Friday, August 31, 2012

How Do we Know Which Parts of the Bible are Inspired?


On a message board an atheist named Magus asks me:

Which parts of the bible are the "true" word of god, if any? Do you believe that the bible is only a reflection of the way that the people who wrote it or do you believe god wanted it to turn out the way it did? If you believe some parts come from god and other do not, how do you determine which is which?
Of course I heard these kidns of questions all the time.

Which parts of the bible are the "true" word of god, if any?

Not a matter of Parts. You can't dissect a narrative line by line and ask "what parts of this narrative are the result of the writer's genius and what parts are just banal filler?" You can criticize different aspects of course, but you can't say 'this sentence is genius and this sentence is not a product of genius." The whole narrative works together to create a solid word. Narratives communicate in many subtle says. you can't limit the number of insights one can deduce from a work of art.

Fundamentalists look at the Bible in a certain way and atheists look at it in reaction the fundamentalist way. The basic assumption is made by both that the text of the Bible is, from the "In the Beginning" of Genesis to the "even so come quickly Lord Jesus" of Revelation as words transmitted from God to the mind of the authors. As though Moses sits down, takes pen in hand and a lights shines on him and a voice in his head says (in a booming echo like way) "write write write, this is it...."In in in The the their beginning beginning beginning...." I don't think it works that way. I am willing to understand that when the prophets say "this is what the Lord says" they may be repeating word for word the exact verbiage God gave them to say, although not necessarily. But for most of the Bible I doubt that it works that way. I think people were just using the ideas that came to them as a result of their religious experiences, and as a result they used those concepts and feelings in the different ways that it occurred to them to use such material. They put their ideas of God into the stories and those who had real experiences really captured the nature of God's grace, and those who did not genuinely experience God failed to capture such things.

The real problem is the model. The model of the fundies says that God is writing a memo. The Bible is the word form "the Big man upstairs" and just like an executive writing a memo. Moses is taking dictation. But that model assumes directly handed down verbiage, it's even called "verbal plenary" meaning "all the verbiage is inspired." That's the model I use. I go by a model that views the Bible as a collection of writings which are based upon human encounters with the divine. People experience God in different ways, usually beyond words; to speak about that they must call up from the deep recesses of their spirits (minds) that intangible part that produces art and literature, and they formulate into words their experiences. That means they have to load the experince into cultural constructs.

A cultural construct is an idea that is suggested by culture, by association with other people in society and the symbols and analogies and metaphors that tacitly speak to us at a level we understand but can't necessarily articulate. In the ancient world life was cheap, people were used to thinking in terms of either wiping out the other guy or being wiped out. The ancient Hebrews magnified their culture, but a romanticized view of themselves and their struggles into narrative form and used that framework to express the wordless sense of the numinous that they experienced through contact with God. The tendency to want to wipe out other people, to destroy totally every trace of their existence and lives, is part of the cultural constructs which act as a lens to give words to the writer's deep and hidden senses of God communicated through wordless sensations on the mystical level. So they build into the narrative a bunch of stuff about wiping these guys and those guys but what we need to understand is the major point being made.

For example, in the bit about the Amalekites, I'm pretty sure the bit about the infants is added in latter. I think we see real evdience in the text that it's been tweaked. But the real point is not wipe out the Amalekites nor is it that it's ok for us to wipe our enemies, the real point is obey God. Saul didn't obey God and the incident was a down fall for him. Now it doesn't matter that the incident is this failure to wipe out the infants it could have been anything. They wrote it like that. The real point is do whatever God tells you to do. But that God is not going to tell us to wipe out our enemies and destroy their kids is pretty obvious to most of us. We can defend that description well enough to say "God did not command this." We can even put it up to religious experience. My experiences of God tell me God doesn't want this. But why did the author of that part of the Bible (presumably Samuel) think that God did tell him that? Because he's filtering the experience through his cultural constructs.

Now you might ask "but then how can we learn moral truths? Our moral understanding is not static. Our understanding evolves over time. The ancient Hebrews could not understand this was wrong because it was common place in their day. We understand the wrong of it because culture evolves. Jesus understood it was wrong. Jesus did not say "wipe out the Amalekties" he said "turn the other cheek." He even corrected the understanding of the OT generations when he said "you have heard it said an eye a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you turn the other cheek." With the Bible we do not proof text. We don't determine what to do by one verse. We use the preponderance of the evidence, meaning everything we can understand about the Bible. We don't stop there, we study and understand what others have said about it. We use the words of the saints and the great theolgoians as precedents and bench marks to help us interpret. Samuel was not speaking with authority for all time in telling that story. He was merely telling a story he heard soem someone and putting down on paper some tradition (probably the real author was writing from Babylon in the exile--that's the most heavily redacted part of the Bible). He was putting into the work his understanding of God from his experiences as well what he had been taught. But the end result is a narrative and like all narratives it only works to accomplish its task when we try to understand it as a narrative and not force it into molds where it doesn't fit such as memo from the boss, military communique, or auto owner's manual.

It doesn't make sense to say "this is inspired and this isn't." That would be like saying "which feet of Elliot's The Wasteland are inspired and which aren't. You can't segment things in that way. We need to understand the bible as literature. It's major function is to bestow grace upon the reader. you read it to be healed to find spiritual edification and to understand God's laws. There are those who think it should be read like an instruction Manuel for a car. They seem to think it's going to tell us ever move to make in the same way that the owner's Manuel tells us how to change the oil. Since the Bible is a collection of different works written over a long period of time it doesn't make sense to try and fit the whole collection into one model and understand it all in the same way.

We don't have to understand exactly the role of inspiration nor do we need to look for the inspired parts as opposed to the banal parts. What we need to do is understand the over all preponderance of teaching and weigh that in light of what God shows us in our own lives. When we do this grace is bestowed, we are healed, we are drawn closer to God but we do not have to relate to it as if we are reading the instructions to change the oil in the car.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Answering Maybrick's objection to Soteriolgoical Drama: free will defense


This was an exchange on CARM message board with an atheist named "Maybrick." It's about the free will defense. I feel that there's a self religiousness in frantic hatred of God that is born of pain and suffering. It's something I want to be sensitive to but there's a point at which it goes too far. This question was brought on by a discussion of "natural evil." By that is meant bad things that are not moral choices such as drought and storms, car wrecks.

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
(1) Natural "evil" isn't' evil it's just unfortunate. It's necessary as a result of real world

(2) God can't stop all calamity or unfortunate things or the search would be violated.

(3) the search is the point of of our lives.
Notice: I think there's also an implication that he doesn't understand the concept of natural evil. He seems to think it's denouncing it's pain more to call it "evil." If you don't call it evil then you somehow don't mind it as much. The reality is "evil" is a moral designation and "natural" "evil" means things that are moral choices, things of a painful nature, such as tornado, pain caused by them. No moral choice is involved, so its' not "evil" morally.

To me this is insulting, a little.

You reduce a fairly significant portion of pretty much all living organisms existance (of those have nervous systems) to a fairly simple and wholly unnecessary (if God exists) statement that, essentially, suffering is needed.


I don't see it that way. you are basing that on my statement that we have pain because we have a real world. what I mean by that is we have nervous systems so we can feel pain. That's an evolutionary adaption that serves a positive function. God didn't have to design it specifically he just needed to have the basic concept of evolutionary life and then let it develop.

Nor did I attach a value to pain. I didn't say "people get pain because they did wrong." I said nothing of the kind.

I suggest you pay a little visit to a cancer ward in your nearest hospital. If you are lucky you might just catch the last few hours/days of a Human being, "loved" by God, whose cancerous vagina has rotted through to her bowels and is dieing in great pain and the knowledge that everyone around her is smelling her crap. You can console her suffering relatives with your logical constructions. Or maybe just give them rubbish phrases like "god has a plan". Or maybe you can explain to them just how Jesus died for them.
I want to be sensitive to the pain that people feel and not dismiss their anger toward God. Not that I think God is blameworthy but I have been angry at God for injustice and pain in my own life I know how this feels. I also sense a certain degree of self righteousness as though this guy thinks he's the only one who has suffered. He seems to be saying "If you don't hate God it must because you have never felt pain." He makes the simplistic equation 'if pain happens, God is unworthy." that comes form the idea that stopping pain is the only valid thing. As much as I sympathize with suffering people, and I do (and I have my share of pain--likely to have more) there tings that are more important than stopping pain.

