my views employ "extra mental." Now your criticizing becuase you seem to think I assert that we do know and what we know is given clearly and accurately and unmediated in qulia. These are obviously not true. I thought you proofed chapter 9 but guess you didn't. You should have becuase I spend half of that chapter talking about mediation of experience, weather we really understand what we experience or not and the metaphorical nature of words. My whole idea is that we don't know what heck is out there. We can know it loves us, we know it's good, we know it's all powerful but we can't know much else. The corollary to that view is that it doesn't flipping matter. That's one of the main differences between religion and scinece. Religion is helping you make it through the night, scinece is about scratching the itch to know "why does X happen?" We can't always know that, and we don't have to to get through the night. Those are two totally different needs and they are met in totally different ways. We don't need the kind of precision with religion that we have with science. Yes, I am using the image of "help me make it through the night" (the old song) in as a metaphor for getting through life and dealing with emotional pain and spiritual healing and whole ugly mess of living in a world of pain.

If we go to sense data just for an easier analogy, that would be like saying that just because we think we see a ghost that a ghost exists. However, it may be that our senses are being fooled or that our perception (the interpretation of our senses) is inaccurate. That is, what we think we see may not actually be there and if there is something there it may not be what we think it is.
You are arguing from analogy Dave. I understand the concept here and that illustrates the issue gut it does not prove anything. Argument form analysis cannot be used as proof. Just because we are fooled by ghost phenomena doesn't' mean we are being fooled by religious experience. Even if we are that's not the issue. I never argued we can know we are not being fooled. That's very important to realize because I think that clears up a lot of misunderstanding. I am most certainly not arguing that religious experience gives us the kind of certainty we get in scinece. We don't need that kind of certainty,. It gives us existential certainty, we might call it "private" certainty. We don't' need any other kind in terms of the meaning of life. We are not going to get it anyway. In terms of life's journey that kind of certainty is exactly what we need and we certainly do get that from religious experience. There is a huge body of empirical evidence that proves that point.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More on Realizing God


On CARM this guy "sofa King" one of the major trolls makes the bold assertion that
if God existed he would know it.

That's a good question. To make the statement "if God existed I would know it" requires several assumptions not in evidence:

(1) That God can't be be hidden

(2) that belief in God is only adding a fact to the universe

(3) That you don't know it and aren't just refusing to accept what you know.
(atheists really hate that one)

(4) That god is given in sense data

All of these assertions are wrong headed. You can know and you would know if you would allow yourself to realize God's reality; but you can't know by proofs or by empriical observational of sense data.

Since the latter is the only kind of evidence you accept then you can't know and you will never know.

It's not a matter of proof but realization. This is because God is not given in sense data, God is not another fact about the universe. God is not just another thing in the universe.

God is the basis of all reality. I used to make an analogy that was whimsical and meant to be; a fish scientist is hired to find water. He spends all his time looking at the ocean floor and never finds it because it never occurs to him he's looking through it. God is the medium in which we live. God sit he basis of reality and what we call reality is a thought God entertains. Thus you can't find God by examining empirical data.

you can only find god by ascertaining the nature of being and your place in being (ie a contingent creature). You can't prove God, you can't discover God you have to realize God and you do that by realizing the nature of being and your place in it.

God wants to be hidden because the point of life is the search; the search is a mechanism whereby we can internalize the values be gain by doing the search.

God arguments serves as focal points that enable to us lack on to coordinates so we aren't just saying 'all kinds of junk and stuff proves God." You have to have a place to start making realizations, but the place to end up is in the heart. the heart is the field where all actions takes place God-wise.

The idea that "I would know if there is a God" I suggest you do know, but you have yet to realize what you know, and the reason is becasue you don't want to face what it means to realize your place in being.

For example, the transcendental signifier argument (or "focal point"). There has to be a thing at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy that lends meaning to all the lesser meanings which we use to mark the world.

We cannot think coherently or communicate with out this. We may think of it as "reason," or "maths" or "laws of physics" but there is a top to the metaphysical hierarchy, even if you say "I don't believe in Metaphysics, that's bull" you are making a metaphysical statement and assumption by saying that. You cannot escape Metaphysics, you have to engage in it even to reject it, and thus you must subjective to an organizing principle because that's what Metaphysics is, grouping and organizing the world under some single organizing principle (Here I"m speaking of Heideggerian metaphysics).

Even the most Dawkamentalistic atheist has an er zots version of God.

This is just a part of the overall realization that the basis of reality is "holy" and special and has everything to do with the meaning of our place in the world.

