More clarifications

Commenter cl has a couple more points I’d like to address briefly, just to clarify my position.

Incidentally – regarding superstitiousness – would you say it’s superstitious to attribute the cause of an unexplained phenomena to any deity at any time? When would such not be superstitious in your opinion? Only when the deity lays tangible claim?

There’s a bit of an inherent contradiction in this scenario. If the phenomenon is “unexplained,” that means we do not know what the cause is. If we attribute this phenomenon to a deity, we’re saying that we do know what the cause is. My first question, then, is whether we do or do not know what the cause is for the given phenomenon. If we don’t, then why are we claiming that we do? And if we do know, my next question is how do we know?

If we do not know what the cause is, and are merely giving gratuitous credit to some unverifiable purported cause, then yes, that’s always superstitious. It is not scientific, because it does not describe the operation of the cause in sufficient detail that we can analytically work out what real-world consequences would necessarily result from such a cause in action. A truly scientific explanation would need to provide a description that specific, and the expected consequences would need to show up in real life, before we would have a valid basis for accepting that explanation as being a reasonable cause.

Cl’s second point is in response to my comment about knowing Santa Claus does not show up in real life.

I doubt that many people would scoff if I were to say, “The undeniable fact is that Santa does not show up in real life.” It’s not intellectually dishonest to make such a claim.

It’s not intellectually dishonest to make such a claim. It is intellectually dishonest to pretend such a claim is categorically similar with the claim that God has never shown up in real life. If you really don’t understand why, I’d be willing to explain, but such should be obvious.

I’m glad he brought this up, because there’s a subtle but important shift in verb tenses here. My primary claim is not that God never showed up in the past. I claim that God does not show up in the present, in exactly the same sense as Santa does not show up in the present. There are men who do things on God’s behalf and call that God showing up, just as there are men who dress up in red suits and white wigs and who let children sit on their lap during the Christmas shopping season. But actually showing up in real life? No, neither God nor Santa actually does so, and I think that even cl can admit that God does not show up in his life, in person, outside of his own thoughts and feelings (and possibly superstitions, if he feels inclined to indulge in such).

The reason this is an important point is because the only evidence we have for God showing up in the past is that we have a bunch of stories told by men, stories about a wonderful, powerful, loving Heavenly Father, and we need to decide whether or not we believe those stories are true. And since we did not live back in those days, the only way we have of knowing whether we should believe those stories or not is to apply the principle that the truth is consistent with itself.

If a God like that really existed, then the most fundamental and obvious consequence of that truth would be that we would see our Father showing up in real life, outside the thoughts and feelings and superstitions of men, because the Bible stories are all about God showing up outside the thoughts and feelings and superstitions of men, and because of God’s love for us and His desire to bring us to salvation and His infallible understanding of the fact that we can’t have faith in Him if He doesn’t show up to interact with us.

In God’s absence, all we have are stories that are not consistent with the real-world truth we actually observe, or even with each other. That means that if we put our faith in these stories men tell, we’re believing just because men say so, despite the inconsistency between what they claim and what we can actually verify in the real world. And that’s the definition of gullibility, not of faith. And if salvation is by faith alone, and yet the only option available is for us to be gullible instead of having genuine faith in God, then the Gospel ain’t gonna work. And a genuine God would know this, and would show up so we would at least have the opportunity to develop a genuine, and possibly salvific faith in Him.

So the claim I am making is that God does not show up in real life, and therefore it makes sense to conclude that He did not show up in the past either, because the stories men tell about such things lead to inconsistencies and self-contradictions, and do not pass the test of being consistent with what we can observe in the real world. Yes, a crafty and deceptive God could create a situation in which reasonable men would be unable to determine the actual truth about Him. But the Gospel isn’t supposed to be about a crafty and deceptive God (and if it is, it’s the Christians that are being fooled more than anybody).

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “More clarifications”

  1. Jim T. Says:

    I find this series of blog posts to be pretty rock solid and mirrors my own recent train of thought. Thinking through the implications shows that this is just the beginning of other problems.

    Here’s just a few random thoughts:

    + It’s quite disturbing to consider a God who has gone to such great lengths to remain hidden. Why would a real God desire to have so much in common with every fake god?

