Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Can Have Certinty About God's Love


A comment was sent in:

How can God have any human characteristics since it is not human? Why is God referred to a "he" or "him" when it is more like an alien with supernatural powers. It has the ability to create an entire universe and at least one planet with millions of plant and animal species from nothing? How would any being that could do that be ANYTHING like the human animal or someone's daddy?

That's a good question because not only is it valid, logical and important, but I feel it leads to one of the better answers Christians can offer.
All religious language is metaphor and analogical. Its' all an attempt to relate what we know to that which is beyond our understanding. What we can know with certainty is what we experience. We can't necessarily relate it to others but we can experience it. One basic thing we can experience and not mistake is love. We know when we are loved and we know when we love.

We can know that God is love. That's the only thing we can be truly certain about, God, that God loves us, that God is real (which is a function of the conformation of being loved).I can see other atheists asking questions like "how do you know God is not lying?" Or "How do you know God is not really evil. Some who think they are being really tricky and clever say stuff like "how do you know that what God calls good is not really evil? so God is just tricking you into being evil?" Of cousre that would be a stupid fear because God's will is the standard so if God says it's good it is. Then of course is raised the question, well God can just order murdering babies for fun and you would say it's good.

All such questions can easily be dashed if you know God in a true personal encounter. Of course the hearty skeptic will laugh at the very notion. Yet the fact of of the confidence with which I speak of it I think is a proof that it is real experience and since it leads to stronger personhood the better ability to endure life's storms and ultimately more and deeper sense of God's presence all of that is a good indication indication, and probalby the best we can have, that God is true. It's not the case that lies and falsehood work out to make us better in a positive sense. Sure if they don't kill us we may be stronger for having endured but love doesn't work that way. I love is a lie it usually dissipates and laves one broken rather than healed. The kind of strength that comes form God's love is not this bitter taste in the mouth sort of "what kill me makes me stronger" but a nurturing sort of love one finds form the good things in life. Part of the basis of skepticism is looking at the glass half empty.

From the nature of love we can deduce several things. Han Urs Von Balthasar made the point that it's the positive basis of love and the giving out of itself nature of both and being that link the two. Love is an attribute of being itself. That connection is a good way to understand the reason why God is right, God can't be a liar, can't be evil, and is the basis of the good. Love is nurturing and building. Love and being both give themselves out to produce more of what they are. Love and Being are the original. Evil is the absense of this original and it tends toward tearing down. That's an indication that it's a mockery of what comes first, thus it can't be the good.

Love is the best means we have of understanding anything about God. We can only speak of God in analogical terms and the analogical only makes sense if we have some frame of reference. the only frame of which we can be certain concerning God is the experience of God's presence and love.

Of course all of this is a lot of raving about nothing if it isn't real. The only way to know of it's reality is to experience it. Stop reading about it on paper and go pray. As God to show you his love. Ask God to let you feel his presence of love. Stop reading...get off the net...move away from the computer...close your eyes and pray.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Paul Tillich's Ontology: Deep Structures