That's the bottom line of belief in God, the object of ultimate concerns. Realizing that there is an object of our ultimate concerns is realizing God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Realizing God


Even though I have 42 arguments for the existence of God (42 = answer to God the universe and everything) I feel that making God arguments is beneficial but not necessary. Atheists often react with chagrin when told this. But the fact is I don't ever claim to "prove the existence of God." I really do believe that God is beyond our understanding and thus, would be unnameable to objective proof. This flys in the face of the way most atheists see things. Most atheist tend to orbit around the concept of objective proof, empirical science, absolute demonstration and on. In fct most atheists use a warfare model of discussion.They don't discuss beliefs, they "attack arguments." It's all about proving and that means conquering the enemy.

I want to side step that entire attitude. God is beyond our understanding, but not beyond are experince. We can't prove objectively that God exists, this is far form meaning that it's not worth it to believe or that belief is irrational or makes you stupid if you believe. There are many beliefs atheists take for granted that can't be proved, but that doesn't even give the pause since these are essential to getting by in the world: like the concept of other minds, or the idea that the sun will come up tomorrow. That we are not brains in vats. Atheists scough at this stuff all the time, but they rarely stop to consider what it means. It means your mockery of it due to the fact that you take it for granted. You don't have any scientific evidence that proves you exist, or that other minds exist, or that the future will be like the past and so on. all of that is obtained through the very means that people of faith use to belief. You mock their beliefs and take your own for granted. That's because that warfare model of argumentation doesn't allow for a searing self examination.

The basic model would be not to argue for the existence of God, but to realize that God is reality. It's a matter of opening your eyes to see something that is already there, that you know it there you just never bothered to understand it before.It's just that, open your eyes and realize God is there. How is this done? By expanding the categories of knowledge so that they now include the relevant information necessary to see things in a new way. Here are the categories required:

cultural constructivism
modal logic
the transcendental signifer
(and with it deconstruction and postmodernism)

these things are not augments. They the basis out of which arguments might be made, but more importantly, they are fields of thought which include both logic and data the apprehension of which will help one understand why people believe in God. Once understanding that one will see the reality of God is plain. God's reality has been masked by Western thought since philosophy and modern science has segmented our understanding, breaking up epistemology from metaphysics and ontology, make seperate categories so we can't connect globally to different categories of knowledge that make it possible to see connections.

I am not saying that if you read all this stuff you will agree with me. But to understand why belief with being able to prove it "objectively" is not irrational you have to expand your understanding of what knowledge is and what it means to have beliefs.

Belief in God is not merely adding a fact to the universe. Yesterday I did not know there is a God now I know there is one. So the universe yesterday had swizzle sticks and pop corn and tooth brushes and combs, and today it has those things and God. This is not what belief in God is. It is not just adding a fact to the universe. It's understanding the nature of being in such a way that we see the holy aspect of being.

Paul Tillich said "if you know that being has depth you cannot be an atheist." What does this mean? That's what reading this stuff is about.If you expand your knwoledge categories and broader your understanding then you see that being is more than just a fact of existence, you come to realize God is reality; The ground of Being.

Please read that link there, several pages to get the idea of what I mean by saying that God is the ground of being. When you realize the nature of being you can't help but understand that God has to be. Now to explain about these knowledge categories.


this is an approach to ontology (the study of being) through which one allows the sense data to suggest it's own categories.It was pioneered by Brintano in the late nineteenth century but is best known for its two major thinkers: Hulleral and Heidegger. Science, and all forms of metaphysics (in Heidegger's sense of the term) sense data is pre screened into pre selected categories. This is what the atheist is doing when he says "I want objective evidence." Hes saying I have already decide what evidence I will accept and what I want accept. Any evidence that doesn't tally with his pre set ideology is automatically discounted. What one needs to do is allow the experinces of the divine, or so we don't beg question, experinces which some might take to be the divine--the sense of the numinous to suggest their own categories.


Philosophy made famous by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. But it has a strong Christian wing the van Guard of which was led by Kierkegaard, and brought up in its main body by Gabriel Marcel. Existentialism starts from the premiise of the individual's own understanding of the authenticity of his existence and it's meaning in the universe.

cultural constructivism

The idea that any idea that can or must be put into language is a cultural construct, that is an idea constructed by previously constructed meaning in society. These ideas are found in all language because all language is an artifact of culture. So everything we can rationally talk about is a cultural construct.

this means that science is not absolute knowledge, It' not objective, objectivity is impossible. Science is just another culturally bound language game.

modal logic

this comes much closer to real truth anything in science. but of course it depends upon pre selected premises. Yet is essential for understanding concepts about God.

the transcendental signifier
(and with it deconstruction and postmodernism)

The "TS" as I will call it is essentially God. That is to say God functions in the economy of a religious tradition as a Transcendental signifier. This is a very complex idea and requires a lot of real close reading. I have two blog spots in which I explained it pretty good.

