Monday, March 20, 2023

Argument from Religious Experience (for existence of God)


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Dr.Ralph Hood Jr.


Argument

(1)There are real affects from Mystical experince.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explaintions we should assume that they are genuine.

(4)We should assume that the object is real since the affects are real, or that the affects are the result of some higher reailty.

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-dterminate is the transfomrative power of the affects (ie what it does in your life).

Why should we assume that such experiences are experiences of the divine? The first reason is because the content of the experience is largely that of the divine. Even when the experience is interpreted by the receiver not be about God the receiver has been known to act in way consistently with belief in God, and the experience described is the same experience as those described by those who say ‘this was God.’ Ergo it’s just a matter of interpretation. The vast majority of those who have these experiences do believe they are about God.[1] Secondly, there is a voluminous and ancient tradition of writing about experiences by people from all over the world, and the brunt of this tradition is that it’s an experience of the divine. Literary and philosophical works such as Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill,[2] The works of W.T. Stace[3] and many other such writings which catalogue the writings of these experiences, and many more works of the experiences of individual mystics by the mystics themselves. Thirdly, grounded in empirical evidence, the universal nature of such experiences implies the experience of a source external to the human mind encountered by all who have such experiences. When I say “external” I mean it originates externally but is experienced internally. This includes human brain structure and brain chemistry as a conduit not that it circumvents natural processes.

The works of W.T. Stace are very influential. He shows that, as Ralph Hood Jr. put it, “within and eventually outside of the great faith traditions mysticism has flourished.”[4] Stace offers five characteristics that demonstrate the commonalities to mystical experience; these are characteristics that are found universally in all cultures and in all forms of mystical experience:

The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):
1. The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the experience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience. 2. The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words. 3. The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms. 4. The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect. 5. The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggests that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two.[5]
In speaking of “mystical experience” we are not talking about visions or voices. We are not talking about miracles or God speaking to people. We are talking about “the sense of the numinous,” a sense of presence, a sense of undifferentiated unity of all things. The claim is often made that this is an unmediated experience of reality. The veil is taken back on the thing behind the façade and reality is experienced directly. The notion of an unmediated experience is debatable and not essential to an understanding of the experience. A couple of examples might be helpful. It’s helpful to understand that mystical experiences come in two forms, introvertive and extrovertive. Intorovertive experiences are without time and space; they are not keyed to any external landmark or visual que. They seem to be beyond word, thought, or image. Extrovertive experiences are often keyed to a land mark and seem like projecting a sense onto the image of nature. For example the sense that God is pervading the physical space in nature around which one views a scene in nature. Or a sense that all the natural landscape around forms some sort of whole that’s meaningful and indicative as an understanding of all reality.

Common Core Vs. Perennial Philosophy

Hood takes these kinds of statements as phenomenological and descriptive of a personal experience. The true nature of that experience as unmediated is not important. The issue is that its universality, since it should be culturally constructed is indicative of more than just a trick of brain chemistry or cultural constructs. Ralph Hood Jr. argues for what is called “the common core hypothesis.” This is not a perennial philosophy one often finds discussed as part of mystical experience. The distinction is hat perennial almost construct a separate religion out of mystical experience and puts it over against faith traditions. The common core hypothesis merely recognizes that there is a common core experience that is universal to mystical experience, and thus it can be argued that it’s an experience of some reality external to just human brain structure. Yet it doesn’t try to collapse faith traditions into a particular theological formulation. Moreover, the common core hypothesis just takes the common core as a phenomenological reality not a theological or ontological demand about reality. Yet mystical experience “promotes a special type of human experience that is at once unitive and nondiscursive, at once self fulfilling and self-effacing.”[6] Introvertive mystical has been identified as “pure consciousness.” This kind of experience lacks content and can’t be tied to a cultural construct or personal influence.[7] While it is the case that these kinds of experiences are interpreted in various ways, and it is the case that various theological explanations tailored to a given tradition are advanced for these, as many as there are mystics to have the, the real diversity comes not from the experience but from the explanations attached to the experiences.[8] Much of the discussion about common core is tied to the texts of a given literature. There various bodies of mystical literature, the important once for our purposes is the empirical. This is a measurement based empirical scientific literature such as the work of Hood.[9]

Many names loom large in that body of literature; Greeley, Maslow, Wuthnow, Nobel, Lukoff and Lu, none more prolific or significant than Hood. Hood entered the field in the early 70s when he was a young man. Since that time he has done a huge a mount of research and is best known for developing what is called ‘the Mysticism scale,” or “M scale.” This is a 32 item questionnaire that is scored in a particular way and is calculated to test the veracity of Stace’s theories. In other words, if actual modern mystics around the world experience the things Stace thought they do, in the way Stace thought they experienced them (see the five point list above) they would answer certain questions in a certain way.[10] Hood’s work in the M scale is becoming the standard operating procedure for study of mystical and religious experiences. It hasn’t yet been understood by everyone so we find that people evoking religious experience by manipulating stimulation of the brain don’t use the M scale for research and thus can’t prove they are evoking real mystical experiences.[11] Dale Caird said that “research into mystical experience has been greatly facilitated”[12] by Hood’s M scale. Caird did one of the studies that validated the M scale. Burris (1999) has shown that the M scale is the most commonly used measurement for the study of mysticism.[13]

The M scale enables us to determine the validity of a mystical experience among contemporary people. In other words, did someone have a “real mystical experience” or are they just carried by the idea of having one?[14] There are two major versions of the M scale, what is called “two factor” solution and a three factor solution. The two factors are items assessing an experience of unity (questions such as “have you had an experience of unity?”) and items refereeing to religious and knowledge claims. In other words questions such as “did you experience God’s presence?” Or did you experience God’s love?” In each section there are two positively worded and two negatively worded items.[15] The problem with the two factor analysis is that it tried to be neutral with Langue, according to Hood himself. It spoke of “experience of ultimate reality” but with no indication that ultimate reality means reality of God. As Hood puts it, “no langue is neutral.”[16] One group might want ultimate reality defined as “Christ” while others who are not in a Christian tradition might eschew such a move. In response to this problem Hood and Williamson, around 2000, developed what they termed “the three factor solution.” They made two additional versions of the scale one made reference where appropriate to “God” or “Christ.” They had a “God” version and a “Chrsit” version and both were given to Christian relevant samples. The scales were “factor analyzed” that just means they weighed each difference as a factor such as it’s mention of God or mention of Christ. In this factor analysis, where the scale referred to “God,” “Christ” or simply “reality” the “factor structures were identical.” This means the respondents saw “God,” “Christ” and “ultimate reality” as coterminous, or as the same things. That means Christians who have mystical experience understand God, Christ, and Reality as reffering to the same things.[17]

For all three versions matched Stace’s phenomenologically derived theory. “For all three intervertive, extrovertive and interpirative factors emerged.”[18] That means respondents were answering in ways indicative of having both types of mystical experience and deriving interpretive experiences from it, they understood their experiences in light of theological understanding. The only exception was that the introvertive factors contained the emergence of ineffability because there was no content to analyze. Of course where the scale has been validated the same technique was used and tailored to the tradition of the respondent. Buddhists got a version appreciate to Buddhists and Muslims got one appropriate to Islam, and so on. The same kinds of factors emerged. This demonstrates that mystical experiences are the same minus the details of the tradition, such as specific references to names. In other words Buddhists recognize Buddha mind as ultimate reality, while Vedantists recognize Brahmin as ultimate reality, Christian recognize Jesus as Ultimate reality, Muslims recognize Allah as ultimate reality, but all say they experience ultimate reality. This is a good indication that the same basic reality stands behind this experience, or to say it another way they are all experiences of the same reality.

Hood wrote a Text book with Bernard Spilka[19]Hood and Spilka point three major assumptions of the common core theory that flow out of Stace’s work:

(1) Mystical experience is universal and identical in phenomenological terms.

(2) Core Categories are not always essential in every experince, there are borderline cases.

(3) Interovertive and extrovertive are distinct forms, the former is an experience of unity devoid of content, the latter is unity in diversity with content.