Deep structures

This is actually meant to be a followup to last post on misconceptions of metaphysics. This is an example of the right use of metaphysics.
That being has depth is a clue to the meaning of “the ground of being,” or “being itself.” The depth of being is also related to the notion of the “power of being.” These are all saying the same thing or very closely related things. To really understand what Tillich is saying we have to understand what the depth of being is and relate that to the power of being. The context of the phrase “depth of being” and the quotation above about that comes form Tillich’s sermon, converted into a small book, The Shaking of the Foundations (op cit). In the chapter entitled “the depth of existence,” Tillich tells us that he is using the term “depth” as a metaphor to indicate an attitude taken form spiritual experience. Depth symbolizes both special relation and spiritual quality. Deep implies a profundity (the opposite being “shallow”) and there is also a sense in which “deep” is used for suffering (the depths of despair for example). [1] I said above that being having depth means things are not merely as they appear on the surface, there’s more to reality than just the way things appear. In the Shaking of the Foundations Tillich confirms that this is what he had in mind:
All visible things have a surface. Surface is that side of things which first appears to us. If we look at it, we know what things seem to be. Yet if we act according to what things and persons seem to be, we are disappointed. Our expectations are frustrated. And so we try to penetrate below the surfaces in order to learn what things really are. Why have men always asked for truth? Is it because they have been disappointed with the surfaces, and have known that the truth which does not disappoint dwells below the surfaces in the depth? And therefore, men have dug through one level after another. What seemed true one day was experienced as superficial the next. When we encounter a person, we receive an impression. But often if we act accordingly we are disappointed by his actual behavior. We pierce a deeper level of his character, and for some time experience less disappointment. But soon he may do something which is contrary to all our expectations; and we realize that what we know about him is still superficial. Again we dig more deeply into his true being.[2]
Immediately before the statement about the depth of our being that I quoted above (en1) he says that depth psychology can help us understand our own depths but it can’t help us to find the depth and ground of our being. Immediately after that statement he links the depth of our souls to the social world, we can know our own souls through the mirror of community and others.[3] This ties us to the heteronomy and the question of the role of spirit in the creation of culture that was important to Tillich. He then makes another statement that is remarkably like the one above but this time focusing upon the social world:
The name of this infinite and inexhaustible ground of history is God. That is what the word means, and it is that to which the words Kingdom of God and Divine Providence point. And if these words do not have much meaning for you, translate them, and speak of the depth of history, of the ground and aim of our social life, and of what you take seriously without reservation in your moral and political activities. Perhaps you should call this depth hope, simply hope. for if you find hope in the ground of history, you are united with the great prophets who were able to look into the depth of their times, who tried to escape it, because they could not stand the horror of their visions, and who yet had the strength to look to an even deeper level and there to discover hope. Their hope did not make them feel ashamed. And no hope shall make us ashamed, if we do not find it on the surface where fools cultivate vain expectations, but rather if we find it in the depth where those with trembling and contrite hearts receive the strength of a hope which is truth.[4]
In this context he talks about Marxist analysis and social sciences and understanding of social situations with greater depth than one can gain from a mere surface perspective. He also grounds that perspective in first hand experience of social situations rather than just social sciences alone. Most modern thinkers would have a hard time seeing what has to do with God or how God could be the ground of history. But he connects God as the ground of history to the kingdom of God and providence (see quote above). It seems what he means by “being has depth” is a structure that permeates all that is. The depth of being is the unseen structure, the ontology of reality and its extension into social world through God’s providence. Thus he appears to actually be saying that God is the ground and end of the natural world and all that this entails. We can identify “depth” with ontology.
That being itself indicates the power of being is metaphorical, at the same time it is part of the concept of the depth of being. Being is not merely the fact of existence but it also contains the basis upon which all being is. That would correlate to God as creator. In MacQuarrie’s terms, “being let’s be.”[5] This may imply a more passive role than Tillich had in mind. He views God’s creative role from the standpoint of a check on nothingness, but what both are really talking about is an active force of creative power that brings more being out of being itself. Being let’s be is such a passive way to register the idea of “resisting” nothingness, but at the same time both are means of avoiding the direct statement, “God is the creator of all that is.” Nevertheless that’s obviously what they are saying, or trying not to say. Obviously, then Being is necessary and “the beings” (in McQuarrie speak) are contingencies. Being itself is necessary being, the beings are contingent being. This is another aspect of the depth of being. It’s not just so simple that all we need to do is to rattle off a list of concrete things we can observe in the world. There are two levels, necessity and contingency, or two modes of being. Within each role there are different roles. On the level of necessity being is eternal, on the level of contingency being is temporal. Tillich makes much of this distinction. The difference in the two and the sense of the numinous it evokes are very important for Tillich and will figure prominently in the arguments that can be made in terms of reasons to believe.
The reason Tillich takes such a backwards way of expressing God’s creative force is to emphasize the distinction between being and nothingness. This is the primary first and original distinction in reality, the bottom line so to speak between something and nothing. The first distinction in existence is that between being and nothingness. The power of being to resist nothingness (God’s creative force) is the first basis upon which anything is at all. That means we can look at this creative force as the nature of being the basic bottom line of what it means to be and what being is. Thus if we choose for some reason to call this force “God” if we want to use that term, which Tillich says in the quotation above is the meaning of that term, we can say that God is “being itself.” God is this basic force that is the first indentation in all of reality. It is both first temporally (it would be the basis of time) it would be “fist” ontologically. Tillch is thinking in a way that modern scientifically ensorcelled people are not really able to think, and have never thought. McQuarrie puts it into a passive sense “let’s be,” for a different reason. He warns of Heidegger’s tendency to “stretch language” or the awareness of Heidegger (and himself) that to speak of being at an ontological level is a stretch beyond the confines of fact based conceptualism. For him being’s role is the fomentation of more being, or “the beings” is expressed in a passive sense to remove the emphasis upon the activity of a creative agent.
Tillich’s ontology as illustration of depth in being
Another aspect of the depth of being is the diversity of being. Tillich develops many themes of meaning, diversity, and historicity in laying out the Gospel framework and translating it into his phenomenological take on the diversity of being. Human being, fallen nature, sin, redemption, new being in Christ, these are standard Christian themes but a good deal of his Systematic Theology is devoted to exploring them from the perspective of their relationship to being. What he’s doing there is demonstrating the depth of being ontologically and in terms of human experience (vol II of Systematic Theology). Volume I of that work is about “Being and God.” Here he deals with topics of “The Question of Being: Man, Self and World.” “God is the answer to the question implied in being” he says. [6] He first deals with reason and revelation. Then he moves into the question of being and its meaning. He says that in coming to terms with reason and its take on existential conflicts, one is forced into asking the most essential question of all, why is there something rather than nothing at all? But I have given this in Heidegger’s terms. Tillich puts it a bit differently “why is there something, why not nothing?”[7] He points out that to ask “why is there not nothing?” is to attribute a kind of being to nothingness. Thus as he puts it “one cannot go behind being.” What he’s saying is, like trying to imagine one’s own non existence, it can’t be done. We cannot get under being itself, its’ the furthest we can go back in our understanding, and it eludes our understanding. Thought is based upon being and it can’t go beyond its base. One can imagine the negotiation of things, however, and it can “describe the nature and structure of everything that is the power of resisting non being.”[8] Ontological questions, he points out, are not tautologies because of this ability to mentally play with being and non being. We are not merely saying “being is being” when we try to define what it is, because there’s a possibility of negating any particular form of being. The possibility of universality and less than universal aspect of forms of being make ontology possible. There are concepts which are less universal than being but more universal than any concept about being, thus these are “categories” of thought.
/...These categories form the basis of theological significance. These are central concepts that make theology “go,” so to speak (not Tillich’s phrase). These are ontological concepts, ontology is not theology. One can be an atheist and totally secular and do ontology as part of philosophy, and such a thinker would have to deal with these concepts. But in like manner all theologians must deal with them as well. While they are not theology per se they are essential to theology. The concepts are: (1) the structure implicit in the basic ontological question (why is there something rather than nothing?); (2) the elements which constitute ontological structure; (3) characteristics of being which are the conditions of existence; (4) categories of being and knowing. [9] The structure (1) is that the question presupposes an asking subject, and an object being asked about. This is the subject/object structure that is presupposed and that in turn assumes the structure of world and self; this as the basic articulation of being. That the self has a world to which it belongs and from which it will deduce the nature of its being precedes all other structures and will be the basic analysis which precedes all other analysis. [10] The elements of the ontological structure he groups into three sets of pairs: individuality and universality, dynamics and form, and freedom and density. These are polarities and the first expresses self referential nature of being.
