Why does faith = redemption?

If I am correctly interpreting my Christian commentors, their faith is a trust in God that is separate from theology. By that I mean "theology" is what someone knows about God (which is obviously subjective). On the other hand, faith is a trust that God is in control, has a plan, is living through the person, and will reveal all things (throughout eternity), when really parts of the theology appear incongruent, incompatible, or haven't yet been pieced together.

By its nature, then, faith should be uncomfortable. This cognitive dissonance pushes the theologian to question, challenge, and find out more about God. Ironically, the more the theologian pushes and seeks, the more complex the deity must become to take into account the newfound complexities of the natural world, including animal behavior. (This is not unlike the recursion of most scientific discoveries that only provoke more questions). It seems the dutiful natural scientist-theist, while making an ever-more complex image of God will perpetually require more and more faith.

For me, a young earth creationist-turned evolutionist, evolution was just too incongruent with any theology I could imagine so it broke my faith. (Perhaps baby steps could have worked, but how you do baby steps on evolution with a YEC, I don't know). Nevertheless, I have to ask, "Why faith?"

In my previous post, it was (somewhat) established that God was not necessary for morality and then my question "What good is God?" was answered as "for redemption."

Why is it that humans, the only rational animals on the planet, the ones that took of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the ones created in the omniscient God's image, what was it about that rationality that separated us from God and why is irrationality the only way to redeem that relationship?

35 comments:

Gordon J. Glover said...

Another great topic for discussion! This one is loaded with potential. I hope to find some time to provide a thoughtful response, but I've got several irons in the fire at the moment.

Your friend,
GJG

Cliff Martin said...

Tom, I am also looking forward to this discussion. Like Gordon, I think it has lots of potential for interesting exchanges.

Your analogy to science always leading to more question is a good one. Each stone turned leads to more questions than those it answers. I personally believe that God is infinite, and as such, will require eternity to fully understand. In other words, 75 billion years from now, you and I (I hope your with me!) will be discussing something new and wonderful that we just then discovered about God.

But there is another side to this. What you call "irrationality" most Christians call "mystery". And by-and-large, Christians are content with an element of mystery, some (perhaps even my friend Gordon) would see inherent value in mystery itself, as though we should get comfortable with it and not attempt to rationally remove all mystery. I am of a different opinion. I do believe God made us rational creatures so that we could approach him rationally. And just as science is seeking that magical "theory of everything", I am also seeking a theology that fits more and more of the riddles and puzzles together into a rational, meaningful whole. For me, it is a life-long adventure, continuing today! And it is not a hopeless pursuit for me. I believe that science may actually be helping the open-minded theologian to put the pieces together into a coherent, pleasing, rational whole.

Gordon J. Glover said...

This is no way a complete response to your challenging post, but consider the nature of light. Is it a wave or a particle? Both? Neither? I admit that I do not keep up with the latest in physics (although I try to stay plugged in as much as possible by reading popular literature), but this mystery of the nature of light seems to be something that scientists are comfortable tolerating (is there any choice?).

The interesting thing about this mystery is its inherent contradiction. It's not as though we just don't have any reason to belive one model and reject the other (like the nature of gravity waves), but rather that we have more than enough evidence to accept both explanations as valid. But at the same time, there is no rationale for these two realities to coexists.

Of course, no respectable phycists would give up on the search for a unified electromagnetic theory. Look how Special Relativity solved the seemingly insurmountable contradiction of Maxwell's electromagnetic theory with invariant speed of light. Perhaps the riddle of the nature of light will likewise be solved, or perhaps it will forever remain a mystery.

But until such time, we go about our business. We assume "particle" when doing one type of analysis, and we assume "wave" when doing another. Both of these approaches have merit under the right conditions - and I wouldn't label electromagnetics as an "irrational" or "faith-based" approach to the study of nature. Neither would I expect any respectable scientists to abandon the scientific method for allowing such contradictions to exist.

When looking at the cosmos through a drinking staw (which is really what all of our science amounts to), we shouldn't be surprised when we are led to such "irrational" conclusions. How much worse when contemplating the nature and character of an infinite and eternal being who operates outside of space and time!

When I get the chance, I would like to try and unpack the last paragraph of your post, becasue I think you touched upon the heart of the matter.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

Saying we don't understand light is fine by me - we have no idea how it even reflects from a mirror.

But using that as an analogy to somehow justify irrational faith seems wrong for one key reason.

Evidence.

We do have some evidence about light for both these theories - so the two "models" system works in light of the available evidence (no pun intended).

There is no contradiction. They are simply two bits of a puzzle where we don't have all the pieces.

The whole point about faith is that there is no evidence.

e.g. People pray for others to get better - and when we look at the evidence - no effect is seen.

By contrast the QED theory is extremely accurate in what it does predict. It can and is tested - against the evidence.

We do have lots of convincing evidence that those two puzzle pieces (two ways of treating photons mathematically to predict what will happen in a given situation) are right - we simply don't have the rest of the puzzle.

(Can I assume no one is going to stoop to "god of the gaps" type arguments at this point?)

By way of contrast to QED, faith requires no evidence.