The M scale reflects these observations and in so doing validate Stace’s findings. Hood and Spilka (et al) then go on to argue that empirical research supports a common core/perinnialist conceptualization of mysticism and it’s interpretation. The three factor solution, stated above, allows a greater range of interpretation of experience, either religious or not religious. This greater range supports Stace’s finding that a single experience may be interpreted in different ways.[20] The three factor solution thus fit Stace’s common core theory. One of the persistent problems of the M scale is the neutrality of language, especially with respect to religious language. For example the scale asks about union with “ultimate reality” not “union with God.” Thus there’s a problem in understanding that ultimate reality really means God, or unify two different descriptions one about God and one about reality.
[21]
There is really no such thing as “neutral” language. In the attempt to be neutral non neutral people will be offended. On the one had the common core idea will be seen as “new age” on the other identification with a particular tradition will be off putting for secularists and people of other traditions. Measurement scales must sort out the distinctions. Individuals demand interpretation of experiences, so the issue will be forced despite the best attempts to avoid it. In dealing with William James and his interpreters it seems clear that some form of transformation will be reflected in the discussion of experiences. In other words the experiences have to be filtered through cultural constructs and human assumptions of religious and other kinds of thought traditions in order to communicate them to people. Nevertheless experiences may share the same functionality in description. Christians may want the experiences they have that would otherwise be term “ultimate reality” to be identified with Christ, while Muslims identify with Allah and atheist with “void.” The expressed is important as the “social construction of experience” but differently expressed experiences can have similar structures. Hood and Williamson designed the three factor analysis to avoid these problems of language.[22] This is a passage from my own work, The Trace of God[23]:
In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies[24] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[25] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[26] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[27]
The upshot of this work by Hood is two fold: on the one had it means there is a pragmatic way to control for the understanding of what is a mystical experience and what is not. Using Stace as a guide we find that modern experiences around the world are having Stace-like experiences. Thus Stace’s view makes a good indication of what is and what is not a mystical experience. That means we can study the effects of having it. Now other scales have been attempted and none of them had the kind of verification that the M scale does, but taken together the whole body of work for the last fifty years or so (since Abraham Maslow) shows that religious experience of the “mystical” sort is very good for us. People who have such experiences tend to find positive, dramatic, transformation in terms of outlook, mental health and even physical health.

ver the years numerous claims have been made about the nature of spiritual/mystical and Maslow's “peak experiences”, and about their consequences. Wuthnow (1978) set out to explore findings regarding peak experiences from a systematic random sample of 1000 persons and found that peak experiences are common to a wide cross-section of people, and that one in two has experienced contact with the holy or sacred, more than eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature and four in ten have experienced being in harmony with the universe. Of these, more than half in each have had peak experiences which have had deep and lasting effects on their lives. Peakers are more likely also, to say they value working for social change, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. Wuthnow stressed the therapeutic value of these experiences and also the need to study the social significance of these experiences in bringing about a world in which problems such as social disintegration, prejudice and poverty can be eradicated. Savage et al., (1995) provided clinical evidence to suggest that peakers produce greater feelings of self-confidence and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Mogar's (1965) research also tended to confirm these findings.[28]
The body of work I refer to here consists of about 200 studies (one could say 300 but let’s be conservative). A huge part of that (about 50) is taken up with the prolific work of Ralph Hood. Not all of these studies use the M scale but it has become standard since the 90s. The body of work here discussed stretches back to the 1960s and the studies of Abraham Maslow. The study of mental health aspects has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. Since the deployment of the three part solution of the M scale the studies have been more empirical and better controlled. The effects and their transformative qualities could be understood as rational warrant for belief in God, I have so argued in my former work The Trace of God.[29] Skeptical critics have tended to speak as though I don’t realize that I haven’t proven God exists. I never argued that I could prove God exists. The concept of proving God exists is passé and outmoded. That’s not even a valid issue anymore and as we realize there is no way to prove anything exists—and Tillich argued the language of “existence” is not applicable to necessary being. God is not contingent so speaking non contingent things as ‘existing’ is a misnomer. The issue is not proving God exists but providing prima face justification for assuming the reality of God. So we may rationally equate the co-determinate of the experiences as divine. In The Trace of God I made make several arguments for this I’ll only give two of them a brief summary:

First is the argument of the co-determinate. This is the reason I called that work “trace.” It’s the Derridian concept of a trace, track or foot print that is testimony to the absence of something that must have been present. In other words, we see a footprint in the snow, something must have made it. We know something was there. It may be a Bigfoot or it may be a Bigfoot hoaxer but something made the track. When this “something” is constantly associated with the sign it forms a co-determinate. Thus the presence of the sign informs us of the presence of the co-determinate; like finger prints match the finger of the person who made the print. The association between the divine and mystical experience is solid; religious experience forms the basic reason for the existence of religion in the first place, and is bound up with the nature of the experience itself. The sense of the numinous is a deep all pervasive since of love. What is doing the loving? The basic assumption made by those who have the experience is overwhelmingly that it is God. Secondly, there is the argument from epistemic judgment. I used a Thomas Reid style epistemology[30] to advance criteria that I think is habitually applied by humans in sorting out which experiences to trust and which to discord: Regular, consistent, inter-subjective, and promotes navigation in the world. When our experiences match these criteria we assume they are valid and accurate as a representation of reality. I then show that the studies indicates that mystical experience fits this criteria so we should trust it.

The other aspect of importance to this work is the universality argument. The universality argument could be taken as a warrant for belief, but I use it here to show that there’s a reason to equate these experiences with Supernature. When Hood took out the name specific to a religious tradition (from the M scale) and just ask general questions about experience, the experiences described were the same. This indicates that what is being experienced is the same for all the people having religious experiences. This actually the same as saying Stace’s theory was validated. If it wasn’t validated the would not describe the same experiences. The indication is that they there an objective thing they all experience. The reason is because religion is a cultural construct. If they were just describing a constructed set of expectations resulting form culture, the experiences would be conditions by culture not transcending it. So that mans Iranian Muslims experience that they think of as “Allah” and Baptists in Cleveland experience what they think of as “Jesus” in the same way. This is should not be the case if they are merely experiencing culturally conditioned constructs. The implication is that they may be experiencing an objective reality that both understand through culturally constructed filters. This is not the only argument that

The answer atheist most often give to this argument is that the experiences have a commonality because they are all produced by human brain structure. In other words the names from the various religions are the constructs but the experiences that unite the subjects and that transcend the individual cultural filters are the same because they are products of a shared structure that of the human brain. On the surface this may seem like a good argument but it’s really not. The problem with this argument is even though we all have human brain structure we don’t all have the same kinds of experiences. We can’t assume that universal experiences come from brain structure alone. First, not everyone has mystical experience. Even though the incidence rates are high they are not 100%. We have all human brain structure but all have these experiences. Secondly, even among those who do there are varying degrees of the experience. William James saw it as a continuum and Robert Wuthnow, one of the early researchers who did a modern scientific study on the phenomenon also theorized [31]that there is a continuum upon which degree of experience varies. If the brain structure argument was true then we should expect to always have the same experience; we should have the same culture. We have differing experiences and even our perceptions of the same phenomena vary. Yet the experience of mystical phenomena is not identical since it is filtered through cultural constructs and translated into the doctrinal understanding of traditions that the experiencers identify as their own.

The brain Structure argument is based upon the same premises reductionists take to the topic of consciousness and brain/mind. They are assuming that any subjective experience is ultimately the result of brain chemistry. There really no reason to assume this other than the fact that brain chemistry plays a role in our perceptions. There’s no basis, as we have seen in earlier chapters, for the assumption that any mental phenomena must originate in brain chemistry alone. I have had this argument with various skeptics on blogs and message boards many times. At this point skeptics have tended to evoke brain chemistry and the assumptions of Dennett and reductionism; since religious experience is linked to brain chemistry it must be the result of brain chemistry, thus there’s no reason to assume it’s inductive of any sort of supernatural. In those arguments a sense usually emerges that any involvement with the natural cancels the supernatural. I suggest that this is the ersatz version of supernature. The alien realm, juxtaposed to the natural realm and brought in as a counter to naturalism, this is the false concept I spoke about above. The original concept of supernature is that of the ground and end of the natural. Thus it would involved with nature. The ground end of nature is the ontology of supernature and pragmatic working out of the phenomenon would be the power of God to lift human nature to a higher level, as discussed above. How can human nature be elevated without supernature being involved with the realm of nature? Thus, the fact that supernature works through evolutionary processes and physiological realities such as brain chemistry is hardly surprising. See my chapter on Brain chemistry in The Trace of God.[32]

If supernature manifests itself in the natural realm through brain chemistry then the conclusion that this is somehow indicative of the divine could go either way. We can’t rule out the divine or supernatural just because it involves the natural realm. What then is the real distinguishing feature that tells us this is inductive of something other than nature? That’s where I introduce the notion of “tie breakers.” There are aspects of the situation that indicate the effects of having the experience could not be produced by nature by itself:

(1) The transformative effects

The experience is good for us. It changes the experiencer across the board. These effects are well documented by that huge body of empirical research. They include self actualization, therapeutic effects that actually enhance healing form mental problems, less depression better mental outlook and so on. The placebo argument is neutralized because Placebos require expectation and a large portion of mystical experience is not expected. It’s not something people usually set out to have.

