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Argument for God's existence.

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by createdtoworship, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

    That’s a red herring. The point is this: it doesn’t matter whether we speak of seeing, calculating, judging, working out or deducing. The fact is, we have no idea what there might be, if anything, either “before” or “outside” the universe. It’s pure wishful thinking on your part.

    Three points:

    First, if the supernatural were presented to me, and it was shown that it was impossible for it to be something of natural occurrences, then I would change my worldview.

    Second, since this is God we’re dealing with, the question becomes supremely simple: being all-knowing, God would know exactly how to convince me of His existence.

    And third, you’re quite mistaken. I would be quite happy to accept logical reasoning and sound philosophical arguments as proof of God’s existence. But the arguments you’ve presented here have been contained too many flaws, as I’ve explained, and so are not convincing at all.

    Redac, I appreciate that you said your argument might not be watertight, and that you just thought of it yourself.

    It seems there is a flaw, though, which is that you are conflating knowledge of someone’s existence with faith in their character. We should, then, rework your analogy to be like this: a woman is on trial, and she demands that you come to her support (advice, money for legal fund, emotional support, etc.) You are surprised by this, because you have never known her, but she claims that she knows you, has been watching you for a long time, that she loves you, and she is angry that you don’t reciprocate the love.

    An analogy that matches the situation with God even more closely might be: one day you lose your job, completely unexpectedly. On investigation, you find it is because the boss of the company was wildly in love with you (completely unbeknownst to you) and was so angry that you did not respond to her love (which she had never communicated to you; in fact, you’d never met her in person) that she seized on an excuse when it presented itself, and had you fired.

    Do either of those two situations sound fair? And given that cvanwey and I are both sincere in our professing a complete ignorance of God’s existence, do they not match the situation of the Christian God?

    It sounds more like a situation which does sometimes exist in marriages: one partner is angry with another because they had a problem, and they expected their partner “to just know” about it.

    In this case, we have to say that the partner is being maximally unreasonable because, as I said, we atheists really don’t know about the problem.

    Since I don’t believe it – and nor do billions of other people in the world – it means nothing at all.

    Who said anything about “true, perfect knowledge”? Surely it is within God’s abilities to appear to people in a way which assures them of the truth of Christianity without “frying their brains”, so to speak.
  2. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

    Also, I'm afraid this conversation is starting to sprawl. I shall try to be more concise in future.
  3. gaara4158

    gaara4158 Black Lives Matter.

    United States
    Best of luck! I haven’t been very successful arguing against classical theism, but you seem to have a larger background in this than I do.
  4. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

    United States
    I'm only replying here, because the rest of your response carries practically no merit or basis... It basically just states, 'nuh-uh'.

    It seems that one of your main epistemological conclusions hinges upon the 'fact' that if the "BB" is demonstrated finite, and, the evolutionary theory/macroevolution is falsified, we now (begin) to have a case for Yahweh...

    Well, I can sum up many of your prior threads as such...

    What is (your) basis to conclude that string theory is in trouble? And on that very same line of reasoning, if (you) wish to be consistent, what is then also (your) basis to conclude macroevolution is false?

    In the end, here's where I'm at... The "universe" could be finite, and macroevolution could be false... And yet, we are absolutely NO closer to demonstrating the likes of Yahweh.

    However, on the flip-side, as you have even admitted, if even macroevolution were demonstrated correct, then Genesis is not looking very valid. In which case, you may have no choice but to reconcile that the Bible is not the 'big book of truth' you crack it up to be...
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  5. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

    United States
    I think you missed one of my main points. The reason most infer a 'god(s)' or the 'devil', is because of our ability to apply intentional agency. More-so have survived in humans and animals, versus the ones that do not so much. Hence, the reason the vast majority of humans think there exists some higher power. We then wrestle with the 'evidence' to determine if our conclusions for this 'hidden god(s)' and/or 'evil' is/are real or not...

    Examples in humans: You hear a noise in your house late at night, after watching a scary movie. You hear a noise in the dark forest. You are in a car wreck, and all passengers die immediately, and you are unharmed. What do you 'infer' first???? I think we know the answers, for the majority :)

    Example in animals: A cat hears a noise and runs, but it was just a glass falling to the ground.

    My point being species with the cognitive ability to infer danger, or even intention, seem to do so. And it helps many survive. And the ones that do so, flourish, while the ones which don't, have a high tendency to die off.

    And of course intentional agency is not the ONLY reason species can/will survive. However, the ones that invoke agency thrive, while the ones that don't, not-so-much...

    So again, this is one of the reasons why the vast majority of humans infer a god and the devil in some capacity....
  6. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

    United States
    I wasn't referring to the moral argument for the existence of God. I was referring to the debate between various different theories of metaethics. Do moral truths exist or not, and if they do, are they natural or non-natural in nature.

    Beyond that, yes. I think it would be strange if God were to rely entirely upon philosophical argumentation to make his presence known. That's only a problem for people who deny the possibility of revelation.

    I don't see what could be considered subjective or interpretative about something like the Resurrection claim. It's a pretty clear historical claim, whereas something like "Ask, and you will receive" is a good deal slipperier.

    I am not quite sure what you're asking. It sounds like you're asking whether the writers of the New Testament were Christian monotheists before they wrote down the Gospel stories? I would say that this is incontrovertibly the case, so I don't see what point you're trying to make.

    Pastafarianism isn't a serious enough religion to make any coherent claims in the first place, so I can't really say that it was an option that had to be ruled out.