The ontological concepts pertaining to number (3) (characteristics of being) “expresses the power of being to exist,” in Tillich’s own words, “and the difference between essential and existential being.” [11] There is a duality for Tillich between essential and existential thinking. One is inherent in the other, as existentialism is meaningless without an essentialism to play off it. No ontology can disregard these two aspects. [12] Existentialism is a revolt against the predominance of essentialism. Essentialism came to be identified in theology with “stasis” and existents with movement, or process theology. Tillich saw a unity between the two, one assuming the other. Tillich says essentialism is related to universalism, and we can’t deal with concepts in the world without universals. Thus existentialism has to assume essentialism and the two have to work together.[13] The fourth level deals with the categories of thought or the basic concepts. These he calls “structures of finite being and thinking.” I suppose the Kantian categories would be placed here. “If time and space are called ‘categories’ this is a derivation from the Kantian terminology which calls time and space forms of intuition. But the larger sense of category has been accepted generally, even in post Kantian schools.”[14] Tillich says that determining the exact nature and number of these categories is the on going and never ending task of philosophy. [15] He isolates four such categories: time, space, causality, and substance. These are categories that have the most theological importance. Quantity and Quality he says have less theological importance. He discusses other categories and their relation to the four points above, but I will forgo that as it really doesn’t have a direct bearing on the task before us here. He does focus on finitude at this point (p165) as having a major bearing on the ontological question of God.
....He’s going to argue that ontological concepts are a priori. What he means by a priori is not quite the same as most logicians understand it. We think of a prori as a tautological statement, a statement where we only need to know the meaning of the terms in order to understand the truth of the statement. Tillich makes it sound like the thinks a prori means empirical data. He says it’s ultimately a matter of experience. I don’t think he’s confusing it with empirical data. He is saying that the ultimate understanding of what terms mean is a matter of experience. In other words we think of a prori as statements like “all husbands are married men.” If we know what a husband is we know all of them are married men. Tillich is saying that the idea of husbands and marriage is not some eternal truth in a vacuum. We only have a concept of those terms because we live in a culture that has a convention of marriage. Thus in an ultimate sense the a priori concepts originate form the experience of a life world in which cultural constructs have a shared meaning. The concepts of Being, the categories, are a priori but in the same way rooted in our experience of being. As Tillich says “they constitute the very structure of experience itself.”[16] IF experience changes a new a priori will from. Tillich discusses process theology and the question of a static understanding of God. He identifies with a tradition from Scotus to Heidegger, picking up Bergson along the way, and moving toward indeterminacy in the ground of being. But it dose not remove a prori structure from ontology or Being.[17]
Still setting up the discussion of finitude and being, he moves to the prelude to that discussion, the self-world relationship. Every being participates in the structure of being, but man alone (in so far as we know) is aware of it. We are the only being we know that has alienation and estrangement. We can describe behavior but we do not know what the behavior means to others. We are the only being we know of that asks the ontological question (why is there something rather than nothing?) and the only one that can try to answer it. In Heideggerian terms, as Tillich puts it, we are only able to answer because we understand the nature of “being there.” Or Tillich speak, we experience “directly and immediately the structure of being and its elements. As stated above the ontological structure is the structure of the ontological question, the assumption and self and world, and that’s what we are moving to as a prelude of discussion of finitude. Then there is also no 2 from above the structure of being grouped into three sets of pairs: individuality and universality, dynamics and form, and freedom and density. These are polarities and the first expresses self referential nature of being. These are a prori concepts. Self and world is a basic part of this structure. Humanity is not merely a passive object of study, but a living consciousness in the process of learning and apprehending these structures first hand. Humanity cannot be turned into an object of study under the guise of making understanding easier. We are the student as well as the object, so to reduce humanity itself to an object is lose the phenomena of what it means to experience being the object or being thing studied. We can’t step outside of that experience and study it as an object dispassionately without changing our understanding of what that thing is we would study.[18] This leads into what Tillich discusses in The Courage To Be where speaks of the courage to be a part of and the courage to be apart from.[19]
As the ontological question implies humanity understands itself as having selves that live in a world. This is the organically a priori set up of asking the question. The relationship between self and world is dialectical, we must be a part of, and we must be apart from. To study, to understand to live, to know, to remain true to what we understand we must go play this game of tag, now standing alone as apart from the world, now standing with the world as part of it. There is no question of the existence of the self, according to Tillich. The Postmodernists made a big deal out of the idea there is no core self. That is a somewhat different question, however, depending upon what is meant by “core,” but there is clearly some form of self since someone had to write those articles, and since even making the argument “there is no self” would require that one be a self and understand something about the concept. According to Tillich the question is self awareness of self relatedness.[20] This is a dialectical relationship in another way as well, in that the relationship of self and world is part of the larger dialectic of being and nothingness, because it is part of the depth of being and part of the basic categories that emerge from ontological structure. So the importance of this is going to be that in the discussion of finitude the apprehension of our own finitude and what we make of that vis a vi Being itself and it meaning in terms of the object of ultimate concern is hinged upon self understanding, and understanding of self in relation to the world as a crucial aspect of the depth of being; thus this will figure into understanding being itself as indicative of the object of ultimate concern. As shall be seen the object of ultimate concern is indicative of the divine aspect of Being itself, or “holy being.”
The self world polarity is the basis of the subject/object structure of reason, according to Tillich. [21] The world is seen as a structured whole, as such it is called “objective” because the many self-world relationships in being all relate more or less the same basic idea of a world. The self is a structure of “centeredness” in terms of awareness, for this reason it is termed “subjective.” In other words subjective refers to the center of awareness which takes in the sense data and relates itself to that which is beyond itself, the world. Objective refers to the single “outside” nature of that which is shared in this awareness by the many selves. Reason is actually makes these, that is it makes the self a “self” and the world a “world.” This is because it is through our constructs of reason that we attach meaning to these terms and understand them in relation to each other, which is a function of their structured relationship. Without the structuring aspect of reason being would be chaos. “Where there is reason there is a self and a world in interdependence.”[22] In cognitive terms anything toward which the cognition is directed is considered an object, be it God, or individual items in nature, attitudes, or ideas. We cannot resist making God an object for this very reason. If we think about the concept of God we make God an object. This holds a danger, however, in that we tend to objectify that which we hold in this act of cognition. “If God is brought into the subject-object structure of being he ceases to be the ground of being and becomes one being among others (first of all a being beside the subject who looks at him as an object). He ceases to be the God who is really God. “[23] Various theologies try to escape this problem in various ways. The prophetic tradition insists that we cannot see God; sight is the most objectifying aspect of cognition. Knowledge of God is reveled and understood through man, thus even when God becomes the object God remains the subject (this is just how Tillich puts it).[24] Mysticism attempts to overcome the problem by ecstatic union. In whatever way the resolution is achieved it must be to acknowledge that no language of God can make God an object. Thus language about God must be either negative, or analogical.
There is another sense in which something is made into an object, according to Tillich, that is in robbing it of all of its subjective elements. That is, to turn something into a “thing.” We resist calling human beings “things” because our subjective qualities lead us to disvalue mere things as inhuman, and to value humanity because of its subjective elements. [25] One of Tillich’s major concerns is that God not be treated as a “thing.” For those who believe that Tillich is reducing God to the level of an impersonal force or mere abstraction this is another rebuff. But atheists reduce God to the level of a thing, and turn God into another thing in creation alongside all the many things we see in the world. This has nothing to do with personality but it does mean God can’t be conceived as just an impersonal force or a mere abstraction without defeating Tillich’s purpose. He does not include this argument, but it seems rather clear from what he says. The reductionistic atheist reduces all things to the level of “a thing” devoid of subjective elements. Atheists greatly fear subjectivity. That’s always the bottom line in all of their refutations of God arguments, “that’s subjective.” The reductionist view-point treats all sense data as “information” and information is a collection of things, which can be homogenized and abstracted into “data” and “reduced” to it’s most basic level which of course would lose any subjective elements as it loses the phenomena that makes the aspect that which requires reducing to fit into the atheist world view. The reductionist sees human perceptive powers and thought as side effects of chemicals and brain function that makes thought “mere subjectivity” and that is among the phenomena to be lost in explaining human consciousness. To reduce humanity to “a thing” one must reduce human consciousness to a mere epiphenomenon. Parmenides saw the basic ontological structure as the unity of being and the word (logos) in which it is grasped. Thus from this Tillich draws the observation that subjectivity is not an epiphenomena but a primary phenomena although related in polar opposite to objectivity.[26] One cannot derive subjectivity from objectivity or vice versa. The attempt to do so has meant either the subjugation of humanity to numbers and to machines, or the romantic rebellion and undisclosed abandon which sacrifice reason. Tillich asserts that the basic ontological structure cannot be derived. The relation is one of polarity. “What precedes the duality of self and world, of subject and object,” he asks? His answer is that this is a question in which “reason looks into its own abyss—an abyss in which distinction and derivation disappear, only revelation can answer this question.” [27]

