Monthly Archives: August 2015

If You Must …

It’s ridiculous hearing folks arguing about the existence of God. What’s pathetic is the Christian apologetic who just can’t seem to reason what any argument for the existence of God actually means, implies, or how it works. We cannot prove or demonstrate the gods, folks. We can only help ourselves using logic and reason to limit what we say about them. This is the only means we have to contain the metaphysical conversation at all; as metaphysics, as Dennett would say, “is a game with no rules”.

Here’s the only honest conversation I think a believer could have epistemologically with an interlocutor:

Why anything at all?

Because something has always existed.

You don’t know that! How can you say you do?

It’s not something I say I know. Given my everyday contact with the world, it’s all I can reasonably say. Nothing comes from nothing after all, right? I can’t just throw common sense out the window or make a special case with the universe. If I did claim to know, I’d be justified anyway just as I would believing “I exist” as a matter of fact. Both would be something I know simply because there’s no reason to believe I don’t exist because I “may” not, anymore than me saying I don’t know something always existed because something “may” not have. The fact is, I have every reason to believe both and no real reason to doubt either. The reasons are simply that I experience that “I exist” and that I experience “nothing from nothing” and I have no experiences but these so that I could doubt them.

Is the universe eternal?

It may be, but cosmogonists and cosmologists don’t seem to think so.

Well, if the universe is contingent, how did it come into being?

Either from things themselves contingent or from something not contingent. But arguments for the existence of God have nothing to do with “how” things come into being. That’s a mechanical question for physicists. What these arguments are meant to do is point to “why” in terms of dependent relationships. In the end, they’re meant to suggest “God” is the ultimate “thing on which all contingent things depend”.

So ultimately, what you’re saying is that “turtles all the way down” doesn’t explain “why anything at all”; something dependent doesn’t explain why an infinite series of dependencies came to be in the first place because it requires an explanation itself? We have to conclude something is eternal in order to have any explanation at all?

Yes.

Is that God?

No, not if it lacks volition.

Is it an impressionistic guess that it is or isn’t volitional?

Yes.

So does the existence of the universe prove God created it?

No. Again, something itself contingent could be the sufficient cause. First cause only applies to the question “why anything at all”. The first cause is a necessary cause for any and all contingent realities, by definition. However, there may in fact be no first cause at all. We’re inferring and merely being as rational as we can in guessing what we cannot know or prove in reality.

So none of this proves God exists?

That’s right.

Do you believe there is a God?

I get the impression something like a God exists, yes. Do you?

No.

Well, that’s all there is to arguments about the existence of God. They prove nothing and most never realize their attempts to prove or disprove the existence of gods is merely saying to another person, “my impression is better than yours!” and I’m not going to do that to you. What you do with your impressions may well be worth more than mine, depending on how it makes you live in the world.

I never really looked at it that way. Not much value in fighting about gods, is there?

None as far as I can see.

Cheers, Mate.

Cheers.

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Two Trees

Genesis 1 is thought of as a “triad” where the first three days are metaphors for things which are separated. It stands to say we are ontologically not God. We’re also told we’re “like” God, and for me, the enitre pursuit of God is not in knowing God (impossible, given that God transcends; nothing we can say or think could ever be about God). Instead, the function of the question of God and the function of religion is about us discovering what this “likeness” is. The final three days are all metaphors for God not caring about the separateness at all; all of the examples are about the great care he took in adorning our world, even to the wonders we keep discovering no matter how microscopically we look or how deeply we peer into the universe itself. (see Anderson, “In His Light”)

This implies the message is that we’re separate from God, and, God cares all the same.

Sin is only metaphor for ontological separation. It has nothing to do with morality. God is not a moral being; for morality only arises in contingency … and from our perspective, no thought arises in a vacuum; morality arises only in our existential circumstances. God has no “circumstances”, which is to say that God is not contingent. (see Hume on “An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morality”)

There are two metaphoric trees in a “garden” right in the middle of it, in Genesis II. The garden is our existence, our physical life. Each tree is really about how we can view ourselves in it. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is about our capacity to judge how to “be”; we are our only judges. The tree of life is God’s view of us. God doesn’t judge us at all. Judgment was left to Christ. Christ did not come to judge the world. We judge ourselves. Were we free from judging others, we’d be free from judgment itself. (see John, Romans, 1 Corinthians)

Original sin can only be said that we all “sin”, as I just described; we exist, we don’t exist as God does.

