How many stars are not the sun?

I’ve managed to work my way up to some of Jayman’s comments on the “Healing of Bernadette McKenzie” post. Whew! I know it’s old news by now, and I’ve already addressed a lot of what he has to say, but there are still a few points I think are worth making.

In responding to Deacon Duncan I will try to focus on the logical contradictions he holds since that was my point all along.

(1) While some other alleged miracles have similar traits to Bernadette’s story many other alleged miracles do not. It is not logical to assume that if you can explain one story you can explain all stories. Rather, to confidently assert that God never acts in history, which you do regularly, you would have to be omniscient. Therefore, it is an extraordinary claim to assert that you know God never acts. The extraordinary evidence for such knowledge is never offered.

Let’s suppose that you and I are outdoors on a dark, cloudless night, looking at the stars. “Look at all those stars,” I say. “Countless billions, and yet not a one of them is our sun.”

“Wait a minute,” you object. “How do you know none of those stars is our sun? You can’t possibly have examined each and every one of them. Most of them aren’t even visible to the naked eye. You would have to be omniscient to know that none of them is our sun!”

You’d never say that, of course, because you agree with me: none of them is our sun. This is not a conclusion we reach by a brute force enumeration of each and every star in the cosmos, followed by detailed analysis of each. Rather, we know this because of one very fundamental and obvious fact: if any of the stars in the sky above us were the sun, it would be day, not night.

This is how I know that none of these so-called miracles, and rumors of miracles, is actually a genuine instance of God showing up, tangibly and in person, in real life. The unexplainable phenomena we have now are all alike in some ways, like the stars in the night sky. They have their differences when you examine them up close, though they tend to fall into a relatively small number of broad categories. But surveying them from a distance, they’re like stars in the night sky: some brighter and some dimmer and some grouped into patterns that seem to suggest things to our human perceptions, but all just stars and not our sun.

This is true for more than just alleged Christian miracles: the same characteristics describe all “unexplained” phenomena, like UFO’s and Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle and (my personal favorite) chupacabra. Such “appearances” are all relatively obscure, share many of the characteristics of ordinary misperception or deliberate hoax, and tend to excite the superstitions of the credulous. The “Christian” phenomena have their own particular constellations, but they’re not categorically different from the pagan phenomena.

If the Almighty Creator of the universe decided that He wanted to show up, tangibly and in person, He would do so. These lesser curiosities would fade like stars at the dawning of the day by comparison. It wouldn’t be some half-hearted, obscure, and ambiguous sideshow like Zeitoun. If He wanted us to know He was showing up, we’d know, just like we know the difference between our sun and the other stars. And conversely, if He wanted to hide Himself, and prevent us from being able to know that He existed, then He wouldn’t show up at all.

Thus, I can and do know that God does not show up in real life, just like I can and do know that none of the stars in the night sky is our sun. The consequences and impact of God genuinely deciding to make Himself tangibly known would be categorically different from the lesser “marvels” that so easily befuddle the uncritical mind. We know that the earth is real; if the Creator of the earth set out to make Himself known, He would be no less real to us than our planet.

That’s how I can know that, for instance, Jayman has no photos of God showing up at his church, no phone messages from God on his answering machine, no video of God passing by in the street (or above the street—He is God, after all). I’ve never met Jayman, I know no details about his life at all, and yet I know, without fear of contradiction, that he does not possess any of these tangible evidences of God showing up in the real world. And not just for Jayman, but for any living person. And I’ll always turn out to be right. How can I do that? The same way I can know, without personally examining each and every nighttime star, that none of them is our real sun.

No doubt Jayman has evidences, but I know even before I hear them what they are. They’re FISH. No, not the swimmy thingies. It’s an acronym for the four sources of knowledge concerning God: Fantasy, Intuition, Superstition and Hearsay. We can make up things about God (fantasy), and even endow them with sophisticated philosophical rationalizations. But they’re ultimately stories that we’ve just made up to sound plausible. They’re not real-world observations of God actually showing up.