[1] Tillich, Shaking…, chapter 7 quoted from online version, Website, Religion-online, URL: visted feb. 5, 2010.
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid
[5] find
[6] Tillich, ST I, 163.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 163-64
[9] Ibid, 164
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Tillich, History…, op cit, 541.
[14] Tillich, ST 1, 166
[15] Tillich, ST I, 164.
[16] Ibid, 166
[17] Ibid, 168
[18] Ibid., 169-170.
[19] Tillich, Courage…, op cit, find
[20] Tillich ST I 169.
[21] Ibid., 171
[22] Ibid, 172
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Tillich, System I, 173
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid, 174.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What makes one a liberal theologically? Revisting the Credo

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In public conversations such as The Huffington Post, it's common to see people deriding "liberal" biblical scholars, as if the world is just full of people whose dearest wish is to undermine the Bible and turn Jesus into nothing but a symbol for a bizarre mushroom cult.
(And by the way, that Jesus-mushroom thing? It was actually proposed.)
Biblical scholarship is an academic discipline, taught and studied at universities, colleges and divinity schools all around the world. So it should be no surprise that biblical scholars run in all shapes, sizes, colors and denominations. What would surprise many people, though, is that a very large number of us love Jesus and the church, and we spend hours upon hours communicating the love and wonder we experience with the Bible. Indeed, some of our secular colleagues justifiably complain there are too many of us in the field. More surprising might be this one fact: many of us have our roots in fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. The best way for conservative churches to produce "liberal" biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.
Jan 3, 2013

 ......."Liberal" is a label. I don't like Lables. That's a hold over form the sixties. I grew up in the sixties and even though sixties generation was very labeled we professed to like labeling. I also developed a penchant or existentialism early on (high school) and thus absorbed the dislike of labels famous among the existentialists. When I began to study postmodernism in early 90s  it didn't take much to convince me of their dictum that diversity is a good thing and is not a weakness. Yet academics and religion are very label oriented things. People love to pigeon hole everyone and everything. I began calling myself a liberal about 1986-87 when I first went to Perkins school of theology. It was not just because I was a liberal politically but also because I had had it with the conservative form of Christianity that I had been associated with since my born again experience in 1979. Yet I'm not a liberal becuase I belong to a sect called liberal. I belong to a sect called liberal because through study and prayer I've come to a conclusion that things are a certian way and taht way seems to be more often marked as a tendency by that term.
.......There are three major issues that make me a liberal theologically. The major issue is one's view of the Bible. when Evangelicalism defined itself in opposition to modern liberalism it did so with the fundamentalist understanding about five doctrines:  (1) the inerrancy of Scripture, (2) the Virgin Birth of Christ, (3) his substitutionary atonement, (4) his bodily resurrection, and (5) the authenticity of the miracles.

.......So if that's fundamentalism then opposite would be "liberal." Except liberalism was already hundreds of years old when fundamentalism began to be defined around the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Liberal theology began in the Northern Renaissance and was an outgrowth of Renaissance humanism (which was also Christian and pedagogical movement (see Avergy Dulles Book Models of Revelation).* So liberal theology began with Erasmus in the Northern Renaissance and it began as a take on Biblical scholarship. For this reason I use the term liberal of myself even thou my major liberal making issue is Bibilcal and the way I deal with scripture not a rejection of a God who is conscoius and knows I exist or a rejection of Christ as deity or incarnate logos. My view of Scripture is largely in agreement with that of Karl Barth or Paul Tillich, who saw it as containing the word of God rather than being wholly the word of God. I also speak of it as a human record of divine human encounter. The bible is a collection of independent works and they don't all come form the same perspective but they all have authors who sensed the presence of God and who had some dealing with the divine in some way, then  dealt with their experiences through their own human perspective.Some of it is direct revelation "thus says the Lord" and some is indirect, symbolic. For more details on my view of scripture and revelation see my pages on the topic on my new site The Religious a priori, The Nature of Biblical Revelation. In my view this issue qualifies me as a liberal if one needs "qualifications."
......Secondly would be my view of God. The atheists on CARM were so insistent that I must support their view and adopt a dead matter force view of God like magnetism. I don't see Tillich doing that either. I've essays on this blog about that. "Paul Tillich's Ontology: Deep Structures" a good overview of what Tillich means by "being itself" and how he links that to God. The article doesn't say much about his view of God as personal. Paul Tillich and the Personal God: Was Tillich's 'Ground of Being' an impersonal force?" Deals directly with the issue. Hint, quote from Tillich in the paper: He says “God is not a person but he is not less than personal" )Sysmtematic vol I ,245.) If you read through those two article you will know as much most people care to know about Tillich's view of God. This view, which I do hold is easily confused with Pantheism. It is not pantheism and there are major differences. That aspect of it does mark a difference in it and the conventional view of God most Christians in America hold that in itself would tend to make one a liberal, if in fact labels matter. The real pantheism likeness and its difference are brought out in two articles. One I've just linked the reader to the other is also on this blog, "The Super=essential Godhead." This is about the view of Psuedo Dionysus the  Areopagite, who Tillich admired. In fact this was really Tillich's self imposed mission to bring into modern parlance the views of Dionysus.
......In a nut shell the conventional view sees God as a big man on a throne in some part of outer space, or the more sophisticated view sees God as a big mind somewhere beyond time. In both caes he's an entity, and he's spoken of as "a God." "A being." God can't be a being because that denotes one of many. He's not part of a race. The only real way to understand how there can be this ting that is not one of many not part of a larger body of others like himself is to understand that mind as a whole as the basis of reality. Similar to the Hindu concept of Brahmin. In this view God would be more analogs to  a category rather than a person. That doesn't mean that God is not conscious, in fact he's the source of all consciousness, thus Tillich calls him the personal itself. Basis of what the personal is. We can still thin of God as a great heavenly father and love God and feel loved by God but we just need to remember that there no accurate analogy to describe the nature of God and the analogy to father is must an analogy. It's a metaphor. That doesn't mean God's love is not real, it means it's mystical--we can't understand it. We don't need to understand it to feel and live by it and know it's real.
......The Third issue is Universalism or Salvation and Other Faiths. I am not a universalist becuase I believe Jesus is salvation. There is no salvation apart form Jesus. So if that makes me a fundie then I"m a freaking fundie. At the same time I believe that all those who follow Jesus don't know that they do. Some of those who follow Buddha and some who follow Krishna and so, God is the one reality behind all faiths. That makes me a liberal. I don't bow down and worship at other shrines. I don't see an idiol of Baal and call it Jesus. I don't worship other gods. I dont' hate them and revile them and call them demons either. I understand what Paul say sin Romans 2:6 that anyone seeking the good will find eternal life, as being  true statement and not a trick. I see the encounter with Greeks of Mars hill as inclusion of ll faiths in the reality of God (Acts 17). I think we can learn from other faiths. We can see them as colleagues. I think that makes me a liberal if it's important to be called one. I wrote an essey on this. called, oddly enough, "Salvation and other faiths." Its' on the old site Doxa.