    If you want to rule out the Abrahamic tradition, you're welcome to do so. It makes no difference to me, but frankly, I don't find your reasoning compelling. Many verses also indicate that God is not a wish granting djinni, and the fact that he does hide from people is explicitly acknowledged any number of times--just look at some of the Psalms. You need to read Scripture with a specific agenda to not see this sort of thing.

    When did I say they were? I don't see how they could be, given the mutually exclusive messages that mystics of various religious traditions give. What I said is that if you're interested in direct, personal revelation, mysticism is the sort of path you ought to consider.

    Eh, I don't really see it. If you want to see Christian love in action, go to a politically conservative church and come out as a Democrat, or go to a politically progressive one and openly identify as Republican. If someone claims direct experience and then turns around and starts hurling abuse at their neighbor, I'm not inclined to take their claims seriously.
  7. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

    United States
    The first thing you need to understand is that the reasoning that both @Redac and I favor here comes out of the Greek philosophical traditions of Plato and Aristotle, not from revelation. I find Judaism to be a strange beast in its historical context, but the Platonic tradition in particular could just as easily point to something like the Brahman figure in Hinduism.

    If Pastafarianism were a genuine religion, and people were engaging in philosophical arguments to determine what attributes it had, they would almost certainly start declaring that its physical characteristics were metaphoric in nature, and that their religion really pointed towards some sort of transcendent unity. This is what polytheists in multiple historical contexts have done--you will find Hellenistic pagan apologists trying to explain away the embarrassing aspects of the Greek myths by saying that Zeus's constant lasciviousness was symbolic in nature and not really a stain on his moral character.

    Something somewhat similar happened with Judeo-Christianity as well, when people like Philo of Alexandria and a number of the Church Fathers began to play down the more mythological elements of the Old Testament--things like God having a physical body and wandering around in the Garden of Eden. I am not sure to what degree this was ever viewed as a literal event within Judaism, but with the contact with Greek philosophy, this sort of thing became impossible to take literally.

    If people had founded Pastafarianism a millennium ago and it had somehow survived, people might use weird, pasta-related liturgical language in their worship, but it's philosophical tradition would look similar to every other theistic philosophical tradition in existence. It would be the immaterial, transcendent grounds of being, who for whatever ineffable reason chose to communicate with humanity through the language of pasta.

    Hmmm. That's a shame, since he's got a lot of commentary on the various steps used in the argument, but quoting the whole thing isn't really feasible. I will paraphrase the most important explanations, but these are the steps themselves:

    1. There must be a first principle of all if there is to be an explanation of why the world exists.
    2. If the first principle of all were composed of parts, then those parts would be ontologically prior to it.
    3. But in that case it would not be the first principle of all.
    4. So the first principle is not composed of parts, but is absolutely simple.
    5. If there were a distinction between what the first principle is and the fact that it is, then there could be more than one first principle.
    6. But in order for there to be more than one, there would have to be some attribute that distinguished them.
    7. But since a first principle is absolutely simple, there can be no such attribute.
    8. So there cannot be more than one first principle.
    9. So there is no distinction in the first principle between what it is and the fact that it is.
    10. So the first principle is not only absolutely simple but utterly unique: the One

    With Step 1, by "first principle" we are thinking of some sort of fundamental explanation of reality. In non-theistic terms, you can think of something like the quest in theoretical physics for a Theory of Everything. The conviction remains that everything ought to ultimately be explicable.

    With Step 2, the idea is that if our "first principle" has parts, whether physical or metaphysical, its existence is dependent upon theirs. For a non-theistic analogy, consider a scenario in which we can explain physical reality fully through three separate fundamental laws of physics, but we haven't figured out a deeper explanation yet for why those three laws work together. They would still seem to be dependent upon some deeper level of explanation, so we wouldn't really have a Theory of Everything.

    (Here's the source again for anyone who can access it: Edward Feser: Plotinus on divine simplicity, Part I)

    If a cosmological argument is presented to you and you declare it meaningless because it could just as easily be used to demonstrate the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then yes, you do have the burden of explaining why precisely this is the case. You must support the objection you are making through actual argumentation. You cannot just say, "You are wrong, because FSM."

    Of the two arguments at issue right now--@Redac's version of Aquinas's First Way, and the Plotinian one above, the first points to a being that is Pure Actuality, and the second is an attempt to prove the doctrine of divine simplicity, i.e., that God is not complex or made of parts. Unless you think that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a divinely simple being of pure actuality, you would need to show how these arguments could just as easily be used to demonstrate its existence.

    If, on the other hand, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a divinely simple being of pure actuality rather than a magical plate of pasta, then it's starting to look suspiciously like God.

    In the Greek and Scholastic tradition, we do refer quite often to the Divine Intellect. Just what the human intellect is (it's often considered immaterial) is an important secondary issue.

    Beyond that, my aim was not to provide an actual argument from abstract truths, but to show how such reasoning could not conceivably terminate in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you actually do want to tackle a genuine argument from abstract truths, I suppose we could, though it would require a significant detour into other areas of metaphysics before we could even start. This particular argument ties into the problem of universals, which makes it particularly tricky.

    Wait a minute. I thought that proof was only for mathematics and alcohol? Do make up your mind about what you're asking from people here. ^_^

    That said, classical arguments are aimed at demonstrating precisely these things, so yes, if you use them to try to show that a Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, you're going to end up with these divine attributes.

    What did you rephrase? You still seem to think that we are trying to demonstrate that there was a cause to the universe, and we're not. I personally prefer arguments that don't even presuppose that there is a physical universe, given my sympathies for idealism.

    I think we are more than justified in holding that if the universe is not eternal, it was caused, whether by some sort of natural or non-natural process. If you prefer to think that things could just as easily come into being uncaused, you are welcome to believe what you wish, but that is effectively the definition of magic. I prefer to avoid that sort of radical unintelligibility.