(2) Noetic aspects to the experiences

These are not informational but there is a sense in which the mystic feels that he has learned soemthinga bout the universe as a result of the experience. This usually is on the order of “God loves me” or “all is one.”

(3) The experience contains the sense of the numinous or sense of the holy

. This is closely related to the Noetic sense and they clearly overlap but there is a distinction. The snse of the Holy could be more general and gives the sense that some unique and special aspect of reality exists.

(4) why positive?

These experiences are never negative. The only negativity associated with mystical experience is the sense of the mysterium tremendum, the highly serious nature of the Holy. That is not a last negative effect. If this is nothing more than brian chemistry and it’s just some sort of misfire where the brain just forgets to connect the sense of self to the big that says “I am not the world.” Then why is it so positive, transformative? It’s not often such a positive experience results form a biological accident.

(5) bad evolutionary theory

Mystical experience has not been tied to gene frequency. So the argument about adaptation has to rest upon the intermediaries that it provides, such as surviving long winters so one can have gene frequency. Yet all of those kinds of experiences flaunt the explanatory gap of consciousness. Why should we develop a mystically based sense of the world to get through had long winter when we could more easily develop a brain circuiting that ignores boredom? Then this adaptation that is only there because it enabled us to get through beings snowed in has such an amazing array of other effect such as life transformation and better mental health, and leads to the development of such complex fantasisms of errors as religious belief and organized religion. It’s so inefficient. Surely survival of the fittest should take the course of least resistance?

(6) Navigation in life

It does enable navigation in life, these experiences and their effects enable us to get through and to set our sights on higher idealistic concepts and ways of life.

________

Notes

[1] Hiseoh Hunman, Trace of God Cororodo Sorimgs:Grand viaduct,2014

[22] Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A study on the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual consciousness. New York: Dutton, 1911.

[3] W.T. Stace, Teachings of the Mystics: Selections from the Greatest Mystics and Mystical Writers of the World. New American Library 1960. A good General overview of Stace’s understanding of mysticism is Mystical Experience Registry: Mysticism Defined by W.T. Stace. found onine at URL: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/learn/experts_define/stace.shtml

[4] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion. Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235. Google books on line version: URL http://books.google.com.cu/books?id=0bzj3RtT3zIC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=true visited 8/20/2012

[5] Robert J. Voyle, “The Impact of Mystical Experiences Upon Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format: http://www.voyle.com/impact.pdf. google html version here: http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:avred7zleAEJ Voyle is quoting Hood in 1985, Hood in return is speaking Stace. :www.voyle.com/impact.pdf+Hood+scale+and+religious+experience&hl=en&gl =us&ct=clnk&cd=2&ie=UTF-8

[6] Matilal (1992) in Hood, ibid, 127.
[7] Hood, ibid.
[8] ibid.
[9] ibid.
[10] JL Hinman, the Trace of God, Studies chapter, also Hood ibid, 128.
[11] John Hick
[12] Dale Caird, “The structure of Hood's Mysticism Scale: A factor analytic study.”journal for the Scientific study of religion 1988, 27 (1) 122-126
[13] Burris (1999) quoted in Hood, ibid, 128
[14] Hood, ibid, 128
[15] ibid.
[16] ibid, 129
[17] ibid
[18] ibid
[19] Bernard Spilka, Ralph Hood Jr., Bruce Hunsberger, Richard Gorwuch. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. New York, London: the Guildford Press, 2003.
[20] Ibid, 323
[21] ibid
[22] ibid, Hood in McNamara.
[23] Find trace of God J.L. Hinman, fn 47-50 are original fn in that source
[24] Ralph Hood Jr., W.P. Williamson. “An empirical test of the unity thesis: The structure of mystical descriptors in various faith samples.” Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 19, (2000) 222-244.
[25] R.W. Hood, Jr., N.Ghorbani, P.J. Waston, et al “Dimensions of the Mysticism Scale: Confirming the Three Factor Structure in the United States and Iran.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40 (2001) 691-705.
[26] R.K.C. Forman, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness. Albany: State University of New York Press, (1999) 20-30.
[27] F.S. Brainard, Reality and Mystical Experience, Unvisited Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. (2000). See also D.Loy, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. Amherst, New York: Humanities Press.
[28] Krishna K. Mohan, “Spirituality and Wellbeing: an Overview.” An Article based upon a Presentation made during the Second International Conference on Integral Psychology, held at Pondicherry India 4-7 January 2001, published in hard copy, Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.On line copy URL: http://www.ipi.org.in/texts/ip2/ip2-4.5-.php website of the India Psychology Institute. Site visited 9/3/12.
[29] ibid Trace
[30] Reid argued that we go with the experiences that work. We navigate through the world and those experience that enable us to get by we accept and those that don’t we avoid. No soldier in battle conducts a debate about Cartesian doubt while an enemy charges with a bayonet. The solider decides post haste to get out of the way and worry about the philosophical ramifications latter.
[31] find it’s in chapter 4 trace of god.
[32] Trace of God, find


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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Trace of God 2

Platonic background.

The basic assumptions Schleiermacher is making are Platonic. He believes that the feeling of utter dependence is the backdrop, the pre-given, pre-cognitive notion behind the ontological argument. In other words, what Anselm tried to capture in his logical argument is felt by everyone, if they were honest, in a pre-cognitive way. In other words, before one thinks about it, it is this "feeling" of utter dependence. After one thinks it out and makes it into a logical argument it is the ontological argument.

Unity in the Life world.

"Life world," or Labeinswelt is a term used in German philosophy. It implies the world of one's culturally constructed life, the "world" we 'live in.' Life as we experience it on a daily basis. The unity one senses in the life world is intuitive and unites the experiences and aspirations of the individual in a sense of integration and belonging in the world. As Heidegger says "a being in the world." Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (in the sense of the above ontological arguments).

He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theoretical pre-cognitive realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fool said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

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 Ultimate transformative experience (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.

A religious tradition is like a language, and theology is a conversation. Since God is mystical reality, beyond words, to speak of our experiences of God one must encode those experiences into cultural constructs, that makes for the differences in different religions. Traditions are like languages in that they furnish a vocabulary for dealing with such experiences based upon past experiences in an inter-subjective fashion. The point of the discussion is to mediate transformation. One moves into mediation through the conversation of theology. One is then able to come terms with mediation on a personal and experiential level as is still able to relate intersubjectively with others who have similar experiences.

The question then,is not which religion is "true," but which one best mediates transformation. For the individual who answers that question, and comes to identify with a tradition, that is the conversation to take up; join that tradition. For me its Christianity. As part of the conversation one can set up criteria for understanding the conversation, criteria such as those listed above.



Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Trace of God: Phenomenology and Method

Atheists are hung up on empirical knowledge. Thats why so many of them (not all by many) insist that we have no info about God, you can't verify God and so forth.

God cannot be the subject of empirical data,however, because God is not given in sense data. That's because God is not just another object alongside objects in creation. God is not just another thing, God is the basis of reality. That's like a fish scientist saying "they assigned me to study this thing called 'water' but I can't find any water." he says that because it never dawns on him that its' all around him, the medium in which he lives and he's always looking through it. he can't see the water because he's looking through it.

That's sort of the case with God because God is the basis of reality, the ground of Being. "In him we live and move and have our being."(Acts 17:28). When we try to look at God and see him directly we look through him because in a sense he's the medium in which we live.

The only answer to this is to search for something else. We don't look for empirical evidence of God, we look for a "co-determinate." That is, we look for the signature of God, or to use a Derridian term the "trace of God." Like the aura of a neutrino. We can't photograph neutrinos directly but we have photographed their auras that are the reaction of Neutrinos with other particles. When you see that aura you know you have one.

But the trace of God has to be the result of a subjective or intersubjective understanding. So rather than subject it to empirical means, we need to allow the sense data to determine the categories under which we organize our thinking about God.

Schleiermacher was the originator of this kind of thinking (prior to Brentano who is attributed to be the inventor of Phenomenology). Here is Schleiermacher's take on God consciousness. We don't search for God in objective terms we search for "God consciousness."

Phenomenology

Phenomenology is very important because it is the alternative way of thinking to either empirical science and hang ups on inductive data, or deductive reasoning and hang ups on the a priori. When I say "allow the sense data to determine the categories," what do I mean? (this is very crucial to understanding every point I make on message boards):

What that means is, you have a bit of qualia, an impression of the say sense data strikes us,the way something appears to us. Let's say the desk my computer sits upon. Our tendency is to tuck it away into a neat category based upon our preconceived notions of desks. This is a bit of wooden furniture, its function is providing a surface for writing and a bit of storage for what we write. We plug in the label "made in Hong Kong" and we say "it's a cheap desk." Now we have a sub category. all that is pre-set in our minds based upon our understanding of the universe vis a vie writting surfaces. But if we approach the desk phenomenologically, we don't say "o a cheap piece of furniture for holding my computer--manufactured in a formerly British colony, the home of Jackie Chan, thus a Kung fu capitalist cheap desk. but we just say "there is this object that appears in my sense data, and it seems to provide uses x,y,z. So it may not be a desk at all in terms of its functionality, perhaps it would work better as a door stop. Or perhaps this door put across two sawhorses would make a better desk. That's not part of my preconceived notion because it's not made to be a desk, but it might work better."