I would rather have freedom to think and choose and have free will and take the hist and suffer in life than to eleiminate all pain and have no free will. Free will is imporant in the equation because it is for this reason that God risks allowing evil. So we will seek the good freely because we choose to, because we can to be God, not because we are forced to. That extends to natural evil because it means to keep the necessity of a search for the truth viable the question of God can't be so obvious as to remove all doubt. If no one ever suffered in a real world where we have nerve endings hen it would soon be obvious some powerful force prevents pain. Then there would be no search becasue no one searches for what is obvious. The search is important because that's how we internalize the values of the good.

This what I told him on the board:
you are trying to say God can't be there because if he was he would never allow anyone to suffer. that's assumption not in evidence. The whole point of a free will defense is to say there are intervening variables that make it necessary to allow pain. you do not have an answer to this. You expect the emotional appeal to sway one to hate God without ratinoal consideration of the logical possibilities.

I lost everything. I lost my home. I lost my parents. I lost my career. every thing I worked for in life was taken away form me and I got a debilitating leg problem that means I can't work. how dare you say that!

I did hate God. I got angry at God. I drove around shouting "YOU LIAR! YOU BASTARD!" I mocked scripture at the top of my lungs shouting "I AM THE RIGHTEOUS iM BEGGING FOR BREAD, YOU LIAR! i DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE THIS JOB STUFF"

When the time came God was there. he picked me up and said "that's ok I still love you. none of this hapepned to hurt you." He made it all ok. It's like he was grining and saying 'I've heard worse."

I feel for you. Hey I would probably feel the same way if I went through that. I did react in anger and self pity. I am very sorry for the pain you have had that does not disprove God. you are trying to dictate to me what I can believe you use your own pain as emotional backtalk. I have had my own share of pain. I choose not to allow that to destroy my relationship with god because want to grow.

I cannot conceive of a loving god when you smell the stink of a human rotting alive.
that's your deficiency not mine and not God's. you refuse to learn and grow. you want the emotion of hurt to stand in your way of knowing God, I don't.

I know hurt. I know pain. my legs are rotting away. my booster is rotting away. god is there and he's good and helping us.

That answer is probalby too insensitive. I can understand that feeling. When you are experiencing it it's penitent and immediate you can't be rational about it. you can only step back from it latter when you are no longer going through it.

And unless you redefine God as Morphine and Fentanyl, I suggest that no God worthy of the name would tolerate a system which allowed that magnitude of pain to exist.
that's your mistake. you formulating an opinion. that is not soemthing you can prove. It's a personal decision about your respond to life. It's not a positive response I don't think. I choose to grow and learn and know God.

That's going too far. That's that self religiousness I see in his earlier statments. It seems to assume first, that stopping pain is all there is, that's the meaning of life. Secondly, it assumes that those who don't hate god have never felt pain. These are both irresponsible and irrational assumptions.

A Gaint Leap for Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

The first man to set foot on the moon has died, at age 82. He died of complications from heart surgery. There has been a spontaneous outpouring of mourning for him. I think he represents a moment of greatness for the whole human race. As he himself put it, "a small step for a man...a giant leap for mankind." No one heard "a man." It sounded like he said "a small step for man and giant leap for man kind." Leaving me to wonder for years what is the difference between man and mankind? This is one of those events we can all remember exactly where we were at the time. I was at my old childhood home, in sixth grade, in the upstairs bedroom (my room) watching the event on tv with my parents and brother. My mother was reading the bible for some reason. She always read the bible when important stuff happened. She read the passage covering the creation of the mood about a dozen times, out loud. That's one of those things mothers do that drives you up the wall but you love them anyway. Like how she would go to sleep in the first five minutes of mission impossible, wake up in the last five and go "what's been happening?"

The moon landing was one of those things that only means something one time, you don't think much about it from then on but it's always important. Subsequent landings just seemed passe. I felt like it was suppose to become routine. But on the day of the first landing I felt like i had just witnessed the most important event in human history. Humanity had become a space going race. We were just about to take our place amid the Klingons and Vulcans and fulfill the destiny of Rocky Jones, Flash Gorden, and all the si fi schlock I had ever watched as a kid. I fully expected at that time that we would just continue to develop and eventually as an old man I might be living in a domed city on Mars. I was in sixth grade. Latter in high school I came to realize that our own natural anonymity and selfishness as a species would corrupt our attempts to outgrow our own parochialism. I also began to feel "if we can't solve our problems here how would we solve them up there?" I think there's a certain truth to that, involving human nature.

LinkI think everyone sensed that something major was about to happen. I went to the nursing home to see my grandmother just a month before the landing and she was crying. I found out she was afraid because she herd that man might bring back a back form the moon that we would could not cure and it would destroy the human race. She also cried when she hear about Woodstock, she figured it signaled the end of civilization. I told her there was no air on the moon so there couldn't bein any living organisms. That calmed her down. I think that brings up the point I wanted to make about it all. One thing that struck me at that time was a combination newspaper editorial where someone talked about all the ideas of what might be found on the moon. There had been hoax in the early 20th century here someone claimed to have seen a civilization on the moon. There was a lot of talk about how no one could look at the moon anymore with the kind of feelings of mystery and romance that they once had. I was reminded of some childhood experiences of my Grandmother telling me about how people use to think about the moon when she was girl, how older people saw a Rabbit in the moon rather than a man.

earth rise from moon

Even though I never again looked at the moon with the same sense of mystery it never lost it's special nature for me. I think about that time overtime I look at it. I think about how it still means something to me. It has now become a symbol not of conquest of nature or man's achievement, although I suppose one might see it that way, but something more too complex to explain in a single sentence. It's a symbol of advancement alright. I think about that moon landing and Armstrong's words, we have taken a giant step, even though we sort of retrenched after that. It could also be seen as a failure. We started something we weren't prepared to continue and have allowed earth bound ideologies and problems to distract us. We were short sighted in thinking "we are not going to conquer the moon and build domed cities on mars in the next hundred years, so just forget it." Did we trade in progress for easy comfort? We have been living trading in the future ecologically for some time now. We have an attitude "who cares what they do four generations form now?" So have we traded in the domed city on Mars for the choice of putting off hard solutions so we can have opulence just a bit longer?

That's not all the moon symbolizes for me. If that's all it was then I would only be able to think of the moon as a bench mark of human lethargy. I also think it symbolizes something about my attitude toward belief. The moon doesn't symbolize for me the fading away of old fables, such as the hoax about seeing a civilization there through telescope, or romantic drivel, or mystery, ti symbolizes the way in which our faith in God can become aware of science and still not be threatened because our theological understanding can mature. This is one one of the major things atheists can't understand. That's becuase they insist on thinking about faith as some willful act of stupidity. They think it's an agreement with yourself to be stupid. Faith is not belief in things for no reason, it's placing confidence in a hypothesis for a reason. Just as the moon is not only a symbol of unknown mysteries but also a goal to aspire to and a bench mark of our understanding and a symbol of our will to knowledge.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Atheist anger is about power

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The horrible secret weapon of

Hear the song (if you can take it)

This post on CARM, by atheist Darklady, reminded me of another post on this blog years ago:

In response to a discussion about hell I had joked that hell was having to listen to Petula Clark's song "Downtown" Over and over angain for eternity. This atheist say "how dare you try to scare with such a threat." He was not playing along wiht the joke. From the things he said it seemed very clear he really thought I was seriously threatening him. That's why I put up the picture of the album with that as the secret weapon.

This is the post by darklady that reminded me of that:

Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will recognize this:

First the put downs
“You're NOTHING without me."
Then the threats
"If you even THINK about leaving me..."
And then blame game
"You BROUGHT this upon yourself"

But wait, this seems familiar…

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. " John 15:4-6

God thinks we are nothing without him …

"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”" 2 Pet 2:20-22

Then there are the threats

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" Rom 5:12
And the bible plays the blame game very well

This is the post I put up in response to the statement about "how dare you try to threaten me." It was called "to know God is to love God."

