Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman:My Book, on Amazon

Arguments for God from religious experience have always been considered a secondary level of argument. It's always been assumed that their subjective nature makes them weak arguments. The atheist is scared to death of subjectivity. This work, compiling empirical scientific studies that show that religious experience is not the result of emotional instability but are actually good for one psychologically, constitutes a ground breaking work that places religious experiences on a higher level.

The Trace of God is an exposition (445 pages) employing both philosophical investigation and social science research. The book analyzes and discusses a huge body of empirical research that has up to this point been primarily known only in circles of psychology of religion, and has been over looked by theology, apologetics, Philosophy of religion and more general discipline of psychology. This body of work needs to be known in each of these interested groups because it demonstrates through hundreds of studies over a 50 year period, the positive and vital nature of the kind of religious experience known as “mystical.” Even though most of the studies deal with “mystical” experience, linking studies also apply it to the “born again experience” as well as “the material end of Christian experience.”

            The book opens with a discussion as to why arguments for the existence of God need not “prove” God exists, but merely offer a “warrant for belief.” It discusses why there can’t be direct empirical evidence for God and why that is not necessary. It also lays out criteria for rational warrant. In Chapter two it presents two arguments that are based upon religious experience and then shows how the various studies back them up. This is not an attempt to present directly empirical evidence for God but to show that religious experiences of a certain kind can be taken as “the co-determinate” or God correlate. It’s not a direct empirical view of God that is presented but the “God correlate” that indicates God,  just as a fingerprint or tacks in the snow indicate the presence of some person or animal. Religious experiences of this kind are the “trace of God.”

            These studies demonstrate that the result of such experiences is life transforming. This term is understood and used to indicate long term positive and dramatic changes in the life of the one who experiences them. People are released form bondage to alcohol and drugs, they tend to have less propensity toward depression or mental illness, they are self actualized, self assured, have greater sense of meaning and purpose, generally tend to be better educated and more successful than those who don’t have such experiences. These studies prove that religious experience is not the result of mental illness or emotional instability. The methodology of the studies (which includes every major kind of study methodology in the social sciences) is discussed at length.

            One of the major aspects of the book is the discussion of the “Mysticism scale” (aka “M scale”) developed by Dr. Ralph Hood Jr. at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The importance of this “M scale” (that is a test made up of 32 questions) is that it serves as a control on the valid religious experience. One can know through the score on the test if one’s experience is truly “Mystical” or just “wool gathering.” Without a control we can’t know if one has had a true experience and thus we can’t measure their effects. Being able to establish that one has had true “mystical experience” one can determine that the effects of that experience are positive and long term. Thus that sets up the rationally warranted arguments for God.

            It is also vital to know if the experience is valid because those who seek to discredit religious belief and claim to have produced such experiences by stimulating the brain don’t use controls to determine if the experience is valid or not. They must make assumptions that anything to do with God talk is a religious experience then claim to have produced it by stimulating the brain. The M scale works by comparing theories of British philosopher W.T. Stace with current modern mystics (research began in the 1970s on American campuses and went international in the 80s). It is statistically extremely remote that they would be able to accidentally hit upon the right combination of questions to reflect validation of Stace’s theory. They have to agree with Stace’s theory on all 32 points. It’s even harder to imagine they might lie. In the international studies Iranian, Indian, and Japanese peasants were questioned. Most of them did not read English it’s absurd to think they could tell what Stace’s theory was much less what they had to lie about. Most of them would know nothing about W.T. Stace or his theories. The Studies showed that modern mystics in Iran, India, Japan, Sweden, the UK all experience exactly what Stace said they would experience. Thus that creates the ground for comparison. It gives us a control for the experience.

            The book also discusses the theories of Wayne Proudfoot a philosopher who tried to disprove mystical experience by reductionism, re-labeling and losing the phenomena. Studies of brain chemistry are analyzed as well as the Placebo effect. The question all comes down to a tie between naturalistic brain chemicals vs. the idea that the naturalistic neurological route is just the way God created for us to communicate with him, and that stimulation of those chemicals is just opening the receptors that also receive God’s presence. The problem is resolved by eight tie breakers that are presented at the end of the next to the last chapter. The last chapter deals with philosophical and theological problems surrounding language and faith.