Here's the "arguemnt" (except now it's not an argument but it's why the TS is a connection Between the TS and God.

these are background to understand the idea of the Trascendental Signifer.

Derridian Background of the TS

TS part 2

Finally, you need to know about the vast body of scientist work surrounding mystical experinces. When all of this comes together you realize there's really point to deny the reality of God. the nature of the universe takes shape around God and you realize that concept is the center.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Religous a priori: Shameless Plug


It's friday, and hit rates dip on Friday. Please excuse my shameless plugs. I thought this would be a good time to talk about my new website that I think is grossly overlooked. I have had my site Doxa now for about twelve years. It's a good sight but my dyslexia got the better of me and correcting all that text is such a daunting task. Moreover, there's so much of it. I've decided Doxa is a completed work. I no longer add new stuff to it. The new website that I am using to put up updated material is The Religious A prori.

Unfortunately the nature of the net being what it is, they have killed off the ability to have a good cheap free static website like Doxa was. Working in Geocities made it easy and fun. Now that's gone everything is hard. They want you to spend a hundred a month paying some professional to do your site for you. The only free easy sites left are blogs. I just used a blog on this company, blogger. I put up a static website on a blog. For some reason people wont look at it.

It's really going to waste because I've got dynamite stuff on that site. I've got a good mix of all the major categories I had on Doxa. I haven't transferred the woman's part over yet (the egalitarian section). I might make that into a separate site. The Religious A prori. is actually three sites in one. They are all linked through the stand along pages which serves as a navigation.

I have the main body, then Bogus atheist social sciences, where I debunk ideas like Christians go to prison ore often and Christianity is dying out and all that stuff. I have a great thing on the Atheist IQ scam (where they try to claim that atheists are smarter than believers) proving nothing they say on that has any validity to it. I've actually demonstrated they have fabricated the statistics, caught them in the act of changing the data, on the prison thing.

The third section is Jesus and the Bible. It's got all of Doxa's greatest hits on the Jesus pages, Plus new material such as the Revolutionary Jesus post I did here on the blog. Some of the Jesus part is still under construction.

the arguments for God section is very different from Doxa. I am not putting up 42 arguments. That's too many to mess with. I have nine so far, I'll probalby add a few more. Four of them are new not on Doxa. Two new versions of the Tillich arguments. Clarke's Cosmological Argument and a new re-invented version of the "God pod" which I now call God on the Brain.

for some reason people don't keep going to the site. there will be a bit of activity and then it's dead for weeks. I think it's because it's on a blog. It's designed to navigate like a static website. Please check it out, sigh up to follow and it and go back periodically and read it all.

The Religious A prori.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Is the Phrase "God Exists" a "Meaningful" Phrase?

antenna galaxy

The Internet Infidels blog Secular Outpost

A discussion is launched by Bradley Bowen over the concept of alleged incoherence of the statement "God exists."

In The Coherence of Theism (original:1977, revised ed.:1993), Richard Swinburne argues that the sentence “God exists” is a meaningful indicative sentence that expresses a coherent proposition. He does this by raising objections to arguments that have been given against this view, and by also making a detailed positive case.

For the negative or defensive case, Swinburne starts out by raising objections to some general arguments against this view, and later in the book he raises objections to more specific arguments that focus on the alleged incoherence of specific characteristics or combinations of specific characteristics that are used to define the word “God”.

The main general argument against his position that is examined by Swinburne is a logical positivist argument about the sentence “God exists”, derived primarily from A.J. Ayer’s book Language, Truth, and Logic (1936).

This is how Swinburne interprets the skeptical argument presented by Ayer:

(1) If the sentence "God exists" expresses a coherent statement, then the sentence "God exists" expresses either an analytic proposition or else it expresses a synthetic proposition.
(2) The sentence "God exists" does not express an analytic proposition.

(3) The sentence "God exists" does not express a synthetic proposition.
(4) It is not the case that "God exists" expresses a coherent statement.

The logic of this argument is fine, and Swinburne accepts premises (1) and (2), so his focus is on the question of whether premise (3) is true or well-supported.

This skeptical argument is basically a modern version of Hume’s fork. Hume divided claims into two categories: (a) relations of ideas and (b) matters of fact. Hume argued that all claims fall into one or the other category, so since metaphysical sentences do not express either “the relations of ideas” or “matters of fact”, such sentences do not express claims or propositions.