Likewise, we can have various mystical and subjective experiences, through autosuggestion, peer influence, or just plain wishful thinking. You know, “God spoke to my heart” and “God is leading me to [fill in the blank]” sort of thing. And true, God could show up through speaking directly and mystically to people’s hearts and minds. But He doesn’t. God can “speak” to you, but He won’t ever tell you anything you can’t imagine on your own, without His help. He can’t, for example, tell you what’s written on the piece of paper in my back pocket, nor can He relay a message from one Christian to another with results better than random chance.

Superstition we’ve already covered: some coincidence happens in your life and you attribute it to God, even though you can’t really show any verifiable connection between God personally and the phenomenon you’re giving Him credit for. That’s not God showing up, and it’s not even God taking credit for something. You have to give God the credit, because He doesn’t even show up, tangibly and in person, to take it for Himself.

Hearsay is the last source we have for “knowledge” about God. Stories that improve with the retelling, in other words. Stories you can’t actually verify. Did you hear that God cured someone’s cancer, or that God miraculously spoke to someone and warned them of a mugger waiting in the dark, or someone cast out a demon in Jesus name and bystanders actually saw the demon? Can you get the specific details so that we can check it out? Strangely, the answer is always either “No,” or it’s “Yes” and then the facts fail to back up the claims (like in Zeitoun).

I’ve left out deliberate fraud as a possible source of “knowledge” about God, since I think we all can admit that such things are lies. But what else is there? God does not show up in real life, and all our beliefs in Him turn out to be FISHy faith in the things of fallible men. This isn’t just me being unreasonable and demanding more than is really necessary, this is me pointing out that, if God does not actually show up in real life, if He does not behave as though He believed what the Gospels say about Him, then we have no basis for faith in Him. Gullible trust in man, and in the things of men, are our only available options (if we insist on believing, anyway).

I’m willing to be open minded (though not gullible, if I can help it). I’ll look at the evidence, if it’s available. But there’s no hiding the fact that, if you’re looking at all the stars in the night sky, you’re not seeing the sun. Show me your stars if you like, but I know before you even pick one that it’s not what we ought to see in our real sun. The difference between the sham and the genuine would be unmistakable.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 32 Comments »

32 Responses to “How many stars are not the sun?”

  1. jim Says:

    Great extended metaphor! Indeed, if God existed He would show up unambiguously, and he just…does…not. Nothing could be more obvious.

  2. pboyfloyd Says:

    I think it is more ‘confusion technique’ than auto-suggestion.

    They seem to imagine that language can be distorted to their ends.

    e.g. I.D.ers changing the meaning of the word ‘science’.

  3. Dominic Saltarelli Says:

    This is, easily, one of the best posts I’ve ever read.

  4. VeridicusX Says:

    This post is a thing of beauty.
    Excellent rebuttal.

  5. Inquisitive Raven Says:

    On the fantasy end of things, don’t underestimate the power of neurology. Specifically, temporal lobe epilepsy or, in the lab, temporal lobe stimulation. Temporal lobe seizures have been demonstrated to cause the kind of sensations associated with religious or paranormal experience, and it’s not always obvious to the observer what’s happening.

  6. R. C. Moore Says:

    “It is not logical to assume that if you can explain one story you can explain all stories”

    Actually, it is the foundations of logic — induction. If one can provide an axiom to serve as a basis, create a hypothesis from it, and then provide an algorithm for all cases, then one instance can easily provide proof of an infinite in scope for all instances .

    A good example is Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation — it holds not only for particles close by that we can directly observe, but for all matter in the universe. Even the most distant star is gravitationally attracted to me as I am to it! This was worked out logically, with very little experimentation. (One wishes the Bible contained one bit of information as astounding as this)

    Mathematical inductions stand as “truths” because they place a limit on the objects under consideration (an artificial, but fully defined basis). Scientific induction is unable to do this, and the “truths” are therefore always provisional. New information can always cause a modification to scientific conclusions, in fact science readily admits that Newton’s Law Of Universal Gravitation is “assumed” to be true for every particle in the universe. This small probability of being wrong however does not significantly diminish the the power of scientific induction.

  7. Jayman Says:

    DD, we’re in agreement that if god wanted to show himself to everyone at this very moment then we’d all know of his existence. But that’s the only kind of god you’ve disproven. You haven’t ruled out miracles from a different kind of god. Also, speaking from direct personal experience, your FISH acronym is false.

