Daily, it seems, I find examples to prove the truth of Romans 1:22, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” I will probably start a new category for this.
Today’s example comes from the Debunking Christianity blog, which contains flashes of near-brilliance, as well as some of the most foolish thinking on the planet. The specific post is by a guy named Spencer, who thinks he has a new approach to argue with Christians about the Resurrection. His idea? Because we believe “God raised Jesus from the dead,” Christians not only have to prove the resurrection happened, they also have to prove that God did it. (I guess he thinks that perhaps Jesus was raised from the dead by someone like Satan, who was just playing a joke. )
His point is essentially true, that proving that Jesus resurrected does not logically prove that God was the cause of Jesus’ resurrection. He, of course, fails to realize that there is no way for him to prove that his system of logic proves anything. He also fails to realize that Christians don’t have to prove a thing. He’s the guy trying to disprove something.
As W.C. Fields once said, “Go away, kid, ya bother me.”
Mike says that “there is no way for a person to know anything” but he can only “believe things.” Though Mike says he’s no “philosopher,” his is a philosophic presumption, with the emphasis on “pre.” Mike has decided before he knows anything that he can’t know anything. How he “knows” this, then, is a mystery to me. If he means he “believes” he can’t know anything, then I have to ask what “evidence” he has for that belief. The problem for him, of course, is that he cannot “know” any evidence; he can only believe it. His is an endless regression of beliefs which is logically unacceptable. No philosopher or theologican—and I would add, good scientist—would buy into that. Mike, as a scientistic kind of guy himself, should reject his own postulate out of hand.
In other words, even if Mike types slowly (which I appreciate), he is caught in a loop of self-cancellation. And though I he says that his core beliefs “are subject to being updated if they are shown to be incorrect,” if he rejects, by presupposition, all the voices that would offer him belief-shifting information, he is parked where he is for good. Mike has actually reiterated Eliot’s point, which is that belief precedes knowledge. His scientific “evidence” is the product of his core beliefs, not the other way around.
This whole discussion also illustrates the futility of scientific and rational enterprise to attempt to escape its own system. As a number of mathematicians have proven, it is impossible to legitimate any system from within that system. This puts materialism and theism on equal footing when it comes to discourse. The “advantage” that theism has, of course, is the conviction of something (someone?) outside our system who does indeed validate it. The fact that, by belief, theists “know” that such an entity exists gives them explanatory leverage over materialists who by faith “know” he doesn’t.
All this to say: Mike may really really really believe what he says he believes, but he has, by philosophical and mathematical imperative, NO EXPLANATORY GROUND to support his belief. Foolish theists do. Whether Mike buys the explanation or not is a terrible freedom we have all been given.
Mike, Much of what you state about Christianity is myth; it’s widely believed myth, but that doesn’t change anything. It’s perpetuated by folks like Dawkins and Ehrman, because it supports what they want to believe (I have to believe that at least Ehrman knows better).
With regard to revelation, you are confusing the revelation of God as reality and interpretation. You seem to think that because there are Catholics and Lutherans, Christianity is at odds with itself. Nothing is further from the truth. I have friends who are Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Charismatics, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals and many who are simply confused. However, we still relate to each other as Christians – there is a bond of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than fine points of doctrine.
Furthermore, I read and study theology from a wide variety of sources. I agree with some, and disagree with others. However, I don’t doubt their salvation. I am reading right now a book by 2 guys, NT Wright and Marcus Borg, who have serious differences with each other – Borg would agree with Ehrman on many points re the Bible – however these two are friends and believe each other to be Christians. How is this possible?
Atheists make much over the many denominations, but they are truly making mountains out of molehills; Christians agree on the basics, and true Christians will stand shoulder to shoulder with each other in spite of theological issues. (there are exceptions, but that is seldom, if ever, due to theology… there are usually other issues involved.)
Re Revelation: in the OT, revelation was followed by proof. God didn’t tell Noah to build an ark without following it up with a flood. Abraham had Isaac, and Moses had stone tablets. In the NT, we have Jesus, who most people (even atheists) believe was crucified. The historical documentation is pretty compelling for the resurrection- the only reason we doubt it is that it qualifies as a “miracle.” We have written testimony, and literally thousands of NT documents that agree more than they disagree (the things Ehrman doesn’t want you to understand). Revelation is not provided in isolation; furthermore, we are told to evaluate it based on history and other evidence.