I just finished this page yesterday.Why I don't believe in hell. It's too long for the blog (4 pages). So I put it up on Doxa. I really should have done it years ago, it's such a basic issue. I write this in response to a commenter on the comments section who was posting in response to the piece "no Will Greater than My Own."
9:14 PM
Goliath said...

Ah, at last, you've begun to realize that even if your god exists, not everyone would want to follow him.
Not that I believe that either exists, but I would MUCH rather follow Satan than the xian god. In fact, I would rather die and spend eternity in hell than follow the xian god.

9:36 PM

My response that's your prerogative and your problem. I will just say that you don't know God. you don't know what God is like. Maybe I dont' either but a i have a general idea. you can't go by the OT. you have to go by Jesus. So far all the atheist attempts to show that Jesus was no good have been less than impressive, for me.

I'll look you up in a million an and see what you think then. I just warn you of one thing:

I do happen to know, a little known secret of the universe, a large part of hell of his having to hear the replay of "Down Town" Petula Clark over and over again forever. think about it.

Goliath said...

I know everything I need to know about the xian god, and I know everything that I need to know about your vile faith.

I hate Jesus, I hate the xian god, and I would destroy both of them if I could.

"I do happen to know, a little known secret of the universe, a large part of hell of his having to hear the replay of 'Down Town' Petula Clark over and over again forever. think about it."

ROFL! Is that the best you can do to scare me into groveling before your god? You're pathetic.

Metacrock said...

I am not interested into scaring you into anything. You are only hurting yourself.

6:38 PM
Goliath said...

Then why try to intimidate me by telling me what hell might be like?

Again: I would rather burn in hell than follow your god. Deal with it.

Metacrock said...

that is nuts. to really think that is a serious attempt to scare anyone? I can think of a lot more scary fates than having to listen to "Downtown."

this is something called "humor." Are you so demented you don't even know what "funny" means?

If you bothered to learn more about my ideas you would know that I do not believe in hell as a place of eternal conscious torment. So you are just hurting yourself because you are missing the very essence of what love is by rejecting God because God is love.

scary hu?

If you are just looking for fight you wont get one. I have better thins to do. Go troll someone else. If you really care bout ideas I am wiling to talk but you have to shed the bad boy image thing and grow up and really think.

I am not trying to humiliate this guy or to ridicule him for thinking my joke was a serious threat, although I think it should be obvious it was not. Three things occurred to me as a result of this exchange:

(1) again we see the real issue underneath it all is power. Notice his idea of accepting the existence of God is "groveling." For one reason or another its a power issue. I don't know anything about this guy by my imagination is working overtime playing on images of overly zealous religious people trying to manipulate people into doing their will. Ultimately I don't believe that all the hurt feelings and bitter hatred of hate group atheism is all the fault of religious people. But I certainly don't think we've handled things right.

(2) atheist assumptions about religious people are stereotypes that cause them to cast the issues in certain preset terms.

(3) Perhaps we condition people to think they know what God would be like, or what the Christian idea of God would be like by dealing with Christians. How else could it be? That they think they know what God "is" or would be like is purely a function of two things:

(a) how Christians have treated them

(b) the why they have been conditioned by Christians to read the Bible.

This is why I think it is important up front to get out the message about hell. I urge you all to read those pages because I feel I make a pretty good case for the idea that the Bible does not even teach that hell is eternal conscious torment. It's important for people to understand this because the atheist agenda is wrapped up in propagandizing about Christianity as a punitive and operant notion of religious experience.

two paradigms: operant vs existentialist

The choice of paradigms on the nature of religion lies between two poles, a punitive-operant religion vs an existential religion. Punitive I think we all get drift, hell is thought to be punishment for disbelief, sin and generally doing bad. It is also seen as a means so scaring people into compliance as our friend above thinks.Operant (like B.F. Skinner's positive and negative reinforcement) because through the promise of heaven and the threat of hell one is manipulated into changing behavior on a punishment/reward basis. Existentialist means it is not about punishments or manipulation but a response to one's existential experince of life in the world--based upon personal experiences and aimed at understanding individualistic goals and ends of a person's life rather than fitting into a preset mold of behavior.

While we can't do that much about the way other Christians react to people, we can try to check our own reactions (I do know I still have a long way to go in that area) and we can try to clarify problems with the atheist reading of our belief system. Toward that end I would explain that since I don't believe that hell is eternal conscious torment, I can't really try to scare compliance out of people. There have been instances on message boards where I have told atheists about my view son hell and always some group of them will say "then how can you scare people into being good?" I can only think that they approach the problem from this angle because they feel people have tried to scare them into being good and that's the only way they can see to do it.

The existential paradigm of religion is so much more effective because scaring compliance. Scaring people into obedience defeats the purpose of knowing God and it's really ineffective in the long run. It's much more effective if people internalize the values of the good. This is why God sets up the world in the way it is, why we have to seek truth instead of being issued briefings in press conferences when we are born. Because the search leads to internalizing values and values give us commitment for a life time. Belief in hell is a waste. It's childish and it is wasted because no one learns in hell. You cant' come back and try it again, by the time you know you were wrong its' too late to change. Punishment may be just and there should be consequences for evil, but I think ceasing to exist is consequence enough, and humane. Please read the link at the top about Why I don't believe in hell. So I don't believe God's aim is to scare but to enthrall and to bring us to a point of internalizing God's values. We do that by knowing God.

Atheists will no doubt see it as a game and a pretense, but, it is a relationship. One cannot "know enough about the Christian God." you can't get the idea from words on paper or sermons on Sunday. It's not a fair test to go by how Christians treat you because Christians are at all different stages in their walk with God, some don't even have any idea they can know God in a personal way. That being said that is no excuse to treat people badly. We as Christians have to understand how we come across and respond in love, not manipulation. I know I am the worst at responding in love. I have some real idiotic mistakes in lashing out in anger to abuse of atheists. But this doesn't give any clear picture of God, even though they will draw conclusions about God based upon the way we act.

That is no better than trying to know a person by what others tell you. You ever had a friend who had another friend he was always talking about. This guy is the greatest ever, and when you meet that person, nothing like the description. You have to know someone before you can really see how great that person is. You have to actually know God. This brings up the invisible friend effect.

Atheists use this as derision, its' like a child with an imaginary friend. Well is it? In some ways it is. Imaginary friends are said to be positive things by child psychologists.Through the assumption of God's active presence in our lives we can model holy living just as through imaginary friends children are modeling real friendships latter for life. It really depends upon the extent to which people take it. I've never been comfortable with "Jesus is here invisibly" idea. I am not comfortable with the way of relating to God that assumes God is saving me a parking place. Some Christians sort of assume they are experiencing God and then letting God step into such occasions. That's actually not all bad really. The sense of God's presence, or what we call "God's presence" is documented over and over again in empirical studies as a valid life transforming experince and something that really changes people's lives for the better in dramatic ways. Some studies show that the mystical type experience is the most mature form of Christianity. The study by Robert Voyle shows this, and it links Christian experience to mystical experience.

That being the case we have no choice but to assume that the experience is the sensation of a reality that is actually present to us at the time.

The atheist can't evaluate this by just hearing about or reading about. I thought people who had such experiences were insane until I had one my self. It's as simple as this, you have to experience it. Its' a say of life, it is not not just one more hypothesis in a life of hypothesis testing. It's a relationship and develops over time. Not all Christians think they hear God, or even believe in that sort of interactive interpersonal relationship with God. There are many kinds of spirituality and many ways of relating to God. I went through my Charismatic phase in the 80s. I still believe some of what I picked up in that era, the "gifts" for example, miracles and healing. But I have not tried to interact in that way, that God is my invisable friend, in some time. That is, in my opinion, a phase. Its' the lower level of stages along the road to mystical union. Mystical union is the highest level of relationship with God and most Christians don't even know about it and will never get there. I will never get there in this life. But it is something, I beileve, we will all experience in after life.