I am a Trinitarian and I affirm the Nicene Creed but I don't guarantee that I don't understand parts of it in unconventional ways. I don't imagine my views are so important that anyone wants to read this much of my stuff, but in case one is interested here they are.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How Do We Know the nature or even existence of Salvation?

  photo Christ20on20the20Cross20162720s-1.jpg

A reader asks:

How can anyone really know if or how salvation is possible (or even necessary) if, to quote a certain blogger, "God is beyond human understanding because God is transcendent." It seems to me like the concept of a need for salvation in the first place is man-made. Isn't it a huge leap to get from "It's rational to believe in God due to the universality of mystical experiences" to "All humans are sinners in need of salvation?"

  ....In answering this questoin we can catch a glimpse of a phenomenologically oriented theological method in action. The short answer is the concept of  "salvation" must have evolved out of the sense of the numinous. Of course its "man made" in the sense that it's a theological response to a felt and perceived need. Theology is the participation and study of a faith tradition. Classically it's defined as "faith seeking understanding," the modern definition makes it seem more like a social scinece, with participant-observer overtones. Rather than "man made" in the sense that it's constructed out of "whole cloth" so to speak, it's more like "human understanding" striving to comprehend something all people have always felt at a certain level. What follows is my theory of how theology evolves from the sense of the numinous which dawned upon our pre-human ancestors in the way that instinct dawns upon animals, and culminates in higher rational abstract though in time, as it becomes theology.

from Numinous to religious development


stone age "Venus" figure: 
Probably fertility fetish

....Skeptics see religion as a question about empirical proofs of the existence of one additional thing in reality, besides all the things we regularly see in the universe; God, as opposed to a universe with everything in it that is in the God universe, but minus God. In other words for them God is just another object tin the universe to prove through empirical means. To them belief in God is just adding another fact to the universe. Belief in God is much more than that. Belief in God is not adding a fact to the universe; it’s an understanding of our relation to the universe. Belief in God is about understanding our relation to the universe, and that relation is as contingent beings, creatures whose being is derived form the ground of being. When we make this realization there is no more doubt. To realize the nature of being is to realize not only the reality of God but also the reality of oneself as creature of God. Of course this can’t have the same kind of verification that scientific work has, if it did it wouldn’t be a take on the basic nature of reality. This does not mean there are no methods that help secure the certainty that is found in the heart of one who has made such a realization. It is hoped that understanding this will lead others to seek that realization.
            We can see and understand this method looking at the nature of religious evolution in the evolution of humanity. Of course history of religions and comparative religion are extremely complex, time and space do not permit me to do them justice here. In a thumbnail sketch we can see the roots of Tillich’s concept of God as being itself coming out of this evolutionary development. Anthropologists understand religion as developing as man evolved. No one invented religion, no one decided one day to make up some entity called a God. Religion existed before gods existed. The instinctive realization toward integration into being was part of our ancient ancestors, part of our pre-human heritage. It grew up with us and began to down on us in ways that could be consciously pondered and portrayed as we began to grasp symbolic representation and to think about death and to wonder about the things around us. Atheists still use the old ninetieth century structural functionalist explanation for the origins of religion; the need to explain the thunder, the need to explain rain, the need to manipulate a higher power to make the crops grow. This explanation isn’t really accepted now days because now we realize there’s something more to it all; the sense of he numinous. To those outside looking in religion seems to be about ceremonies and the need to manipulate powers to those involved in It the reality is quite different. As I’ve already said atheists don’t listen to religious people as to why they believe, they are more concerned with assigning the explanations that flatter their own view point. The realization of the sense of the numinous the idea that there is a special quality to being that can be found all around us, the sense of the holy is the preferred explanation for thinkers such as Huston Smith:

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

Smith considers transcendence to be the one dimension common to all peoples of religious faith: "what they have in common lies not in the tradition that introduces them to transcendence, [not in their faith by which they personally respond, but] in that to which they respond, the transcendent itself..."[1]