    R. C. Moore, I was referring to historical stories. For example, one cannot assume that the causes of the Civil War are the same as the causes of World War II. Both wars need to be studied in their own right.

  8. John Morales Says:

    Jayman:

    DD, we’re in agreement that if god wanted to show himself to everyone at this very moment then we’d all know of his existence. But that’s the only kind of god you’ve disproven.

    Um, that’d be the Christian God he’s disproven.
    (cf. Hebrews 11:6)

    Which God do you profess to believe in?

  9. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Also, speaking from direct personal experience, your FISH acronym is false.”

    Sounds like Intuition or Superstition to me.

    That or you’re schizophrenic.

    “If you talk to God, that’s called praying. If God talks to you, that’s called schizophrenia.”

  10. Jayman Says:

    John:

    Um, that’d be the Christian God he’s disproven. (cf. Hebrews 11:6)

    Hebrews 11:6 does not say that God wants to reveal himself to everyone at this very moment. Full participation with God is for the next age, not this one. From the Judeo-Christian perspective, DD is attacking a strawman god.

    Which God do you profess to believe in?

    YHWH.

  11. Jayman Says:

    ThatOtherGuy:

    Sounds like Intuition or Superstition to me.

    It couldn’t be intuition since the information received was unknowable to man. It wasn’t superstition for identification was given.

    That or you’re schizophrenic.

    My doctor would be surprised to hear that.

  12. cl Says:

    DD,

    Thus, I can and do know that God does not show up in real life, just like I can and do know that none of the stars in the night sky is our sun.

    Wow, really? Surely you’ve heard of Russell’s Teapot, right? If the above is your argument, then count me in with those who think Jayman has you on the ropes. Your analogy entails an irrecoverable category error. You contrast claims for which no empirical evidence exists with claims for which conclusive empirical evidence exists. The existence of a bona fide miracle is still in question, correct? That our sun is not our sun is not in question. Not very persuasive, IMO.

    jim,

    Indeed, if God existed He would show up unambiguously, and he just…does…not. Nothing could be more obvious.

    I feel this view is simplistic, self-centered and presumptuous. The universe and what potentially exists outside / within / beyond it are pretty large probability-speaking, no? This is like the kid who says, “If dad really loved us, he’d be back by now,” when all along it’s reasonable that dad was doing something motivated by love for his children? You presume that because God is not manifesting in the way you deem appropriate or “obvious” that you are justified in concluding, “God does not exist.” That’s all fine and dandy if we’re looking for a canned reason to reject God, just not very logical IMO.

    John Morales,

    I “love it” when skeptics quote the Bible, just as skeptics “love it” when Ann Coulter quotes science. How is Hebrews 11:6 pertinent to this discussion at all? I agree with Jayman that your response here is out-of-context.

    Jayman,

    From the Judeo-Christian perspective, DD is attacking a strawman god.

    I agree, and presuming omniscience doesn’t make his argument any more persuasive.

  13. jim Says:

    cl:

    No, because we’re not supposing an undefined, purely hypothetical god who might exist beyond the fringes of our knowledge, like unicorns, or elves, or hypothetical Gods who make the christian god look like a piker. We’re supposing a god who supposedly obviously reveals himself in an unambiguous manner, since failure to acknowledge him is deemed to be a MORAL failure, and not a perceptual one. I am justified in concluding that such a god does not exist, even more than I am justified in claiming leprechauns do not exist, since at least leprechauns have made no promises to make their existence obvious to me.

    By your way of reasoning, it isn’t justified to assume that ANYTHING doesn’t exist, since our knowledge of reality is limited no matter which way we turn. As I’ve stated repeatedly, this is the difference between deductive certainty, and reasonableness. One can always find an out through hypothetical speculation, as opposed to reasonableness. And as far as probabilities are concerned, hypothetical probabilities in an abstract reality where anything goes, are far different from probabilities in the real world. A coin toss generates 1 of 3 options: heads, tails, and the extremely rare edge landing. Nothing else. Period. And unless you know the fundamental parameters of our real existence, don’t be telling me what the real probabilities of this or that entail. It’s bullshit. Period.