Mystical union is not in the Bible as such. There are verses that pertain to it, but its' not stated explicitly as such. It's part of the voluminous literature of Christian mysticism.

Diverse Expressions of Spirituality

There are as many different views of spirituality and styles of relating to God as there are people to do the relating. Christians are very different. G.K. Chesterton was as different from Billy Graham as was Adli Stevenson from Barry Goldwater. Which is to say as different as Clinton from Bush. Even within the closed ranks of Christian mystics is very diverse. You don't have to relate to God like a big guy in the sky.You can relate to God like a principle or an idea. We can internalize the values and just learn to discern the will of God without having to "hear" or sense works or ideas. Atheists can't understand this because they have to assume it's all made up and so they can only go by words on paper. But they don't even bother to read anything except the bible and that they read for loopholes rather than understanding.

Atheists often confuse popular piety with Christian doctrine and spiritual experience. Popular piety is neither, it is not doctrine nor is it spirituality, at least not in a deep sense. The real depth in spirituality is the mystics; St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and mystical writers not saints, such as blessed John Riseborke, Madame Guyon, Baron Von Huggle. There are hundreds, or thousands. They are all different. They are a different form each other as Plato from Thomas Kuhn. Reading them will only give us a clue. You can't know God until you open your heart to ho him and begin a relationship with him. Until then it's only stuff you hear about and assumptions not in evidence. The first step is open your heart to God's love. Let God love you. If you think love is control and manipulation then you are just missing the boat on what life is all about.

Being a Christian is about knowing God in a personal way. This means experiencing God's presence, but it means a lot more than that too. It's a personalized relationship which fits the individual's own style; it's a love relationship:

1Jo 4:7

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1Jo 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is something that has to be experienced to be understood. Once it is experienced it is known. The atheist claims to "just know" there's no God don't stack up to that because they are by their very definition the absence of a relationship. One cannot experince the fact of a thing not existing. We can experience the lack of food, clothes, shelter, taxes, peace, whatever, but that doesn't prove these things don't exist, merely experiencing a want and a lack is not proof of anything.Experiencing the presence is proof of something. Atheists may assume or speculate as "what that really is experience of" but that is not the same as experiencing it. To have this kind of relationship with God is to know God. To know God is to love God because God is love. It is also knowing that God loves us. No one can understand this fom outside the relationship and no one can judge God. People who think they are rejecting God are really just rejecting love.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jesus Mythers Still Plugging for Fictional Nazareth

excavation in 1999

December of 2010 I did a piece updating a controversy from the early days (late 90s) of my apologetical life: the Nazareth as Inhabited at the Time of Jesus. This was on Atheist Watch, and the comment below was sent to Atheist Watch. That piece I did on atheist watch was in 2 parts. part 2 is here. Of cousre the mythers say no. The Pfan excavation, which they had been sighting as documentation for their view (it was going around big time, every message board had posts on the mythers using Pfan excavation. I'm the one who actually got hold of the guy to find his findings and who read his article to see if they were misquoting him. Now a new gang is saying his findings were no good (now that they know he doesn't back them).

I recieved a comment (on Atheist Watch) to that old post from 2010:

Anne Carly Abad says:
I read this article about Nazareth:

And the author debunks the dating of some of Pfann's findings, claiming "It consists of eleven small pieces of pottery—shards to which the NVF scholars assign an early date but which the standard textbook dates as late as the second century CE. In other words, the NVF scholars were choosing arbitrarily early dates for a few objects, and resting their Jesus-case on what amounts to mere preference. Significantly, in my book I show that the rest of the material from the Nazareth basin dates after the time of Jesus. So, an early dating for the NVF objects in question is not consistent with the evidentiary profile for the area."

What is your take on this?
When we go to that source we see this:

an article entitaled "Nazareth, Faith, and the dark option an update:"

By René Salm

American Atheist has always championed the no-nonsense view of religion, and readers may note with a certain pride that this magazine has now emerged as a leading—if not the leading—advocate for the wholesale revision of Christian beginnings. Atheists have never shirked the challenge to take on the goliath of establishment Christianity, and today that challenge must include the controversial archaeology of Nazareth, which Frank Zindler has called “the Achilles’ heel of a popular god.” Readers will recall two articles in previous American Atheist issues on this topic [1], articles which preview and alert readers to my recent book, The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus (American Atheist Press, March 2008). The opposition has now responded with the literary equivalent of a scream, and I’d like readers to know that the popular Christian god is in a heap of trouble and may be teetering.

How is that for strident? There's no question these guys are in a war, they fighting an evil enemy, they are the good guys (or course) they have the truth. It's pretty clear from their article that their real arguments revolves around commercial interest who seek to make money off of the "Jesus home town" thing. That has nothing to do with Pfan's excavation. If you look at the history of this site these same guys have been spewing the same propaganda for years. they have produced a mounds of lies about it. Most of the Google picks are from these sites, the same people the same lies. They are all basically filling in the data for the two major atheist authors, Rene Salm, The Myth of Nazareth And Frank Zindler. Zindler is is currently the editor of American Atheist Magazine and Director of American Atheist Press. A member of scientific organizations such as New York Academy of Science. No indication he has any degree in Archeology. I am not able to find any credentials for Salm. The best article I've found defending the idea of habitation in the time of Christ, and arguing specifically against the original work of Zindler and Salm is an article on an apologetic site by a Kyle Butt. I'll come back to him latter in this article. The guy that wrote the article and runs the magazine is the guy who wrote the book. So the source that uses the book for documentation is the author of the book. He's obviously going to have a pretty biased take on things.

They always ignore the previous findings, they never reveal that they first used Pfan as their own before they understood him. They pretend the pot shards are the only pro Naz evidence and totally ignore the terraces, the houses, the first two excavations that are just written off because they were done by Franciscans. In the day (1930s--50s) Franciscan archaeologists were authoritative scholars. This was before the new atheist refused to believe anything a religious person says. These are the same guys and the same Orwellian movement that run around going "we don't to know what theolgoians we know they are stupid."

This is hardly scholar stuff. So who is the alleged scholar making the statements about Pfan's findings? You don't just look in a text book to determine the dating of pot shards. I no longer have the original stuff I used to use on Nazareth, nor the article on Pfan's work but as I recall there's a lot more to it than just some pottery. There were prior excavations to his that arleady determined Nazareth was inhabited. Some of my research can still be seen on my old site Doxa. From that article:

First of all it's important to realize that Nazareth was only four miles from a major metropolis. It's hard to believe it wasn't inhabited until so late being that close to a major city.

There two mentions in Antiquity:

"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise." Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:

Also from my original article:

occupied since 7th century BC

"Despite Nazareth's obscurity (which had led some critics to suggest that it was a relatively recent foundation), archeology indicates that the village has been occupied since the 7th century B.C., although it may have experienced a 'refounding' in the 2d century b.c. " ([MJ]A Marginal Jew--Rethinking the Historical Jesus, (vol 1), p.300-301)...cites Meyers and Strange, Archeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christianity, Abingdon:1981. pp.56-57

Galyaah Cornfeld, Archaeology of The Bible Book by Book .(NY: Harper and Row 1976) p. 284 "What concretely about first century Nazereth? In the first two centuries AD it was a modest village built on Rocky soil in a valley far from the main trade routes [this was before Sarapis was discovered]...Two excavations, one led by Fther P. Viaud the other by Bagatti led to the discovery of the traditional site of the annunciation to Mary and the place which Jesus frequented as a growing lad...excavations of inscriptions there bear witness to a Jewish Christian cult of Mary from the very earliest times..." Some of those inscriptions also go back to the middle of the first century and identfy the place as the that of Jesus' boyhood home!

Excavations of Naz
Nazaraeth The Village of Jessu, Mary and Joseph

Franciscan cyerspot

The church of the Annunciation stands over the extreme southern end of the ancient village. Having examined the site occupied by the church of 1730, the outline of the Crusader church became clearer. In the northern nave the Crusaders had left the rocky elevation of the grotto and between two pilasters had made a stairway to the shrine. The excavations of 1955 unveiled the plan of the Byzantine church. Orientated as that of the Crusaders, it had 3 naves, with a convent to the S and an atrium to the W. It was 40 m. in length. Delving under the Byzantine construction the franciscan archaeologists found plastered stones with signs and inscriptions, which certainly formed part of a preexisting building on the site.