It's not just a poor analogy, it is in fact an analogy using something which is the exact opposite of what you are making an analogy to.

Gordon J. Glover said...

No analogy is perfect, but you are only considering scientific evidence. And when doing science, then I'm all for that. But when talking about theology or religion, scientific evidence doesn't get you very far.

For that, we rely on personal experience, tradition, revealed truth, etc... And when playing on that field, the rules are slightly different than what methodological naturalism demands. My point is that each system tolerates mystery with respect to incomplete knowledge and apparent contradictions. I don't agree that true theology is contradictory (just as correct science should also be self-consistent), but incomplete knowledge make "apparent" contradictions excusable until more is revealed. This is true whether you are doing science or theology. That's the point of the analogy.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

Please can you give me some examples of your non-scientific evidence?

The three examples you give don't seem to meet the criteria of the dictionary definition of the word evidence;

That which makes evident or manifest; that which
furnishes, or tends to furnish, proof; any mode of proof;
the ground of belief or judgement; as, the evidence of our
senses; evidence of the truth or falsehood of a statement.


Personal experience i.e. I think there is a god because . . . I think so?

Tradition i.e. I think there is a god because somebody else did yesterday and the day before etc.

Revealed truth i.e. I think there is a god because this particular translation of this particular book says so.

No sorry, no evidence there that I can see.

In the realm of financial product sales they would translate as follows;

Take this credit card because;

I think its great.

or

Some one took one yesterday.

or

This leaflet tells you to take it.

Personally I want to see the interest rate, fee structure and terms and conditions.

So please do give some examples of non scientific evidence that I would be rational to accept.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Belief in God is not the result of deductive reasoning. You can't start with a "true" proposition and deduce the existence of God from there. Whatever "truth" you choose as your initial reference point will always have more authority than those things deduced from it. And according to theism, the existence of God IS the starting assumption from which all other truth (whether deduced from nature or special revelation) is derived.

So when I talk about evidence for theism, I'm not talking about something that can move an atheist from his starting assumptions (there is no God) and convince him of theism. As long as you stand on your presuppositions, any such evidence can easily be raitionalized away. The evidence I'm talking is what theists use to learn about the nature and attributes of God (revelation, tradition, personal experience, etc...).

You mock these things - as if athism only believes what can be known with certainty, but the foundation of materialsm is also self-referential. For instance, you might assume that only science (empericism, deductive reasoning, etc...) can reveal truth. But science itself presupposes the uniformity of nature beased on the created order. But have you personally verified this? Has anybody? Have you personally observed first-hand that every particle of matter obeys the exact same natural laws in every corner of the unvierse at every moment from big bang to thermal equilibrium? No - of course not.

I submit that you believe it for 3 reasons: because somebody told you this was true (revelation), because science has always assumed these things to be true (tradition), and because you may have had some experience in the laboratory that appears to support this assumption based on what little piece of spacetime that you've had the good fortune to interact with (personal experience).

We all have to start somewhere or nothing can be known with certainly. This is basic epistemology. The theist starts with God as the reference point, the atheists begins with himself. And these things predetermine what experience, tradition, and revelation is valid.

-GJG

Tom said...

You guys are off on a fun-to-read tangent, and just to stay there for a moment, Gordon, aren't we all born atheist and therefore start there as our frame of reference?

-------------

But back to the main question, why does God, who is Truth and thereby in Him offers complete rationality require only irrationality to obtain it? Why is the Omniscient full of such nonsense?

psiloiordinary said...

Its you folk of faith who started talking about faith not being "just unreason" - make your minds up.

You started giving examples comparing faith with evidence - now you say that's not true. Please try to be consistent.

If its not based on evidence then you have no way of knowing if it is true or not - discuss.

- - -

BTW what other areas of your life do you chose to give to unreason?

Healthcare? Some plainly do with Alternative treatments?

There are many more, but if you say "faith is the only area where you do this" then why does it get this get out of jail free card.

Why use your minds in every other aspect of your lives but not religion.

Sorry I don't count debates about angels on the head of a pin and how such a verse might mean this or that if you have not looked into whether or not the foundations are made of sand or not.

I have many questions about this - and have been seeking answers for nearly a year now from people who claimed to have them - so far I have a nice collection of logical fallacies and insults for my trouble.

e.g.

Why didn't Jesus write anything down?

What evidence for the bible being true do you have that is any more convincing than the evidence for every other holy book around the world?

The earliest bit of hearsay is 100 years after the events described for pities sake.

- - -

Using reason to debate the colour of the wallpaper in a room on the fith floor doesn't help you if the house if built on sand.

psiloiordinary said...

Yes I am content not to know some things and to have to work them out for myself.

I see no need for totally unfounded assumptions.

I do have a base assumption set;

Dissect away;

Reality does exist.
Empiricism and logic work.

I have not checked the laws of nature in every corner of the universe, but we have looked around quite a bit and it seems to work so far- if evidence to the contrary comes in I will follow the evidence.

Why ignore the evidence we have and assume they must change?

Do you understand how scientific evidence is gathered and tested? To call peer reviewed papers revealed truth is - sorry but I cant think of a better word - daft.