            The issue of religious adaptation to culture is most interesting because it illustrates the plastic nature of religion, and highlights the fact that belief is not just adding a fact to the universe but is actually an orientation to one’s own place in being. First we see humanity beginning to understand about pictures and representation, and in that same era, or before it perhaps but certainly in that era we began burying out dead with plants and herbs that would help them either because we expected them to have some sort of afterlife in which these things could be used, or we began to feel that they symbolically suggested our wishes for them. In this general era, the “pre historic” the “stone age” humans began to sense the presence of spiritual forces and began burying their dead [2] with herbs and drawing their hands on cave walls, because these things offered some sense of connection with spiritual forces. Some of the flowers put in the graves did not grow in the area; all are used in folk medicine with healing prosperities, indicating they had significance for a belief system.[3] Humans had a belief in sprits long before they believed in gods. What they were actually doing in all of this was coming to understand not only that the world and how they already knew to live in it, but the idea of its enchantment. The skeptic can only see that they were wrong, stupid ancient man so wrong about the existence of this extra object no one can see; what really seems to have been going on was a discovery about himself, we are living in a world filled with spiritual forces, he began to feel this. After several thousand years of pondering such things finally began to conceptualize these forces are personal and can be named and thus came up with the concept of gods. This concept was rooted in the first inklings of an understanding about our own lives and what it means to live in the world, to be part of being.
            Religious belief is an adaptation to culture because it is filtered through the lens of the cultural construct in order to be understood and shared in communication. The skeptic imagines the origin of religion to have been such as his/her observation of modern religion goes, a set of people try to understand why water falls out of the sky every so often and so they make up a story about a big man up there who pours water out of his huge boot, or whatever. The evolutionary practices of religious people as conform to their cultures have aided and abided this idea as it has been foisted upon the public. When we look at the nature of religion in the ancient world, even earlier we don’t an outside observer we see a practitioner who may resort to drawing upon a reservoir of knowledge that he already posses to explain the world, but he/she already posses that knowledge because it’s part of his/her way of life. Religion was not segmented factions battling to see whose set of doctrines came to dominate, in the ancient world religion was not about theology it was even “religion” that word was not used, it was ‘obedience.’ As human began sharpening their concepts they used the king as a model to represent deity because the king was the most powerful person around. Yet human understanding about life was already grasping the concept of the spirit and one’s place in being well before this understanding was ever called “religious belief.” The idea of God who is worshipped and has followers who chose one God over another a latter development, just as priest craft was a latter development.[4]
            Rudolph Otto coined the term “sense of the numinous, in his work The Idea of The Holy in order to capture the mysterious essence of the quality of feeling that stands behind all religion. He used words like “dread” and mysterium Tremendum to get across these are not ordinary feelings; words failed him in being able to describe what exactly he was talking, but this is the essence of mystical or “peak” experience. These terms are used to indicate a feeling or a sense that is beyond the ordinary sense in which we use them. It is non-rational, not irrational. It’s not “crazy” but can’t be analyzed or pinned down and distilled in reason. [5] The sense of the numinous is related to mystical experience and stands at the origin of religion in human thinking; this is essentially why religion exists. It is not hard to understand that this is the feeling related to the mysteries of life, death and the great beyond that led our ancient nameless primordial ancestors to draw their hands on cave walls and bury their dead with flowers to think about the other world and the forced that enchanted the universe with a sense they could not comprehend. At the center of this feeling is the sense of which we read above, of which Smith and Ideonopolis speak, “transcendence itself.” This is a realization about their place in the world, their being and their relation to the rest of being. They did not try to dissect it or psychoanalyze it away, they lived it out. The way to recapture it and live it again is to open up to the sense of wonder in being and allows the sense of being to suggest the categories into which we focus our understanding. There are methodologies that will allow us to do this.

The Universal Nature of Religion

What all people have done, all cultures have developed in my guises is the same basic set of questions and the same basic set of answers, but they come out in different forms. All religions seek to comprehend, identify and name the "human problematic." That is to say, the problem at the heart of being human. Some frame it in terms of sin, some cultures frame it in terms of "imbalance with nature" some frame it in terms of "disobeying natural law" some frame it in other terms, rebirth, impurity, whatever. They are all saying "there's a problem in the nature of being human, it's creates an estrangement form our source, it disrupts what is supposed to be harmonious and meaningful in our existence. This is the problem or set of problems at the hart of being human. In the very preparative understanding it's bad luck, breaking taboo, in the sophisticated understanding, as in the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, its self transcendence. Niebuhr pretty much sums up what all of them are saying, he does it through his understanding of St. Augustine. Because we are able to think and to remember the past and predict the future, we can understand what will happen if we don't pay the rent. That's self transcendence. We can go beyond our momentary self and understand based upon the past the problems of the future. That creates anxiety, we fear, so we steal (for example) to pay the rent.
....Thus, we become willing to do injustice to others in order to alleviate our anxiety. This creates a new anxiety, we don't like doing unjust things to others so we feel guilt. Guilt produces estrangement from our sense of source. We seek relief and we find it in terms of Ultimate transformation experience. We can't just bliss out and forget what we did because of the guilt. So we need to have guilt assuaged. Nothing assuages guilt like being forgiven. We seek mediation, we seek a way to mediate between the need for forgiveness and the transformational power that brings a sense of being forgiven. That mediation is where organized religion comes in. This is not  pretending anything, it's administering a sense of forgiveness. When that sense is real and the relief is really delivered the transformational power is unleashed and we have off scale happiness. This is the essence of what religion is about. All religions have it.
....I've mixed two things up here. I stand by the senerio but it's nto all Niebuhr.[6] The bit about sin and self transcendence is, the big about identifying human problematic and transformation resolving the problematic (that's the ultimate point of the mediation) is from Dr. Neil MacFarland of Perkins school of theology. [7] The development of modern theological method and the doctrinal details of any religious tradition are just the playing out through time and the diversification and evolutionary development of human understanding in relation to a religious tradition. The purpose of tradition is serve as a guide, so we know where people have been in the past and what the pitfalls to avoid are, and we and we can develop and sharpen our understand. In another way they are like vocabularies, because they enable one to enter the ancinet conversation and to understand what has been contributed to the conversation over time. People use them as means of exclusion but that is a cultural development and one that has not always been around. The Ancient Hebrews did not consign their enemies to hell (they didn't have a conception of hell) on the basis that "they are not us." That's actually a somewhat modern development and probably came out of the Greco-Roman disdain for the barbarian.
,,,,Now one might ask if this contradicts my understanding of Christianity? No not at all. See my article on Salvation and other faiths. As long as we believe that understanding can grow our modern understanding can be deeper than our ancestor's understanding. Of course I've said that God is beyond our understanding, that's true. We can know God, we just can't put into words what we know. We know through mystical union. We can make metaphors. As long as we remember not to literalize the metaphors we will be OK. After all the idea is to experience not to understand words on paper. It's not about control, it's about letting go of control.