  14. cl Says:

    jim,

    It’s hard to tell exactly which statement(s) of mine you take issue with, because proper scope is omitted. However,

    “By your way of reasoning, it isn’t justified to assume that ANYTHING doesn’t exist, since our knowledge of reality is limited no matter which way we turn.”

    Sigh… There you go, speaking for me and framing my ideas in a scope other than what I intended. I won’t even respond further other than to say such is simply incorrect, and keep yourself a blanket (tunic?), it can tend to get cold in the cornfield where strawmen exist.

    “And unless you know the fundamental parameters of our real existence, don’t be telling me what the real probabilities of this or that entail.”

    I won’t. That seems to be you and DD’s game. I don’t know the fundamental parameters of our “real” existence (curious – do we have a fake or ~real existence?), and since I don’t know those parameters, I try to avoid leaving the NULL hypothesis sans evidence.

    It’s bullshit. Period.

    Yes sir! I apologize for thinking differently than you, sir! You’re absolutely correct, sir! How can I be so privy to bullshit, sir?

    (cl checks watch) Look, I’m convinced I can’t convince you, jim, so keep on telling yourself whatever you feel is true, and I’ll keep on calling logic-leak wherever I perceive it. Nothing you’ve said justifies DD’s irrecoverable category error, so I’m not that worried, but if you have a valid response on that point, I’m willing to hear it. Even peanut butter can be turned into a diamond, and this was one of the most unpersuasive arguments / analogies I’ve heard on this site to date.

    1) Empirical evidence that our sun is our sun exists.

    2) Empirical evidence that phenomena X, Y or Z is a genuine miracle does not exist.

    3) Contrasting claims for which no empirical evidence exists with claims for which conclusive empirical evidence exists entails a category error.

    Now wriggle away.

  15. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, cl, fair enough. You both claim your God doesn’t want us to believe in it, and don’t consider that Hebrews 11:6 says such belief is required for salvation.

    That implies these miracles you speak of are not meant to be convincing that a God exists – yet that’s how you’re using them.

    I guess I haven’t mastered the art of double-think yet. I will leave that to you theists.

  16. jim Says:

    cl:

    “3) Contrasting claims for which no empirical evidence exists with claims for which conclusive empirical evidence exists entails a category error.”

    Which is why I ALSO said:

    “I am justified in concluding that such a god does not exist, even more than I am justified in claiming leprechauns do not exist, since at least leprechauns have made no promises to make their existence obvious to me.

    By your way of reasoning, it isn’t justified to assume that ANYTHING doesn’t exist, since our knowledge of reality is limited no matter which way we turn.”

    Have you avoided leaving the NULL hypothesis regarding flying elephants and magic spaghetti trees, as well?

    “1) Empirical evidence that our sun is our sun exists.

    2) Empirical evidence that phenomena X, Y or Z is a genuine miracle does not exist.”

    You’re begging the analogy, which speaks to misinterpretation of a given.

    “Even peanut butter can be turned into a diamond…”

    Can it? I’ll take water into wine.

    “…(curious – do we have a fake or ~real existence?”

    I emphasized ‘real’ since so much of this drawn out conversation seems to to take place in the theistic hypothetical/imaginary existence (which doesn’t actually exist).

    ““By your way of reasoning, it isn’t justified to assume that ANYTHING doesn’t exist, since our knowledge of reality is limited no matter which way we turn.” (MINE)

    Sigh… There you go, speaking for me and framing my ideas in a scope other than what I intended. I won’t even respond further other than to say such is simply incorrect, and keep yourself a blanket (tunic?), it can tend to get cold in the cornfield where strawmen exist….

    …This is like the kid who says, “If dad really loved us, he’d be back by now,” when all along it’s reasonable that dad was doing something motivated by love for his children? You presume that because God is not manifesting in the way you deem appropriate or “obvious” that you are justified in concluding, “God does not exist.”(YOURS)

    This is like the kid who says, “If dad (the invisible,magic bunny rabbit) really loved us, he’d be back by now,” when all along it’s reasonable that dad (the invisible, magic bunny rabbit) was doing something motivated by love for his children? You presume that because God (The Invisible, Magic Bunny Rabbit) is not manifesting in the way you deem appropriate or “obvious” that you are justified in concluding, “God (The Invisible, Magic Bunny Rabbit) does not exist.