    Nobody is arguing that the cause of the universe has specific characteristics, though. Again, we are not defending the Kalam.
  8. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

    An accidentally ordered series of causes is not identical to an essentially ordered series of causes, and the arguments about them are not identical. The particular infinite regress that has to be accounted for here is not temporal, not accidental. What you're doing is analogous to answering the question "how is this lamp being held up?" with "well, it's attached to an infinitely long chain." Each link of the chain is being held up by the one above it, and thus each one's causal power to hold things up is derived from each link above it. Such a chain, even if it were infinitely long, would ultimately have no explanatory power for how the lamp is being held up, as its entire causal power here is derivative. Without something from which that causal power is ultimately derived, something which is itself not derivative, the whole thing comes crashing down no matter how long that chain is.

    We're not assuming God here, particularly the God of Abraham, and simply inserting the idea as a terminator of infinite regress because it's convenient for us. We observe reality and draw certain inferences about it from that.

    This is assuming that the material universe is all that exists and all that could exist.

    It's not difficult to see where the argument comes from. Assuming the material universe itself is contingent, there must be some necessary being, something that is not contingent, which is not part of that material universe. Thus, it would have to be immaterial or otherwise transcendent of the material. That we don't know exactly how that would work isn't all that relevant, like how not knowing exactly what happens at the bottom of a black hole isn't relevant to knowing that black holes are there, or that something does happen at the bottom.

    In part, because anything that exists within time is subject to change -- that is, subject to certain potentials being actualized. If we posit a metaphysical causal foundation that itself is not derivative in its causal power, it must by necessity not be subject to time. Thus it must be "eternal" in this sense.

    I'll try to be very brief in describing one way someone might argue this. If, for the sake of argument, we grant that there is some sort of ultimate actualizer/Prime Mover/whatever, from which everything else derives its causal power, we would still have to have to account for why anything is actualized at all -- it is possible for potentials to never be actualized, after all.

    Like I said, there is also a sort of teleological argument that can be made using Aristotelian ideas of final cause, or ends, and which is distinct from the "Cosmic Watchmaker" argument you see Intelligent Design proponents use. We're still on the cosmological argument, though, so I'm not sure if you want to veer off into a whole different line of argumentation.

    That you dispute the justifications given does not mean it's being done without justification, nor does it mean that I'm pulling a "God of the gaps" here.

    That would be a clever rebuttal if I were arguing that everything needs a cause. That's not what I've been arguing, however. I've been arguing that that which goes from potential to actual requires something to actualize that potential. This chain of actualization has to terminate somewhere.

    I don't attempt to explain that because I don't argue that God "came into existence."

    To be clear, I am making a cosmological argument; it's just not the same cosmological argument I see most people make.

    Assert it as much as you want, but we're not arbitrarily inserting our favorite deity to terminate causal series because it's convenient for us.

    We know material things are contingent, whereas what we call "God" is a necessary being. Even if the universe were temporally eternal, an eternal sequence of change, of things coming into and out of existence, would require an eternal actualizer or cause.

    That you or I don't "know" in absolute terms -- never mind the question of what "knowing" means here -- isn't an excuse to metaphorically throw your hands up and walk away.

    You'd be incorrect in thinking that.

    I am making observations of reality and suggesting that certain inferences about its nature can be drawn

    See, you keep asserting that I have no justifications for ascribing characteristics to it, even though I've given justifications for certain characteristics multiple times. I've argued for why one could say that it's eternal or timeless, why it would be immaterial, and I could go on to other ones as well.

    Once again, just because you might dispute the justifications I've provided does not mean there are no justifications for why certain attributes can be inferred about this thing. In this case, though, you're not really even arguing against the inferences I'm drawing, or challenging the logical process that leads to me drawing those inferences. All you've done is argue that we don't know, or that certain things (such as how something could be timeless) don't make sense to you. Arguments from incredulity aren't very compelling.

    For you to continue to claim that I've provided no justifications for ascribing certain characteristics to this thing suggests either lack of attention to what I've said, or dishonesty.

    "Immaterial" is not the same as "nothing," so this entire thought sequence is pointless.

    I feel like I covered these questions above.

    The argument I'm referencing is an argument about ends or final cause. It's a whole 'nother line of argumentation we could go down if you really want to, but it's not the same cosmological argument we've been discussing.

    I've provided arguments for why certain traits are assigned the way they are. It's up to you to show where my logic is faulty. You haven't done that, you've just argued that we don't know, and that we can't know exactly how certain things would work.

    I believe Craig is a fan of the Kalam cosmological argument, which is different from the argument I've been using. That you think they're virtually identical says more about you than it does about the argument.

    What are the material properties of the number 4? Or of one's subjective experience of the color red?

    If one takes the philosophical position that consciousness is not just material, then it becomes a lot simpler. Philosophy of the mind seems to be veering way off-topic, though. Even if one could conclusively prove the immateriality of consciousness, by itself it wouldn't necessarily lead to something called God.

    Divine simplicity is the hurdle I've raised that the FSM can't get over.

    Yeah, nah, you don't seem to understand what's being said here. Look up "divine simplicity" and it should be apparent very quickly that being a composite entity isn't "fine" and that "he's magic" doesn't answer anything whatsoever.

    I can give my admittedly limited understanding. Part of the concept of God I've stated a few times is that he is existence itself, pure actuality, etc. Given that He is posited as the ultimate causal "bedrock" of every actualized potential in the universe, in all moments (not just at the beginning), it would seem to follow that He would have the ability actualize any potential according to His will. God wills something to happen, for some potential to be actualized, and it happens because He is pure actuality. He doesn't use magic or some other power source that is apart from His essence.