Ok that's a trivial example, so much for my understanding of desks and their place in the universe. But, when we consider other things, things of more gravity such as empirical science and religion, or religious belief and experience, the nature of myth and religious texts, you can see how the outcome might might be a lot more significant if we do it one way as opposed to another.

The way the atheists want to do it is to demand certain things, and those things require sense data and that sense data is preconceived to belong in certain categories and to rule out other sense data. Thus they wind up asking for the probability of miracles when in fact by definition a miracle cannot be probable. So they rule out any kind of miracle based upon the pre conceived category of "things that don't happen because we don't observe them so they are too improbable." Whereas in reality, since miracles are things that are impossible, but happen anyway because some higher law overrides that of probability, they are just arbitrarily crossing out the category of the possible and arbitrarily arranging their understanding of the universe to exclude the SN, then demanding that, well there's no evidence for it (because we have filed all the evidence under the preconceived category of "that which does not happen.").

Religion not Reducible to Knowledge Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Despisers, and The Christian Faith,sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does venture close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

In the earlier form of his argument he was saying that affections were indicative of a sense of God, but in the Christian Faith he argues that there is a greater sense of unity in the life world and a sense of the dependence of all things in the life world upon something higher.

What is this feeling of utter dependence? It is the sense of unity in the life world and its greater reliance upon a higher reality. It is not to be confused with the starry sky at night in the desert feeling, but is akin to it. I like to think about the feeling of being in my backyard late on a summer night, listening to the sounds of the freeway dying out and realizing a certain harmony in the life world and the sense that all of this exists because it stems from a higher thing. There is more to it than that but I don't have time to go into it. That's just a shorthand for those of us to whom this is a new concept to get some sort of handle on it. Nor does"feeling" here mean "emotion" but it is connected to religious affections. In the early version Schleriermacher thought it was a correlation between the religious affections and God; God must be there because I can feel love for him when I pray to him. But that's not what it's saying in the better version.Rather, the religious affections, like feeling of utter depemdemce, drive home the realization that the reality of God is a phenomenological matter. Thus skeptics are blowing hot air when they demand scientific proof.



Sunday, February 26, 2023

Peter and Mark: Problems With Authorship



Modern scholarship has long rejected Petrian authorship. Conservatives are less likely to accept that verdict but essentially there seems to be no strong compelling reason to accept Peter as author of I Peter. There may,however, be a couple of reasons to question that conclusion.The assumption among modern scholars is against Petrine authorship, but there are some arguments for it. First the weak:

-attributes itself to Peter
-knew christians from far away who Peter could have met on Pentecost
-Claims to have been sent from Babylon; babylon means Rome;we know that Pete wound up in Rome documented by 1 Clement [1]
-The author of the letter also indicates that he has a close relationship with “Marcus my son” (1 Peter 5:13). This may be the same John Mark with whose family Peter had found refuge years earlier.[2]

Those may be good answers in context but anyone could say those things That does not prove Peter wrote the epistle. The best reasons to think he did are that the early fathers understood that he did. The second reason is the above context and the realization that the author gives away his Jewishness in the use of Hebrewisms related to speaking of God. Chapter 2:11. Sets himself and readers apart from Gentile pagans.

For my money the best reason to deny Petrian authorship is because the book is so well written. [3] It doesn't seem likely that a Galaleian fisherman would know such fine Greek. Since Papias says he used John Mark as interritor in  Rome it seems clear he could not have written in Greek.But he could have asked someone to fix the letter for him. So it could be that the letter is based upon Peter's ideas but brought to reality by words of another. Maybe that's what he means by saying Silas helped  with the letter at end of chpatr 5,v"12 With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it."

It is also possible that John Mark was the one who wrote the letter for him. Of course we could never prove that.

This raises a question about Marcan authorship of the gospel of Mark. If Mark was interpreter for Peter in Rome we should expect him to communicate well in Greek. Yet the Gospel of Mark is not well written. My Greek professor said his Greek was horrible and his professor called Mark "the illiterate one." He gets tenses wrong, he gets persons; wrong as in first and second and many other things.

"Ben Witherington in The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (pp. 18-9) documents a number of stylistic traits of Mark's Gospel:"
Historical present tense verbs
Repetition of phrases
Impersonal plural verb followed by a singular verb
First-person plural narrative
Parenthetical clarifications
γάρ-clauses
Anacoluthon
Paratactic καί
Aramaic phrases
Unusual words or constructions
Chreia
As Witherigton Puts it:

"In sum, these traits point to an author who struggles to express himself in the language he is writing...  So the text itself suggests the author of Mark was, in fact, an Aramaic speaker."[4]

Mark could still stand behind the document as its root source although it was written by someone else. Mark could have imparted the knowledge Peter gave him to the community and the community produced the actual author. The name Mark is associated with the work because it was a product of the Mark community.

Neither case can be proven and it may be likely either namesake stands behind the work. Does that mean the works should just be chucked out? Apostoloic authorship was a major criterion for acceptance in the cannon, That is the reason they kept sticking names of prominent evangelists on Gospels. Even so in these documents the Bishops saw the rudiments of the Gospel as they were meant to be. Thus these books belong in the canon.

Notes

[1]Michael J. Kok "Peter in Rome: Peter endured many labours in 1 Clement 5:4," The Jesus Memoirs... ) (June 9:2017)
https://jesusmemoirs.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/peter-in-rome-1-clement-5/

Kok: Current Position: New Testament Lecturer and Dean of Student Life, Morling College Perth Campus

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Theology with a Specialization in Biblical Studies (Taylor University College), Master of Arts in Religious Studies (University of Alberta), Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (University of Sheffield)

1 Clememt 5:4 documents Peter in Rome, he was present himself and saw Peter.

for Text of Clement see Peter Kirby, early Christiam writtings: https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html Also backed by St Ignatious. Two greats attest to it.

Persuasive evidence does exist that Clement had personal contact with Simon Peter and studied under the apostles. Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 130—200) informs us that “this man [Clement of Rome], as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes” (Against Heresies 3:3).
https://www.gotquestions.org/Clement-of-Rome.html

[2]Frank F. Judd Jr.,"The Case for Petrine Authorship of 1 Peter," The Ministry of Peter the Cheif Apostle, Frank Judd, Religious Studies Center,BYU,(bi date listed) https://rsc.byu.edu/ministry-peter-chief-apostle/case-petrine-authorship-1-peter

[3]Ibid

[4]Ben Witherington, in "What Evidence Suggests That Greek was NOt Mark's First Lamgague," Biblical Hermeneutics, Stack Exchage. (Jyly 30, 2018) https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2021/what-evidence-suggests-that-greek-was-not-marks-first-language



Monday, February 20, 2023

Could God Create a Perfect World?


For the purposes of this article the counter apologist will be known as "CA."Free will defense as "FWD." I will answer one major point in CA's essay but I think it is a point upon which his entire project for the article rests.

In this essay I focus upon the deterministic contradiction CA thinks he has found in the FWD. At the end I will briefly discuss the question in the title.

My goal is to show that Christian responses to the problem of evil while referencing Libertarian Free Will (LFW) are at best ineffectual at answering the problem of evil because LFW does not preclude god creating what I call “heaven world” where any natural number of created beings all freely choose to never sin and always freely choose to love god. Theistic and especially Christian apologists want to deny that god could create such a world, despite it being a logically possible world and god supposedly being able to do anything logically possible by way of his omnipotence.[1]
The upshot being that if God could have created that world then why didn't he? Why did he create this world instead? At this point he introduces the thoughts of 16th-century Spanish Jesuit priest and Roman Catholic theologian Luis de Molina.Molina believed that God knew all counterfactuals. Here is CA's actual example: “Bob will always freely choose X in situation Y”.[2]

this schema, god looks at all logically possible worlds, and then chooses which one to instantiate along with the people who will be in it. Then creation plays out deterministically, where the sum total of situations of the universe god created plays out and each person god created goes through them. The key is that each person makes a “free decision” that god knew they’d pick for every situation they live through.[3]
If Bob always chooses xin Y then God can't make a world in which Bob chooses not X.This is what CA says."What strikes me is exactly how deterministic this libertarian free will ends up being. The idea is that Bob always freely chooses X in situation Y, yet the theist apologist will insist that somehow it is still logically possible that Bob chooses ~X in situation Y."[4]

At this point he thinks he's shown that free will responses to theodicy are contradictory since they insist that Bob still has free will even tough he always only chooses one way."What strikes me is exactly how deterministic this libertarian free will ends up being. The idea is that Bob always freely chooses X in situation Y, yet the theist apologist will insist that somehow it is still logically possible that Bob chooses ~X in situation Y. I believe that this is where a hidden contradiction is being glossed over."[5]

But since Bob is only hypothetical and is predetermined by his place as an example, there is no actual role played by Bob. This example has nothing to do with real world outcomes. Suppose I decree an example that Bob sometimes chooses not X? Does that not reverse the argument? There is no determinism involved in the real world account of this example.