            The book provides a ground breaking chunk of fiber fortifying the arguments for God from religious experience that has been lacking since the days of Father Frederick C. Coplestonand his debate with Bertrand Russell. Copleston didn’t have these studies to back his argument. This body of work has been growing for 50 years and it’s time it was known to the theological world. These studies, especially the M scale, establish that religious experiences are the same the world over. There may be other kinds but of the kind know as “mystical” when we control for the names being different, and doctrines of various faiths use  to explain the situation, we look at the experience itself they are all the same. That implies that all of these people around the world in different faiths are experiencing a reality external to their own minds. It also implies that God is working in all faiths. The Author, Joseph Hinman, is a Christian and he does believe in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ but he also recognizes God’s prevenient grace to all people.

Read Christian Philosopher Randal Rauser interview  me about my book.

 "A great contribution to discussions of the rationality of belief in God"

William S. Babcock, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Southern Methodist University

Ralph Hood says:

"A fine exploration of the meaningfulness of arguments from human experience to the reality of God."
(Ralph Hood Jr. inventor of the M scale and professor of psychology of religion University of Tennessee Chattanooga.)

Wordgazer, a prominent blogger on Women's issues says:

"Why should  I mistrust my own experiences of God's presence?" Joe Hinman taught me to ask. After all, we don't mistrust other things we experience.  We don't doubt that the chair we're sitting in will hold us, unless we have some good reason to think something has gone wrong with our senses.  We don't have to accept the self-proclaimed expert in science as an expert in metaphysics.  Nor need we accept the standard of "absolute proof" in terms of scientific categories that may be inadequate for the phenomenon in the first place.  We can have good, reasonable reasons -- what Hinman calls a "rational warrant" to believe.  His newer website, The Religious A Priori, explores belief and rational warrant from a number of different angles.

And now Joe Hinman has encapsulated some of his best thinking into a new book: The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief.

The Trace of God is a scholarly work, but written in a style that a layperson can follow.  Its main point is that experiences like the one I describe above (called "religious experiences" or "peak experiences"*) do constitute good evidence, even from a scientific point of view, of the existence of God.

This is a ground breaking work. These studies have never been put together in this context and analyzed and argued for in this way before. The God arguments form religious experience have always been considered weak but no more. This body of work puts them up on a higher level, it's put fiber into their diet.
See Word Gazer's Review of my book on her blog

see message board interview, the whole thread is he interview of me about my book on Evangelical Universalism board. 

see Christian philosopher Randal Rauser interview of me on my book

Order the book from Aamzon

Gary is a coward

He let me make one comment,then wont let me back on to defend it, he;s a coward , I think this proves he;s not a serious thinker,  I don;t have time for games

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Miracles and Naturalistic Assumptions

Marcello Truzzi,
(September 6, 1935 – 
February 2, 2003)

Our friendly atheist fundi Gary left us a link to a thing on his escaping Christian Fundamentalism website in which he makes a broad based call only to accept what can be empirically demonstrated. Unfortunately this view is epistemologically naive and would leave us unable to resolve the most basic dilemmas of knowledge.[1]

Gary argues: 

More simply, when people tell me Big Foot is real, I say “show me the body and I’ll believe, otherwise I remain skeptical.” The null hypothesis in this example is that Big Foot does not exist. Finally, it is telling that among the tens of thousands of government emails, documents, and files leaked in recent years through Wikileaks, there is not one mention of a UFO cover up, a faked moon landing, or that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Here the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. This has implications for miracle claims.
First of all this assertion is based upon  guilt by association,he's trying to link BF to the most baseless infamous notions then by association lump God into the same category. But just because the evidence  for UFOs is inconclusive does not mean the evidence for Bigfoot is, much less for God. Why should we link God with Bigfoot? God is believed by 90% of humans and is acceptable to most great thinkers even in the academy. moreover he;s wrong about the assertion that BF is rejected because there's no body. Anthropologists don't go by that standard any more. 

