Tag Archives: Apologetics

The God Of Irrelevance

Let me give theists a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but it may take a bit of a setup to get to it.

Does God care? How does God care? How do we know that God cares?

The hard pill, to be up-front is that it’s pragmatically irrelevant whether God cares, and I’ll tell you why:

We ask why we say to ourselves that God is love while seeing there is genuine evil in the world, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and the universe itself seems indifferent.

This presumes at least that God is the sort of thing that intervenes, which presumes God is a willing agent. Some suggest God cannot act against His nature and His nature is love. That is to say, God is the sort of thing which empties itself into creation, enables, animates, and empowers it. The universe takes shape, confined and bordered and ordered not by the will of God but that how the universe is reflects God’s nature itself; like a skeleton hidden in flesh and bone. Because then we know that potential is the hallmark of reality, God’s sovereignty isn’t absolute. God isn’t an engineer but scaffolding that enables rather than restricts.

It is that potential exists that natural calamity exists. We can understand now why there is a “loving” God and a world of natural disaster. That potential also extends however to our own ability to make decisions and enjoy the consequences, good and bad. That entails to why there is genuine evil in the world. Does God choose to let this sort of thing go on, or is this too, nothing God wills or desires but is a consequence of potential? Of course a God that would allow sex-trafficking, or in light of that, rescues a little kitty from a burning building, would be a moral monster! The proposal on the table offered by some is that God cannot prevent evil; again, given the simple definition of love above, and the logically convincing premise that God cannot act against his nature.

Here’s the pill:

If God cannot prevent evil but cares, then God can only show He cares in suffering with us. Apart from that entailing to the fact that God isn’t then impassible, we have to ask what that means; that “God suffers with us”. I quote from Jesus’ experience for the best example because surely God loved Jesus most if any at all, at least in the eyes of Christianity: “Lema lema sabachthani”.

We can certainly then say that yes, God cares and how God cares is by giving us freedom, and how we know God cares is that He doesn’t prevent evil but suffers with us, and what it means to have God suffer with us is captured in the words of Jesus on the cross asking “Where are you!”

But of course you realize that for all of the theology and philosophy pushing to tell us that not only is there a God, but that God is love, God is irrelevant under the banner of Christianity because God is powerless, including its figurehead who himself hung on a cross. In other words, there is either a Christian God and He’s a monster, or a Christian God that is powerless such that His very existence is identical to a God that doesn’t exist at all; one whose very suffering with you is the experience of abandonment itself, the revelation of atheism.

This is the theological corner Christian thinking has so far painted itself into; we may either just have to ruin it as we leave the room, or wait for it to dry, and that may take quite a long time.

Just a thought.

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To Will Or Won’t …

I’ll repeat a problem I’ve posed to other philosophers and theologians before. The problem is in agency and what gods folks ought to invent.

If God is love by nature and God cannot act against his nature, God cannot do anything but love. If loving perfectly entails to an optimal response given some particulars, then God has no choice in how His love will be expressed given any particulars; it will always be optimal. In that case, as for any essential characteristic of God, there’s no difference that makes a difference between a God with a will and a God without a will … save the simplicity in the idea that God is not a being with a will, and thus the parsimonious metaphysical view one should have of God.

To say God has a will as evidenced by his suboptimal choice to love makes no sense in what one would hope to mean by the term “God”, as is true in suggesting God can act “uncharacteristically”.

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An Implication Of Involuntarism

On many fronts from epistemology, psychology, and neuroscience, we are geared to form reliable beliefs and these processes through the wonders of evolution, are themselves reliable.

It is true that some have the ability to more often produce more beneficial beliefs and that some have disabilities.

On the whole, these don’t describe anything at issue here.

There is then a sense in saying there are “default positions” but not as hoped by those using the term. Our initial beliefs are the only beliefs warranted until some greater reason to doubt them exists. Since the sciences suggest no one chooses what to believe or how our beliefs will form, there’s no other sense to the application of such a term.

