Tag Archives: Apologetics

What’s The Good News?

It seems the gospel of Jesus in the synoptics was about social justice by denying the principles of social control; ie. shame, honor, power, sovereignty, acts and rewards. Jesus doesn’t talk about beliefs one should have about him. His chatter is about the coming kingdom and that you’ll miss it if you’re not looking for it. Where is it, you may ask? It’s that little door, that narrow path that puts others before all, because God is exactly identical with those in need.

Only Paul and the author of John presented theology, and as such, one should consider that the synoptic gospels entail the entire “good news” (a message, not miraculous, unbelievable ontologies and phenomenon) … so we can be assured Jesus isn’t a proposition but a motivation vindicated.

Jesus’ message was about the coming Kingdom and that kingdom was found entirely through a commitment to act, not “think this, or that” … it obtains, according to him, just as others before him had argued for, against the priests too.

That the Kingdom is participation is the good news, not that God would eventually do what we cannot, which is, to make things right.

Exodus 22:21-24
Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12
Job 6:27; 29:12-13; 31:16-23
Psalm 10:14,17-18; 68:5; 82:3; 94:6; 146:9
Proverbs 23:10
Isaiah 1:7,11-14,17,23; 10:1-3; 58:6-10
Jeremiah 5:28; 7:5-7; 22-23; 22:3
Lamentations 5:3
Ezekiel 16; 22:7
Hosea 14:1-4
Amos 5:21-23
Micah 6:8
Zechariah 7:10
Malachi 3:5
Matthew 4:17; 6:9
Luke 3:8, 5:32, 13:3,5
John 3:7; 14:18
Acts 20:35
Romans 8:15
James 1:27

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El Pecado Mayor

If theories are salient in trying to capture our intuitions about how things are, then we should expect that what folks find compelling about sound arguments about the truth of the existence of deity is entirely intuition since by definition, neither the sound arguments for or against, in themselves, differ in arriving at their necessary conclusions; otherwise, a deadlock. An atheist is not a theist until his impressions change. A theist is not an atheist until his change also. Argumentation in “The Great Debate” plays an odd role then, which usually only turns out to mirror moral justification instead of epistemological justification. That is, the ability to condemn others for being wrong while feeling alright about doing so. It’s the liberty to cast the first stone.

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On Knowing …

If knowledge is fallible and we’ve defined knowledge as entailing truths alone, then we can only coherently mean that truth isn’t absolute and that we never know when truth has obtained. That is, just in case truth to you is some sort of discoverable property or attribute of a proposition. But in the case that truth is merely a way of saying our justificatory standards have been passed, then truth is justification and truth is social; our standards are determined together, making things objective as a result. And which is the case? What does it mean to discover the truth but to satisfy some threshold of acceptability, i.e. justification? There isn’t a difference that makes a difference between either idea; in other words, that truth is an attribute or that truth is a label. The consequence for knowledge then is that at least logically speaking, things like evidence, reason, method and practice, language don’t entail truth. These ultimately are practical and psychological. Knowledge is left to best be described as “beliefs we are objectively confident in”. “Objective confidence” and “justified” are interchangable terms which suggest for one reason or other, confidence has been attained in some reflective way. I’m not sure there’s more going on than this. I can’t after all justify confidence in any other conclusion, even if some other way of thinking about knowledge had my confidence.

Just a thought.

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Ultimately, I want to suggest that one conclusion ought to be fairly certain, and that isn’t whether or not there is a God. I have to start by repeating myself however. This will outline a challenge that has to be answered, else the conclusion that there is or isn’t a God is irrelevant.

There are two identical universes that differ only in that one has a God and the other doesn’t. One may say that no universe can exist without a God, so, this hypothetical isn’t valid. One may say no Gods are required for any universe, so again, this hypothetical isn’t valid. But both can be dismissed as empty criticisms; both are bald and would appeal to facts of the matter that can’t settle who would be right; this is the crux of the problem itself in the hypothetical. The challenge of this scenario is to imagine that you’ve been placed in one of these universes and you are asked to say which. Given that the universes are otherwise identical — each has logic, morality, order, math, god-talk, numinous experience, miracles, meaning, and so on — to what would one appeal to tell?