They would appear to be pretty completely opposite actually. Perhaps you could read up a little on how science works? Perhaps you could explain some ways in which they are similar - apart from being the written word of course - surely that is not what you based this assertion on?

Wow that took my breath away - surely you were joking?

Going back to my base assumptions - I can at least point to huge piles of evidence from independent lines that these assumptions seem to work, but no that is not proved beyond any doubt. I will go with the evidence we do have.

I am happy to go with the balance of evidence. BTW any "last Thursdayists" here?

I see my assumptions as much more sensible than simply deciding that we would have a supernatural cause- just because we do.

Then add to my evidence the fact that any other claim to the supernatural I have looked into has been shown to be baseless, many very modest claims included, and I am left thinking that such a grandiose supernatural claim made in such a vacuum is at the very least unreasonable.

Then examine the evidence we have for the evolution of people, and religion would appear to be a mix of spandrel and adaptation.

BTW heard about the "god helmet".

Then add to that pile the fact that most claims about the natural world made by the religious are easily shown to be false - 6,000 year old earth, humans the only moral animal etc. etc.

GJG - you have eloquently made my argument for me.

Faith is based upon the assumption it is true.

A circle is a might pretty shape for a planet, but no shape for a logical argument.

It has no point - in every sense.

I find it very difficult to avoid giving offence when my point is that some one believes something because they believe it. But I hope I succeeding here.

- - -

A couple of quotes intended to keep things light hearted;

People get offended by questions when they don't have any answers.

People who don't want their beliefs laughed at should not have such funny beliefs.

Gordon J. Glover said...

I've got nothing left to discuss with psiloiordinary. Apparently I have proved his point and he has proved mine.

I will, however, respect Tom's request to get back on topic. Tom asks, "Why does God, who is Truth and thereby in Him offers complete rationality require only irrationality to obtain it? Why is the Omniscient full of such nonsense?"

I wouldn't necessarily say that God requires complete irrationality to obtain "it" - I know that it often appears that way from the standpoint of atheism - becuase once you have decided that god is not real, any such sentiments can't be anything but irrational. But I would substitue "irrationality" for "trust". It's not that God is irrational, or faith is irrational (although much of it is - which is why I spend so much time admonishing my Christian brothers for believing silly things like a 6000 year-old earth or the immutability of the species) - but rather that there are so many things that we just don't, or perhaps can't, know for sure. So we do the best we can based on the "evidence" we have and trust that - while we still seet through a glass dimly - someday all will be revealed.

This is true in any area of life, but it is especially true when it comes to religion and philosophy. The nature of such as it deals with the infinite and eternal - how could we possibly wrap our minds around it fully? We can get little glimpses here and there, but it's not like we can easily go into a laboratory and gather evidence in favor of theological premises. For this, we have other ways of knowing. Ways that are much more subjective and thus require serious reflection and contemplation.

But if you approach the study of God with the assumption that he is real, then you are not necessarily looking for evidence at that point. The question then becomes who is this God and why should I follow him? And this is a lifelong struggle. But if you can't first be shaken from your non-belief in the first place, then indeed - to make the next step would be irrational.

Some individuals never budge, others have tested the waters and decided that the world makes more sense without God. Fine. But many of us are quite content with a theistic worldview. In fact, the world makes much more sense to me when I look at it through this lense.

-GJG

Gordon J. Glover said...

Two things that came to mind during my morning commute:

(1) I have apologize to psiloiordinary for hastily erecting a barrier to constructive dialogue. I am sorry. If you want to talk about how the world makes sense to me from within the theistic worldview, then I am happy to do that. But if you are demanding evidence sufficient to move you from atheism to theism, then I can't help you. That will only end up frustrating us both - which is evidence by the direction that this thread has taken.

And (2), Tom asked, "aren't we all born atheists?" - I am no expert on these things, but it seems to me that all primitive cultures throughout history going back some 50k years have been theistic. Knowing that there is a reality beyond the material, they all made up gods and worshipped them. According to Christian tradition, this is a result of the image of God in man, but without proper direction - these expressions of theism inevitably lead to darkness, war, human sacrifice, and other "demon-haunted world" phenomena. On the other hand, you really only find atheism in highly educated cultures. So it would seem that we are not all born atheists, but it requires some focused training :).

Why this is and what this means can probably be an entire thread in and of itsef.

-GJG

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

Where did you come up with that definition for evidence? In the single sentence definition, the words “evident” and “evidence” occur no less than three times. For someone so sensitized to circular arguments, your definition seems to fit the “pretty shape of our planet.”

My dictionary (on my Mac) defines evidence as follows:

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid ... signs; indications ...

It further supplies this etymology: ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin evidentia, from evident- ‘obvious to the eye or mind’

When I read Gordon’s description of his epistemology, it all seems to fit into this definition quite nicely.

For some of us, belief in God seems “obvious to the eye and mind”. I mean not to suggest that you have arrived at your conclusions apart from vigorous use of evidence, and that your view seems equally obvious to your eye and mind. I am only trying to say that Gordon’s faith is not sans evidence if we accept the above definition. (And I know that you, too, are an Apple user with access to the same dictionary.)

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

On my Mac with Quicksilver and using Dictionary.org

I am happy to go with this intead;

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid ... signs; indications ...