Darren Naish, In Scientific American, states:
 However, what may not be well known outside of zoology is that this ‘rule’ is not as strict and clear as generally thought, and that there is actually some disagreement as to what, exactly, can be accepted as a type specimen. What if you record a new species (via photographic evidence) and decide to declare a live individual as a type specimen? And what if you have a photo of a seeming new species and want to use that as the basis of a new species? [2]
That dismisses a long standing set of arguments favored by atheists,

The null hypothesis is that your claim of a miracle is not true until you prove otherwise. Here we say that the burden of proof is on the miracle claimant, not the skeptic or scientist to disprove the miracle claim. Let’s consider the biggest religious miracle claim of all—that Jesus was resurrected. Now, the proposition that Jesus was crucified may be true by historical validation, inasmuch as a man named Jesus of Nazareth probably existed, the Romans routinely crucified people for even petty crimes, and most biblical scholars—even those who are atheists, such as the renowned University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Religious Studies professor Bart Ehrman—assent to this fact. The proposition that Jesus died for our sins, by contrast, is a faith-based truth claim with no purchase on valid knowledge. It cannot be tested or falsified. It cannot be confirmed. It can only be believed or disbelieved based on faith or the lack thereof. In between these propositions is Jesus’s resurrection, which is not impossible but would be a miracle if it were true. Is it?

The notion of atonement that Jesus' death on the cross has something to do with forgiveness of sin  is a religious doctrine, it;s pat of the package of belief. There is  no reason why it  should be proven or why it should be probable. If the premises that establish the basis of belief are true then we  can assume the rest of the package is true.  The Resurrection is such a foundational  truth that establishes the rest of it.

Now he brings Hume  into it:

Here we turn to Section XII of David Hume’s Philosophical Essays Concerning the Human Understanding, “Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy,” in which the Scottish philosopher distinguishes between “antecedent skepticism”, such as Descartes’s method of doubting everything, that has no “antecedent” infallible criterion for belief; and “consequent skepticism,” the method Hume employed that recognizes the “consequences” of our fallible senses, but corrects them through reason: “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”

The problem is ideological skeptics refuse to recognize evidence even when its obvious. Ideological unbelief cannot allow itself to be honest or fair about expedience. Hume was clearly an ideological unbeliever.

Another way to state this principle of proportionality is extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims, as Carl Sagan famously said (quoting the lesser known sociologist of science Marcello Truzzi, thereby confirming the observation that pithy and oft-quoted statements migrate up to the most famous person who said them). Of the approximately 100 billion people who lived before us all have died and none returned, so the claim that one of them rose from the dead is about as extraordinary as one will ever find.
Good old  Marcello Truzzi, I first became antiquated with this sociologist in udergrad school when I was a soc major. His argument rests upon a dubious quotation which proves nothing. Essentially all he's saying is resurrection doesn't happen outweigh to accept it as true. It;s foolish to argue that because that assumes it;'s a naturalistic event.The assumption is that its divine  intervention which we  cam't predict so there's no reason to assume that probably disproves it. They are trying to force divine actin into naturalistic categories so they can control it. That is to say control how we think about it.

 Is the evidence commensurate with the conviction? According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison philosopher Larry Shapiro in his 2016 book The Miracle Myth, “evidence for the resurrection is nowhere near as complete or convincing as the evidence on which historians rely to justify belief in other historical events such as the destruction of Pompeii.” Because miracles are far less probable than ordinary historical occurrences like volcanic eruptions, “the evidence necessary to justify beliefs about them must be many times better than that which would justify our beliefs in run-of-the-mill historical events. But it isn’t.”
Look at the emboldened part. If we put miracles into the realm of the probable that means they are result  of naturalistic forces and subject to natural law  apart form God. But of course that is contrary to the concept of miracles,So their analysts is not even willing to considered miracles in their own terms.To then assert that the evidence must  be better is just foolish. Essentially their argument is if we can't control an idea with  our own method  it must not be  valid.