I don’t know why any specific Christian-turned-atheist made that choice; I’ve heard enough from some to be suspicious of their stories. Some are obviously guided by intellectual issues- A.N. Wilson was one, who came to realize that the issues were not sufficient after all, and came back to Christianity.
I do know, however, when reasons given are insufficient. I understand why people get turned off by fundamentalism, and are tempted to toss the baby out with the bath. However, that is logically inconsistent. It’s often a case of wrong or not enough information. And, there are those with sin issues that grasp onto ehrman-like myths to find a reason to leave.
You state that we can’t find truth, that it doesn’t exist. You are arguing from silence; your inability to find something says nothing about it’s existence. If you are curious about the universe, about truth, you might consider looking beyond the myths. Believing Dawkins about religion will get you no where. When you have millions of Christians – many of them quite intelligent and educated – agreeing on the central notion that God exists and that you can know him, it’s perhaps time to rethink your core beliefs. You seem to think that God’s been hiding from you… perhaps he’s just sending me to tap on your shoulder.
Dang, you guys are stubborn. I’ll type more slowly. Of course I have core beliefs, but they are subject to being updated if they are shown to be incorrect. I will state again that I am not learned in the arts of philosophy, so you are free and welcome to skip past the remainder of this post.
This is what I am saying:
I had a Christian faith, guided by what I believed to be “certain of what I did not see.” The certainty eroded because I directly experienced things that were in direct contradiction to what I was being taught by people who had such “certainty.” Loftus deals with that in his book, explaining how two people were being guided by the same passage in scriptures to opposite conclusions, presumably guided to their understanding by the Holy Spirit. This was a revelation to him, and I had a similar revelation myself.
When I dug into the contradiction I began to realize that nobody had any closer access to the “truth” than I did. Nobody does. Lots of people claim to have it, hold themselves up as having that certainty, but I have yet to find anybody that can’t make that certainty fit into what they want the certainty to be.
Authority in spiritual matters is self-appointed. Now, by simple observation that within Christianity there are disagreements over the absolute truths. Homosexuality is bad, or homosexuality is from God. You may say that you have the certainty on your side, but there are others who have the same certainty on an opposite position. Can we ask God to settle the dispute? Not directly, right? But only through human interpretation of how they read the Word.
Both sides will say that they read the Word with the guidance of the Spirit, that they have this absolute knowledge and certainty. Listen, can you at least concede that to a non-Christian there is good reason to be suspicious when there are so many forms and contradictions for what is supposedly easily evident for you? Take a look at this listing at Wikipedia. They claim 38000 sects. Now, there are likely many churches with completely overlapping beliefs and faiths about the nature of Jesus and God and their roles in our lives and our world, many of them separated from their brethren by geography more than theology. That list can probably be trimmed a bit.
But why are they in such contradiction if they start from the same source of certainty? Perhaps, you may say it is because of man’s stubbornness and pride. And you would be right. If you do, and I may be setting up a strawman here, you are helping me towards my point.
In The Age of Reason, Paine points out that the weakness of using Revelation as evidence is that anybody can speak any claim of certain knowledge that they wish, and they may even be completely and honestly sincere. However, since that is that person’s experience, and if I don’t share that same experience, then I have no way to trust it.
So, how then do we find answers that we can trust? We can’t find absolute answers, they don’t exist. Or at least if we find them then we can’t reliably share them so that people will be able to know with certainty. Even something as well accepted as the perception of color in the sky or the grass or a flower is going to be a perception. So what we need is to find objective ways to compare experiences and observations to know that we are coming close to an understanding of the nature of things. This is what science does; it compares observations and measurements and analyses to arrive at close approximations of the truth. The reason that it can only work “naturally,” is that the supernatural can’t be approached this way (except on stupid shows such as “Ghost Hunters.” ) This is where science relies on natural methodolgy. It works. It provides results.