Consider the alternative, what if we insist that “always” is not a rigid designator for the identity of ‘Bob’ because we want to hold that it is logically possible that 'Bob'
freely chooses ~X in situation Y? In this case there is a logically possible world in which ‘Bob’ freely chooses ~X in situation Y and a logically possible world where ‘Bob’ freely chooses X in situation Y. Here it is up to God to choose which world to instantiate.  If this is the case then the schema for Molinism falls apart, because then god can't have foreknowledge of which choice Bob will make in situation Y without god having to choose which world to instantiate, which in turn seems to rob 'Bob' of his supposedly libertarian free will.
So no matter what Bob chooses it's deterministic? That makes no sense because the argument is based upon Bob always doing the same thing.CA's answer to Bob changing is that it's still deterministic. That is clearly foolish because it means the terms of his original example are meaningless.

The CA is beating up on some strain of thought he doesn't like, but I did a piece on free will defense without using any of these categories. CA's argument does not disprove the faith,It's more like the partial failure of some Free Will theodicy.[6]

As for the larger question: can God make a perfect world? My question is how do we know what a perfect world is, from God's perspective. Probably it would involve people who can be in a relationship with God. Of course God can make a perfect world but he can't stockit with people who freely love the good unless he allows them to go through the process of choosing freely. That necessitates free will and that risks people making evil choices.

If God supports free will then for him a world of robots who are created having chosen would not be perfect, their choices would not be their own. God can create a perfect world but he has to first allow us to go through the muck to build one,

NOTES

[1]The Counter Apologist, "The Utter Failure of the Free Will Theodicy," Counter Apologist Blog. (oct 17,2022) https://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2022/10/the-utter-failure-of-free-will-theodicy.html#more. accessed feb15,2023.

Orubted transcrit here: https://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2022/10/the-utter-failure-of-free-will-theodicy.html#more

[2]Ibid

[3]Ibid

[4]Ibid

[5]Ibid

[6]Joseph Hinman,"My Free Will Defense," Metacrock's Blog,(JANUARY 29, 2023) https://metacrock.blogspot.com/2023/01/my-freewill-defense.html" accessed Feb 24 2023

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Christianity is a personal relationship with God.

The progressive Christian movement includes a segment who have rejected all the doctriens of the faith, I'll worry abut why latter; but one aspect of this apostacy is the rejection of salvation especially as a personal experience. I will demonstrate the entire point of christiantiy is personal salvation. That is not to say that it excludes social justice. I will deal with that at the end. One exampe of this rejection is Boyd Evans who is a Parish preist at St. thomas episcopal makes a statement which I found on facebook.

Boyd Evans "Christianity was never about individual salvation, It is well past time for us to get over this notion, if you don't believe that your salvation is bound up with your neighbors you have entirely missed Jesus' message."[1]

Robin Meyers defines salvation as:
The best single English synonym for “salvation”—“transformation”. Transformation of ourselves and the world. It’s about personal transformation and transformation of society as a whole. Salvation can be experienced as healing—a salve. Salvation is a healing ointment. Giving the transformation from blindness to seeing. In Eastern orthodoxy—primary definition of salvation is enlightenment. Jesus came as a light in our darkness[2]
I don't disagree with him and I certaily want to be mindful of the social justice connotations but that does not exclde being saved from sin and going to heaven. One is about growth of the other. God wants us to be coduits for his love to reach the world, But we can't shine the love of God into the world without seeing the need to change the world.

I don't know if Meyers holds his view in contrast to being saved from sin or in agreement with my view. But I will argue that personal relatioip with God, which includues beimg savd form sin,is fundmanetal to the meaning of being a Christian.

in more conservative churches where “salvation” meant believing certain things in order to get certain rewards, especially the assurance of going to heaven. Your discomfort comes from critical thinking, since to be “saved” assumes that you are lost and cannot save yourself. It also assumes that we are born into Original Sin as an inheritance, like being born left-handed or with red hair. Like so much of the language of evangelical Christianity, the “believer” is helpless and hopeless until we submit to a higher power. Or, more accurately, until we agree to say that we “accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior” and know that our sins were forgiven by his death on the cross. It also assumes that the whole purpose of the life of Jesus was to die, when in fact he was killed. [3]
Meyers'understanding of orthodox view of salvation is wrong.It is not a reward for following rules. It is the outcome of a personal relatioship with God which is what the faith is about.Clearly a personal love relationshp between God and the believer reults in personal salvation as it's major effect. It is clear this is the goal of the christian faith. The Elder John tells us this when he says:"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." [1jn4:7-8] The Greek term used here to mean "Know" is Ginosko. Usually defined in lexicons as:

"to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel to become known to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of to understand What does Ginóskó mean?" [4] Ginosko is special because it connotes the kind of knowledge that comes from personal experience.
The word ginōskō, ..., often describes the kind of knowledge involved in building an intimate relationship with a person. In fact,ginōskō is tied so tightly to relationships that it is used to describe the sexual relations between a husband and wife (Matthew 1:25; Luke 1:34).[5]
What is the Greek definition of knowledge? Epistêmêis the Greek word most often translated as knowledge, while technê is translated as either craft or art.Apr 11, 2003.

Thus when it speaks of Giosko we can be sure it is speaking of a personal dimension ot the faith. The faith is not just a bunch of good works and nice attitiudes. It's a relationship with God. The author of the Johanine literatrue (Gospel and epistles of John loved to use the word ginosko: In 1 John he uses it 21 times.[6] In the Gosel he uses it 141 times.one example:"If you had known (ginosko) Me (Jesus), you would have known (ginosko) My Father also; from now on you know (ginosko) Him, and have seen Him. (Jn 14:7). Wiersbe: What does it mean to “know the Father?”

Some of the social justice crowd reject the Johonine literatire becaues they don't like personal salavtion and they dont want to know God in that way. They still claim to follow Jesus but they just dovthesame thingtheevangelicals did. They transfomr the faith into politics. What the synoptic Gospels? Is there no use of ginosko knowing God in Matthew Mark or Luke?

Mat 7:23 - And then will I profess unto them, I never knew G1097 you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Mat 12:7 - But if ye had known G1097 what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Mat 13:11 - He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know G1097 the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

Mat 25:24 - Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew G1097 thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

Mar 4:11 - And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know G1097 the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

Matthew 7:9-12 New Living Translation (NLT) “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!

Luk 10:22 - All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth G1097 who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

Romans 1:21;

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.Jul 19, 2020

Romans 8:28. New International Version ... And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his ..

1cor 1 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. None ofthese verses say the poimt is... but they areindicative of the poimt, /they

What does it mean to be in a personal relationship with God? How does one have a persoanl relationship with someone who can't be seen or heard? It is a mistake to think that God is not communicating with us just because we can't see or hear him audibly. God communicates with us im serveral ways. Of course thorugh scriptire but that is not a personal relationship in and of itself; it may be part of one. Also God speaks to the heart directly. Wr can't hear it but we can feel it,we can come to understand it.Such a relationshp is conducted largely thorgh prayer and thorugh meditating upon God's presemce. We can feel God's presence.Tjis isnot merely fantasy, the affects of the experence and the resultsin thelifeof believer bearoot aninidcatiomn of reality see my first book The Trace of God.[7]

If you don't have a relationship with God like this that does not mean you are not saved. The relationship is there to be had if you sek it, if yo tristi Jesus atomememtand epemdt. give your life to Christ..

NOTES

[1]Boyd Evans, Twitter

https://twitter.com/revboydevans

Boyd Evans,"Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Abingdon, Virginia. Former scientist (nanotechnology, magnetic materials, biomedical) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. @revboydevans" Abingdon, VA

https://www.linkedin.com/in/boyd-evans-3a36362

[2]Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers,"What does salvation mean in Progressive Christianity?,"Progressive Christianity.org, (May 7, 2022). https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/what-does-salvation-mean-in-progressive-christianity/ (accessed Hab 24,2023)

[3] Ibid

[4]The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, Strong's Number: 1097 Browse Lexicon Original Word Word Origin ginosko.(1999). https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ginosko.html#:~:text=ghin%2Doce'%2Dko,a%20knowledge%20of%20perceive%2C%20feel

Greek lexicon based on Thayer's and Smith's Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament." These files are public domain.