    This is also part of how one could ascribe "omnipotence" to the thing that we might call God.

    This would suggest that God is drawing on some power (i.e. "magic") external to Himself in some sense. That's not how it works and suggests a poor understanding of how theists generally understand God.

    I never said "for no reason" or that He created himself. And yes, those are important distinctions to make.

    Don't put words in my mouth. I never said that everything requires an explanation except for God; that would be special pleading. I've stated that anything that goes from potential to actual requires an explanation, and I've stated that something whose causal power is derivative must have something from which that power is derived. That's quite different.

    And as I've pointed out a number of times, that you don't like the justifications I've given does not mean I have no justification for attributing certain characteristics to this First Cause that would lead me to call it God. It simply means you either haven't been paying attention, or you're being dishonest in how you're representing what I've said.

    Infinite regress in an accidental series of causes presents a different problem from infinite regress in an essential series.

    In an accidental series, as we see in temporal cases, the preceding cause does not have to continually be lending causal power to the thing it caused, nor does it have to be continually borrowing such power from whatever caused it. I was caused by my parents, but my continued existence and causal power does not depend on my parents in a fundamental way. If my parents both up and died tomorrow, I wouldn't snap out of existence, and the same goes for my grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Likewise, my death wouldn't cause any hypothetical children I had to snap out of existence. Or for a different example, a rocking chair wouldn't fall apart or cease to exist as it does simply because the man who made it left or died or something.

    An essential series is more like the above example of a lamp hanging on a chain. Why is the lamp's potential to be in the air being actualized, rather than its potential to crash to the ground? Well, there's a chain link holding it up. But what's holding that chain link up? Another chain link. To reiterate the point from above, even if that series of chain links were infinitely long, if every single one of those chain links has no causal power in itself to hold up what's below it, but only borrows that power insofar as it is itself being held up by the link above it, then even an infinitely long chain has no explanatory power whatsoever.

    The latter kind of infinite regress presents a far more serious problem than the former. In the chain example, without some kind of causal base from which every link in that chain ultimately derives its ability to hold up the lamp -- and which itself can cause that to happen without deriving its own causal power from elsewhere -- then we are left to assume that the lamp and chain are ultimately hanging from nothing at all. This is a kind of logical absurdity which doesn't present itself in the same way in an accidental or temporal regress.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  9. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

    Lol, I had to break my post into two because I exceeded the character limit.

    It's a question of metaphysics. Is your position is that the entire contemplation of metaphysics is "wishful thinking" and not worth pursing?

    If your worldview going into that presentation includes the idea that the supernatural is impossible, how do you know you'd even entertain the idea that whatever happened wasn't purely natural? Even if it seemed to have no natural explanation, would you not just assume that it must be natural and we simply can't explain it yet?

    Why do you merit special treatment in this way?

    You haven't actually argued with the logic of most of what I've said, you've simply suggested that immaterial=impossible/nonexistent and asserted that it's impossible to understand exactly how certain things might work. That and assertions that the Flying Spaghetti Monster works just as well as classical notions of God because "he's magic."

    As I said, it's an imperfect analogy. The main takeaway, in my opinion, would be that faith is in many ways like trust, specifically trust in God. Sure, having unambiguous, perfect knowledge of God (or whatever thing) would make things easy for you in some respects, but then you haven't trusted in God.

    I guess the difference would be that others have compiled memos and other files that document her love for you (this kind of love is different from divine love, but whatever), and you didn't believe it because she never called you on the phone and told you herself.

    Not particularly, but then all three analogies fall short in different ways.

    I could ask you how you're deciding what's "fair" but that's yet another rabbit hole I'm not sure I want to go down right this moment. ^_^

    I'd say your positions are probably somewhat different from complete ignorance. You in particular seem to have repeatedly suggested that the immaterial does not and could not really exist, which is effectively a denial of God or the possibility of God. That's a little different.

    I mean, in a way you're asking that God thrust part of His own perfect knowledge of Himself into your head, and then you expect to be rewarded for possessing the knowledge that He's bestowed upon you.

    It might be slightly more accurate to say that you have been told about the problem by others, and simply don't believe that there is a problem because your partner hasn't made it unambiguously and undeniably clear to you in a face-to-face manner.

    Analogies are often somewhat off the mark in these situations, and I'm not usually a huge fan of them.

    I was responding to the idea that God needed to make some sort of big, impactful move to show he wants a relationship with people. That's what Jesus was (or is said to be, if you prefer). That you don't believe is entirely irrelevant to that point.

    Sure, but that's not what I'm saying there. Yeah, sure, God could probably show Himself in such a way that denial of His existence is impossible -- that you know with total and absolute certainty. My point was that at that point, a relationship is, in a way, being forced on you. You may have a role in determining the exact nature of that relationship, be it friendly or adversarial, but you will have some relationship with God. I feel like simply ignoring Him as if you had little or no knowledge of His existence would be impossible at that point.
  10. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

    The Bible is a collection of different books with a variety of different purposes. In many cases they're supposed to show God's nature and His relationship with man; some document the life and teachings of Christ, some are books of law, some are a history of the early church, and so on. I'm not sure that being an instruction manual that helps one "achieve guaranteed contact" was ever one of those purposes, particularly not in the direct manner you seem to mean.

    I never received direct contact from God in that way either, for what it's worth.

    Perhaps your understanding of what those verses mean is faulty.
  11. Ed1wolf

    Ed1wolf Well-Known Member

    United States
    We dont know the material cause for numbers, natural laws, or laws of logic, to name three things.

