More clarificationsMarch 17, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
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).