    Keep checking that watch, cl. I’m sure He just went out for some smokes.

    “It’s hard to tell exactly which statement(s) of mine you take issue with, because proper scope is omitted.”

    These are all simple points everybody’s making; but I’ll admit they wind up looking a bit mangled after being run through cl’s SuperColossalFantabulousSophistryMachine. You accuse everyone of lacking logic, but I honestly don’t believe you even understand the concept. Strawmen? Please! Debating with you is like fighting through layer after layer of smokescreens. You generally don’t even engage the issues, but rather wind up going off on 5 different tangents in what seems to be an attempt to avoid the points being made. Every time I read you, Ebonmuse’s decision makes a little more sense to me.

    I’ve taken the time to address your issues time and again, because I didn’t want to give you short shrift. I recognize what you’re about, and I realize the futility, but it’s been a good exercise in patience for me. Plus, I REALLY think it’s a good idea to point out sophistry now and again, instead of taking the VERY tempting ‘blow off’ approach. That being said, I think I’m done with you for a while. This isn’t my blog, and I don’t want to monopolize threads by going over and over this nonsense. Tip o’ the hat to you, cl…be well.

    Enough ‘wriggle’ for you? Yeesh!

  17. Jayman Says:

    John Morales:

    You both claim your God doesn’t want us to believe in it

    I did not say that. I said God does not want to reveal himself to everyone at this point in time.

    and don’t consider that Hebrews 11:6 says such belief is required for salvation.

    I did not say that either. I said Hebrews 11:6 does not say that God wants to reveal himself to everyone at this point in time.

    That implies these miracles you speak of are not meant to be convincing that a God exists – yet that’s how you’re using them.

    I was using miracle stories to show logical inconsistencies in DD’s thoughts. Also, there is no contradiction between the following two claims:

    (1) God does not want to reveal himself to everyone at this point in time.

    (2) God wants to reveal himself to a specific person at this point in time.

    I guess I haven’t mastered the art of double-think yet. I will leave that to you theists.

    Just master the art of reading and you’ll be fine.

  18. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, might as well call it YHWH, since that’s your god-construct of choice.

    · Is YHWH omniscient and omnipotent?
    · Is YHWH benevolent?
    · Can humans only be saved by belief in YHWH?
    · Are there humans that don’t believe in YHWH?

    If you say ‘yes’ to all of the above, you are being contradictory.
    If not, which one(s) do you say ‘no’ to, and why?

  19. cl Says:

    John Morales,

    “You both claim your God doesn’t want us to believe in it, and don’t consider that Hebrews 11:6 says such belief is required for salvation.”

    At risk of incurring jim’s wrath, you do realize this is a blatant strawman, right? Neither myself nor Jayman has made that claim. Here’s the progression:

    “DD, we’re in agreement that if god wanted to show himself to everyone at this very moment then we’d all know of his existence. But that’s the only kind of god you’ve disproven.” -Jayman

    “Um, that’d be the Christian God he’s disproven. (cf. Hebrews 11:6)” -John Morales

    Your mention of Hebrews 11:6 suggests that it was support for the idea that the God of the Bible = “the kind of god that wanted to show himself to everyone at this very moment.” I do not believe that the God of the Bible is that kind of god, and verses about faith and salvation are completely out-of-context in this discussion. If somehow I’ve missed something, by all means clarify, but don’t misrepresent your opponent’s position.

    And regarding your comment to Jayman February 13, 2009 at 7:54 pm, quit trying to change the subject to the Problem of Evil.

    jim,

    FYI, peanut butter actually can be turned into diamonds. That’s factually correct. As for the rest of your comments, where to start?

    “By your way of reasoning, it isn’t justified to assume that ANYTHING doesn’t exist, since our knowledge of reality is limited no matter which way we turn.”

    By my way of reasoning, we are justified in assuming that a star closer than 91,840,000 miles to Earth does not exist. Several other examples abound.

    “Keep checking that watch, cl. I’m sure He just went out for some smokes.”