BTW - You seem to disagree with GjG about his own faith.

Please give me your evidence for god.

GjG

I admire your perspicacity and honesty.

No need to apologise - these are subject such we must all expect to feel challenged and uncomfortable from time to time - it part of thinking I suppose.

- - -

All,

What other subjects are OK to simply Assume their truth and go from there?

Why give god this bye in the first round?

Please can I have your. . .

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid ... signs; indications ...


. . . for god?

Gordon J. Glover said...

"What other subjects are OK to simply Assume their truth and go from there?"

Ah - now we are talking epistemology! I could give you thousands of examples. Logic, Reason, Mathematical Constructs, Scientific Theories, etc...

Let's just take evolution for example (something that we both believe in). Evolution is a theory that ties together numerous facts of natural history in a coherent and logical way. But there is no way we can know this for certain. Occams razor would seem to allow no other explanation, but history has shown that incomplete knowledge can mislead dear Occam to draw wrong conclusions. But given what we do know today, evolution is an assumption about biological history that seems to explain a lot, and every time we learn something new (discover more facts) they all seem to fit the story quite nicely - thus confirming that perhpas our starting assumptions are correct.

One of the biggest complaints from creationists is that evolution is circular reasoning because you have to start with the framework before you can confirm that the framework is valid. Facts by themselves do not tell stories. They must be interpreted, and in order to interpret them you must have a frame of reference. Evolution is such a framework - and it works a heck of a lot better than assuming the instantaneous appearance of all living things in their current form. So while the charge of circular reasoning is true, it is disingenuous since all constructs must operate the same way. In fact "begging the question" is the one logical fallacy that does not render an argument invalid. It is trivial, but not illogical. I always admired Dr. Gould's defense of this.

In science, if your starting assumptions - whatever physical model or contructs that you presuppose in order to try and make sense of the data - are repeatedly confirmed by the data, then your confidence in your starting assumption increases. This is why we both believe in the uniformity of nature, that the future conforms to the past, etc... But make no mistake: since these things can't be known with absolute certainty, we must first assume them in order to demonstrate them. You always have to have a reference point - a starting assumption that enables a bunch of meaningless data points to come together in a coherent way.

When a theist considers the many various data points of the human experience: good, evil, life, death, pain, suffering, pleasure, love, hate, justice, mercy, compassion, fairness, etc - these things all have more signifance with reference to the assumption that God is real.

You and Tom have obviously worked this out in terms of your starting assumptions as well (an atheist worldview) - so I'm not saying that only theism is capable of this. But your rationale does not satisfy me, and mine does not satisfy you.

So here we are...

-GJG

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

I do not wish to belabor the point, but I don't think we've connected yet. Perhaps Gordon and I do use terms differently. But we come out at the same place.

A question for you: Does your wife love you? How do you know? Can you sight evidence? You say (in your personal profile) "I doubt things which don’t have any evidence to back them up." So, how has your marriage survived in a sea of doubt lacking evidence for its foundation?

I think we could develop a very long list of things which you know with near certain knowledge but which lack any evidence as you insist upon defining the term. But the definition we've now agreed upon suggests that "information" can "indicate" that a "proposition" is "valid". So I contend that you do have evidence, probably lots of it, for your proposition that your wife loves you.

Atheism is, of course, that central belief of yours which lacks any evidence (am I wrong, or do we agree) as it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Do you doubt atheism? I hope so, because that is the only way your skepticism can maintain any semblance of consistency.

Cliff Martin said...

Gordon begins with a proposition. "Hmm, I think the cosmos looks like it was created. I think there must be a God." Then, information begins to organize itself around that assumption, indicating that the proposition is valid. Voila! Evidence!

You began with a proposition. "Hmm, I think she loves me." Then, information begins to organize itself around that assumption, indicating that the proposition is valid. Voila! Evidence!

What's the fallacy here? If you still object to the word "evidence", then strike it from the above two paragraphs, and tell me why they are not analogous? Then, why is it okay for you, but not for Gordon?

So if God "gets a pass", so does the foundation of your marriage.

Gordon J. Glover said...

This might be presumptuous, but perhaps psiloiordinary's willingness to dialogue with us indicates a healthy skepticism of his atheistic premise?

But to even argue with one another about these things assumes a rational universe where rhetoric, dialogue, and logical argument can separate truth from error. We all agree to these conventions, but why? Because they work if we assume them to be true? Fine. But not even this assumption can be proven by logical deduction. There is no starting point or ultimate reference from which the conclusion of a rational universe can be logically deduced - other than the assumption of a rational universe.

Granted, this is a reasonable assumption that is supported by the available evidence (the existence of rational discourse) but to even make this determination alreadly assumes these things to be true. In fact, any argument given in support this assumption already assumes that logic and reason have a legitamate basis upon which to operate, and that these conventions are capable of exposing falsehoods and confirming truths.

So once again, we are begging the question. Which is why it's so difficult to be a consistent skeptic. If you only accept what can be proven with absolute certainty, then you either have to adjust your expectations of what constitutes legitamate "proof" - which might allow things you don't like to sneak in the back door of your worldview like immaterial absolutes, or you have to doubt everything that can't be logically deduced (even logic itself) - which sometimes leads to the nihilistic dispair that afflicts some (I would say only consistent) atheists.