Excavations of the church led the pre Pfan archaeologist to conclude the place was already inhabited since pre Christian times. There's a lot about Pfan's work on that site too. I suggest the reader read the original article.

The mythers have been so angered they have over the years published a huge amount of Bull about this topic. most of what you find on Goggling it is their propaganda. For example the site "Nazareth the town that theology built' is nothing but pure hog wash. The arguments on that site are so contradictory that he starts out making arguments from sensible 'the gospels don't tell us much about Nazareth" as though that disproves it's existence. then he also says the Gospels don't mention the major city it's near, Sepphoris, as though that somehow disproves its existence! Not mentioning Nazareth disproves Nazareth and not mentioning a place we know for a fact did exist also disproves Nazareth?

A source so unlikely it can't possibly be confused with Christian apologetic, the left leaning Guardian publishes an article about the discovery of Roman Baths at Nazareth, implying it was a Garrison town.

The American excavators are convinced that what Shama has exposed is an almost perfectly preserved Roman bathhouse from 2,000 years ago - the time of Christ, and in the town where he was raised. In a piece of marketing that is soon likely to be echoing around the world, Shama says he has stumbled across the "bathhouse of Jesus". The effects on Holy Land tourism are likely be profound, with Nazareth becoming a challenger to Jerusalem and Bethlehem as the world's most popular site of Christian pilgrimage.

Professor Richard Freund, an academic behind important Holy Land digs at the ancient city of Bethsaida, near Tiberias, and Qumran in the Jordan Valley, says the significance of the find cannot be overstated. Over the summer he put aside other excavation projects to concentrate on the Nazareth site. "I am sure that what we have here is a bathhouse from the time of Jesus," he says, "and the consequences of that for archaeology, and for our knowledge of the life of Jesus, are enormous."

Kyle Butt M.A.
(Yes I see it, it's no joke)

The town of Nazareth is “located in the southern end of the hills of Lower Galilee at about 1200 feet above sea level” (McRay, 1991, p. 157). Nazareth is about four miles southwest of Sepphoris. During the time of Christ, Sepphoris was the capital of Galilee, a major center of political and economical activity, and home of Herod Antipas (DeVries, 1997, p. 318). Primary research was done on the city in the mid-1950s by Bellarmino Bagatti. He discovered that the village during the time of Jesus was “an agricultural settlement with numerous winepresses, olive presses, caves for storing grain, and cisterns for water and wine” (1969, p. 25). McRay noted that pottery found in Nazareth dates “from Iron Age II (900-600 B.C.) to the Byzantine period (330-640), including Roman pieces from the time of Christ” (p. 158). Bagatti stated:

The entire village of Nazareth has very many subterranean cavities, some used as
The Church of the Annuciation in Nazareth
stores, some used as tombs. The earliest documentation is indicated both by their form and the ceramics found therein. The latter put us in the presence of tombs already existing in the Middle Bronze Period, and silos already in use in the Iron Period (1969, p. 25).

So it was inhabited before Christ, the people went away, then came back after the time of Christ? For the atheist propaganda to be true that would have to be the case. In fact this is the theory proposed by the atheist propagandist Rene Salm, the Myth of Nazareth. He bases that on his asserton that no artifacts are found between 700bc t0 50 AD. His argument is argument from silence and it's disproved not only by Pfan but all three excavations found evidence of first century habitation. In 2009 achaeolgoical evidence of a house was found at the site.

In December of 2009, Nazareth made worldwide headlines. Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre and her colleagues uncovered a small structure that they dated to the time of Christ (Hadid, 2009). The Israel Antiquities Authority official press release hailed this discovery as the first of its kind in which a residential structure was uncovered. The announcement noted the importance of the discovery, and quoted Yardena:
The discovery is of utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period. From the few written sources that there are, we know that in the first century CE Nazareth was a small Jewish village, located inside a valley. Until now a number of tombs from the time of Jesus were found in Nazareth; however, no settlement remains have been discovered that are attributed to this period (as quoted in “Residential Building...,” 2009). (ibid)
Salm's book was in 2006 so he didn't know about the data. Now the problem is this data was done by pottery too but there's no reason to think Yerdena's Pottery dates are wrong.

The dating method used by Yardena and her team, of matching pottery from the site to other pottery in an attempt to properly identify the time frame of the dig, is one of the most frequently used dating methods in archaeology. McRay mentioned this dating method as one of the most effective:
The potters of antiquity were careful imitators but reluctant innovators.... At any rate style did seem to change from period to period, slowly but decisively, and we are now able to observe those changes in style and from them establish a chronology. The methodology is not exact, but within reasonable limitations it does provide a workable typology upon which to construct a fairly reliable chronology (1991, p. 32). (ibid)

This means a whole different set of pottery and a different team of archaeologists analyzing them. These are not Christians so it's not likely there's a bias to interpret them wrong, if we should accept that notion about Pfan's excavation. If his group messed up its not likely these other guys did so as well.

Another major dating method is lamps. Salm plays fast and loose with the lamp evidence. He adopts the date range that does his theory the most good and ignores that fact that a lot of evidence exists to date the lamps at the earlier range which would put habitation in Nazareth as late as 37 bc that would destroy his theory that they went away and came back. As Butt points out, even we accept the latter range as does Salm that still implies habitation in the time of Christ.

The incipience of a village is not equivalent to the arrival of the first settlers at the site. No village springs up overnight. It requires a certain amount of time—perhaps a generation or two—to come into existence.... The presence of tombs [in Nazareth] indicates both permanence and population, and it is strongly suggestive of a “village.” Thus, the earliest tomb at Nazareth is a significant clue regarding the existence of a village. Determining its date will be an important goal of these pages. The period of tomb use can be revealed by dating funerary artefacts found in situ (pp. 156-157, italics in orig.).
There are lamps found in the tombs. These are the bow spouted lamps that indexed in dating from their use in Jerusalem.

Thus, according to Salm’s reasoning, tombs show the presence of a village, and settlers in the area could/would have been in the area possibly two generations before that village came into existence. Using Salm’s personally concocted date of A.D. 25 for the earliest date of the lamps, that means that the earliest tomb could possibly date to A.D. 25. And, if settlers were in the area two generations before that (using 40 years as a generation), that would put people in the area in about 55 B.C. Taking that into account, there is absolutely no way that Salm can prove that Nazareth was not inhabited during the time of Christ. The most he can do is suggest that, if his arbitrarily chosen dates are adopted, it seems improbable. Yet even this “improbability” does not accord well with the ranges of dates that are often adopted for such artifacts as the “Herodian” lamps. (Butt article)
Archaeologist Craig Evans, author of Jesus and His world: the Archaeological Evidence argues against the myther assertions.

Craig A. Evans is Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. The author or editor of more than fifty books and hundreds of articles, Evans is a regular guest on many national media outlets, including Dateline NBC, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and BBC. He is an internationally distinguished authority and lecturer on the historical Jesus. For more information, visit
Evens is the only real scholar of academic ranking unlike Salm whose credentials aren't listed, and Zindler who is not an archaeologist. His book is highly authoritative but written to be accessible tot he layman. The publisher's blurb:

In this provocative work, world-renowned scholar Craig A. Evans presents the most important archaeological discoveries that shed light on the world of Jesus of Nazareth. Evans takes on many sensational claims that have been proposed in recent books and peddled in the media, and uses actual archaeological findings to uncover the truth about several key pieces of Jesus' world. For example, what was the village of Nazareth actually like in the time of Jesus? Did synagogues really exist, as the Gospels say? What does archaeology tell us about the ruling priests who condemned Jesus to death? Has the tomb of Jesus really been found, as has been claimed? Evans's engaging prose enables readers to understand and critique the latest theories--both the sober and the sensational--about who Jesus was and what he lived and died for.

Evans writes a Huff post article in which he defends the standard thesis of Jesus really existing and growing up in Nazareth.