It seems unclear to me why this would have anything to do with Hume's fork. This concept says that one cannot derive an ought from an is. This would seem to have nothing to do with the attempt to make a coherent metaphysical statement. Moreover, the idea that metaphysical claims do not express relations of ideas seems absurd and ridiculous. First of all if that were true than science si incoherent. We have known since days of A.E. Burtt and well before that, that scinece is based upon metaphysical assumptions. See Burtt's great famous book The Metaphysical Foundations of Early Modern Science. Most aspect of modern knowledge relate to metaphysical assumptions, any attempt to organize an understanding of the world and group sense data under pre conceived categories is basically a metaphysical assumption. In this connection one might enjoy Edward Feser's commentary on "Recovering Sight After Scientism."

Nor is it logical that Metaphysical claims cannot be matter of fact. If that were the case then scinece would be unable to assert matters of fact. The assertion of materialism (physicalism) is a metaphysical assertion. Come to to that the assertion that Metaphysical claims cannot be matters of fact is a metaphysical claim. The whole concept is meaningless and the reason for this is because one runs a huge risk when basing one's views on Hume. Atheist worship Hume as the great thinker who launched modern atheism not realizing the was the considered the Derrida of his day. That is to say an opportunistic game player more concerned with his own greatness with truth, and hankering to be known as a genius at all cost, and advocating radical concepts he could not pull off. He was brilliant, but not serious, not truth seeking, obsessed with his own advancement. Moreover, Hume's take on religion is nothing short of amateurish and bombastic and nonfactual. In fact I would use the term "propaganda" in relation to this description. Most of the great ideas Hume stumbled on to came from Bishop Berkeley whom he admired (even though he was a Christian so even atheist in that day could recognize that Chrsitians were intellectually valid). Hume set's forth an empiricist understanding that defines religious thought in straw man terms as jaundiced and silly but takes the most absurd view as it's point of attack. Where does he come off asserting that metaphysical claims are not matters of fact when his assertions of empiricism must of necessity be metaphysical? The Empiricist brackets all knowledge but his own perceptions and that is a metaphysical move because it asserts that all sense data but be herded into pre conceived categories.

The concept of an analytic proposition can be viewed as a clarification of Hume’s notion of statements that express “the relations of ideas”. The concept of a synthetic proposition can be viewed as a refinement of Hume’s notion of statements that express “matters of fact”. Given the assumption that all coherent propositions can be categorized as either being an analytic or a synthetic proposition, a dilemma simliar to Hume's fork can be constructed for the sentence "God exists".

There are some problem's with using Hume's categories. One such problem is was well before the problems of positivism and A.J. Ayer so he was totally out of the loop when Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) proved that the verification principle caused to wither everything other than the verification principle, including scinece, history, knowledge in general. There's a good article by Thomas F. Torrance on Polanyi's Christian faith. That move spelled the beginning of the end for the Ayer form of positivism as a force able to accomplish its task being so valuable to scinece.. See Polyani's book Personal Knowledge: Toward a post critical Philosophy. Hume lived before any of this, before Phenomenology, before positivism and before the modern and post modern understandings of philosophy of since. In fact it's monumentally crucial that Hume never knew anything about Heidegger's Metaphysics. In Hume's day Philosophies and skeptics were reacting against Scholasticism and agaisnt views of the Church that had been shaped by Austine and Aquinas. They were not cognizant to any degree of the people of science and knowledge, they were trying to dig themselves out from under the middle ages. They were busy destroying the intellectual roots of Western culture which were planted firmly in the soil of the Christian faith. So I suggest that Hume's categories are antiquated and that is pronouncements are irrelevant.

This further bit is in the comment section. Bowen talks about Swinburne's philosophical background.

Bradley Bowen said...Uzza said...

does Swineburn ever define what he means by "god"?

Swinburne is a modern analytic philosopher. When he was a student of philosophy, he took courses from Ordinary Language philosophers, including John Austin.

Swinburne provides a general definition of the term "God" and then also provides clarification and analysis of each word or phrase in that general definition.

One of the main tasks of his book COT is to describe circumstances in which each of the alleged characteristics of "God" would occur. He does this in order to demonstrate that each characteristic is coherent in itself, and then he procedes to try to describe circumstances in which combinations of these characteristics occur together in one person.