But it is disingenuous to pretend the theistic worldview rests on a house of cards when the presuppositions of every worldview are ultimately self-validating.

-GJG

Tom said...

Gordon,

You are being presumptuous. As shown, Psi can fend for himself and I'll let him do that, but I'll speak up here.

I was a skeptic theist when I took up the challenge of evolution. I thought it healthy to challenge my faith. It was. While the switch to atheism left a gaping hole, it grounded me. My willingness to dialogue with believers now is not born of a skepticism of my atheistic premise. It is through interaction with atheists and theists both that I hope to be able to better scuplt and communicate my belief system.

Cliff mentions a "universal negative". It's like Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. How do you prove that they are not there? Incorporating universal negatives into the picture lends itself to superstition. From this standpoint, how is Christianity any different than the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Further, just because we can be rational, is no indication that there is a "rational universe". If evolution hints at anything, it is that we humans are as high as its gone in terms of transcendental behavior. It gets back to the mathematical arguments RBH used before. I agree with him that there is not a set of higher equations seeking to be discovered or that exist independently outside our universe. Rather, mathematics were invented and axioms are the result of syntactical conventions of the language. Rationality is also a human creation built around its own language and through these definitions logic is the result of following such conventions and illogic is the failure to do so. Our interest in requesting each other to be logical is that we understand each other and can reason each others' behaviors and motives in that language. Being illogical is in the simplist case entertaining and a curiousity, and in the worst case dangerous.

Check out this link.

If you only accept what can be proven with absolute certainty, then you either have to adjust your expectations of what constitutes legitimate "proof" - which might allow things you don't like to sneak in the back door of your worldview like immaterial absolutes, or you have to doubt everything that can't be logically deduced (even logic itself) - which sometimes leads to the nihilistic dispair that afflicts some (I would say only consistent) atheists.

Are you saying only a true atheist is a fundamentalist atheist?

We're all in the feedback cycle of experience->beliefs->behaviors->experience.... It's called LIFE and we fill in gaps with fudge factors. I don't have absolutes and you don't either. ("Seeing through the glass dimly"). The difference is that I'm not building an ideology around what I cannot substantiate.

So, getting back to the original question, why would God give us the ability to formulate logic and reason which only challenge faith? As I postulated in the post, a more complex theology is likely to require more faith and God seems all about getting more faith out of us.

Let me see if I can define sin in this context and toss in my own answer to my question how this ridiculous scenario of faith=redemption could possibly make sense. Rational thought allowed us humans to incorrectly conjure up our own ways to obtain happiness and fulfillment, independent of God. Voila, original sin and separation from God. Therefore, we can deduce that all rational human efforts will only keep us separated from God which is why faith is required for redemption. (Anybody recognize circular reasoning in that last sentence?)

Gordon J. Glover said...

As always Tom, your comments are insightful and well constructed.

I figured I was being presumptuous, but I needed a cheap segway into the point I wanted to make!

We both agree that our dialogue is edifying, even though neither of us are interested in changing our minds (although I will be adjusting some of my arguments after what I've learned here).

Your eloquent defense of reason and logic only demonstrates how a worldview must start with assumptions that can't be proven unless they are first assumed to be true. Logic is valid becasue it is logical, reason is valid becasue it is reasonable, etc...

I have no problem with begging the question. Unlike most Christians, I have no problem admitting the circular nature of theism. God is real because He has revealed Himself to us, the Bible is His word because its written in the Bible, etc... So I don't pretend that theism is not also begging the question, but neither do I allow others to stand on higher ground with respect to their starting assumptions. The playing field is quite level in that respect.

Our dialogue illustrates why theists and atheists often talk past one another. We are each approaching these issues with an entirely different set of assumptions. This renders traditional apologetics pointless. So the proper way to judge a worldview is not against the presuppositions of another worldview. The way you evalute a worldview is by judging its internal consistency. In other words, are the conclusions drawn from the presuppositions consistent with the starting premise, and can we live with the consequences of those conclusions?

For example, if I start with theism, then I have no problem with science because I believe that God created the world from nothing and sustains its very existence moment by moment. As a result of His faithful governance of the material realm, I can confidently explore creation since the universe is rational, the laws of nature are uniform, and the future conforms to the past in a way that allows us to construct valid working models that are testable. I also don't have a problem with "miracles" since God is not bound by His own governance of matter. He can obviously choose to step outside of his own system, which whould appear to us as a physical discontinuity in the continuous operation of physical law - a singularity if you will. So I have no reason to doubt the miraculous claims that underly the Christian faith. Reason? Logic? Math? No problem there because I believe these things are immaterial absolutes that transcend the material universe and since God is the author of them and we are creatd in God's image through a 13.7 billion year process that intimately connects us with the rest of creation, we are hardwired to resonate with these things, whcih are also built into the fabric of the universe. So when we discover these things, we are actually stumbling upon TRUTH, not just inventing constructs that can be voted on or enforced at the barrel of a gun.