Thus far, folks thought it important to try and meet “The Great Debate” in a straightforward fashion by exactly attempting to make distinctions. This has been a failure on both sides of the argument. More importantly, one should realize the not-so-straightforward problem. One can have religions experiences without there being a God, one can have meaningful things to say about God even though there may not be a God at all. Worse, because this implies religious experiences and religious ideas aren’t contingent to the existence of God, what import can they have if a person is wanting to know or experience the divine? If our knowledge or experience of God is dubious in this way, God’s existence not logically necessary for us to claim such knowledge or experience, what does either matter?

These are the problems a modern thinker should be tackling because if God, however defined, transcends practical human meaning and experience, the existence of God is irrelevant. As such, the existence of God is an empty proposition atheism and theism are clamouring on about, misguided and mistaken. The conversation can only be about whether there’s any benefit in having certain experiences or in thinking one way or other; irrespective of suggesting said experiences or ideas are at all related to the existence or non existence of deity.

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Nature And Choice

Some should think for a minute about what it means to say “God is love”. If love is God’s nature, and if God cannot act against His nature, Hell and blood sacrifice, satisfaction, and substitution have no place in a theology purporting that God is love. However, if one wants to maintain those ideas, then saying “God is love” either entails to love not being God’s nature but is instead a revokable choice, or that God can indeed act against His nature and then is just as incomplete and imperfect as you or I. To say “God is love” is to say that God can do nothing other than, or it’s to say God loves on condition. One of these ideas makes the idea of God matter while the other makes God out to be nothing more than a powerful person. To hold that God is love, that love is God’s nature, that God cannot act against His nature, and that Hell, satisfaction, blood sacrifice, and substitution are consistent with love is simply perverse.

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On “Anti-Yahwehism”, Sometimes Passed Off As Atheism …

I think it’s mistaken to say that one’s atheism is grounded, or justified, based on any particular conception or tradition or mythology about deity. On the one hand, there’s the question of whether there are deity and what we mean by the term. On the other is a swath, a rather large one, of what folks say about it and how they talk about it. Clearly if Yahweh is asserted, one could admit that there are good reasons to think that deity isn’t real or doesn’t exist, but this could simply imply one is a theologian rather than an atheist. Consider the aphorism that “everyone is an atheist to at least one god”. It’s a poor trope. One rejects a conception of deity and can do so without being atheistic. If not a theologian, then perhaps a cultural critic or historian or any number of other things which also don’t entail to atheism. Consider the entire Hebrew tradition of saying what God is while rejecting that what they just said God is is what God is. Certainly the historicity of the fact seen in the Talmud exemplifies the point. Too, as another example, this is a hallmark of god-talk with respect to Brahman. It is in rejecting all conceptions that one is an atheist. Chiefly, it’s rejecting the existence of any inarticulable, organizing principle (which doesn’t necessarily need to be thought of as a personality or even some object which exists as what we mean when we say “this object exists … here it is”).

It is true, generally speaking, that everyone rejects the existence of at least one god but not true that an atheist accepts at least one.

When one sets about rejecting all conceptions of the divine, one has entered into metaphysics because one is no longer connecting atheism with god-talk, but rightly, with the idea of deity itself … in which case, only logic, sans any empirical means of vindication, stands as possible justification. In that case, since logically sound arguments for and against the existence of deity are completely easy to proffer, and since these will contradict each other in most cases given the binary nature of the proposition (foregoing the fact that logic tells us nothing about reality), justifying atheism or theism isn’t genuinely important to the question itself, “Do gods exist?” but instead to all other motives one may have for asserting it.