    You’ve not presented a valid response to the pertinent scenario.

    “You accuse everyone of lacking logic, but I honestly don’t believe you even understand the concept.”

    Do you mean to say everyone? If so, such is incorrect. Jayman is not lacking logic here. Also, although like anyone else I’ve got lots to learn, I feel I do understand basic logic, but that’s just my opinion and I don’t expect you to change your mind.

    “These are all simple points everybody’s making; but I’ll admit they wind up looking a bit mangled after being run through cl’s SuperColossalFantabulousSophistryMachine.”

    Sigh. You keep attempting to label me a sophist, yet from comment #1 my argument has been logical, clear, and not intended to confuse: I say DD’s star analogy entails a category error. You retort,

    “You’re begging the analogy, which speaks to misinterpretation of a given.”

    Yet you choose not to explain further. DD claims he is justified in assuming “the Undeniable Fact that God does not show up” in relation to ALL instances of alleged miracles, correct? Jayman and myself laugh at this as an appeal to omniscience. DD replies with the star analogy. Okay DD, I’ll take that.

    First the technical stuff: For this analysis, the definition of “not our sun” is all stars > 91,840,000 miles away from Earth, and can be represented by AS. The definition of “our sun” is the star that is 91,840,000 miles away from Earth, and can be represented as S. Next, all alleged miracles can be represented by AM, and a genuine miracle in which God shows up can be represented by GM.

    Jayman and myself are claiming that without omniscience, DD cannot justifiably make the all-exclusive claim that it is an undeniable fact God has not shown up, and our reasoning is that DD cannot possibly have made brute force enumeration of each and every instance. So DD offers the above star analogy as an example of a situation where brute force enumeration of each and every instance is not necessary to justify an all-exclusive claim, and although I agree with DD on that point, he contrasts claims for which empirical evidence exists with claims for which no empirical evidence exists. DD’s analogy rests on an irrecoverable category error which renders it useless in justifying his particular all-exclusive claim.

    Fact: DD is correct in that we would not have to be omniscient to know that AS != S, because empirical evidence exists proving that S = ~AS. Quite simply, we know that the star 91,840,000 miles away from Earth is S, so we can justifiably exclude AS as ~S. Empirical evidence justifies the exclusion of AS as ~S, and this is a simple process of elimination.

    Fact: We would have to be omniscient to know that AM != GM, because unlike the situation with S, zero empirical evidence exists corroborating an instance of GM in the first place. The process of elimination is only valid when we have an authentic original to compare against. The lack of empirical evidence in this area means we are not justified in our exclusion of AM as ~GM. We are not justified in this exclusion because no incontrovertible, empirical evidence corroborates an instance of GM in the first place, and how might we prove what is not GM if we can’t prove what is GM?

    Sincerely, do you really not see the problem there?

    “Every time I read you, Ebonmuse’s decision makes a little more sense to me.”

    Fair enough. And there are several ATHEIST readers who disagreed strongly with that decision, calling Ebonmuse a “prissy, self-righteous atheist,” and others who came to my defense and even a few who left DaylightAtheism altogether on account of that decision. Why should I esteem your opinion any more than theirs?

    Now seriously, jim, I’ve met your claims head on – show me you’re out for genuine understanding as opposed to mere polemical belittling – how is my argument sophist, illogical, or otherwise not cogent? I can respect your concerns about thread-hogging and all that. If you don’t want to continue here, that’s fine, you know where I’m at.

    In fact, I’ve dedicated today’s post to this one, so there’s the perfect place to pick back up should you be so inclined.

  20. Zor Says:

    “I said God does not want to reveal himself to everyone at this point in time.”

    And here is really the problem. As JM pointed out above, if God is omnipotent and benevolent, and the only way to salvation is through belief in God, why would God not want to “reveal himself” to everyone? (I’m taking “reveal himself” to mean prove incontrovertibly that he exists. Just in case we go down that silly Biblical “you’ll die if you see his glory” nonsense.)

    What criteria does God use to choose who gets to see him? Is God capricious? Does he pick favourites? Were the people of Zeitoun just especially lucky, were they in extra need of salvation? Or what?

    “2) Empirical evidence that phenomena X, Y or Z is a genuine miracle does not exist.”