Evans article in Huff Post
Posted: 03/26/2012 7:30 am
The archaeological evidence shows that Jesus grew up in a small village, Nazareth, about four miles from Sepphoris, a prominent city in the early first century C.E. This city had a Greco-Roman look, complete with paved, columned street, but its inhabitants were observant Jews. The evidence further shows that Nazareth was linked to a network of roads that accommodated travel and commerce. The quaint notion that Jesus grew up in rustic isolation has been laid to rest. The youthful Jesus may well have visited Sepphoris, whose theatre may have been the inspiration for his later mockery of religious hypocrites as play-actors.

The evidence for the existence of synagogue buildings in the time of Jesus is now quite strong. Archaeologists have identified at least seven such buildings that date before the year 70. It is in the context of the synagogue that Jesus would have matured in the religious tradition of Israel and heard Scripture read and interpreted. Although some historians think rates of literacy in the first-century Roman Empire were quite low, archaeological finds, such as the tablets found in Vindolanda, England, near Hadrian's Wall, or the thousands of graffiti etched on the scorched walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum, suggest that at least a crude literacy was widespread and reached all levels of society. This evidence, along with the Gospels' portrait of a Jesus who debates scribes and ruling priests, asking them if they had ever read this or that passage of Scripture, suggests that Jesus, founder of a movement that produced and collected literature, was himself literate.
The presence of churches before AD 70 is very significant because that's prior to the fall of the temple and its' prior to the circulation of the Gospels on a wide scale. They didn't grow up over night. A bunch of believer's would not say 'let's go out in the desert and pick a spot, say it was Nazareth and build a bunch of churches. There had to be a group of people living there already and the spot had to already be identified with Jesus. It would take time for a community to spring up.

For that matter why would Gospel writing creating a fictional character make up that he was from a fictional place no one had ever heard of when his birth and life were suppossed to be related to given prophesies that tied him to places like Bethlehem? Why make up that he also was born in Bethlehem and then went to fictional Nazareth when they could say he grew up in Bethlehem? It couldn't be fear that his family would be traced and not found there, becuase according to the Jesus mythers the Gospels were all like second century. There would be ample room to argue his family had been forgotten. Or better yet just make up they were known! How could it be checked? Would ancinet world Jim Rockford's or Fran Cannon's go out to the desert to prove Jesus didn't exist? So why stick him with a fictional origin then try to tie his birth to a real place?

The mythers are stuck with trying to tie Jesus to a fictional puzzle that doesn't have all the pieces.

Here's where you can find my old original piece on Doxa. Link
there's a lot there about Pfan's excavation, and some about the earlier one's.

another one I did on this blog, probably a lot of overlap.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Question of Being part 2: Against ICR


I have done a previous post on the impossibility of ICR (Infinite Causal Regression). There are aspects of the subject that I didn't deal with in that so I am hoping to deal with them here. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an excellent article on the Cosmological Argument. I am going to deal with issues raised in that article, issues pertaining to contingency and ICR. In counter to the argument of a necessary first cause Russell argues that the universe just is and requires no explanation. In the last post I argued that this is unsatisfying, Russell argued that we derive our concept of cause from observation, thus since we don't observe the final cause, or the cause of the universe (see objection 1 in link above). The obvious answer is that we don't have to observe ever aspect to extrapolate from what we do observe, that's the whole principle of inductive reasoning in scinece. I would argue that we do observe the contingency of the universe because it's all around at every moment, while we can't know the finality of it's contingency, we can see plainly that the only we have of the mode of being of the universe is contingency, which is in everything we see.

Rusell argued that the move from the parts to the whole, from contingent parts to wholly contingent universe, is the "fallacy of composition."

Russell correctly notes that arguments of the part-whole type can commit the Fallacy of Composition. For example, the argument that since all the bricks in the wall are small, the wall is small, is fallacious. Yet it is an informal fallacy of content, not a formal fallacy. Sometimes the totality has the same quality as the parts because of the nature of the parts invoked—the wall is brick because it is built of bricks. The universe's contingency, theists argue, resembles the second case. If all the contingent things in the universe, including matter and energy, ceased to exist simultaneously, the universe itself, as the totality of these things, would cease to exist. But if the universe can cease to exist, it is contingent and requires an explanation for its existence (Reichenbach, chap. 5).(from Stanford article above).
The assertion that the exact duplication of the building material in the overall wall is a red herring. The argument that the size of the bricks is the size of the all is not really analogous to the issue of contingency. The analogy would between the actual state of the material, not it's size divided into increments, but the material itself. A wall made out of all bricks is what we call "a brick wall" that is a wall made wholly of the materiel "brick." If a wall is made up of contingencies then it's a contingent wall.

Some reply that this argument for the contingency of the universe still is fallacious, for even if every contingent being were to fail to exist in some possible world, it may be the case that there is no possible world that lacks a contingent being. That is, though no being would exist in every possible world, every world would possess at least one contingent being. Rowe gives the example of a horse race. “We know that although no horse in a given horse race necessarily will be the winner, it is, nevertheless, necessary that some horse in the race will be the winner” (1975, 164).
Atheist answer:
Rowe's example, however, fails, for it is possible that all the horses break a leg and none finishes the race. That is, the necessity that some horse will win follows only if there is some reason to think that some horse must finish the race.
That is not a real answer because it doesn't prove that the universe is necessary it proves merely that there might be no universe at all. Since that means the universe itself could have failed to exist that makes it contingent (standard definition: that which could cease or fail to exist). The author of the article argues as a back up that we must have a reason to believe that something is necessary: "Similarly, his objection to the universe's contingency will hold only if there is some reason to think that the existence of something is necessary. " That's just the problem, we have no reason to assume the universe is necessary, we have an obvious reason to assume that being is necessary, since something can't come from nothing, there's ample reason to assume an eternal first cause. Being eternal it could not could not cease or fail, the logic of an eternal first cause makes it necessary a prori (ie Necessary: that which cannot cease of fail to exist). If something is truly eternal it could not cease or fail to exist. Consider the lunacy in saying that some thing has existed for ever with no cause but on June fourth, 1955 it cased to be. Why June 4, 1955, why not eons ago? It had infinite chances to cease, why would it do so on that one day and not another much sooner? Moreover, the concept of eternal being is limitless, unnumbered and infinite. To then have it cease would be to put a number to the infinite which is impossible. All of which is reason enough to assume eternal necessary being.

The article at that point goes off into what I think is a tangent arguing for the possible existence of a world with no contingent beings.

One argument given in defense of this thesis is that the existence of one contingent being may be necessary for the nonexistence of some other contingent being. But though the fact that something's existence is necessary for the existence of something else holds for certain properties (for example, the existence of children is necessary for someone to be a parent), it is doubtful that something's existence is necessary for something else's nonexistence per se, which is what is needed to support the argument that denies the contingency of the universe. Hence, given the contingency of everything in the universe, it remains that there is a possible world without any contingent beings.
I think he missed the point. The point is not that there must be a contingent being of some kind in every possible world, but that the state of contingency is mandated for all possible worlds (they are all dependent upon God) since they could all fail to exist. The author of the article, Bruce Reichenbach, argues in terms of individual beings. The point is that the whole is demonstrated as contingent because it is made up of contingent parts. This is not the fallacy of composition becuase if the parts are all the same the over all structure is the same as the parts. We can get off track by being literalistic and saying "the small bricks make a small wall" but they make a wall made of brick.

The fallacy of composition is when one reasons from the parts to the whole. In this case my argument (P2a) reasons from the fact that the universe is a collection of contingent things to the conclusion that the universe is contingent. But this is not my only argument for the contingency of the universe, be that as it may, it is not the fallacy of composition. The fallacy doesn't happen just any time one reasons in this way. It is not fallacious to argue form the parts to the whole if the parts are all alike.

Robert Koons on Leadership University


Phl 327
Contemporary Christian Philosophy
Fall 2000, University of Texas

The argument commits the fallacy of composition: from the fact that each part of the cosmos is caused, it fallaciously draws the conclusion that the whole cosmos is caused. Response: this is a misstatement of the argument. The argument assumes that all wholly contingent situations are caused. We can prove that the cosmos is wholly contingent, so it must have a cause.

