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A Dialogue On “Faith is Belief Without Evidence”

Posted on Oct 27, 2013 by Tom Gilson

Phil and Alex are back in the coffee shop having a friendly talk as usual. And just as Elvis Presley’s guitar in his old movies could sound like an entire symphony orchestra (by the magic of film-making), so when Phil and Alex talk, they can speak hyper-links (by the magic of blog dialoguing).

[This is an alternate version of my post on A Pair of Self-Refuting Atheist Errors.]

ALEX: I know you don’t much like Boghossian’s Manual for Creating Atheists, Phil, but I’ve taken a look through it and it’s making sense to me.

PHIL: Well, you’re right about one thing, my friend: I don’t much like the book, but whether I like it or not is neither here nor there. The bigger problem with it is that he’s wrong about so many things. Take his first definition of faith: he says it’s “belief without evidence.”

ALEX: Sure he does. But that’s not just him saying that; that’s what faith is, isn’t it?

PHIL: Is it? I wonder what kind of evidence you could give me for that.

ALEX: Evidence? What do you mean? That’s just what faith is, isn’t it? If you had evidence you wouldn’t have faith, you would have knowledge instead.

PHIL: I see. What you seem to be saying is that faith is belief that isn’t knowledge. It sort of sounds like Boghossian’s other definition, that faith is pretending to know things you don’t know.

ALEX: No, not just “sort of;” that’s exactly what it is. It has to be, otherwise you wouldn’t talk about having faith in God, you’d talk about knowing God.

PHIL: We do, actually. I could go there, and I could tell you in particular about one of the great modern classics of Christian literature (it’s called Knowing God), but at the moment I’m mostly interested in your evidence for the claim that faith is belief without evidence. Where I find people saying that, you see, is in atheist books and on atheist websites. Atheist commenters say that sort of thing on blogs. But I hardly ever see these atheists referencing anyone but each other as sources for that definition.

ALEX: Oh, no, that’s not true. Here, let me show you on my iPhone. I’ve got three definitions for you here. One is at Merriam-Webster: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” There’s another one at Dictionary.com: “belief that is not based on proof.” But the one that really makes my point is at the Free Dictionary: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” See, there’s the evidence you asked for, right there in the dictionary: faith is belief without evidence.

PHIL: Are those the only definitions those dictionaries give?

ALEX: Well, no, but they’re the ones that apply to religious faith.

PHIL: So you say. Only one out of the three supports your contention. Are the other two wrong? It seems rather overly convenient for you to choose just that one as the one that’s right——but no, you don’t need to respond to that, it was rather pointed, I know.

Anyway, I have another question: what about all the evidences that Christians give for our faith? Surely you have some idea how many books have been written on Christian evidences. Surely you’ve seen some of the websites that give evidences for faith. Surely you’ve read some of those things: I know you wouldn’t go around saying there’s no evidence for faith, without at least checking into whether there actually might be! You have, right?

ALEX: Of course I have.

PHIL: So, are you saying that none of those writers has faith? It seems as if you must be, since they’re giving evidences. If faith is believing without evidences, and if they believe with evidences, then none of them has faith.

ALEX: No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I have read some of those books and blogs, you see, and I know what’s in there. You might say they have evidences, but it’s nothing that could ever convince me. It’s nothing that could ever persuade anyone who didn’t believe already, or didn’t already want Christianity to be true.

PHIL: Not even the books by Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, Josh McDowell, and the many others who weren’t convinced themselves before they looked at the evidences? —— but wait, don’t answer that, that would take us off track, too. I’d like to show you some empirical evidence that you’re wrong about that—which would include those authors, among others—but it would be a bit premature, since I’m not sure we agree on what counts as evidence in the first place. And we’re not likely to get too far without that, are we?

ALEX: No, you’re right. I mean, yes, you’re right: if we don’t agree on what counts as evidence then I won’t do much good to talk about your evidences, whatever they might be. But what’s so hard about agreeing on evidence?