[5]Ezea project, "Greek word of the week:ginosko," (2021) https://ezraproject.com/ginosko-knowledge-that-goes-beyond-information/#:~:text=The%20word%20gin%C5%8Dsk%C5%8D%2C%20on%20the,%3B%20Luke%201%3A34).

"Ezra Project is dedicated to helping people explore the Bible for themselves, through a developing knowledge of the New Testament in its original Greek. It is a ministry project developed by Dr. John Bechtle, an experienced professor and writer who has spent several decades helping people understand the Scriptures." see :about:

[6]Ginosio in 2st John: 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 2:13; 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:20; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 5:2; 1 John 5:20

[7]Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Scientific Nature of Physicalism:Turtles All the Way Down

I first heard the anecdote about turtles when it starred Wittgenstein. In some class he taught, supposedly, they were referring to the Indian cosmogany in which the earth sits on the back of an elephant and the elephant is on the back of a great turtle. A student asked "what does the turtle sit on?" Supposedly Wittgenstein said "from there on it's turtles all the way down." There is no real proof that Wittgenstein ever said that. Googling the phrase, it is associated with him without proving who said it. Moreover, no one knows what it means. I've seen about six interpretations. It's always associated with the sort of flippant remark a skeptic might make about religious answers. Here I use it as a metaphor for the arrogance of scientism to think that scientific exactitude and certainty rules out the possibility of other realms and forms of truth that science can't seek.

One of the most solid things in modern science is the Greek concept of the atom, and Greek atomism stands as atheistic symbol and as the basis of scientific thought. The reason atheists use an atomic symbol for their own is becuase they harken back to Greek atomistic view as a replacement for belief in deity. Science shows us all, we know the basic building blocks of reality, sub atomic particles, and thus we know there's no need for a God, yada yada yada. When we examine those bulwarks of modern thought we see that they are shaky and as uncertain as the one about the turtles. This is especially apt for sub atomic particles; science has never found a basic particle, it seems there is always a smaller one, it's particles all the way down.

The Issue of Transcendence

Are there realms beyond our knowing, is this possible? If so, is there any possibility of our investigating them? Scientists have usually tended to assume that metaphysical assumptions about realms beyond are just out of the domain of science and can’t be investigated so they don’t bother to comment. Victor Stenger, however, wants to be able to assert that he’s disproved them so he argues that the magisteria do overlap. “There exists a widespread notion, promulgated at the higher levels of the scientific community itself, that science has nothing to say about God or the supernatural…”[1] He sights the national academy of sciences and their position that these are non overlapping magisteria, “science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Weather God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”[2] Stenger disagrees. He argues that they can study the effects of prayer so that means they can eliminate the supernatural.

Two things are wrong with Stenger’s approach. First, he doesn’t use Lourdes or any other empirical record of miracles. He’s going entirely by double blind studies which can’t control for prayer from outside the control group; that makes such studies virtually worthless. So in effect Stenger is taking the work of people who try to empirically measure what is beyond the empirical, then when it doesn’t work he says “see, there’s nothing beyond the empirical.” That proves nothing more than the fact that we can’t measure that which is beyond measuring. Secondly, he doesn’t deal with the real religious experience studies or the M scale. That means he’s not really dealing with the empirical effects of supernature. I deal with the M scale at length in my book The Trace of God. I’ve just demonstrated good reason to think that supernature Is working in nature. It’s not an alien realm outside the natural, it’s not a miracle it’s not something that sets its self apart form the daily regular workings of the world. Supernature is of God but nature is of God. God made nature and he works in nature. We can tell the two apart by the results. Now I am going to deal with the other two issues, are there realms beyond the natural? Are there evidences of a form of supernatural in the world that stand apart from the natural such that we can call them “miracles?” Are there realms beyond the natural? Of course there can be no direct evidence, even a direct look at them would stand apart from our received version of reality and thus be suspect. The plaintive cry of the materialists that “there is no evidence for the supernatural” is fallacious to the core. How can there be evidence when any evidence that might be would automatically be suspect? Moreover, science itself gives us reason to think there might be. Quantum physics is about unseen realms, but they are the world of the extremely tiny. This is the fundamental basis of reality, what’s beneath or behind everything. They talk about “particles” but in reality they are not particles. They are not bits of stuff. They are not solid matter.[3] Treating particles as points is also problematic. This is where string theory comes in.

This is where string theory comes in. In string theory fundamental particles aren't treated as zero-dimensional points. Instead they are one-dimensional vibrating strings or loops. The maths is hair-raising, and the direct evidence non-existent, but it does provide a way out of the current theoretical cul-de-sac. It even provides a route to unifying gravity with the other three fundamental forces - a problem which has baffled the best brains for decades. The problem is, you need to invoke extra dimensions to make the equations work in string-theory and its variants: 10 spacetime dimensions to be precise. Or 11 (M-theory). Or maybe 26. In any case, loads more dimensions than 4. So where are they then? One idea is that they are right under our noses, but compacted to the quantum scale so that they are imperceptible. "Hang on a minute", you might think,"How can you ever prove the existence of something that, by definition, is impossible to perceive?" It's a fair point, and there are scientists who criticize string theory for its weak predictive power and testability. Leaving that to one side, how can you conceptualize extra dimensions?[4] There is no direct evidence of these unseen realms and they may be unprovable. Why are they assumed with such confidence and yet reductionists make the opposite assumption about spiritual realms? It’s not because the quantum universe realms are tangle or solid or material they are not. Scientists can’t really describe what they are, except that they are mathematical. In fact why can’t they be the same realms? Then there’s the concept of the multiverse. This is not subatomic in size but beyond our space/time continuum. These would be other universes perhaps like our own, certainly the size of our own, but beyond our realm of space/time. Some scientists accept the idea that the same rules would apply in all of these universes, but some don’t.

Beyond it [our cosmic visual horizon—42 billion light years] could be many—even infinitely many—domains much like the one we see. Each has a different initial distribution of matter, but the same laws of physics operate in all. Nearly all cosmologists today (including me) accept this type of multiverse, which Max Tegmark calls “level 1.” Yet some go further. They suggest completely different kinds of universes, with different physics, different histories, maybe different numbers of spatial dimensions. Most will be sterile, although some will be teeming with life. A chief proponent of this “level 2” multiverse is Alexander Vilenkin, who paints a dramatic picture of an infinite set of universes with an infinite number of galaxies, an infinite number of planets and an infinite number of people with your name who are reading this article.[5]

Well there are two important things to note here. First, that neither string theory nor multiverse may ever be proved empirically. There’s a professor at Columbia named Peter Woit who writes the blog “Not Even Wrong” dedicated to showing that string theory can’t be proved.[6] There is no proof for it or against it. It can’t be disproved so it can’t be proved either.[7] That means the idea will be around for a long time because without disproving it they can’t get rid of it. Yet without any means of disproving it, it can’t be deemed a scientific fact. Remember it’s not about proving things it’s about disproving them. Yet science is willing to consider their possibility and takes them quite seriously. There is no empirical evidence of these things. They posit the dimensions purely as a mathematical solution so the equations work not because they have any real evidence.[8]

We could make the argument that we have several possibilities for other worlds and those possibilities suggest more: we have the idea of being “outside time.” There’s no proof that this is place one can actually go to, but the idea of suggests the possibility, there’s the world of anti-matter, there are worlds in string membranes, and there are other dimensions tucked away and folded into our own. In terms of the multiverse scientists might argue that they conceive of these as “naturalistic.” They would be like our world with physical laws and hard material substances and physical things. As we have seen there are those who go further and postulate the “rules change” idea. We probably should assume the rules work the same way because its all we know. We do assume this in making God arguments such as the cosmological argument. Yet the possibility exists that there could be other realms that are not physical and not “natural” as we know that concept. The probability of that increases when we realize that these realms are beyond our space/time thus they are beyond the domain of our cause and effect, and we know as “natural.” It really all goes back to the philosophical and ideological assumption about rules. There is no way to prove it either way. Ruling out the possibility of a spiritual realm based upon the fact that we don’t live in it would be stupid. The idea that “we never see any proof of it” is basically the same thing as saying “we don’t live it so it must not exist.” Of course this field is going to be suspect, and who can blame the critics? Anyone with a penchant for the unknown can set up shop and speculate about what might be “out there.” Yet science itself offers the possibility in the form of modern physics, the only rationale for closing that off is the distaste for religion.