Here is the general definition given by Swinburne in Part II of the book ("A Contingent God"):

"In this part I shall consider what it means to claim that there exists eternally an omnipresent spirit, free, creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, and a source of moral obligation, and whether this is a coherent claim." (COT, revised edition, p.99)
That's all fine and good and I would assert that Swinburne can handle himself in a fight. There's an even bigger problem with this whole discussion and the very concept of the argument, it's a problem that would outdated even Swinburne's answer. The very question itself "the existence of God" is wrong headed and asserts the wrong concept about the nature of God of Christianity. The problem is the atheists are right here, but they are right for the wrong reason. Yes I said they are right! They don't know why they are right. "God exists" is a theologically inadequate statement, at least in the view of Paul Tillich, which I agree with. The atheists take it to mean that there is no God. But in reality it's just that existing is something that only "things" do, contingent things that is. So God is not a thing in creation, but the basis of reality. So the atheists are wright that "God exists" is not coheent as a statement but not becasue there is no God.

Duan Olson explains:

Famously or infamously, Tillich denied that God exists, or that God is a being, and identified God with being-itself. In typical quotes, he says, “It would be a great victory for Christian apologetics if the words ‘God’ and ‘existence’ were very definitely separated,” and “God is being-itself, not a being.”[iii] What often gets overlooked in discussions of Tillich’s idea of God is its theological justification. I bring this justification to the fore in my analysis.

Tillich denied that God exists, or that God is a being, in order to preserve the notion of God’s aseity. In traditional theology, for God to be “a se” means God is neither derived from nor dependent upon anything. Tillich points out repeatedly that if you take this idea seriously, then no aspect of finite reality and no category of thought can be applied literally to God[iv]. If some characteristic of finite reality applies literally to God, it means that aspect of reality is greater than God in the sense that God relies on it being there in order to be. It is unconditioned, and it conditions God. God is dependent upon it, and is not a se. Finite reality and all of its parts must be made possible by God, but if anything in finite reality is literally applied to God, or if we can subsume God under any categories applicable to finite reality, this shows that God is subject to some part of reality and is not a se.
(III:Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 205, 237. IV: Ibid, vol 2, 6).(From "Paul Tillich and the Ontological Argument" Quodlibet Journal, vol 6, no 3, July 2004).

This is aspect of Tillich’s work that really baffles and angers atheists, his denial that God “exists.” Many have claimed that he is actually an atheist, but that’s because they don’t bother to understand his ontology, it doesn’t occur to them that he’s using the term “exist” in a specialized way. Even though he doesn’t explain it this way, what he’s really saying is that “existence” is for contingent things. Contingencies exist and necessary things have being, or be or they are “part of reality.” Look at the terms he uses in the quotation above as alternatives to “existence.” He speaks of “the validity of truth of God.” Another term he uses as an alternative for God’s’ mode of being is “reality.” God doesn’t exist but he is real none the less. Existence, for Tillich is part of the “surface” of things, the level at which things merely exists. Another aspect that both skeptics and believers alike have trouble with is the notion that God is not something (he means some thing) or someone. What he means by that is that God is not a thing or an individual entity. God is not just another thing in creation alongside “things:” if we made a list of everything in the universe, stop lights, tooth brushes, swizzle sticks, fish, bananas, Petula Clarke albums, we could not then put God on the list alongside those things. Nor is God a “he” or a “she” or a “someone.” God blows away your conveniently understood categories; God defies our sense of the appropriate nature of pronouns and grammar. God transcends our understanding, there is no analogy that is totally appropriate but all religious language is analogical because that’s the only way we can approach something beyond our understanding. The idea that God is not someone is anathema to a lot of believers, and I can sympathize with them. But this does not mean that I don’t related to God as my “heavenly father” or that I don’t feel intense intimate love emotions connected with God, both from God to me and me to God. Nor does this mean that I think God has no will to be followed. The nature of God and the problem of mind and consciousness will be dealt with in a latter chapter. The important point right now is that the hall mark of Tillich’s view of God is that God is the unconditioned!

To insist upon the ordinary use of the categories in relation to God would be equally misleading, as to use Tillich specialized sense and not explain it. We can't speak of God as "existing" and properly understand God as the basis of reality, as something transcendent of thing hood. The basic problem goes all the way back to that of using Hume and his categories as a critical tool in evaluating belief in God in the first place. Hume was just ill equipped to understand the concept once the trashed the categories of Christian thought that has been set up by the original mystics who famed concepts like Being itself in the first place. The real problem here is making the assumption that if empiricism is the basis of modern scinece then it must be the only valid basis for knowledge and thus we can subject all aspects of reality that basis. The problem is you can't subject the foundations of reality to any sort of study as though the foundation is just another piece of qualia or a side effect of the whole. That really sums up the whole mistake of atheism in the first place.