Religion, on the other hand, provides spiritual comfort but this comfort is as likely to be illusory as it is to be “real.” There is no way for a person to know anything. We can believe things, and I don’t think that I have ever said any different.
What you need to catch here is that realizing that one is an atheist, having been brought up in a religious family and in a religious society, is a very difficult and painful process. We start feeling like there is something lacking in us that we no longer “feel” the Spirit, no longer “hear” the Word in our hearts. It is a realization not come to nor taken lightly. You have made the claim that we do it to self-justify avoiding moral judgment for acting in the ways that we selfishly want. Nothing could be more contrary. If I had only wanted that, I could have found a church that would help me find a way to justify what I want to do. No, at first we feel abandoned, but then we start looking at religion and the beliefs we had with an understanding that religion is an evolved creation of the human mind, and not a reflection of any teaching or word from a Higher Source.
As an atheist, do I “know” that there is no God? No. I find it highly unlikely that there is, and if there is then God is like nothing that I have been taught to believe about it, because the evidences that I was taught to look for quite simply do not exist in any detectable, objective manner.
Of course, it is possible that your God exists, and your teachings are correct; but if so then for some reason He has hardened my heart. And if I am sent before him on Judgment Day then I will not bow, and I will not tremble and I will stand there and levy a more heinous charge against Him than any laid against me. If I am sent to Hell, then it will be His fault and not mine.
You’re probably right.
At least John Loftus admits to holding “core beliefs,” although he fails to show why his core beliefs are better than any others.
People only like the probabilities that work in their favor. All probabilities, like Fred said, are based on assumptions. The value of probabilities themselves are based on assumptions. At best, probabilities can never prove anything; they only provide a diving board from which you can make a leap of faith.
Interesting that Hebrews defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Christianity provides more certainty than Mike’s probabilities. For those who have the witness of the Holy Spirit (the only true mark of a Christian), Pascal’s Wager becomes a sure thing. The problem, of course, is that there is that initial leap, as Kierkegaard said, to faith (he didn’t say “of faith” as is commonly thought).
T.S. Eliot asserted that belief precedes knowledge. Without faith there is no “explanation” for anything, only description. Faith is an explanation, a theory that accounts for “what is.” By rejecting faith (any faith in anything) one rejects not only explanation but the possibility of explanation.
Mike says his worldview is based on “probabilities and likelihood.” Apparently he “trusts” those theoretical constructs, but doesn’t realize (or admit, anyway) that they are only constructs. He may like them better, but he himself seems unable to escape his own beloved belief system, and apparently accepts only authorities that share his worldview.
Even for a “scientist” like Mike, love is blind.
My worldview is not so set on truths as it is on probabilities and likelihood. What Christianity is based on is belief, and that you can’t see that your faith is not evidence or even indicates a high level of probability, indicates to me that you are in fact blinded by your faith from seeing things from my point of view.
You can state that God is Truth as much as you want but if I have a surplus of contradictory evidence it is hard for me to accept it at all. And all you can offer up is your statements and the statements of those who share your belief system. I have no way to check it out, to test it other than to try to find it myself. And I tried, and I didn’t.
Who was it that was quoted as saying “We all have truths?”
You take as your base supposition that God exists, and all of your reason extends from that base.
Mike, you really should study epistemology. You can’t even prove that what you would accept as evidence has any value. Truth is not subject to your worldview. For that matter, your worldview doesn’t even support a belief in “truth,” does it?
Plus, there is evidence. God always provided evidence, and still does. Faith may be by God’s grace, but God doesn’t expect our intellect to be left out in the cold. Remember, it was God who first said, “come, let us reason together.”
But, Steve is right: God is not like Tinkerbell, who disappears if children stop believing. Christianity is based on a notion that there is absolute truth, and unlike some versions of quantum theory, is not dependent upon our reaction to it.
There is no proving ‘faith’.
You either believe it (by God’s grace alone)…or you don’t.
That’s why Jesus said if you go into a village and speak of me and they accept you, stay and have lunch with them.
If they don’t accept you, then split.
The universe does not revolve around whether they believe or not.
Doing a double-take on this one. Christians make a claim of fact without evidence, and the burden is on him to disprove it? Have another drink, W.C.