If you start with the premise of materialism, then you can still justify these things as you have demonstrated, but I do not accept the consequences that must be drawn from the arguements. No ultimate teleological purpose, no immaterial absolutes, no reason for reason, only chemistry and biology. Again, I'm not saying that atheists can't still agree to have social conventions that are often better than what is derived in the name of religion, but at the end of they day, they are just social conventions - to be voted on or enforced at the barrel of a gun. I know that you would say, "so what's wrong with that - it's still better than theism!" - which demonstrates how difficult it is to cross worldviews. Becasue of this, we agree to remain friends - even though we see the world quite differently.

"Are you saying only a true atheist is a fundamentalist atheist?" No - if I made that charge, then I guess I would not be a true Christian since I am not a fundie. If there is one thing that I've learned here it's that there are different flavours of atheism. If I were an atheist, I would probably end up a nihilist since I tend to push worldviews to their logical conclusions. I'm thankful, however, that the vast magority of atheists still hold on to ideals that transcend biology; like goodness, fairness, justice, compassion, etc...

"The difference is that I'm not building an ideology around what I cannot substantiate." I agreed with everything you said until you said this. I think you are in the same boat as the theist, but for different reasons.

"So, getting back to the original question, why would God give us the ability to formulate logic and reason which only challenge faith?" - The same reason God creates a rational and orderly universe, gives us the ability to descern the patterns of His providence (science), and yet we can spend our whole lives searching for answers only to end up with more questions. The universe is indeed "queerer" than we can even imagine. If you could learn everything you needed to know about God over the summer, then theolgoy would a boring as learning to type. Once you learn it, you simply choose to apply it or ditch it and move on to study something else. But like science, theology (the study of God) is a rich, rewarding, frustrating, overwhelming, and never-ending quest for truth - only to find out in the end just how far off the mark we really were.

"Rational thought allowed us humans to incorrectly conjure up our own ways to obtain happiness and fulfillment, independent of God. Voila, original sin and separation from God. Therefore, we can deduce that all rational human efforts will only keep us separated from God which is why faith is required for redemption."

If by "rational" you mean, by our own devices apart from trusting in the solution that God himself has provided for us, then I would agree with this. But then again, from inside the theistic worldview, this would not be irrational. It only appears irrational from where you stand - inside the atheist worldivew. Again, I don't deny the circular nature of this, I only ask that others admit that thier system of belief depends on the same feedback loop.

Sorry for the long comment.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

Hi All,

No I don't have proof that god does not exist.

I have things I don't know - I leave them at that and don't fill them with any gods.

I have asked for evidence of your god and you bravely and honestly said there isn't any.

That kills it for me. If the foundation doesn't exist why think further? Leprechaun studies anyone?

Having said that I have freely volunteered my own assumptions/biases i.e. that the world is real and logic works, I point to the whole world as evidence to support these things, not 100%, but the fact empiricism and rationality seem to work is enough for me - I don't need 100% proof or disproof - I just try to take a rational view.

The fact you can't prove logically on a piece of paper that logic works does not mean I must believe in an invisible creator. Any more than our ignorance about photons makes god any more likely.

After all I would guess that you would agree that it would have been silly to take lightning as proof of an angry god several thousand years ago when we were ignorant of it.

Which is why it's so difficult to be a consistent skeptic. If you only accept what can be proven with absolute certainty, then you either have to adjust your expectations of what constitutes legitamate "proof" - which might allow things you don't like to sneak in the back door of your worldview like immaterial absolutes, or you have to doubt everything that can't be logically deduced (even logic itself) - which sometimes leads to the nihilistic dispair that afflicts some (I would say only consistent) atheists.

What I actually said was; I doubt things for which there is no evidence.

This is very different from the words you put into my mouth.

Which makes this inappropriate;

But it is disingenuous to pretend the theistic worldview rests on a house of cards when the presuppositions of every worldview are ultimately self-validating.

-GJG


I have fully granted my assumptions, and stated the evidence which supports them (if not 100%).

You honestly and readily admit your faith is based upon faith. I am sorry but 'house of cards' seems accurate to me.

- - -

I leave this comment by the door and not the window. (Hume - joke)

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

A question for you: Does your wife love you? How do you know? Can you sight evidence?

Yes I think she does and yes I can cite evidence.

Again, as did GjG you are reading my comments in a very strange way.

The fact I doubt things for which there is no evidence does not logically imply that I only believe things when proved 100%.

Atheism is, of course, that central belief of yours which lacks any evidence (am I wrong, or do we agree) as it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Do you doubt atheism? I hope so, because that is the only way your skepticism can maintain any semblance of consistency.


Oh yes I doubt atheism, why do you think I am here asking you folks for the evidence for your faith?

More than a year of active searching on the web for such evidence has so far produced nothing at all, so I do doubt atheism, but not much.

Bring on the evidence and I will change my mind.

- - -

So if God "gets a pass", so does the foundation of your marriage.

I have lots of evidence for the love of my wife - you are implying that there is some for god - please share it with me.

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

I should think this would be quite obvious. But you are not getting my point. If I cited my evidence for belief in God, that he loves me and is active in my life, you would discount it as not meeting your definition for evidence.