    Err. Yes. That’s a bit of a problem, right? I mean, is there a special reason that we shouldn’t expect miracles to be subject to empirical evidence in the same way as every other phenomenon that appears in reality, like, say, the Sun?

    Not that it was even Duncan’s point – he wasn’t comparing the existence of miracles to the existence of the Sun, he was demonstrating that the stories told about miracles – when combined with the stories told about the source of those miracles – cannot be reconciled with what we experience in the real world. No star in the night sky is the Sun; no paltry “miracle” about which we hear is the actual intervention of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who wishes to help every person be saved through believe in him.

    Such a miracle, by its nature, would not be equivocal and ambiguous and subject to naturalistic explanation. It would not need obfuscation and water-muddying to make it seem as if no such naturalistic explanation could be provided.

  21. John Morales Says:

    cl, it may be a straw man, or it may be that my implicit syllogism has escaped you.

    Let me try it in simple terms: God is claimed to be all-powerful.
    It is also claimed that only by belief in God can one please God.
    Not everyone believes in God.

    See the problem?

  22. Jayman Says:

    John, I’m not going to sidetrack the topic by answering your questions. Next time you ask those questions you’ll want to rephrase questions two and four. Your current questions give the theist at least two ways out of the logical contradiction I believe you have in mind.

  23. pboyfloyd Says:

    “FYI, peanut butter actually can be turned into diamonds.”

    Indeed, the easiest way to turn peanut butter into diamonds is exactly the same as the way to turn cows into a nuclear power plant.

    Sell the cows/peanut butter and buy the nuclear power plant/diamonds.

    What would be the point of this explanation? It seems to match up with the point of your silly statement.

  24. Jayman Says:

    Zor, you think I said that “God does not want to reveal himself to everyone” when, in fact, I said “God does not want to reveal himself to everyone at this point in time.”

  25. Zor Says:

    OK. So what you’re claiming is that God does, in fact, reveal himself to everyone at some point in time? Presumably, he’d have to do so before that person died, or else they can’t be saved. How do you explain the fact that some people are atheists when they die?

  26. cl Says:

    Zor,

    “No star in the night sky is the Sun; no paltry “miracle” about which we hear is the actual intervention of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who wishes to help every person be saved through believe in him.”

    We can prove no night sky is the sun. Can we prove God has never intervened in an alleged miracle? If so, how? If not, is the analogy not admittedly dishonest?

    pboyfloyd,

    “What would be the point of this explanation?”

    Do you really not see the point? If so, I’ll explain.

    “It seems to match up with the point of your silly statement.”

    If the best you came up with as a response was that mine was silly, I’m not too worried. Do you have an actual argument?

    John Morales,

    If Jayman and I have both stated that we think your citation is out of place, that should have been your first sign that we didn’t understand your “implicit syllogism.” Why provide further opportunity for further confusion? Tell us what you mean, and we can reply to what you actually mean, or on to the next question.

  27. Jayman Says:

    Zor:

    OK. So what you’re claiming is that God does, in fact, reveal himself to everyone at some point in time?

    God does reveal himself to some people in this life and will reveal himself to the rest in the next life.

    Presumably, he’d have to do so before that person died, or else they can’t be saved.

    No, physical death does not render God powerless.

  28. Zor Says:

    cl, I think the issue is more about the claimed source of miracles, and their purpose.

    Forgive me for not having the citation, but my understanding is that miracles (incidents of divine intervention) are a (the?) mechanism through which we are supposed to know God. Because God is benevolent, he wants us to know him so that we can be saved. Because God is omnipotent, he can easily provide any number of miracles by which we may unequivocally know him.

    The “evidence” that God is not the source of the purported miracles is that they do not serve the purpose claimed for them and they do not possess the characteristics claimed for them.

    Among all the reports and stories and myths of miracles, none serve to demonstrate their defining characteristics – that they are from a benevolent, omnipotent God who wants us to know him so that we may be saved. Among all the stars in the night sky, none are the proximious, life-giving Sun whose light diminishes all other celestial bodies. I don’t think the analogy is dishonest.