There is the question, “Do deity exist?” The motive to answer the question must be honest and the answer can only be that “It seems to me, deity [do/don’t] exist”, if one is an atheist or a theist. The motive to say Yahweh et. al. doesn’t exist is completely irrelevant to that question but to the question of whether or not someone has offered a reasonable description of what such “deity” may be like if they do exist.

Just a thought.

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Correspondence, Simplified

In Metaphysics, Aristotle described that “To say that that which is, is not, and that which is not, is, is a falsehood; therefore, to say that which is, is, and that which is not, is not, is true”. But this makes something apparently presumptuous; namely, that one doesn’t determine when to declare a sentence true but instead, that one comes to recognize a property of a sentence, and that being that of truth. We should interpret Aristotle in a new way without such presumption. That’s simply that when a person declares something true or false, he believes what he’s saying is the actual state of affairs.

If one persists in wanting Aristotle to be offering a theory of truth, there’s not one here to be presented except tautology. For, how does one come to believe what is true? He will have been persuaded either from experience, perception, or by reasoning. And though some sentences are beliefs uttered about the world without justification at all yet are warranted (“I exist”, “There are other minds”, “There is a hand”), the only way one can genuinely make a case for correspondence is through justifying “This sentence is true about the world.” In that case, one must produce evidence not only that sentences can correspond to reality rather than merely suggesting “This sentence does better at describing what I think about the world than others may,” but that some sentences actually do correspond in some non deflationary or more-than-just-a-practical way.

If there is no mechanism by which a sentence about the world can be said to link to the world in some genuine rather than artificial way, or if one merely proposes such a mechanism exists, then it is only tautology and of no value in the least to assert such a claim in the first place.

If one says, “Here are the reasons why P corresponds,” then one isn’t employing a theory of correspondence but of justification and justification alone is then what makes any proposition “true”; and “true” then once again, deflates into “assertable”, “warranted”.

It is enough to say that some sentences do a better job for us than others in how we’re thinking and talking about the world; not that “truth” in correspondence doesn’t entail reifying confidence and so-naming it, or that “accuracy” in comparing sentences to reality doesn’t also entail “ding an sich”, remanding any need for justificatory practices at all.

To say what is that is and what isn’t that isn’t simply means one isn’t lying, not that one has at all accounted in any way for some definition of what people mean by “true” given their use of the term.

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On Correspondence …

If anyone asks “What is truth?” and the answer is “That which corresponds to reality”, “truth” and “that which” aren’t and can’t be reality itself. It’s then only at best “ideas about” or “sentences about” reality. Of course this entails truth as mind-dependent rather than strictly “out there” as some property of reality. This naturally exposes that ideas and sentences about reality are subjective because we’re producing them, and, that these ideas and sentences are still objective, given they must relate to reality somehow. So, this brings us to “correspondence” and the idea that “corresponds” can only mean “descriptive of”. In that case, A or B (two different descriptions of reality) may or may not “correspond to reality”. The questions are then which best describes and which is more justified to take on.

Since the epistemological task is to say whether, or how A or B is assertable, justification is synonymous with truth, not correspondence.

That is to say, there is no property of A or B that we rely on to suggest correspondence. So at least in our asserting either using those two terms (truth, correspondence), the truth and correspondence of A or B only obtain via justification. Both A and B may seek to describe reality, however, only one may end up being a better description, or the best description. Saying then that A corresponds, or that B corresponds, is to say nothing about correspondence. It’s that A is better at being descriptive than B; or vice versa. Whether warrant for A or B is “one seems to do a better job than the other” or whether A or B is a rational conclusion, or whether A or B is concluded from some reliable methodology or is evidential, these are all about which has warrant, justification.

The only imaginable response to “That which corresponds to reality”, it at least seems to me, is the dialectic translation: “A descriptive idea about reality that warrants assertability”.