    + It’s quite disturbing to consider a God who greatly values faith in men. I guess He can value whatever He wants to value, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly divine. Why would a real God want true believers to have the same quality of faith as believers in every fake god?

    + For such fragile and man-centered faith to be the final arbiter of our eternal state, Arminianism becomes less attractive, and Calvinism begins to make more sense. I never thought I would say that! If we assume that the proposed God is somewhat reasonable, then it is hard to fathom Him valuing man-centered faith. For me, it begins to seem more reasonable that we could never come to faith unless God zaps it into us. But that’s a whole other can of worms that I reject.

    + Can true religion have so much in common with false religion? Are divine plans and purposes likely to bear all the same marks as those created by men or the accidents of history? Doesn’t seem too likely.

    – Jim

  2. cl Says:

    My primary claim is not that God never showed up in the past. I claim that God does not show up in the present, in exactly the same sense as Santa does not show up in the present.

    I’ve been asking for clarification on that point for a while now, and I’ve also clarified my claim: ~FR is fairly labeled an undeniable fact; ~DM is a claim that requires omniscience.

    …I think that even cl can admit that God does not show up in his life, in person, outside of his own thoughts and feelings (and possibly superstitions, if he feels inclined to indulge in such).

    Why wouldn’t I admit that? Of course God’s not paid me a personal visit in a way that was visibly detectable. But I won’t go so far as to say such is impossible, or has never happened to someone else, because those are things I cannot know sans omniscience.

    If a God like that really existed, then the most fundamental and obvious consequence of that truth would be that we would see our Father showing up in real life…

    Well for one such is your opinion and why should I value it above the next? For two, the Bible says this is exactly what has happened and will happen again. As I’ve suggested many times before, your argument apparently distills to, “I do not see God right here, right now, the way I expect to given my understanding of the Bible, hence that God is false.” What if your expectations are incorrect?

    In God’s absence, all we have are stories that are not consistent with the real-world truth we actually observe, or even with each other.

    You say we when you should say I. Other people may very well have stories that are consistent with what we would expect were the Bible true. Say I had cancer and was given two weeks to live. Say some believers pray over me, and a few days later the cancer is gone. If I believed in God on account of that incident, my belief would be based on something greater than FISH.

    That means that if we put our faith in these stories men tell, we’re believing just because men say so, despite the inconsistency between what they claim and what we can actually verify in the real world.

    Although you do, not everyone sees the real world as inconsistent with what the Bible claims.

    And that’s the definition of gullibility, not of faith. And if salvation is by faith alone, and yet the only option available is for us to be gullible instead of having genuine faith in God, then the Gospel ain’t gonna work.

    Gullibility just means being easily deceived, and again, I’ll say you offer an either/or fallacy. There is more we can lean on than gullibility and FISH in our assessments.

    So the claim I am making is that God does not show up in real life, and therefore it makes sense to conclude that He did not show up in the past either,

    Genetic fallacy. You cannot conclude that because a universal manifestation of God doesn’t happen right now that it hasn’t happened in the past. That God has never shown up (~DM) simply cannot be known sans omniscience and it is not an undeniable fact. It is an undeniable fact that God is not universally manifesting with an audible voice right now, but this fact does not lead to the so-called inescapable consequence.

  3. pevo Says:

    Its like cl completely ignored the content of the post.

    “But I won’t go so far as to say such is impossible, or has never happened to someone else, because those are things I cannot know sans omniscience.”

    And yet it is something you believe sans evidence. Remember, science does not and can not prove a negative, precisely because it would ‘require omniscience’. Evidence is all we have to work with and belief sans evidence is the gullibility DD is referring to.

  4. cl Says:

    pevo,

    Its like cl completely ignored the content of the post.

    “But I won’t go so far as to say such is impossible, or has never happened to someone else, because those are things I cannot know sans omniscience.”

    And yet it is something you believe sans evidence.

    Really? I suppose if you say so, but I don’t see how you presupposing what I believe entails that I’ve ignored the content of the post, especially when your presupposition is incorrect. Rhetorically successful maybe, but not very rational or cogent.