The Nizkor Project

vistied 12/13/03

The second type of fallacy of Composition is committed when it is concluded that what is true of the parts of a whole must be true of the whole without there being adequate justification for the claim. More formally, the line of "reasoning" would be as follows:
The parts of the whole X have characteristics A, B, C, etc. Therefore the whole X must have characteristics A, B, C. That this sort of reasoning is fallacious because it cannot be inferred that simply because the parts of a complex whole have (or lack) certain properties that the whole that they are parts of has those properties. This is especially clear in math: The numbers 1 and 3 are both odd. 1 and 3 are parts of 4. Therefore, the number 4 is odd. It must be noted that reasoning from the properties of the parts to the properties of the whole is not always fallacious. If there is justification for the inference from parts to whole, then the reasoning is not fallacious. For example, if every part of the human body is made of matter, then it would not be an error in reasoning to conclude that the whole human body is made of matter. Similiarly, if every part of a structure is made of brick, there is no fallacy comitted when one concludes that the whole structure is made of brick.

Thomas Rauchenstein.Copyright 1997, (link is no good)

The argument (Cosmological) does not commit the fallacy of composition. Just as every part of a puzzle is red, so must the whole be red; if every part of a structure consists of stone, so must the whole consist of stone. Likewise, if every possible being is in potentiality, so the whole of all possible beings is in potentiality, and thus, needs to be actualized (caused). The very nature of the parts demand that the whole be caused as well.

If all the horses break a leg and no one finishes that is analogs to failure to exist not a defeat for the example. There is no reason to limit the example to just individual beings. ICR is made up of a string of contingent universes. For example where ICR is conveyed by the oscillating universe, big bang => big crunch, black whole, pops back out into another big bang, and another big crunch, another black and another popping out, on and on forever with no beginning and no end; the whole is made up of contingent parts. Take out the contingent universes, and you have no eternal string or series of infinite regression. The term "regression" refers to tracing the sting of c/e back infinitely. If the c/e is gone there's no string. Thus there is a possibility the string could have ceased at any point. That means the whole is contingent becuase it's made up of all contingent parts. Koons reflects this answer in his mermological argument:

To avoid any hint of the Fallacy of Composition and to avoid these complications, Koons (198–99) formulates the argument for the contingency of the universe as a mereological argument. If something is contingent, it contains a contingent part. The whole and part overlap, and by virtue of overlapping, have a common part. Since the part in virtue of which they overlap is wholly contingent, the whole likewise must be contingent.

Mememological Aggregation Axiom shows us that wholly congingent sitautions are wholly contingent

Dr. Robert Koons UT (Logician)

1) Every wholly contingent fact has a cause. (facts that are partly or wholly necessary need not)

2) Applying aggregation axiom, anything of a kin dk = such a thing as arrgigate of all kinds.

3) Aggreagates can't exist unless all parts exist (which means necessary aggregate must have Necessary parts, contingent aggregate must have contingent parts. The result is necessary and contingnet facts which means contingent aggregate as a whole). 4) Absolutely necessary facts cannot be caused, therefore, wholly contingent facts (those whith only contingent parts) can be caused.

5) Causal principle can be thought of as empirically supported (effects not limited to a particular region of space/time in the case of physical laws for example, :. we have reason to suspect that all contingent facts have causes).

For an explaination of the fact token/type situation I turn to Dr.Koons himself:

Phl 356
Western Theism
Spring '98, University of Texas

LECTURE #7: Contemporary Versions: My Argument

Facts are the kinds of things that make declarative sentences, like "Caesar has died", true. Facts enter into cause and effect relations with other facts. We can distinguish between "types" and "tokens", to use terms introduced into philosophy by C. S. Peirce. Each individual penny is a token, and the property or kind of penny-hood is a type. Each penny is a token of one and the same type, which is multiply realized in different places at different times. My argument concerns fact-tokens, not fact-types. For example, we can use the phrases "that Caesar died", "Caesar's dying" or "Caesar's death" to refer either to a fact-token, the particular, actual occurrence that constituted the ending of Caesar's life, or to a fact-type, the kind of occurence in which the individual Caesar dies. Thus, the token of Caesar's death includes the actual thrust of Brutus's blade, and that very token would not have existed had Caesar died in some other way, of old age, for example. In contrast, the type, Caesar's dying, could have been realized in many different ways, including the actual assassination and the non-actual dying in old age. My argument focusses on the actual token I call the cosmos. This token includes all of the wholly contingent fact-tokens in the world as parts -- had the slightest detail been different anywhere at any time, the particular token I am calling 'the cosmos'would not have existed. It would instead be replaced by a different token. The fact-type, the existing of a universe, could have been realized by many different possible tokens.

For an explaination of Meremology I again turn to Dr. Koons:

"My argument focusses on the particular token that actually realized this type.If we assume that every fact has a cause, then there could exist no uncaused fact. Instead, I assume that every wholly contingent fact has a cause. Facts that are partly or wholly necessary need not, and indeed cannot, be caused. Since facts are concrete, actual things, we can talk meaningfully about the parts of a fact. Consequently, I use the principles of the mathematical theory of mereology, the theory of the part-whole relation. The most important principle of mereology is the aggregation axiom. This axiom states that, if there are any things of kind K, then there is such a thing as the aggregate of all the K's. For example, there is such a thing as water, so we can talk meaningfully about the aggregate or "mereological sum" of all the world's water. I assume that an aggregate cannot exist unless all of its parts exist. This means that a necessary aggregate must have only necessary parts, since if an aggregate has a contingent part, then that part might not exist, which would mean that the aggregate would not exist either. Aggregates are not like bodies or institutions, which can go on existing without the same parts. However, a contingent aggregate can have necessary parts. If we glue together some contingent and necessary facts, the resulting aggregate is contingent as a whole. I assume that an absolutely necessary fact cannot be caused. If a fact is caused, then all of its parts are caused. So, any fact that contains a necessary fact cannot be caused.

Therefore, it is only wholly contingent facts that can be caused. A wholly contingent fact is a fact that has only contingent parts.I argue that the causal principle should be thought of as empirically supported. We find that a wide variety of facts are caused. This includes conditions both small and large (from atomic physics to astronomy and cosmology), both recent and ancient, both transient and long-lasting. We even discover that many everlasting conditions have causes. For example, the fact that the physical world is approximately Newtonian is caused by certain features of general relativity. Similarly, the ideal gas laws are caused by the underlying dynamics of the gas molecules, and Brownian motion is caused by atomic collisions. In these cases, the effects are not limited to a particular region of space or time. Thus, we have good empirical reason to believe that every fact that can be caused, that is, every wholly contingent fact, has a cause.

Cyclial Universe
The concept that the universe is eternallay ocillating between big bangs and big crunches. When the matter from the explosion of a Big Bang reaches a certain point the gravitational pull draws it back, it callapses into superdense black hole and pops back out again. This notion does not require an initial cause, the cyclical universe is just always there always going through its cycles.

a) Universe continuing to expand

Evidence from three recent studies reveals that the final fate of the universe will be to drift apart and cease all useful functions capable of supporting life due to missing mass, which can't produce gravitational pull to bring it all back together and start again, and heat death in which case energy is useless for work. Several major studies show this to be the case.

[New Scientist Magazine, archive 11, April 98, archive; originally Oct. 96] you should be able to click here, but here's the url just in case) [

"ON THE night of 5 March last year, the huge telescope of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile intercepted a message from deepest space. Transmitted a billion years before the Earth was born, its contents have proved to be of truly cosmic significance. The message was barely readable after its journey halfway across the Universe, and an international team of experts laboured for months to decode it. In January, Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California and his colleagues revealed to the world what they believe to be its gist: "The Universe will never end." A month later, a team led by Brian Schmidt of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories near Canberra in Australia published the decoded contents of more of these cosmic missives, which arrive as bursts of light from supernova explosions in far-flung galaxies. The message was the same. Now Chris Kochanek and his colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are about to publish more evidence, this time from light that has been bent and sculpted by the gravity of unseen galaxies."