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On Street Epistemology …

There’s a difference between the Socratic method — as described as continually questioning a person’s reason for belief in some proposition, P — and participatory pedagogy. The former is patronizing and disingenuous as it has an interlocutor who won’t be up-front with why they are asking the questions to begin with. It’s not because of any genuine interest in an answer or an openness to having those answers change minds. The later is invested in teacher and student, as both hope that in having the goal of learning, both may have something to gain from each other.

Street Epistemology, or SE as folks generally shorten it to, takes on the feel of a child continually asking “why”. Eventually, everyone will hit a wall in offering up explanations. For the most part, I think the honest move is to take “epistemology” out of any description of what is going on at all.

If one cared for Epistemology, one would likely eventually note that truth is not objective in the sense that “it” is mind-independent, but that when we use the word “true” what we mean is “there are good reasons any reasonable person would agree with this claim”. In fact, Street “Epistemology” is exactly getting at “good reasons” rather than “just reasons” and it doesn’t at all rely on any idea of warrant from a mind-independent “truth”. Truth is both “objective” and “relative” instead. It is relative to reasons, to circumstance and conditions, to “place”, humanity and history. That any “perfectly rational person” (an actual standard in Epistemology proper) would agree to some P given reasons R demonstrates the polysemy of “objective”; hence truth is relative and objective.

The important part is this — if the goal of SE is Boghossian — there can be no evidence for the supernatural by definition, therefore no disposition about the existence of deity is evidence-based. Moreover, logic doesn’t entail truth and is simply a formal description of how folks think; so, good reasoning about the question of the existence of God doesn’t warrant thinking there are or are not gods. The Engelian notion that Philosophy embraces (that all ideas are rooted in reality), that of “place”, entails that inferences about the existence of deity are actually “entitlements” and not artificial; dispositions that only have impressions from experience leading to the various inferences one could form about the question.

That’s not to say that cases for and against the existence of deity cannot be made or that good reasoning about one’s disposition shouldn’t be had. It is to say that lacking articulable reasons for one’s belief isn’t a mark against that belief being warranted. Simply, it’s just that reason alone, and that there can be no evidence, leaves these two features of justification outside of relevance as to why a disposition exists and the role experience plays in its warrant; Boghossian fails here. SE is asking for justification without realizing that warrant is what matters and not all warrant is through justification (i.e. reasoning about evidences).

Warrant for theism and atheism doesn’t obtain through evidence. Either are much more about practicalities. This is why i see SE as a failed enterprise, if Epistemology is the chief concern … ultimately, the theist and atheist are left with only reasons that make sense to themselves, but make sense because of, and only because of, personal experience and impression; not because one has run across a set of questions that left uncertainty in their wake.

Whittling a person down to having no articulable reasons for a belief, or even to conflicting reasons and in some cases, even incoherence only demonstrates that Foundationalism lacks warrant, which seems the predicate epistemology of most Street Epistemologists.

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Doubtless, Faithless

When you express doubt to some believers, they respond by saying you just have to have faith.

Some believers are certain of their faith; not that they are faithful with a particular set of rituals, but that “Jesus, not Janus” is the case.

Often, it’s the very same believer expressing both ideas.

When doubt exists, certainty cannot; that’s axiomatic.

This is when we have to realize that every question before us is one where we can have countless attitudes about. This sort of person isn’t being incoherent. They simply have fine distinctions that are hard maybe for even themselves to see. For this believer, his witness to doubters will be far more honest in seeing that faith in this context isn’t about having justified beliefs. Faith here is a choice against justified doubt. That’s also axiomatic.

A doubtful believer certain that his faith is warranted is one who should admit doubters have every reason to doubt, but that the reason faith is warranted is because risking into the unknown can be validated, can be vindicated here and now; faith is vulnerability to being wrong for all the best reasons.

Instead, the often dishonest reaction to doubt isn’t this sort of faith. It’s claiming to know what others are simply too blind to see. It is supressing one’s own genuine doubt for a refusal to being vulnerable to being anything less than perfectly right in every questionable matter that this faith could apply to.

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