PHIL: Good question! To me sounds like you don’t think Christian apologetics has real evidences to offer; and it’s not because there aren’t books or websites that purport to offer evidence for faith, but because you don’t think any of those evidences are good enough to persuade anyone except people who already believe, or want to believe. Is that right?

ALEX: That’s about right.

PHIL: But you say that you have evidence to support your belief that “faith is belief without evidence.”

ALEX: Yes, I already told you that.

PHIL: It’s not convincing to me.

ALEX: Right. I knew that already, Phil.

PHIL: But I don’t think you’ve thought through what it means. It seems to me that all you have for your claim, “faith is belief without evidence,” is the sort of evidence that’s convincing among atheists. They’re the only ones I ever hear saying it. I don’t think it would persuade anyone who didn’t already believe it, or possibly some people who didn’t care enough to look into whether it was really true or not. I know for certain it wouldn’t convince anyone who knew the biblical and historical connections between faith and evidences and reasoning.

ALEX: Who said it had to persuade you? It’s evidence. That’s all you asked for, and that’s what I gave you, straight from the dictionary.

PHIL: You yourself said it had to be persuasive, Alex. You said that we Christians can’t count our evidences as real evidences because they could only convince the already-convinced, or people who want to be convinced. But your “evidences” for the truth of your definition of faith aren’t any more persuasive than ours, or (I could argue) even less so! No one accepts them except people who already agree it’s true, or else want it to be true. (I don’t think either of us puts much stock in what is or isn’t convincing to people who don’t care enough to look into whether something is true or not.)

And if your evidences aren’t actually persuasive, then they don’t live up to your standard of what counts as evidence. Your “evidence” isn’t evidence at all; and again, that’s according to your own standard.

But it gets worse for you, I’m sad to say, because if you believe that “faith is belief without evidence,” then by your own standard, you believe something for which you have no evidence—which means you accept it on “faith,” according to your own definition of faith!

ALEX: That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, though; I still think faith is belief without evidences. And Boghossian says “faith” only applies to religion, whereas my claim isn’t a religious one.

PHIL: Oh, don’t worry, I’m not really going to argue that you’re accepting it on faith. That’s not because I agree with Boghossian—we disagree on a lot—but because it would require that I with your definition of faith, which is the very thing I’m trying to show is wrong.

Still, though, when you criticize faith as “belief without evidence,” you’re committing something a lot like a performative contradiction—which, as you probably know, is a statement that can’t be true because no one can make it without violating one of its own assumptions.

ALEX: Sure, I know about that. I like logic games, too, you know; such as for example, could this be true? “I am unable to express any thoughts in the English language.” It isn’t logically self-contradictory, but it’s impossible for anyone who expresses it to express it truly. That makes it a performative contradiction.

PHIL: Exactly! In a similar way, if you say that Christian faith is belief without evidence, that could only be true if you assume an extremely high standard for what counts as evidence. But your claim doesn’t live up to that standard itself, since there’s no equally strong evidence to support it.

Or rather, you’re assuming a standard for evidence that you don’t live up to yourself. Or I could state it more simply: you have a double standard for evidence: one that you think Christians have to live up to, and a different one for you to live up to.

ALEX: Hey, look, Phil, I thought we were friends. Those are pretty rough things you’re saying.

PHIL: We’re still friends, Alex, and believe me, I’m trying to treat you with the respect a friend deserves, by thinking this through with you. I’m not saying anything you couldn’t have figured out for yourself, if you’d spent the time thinking about it. And I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t want to hold on to a double standard like that, once you recognized it for what it was.

It may not feel like it, but from my perspective I’m trying to help. And of course I’m also trying to clarify what’s true about faith, because obviously that’s important, too.

ALEX: Well, you’re right I’m not in favor of living by double standards. I’m going to have to think about this a while. I do believe you have good intentions in mind. Thanks, Phil—maybe….

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35 Responses to “ A Dialogue On “Faith is Belief Without Evidence” ”

  1. […] Related: A Dialogue on “Faith is Belief Without Evidence” […]

  2. Oisin says:

    I love that, when looking at the definition of a word, a dictionary is “the sort of evidence that’s convincing among atheists” but apparently not Christians… What are dictionaries for then? Have you considered petitioning all the dictionaries to get them to change their definition of ‘faith’?