    There is no evidence that the three things I mention above have a material cause. That doesn't mean that they dont have a final cause.

    Because an impersonal material cause could not create a universe like this. It has the same problem atheism does.

    I dont have a copy of the book, it was referenced in another book I own.
  12. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

    United States
    The term 'morality' appears merely just another word, in which humans apply a label upon.

    That's not really what I'm suggesting... I'm stating that it is not obvious of God's existence, and that many will use all sorts of 'arguments' to 'prove' He exists. If God has the ability to demonstrate His mere existence, this topic would be a settled one. But instead, as stated prior, He is, by far, the best hide-and-seek champion.

    Except for the fact that I prayed for contact for decades, and not once did He offer my needed evidence. Thus, I again ask, did He skip me, is He awaiting until I will no longer seek Him, or maybe, just maybe, all others whom claim contact are delusional or mistaken about any and every claimed and asserted god/gods?

    But this wasn't what I was referring to...

    You stated the 'Bible is insane' (paraphrased). I'm now asking... Which parts are considered 'insane'? Claims of a resurrection could be considered pretty insane, as this is a pretty large assertion.

    The scoffer's point is that all such philosophical argumentation gets us no closer to your god, verses any other...

    Then (what) IS the point of prayer then?

    I ought to? Why? You just admitted that 'mystics' apply their 'knowledge' to mutually opposing claimed 'god's'. Thus, you have acknowledged and admitted that this would seem to have no closer bearing to any sort of measurable or identifiable truth.

    Here seemingly lies one of the 'cruxes' of your case...

    Many feel they are honestly following God's plan, rules, commands, and/or assertions. Regardless of whether or not you agree, many are earnest in their endeavors
    . The many whom take place in an anti-gay rally, for instance, is possibly merely doing so because they are following some verse(s) from the Bible.

    Furthermore, 'God' Himself states He will not accept unbelievers into heaven. So does it really seem unfair for Christians to also do the same on earth, by shunning unbelievers, or believers in an opposing religion and/or ideology?.?.?.?
  13. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

    United States
    I agree.

    If the Bible claims prayers are answered, then yes, it would be guaranteed that such requests would go fulfilled. The knowledge of God's existence would be a concluded topic, and universal. Quite simple really.

    I never asked you, and your avatar does not seem to specify... Are you a Christian? Or, are you on the cusp of being a Christian believer? Other?

    Please enlighten me, as to the actual interpretation of such cited verses, if I'm mistaken?

    Again, I was a devout believer for decades.
  14. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

    I think the idea is that yes, God does answer all prayers. That doesn't mean the answer is always an immediate "yes" though. Sometimes it's more like "not yet," or perhaps "I have something else in mind for you." And sometimes the answer is just "no." If I prayed to God once and only once, demanding some kind of boon that would allow me to go do something contrary to His will, why would I expect the answer to be "sure, here you go"? That's never been how it works.

    I'm in a little bit of an odd in-between spot. I find myself compelled by arguments for theism more generally and Christianity more specifically, so in a sense I guess I might be a Christian. Until fairly recently I'd considered myself an atheist for about a decade, and starting to call myself a Christian again still feels funny to me. I'm likely to start proper catechism classes soon as part of this sort of leap forward I also find myself willing to take. I can read and ponder philosophy and theology from afar as long as I want, but I feel like I'm not being truly sincere in my own efforts unless I'm willing to dive in more personally and trust that God will meet me halfway.

    It's all a little mystifying to me, honestly. If you'd told me a year ago I'd be in this position, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have believed you; and yet, here I am. And one of the oddest parts to me personally is that it doesn't feel much like I always imagined some sort of conversion experience must feel like. I never got anything I'd interpret as direct contact from God; there was no moment where I was overcome with bliss or passion or something, as in a Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit; and while certain things do elicit a sort of emotional response, prayer and Mass and so on don't produce the kinds of warm fuzzies I always assumed were supposed to be part of faith (I think I got that impression from mostly being exposed to a more informal, non-denominational Protestant environment). Despite that, well, here I am.

    Apologies if that was an overly-long answer to a short question. :sorry:

    I didn't go to Bible college or seminary or anything, so I can only give you how I see it and how I've heard or seen it described by others.

    One thing to keep in mind is that a big part of loving and trusting God is attempting to align our wills with His, and often prayer is about expressing our desire to see God's will done. Even Jesus does this in the Agony in the Garden part of the gospel. "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."

    That being said, much of the interpretation for these verses is quite similar. Matthew 7:7 has a few components. It says to ask, though it's often understood that you're asking for good things, and asking in Jesus's name, in His Spirit. It also talks about seeking and knocking, which implies that you don't just make a one-time request for whatever and expect it to happen; you have to be diligent and continue asking, continue seeking using your own faculties, etc.

    The others tend to come back to the same point: you can ask for something, but if you're not asking through Christ, not seeking through His spirit, not trusting in God at all, not attempting to understand His will, but instead are merely making personal petitions for your own sake, then unless those happen to align with His will or bring Him glory, then the best answer to those prayers would be "no." Again, the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane is a pretty good indicator of what proper prayer is supposed to look like.
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  15. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

    United States
    Let me ask you honestly... If I pray for proof of His existence, over and over for decades, and/or someone prays for God to prove His existence to another, do you honestly think such a request would be against His will? If so, then we seemingly have possible contradiction to reconcile from the Bible itself.

    Furthermore, wouldn't you think the existence of -- this specific God -- would be common knowledge, (at least by now)? Hence, eliminating the necessity for this topic in question...