But if you were to tell me about all that evidence that your wife loves you, the nature of the evidence would be the same as mine. (And no, we're not talking about evidence for the existence of her being ... evidence rather to show—granting some room for lack of 100% certainty—that she has love for you; love that is invisible, intangible, immeasurable, not subject in any way to the your rules for the miniminum threshold of "evidence").

Where is my thinking skewed?

Cliff Martin said...

To put it another way, I have no doubt that your are nearly certain of your wife's love. The evidence you would cite is sufficient for you. The question is, could you prove it to me?

Likewise, the evidence that I would cite for my certainty of God is suffient for me, but unlikely to impress you.

So, as soon as you prove to me, rationally with evidence, that your wife loves you, I will in turn prove to you that God exists and loves me.

The ball is in your court.

Gordon J. Glover said...

psiloiordinary, let's try this.

You said, "I have asked for evidence of your god and you bravely and honestly said there isn't any." - But that is not really what I said. I said that there is no evidence that I can provide that is sufficient to convince you of theism. That is quite a different thing - which Steve sums up nicely in his post.

Why don't you tell me, according to your view of the universe - that the cosmos is all there is, ever was, and ever shall be - what could possibly constitute proof of thesim? I'm willing to bet that you are smart enough, and your command of reason and logic are good enough, that you could rationalize away anything I could possibly give you. Am I wrong?

If not, then tell me one thing that would convince you that God is real.

This is not a game or some kind of trap, but I think that it will help illustrate the problem facing us both.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

Are you seriously suggesting that you won't even tell me why you think what you think because you know I won't believe you?

Well that certainly helps the learning process for both of us (pause for Yorkshire sarcasm to sink in).

Please re-consider.

I don't make any claims to be able to prove that my wife loves me, to you, 100%.

So why on earth refuse to discuss the main topic of this blog until I do something I have made no claim to be able to do?

I am not asking you to prove anything to me 100% either. I am just asking you what evidence you have.

I ask this is the spirit of honest curiosity and learning.


Hi GjG,

I'm not trying to be clever but this is your claim - show me the evidence.

Yes, reason and rationality is exactly what I will subject your claims to.

Here are previous examples of evidence I have been given;

The bible has been printed more times than any other book.

I lost my wallet, prayed and then found it.

I can't believe this happened by accident.


Perhaps you will agree with my dismissal of them?

Perhaps we can narrow it down a little.

Please can you specify your claim a bit more. Any more details other than "god exists" - does god interfere in the natural world in any way?

- - -

What could you give me as evidence?

Evidence that intercessory prayer works in a double blinded trial.

Of course if you don't claim prayer works then it gets us nowhere.

I need you to specify your claims in more detail and then I will be happy to suggest a test/evidence.

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

It's not that I'm avoiding sharing my personal reasons for belief. The nature of my comments comparing my evidence for God with your evidence for love have to do with your insistence upon an evidence of your defining. When you ask for evidence, and then define it as you do, I cannot provide it. And neither can you provide me with evidence for things about which you are nearly 100% certain. I'm only trying to show that your insistence upon such evidence is inconsistent with your personal epistemology. (You accept some things based on "evidence" that is perfectly analogous to the the "evidence" I might cite for my theism. But in the case of my theism, you effectively rule out my evidence by what I understand to be your insistence upon empirical data.) It is your apparent inconsistency that I am driving at. If you did as I ask, and gave me the evidence of your wife’s love, I would 1) enjoy the telling, because I’m a big fan of marital love, and I sincerely hope your marriage is wonderful and fulfilling! and 2) relate to you, in what will be very similar terms, why I am settled in my theistic belief. I suppose Gordon might do likewise. But it seems like a pointless venture when you rule out the kinds of evidence we might cite.

Cliff Martin said...

Psiloiordinary,

As for the double blind study, I did read of one that was conducted this spring. (I was particularly interested because my wife has stage 4 colon cancer, and lots of us are praying!) The study, which was reported in the newspapers sometime in March or so, was set up like this: some patients were prayed for, by name, by people who were strangers, and living remotely; other patients were not prayed for at all. The “prayed for” group fared measurably better than the control “not prayed for” group. The difference was not great, but significant enough to raise the eyebrows of even non-believers. Of course, people in the medical professions often remark about how they believe in the healing power of prayer, whether the practitioners making the statements are believers or not.

I am not offering this as proof of anything. I found it interesting, and that is all. I do believe in prayer, but this study struck me as somewhat odd. More importantly, a skeptic might find other explanations for the difference, even if he granted the validity of the results. New Agers might chalk it off to positive energy waves, or some such thing.

While I put little stock in such studies, they do create something of a problem for the atheist. Whatever explanation one might choose for such results, this fact remains: Those who did the praying were theists. Even if they were praying into thin air, something about what they were doing resulted in better recovery rates, etc. Without belief in God, whatever “therapeutic” benefits which are achieved through prayer go out the window.

You needn’t respond to this. I do not present it as an argument, but as a point of interest.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Psi, those "proofs" you cite for theism might be true, but I agree that they can't prove theism. Now to the individuals who experienced these things and already have sufficient reasons to accept theism, these claims might fit nicely into a theistic worldview. But since they can all be explained without reference to a deity, I will agree with you that they don't qualify as proof.