  29. Zor Says:

    Hmm, I guess my understanding that having faith in the existence of God and (maybe, depending on who you’re talking to) doing good works in this life are prerequisites of salvation is mistaken, then.

    I think that Duncan’s argument is aimed at the more common doctrine that people do, in fact, need to believe in God before they cross the Rubicon of death in order to be saved. It’s in the light of this dogma that he makes the argument that the current state of the whole miracle business precludes the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God.

  30. John Morales Says:

    cl, frankly, I can’t muster the interest.

    FWIW, Zor @ February 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm covers the same ground.

  31. » A quick clarification Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] In his reply to my post on “How many stars are not the sun?”, commenter cl writes: Thus, I can and do know that God does not show up in real life, just like I can and do know that [...]

  32. cl Says:

    zor,

    1) The narrower interpretation of “God showing up in real life” is what I described as a disparate manifestation somewhere between Genesis and Revelation. We could call this a disparate manifestation (DM), and such can be described as any instance where God has temporarily intruded into space and time to interact with humans. This was the interpretation of “God showing up in real life” I had from the beginning, and also the interpretation I thought DD had until I began to wonder when he mentioned Revelation 21.

    2) The broader interpretation of “God showing up in real life” can be described as analogous to the situation in Revelation 21. We could call this the final revelation (FR), and such can be described as the instance where God makes His presence known to all people.

    I agree that FR would drastically outshine every alleged instance of DM, and in that sense I can agree with the star analogy. It would not be a category error to make this comparison. But let’s call all stars AS and our sun S. FR is certainly the peak instance of DM, right? But S is nowhere near the peak instance of AS, and its stuff like this where I think my charge of category error still stands.

    I hope we can get an even agreement here.

    DD,

    If the Almighty Creator of the universe decided that He wanted to show up, tangibly and in person, He would do so.

    Certainly. I clarified my position on your star analogy in the other thread. Your point was that a genuine instance of God showing up would be as unambiguous as our Sun against the night sky. Problem is, the Bible claims God is going to show up in exactly the way you demand, yet you seem to be discrediting the entire proposition simply because it hasn’t happened yet. That’s why I say only half-jokingly that such is like a trilobyte discrediting evolution because there were no humans in the Cambrian.

    Now, per our clarifications, I’ll agree that Jayman has no photos, phone messages or video of FR, and we can safely bet that nobody has any photos, phone messages or video of FR. But guess what? Not only does this Pyrrhic victory corroborate scripture, which contends FR is a future event, but even if FR had already happened or was happening right now, any and all photos, phone messages and video would be extraneous – who would need electronic media to convince them of what is right in front of their face? Requests for proofs of FR are redundant.

    …God could show up through speaking directly and mystically to people’s hearts and minds. But He doesn’t. God can “speak” to you, but He won’t ever tell you anything you can’t imagine on your own, without His help. He can’t, for example, tell you what’s written on the piece of paper in my back pocket, nor can He relay a message from one Christian to another with results better than random chance.

    Many believers claim to have experienced things very similar to what you describe here and you won’t gain much with them by simply waving their claims away. You say, “God could show up through speaking directly…” then deny that such happens. But if we admit that X can happen, how much confidence can we place in the conclusion that X has not happened? In all non-FR cases, the only mind you can speak for is your own. Also, you simply handwave and expect us to take for granted that God “won’t ever tell (us) anything (we) can’t imagine on (our) own, without His help.” How can you know that? How can you know that such hasn’t happened to somebody? Is this another Undeniable Fact? The best you can say sans omniscience would be something like, “God has never told me anything I can’t imagine on my own.” But you certainly can’t make a blanket claim regarding other minds that you cannot possibly justify. Neither one of us can know whether God has told anyone something they couldn’t think of on their own.

    Superstition we’ve already covered: some coincidence happens in your life and you attribute it to God, even though you can’t really show any verifiable connection between God personally and the phenomenon you’re giving Him credit for.

    But why are you allowed to attribute said phenomenon to coincidence? Can you show a verifiable connection between coincidence and the phenomenon you’re giving it credit for? What’s the difference between attributing an unknown to God vs. attributing an unknown to coincidence? Aren’t both equally presumptuous and ignorant if we don’t know the real cause of the unknown?