    I appreciate the explanation. Keeping in line with this thread, what is the biggest line of evidence for God's existence, for you?

    In many situations, how would you know His will? Would it be possible to conclude, whatever (you) think is 'good' or 'right', you would translate as His 'will'?

    And if it's merely a matter seeing God's will done, why pray? God is already going to impose His will accordingly.

    But I did all this for over three decades. One of the definitions of 'insanity', is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a differing result. Thus, I have concluded that God, if He exists, does NOT want me to know of His existence. Hence, I'm stuck wrestling with all arguments presented here, which, quite honestly, appear weak, unspecific, and quite frankly, seem to steer more towards wishful thinking - by attempting to draw connections to make the puzzle fit, or to accomplish 'cognitive closure'.

    It's kind of like presenting logical arguments that aliens exist on other planets. You could present your case, or even truly believe and conclude there MUST be intelligent life out there, elsewhere. However, until an alien appears before you, it's more 'faith based.' So I ask... Doesn't it appear odd that God is going to hold the ones in doubt accountable, in not truly believing, by implementing eternal separation, when such humans simply asked for tangible proof?

    Please see above :)
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  16. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

    United States
    The term "grass" is just a word that people use to label things. That doesn't mean what is being referred to doesn't exist (though certain types of materialists might in fact deny that any sort of living creature truly exists).

    That doesn't follow. It's entirely possible to have certain abilities and not exercise them. As long as there are reasons for God to freely choose to remain hidden, then the fact that he does so is not a defeater for theism in general or Christianity in specific.

    You are welcome to believe that it couldn't be the case that God would choose to remain hidden, but I don't really see anything here but an emotional argument.

    It's impossible to say for sure, though I cannot help but think that some of the moral skepticism you've been exhibiting is potentially a huge barrier to genuine seeking.

    No, it's theories of inspiration like verbal dictation theory that I find insane, since the New Testament looks more like the records of the Early Church, and less like the literal Word of God. For all I know, every miracle in the Gospel could be true, but we're still dealing with a piece of 1st century historical literature and ought to be careful not to import modern expectations of what precisely everything means. I don't see why the claim "seek and ye shall find" would match up to discovering evidence in scientific fashion.

    Then the scoffer is unfamiliar with this type of philosophical argumentation, since they tend not to distinguish between various different Gods.

    Conforming oneself to God's will, I would think.

    I'm openly skeptical of relying primarily on any sort of evidentiary based approach, but are you interested in direct personal revelation, or not? If you are looking for first-person subjective evidence, then this is the sort of thing you ought to consider. If you're not, then I'm not really sure what you're looking for.

    Yes, it's a pretty clear violation of the commandment to love even your enemies. Moral disapproval doesn't require dehumanizing people, and to the extent that people jump from disapproval immediately to abuse, I take what they say with a grain of salt. Even being morally in the right doesn't necessarily safeguard people from self-righteousness, and it's really not that hard to tell the difference between humility and radicalization.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
  17. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

    I wouldn't claim to know the whole of God's will with certainty, but it probably depends on exactly what you're asking for. If you're choosing not to trust God and instead are demanding proof from Him, or if someone is asking Him to do it on your behalf, it doesn't really follow that He's under any obligation to present that kind of proof to you.

    Well a little over half the population of the world follows the God of Abraham, and a great many of those who don't still know of Him, so knowledge of God is pretty common in that sense. If you mean in the sense of widespread and widely-known verifiable, empirical evidence, then no, that wouldn't necessarily follow. CF's own Creation/Evolution forums attest to the fact that the widespread availability of evidence for something doesn't eliminate debate about or outright denial of that thing.

    There are a number of avenues of philosophical consideration that have added up to a holistic case I find compelling. Aquinas's Five Ways are a big part of it (I've been mostly presenting the first way in this thread so far). The moral argument is also part of it, though it helped that I had already come to believe in some sort of moral truth that wasn't purely subjective.

    In my case, at least, reason preceded having faith.

    Prayer helps insofar as you give yourself to God and trust Him to work through you. Scripture and tradition are also helpful in this regard (assuming Christianity here). It's entirely possible that one might think that whatever they decide is good is in fact God's will, but that doesn't really mean that it is.

    A number of reasons. One of the simplest reasons is that we are commanded to pray, and engaging in prayer is itself a way of showing obedience to God and His will.

    I've never much liked that saying because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense with any real examination. If I do a specific workout over and over again, I'm not engaging in insanity, I'm doing exercise. If I do a specific basketball dribble move again and again and again, expecting different results, I'm not insane, I'm practicing. :D

    I'm not sure this really follows. If you don't mind my asking, what was it that ultimately led you away from belief? Was it asking for direct proof of God and not getting any?

    If you go into an examination of the arguments predisposed to thinking that all they really amount to is wishful thinking, then with regards to genuine seeking you're kind of setting yourself up for failure.

    That's not really how I understand faith. If you could present a logically sound argument that led to such a conclusion, why would you then dismiss that conclusion simply because you haven't personally seen an alien? That'd be like being skeptical of the conclusion "Socrates is mortal" because you didn't personally see him die, or denying the existence of black holes because they cannot be directly observed, but instead must be inferred from their effect on other things.

    Eternal separation is thought of as a result of sin, not merely having doubts.
  18. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

    An interesting sociological discussion for another time, no doubt; but in this context, it means nothing. We are not dealing with a real religion here; we are dealing with a logical argument that you must be able to account for. Saying what you think would “almost certainly” happen is quite irrelevant.