  3. Melissa says:

    Oisin,

    I love that, when looking at the definition of a word, a dictionary is “the sort of evidence that’s convincing among atheists” but apparently not Christians… What are dictionaries for then? Have you considered petitioning all the dictionaries to get them to change their definition of ‘faith’?

    Dictionaries give multiple definitions of faith, why pick the one that suits your rhetorical purposes and ignore how the people in question are using the word. Not to mention that dictionary definitions of many terms give a starting point rather than being the final, definitative and comprehensive meaning if a word.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Oisin, dictionaries don’t have just one definition for “faith,” and they don’t claim to have complete philosophical and theological discussions on all possible ramifications.

    I have never disputed that some people think faith is belief without evidence. My dispute is with people, like Boghossian, who think that’s the whole story about faith, contrary to all the literature on it throughout all the centuries. If you accept the dictionary as your sole evidence base, then you show a disregard for evidence in general.

  5. Oisin says:

    The dictionary is either correct, or it is incorrect. Are these ever correct definitions of ‘faith’?

    If not, the dictionaries are wrong, and you ought to get petitioning.

    Otherwise, claiming someone is being disingenuous for using these definitions is wrong, in which case your grievances with Boghossian seem a bit… off.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    This is getting very tedious.

    Dictionaries do not claim to have complete theological and philosophical discussions of their entries. The only thing “wrong” there is when people expect them to be what they are not.

    Dictionaries have more than one definition for many words. Boghossian disallows many of those definitions for “faith.” He’s the one disagreeing with the dictionary there. Further, where most dictionaries use “proof” (belief without proof, in one definition, in many dictionaries), Boghossian uses “evidence” (belief without evidence), which means he’s ignoring the dictionary a lot worse than you’ve even thought of us being.

  7. Jeff Lewis says:

    Your Phil character said, “But I hardly ever see these atheists referencing anyone but each other as sources for that definition.” And your Alex character did nothing but cite the dictionary. But in another thread, I gave you a specific example of a Christian making the very statement that this whole post seems to imply that Christians don’t make (link). And what about the bumper stickers that say “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”? If your point is that some atheists over-generalize, then shouldn’t you be careful not to over-generalize yourself?

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Jeff, when I say “hardly ever,” and when you supply one exception, that doesn’t count as a contradiction either in fact or in spirit.

    When you ignore previous responses to your previous complaints, that does count as being both rude and completely ineffectual argumentation.

  9. Jeff Lewis says:

    You’re right. My single exception doesn’t refute your point. But then again, your point doesn’t match with my personal experience. That newsletter was from the church I used to go to. I’ve had numerous religious conversations with friends and acquaintances where they talk about just believing without evidence. A guy I work with flat out said, ‘yeah, you engineers are always looking for evidence.’ Heck, the whole point of the Doubting Thomas story is “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    I realize I can’t give you links to my personal experiences, so here are some links to Christians using ‘faith’ in this sense. These are all from Yahoo Answers pages, and if you just click on ‘Related Questions’, you can find more examples. In other words, just that one site has an abundance of the examples Phil was looking for.

    You can’t believe in God without evidence, eh?
    Believing without proof?
    Why is faith (belief without evidence) treated as a good thing? (this one was posted by a skeptic, so you have to read the replies for the Christian responses)

    Regarding the newsletter, if I had to guess which portion the pastor might want to change, I’d wager it would be the example, not his wording on “Faith is indeed believing without any ‘proof’ or ‘evidence.’ ” It doesn’t seem out of line with the sermons I heard while I was still attending.

    I know you know that there are Christians who use faith in this sense of believing without evidence. You mentioned it multiple times in the comments. But your imaginary dialogue up above makes it seem like atheists can’t provide evidence of this usage. So, I guess maybe I’m misinterpreting your dialogue. I took it as saying the evidence of that usage doesn’t exist. Are you merely trying to say that in most of your interactions with atheists, they haven’t provided that evidence?