What about the eyewitnesses? Maybe they “were superstitious or credulous” and saw what they wanted to see, Shapiro suggests. “Maybe they reported only feeling Jesus ‘in spirit,’ and over the decades their testimony was altered to suggest that they saw Jesus in the flesh. Maybe accounts of the resurrection never appeared in the original gospels and were added in later centuries. Any of these explanations for the gospel descriptions of Jesus’s resurrection are far more likely than the possibility that Jesus actually returned to life after being dead for three days.”
This just proves what I said above. They will never accept evidence; you give them good evidence they re define it and re-interpret it and explain it away. What is the point of demanding evidence when you know you will never accept it?

The principle of proportionally also means we should prefer the more probable explanation over the less, which these alternatives surely are. In The Case Against Miracles John Loftus devotes a chapter to this greatest of all miracles—the resurrection—and it is the best analysis I’ve ever read. In time, all of these “god-of-the-gaps” type arguments for miracles will fall, and with them the last epistemological justification for religious belief beyond blind faith. Perhaps this is why Jesus was silent when Pilate asked him (John 18:38) “What is truth?”
That is circular reasoning to assert that the  intervention of God into the natural order is dependent upon natural law such that it can be charted capitalistically. That is merely begging the question and assuming  that naturalistic laws must really govern the process of reality.  To assume that X is not a miracle because there are no miracles is circular reasoning.

[1]Gary, "Extraordinary claims always Require Extraordinary Evidence," Escaping Christian Fundamentalism (December 23, 2019)

[2]Darren Nash, "Animal Speocoes Named for Photo" Scientific American (Feb 3,2017)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The nature of Biblical Revelation part 2

"The Bible is Just Mythology"

Image result for flood mythology in the bible"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All religions seek to do three things.

All religions seek to do three things:

a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.

But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:

1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

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

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

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.

These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Nature of Biblical Revelation part 1

Image result for John receive, the word of patmos

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

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

The Traditional view of "Inerrancy."

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

Dulles Lists Five Versions of Inerrancy.

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Models of Revelation:

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

Revelation as History:

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

Revelation as Inner Experience:

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

Revelation as Doctirne:

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

Revelation as Dialectical Presence:

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

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

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

don't forget part 2 on Wednesday

I debate an atheist on Youtube


Give some likes to that guy's thing,He did a good one on the big ark amazement park the  fundies put up in Kentucky. 

Disagree with his views but I like him. He is doing a straw man argument. He thinks all christians must believe in hell and the flood this us what I disaree with him on,

My voices sounds terrible.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Ethical Naturalism and Value Systems: the Illusion of Moral Landscape (part 2)

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The Is/Ought Dichotomy

            The “is-ought” problem tells us that we can’t derive what should be just from a description of what is. If we look at what Harris is saying, he’s really not deriving a view of what ought to be by understanding what is, although he wants us to think he is. He thinks it’s possible to do this just by being real accurate with the “is.” But he’s already reduced reality so it wont include transcendent ought. So he’s already hedged his bets against the argument. In reality there is no reason why we should accept that the “ought” is already in place and that it’s already a given that pleasant physical circumstances as outcome are the only valid good available. This has not been established by anything. It’s just an assertion that is put in the position to be a default given that alternatives are ruled out ideologically. There’s nothing about biological facts that establish an “ought.” We might show that religious belief has harmed more people than Polio (perhaps) but if true that still would not tell us why it’s wrong to do so. Harris’s basic answer to this argument is that people who make such criticisms have too narrow a concept of science. “Science simply represents our best effort to understand what’s going on in the universe, and the boundary between it and the rest of rational thought cannot always be drawn.”[1]  That is his answer to the issue of is-ought, basically no answer at all. What difference does it make if it is our best efforts (which I doubt)? Best efforts don’t change is to ought. What difference does it make if we broaden our scope of understanding for science? What he’s really saying is that science is the only true ethics. In saying that, he’s clearing the way to replace real ethical thinking with the reductionist ideology that makes up his understanding of science. All the scientific precision there is can’t turn “is” into “ought”—there is simply no reason why facts by themselves represent what should be. As Philosopher Robert Nozick tells us:

Ethical truths find no place within the contemporary scientific picture of the world. No such truths are established in any scientific theory or tested by any scientific procedure—microscopes and telescopes reveal no ethical facts. In the guise of a complete picture of the world, science seems to leave no room for any ethical facts. What kind of facts are these, what makes them hold true?[2]

Brain Earp, again tells us:

Example: It’s a fact that rape occurs in nature — among chimpanzees, for instance; and there are some evolutionary arguments to explain its existence in humans and non-humans alike. But this fact tells us exactly nothing about whether it’s OK to rape people. This is because “natural” doesn’t entail “right” (just as “unnatural” doesn’t necessarily mean “wrong”) — indeed, the correct answer is that it’s not OK, and this is a judgment we make at the interface of moral philosophy and common sense: it’s not an output of science.
The domain of science is to describe nature, and then to explain its descriptions in terms of deeper patterns or laws. Science cannot tell us how to live. It cannot tell us right and wrong. If a system of thought claims to be doing those things, it cannot be science. If a scientist tells you she has some statements about how you ought to behave, they cannot be scientific statements, and the lab-coat is no longer speaking as a scientist. Questions about “How should we live?” — for better or worse — fall outside the purview of “objective” science. We have to sort them out, messily, by ourselves.[3]

If the current state of affairs (what is) is the basis of what should be than political repression and backward understanding of the environment and focus on short term needs only, as well as greed and even cruelty must be what should be. That certainly sums up what is as far as life on earth goes.
            Rachels defends ethical naturalism against the “is-ought” argument and his defense is a bit more involved than Harris’s. He argues that evaluative conclusions can sometimes be drawn from factual premises. His example is if the only difference between doing  A and not doing A is a child will suffer intense prolonged pain, then it’s better not to do A.[4] Wait, this in principle is no different than Harris’s answer and it’s based upon the same “trick.” I use the term advisedly because they may not intend to trick, but they are tricking themselves because there is clearly a value that’s being inserted into the process that is kept unspoken and asserted as though the it’s the only valid conclusion that comes form the nature of the case but it’s clearly loaded at the front before the example is made. The idea that doing is wrong because all other things being equal it would result in the pain of a child assumes form the outset that our values are such that paining children is wrong. This is fraught with a host of assumptions: that there is a right and wrong, that children are more innocent than adults, that it’s wrong to harm the innocent, that’s more wrong to harm the innocent than the not so innocent, and so on. Yes, these are values with which we all agree. There is, however, no evidence that they are arrived at logically as a result of some magic transmutation of “is” into “ought.” Rather the “ought” is assumed form the beginning, it is loaded into the example, otherwise why use a child? The basis of those values is proved by this example to be logically derived from the nature of the case but could well be derived from fine feelings or a sense of right intuited from the Spirit or any number of things. Its use as an emotional ploy suggests the flaw in using it, because it suggests a value already built in. He also argues that beliefs are tied to motivations, those stem from behavior and that is based upon “is,” upon the factual nature of the human psyche and other situations that are derived from the nature of the case.[5] Yes it is undeniable that an evocation of ethical duty or obligation must revolve around actual facts rather than mere abstractions or there is no actual ethical concern. That in no way means that the “ought” is derived form the mere facts of the nature of the case apart form the value systems employed to evaluate them.