Our purpose for existing is to experience life. It’s important to know things, but this is secondary to experiencing things. In the Islamic tradition, it is experience, the totality of existing, which leads us to notions about God and ourselves in relation to God. In Judaism, the same is true. Islam calls this idea “fitrah”. Judaism has the most redemptive view of humanity; that we’re not fallen or reprobate and that God won’t punish us for what we’ve done as much as for what we’ve chosen not to do (in step with the metaphoric message that experience is paramount, self-discovery being key). Christianity itself did not hold any notion of original sin until the 4th century with Augustine. None of the first three theories of atonement had anything to do with the nature of man or cosmic offenses with a God that, by implication, can neither genuinely love nor forgive.

In the garden, God wasn’t pissed off that we ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because of disobedience. His concern was that as a result, we now think we’re insufficient in relation to Himself and we have to do things to cover our inadequacies (abhorrently in Christianity, ironically, requiring professional belief statements about literary devices being literal, whether virgin births or resurrections et. al.). “WHO told you you were NAKED” (meaning metaphorically, “inadequate”). John 9:39 and John 10:10 seem consistent with Jesus’ purpose.

In that “old-time religion” of Christianity, nothing has changed. Christ is the final garment we put on in order to cover our inadequacy Christians call “sin”, but God instead deemed “very good”. We’ve yet to understand this nearly, much less fully as Christians. And as we move from retributive sensibilities of justice to reformative, as the shift happened in the early 1900s, we can only hope the idea evolves such that we understand the point of it all, which is changing how we “are”. It must be that if God is just, then He can by his nature in relation to us, be the cause of our transformation. There is no sense to judgment and God in that case. We have been transformed in the presense of God, and it seems the task of what justice is, is done. Complete.

This brief interpretation from Genesis can be found in fractal form in nearly every story in both the Old Testament and New Testament; even in the few sentences that talk about the fate of Judas. The two trees in that form are best represented in the parable of the talents (the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) and the prodigal son (the Tree of Life). Jesus died on one tree because of our judgment (John 9:39). I don’t suspect what we have in mind is anything like what Christ had on his, or something that crosses the mind of God.

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On Being

How many times can we hear from many that “we are they way the universe can know itself” before it is trite?

How long can we go before suggesting the rather novel extension, that God is the way we can know ourselves?

In both instances, whether it is the universe or ourselves, there is little either can say about itself in any serious terms; something is always speaking on behalf of what there is to be known with either.

Given the epistemological problem of God-Talk and knowing, it would seem to be the most coherent thing to say about atonement that the object of the conversation ultimately doesn’t matter; our ideas explored from the object of our thinking, God, is exactly all that does matter. That is because if it is true that God is the way we can know ourselves, and that it is true He is incomprehensible, the symbols we create for God go for us rather than God, and this would exactly accomplish the idea that “god” is the way we can know ourselves.

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What Good Is It?

Some often puzzle over the question, “what is God’s will”. I don’t suspect it should be though. It would seem to me the same question, “what is good”.

Donte, Aquinas particularly, and a host of theologians and philosophers in general, are completely wrapped up in the question of “what is ‘the good'”, Aristotle and Marx alike. Many like Ibn Rushd, Rashdall, Schillebeeckx and others suggest God is what we in faith name a natural draw to “the good” whether in action or as an aesthetic like music or art, and that we experience the good and are changed as a result. This is ubiquitous to the whole of humanity and, for the believer, attributed to our nature resonating to its likeness to God. Good and God are indistinguishable.

I don’t find myself wondering what God is like or what God’s will is; it seems both are perfectly answered through the experience of what is good.

To ask where God is in all of this is merely asking “What good is it” and having the answer closer at hand than maybe we’ve expected.

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Everything, really?

How far do we take “everything is permissible”? If Christianity is license, the terms of it have nothing to do with morality and as such, all things are gauged by practicality, by fruit. One would then have to wonder about Christians and their moral objections to the role of women in the Church, Christian homosexuality, marriage in the priesthood and so on.