[1]Thomas Idinopulos,.”What is Religion” Cross Currents, Volume 48, no. 3(Fall 1998). Also see online URL: visited 10/28/10
[2] Paul Pettitt,  “When Burial Begins,” British Archaeology, Issue 66 August 2002. See Web versoin URL:, visited 10/14/08. Pettitt is research fellow at Keble college, Oxford.
[3] Richard Leaky  and Roger Lewin. Origins. New York: E.P. Dutton. 1977
[4] Willfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1991, Originally published 1962. on line google books page 51, URL: visited 9/28/10
[5] Rudolf Otto, and John W. Harvey.The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational factor in the Idea of the Divine, 1929. Kessinger Pulbisher’s rare prints, (John W. Harvey Trans)  2004 5-8 Online page number URL: visited 10/4/10, Originally published Oxford University Press 1926.
  [6]. Reinhold Niebuhr, Nature and Destiny of Man Vol. I.Westminster: John Knox Press 1991(the original publication was in the 40s).
[7] Class notes at Perkins

Friday, May 17, 2013

Medical Historians Agree Lourdes Cures aer Unexplainable


In an article entitled “The Lourdes Medical Cures Revisited” Bernard Francis, Ester M. Sternberg and Elizabeth Fee provide something closer to a scientific appraisal.[1] They studied 411 patents cured in 1909-14 and thoroughly reviewed 25 cures acknowledged between 1927 and 1976. By “acknowledged” they mean cures that were officially declared “Miracles” by the church. “the Lourdes Phenomena extraordinary in many respects still awaits scientific explanation.”[2] They took the 411 cures from the era known as “the golden age or Lourdes.” This is the period from 1909-14 which was the time when the popularity was at its height, the medical committee was functioning smoothly with new rules, and crowds were pouring in. In the early days right after the visions began there were many claims of miracles that went unrecorded, or that were not help up to a scrutiny of criteria or that weren’t recorded in a systematic fashion. This state of affairs evolved through the late ninetieth century with the imposition of rules and the evolution of the medical board. Since the 70’s the official miracles have stopped and the crowds are way down and these is less of sense of miracles going on. This is largely because of the great proficiency of medical diagnosis and treatment as well as the strident nature of the rules. The situation vastly improved as a fine tuned medical miracle documenting machine evolved out of the end of the ninetieth century.
            Data on the early period is found in the archives of the sanctuary of Notre Dame of Lourdes (April 1868-June 1944). Those archives provide mainly unsubstantiated and anecdotal evidence. They also used Ruth Harris’s scholarly work Lourdes, Body and Spirit in the Secular Age. For the period 1885-1914 they also used Annales of Notre Dame de Lourdes vol 17-47, George Bertirins Historie Critique Des Evenments de Lourdes,  and a host of other materials.[3] The Authors set out to determine if Lourdes cures really were cures. Their working methodology for this task was to evaluate the nature of the disease and then to assess the nature of the diagnostic criteria and evidence used for deciding that cure had occurred. The criteria improved over the years as diagnostic ability improved. They studied 411 patents cured between 1911-1914 and thoroughly reviewed 25 cures between 1947 and present. Their conclusion “the Lourdes phenomena still extraordinary in many respects still awaits scientific explanation.”[4] The nature of the cures has changed over time. The medical committee was not in place in the beginning and it had different periods of improvement. Speaking of the “golden age” around 1914, Francis and his colleagues write, “led by talented position Boissarie, and his assistant Dr. Cox,  the medical Bureau is said to have improved its method and gained a reputation for excellence, but it faced a daunting task…150,000 pilgrims a year.”[5] Yet some of the cures of that era were deemed “remarkable.” Marie Lebranchu and Marie Lemarchand cured of Pulmonary Tuberculosis. That cure was attended by the famous atheist writer Emile Zola; Grabiel Gargam cured of post traumatic paraplegia in 1901 and several others.[6] Prior to the cure patents were described as being in decline or in an “alarming state of health.” After “patients confined to bed for years would stand and walk regain their weight resume their prior activity. 96 cured patients were evaluated again one year latter...they were found healthy and as far as we now the recoveries stood he test of time.”[7] Modern researchers reading the accounts of many female patents form this period can sense the neurotic nature of some symptoms. There were obvious cases hysteria. There are also cases of anatomical abnormalities. “Scores of visiting physicians witnessed the disappearance of macroscopic lesions, easy to identify such as external tumors, urine fibromass, and open wounds and suppurative fecal fistulae.”[8]
            The cures were said to be instantaneous is 59 percent of 382 cases for which they had adequate records; this is all within the gold age period.[9] During the golden age there were strange spontaneous healings in the town in such places as breakfast table, during a procession, in the hospital ward in town.[10] Apparently it was WWI that put the Kybosh on the golden age. The committee changed leadership many times and doctors were scarce due to the war.[11] 1947-2006 was marked by improved diagnostics, new young physicians more careful attitudes. The created an international committee designed to review the work of the Bureau.[12]  There are 25 patients cured and their cures analyzed form this period. The Francis article is extremely though with sound medical and scholarly caution. They take a critical view of the subject mater and the data. The data is very thorough. They use a huge number of sources. They tally the kinds of diagnosis and which diseases were the most cured and the most reported. TB was always the leading disease and GI tract problems were very common. The authors describe a development over time from an early phase of inadequate reporting and uncritical acceptance of cure, to a modern set up which is well regarded and scientific.[13] Those standards of excellence are now outdated, the rules have been upgraded. Modern controversy stems form the declining reports due to better diagnostics and the difficulty in finding someone who hasn’t sought medical cures. There is a controversy over relaxing the rules. Thus all of this leads Francis et al to speak of “cures” rather than Miracles.
The Critical assessment of the authors:
             If skeptics seek absolute scientific proof so strong that they can’t argue and if they seek to be completely won over such that they can no longer struggle with doubt, they are no going to find that kind of absolute proof in this article, and I suspect not at Lourdes or anywhere else. On the other hand there is more than enough here to totally do away with the knee jerk bigotry that says Lourdes miracles are nonsense, just laudable stupidity and a thing of derision to be classed with UFO abductions. That sort of view is totally disproved by the article. If one takes the article as evidence of supernatural reality its not without its problems. If one allows the article shed light on the question of supernatural effects, there’s more than enough evidence to see that one can reasonably place confidence in such notions.  In their critical assessment the authors find that the word “cure” is misunderstood. It is not taken as a euphemism for “miracle.” Nor does it imply absolute knowledge of a permanent state of removal of disease. They are improvements in the state of health. “By cross checking avaible data we arrived at a rough estimate of medical events acknowledged as ‘cures’ as 4,516, in the period 1858-1976.”[14] Now most of these cures occurred before WWII and were most of them were based upon what is described as “flimsy evidence.” There was an expectation of miracles and no follow up. For that reason the authors find that it is impossible to access the number of valid cures before 1947. that’s not to say that there aren’t cases that can’t be validated individually.  There has been a decline in the number of cures for the last one hundred years, and the authors list several factors as the reason for this: increasing efficiency of modern medicine (diagnostic equipment and better definitions for the nature of a condition), moreover Lambertini’s canons that had to be acknowledged to qualify a miracle have actually stood in the way of being able to declare many cases as miracles.