That our beliefs may be mistaken or that we may not be able to account for what we believe or why we believe is irrelevant to being ethical, responsible, and diligent with our beliefs. On this view, the only mistake we can make is not being open to having our minds changed. The only other fault we may have is again ethical in, knowing all of this, suggesting someone ought to be human in a way we are not and suggesting they should doubt their beliefs merely on our sayso.

One must have warrant for every belief and every doubt, and having no good reason to believe is likewise no good reason to doubt, just as having no good reason to doubt is no good reason to believe.

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Critic Critic

Critical to the understanding of a critic of belief in the existence of God is knowing that since people cannot voluntarily choose to believe anything and we inevitably believe whatever appears to be the case, belief and doubt on this question cannot be a matter of faith.

Unlike the uneducated and childish quips back and forth that “I don’t have enough faith to be a” theist or atheist, neither belief nor doubt in the existence of God has a thing to do with faith.

At best, one comes to realize they are atheist, or one comes to realize they are theistic, but none choose to be either; the only choice is to believe and dismiss the belief, doubt and dismiss the doubt, or act responsively to the presence of belief or doubt.

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Legitimacy …

If we’re reduced to “Might God exist?”, we have to wonder if the idea of God has any value at all.

Truly, the suggestion would then be that everything and nothing hinges on God solely because one supposes yeah or nay.

If in fact there are no deity, fair enough; the idea of God obviously has human value and worth. We just don’t know any better. The usual presumption though is that why the idea of God has human value and worth is that indeed there is a God. One concedes however that the existence of God isn’t necessarily why this is so, when genuine doubt is met with “Might God exist?”

In that case, all the trouble begins and ends not with the existence of God or the value of god-talk, but with the legitimacy of the question that seemingly only supposition answers.

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“Be Objective, Be-ee Objective!” They Cheered.

Often, Christian apologist, philosopher, and theologian, William Lane Craig, will say “objective moral duties, obligations, and values exist”. What he means is that there exist facts which are independent of what human beings make of them, and these facts are what “make” something moral, immoral, or amoral. He supposes that if objective moral duties, obligations, and values didn’t exist, then morality would be subjective and relative. In this, he either ignores or denies “epistimic objectivity”. That is, he requires more than morality being objective in the sense of creating goals and judging progress; he requires, built into his argument already, that something other than human beings legitimizes the objectives and activities humans have. He applies this not only to morality but to his notions of truth as well.

The difference?

Epistemological objectivity is about our rights to confidence in some proposition and its assertability; so, it’s about arriving at a conclusion in “the right sort of way”.

Ontological objectivity is about a proposition’s truth-bearing attributes in a representative way; so rather than asking when and under what conditions something can be “called true”, the question is whether or not something “makes it true”.

Craig of course has no grounds to deny or ignore epistimic objectivity.

Just a thought.

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Foundational Mistake

It seems the idea of Foundationalism is far more rampant in American culture than merely Christianity. The idea that in order to know anything we have to know some things absolutely is an odd one at best, but many are keen on not thinking it through. Alvin Plantinga, for instance, champions the idea that knowledge rests on “properly basic beliefs”. These are beliefs we come by naturally, through direct experience; these cannot be justified through other beliefs.
The problem, however, is that Foundationalism is about justification. There must exist justification for believing something is true. The question then is what justification is sufficient. A second, equally important question is how things like brute facts, direct experience, perceptual statements, and other entitlements do not require justification in order for us to believe what we do about them.
Foundationalism may be summarily dismissed in the light of common sense. If justification is the means to suggest belief is warranted, then it may be fully achieved well before any interlocutor would dream of tracing an immediate belief with its descent down the proverbial tree of life to the roots in common ancestry with “properly basic beliefs”. If warrant is about ethical confidence in what we believe, then justification rather than notions of foundations, or claims of foundations and their necessity, is what provides warrant to truth claims and ultimately, knowledge claims.
It is with great pleasure then that when I correct laymen about poor thinking, it’s not the Christian alone that I correct here; it’s much of Western culture it seems.
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These Moments When …