Value systems

            Value systems make up the basis of ethical thinking. Intrinsic value is what supplies the reason for action in ethics.[6] Ethics is about what we do, how we live, as a result of examining our actions in relation to our values. We all agree that pleasant outcome; absence of pain is a good thing.[7] Yet we believe for different reasons. The reductionists try to justify it as an outgrowth of survival instinct, the Christian as an expression of God’s love. It matters which way we do it because the decision is ultimately the expression of a value system, that decision will determine how we decide our actions. If we write off human values as merely the opinions of a different set of mammals, if we say “o well marmoset actions are marmoset ethics,” that’s all it is just the way a different set of organisms spins the survival mode, then we might wind up justifying a whole set of dehumanizing actions. If we are led down the garden path by the priests of knowledge and taught to think of these dehumanizing actions as merely a means to an end, we may lose the human values that would enable us to regret such actions. Behind what might seem like split hairs lurk the justifications and rationalizations for destructive and dehumanizing decisions. One could see, for example, rationalizing loss of freedom by an appeal to concrete nature of the outcome and there fleeting transitory nature of the “merely human” value of freedom. The space between is and “ought” must be kept in order not to sanctify what “is.” The danger is too great that deriving “ought” from “is” will produce a way of thinking about “is” that forever links it with “ought.”
            One of the things that make ethical philosophy and moral philosophy seem so aloof, transitory and “unscientific” is the relative nature of their value systems. Value systems are relative and arbitrary to the extent that we either hold them or we don’t. We can’t prove what values we should hold. In order to be able to prove what value system we should hold to we would have to have a prior value system to put in place to say it with, if we could have that it would solve the issue there be no need to say it. That’s what the scientific ethics reductionists think they are doing; they think they are giving us a stable grounding in “is.” It’s really an appeal to the fortress of facts idea. The problem with that is that it begs the question about which value system we should assume. We can’t be confused by the humanitarian nature of the outcome oriented ethics. Just because it values things we deem “good” doesn’t mean it’s the only access to the good. Deontologists value happiness, peace, absence of carnage, too. The problem is, values come into conflict. Take Harris’s example, do we use our billion to cure malaria or help feed people? I assume he would base that upon which is killing the most. The problem there’s more to consider in the equation. What do we have to do to provide those particular goods? If we have to take food out of the mouths of people being sustained by that funding in order to save other lives with malaria have we produced a net good? We only shift around evils if we create starving masses to cure disease. By the same token a deontological approach could see feeding the hungry and curing disease both as values that must be met. This leads to the argument about replacing all other forms of ethics with consequentialist ethics. This is clearly something that Harris seeks to do. He defines ethics in such a way that ethics is about producing certain kinds of consequences, as we have seen.
            I stated above that intrinsic values are what motivate action in ethics. There are other kinds of values;[8] there are values that derived from the things they accrue, for example in consequentialist ethics various states or attitudes are moral values because the outcome of holding them is the desired outcome. For example the outcome of holding non racist attitudes is seen as clearing the way for freedom and human potential that leads to more happiness and less pain for people of color and even for those who would hold the prejudiced attitudes. Yet there’s also an intrinsic value there. The intrinsic value is one that is the object of the outcome; we might term it “pleasure,” more like “fulfillment,” “human potential.” What is the point of keeping people alive? Why should we care if more people die of Malaria or are harmed by religion, why care about either? We care because we value human life both in the sense of protecting it, and enhancing the quality of it. That is an end in itself. We can’t say why we value human life, except in terms of either expressing feelings or expressing ideas about the nature of the universe. We have no scientific data that tells us why we should value it. We can’t prove logically that we should. The fact that we do feel that we should may well be grounds of notion of the “self evident” nature of moral motions, but is not a scientifically provable or even logically provable proposition. The whole of ethical theory is about figuring out what to do with and how best to make use of these values we hold. We organize our thinking into schools of thought and design ethical systems for this purpose.