All that is solid melts into air

This line by Marx deals with society, social and political institutions, but in thinking about the topic of SN it suggests a very different issue. The reductionst/materialists and phsyicalists assume and often argue that there is no proof of anything not material and not ‘physical” (energy is a form of matter). We see this in the quotes at the beginning of the chapter. The hard tangible nature of the physical is taken as the standard for reality while the notion of something beyond our ability to dietetic is seen in a skeptical way, even though the major developments in physics are based upon it. Is the physical world as tangible and solid as we think? Science talks about “particles” and constructs models of atoms made of wooden tubes and little balls this gives us the psychological impression that the world of the very tiny is based upon little solid balls. In reality subatomic particles are not made out of little balls, nor are these ‘particles” tangible or solid. In fact we could make a strong argument that no one even knows what they are made of.

We keep talking about "particles", but this word doesn't adequately sum up the type of matter that particle physicists deal with. In physics, particles aren't usually tiny bits of stuff. When you start talking about fundamental particles like quarks that have a volume of zero, or virtual particles that have no volume and pop in and out of existence just like that, it is stretching the everyday meaning of the word "particle" a bit far. Thinking about particles as points sooner or later leads the equations up a blind alley. Understanding what is happening at the smallest scale of matter needs a new vocabulary, new maths, and very possibly new dimensions. This is where string theory comes in. In string theory fundamental particles aren't treated as zero-dimensional points. Instead they are one-dimensional vibrating strings or loops. The maths is hair-raising, and the direct evidence non-existent, but it does provide a way out of the current theoretical cul-de-sac. It even provides a route to unifying gravity with the other three fundamental forces - a problem which has baffled the best brains for decades. The problem is, you need to invoke extra dimensions to make the equations work in string-theory and its variants: 10 spacetime dimensions to be precise. Or 11 (M-theory). Or maybe 26. In any case, loads more dimensions than 4.[9]

Particles are not solid; they are not very tiny chunks of solid stuff. They have no volume nor do they have the kind of stable existence we do. They “pop” in and out of existence! This is not proof for the supernatural. It might imply that the seeming solidity of “reality” is illusory. There are two kinds of subatomic particles, elementary and composite. Composite are made out of smaller particles. Now we hear it said that elementary particles are not made out of other particles. It’s substructure is unknown. They may or may not be made of smaller particles. That means we really don’t know what subatomic particles are made of. That means scientists are willing to believe in things they don’t understand.[10] While it is not definite enough to prove anything except that we don’t know the basis of reality, it does prove that and also the possibilities for the ultimate truth of this are still wide open. To rule out “the supernatural” (by the wrong concept) on the assumption that we have no scientific proof of it is utterly arrogance and bombast. For all we know what we take to be solid unshakable reality might be nothing more than God’s day dream. Granted, there is end to the spinning of moon beams and we can talk all day about what ‘might be,’ so we need evidence and arguments to warrant the placing of confidence in propositions. We have confidence placing evidence; it doesn’t have to be scientific although some of it is. That will come in the next chapter. The point here is that there is no basis for the snide dismissal of concepts such as supernatural and supernature.

Notes

[1] Victor Stenger, God and The Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books, 2012. 225.

[2] Stenger, ibid, quoting National Academy of Sciences, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington DC: National Academies Press, 1998, 58.

[3] STFC “are there other dimensions,” Large Hadron Collider. Website. Scinece and Facilities Council, 2012 URL: http://www.lhc.ac.uk/The%20Particle%20Detectives/Take%205/13686.aspx

[4] ibid

[5] George F.R. Ellis. “Does the Miltiverse Reallly Exist [preview]” Scientific American (July 19, 2011) On line versoin URL: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=does-the-multiverse-really-exist, George F.R. Ellis is Proffessor Emeritus in Mathematics at University of Cape Town. He’s been proessor of Cosmic Physics at SISSA (Trieste)

[6] Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong, Posted on September 18, 2012 by woi blog, URL: http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/

[7] ibid, “Welcome to the Multiverse,” Posted on May 21, 2012 by woit URL: http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=4715

[8] Mohsen Kermanshahi. Universal Theory. “Sring Theory.” Website URL: http://www.universaltheory.org/html/others/stringtheory5.htm

[9] STFC ibid, op cit.

[10] Sylvie Braibant; Giorgio Giacomelli; Maurizio Spurio Particles and Fundamental Interactions: An Introduction to Particle Physics (2nd ed.). Italy: Springer-Verlag, science and Business media, 2009, pp. 1–3.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

My Freewill Defense

The Free Will Defense is offered by Christian apologists as an answer to any sort of atheist argument such as the problem of pain or the problem of evil. The argument runs something like: God values free will because “he” (“she”?) doesn’t want robots. The problem with this approach is that it often stops short in analysis as to why free will would be a higher value than anything else. This leaves the atheist in a position of arguing any number of pains and evil deeds and then crying that God had to know these things would happen, thus God must be cruel for creating anything at all knowing the total absolute pain (which usually includes hell in most atheist arguments) would result from creation.

The apologists answers usually fail to satisfy the atheist, because in their minds noting can outweigh the actual inflicting of pain. Something atheists evoke omnipotence and play it off against the value of free will, making the assumption that an “all powerful God” could do anything, thus God should be able to cancel any sort of moral debt, make sin beyond our natures, create a pain free universe, and surely if God were all loving, God would have done so.

The better twist on the free will defense would be to start from a different position. We should start with the basis for creation, in so far as we can understand it, and then to show how the logical and non self contradictory requirements of the logic of creation require free will. What is usually missing or not pointed out is the necessity of free will in the making of moral choices. This is the step that atheists and Christian apologists alike sometimes overlook; that it is absolutely essential in a non-self contradictory way, that humanity have free will. Thus, free will must out weight any other value. At that point, since it is a matter of self contradiction, omnipotence cannot be played off against free will, because God’s omnipotence does not allow God to dispense with Free will!

Before moving to the argument I want to make it clear that I deal with two separate issues: the problem of pain (not a moral issue–tornadoes and diseases and the like) becasue it doesn’t involve human choice. Pain, inflicted by accident and nature is not a moral issue, because it involves no choices. Thus I will not deal with that here. I am only concerned in this argument with the the problem of evil that is, the problem of moral choice. The free will defense cannot apply to makes where the will does not apply.

Basic assumptions

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a “moral universe” and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal “seeking” leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That’s a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn’t care less about.

(3) the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The argument would look like this:

(1)God’s purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn’t just tell everyone that he’s there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a “Drama” not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the “big mystery” is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn’t often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can’t negate the overall plan of a search.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can’t help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don’t love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It’s internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one’s own life for the other.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Atonement As God's Solidarity with Humanity

Here is the way I find many atheists and skeptics thinking about the idea of Jesus sacrafice on the cross:

So what if Jesus was crucified? what's the big deal? There re much worse ways to suffer. Crucificition is bad but it is far from the worst thing that can happen to you. So why was it a sacrifice, I mean after all he is God, what would it matter to him if he dies? And he got to come back.
Now this is incredibly ignorant, but it occurs to me there are some resons for this kind of chaotic thinking, but also one big hidden premise. Before launching into that analysis, however, I would like to comment on the inadequacy of Christian understanding.

First, most Christians try to answer this out of a need for piety. They do not give a theological answer, they give a pious one. The pious answer can't be undestood by modern people, they lack pious feelings, so it just makes it worse. The pious answer of course is to try and mount up the pain and make it seem so very much worse. O. Jesus suffered in hell and he suffers every minute and he's still suffering and he felt all the agony in the world. Of course it doesn't' really say that anywhere in the Bible. While I think this is true, and while my pious side feels the prier sense of reversions and gratitude to our savior for this work, we can't use this to answer the question because modern impiety can't understand the answer. They just hear us reiterating their hidden primes.

The other Christian answers are Propitiatory atonement, Substitutionary, or Moral government. These are the three major ways of looking at the atonement. Propitiation means to turn away anger. This answer is also incomprehensible to moderns. God is so very angry with us that he can't stand the sight of us, he has to stick Jesus between himself and us so he will see Jesus and turn away his anger. This just makes God seem like a red faced historical parent who couldn't comprehend the consequences of his creation when he decided to make it. Substitutionary atonement says Jesus took our place, he received the penalty our sins deserved. This comes in two verities: (1) financial transaction, Jesus paid the debt,(2) the other is closer to moral government, Jesus was exicucted because he stepped in and took the place of the guilty party. Both of these are also problematic, because they really allow the guilty to get off Scott free and persecute an innocent person. The thing is in real life you could not go down to the jail and talk them into letting you take another prisoners place. WE can harp on how this is a grace so fine we can't understand it in the natural mind, and relapse into piety again singing the praises to God for doing this wonderful act, but it wont answer the atheists questions.