It seems to me that believers are in the awkward position of having a “stinking suspicion” about reality. To think there is a God is to suspect there’s some underlying reality to this one, yet this would put our understanding it out of our reach. Catholics rightly categorize all things God as permanent mysteries to humanity. All by analogy and reason, to the Catholic. But with such a mystery comes the awkward position; what on Earth are we to do with this “ultimate mystery”? Atheism may be more able to mobilize a meaningful life for those without the mystery. While one can spend their whole life asking what one should be doing in relation to this “je ne sais quoi”, without that impression of “otherness” in the world, one focuses naturally on the question of “the good life” and how it obtains for human beings. Unless the theist shares this mindset primarily, then this ineffable quandary has little value at all. And should the theist be rigid in their desires for certainty in this god-thinking, he has neutered God entirely; as man can never certainly know anything about God — that being which is wholly other — he has prevented his own growth in relation to God and “the good life”, for “the static life”. The perilous position then is the need to reconceive God, the ultimate mystery, with discoveries from experience of what we’ve found actually is “the good life”. One is then left with no real good job for that greatest of mysteries to do; the atheist has a head start and no distractions.

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Of The Life …

In Mark’s gospel, the resurrection is only a literary device. It is when God vindicates Jesus in exalting him. In that case, if we agree that the entire gospel is found in each gospel, then resurrection isn’t an essential notion of the good news. What it signifies is that Abelard’s Moral Influence theory applies less to atonement as Jesus-as-moral-motivator than it applies to literature. That is, just like Mark, Abelard would be recognizing that there needs to be motivation for people to see what the good news is. Mark’s gospel uses resurrection without theological implications or meaning at all; just that it legitimizes everything Jesus said and did. Abelard would be interpreted then as saying likewise, look at the life of Christ and join him in it.
But of course some people interpolate gospels and must have literal significance to the spectacular, thinking mere literary device isn’t magic enough and that there is instead “real magic” to be had in the life and death of a zealot Jewish preacher in order for his to matter or apply to our own. Mark must have cared about resurrection in a literal sense, since he said, well, nothing at all theological about it. And Abelard must have taken it literally too, except that his theory of atonement seems to stay unphased however we take resurrection.
If it has no impact on how you conduct your daily life, then it’s unimportant to your salvation, Christian.
And if the belief in the resurrection motivates you to act one way versus another, to see life one way versus another, then it obtains irrespective of the literal nature of resurrection as an event, my friend.
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What Logic Is Not

About logical validity … we all realize logic doesn’t entail truth when logic doesn’t tell us if premises or conclusions are true, and that all we know is that premises are false if the conclusion is false, right?

All dogs are cats.
All spaniels are cats.
All spaniels are dogs.

Here above is the last problem. We can’t even say that a conclusion is false even though we know for certain that the premises are false! All spaniels are dogs after all.

It is entirely up to some other enterprise to determine the truth of some statement about the world.

About logical soundness …

1) Logic is axiomatic.
2) Logical arguments are tautological.
3) Sound arguments are those
a) with valid form and
b) with true premises
4) If a sound argument turns out to actually have a false conclusion, we only know that at least one premise is false and that only by definition is the argument no longer sound.
5) We may be wrong about the truth of the premises of sound arguments.
6) Because an argument can have a valid form and the appearance of true premises, the purpose of saying an argument is “sound” isn’t to say its conclusions are in reality actually true; just that there’s no way around such a conclusion except by faulting a premise or conclusion in reality rather than logic.
7) Therefore in practical terms:
a) sound arguments don’t entail truth, as all counter-examples simply cause us to take a once “sound” argument and by definition alone, declare it no longer is sound, and
b) have no guaranteed certainty between necessary conclusions and the real world, and
c) Trivial if 7.a and 7.b are not the expectations of sound arguments.

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