    Since he is speaking of “first principles” I take it he is arguing that God caused the universe to come into existence? If so, it falls prey to the flaws of special pleading that we have already discussed. I like how he says “first principle” instead of “first cause” in an attempt to avoid the “who caused God?” question. But principles don’t act on their own or make conscious decisions, do they? So, if there was a first thing that started off the universe, the question becomes: what caused it to do so?

    As I said before, I don’t think that one can argue for the FSM, because I don’t think the cosmological argument itself is valid. However, it’s quite possible to point out that if it were valid, then we have no idea at all what First Cause the cosmological argument would lead to, and so the FSM is as valid an answer as any that you propose. Declaring that your cosmological argument is not a chronological one does not get you off the hook either. If you are saying there must be a Prime Move, then you face the same problem: what is it, and how do you know?

    Not at all. I’m not the one contending that the Prime Cause is divinely simple. And you have yet to explain why simply asserting that the FSM has the ability to be in whatever form it wishes and do whatever it wants to is not allowed.

    We had this discussion some pages back, and agreed to use “prove” in the informal sense, as in “demonstrate it” or “provide reasonable evidence for your views”. It is more fun to use the word “prove” as a synonym for “provide evidence or reason for your arguments,” because then you can just say “Prove it” to the theist, who is unable to provide evidence or reasons, only assertions.

    Wrong. That’s only the case if the arguments themselves are valid. If they’re invalid we might end up with things their original framers did not intend; which is, of course, rather the point.

    If you read back, you’ll see what I rephrased. You will remember that you said you were not contending that the universe was not eternal, so I pointed out that it was an unjustified assertion to say that the universe required God in order to exist.

    How strange. Is “I believe that the universe was caused by some natural or non-natural process” your idea of an argument for God?

    Since we are now speaking of a universe which began to exist, I think I had better remind you that our language of cause and effect is based entirely upon our experience and understanding of how things within the universe itself operate. But in this case, we are not discussing a thing inside the universe. We are discussing the universe itself. “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” may be sound logic, but the universe is not a thing. It is the sum of all things, and you can’t draw an inference or law from the relationships between items in a set and have it apply to the set as a whole.

    If we suggest that the universe is a “thing” then we are implying that there is something different to it; something outside, or beyond it. But how could that be? The universe is all that is. Do you have evidence that there is another one? Are you able, in some way, to say “Here is where the universe is not?”

    If, as you say, the universe is not eternal, then your logic fails to account for it. So does mine, of course, but I’m not the one trying to get around that by unjustifiably inventing an answer.

    Actually, if you look at Redac, you’ll see that’s exactly what he or she has been doing – arguing for intelligence, for eternalness, for omnipotence, and other characteristics generally thought to be held by God.
  19. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

    Thank you, Redac, but I understand your argument very well. I am attempting to explain to you why it is invalid. I hope the time will come when you can see the flaws in it for yourself.

    Apparently your inferences are that there exists an intelligent, eternal being of omnipotent power, which Silmarien has referred to as God. Therefore, inserting God as a terminator for an infinite regress, whether cosmological or not, is precisely what you are doing.

    We know that the material universe does exist. If you wish to conjure up an entire alternate universe of immateriality that also exists, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence for it.

    I shall now repeat my point, since you haven’t yet addressed it:

    If God is existence itself, then God itself does not exist. That is to say, if God is all that exists, then God is nothing except what exists. Therefore, the universe is identical with God, which means that the universe is God, which means that all you are saying is “The universe exists”.

    A little misleading, the way you use the word “we don’t know exactly how an immaterial entity would work” there, as if you know everything important about immaterial beings that go about creating universes. In point of fact, we know nothing at all about necessary and immaterial beings and how they may or may not be able to interact with universes.

    You’re basically committing the same mistake, Redac, over and over again: simply inventing your answers about things you have no way of knowing.

    Since you have no idea at all how things operate “outside” of the universe, or even if such a thing as outside the universe exists, you have no way of knowing how things not subject to time work.

    This is getting repetitive, but the fact is, all of your arguments contain the same flaw. You say that such-and-such a thing must happen, but we don’t know that at all. Maybe creating itself is what matter does. Maybe giving rise to universes is what nothingness does. Without knowing the answers to these things, you cannot give opinions on them.

    Yes, in fact disputing your justifications does mean that you have none. That’s exactly how it works. If the argument you make has been shown to be invalid, it doesn’t count any more.

    Exactly. And you are positing that this somewhere is a living, intelligent, personal, timeless and all-powerful entity, with no justification.

    Then nor are you providing any evidence to that this “God” thing actually exists.

    Deny it as much as you like, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. You may not be arguing for the Christian God of the Bible, but you’re still arguing for a living entity possessing a personality and powers. In order to do that, you need to provide evidence that such a thing exists.

    First, your saying that God is a necessary being does not make Him one. Second, we do not in fact know that an eternal actualizer or cause is required. This is because knowing the universe is not a thing, it is the sum of all things, and so the laws you are relying on may not apply to it.

    Of course not. It’s a reason to wait until you have evidence on which to base a conclusion, rather than being so eager to find an answer you create it.

    Also, you haven’t answered the question: if God can be self-sufficient, why can’t the universe?

    If your justifications are shown to be unjustified, then they are nullified and can no longer be used.

    If we don’t know how something works – and, when it comes to universes, we don’t – then pointing this out is the only reasonable response. Remember, the onus is on you to make your case for God. So far, whether you admit it or not, the way you argue for God’s characteristics is remarkably similar to other apologists, and commits the same logical fallacies.

    Really? Can you point to anything that is immaterial?

    Does beauty exist? Certainly, we can talk about beauty, it is a noun, but can we point to it and say “this is beauty”?