I realize that the view I hold to is a little known minority view. I know I'm bucking the mainstream. But I think it makes a lot more sense and shows why there was an atonement. Before getting into it, however, I want to comment upon the atheist hidden premise. The explicit premise of the atheist argument is that atonement works by Jesus suffering a whole lot. If Jesus suffers enough then restitution is made. But wait, restitution for what? For our sins? Then why should Jesus suffer more than we do or more than our victims do? Why do skeptics seem to think, that Jesus must suffer more than anyone ever has for the atonement to work? It's because the hidden premise is that God is guilty and the atonement is the time God pays for his own mistakes. Jesus has to suffer more than anyone to make up for what God has done, inconveniencing us by creating us.

The sickness of the modern mind can scarcely comprehend Christian theology now. I wonder if it isn't too late and we are just past the day when people in the West can really be saved?

I mean consider the idea that usually acompanies this argument: well he is God after all, a little torutre death cant' hurt him. In the old days, when we had a culture that ran on Christian memories, people said how great that God would do this for us when he didn't have to! Now the argument is "Of course he had to, it's the least he can do, after all I didn't asked to be born, so I'm entitaled to whatever goodies can get in compensation." That's why I think the hidden premise is to blame God; its as though they are saying God has to suffer more than anyone to make up for the suffering he caued as creator. This sort of atttitude is very troubling. In any case, my view is the Participatory atonement. It was embraced by several church fathers and modern theologians supporting it are mentioned below:



I.The Atonement: God's Solidarity With Humanity.

A. The inadquacy of Financial Transactions

Many ministers, and therefore, many Christians speak of and think of Jesus' death on the cross as analogus to a finacial transaction. Usually this idea goes something like this: we are in hock to the devil because we sinned. God pays the debt we owe by sending Jesus to die for us, and that pays off the devil. The problem with this view is the Bible never says we owe the devil anything. We owe God. The financial transaction model is inadqueate. Matters of the soul are much more important than any monitary arrangement and buiness transactions and banking do not do justice to the import of the issue. Moreover, there is a more sophisticated model; that of the sacrafice for sin. In this model Jesus is like a sacraficial lamb who is murdered in our place. This model is also inadequate because it is based on a primative notion of sacrafice. The one making the sacrafice pays over something valuable to him to apease an angry God. In this case God is paying himself. This view is also called the "propitiatior view" becuase it is based upon propitation, which means to turn away wrath. The more meaningful notion is that of Solidarity. The Solidarity or "participatry" view says that Jesus entered human history to participate in our lot as finiate humans, and he dide as a means of identifying with us. We are under the law of sin and death, we are under curse of the law (we sin, we die, we are not capable in our own human strength of being good enough to merit salvation). IN taking on the penalty of sin (while remaining sinless) Jesus died in our stead; not in the mannar of a premative animal sacrafice (that is just a metaphor) but as one of us, so that through identification with us, we might identify with him and therefore, partake of his newness of life

. B. Christ the Perfect Revelation of God to Humanity

In the book of Hebrews it says "in former times God spoke in many and verious ways through the prophets, but in these latter times he has spoken more perfectly through his son." Jesus is the perfect revelation of God to humanity. The prophets were speaking for God, but their words were limited in how much they could tell us about God. Jesus was God in the flesh and as such, we can see clearly by his charactor, his actions, and his teachings what God wants of us and how much God cares about us. God is for humanity, God is on our side! The greatest sign of God's support of our cause as needy humans is Jesus death on the cross, a death in solidarity with us as victims of our own sinful hearts and socieities. Thus we can see the lengths God is willing to go to to point us toward himself. There are many verses in the Bible that seem to contradict this view. These are the verses which seem to say that Atonement is preipiatory.

C. Death in Solidarity with Victims

1) Support from Modern Theologians

Three Major Modern Theologians support the solidarity notion of atonement: Jurgen Moltmann (The Crucified God), Matthew L. Lamb (Solidarity With Victims), and D.E.H. Whiteley (The Theology of St. Paul).In the 1980s Moltmann (German Calvinist) was called the greatest living protestant theologian, and made his name in laying the groundwork for what became liberation theology. Lamb (Catholic Priest) was big name in political theology, and Whiteley (scholar at Oxford) was a major Pauline scholar in the 1960s.In his work The Crucified God Moltmann interprits the cry of Jesus on the cross, "my God my God why have you forsaken me" as a statement of solidarity, placing him in identification with all who feel abandoned by God.Whiteley: "If St. Paul can be said to hold a theory of the modus operandi [of the atonement] it is best described as one of salvation through participation [the 'solidarity' view]: Christ shared all of our experience, sin alone excepted, including death in order that we, by virtue of our solidarity with him, might share his life...Paul does not hold a theory of substitution..." (The Theology of St. Paul,Whiteley 130). An example of one of the great classical theologians of the early chruch who held to a similar view is St. Irenaeus (according to Whiteley, 133).

2) Scrtiptural

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore burried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certanly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

In Short, if we have united ouselves to Chrsit, entered his death and been raised to life, we participate in his death and ressurection thourgh our act of solidairty, united with Christ in his death, than it stands to reason that his death is an act of solidarity with us, that he expresses his solidarity with humanity in his death.

This is why Jesus cries out on the cross "why have you forsaken me?" According to Moltmann this is an expression of Solidarity with all who feel abandoned by God.Jesus death in solidarity creates the grounds for forgiveness, since it is through his death that we express our solidarity, and through that, share in his life in union with Christ. Many verses seem to suggest a propitiatory view. But these are actually speaking of the affects of the solidarity. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath thorugh him! For if when we were considered God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"(Rm 5:9-11). What appears to be saying that the shedding of blood is what creates forgiveness is actually saying that the death in solidarity cretaes the grounds for reconciliation. IT says we were enemies then we were reconciled to him thorugh the death, his expression of solidarity changes the ground, when we express our solidarity and enter into the death we are giving up to God, we move from enemy to friend, and in that sense the shedding of blood, the death in solidarity, creates the conditions through which we can be and are forgiven. He goes on to talk about sharing in his life, which is participation, solidarity, unity.

. D. Meaning of Solidarity and Salvation.

. Jurgen Moltmann's notion of Solidarity (see The Crucified God) is based upon the notion of Political solidarity. Chrsit died in Solidarity with victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposly angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all vitims of oppression. Sin has a social dimension, the injustice we experience as the hands of society and social and governmental institutions is primarily and at a very basic level the result of the social aspects of sin. Power, and political machinations begin in the sinful heart, the ego, the desire for power, and they manifest themselves through institutions built by the will to power over the other. But in a more fundamental sense we are all victims of our own sinful natures. We scheme against others on some level to build ourselve up and secure our conditions in life. In this sense we cannot help but do injustice to others. In return injustice is done to us.Jesus died in solidarity with us, he underwent the ultiamte consquences of living in a sinful world, in order to demonstrate the depths of God's love and God's desire to save us. Take an analogy from political organizing. In Central America governments often send "death squads" to murder labor unionists and political dissenter. IN Guartemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escourt the leaders of dissenting groups so that they would not be murdered. The logic was that the death squads wouldn't hurt an American Student because it would bring bad press and shut off U.S. govenment funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focussed on the Gospel. Jesus is like those students, and like some of them, he was actually killed. But unlike them he went out of his way to be killed, to be victimized by the the rage of the sinful and power seeking so that he could illustrate to us the desire of God; that God is on our side, God is on the side of the poor, the vitimized, the marginalized, and the lost. Jesus said "a physician is not sent to the well but to the sick."The key to salvation is to accept God's statement of solidarity, to express our solidarity with God by placing ourselves into the death of Christ (by identification with it, by trust in it's efficacy for our salvation).

. E. Atonement is a Primetive Concept?

. This charge is made quite often by internet-skeptics, espeically Jewish anti-missionaries who confuse the concept wtih the notion of Human sacrifice. But the charge rests on the idea that sacrafice itself is a premative notion. If one committs a crime, someone else should not pay for it. This attack can be put forward in many forms but the basic notion revolves around the idea that one person dying for the sins of another, taking the penalty or sacrificing to remove the guilt of another is a premative concept. None of this applies with the Participatory view of the atonement (solidarity) since the workings of Christ's death, the mannar in which it secures salavtion, is neither through turning away of wrath nor taking upon himself other's sins, but the creation of the grounds through which one declairs one's own solidarity with God and the grounds through which God accepts that solidairty and extends his own; the identification of God himself with the needs and crys of his own creation.

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