    Oh, and on the mention of Josh McDowell in the OP – I read his book, More Than a Carpenter. I wasn’t impressed. I started on Strobel’s The Case for Christ, but was a bit burnt out on apologetics at that point, so I’ve put it aside to read later. But the first chapter wasn’t particularly promising.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    Your first link gets evidence and proof carelessly mixed up. The second one really focuses on proof, not evidence. Most of the responders to your third link agree with me.

  11. Oisin says:

    Tom, are you disputing that there are a number of Christians who use the word ‘faith’ in the manner described by these dictionaries and Boghossian? (He is using evidence and proof interchangeably, as they are generally considered synonyms, again according to dictionaries/thesauri)

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Evidence is not synonymous with proof, regardless of your dictionaries/thesauri. Good grief, what would that do to our justice system?

  13. Oisin says:

    Depends on how you are using the word, Tom, it can mean one or the other depending on the context.

    I notice that you only answered the part in brackets, which should surely be the less important part of the sentence, or in this case question.

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    The part preceding the brackets was defined by the part within the brackets, so I thought that needed clarifying.

    “Depending on the context” is huge.

    Anyway, for about the one hundred thousandth time this week, what I have a problem with is that Boghossian is saying his meaning is the one and only proper, usual, typical, and acceptable use of the term.

  15. MJA says:

    Is
    Science is uncertain theories
    Religion is beliefs or faiths
    Nature is truth
    And Truth is
    Just me
    =

  16. Oisin says:

    If faith means believing something you have good reason to believe, why don’t atheists or scientists use the word faith?

    I think you are just changing the meaning of the word to suit yourself, ignoring how everyone else uses it.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Could you show us where you found that precise definition, Oisin?

  18. Oisin says:

    “placing one’s trust in what one has full reason to know”

    http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/08/peter-boghossians-atheistic-mission/

    If you have full reason to know something then why is trust necessary? Either you have full reason to know something, or you have faith that it is true, the two statements do not have the same meaning.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s knowing something and then trusting in its being true. For example: I know that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose from the dead. I know that by his life and teachings he proved himself trustworthy. I know that he promised eternal life to those who believe in him. I know that he demonstrated the power and the trustworthiness that are necessary to make a promise like that credible. So I trust that his promise is true.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    As to why scientists don’t use the word faith, maybe it’s because they prefer not to. They use the word trust, I assure you.

  21. Istvan says:

    It’s knowing something and then trusting in its being true.

    There’s always some element of trust. People used to believe the Sun orbited the Earth because they trusted their senses to tell them the truth. Nowadays we believe the Earth orbits the Sun, because we trust the process of inquiry that tests models of reality to circumvent our personal biases and limitations.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re ducking, Istvan.

    Yes, trust is important. I’m not very interested in what you have to say until I have more reason to trust you, the person saying it, as noted in the linked comment.

  23. Istvan says:

    You’re ducking, Istvan.

    You’re beating a dead horse, Tom. And I don’t believe in cruelty to animals, so I can’t help you.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Then consider yourself untrusted here. I have no reason to listen to anything you say. I’ve explained my reasons.

    Do you want to continue to participate in these discussions? Refusal to engage and persistent dishonesty are both reasons to be disinvited.

  25. Istvan says:

    Do you want to continue to participate in these discussions? Refusal to engage and persistent dishonesty are both reasons to be disinvited.

    I have no idea what you want me to do, Tom. I’ve explained myself in what should be adequate terms for anyone interested in friendly dialogue. You appear to be hectoring and bullying me for disagreeing with you, despite my best efforts to be civil and polite.

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    I am “hectoring you” (your term, not mine) for disagreeing with yourself, as I have explained very clearly. It’s not at all that you disagree with me, but this:

    1. I have identified a point at which you clearly disagree with yourself.
    2. I have explained how your self-contradiction causes me to have difficulty trusting you.
    3. You have refused to engage with me on that identified self-contradiction.
    4. Now you have misidentified the problem, calling it “hectoring and bullying … for disagreeing with you.” I never stated it that way, and you have misunderstood me.