    “Four” is a description we apply to a group of whole objects larger than three and smaller than five. It does not exist independently without some material brain to observe, count and name it. “Red” is a label we give to a certain wavelength of light. Neither of these have any objective existence on their own. There are groups of four things, and there are objects that reflect light at a certain wavelength, but it takes a person to name them.

    So, again: do you have any examples of things that exist but which are not material?

    The argument is different in form, but not in substance. In particular, the reasons that Craig gives for ascribing qualities to his First Cause are practically identical to the ones that you give for ascribing qualities to your Prime Mover.

    Do you have an example of a consciousness that exists independently of a brain of some kind?

    It doesn’t need to. You’re the one arguing that the First Cause must have this “divine simplicity”.

    No problem. That would work fine for the FSM as well. All I have to do is say that he has intrinsic magical powers and can do whatever He wishes. Including maintaining a physical form for as long as He wishes, and creating a universe.

    In one sense, you’re correct. But I’m not actually positing that the FSM exists; I’m saying that the cosmological argument can be used to argue for Him just as well as for God. And He, being magical, can do what He likes.

    Also, the argument for divine simplicity doesn’t make sense; because God, even the “basic” God that you are arguing for here, is not a simple creature. It possesses will power, it makes decisions, it has thoughts. That makes it a compound creature, with different characteristics, not just “one thing”.

    The God you are describing, then (and, as a side note, do you actually believe in such a being?) is essentially the universe being conscious. What evidence do you have, or what reason can you give, that the universe possesses sentience?

    But how can you explain the universe being sentient and deciding to do things?

    That doesn’t address my point.

    I said that “God just exists” is exactly how your argument works. It is a mere assertion, given without evidence and thus can be dismissed.

    No, it’s not quite different. It’s actually very much the same thing.

    I can see that you are aware of the problem with the more traditional cosmological argument, and I can see you trying hard to avoid it, but the more you do so the more you back into it. Simply asserting that God is the end of the chain, the one thing that does can actualize everything else does not get you off the hook. If one says that God can sustain the universe with no need to sustain Him, then we might as well just say that the universe can sustain the universe.

    Since we have no idea of the laws under which universes operate, we are unable to say, and therefore have no need to invent a God to save the universe from a problem it may not experience.

    First Cause, you say? I thought we weren’t discussing causes.

    And as I’ve said a number of times, just because you offer justifications that does not make them reasonable ones that are able to support your argument.

    Your analogy provides a very good example of the limitations of your thinking. You are still assuming that laws operating upon the universe work in the way you are used to laws working inside the universe. To address your analogy, it is in fact possible for a lamp to hang on a chain with nothing supporting it: this can happen in space. It’s only within a gravity well that the chain requires a support. In the same way, a series of causes ultimately requires something to support it in our universe, but we can’t say if that’s how the universe itself works.

    Not at all. I think metaphysics is a fascinating and worthy field of study. But just because you can ask a question, that does not mean it can always be answered. Also, lacking the ability to answer a question does not give you license to make up an answer. And finally, thinking of an answer that nobody can disprove does not entitle you to maintain that it must therefore be true.

    Can you not see that what you are doing is rather close-minded? That you are rejecting all possibilities, including the considerable possibility that there exists an answer you have not yet thought of?
  20. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

    A distinction without a difference. Even if I did assume that God was some super-powerful nonhuman entity – well, isn’t that a rather good description of God?

    You call it special treatment because you and I both know that actual cases of people being contacted by God are rare even in the Bible, and certainly can’t be shown to happen in real life. But that’s not my problem, it’s your religion’s problem (since we’re back to arguing about the Christian religion). We know that the God of the Bible is described as loving all, wanting to have a relationship with all, and being able to do so if He wishes. The fact that the Bible and human experience are inconsistent with this simply provides further evidence that the God hypothesis is likely to be untrue.

    The problem is, which God trust in? You realise, there are an awful lot of gods to choose from. Lacking any reason to think any of them are real, how can I trust in any of them?

    You’re just reframing the analogy to make it more sympathetic to Christianity. At this point, it starts breaking down, and we need to look for another, more precised analogy.

    No, they’re not. I see absolutely no reason to think that God exists, and have no experience of Him whatsoever. That means that I have no knowledge of God whatsoever – only knowledge of what other people believe about Him.

    It’s true that, in the analogies, the people were simply ignorant of their unrequited loverse. But it’s not an important distinction from the point of view of the analogy.

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I expect that the Christian God, if He existed, would act in accordance with His nature as described by His religion – using his power to create the relationship with me that He desires.

    That doesn’t sound much like Christianity at all. Because if people were telling me my wife had a problem, then that is certainly a plausible situation, and I would immediately investigate it.

    I think Kissing Hank’s *** is a better metaphor than anything either of us have yet come up with.

    I quite like them, actually. People are usually so used to hearing the Bible stories and respecting them that they often don’t think about their real consequences. An analogy may have the disadvantage of not completely correlating to the situation in real life, but it can help you to look at things from a new perspective.

    Don’t you think that there’s a rather significant difference between “Jesus did something” and “Jesus is said to have done something”? The point you were trying to make fails absolutely unless you can demonstrate that the Jesus story was actually true.

    You’re equivocating about the word relationship. I don’t, at the time of writing, know who the Australian Prime Minister is. If someone tells me his name, does that mean that he and I have a relationship?

    And if God were to provide evidence that Christianity was the one true religion, how can you say it would be bad for me? If Christianity is true, then I will very probably go to hell if I do not become a Christian. That is why I would want to know the truth, so that I can make an informed decision.