If I understood you correctly, you said "Evidence that intercessory prayer works in a double blinded trial" would qualify as proof.

Not to be cynical, but somehow I doubt that very much. Like those other examples, any significant correlation between prayer and outcome will always have a materialistic explanation. Why? Because (except for the few examples we have from the Bible)God pretty much works through the laws of nature to accomplish his will. Carl Sagan once said that "if when you say God you mean the sum total of all the laws of nature, then yes - I believe in God". I know he said this tounge and cheek, but there is a lot of truth here. The statistical indeterminism of complex physical systems leaves an open door for God to freely interact with the cosmos without leaving any kind of trace. So any alleged "answer" to prayer would look entirely natural when seen in a naturalistic context. We can assign spiritual significance to certain events by correlating to a blessing or prayer (how did you feel when you kids were born?) but this is entirely subjective.

I my opinion, the results of such a "double blind test" would be completely meaningless (admittedly I am probably in the Christian minority here). In fact, even as theist who presupposes God, I would not expect any statistically significant results from such a rediculous study. Are you saything that a positive result would convince you of theism? Perhaps I am more of a skeptic than you!!

This test might be helpful to prove or disprove magic tricks, but I don't believe it can prove or disprove theism - since God is not a Geneie that grants you wishes whenever you rub his lamp.

Is there any other evidence besides this one that would cause you to accept theism?

-GJG

Gordon J. Glover said...

Cliff, I'm so sorry to hear that you and your wife had to go through that. I trust that all is well now?

-Gordon

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

I am sorry to hear about your wife and wish you all the best.

Giving to scientific research for a cure has a lot more evidence to support it as helping in cases like this - than picking one of the 3,000 gods out there in human culture (and picking it based upon who your parents picked) and asking for help - I will therefore make a donation to cancer research UK this week for you both.

I lost both my parents, 3 out of 4 grandparents, an Auntie and an Uncle to Cancer and so I feel for you.

- - -

Can you refer me to this study you mention? I am a curious person and want to learn about it.

I have accepted your suggested definition of evidence as soon as you suggested it. So it seems odd that you now accuse me of being inconsistent.

:-(

GjG,

Forgive me for saying how frustrating it is to try to discuss this topic with you, when you keep on refusing to answer questions because of what you say you know my opinion will be of the answers.

But then (based upon your previous comments) you must have known I was going to say that as well.

;-)

Gordon J. Glover said...

Sorry Psi for getting ahead of myself, but I just found it odd that, of all the possible types of evidence that might cause you to rethink theism, the effectiveness of prayer was at the top of your list. Or perhaps you were just responding to what you percieve to be the most popular thestic argument given as evidence of God?

The rooster crows, the sun comes up - but you and I both know that this is not a causal relationship, but rather a co-incidenct relationship (perhaps causal from sun to rooster). Yet, any study that posited that the sunrise was caused by the rooster could spin the evidence to support this hypothesis. However, the correlation would be dismissed because it lacked a descernable material mechansim.

Now back to your double-blind prayer study. Even if everybody in the study was healed, and everybody in the control group was not, science could not find a descernable material mechansim for the correlation, and so it would either remain a mystery, or it would be interpreted as a strange coincidence. Am I wrong? From what I know of you folks, it would take a bit more than a slight statistical correlation between prayer and outcome to convince you of theism. I admit that this was presumptuous, but am I that far off the mark?

And by the way, your generous response to brother Cliff's challenging situation is very commendable. Even as a theist who believes in prayer, I am more moved by this response than the too often repeated, "We'll be praying for you" - not because I don't believe God hears the prayers of his people and answers them, but becasue I believe that God works through natural means to accomplish his will, and too often Christians are willing to abdicate any responsibly to effect the natural means because they are convinced that a brief moment of spiritual intercession qualifies as Christian charity. The examples and teachings of Jesus would suggest that while are never to cease praying, neither are we to avoid doing the hard work required to bring these things about. When these two things work together, "the wind is at our backs" so to speak - and God blesses our efforts many times over.

-GJG

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Gordon,

You make some interesting points.

I am reminded of Clarke's comment that sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic.

Lets say we got the results you postulate, i.e. watertight evidence and no explanation.

Nobel prizes are awarded for such new phenomena.

The amount of money being spent on research in this area would rocket.

Better brains than mine and yours would be throwing around ways to test this - even without the material mechanism. e.g. what prayers were used? What happens when we change the wording, style, number etc. Which gods appear to work? Does it matter if a non believer does the prayer? etc etc

You would have a whole new field of research which could use these and other questions to explore possible explanations.

Science thrives on such mysteries.

It would be fantastic.

Tom said...

Cliff, I'm sorry to hear about your wife's cancer. I can imagine the experience is extraordinarily demanding, emotionally and physically. I hope her treatments direct her to a recovery.

While I don't believe in the supernatural power of prayer, I do believe in the amazing things that can happen to an individual when they know a community is yearning for their recovery. She and you are both lucky to have that support.

Tom said...

I'd like to continue this discussion in the new thread, Fire-breathing gods. Thanks!