Christians have yet to adopt an appropriate language that takes Paul’s philosophy to heart; one that speaks to what matters about sin, what doesn’t, and is subsequently devoid of ideas of judgment.

Just a thought.

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What’s The Word

The “word” (logos) is a Greek term and philosophy; from Stoicism begun several centuries before 1 CE. So, in the beginning (John, a greek set of theologies, not histories, about Jesus) was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God … NOT a book, and subsequently no reason to suggest a triune ontology of Jesus rather than this meaning: Jesus was a man who got the gameplan and got on board! Jesus embodied God’s “will”, “intent”, “wisdom”, “reasoning” on Earth.

God’s word IS sufficient for your every need … but it has nothing to do with a book or a man.

This is History, folks, not dogma.

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Sacrifice: A Tradition

“For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalms 50:16-17

“You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.” Deuteronomy 12:31

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer” Deuteronomy 18:10

Tons of commentary on sacrifice in scripture. It seems the role of it in the simplest form was repentance; a reminder one was wrong, has made himself right in his heart, and symbolizes this in sacrifice. Sacrifice was traditionally an amends for ritual infraction, far less to do with sin.

After Josiah, protests from the prophets about the priests and their totemic practice of sacrifice, the evolving idea of propitiation of sin became more pronounced and took a spiritual nature and meaning. It became reformed into a less gruesome affair, appeasing both the prophet and the priest though neither completely happy as a result.

You have to ask about atonement in light of the Jewish, not Christian, interpretation of sacrifice. It would seem far less likely that Jesus would adopt our modern Christian view (a highly stylized sacrificial system foreign to Judaism entirely), than it would be to suggest the death on the cross has no formulaic meaning in reconciling people to God. And given Jesus’ teachings, entailing entirely to repentance, doing the good we already know to do, and being transformed in participation with this practice, we can’t genuinely see Calvin’s popular theory, or Anselm’s either, as more consistent historically or thematically than we can with Abelard’s.

“The Lord says, ‘Why do you continue giving me all these sacrifices? I have had enough of your sacrifices of rams and the fat from well-fed animals. I don’t want the blood of those bulls, sheep, and goats. When you people come to meet with me, you trample everything in my yard. Who told you to do this?
‘Don’t keep bringing me those worthless sacrifices. I hate the incense you give me. I cannot stand your festivals for the New Moon, the Sabbath, and other special meeting days. I hate the evil you do during those holy times together. I hate your monthly meetings and councils. They have become like heavy weights to me, and I am tired of carrying them.
‘When you raise your arms to pray to me, I will refuse to look at you. You will say more and more prayers, but I will refuse to listen because your hands are covered with blood.
‘Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong. Learn to do good. Treat people fairly. Punish those who hurt others. Speak up for the widows and orphans. Argue their cases for them in court.
‘I, the Lord, am the one speaking to you. Come, let’s discuss this. Even if your sins are as dark as red dye, that stain can be removed and you will be as pure as wool that is as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:11-20

Do we repeat appeasement and call the spade a spade? Penal substitution, or satisfaction; which the Old Testament and Christ himself suggests is repentance and transformation? Are these ideas not grotesque in themselves for what they make of man and God; things detestable to God?

In these Old Testament Jewish comments on sacrifice and in their reiteration in Jesus’ teachings, it is the nature of man to do the good, sin to not do it, and atonement to turn back into the practice of the good. It is in the doing of it, man finds himself and God and is transformed.

The good is satisfying and in it, there is no judgment. While there are none who are good but God, says Jesus in response to being called good, he reminds we already know what to do and invites us to do it alongside him.

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Rant: Christian Apologetics

Let’s reason together …

It is a brute fact that people are all generally moral, all generally rational, all generally common. To say there is a god because of these brute facts is to state something which is not a brute fact; it is pure metaphysical speculation. Therefore, we can doubt what is not a brute fact and doubt anything said about them that is not itself, a brute fact.

Christians, stop telling the non religious they cannot be good without God. There is nothing making you more uncommon than anyone else; no support in scripture that suggests God’s nature is imputed to yours having accepted Christ. And by way of observation, something happens to many Christians as they accept Christ. They QED the counter argument against the idea “only good with God”. It seems many make the case that being good with God is made nearly impossible having accepted Christ.