            The Strength of moral philosophy is it’s diversity of value systems. Diversity is strength and not a weakness. The assertion all three make, Harris, Churchland and Wilson is that consequntialist ethics is the only real basis for ethics. That’s clearly not the case if we go by the field of ethics itself. There’s no scientific proof for the assertion that teleological ethics is the only true basis for ethics without dragging a surreptitious value system into the equation, and thus if we look at moral philosophy and ethics as an academic field its loaded with other view points, with other values systems and other ways of implanting values. Consequence is only one of many. For example deontolgocal ethics asserts that there is intrinsic value in the acts themselves. For example there may be value in truth telling even though the result of telling the truth may be harmful.[9]Lying may be wrong even if no harm results. There are two main types of deontological theories, intuitionism which holds that moral principles are self evident upon reflection, and the second types is rationalism, which uses a second order principle is used to generate a set of first order principles.”[10] They both seem to ground ethics in duty.[11]This is just scratching the surface; there are many other views of ethics, including Virtue ethics where one focuses upon the kind of person one should be rather than means to act ethically,[12] and even aesthetic ethics which does not seek the good but the beautiful or the aesthetically fulfilling. Dorothy Emmett shows that aesthetic ethics can be as consistent and logical as any other kind.[13] To just assert that ethics is about one thing, pleasure over pain, stopping pain, outcomes that result in fewer deaths, is absurd. If we impose a hidden value system while pretending to ground values in a scientific fact we ignore the basis of all ethical thinking, not to mention the diversity of the field. Trying to shift from deontological or other form of decision making to outcome oriented ethics on the grounds that “this is obviously what ethics is about” is absurd.
            Values motivate ethical thinking and actions; we choose the ethical system that best serves our values. The flexibility to change form one system to another is strength because it allows for new approaches. It would be stifling to assert one system over the others and to close off alternatives by terming it “fact.” There are good arguments against consequentialism as an ethical theory. It’s been hinted at already that consequentialism ignores the basis of intrinsic value and thus can at times force the individual to violate intrinsic values in order to meet the demands of gaining certain out come. Various life boat scenarios often depict this kind of thinking. The life boat analogy was first proposed by Garrett Hardin (in 1974) its application was closely related to environmental ethics. The life boat idea imaged 50 people in a life boat with room for 10 more, but they are surrounded by 100 swimmers. Who will be let on to row? Garrett’s intention was to criticize the spaceship earth idea.[14] Life boat examples are often used in high school and perhaps middle school to introduce students to ethical thinking. Teachers are advised that students often go for the outcome oriented solution, so they have to be advised to think about other options: “Discussions about the lifeboat are influenced strongly by how the question is posed. Be sure to allow room for solutions that maximize fairness (i.e. drawing straws) by asking students to focus on how they are making their decision. Students often default to solutions that are outcome-based. It is useful to be able to show that there are other approaches that can be applied. ”[15] One might be led to let the old woman drawn because she can’t row and well as the middle aged man swimming more strongly  than she, unless of course one realizes that a higher value might be protecting the weak and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Certainly the life boat idea does cast a spot light on the tendency of values to collide. It points up the potential for outcome oriented thinking to force upon the individual acts considered immoral by conscience. It’s then that we realize we need a system that recognizes the intrinsic nature of values and a flexibility that allows us to re-consider our options. We have no factual basis in science that would tell us, “yes it’s better to save this one and let the other drawn.” Now it’s true we don’t have a clear cut means of understanding the right choice in any other system either, but that’s not a reason to close off the option with the pretense that science give us the factual basis form which to act.
            Why should we laud one set of values over others? To use an example already given, we can choose human values over Marmoset values because we are human. We have no actual reason to suspect that marmoset’s think ethically, science might actually help us there. I’m not arguing that science is of no use. Yet since we are human and we know that we can think ethically, that in itself is reason enough to accept human values. We can also identify the intrinsic values. Values intrinsic to other species probably would not always be intrinsic to us, it makes no since therefore that we don’t use human values.

[1] Harris, Ibid., 29.
[2] Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations. Cambridge, Mass.: Bellknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1981, 399.
[3] Earp, Ibid.
[4] Rachels, Ibid., 4.
[5] Ibid., 6.
[6] Robin Attfield, Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Georgia: Editions Rodopi  B.V. Value Inquiry Book Series,1995, 29
MA (Oxon), PhD (Wales) has been Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University since 1992. Robin Attfield read Greats (Literae Humaniores) at Christ Church and theology at Regent's Park College, Oxford.
[7] Nozick, Ibid., 399.
[8] Attfield, Ibid. 29-30.
[9] Lois P. Pojman, (editor), Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Indianapolis, In.: Hackett Publishing Company inc., Third edition.  2003, Originally 1993, 193.
[10] Ibid., 193
[11] Ibid., 193.
[12] Find, virtue ethics
[13] Find moral Prisim
[14] Garrett Hardin, “Life Boat Ethics, The Case Against Helping the Poor,” Psychology Today, September (1974) 38-40, continued  123-124.
[15] Teaching Background, “The Life Boat,” Teacher Instructions, hosted by Northwest Association for Biomedical Research. online resource:http://nwabr.org/sites/default/files/Lifeboat.pdf  accessed 5/24/13.