            The requirements for these canons are as follows: (a) must be sever, incurable, or difficult to treat, (b) not to be in a final stage (c) no curative treatment given (d) the cure must be instantaneous (d) cure must be complete without relapse. One can see this is so strict that’s one of the major reasons there are so few official miracles. There are examples from certain periods where Lambertini canons have just been violated, but in do doing they found remarkable cures. In their series of study of twenty five cured patients six were cured of terminally ill diseases, eight were cured in a matter of days or months, or some even years, this is a sharp departure. The canons “seem to have been rescinded” in 2006. They just made it too difficult to find anyone who fills the bill.” It was obvious they no longer applied to what was observed.”[15] That’s one thing that makes for the category I’ve spoken of before of the “remarkable case.” There are only 67 official miracles but 7000 remarkable cases. Those are based upon modern study of the committee not part of this study. Miracles are not for the Catholic Church on the same level as the sacraments or the creeds so belief in them is not obligatory.[16] A parallel is drawn by the author between their work and that of Jacquelyn Douffin. The Pathetical conditions are the same the proportion of tuberculosis neurological disorders and GI diseases were distributed in similar fashion and the manner of the cures were the same.
            The authors find that the history of Lourdes unfolds like the history of medicine itself. The diseases were diverse the accuracy of diagnosis and follow up badly done in the beginning and growing in sharpness and accuracy over time. That is no disproof of miracles. One of the findings of the authors is that “the Lourdes cures have been “beyond the natural course of nature, ” not “contrary to nature” or “breaking natural law.” To give an example they use the distinction between a case of pulmonary tuberculosis considered incurable, vs. growing back an amputated limb, which is contrary to nature, breaking the law of nature.[17] That’s a problematic statement as we will find in the next chapter. If physical laws are nothing more then descriptions of our observations about how the universe behaves than nothing we find can be contrary to that law because that’s what we find happening. On the other to make such a distinction between “the course” of nature, which is based upon our observations, and “laws” assumes form the outset the understanding of a higher law. For skeptic to make use of the distinction is acknowledge the need for a higher sense of order (“law”) as opposed to just they way we observe the universe.
            Mangiapan did the only retrospective study from 1947-76. “Thirteen patients out of twenty-five (tables 3 and 4) died nineteen to fifty-seven years after the cure and without relapse of the disease. For nine subjects living in 2008, the time elapsed since the cure was ten to fifty-four years.”[18] They find that four cases of multiple sclerosis had remissions of four year duration that is equivalent to assumed cure. Four cases of tb were actually cured. The speed of the curse is without known equivalent and makes for remarkable cases. Two were taken out of the study key requirements weren’t met. Of twenty-five they have misgivings about eight. The reasons for this are: (a) all the criteria were not met, (b) lack diagnostic evidence, (c) inadequate follow-up (d) possible influence of possible treatments (e) possible diagnostic error (f) possible diagnostic error (g) relapse (h) outcome in doubt.[19] This means that while eight can be doubted and two discarded seventeen are solidly documented cures. Further findings looking back over the entire history of the phenomena the researchers suggest that about 1/3 of the cases involve cures that were not spontaneous but required days or weeks. The researchers find that there are significant mental factors present and an atmosphere conducive to healing but they don’t make any conclusion about the influence of psychosomatic cures and they don’t try to make such an excuse to “explain” it all. It might also be worth pointing out even though they can’t be studied there’s an “underside” of Lourdes cures of people who are healed in connection prayers involving Lourdes or use of the water away form the shrine who never report in but send information so that a plaque can be put up. This number has been increasing was about ninety-four in 2008. While they cant’ really be claimed as cures they can’t be studied they suggest the possibly of healing outside the domain of Lourdes.[20]
The conclusion of the authors:
Their conclusion is basically: “We don’t really know if God is working miracles at Lourdes or not, the situation is not clear enough to affirm or deny such a cliam. “ Yet they make the frank admission that the way people see it will be determined by their view on religion and belief. While that may seem like a refutation to some, it’s all we need to undermine the closed realm of discourse on the subject. This will be seen in the next chapter.
…the least that can be stated is that the exposures to Lourdes and its representations (Lourdes water, mental images…) in a context of prayer have induced an exceptional usually instantaneous, symptomatic, and at best physical cures of widely different diseases. Although what follows is regarded by some as a hackneyed concept, any and all scholars of Lourdes have come to agree with one of two equally acceptable—but seemingly conflicting and irreconcilable—points of view on the core issue, are the Lourdes cures a matter of  divine intervention or not? Faith is set against science…uncanny and wired, the cures are currently beyond our ken but still impressive, incredibly effective and awaiting scientific explanation. Creating a theoretical explanatory framework could be within reach of neurophysiologists in the next decade…We reached the same conclusion as Carrel some 80 to one hundred years ago “instead of being a simple place of miracles of interest only to the pious Lourdes presents a considerable scientific interest….although uncommon the miraculous cures are evidence of somatic and mental processes we do not know.”[21]
While the findings of Francis et al do not provide conclusive proof of miracles do not allow us state that miracles are scientifically proved, the also reject and disprove the mocking assertions of skeptics that Lourdes miracles are just laughable nonsense to be dismissed with UFO abductions and Bigfoot.
            There are those who will argue that unless the causes are all uniform and proven and pile up a huge number they can’t be miracles because surely if there was a loving God working miracles he would have to succeed every time and have to work them every time he’s asked. We can’t subject God’s will to numbers. We can’t assume we control the process or that God is obligated to heal every time. That’s we should take it case by case and not attaches numbers. Lourdes does represent “extraordinary proof” in the sense that this concept if meaningful in connection with Bayes’s theorem. That concept does not refer to bizarre way out things such as UFO abductions but to whatever stands out form the statistical norm; seventeen out of twenty-five is not bad.

[1] Bernard Francis et al, “The Lourdes Medical Cures Re-visited,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (10.1093/jhmas/jrs041) 2012 pdf downloaded SMU page 1-28  all the page numbers given are from pdf
Bernard Francis is former professor Emeritus of medicine, Unversite Claude Bernard Lyon. Elisabeth Sternberg taught at National Institute of Mental Health and The National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Elisabeth Fee was at National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] ibid, abstract.
[5] Ibid, pdf page 8
[6] ibid
[7] ibid 9
[8] ibid 10
[9] ibid, 12
[10] ibid
[11] ibid
[12] ibid, 13
[13] ibid 21
[14] ibid 19
[15] ibid 20
[16] ibid they sight Catechism of the Catholic Chruch part 3 section 1 chapter 3 article 2, grace 2003.The Catholic believer may reject all ecclesiastical miracles as pious fables and he may reject modern miracles as imagination.
[17] Ibid 21
[18i] ibid 23 Mangiapan  was president of the medical bureau
[19] ibid 24
[20] ibid, 25-27
[21] ibid 27