Omega force = Continued expansion forever (no Big Cruch)

"These three sets of cosmic missives all suggest that instead of collapsing in on itself in a big crunch, our Universe will go on expanding forever. And that's not all. They also hint that the expanding Universe is in the grip of a mysterious force that is fighting against gravity--a force that pervades the entire cosmos and springs literally from nothing."(Ibid.)

[mysterious force = "omega" ie the equation of gravitational force vs. mass needed to close the universe; omega must = 1 to close]

Missing Mass.

[New Scientist article April 1999] "If it [the universe] contains enough matter, gravity will eventually slow its expansion, stop it, and reverse it--producing a cataclysmic big crunch billions of years hence. But if there is too little matter--or if there is an extra source of "oomph" at work in the cosmos--then the Universe will expand forever.... Cosmologists call the ratio of the actual density of matter in our Universe to this critical density 'Omega.' And whole armies of astronomers have spent decades trying to work out if Omega is less than, more than or equal to 1.,... "Studies of the gravitational effects of clusters of galaxies have revealed that there must be at least 10 times as much mass tied up in invisible "dark matter" in the Universe as there is in the familiar form of luminous stars and gas. Yet even when all this dark matter is thrown into the equation, it still doesn't make the theorists happy. Despite searching every cosmic nook and cranny, astronomers have never found anything like the amount needed to make Omega equal to 1."

"So the take-home message looks the same as that now emerging from the supernova and quasar surveys: the Universe is going to expand forever, and it may yet prove to be flat. Certainly the idea of the big crunch seems to have gone for good, but the exact values of Lambda and Omega, and the fate of the cosmologists' theories, are still up for grabs. These values may finally be nailed early in the next century, with the launch of NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) and the European Space Agency's PLANCK missions. These will use the heat left over from the big bang to try yet another way of measuring Omega and Lambda, which may lay the question to rest for good ("Genesis to Exodus", New Scientist," 19 October 1996, p 30).

Flat Universe means no contraction

Andre Linde, Scientific American, Sept 1997

"A second trouble spot is the flatness of space. General relativity suggests that space may be very curved, with a typical radius on the order of the Planck length, or 10^-33 centimeter. We see however, that our universe is just about flat on a scale of 10^28 centimeters, the radius of the observable part of the universe. This result of our observation differs from theoretical expectations by more than 60 orders of magnitude." [Messuer is a leading physicist and one of the first to invent the inflationary universe theory]

ABC Scientists: Universe is Flat another link Physics.

Wayne Hu of the Institute for Advanced Studies, School of Natural Sciences in New Jersey said "temperature maps of the CMB form a snapshot image of the Universe when it was extremely young." "The...result supports a flat universe, which means that the total mass and energy density of the universe is equal to the so-called critical density," Wu wrote. "A perfectly flat universe will remain at the critical density and keep on expanding forever, because there is not enough matter to make it recollapse in a 'big crunch.'"

c) End of Universe reveals beginning--universe would have already ceased.

Energy of the universe is being expended, as it burns up,it becomes useless for work. The fate of the universe will be eventual death in ciy darkness as all of its suns burn out and their energy dissipates][New Scientist, April 1999, oct. 96

"But even if the Universe lives forever, its inhabitants will not be so lucky. A mere thousand billion years from now, all the stars will have used up their fuel and fizzled out. There will still be occasional flashes in the perpetual night: the death throes of stars so large that they have collapsed in on themselves to form black holes. Even these will eventually evaporate in a blast of radiation. For the next 10122 years, this Hawking radiation will be the only show in town. By then even the most massive black holes will evaporate, leaving the Universe with nothing to do for an unimaginable 10 to the power of 1026 years. Quantum theory then predicts that atoms of iron--the most stable of all elements--will undergo "tunnelling" and disappear into tiny black holes, which will themselves end in a final fizz of Hawking radiation. In the beginning there may have been light, but in the end, it seems, there will be nothing but darkness. ".[New Scientist April 1999]

Given infinite time and possibility all potentialities would have already come to fruition, the chain would have already been broken before our universe came into being. This just illustrates the impossibility of an infinite series of events. (being a series of events it would be "in time" so it's really redundant to say "an infinite series of events in time.") In other words, if this universe drifts apart because it lacks mass to produce omega, than the last universe would have too because energy and matter would be the same amount, just formulated differently (energy cannot be created or destroyed). The absurdity of the notion of an infinite series of big bang/crunches is driven home; how could there be an "infinite" series if one of the links in the chain can't make it? It can't "already be infinite" and then stop because infinite means no beginning and no end.

Note: If the Skeptic does not agree to this principle, that given infinite time every possibility comes to fruition than he can neither argue infinite chances nor multiple universes against the fine tuning argument.

d) Universe contains finite stock of order, connote be eternal (because it would have burned out by now)

*Scientific consensus:

Paul Davies, in his article, "Space-time Singularities and Cosmology," says,"If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme,we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of space-time, through such an extremity. For this reason, most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view, the Big Bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the MATTER and ENERGY in the universe, but also of space-time itself."[ P. C. W.Davies, "Space-time Singularities in Cosmology," in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1978), pp. 78-79.]

* Laws of Physics break down at singularity

The laws of physics break down at the singularity. 1st Thermo. would apply after the Big Bang, then the fixed amount of energy that is "put in" to the universe (as Davies puts it) would be finite (in quantity) and subject to 1st and 2nd Thermo.

* 1 LTD applies to matter also. Thirdly, the 1st Law of Thermo. applies to matter ALSO. If you argue that energy is eternal, you've got to argue that matter is eternal, which goes against all the empirical evidence we have for the Big Bang.

* 2 LTD Energy burn to heat death

Fourthly, if you opt for 1st Thermo. before the Big Bang, try being consistent and applying 2nd Thermo. as well. If the energy (AND matter) of the universe is eternal, it would have reached MAXIMUM heat death an INFINITE amount of time ago.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies, in his book God and the New Physics, states:

"If the universe has a finite stock of order, and is changing irreversibly towards disorder - ultimately to thermodynamic equilibrium - two very deep inferences follow immediately. The first is that the universe will eventually die, wallowing, as it were, in its own entropy. This is known among physicists as the 'heat death' of the universe. The second is that the universe cannot have existed forever, otherwise it would have reached its equilibrium end state an infinite time ago. Conclusion: the universe did not always exist."

If you deny that the universe has a finite stock of order, you are essentially denying the 1st law of thermodynamics, as it requires a fixed finite amount of matter and energy. (check your Encyc. Britannica)

In your wider universe, does the 1st law of Thermodynamics apply WITHOUT the second? What reversed the entropy of this eternally existent universe? As we saw above, a universe containing eternal matter and energy would have reached maximum entropy an INFINITE amount of time ago. What organizing principle intervened 11-15 billion years ago and organized all that energy and matter that was no longer available for work? What or who (or Who) wound the universe up?

Fifthly, we observe that the universe is expanding uniformly in all directions. Had the universe existed for an infinite period of time, the density of matter would have become zero. (Koons) How do you explain the observable expansion of the universe? We measure the recession velocity of distant galaxies by using Cepheid variables, type Ia supernovas, and now Red Clumps as standard candles. And the microwave background radiation and redshift (Doppler effect that skews the red portion of the spectrum of starlight in proportion to the distance of the star) confirm this expansion also. Furthermore, within the very field equations of General Relativity, is embedded the fact of the expansion and deceleration of the universe. There are now 19 proofs of General Relativity in 12 isolated areas of Physics,making it the most exhaustively proven principle. Are you saying that General Relativity does not apply to our universe as a whole?!! It is accurate to better than a trillionth of a percent precision. Where is your scientific evidence for A) separate portions of the universe which General Relativity does not describe B) separate universes? If its not falsifiable, and there's no evidence for it, then its just not a threat to the standard BB model as it is not scientific.

Since the oscillating universe is the only workable mechanism for ICR it's really a theory in trouble. The other alternatives such quantum tunneling require that the particles cause themselves (soemthing form nothing) then travel in time into he past to continually cause themselves again and again. The other answer is string membranes which is still unproved as something that even exists.