Would-be apologist, actually think, eh! The only epistemological basis for thinking there are gods is that you think there are gods and that you believe this more than you doubt it, end of story. The Christian apologetic can only be in that case, showing there’s something that matters about your beliefs, something to believe in, something of value. The answer there is one of action rather than words.

Carry on.

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In Defense Of: Atheism And Theism

The atheist doesn’t refuse to believe gods exist anymore than they’d believe the Queen of England doesn’t exist.

It is possible there is a God or gods. It is possible there are none.

There is no evidence for gods. You cannot point to a rock and demonstrate gods. The suggestion that the universe is proof of the gods is just that; a metaphysical suggestion.

There are several arguments for God and ultimately, there isn’t anything in themselves that is compelling. The same is true of arguments against God. All rational arguments are accepted as true because of our dispositions prior to having heard arguments at all.

The question of God is valid because of a question about the world: why anything at all?

Each of us hearing about the gods respond based on the totality of experience, from our impressions about the world.

In this way, we all have beliefs about the gods, or we don’t know what to think about them at all.

To say “I know there are no gods” is entirely a statement of knowledge in the very same way we know “I exist”; for belief and doubt must be justified and “it may be true that x” doesn’t justify either belief or doubt in the case of the gods. It cannot be said, however, “I know there are gods”, counts as knowledge; for an impression there are gods, lacking any demonstrable empirical experience, remains metaphysics. This is aside from knowing the god of which we speak, defined as ineffable. The very thing we assert is unknowable.

Damningly, we can doubt any statement about how reality relates to the gods and vice versa. We take things like psychology, morality, reason and the like as brute facts. And while we may dig beneath these and actually find they are fact, but not brute, what explanation we’ll have unearthed is another fact, and eventually we’ll end with brute facts. None of them being God. It is true there may be a God, or a host of them, but it is no fact and the best we believers can do is explain our impressions of the world and show what matters about them.

That will never be done with words, and Christian apologetics is the most illogical, fruitless activity a believer could indulge. The biggest obstacle certain believers have is in presuming what goes on in the minds of folks who do not think like they do.

The two largest here is that the doubter doesn’t doubt but rejects, and, that the believer has no grounds for belief. One has the impression there are gods. The other does not. Both, if they decide to argue, only do so by asserting, “my impression is true”, which is to say, “my impression is better than yours” no matter how politely the validity of any case is made. It communicates nothing more than this.

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What Is God

God is not an explanation for why there’s something instead of nothing or why things are the particular ways they are. God is what comes to mind because of the questions “why anything at all” and “why this way”. The idea of God exists as a result of having those questions to ask.

It isn’t that we couldn’t once answer these questions and now we’re better able, or that God is an alternative answer to science. It isn’t these things leading to “no Isaac Newton for a blade of grass”. It is the fact that a blade of grass, the universe, ourselves all give rise to an experience more grand than the most immaculate and concise engineering answers can capture. But there too, God is not an answer that tries to capture it either.

What is God then?

In the middle of experience, the question of the gods arises as a necessary result of existing; necessary because all thought is contingent to place. There needn’t be suffering in the world, but that there is, what effect does it have on us? There needn’t be inequality, greed, happiness, or flowers. In the same way with God, He needn’t exist but may. What then are the effects of that question too? What is the experience of God?

In the middle of existing, we find a mystery about reality that increases as we shed more light on things. In the middle of existing in this certain kind of mess we’re in, without God showing up and speaking for Himself, we find a draw to “the good”, each and every one of us. For the believer, in non technical, theological, or other sophisticated terms, God is the reason we are drawn to the good, the experience that comes with our participation in it, and the name given to it all in faith.

In this case as well, God is not serving as explanation. There is no predictive nature to theism and no rational sense to folks thinking there ought to be. What theism is at heart is an invitation to participate in one’s own humanity and in so doing, asking if the result of the feeling of connectedness is fully accounted for in ourselves. Now ultimately, however we answer that question doesn’t matter; the draw and the doing and the experience transforms us all the same.

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