    If it’s more clear now, Istvan, and if you’d like to engage on the actual issue that I’ve presented to you, feel free to do so. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve misunderstood you. Maybe you’ll review and find you miscommunicated and you want to clarify things. Maybe some combination of the above. You’re free to tell me what you think. And that, my friend answers the question you’ve just asked of what I want you to do. (I’m a little surprised it wasn’t more apparent to you earlier on, but maybe my own communication wasn’t as clear as I thought.)

    Or you can choose not to do so, in which case you’re not meeting normal human standards of honest engagement of the sort that makes for real discussion.

  27. Istvan says:

    Tom, I already explained myself. I’m not trying to tell everyone I’m right and they’re wrong. I’m not creating a black-and-white issue between symbolic narrative and literal account. If I made it seem like I was saying that, I apologize for the confusion. There’s no need to continually hammer me for my “self-contradiction” and your issues about trusting me. This is starting to feel very much like bullying.

    Let’s move on, shall we?

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    I appreciate the apology. I’m confused, though: if you’re not trying to create an either-or between symbolic narrative and literal account, what are you trying to do, and how would we see it for what it is?

  29. […] you and I disagree over whether those  really are evidences after all,  but for that you need to ask Phil to help you think it […]

  30. Allen says:

    What is evidence except an observation of fact? I’m having a very similar discussion with someone now. Lets pick a very simple claim of a miracle. For there is no need to contest the non-magic parts of the bible. Take Jesus walking on water. We have three books, and all three are very brief on this story. What here is evidence? Is simply writing something down three times evidence? I think we can distill down the “leap of faith”. Eventually the converted will have a base assumption that is propped up by nothing more than an untested axiom of sorts. That core is believed on faith alone, and assumed to be true. Once that assumption is made, they count ‘things’ as evidence. Since we haven’t agreed on that first premise, we’re bound to go in a huge circle arguing that none of that is evidence, because the base assumption is not agreed.

    So from the stand point of the skeptic, of course none of that is evidence. Stories of an eye witness accounts cannot be evidence of an impossible event 2000 years ago. So to believe and say God did walk on water, you must already agree he is the son of God, or God in another form, and of course God can walk on water. But there isn’t and cannot be any surviving evidence. (No films, just written in three books. Alien abductions have just as much anecdotal validity.)

    So to believe in the idea that a man walked on water is what? What is the assumption that must be made to get there? Any of the painfully detailed miracles are independent claims of an event that supposedly happened. How can any of them be taken on anything except erection of a house of cards, that requires a keystone belief before any of it can be true.

    Even with C.S. Lewis and many others, there is always a leap. Once they make that leap, and the basic premise is established, of course all the other pieces fall into place. Once you’ve already accepted God is present, then sure, God can do anything, so it doesn’t matter what is said here, because it’s possible. However if you take each story one at a time, none of them can thought to be true without an assumption of faith.

    Even the logical constructs that assume a God (Something rather than nothing, Prime Mover, etc.) Never get into the characteristics of said God. So the assumptions must be made that “God” has characteristics we can relate to. I have no clue why we ever get there. But it is a complete blind jump to get there.

    Once you knock out the axioms that must be taken on faith, all the so called evidence falls apart. Because with out that 1st leap, none of the rest of it makes any sense. None of it stands on it’s own. Take any one of them out of the bible, and look for the evidence. What could possibly provide evidence for a man walking on water, or healing the blind 2000 years ago? No you have to provide evidence of thing x, or thing y, and then assume that none of the stories are made up.

    So, I’m of the mind set that yes… Faith is simply asserting truth at SOMEPLACE in the chain of thought with nothing to back it. It is claimed knowledge, with nothing else there. Blind, lacking evidence, etc.

    Should adding things to your world view require physical evidence? Of course there is no physical evidence of Socrates , that is the common tactic on this one. But of course the man named Socrates was never reported to heal the lame by magic. So we don’t have physical evidence he existed, however it is plausible that a man could live with a name as such, and create logical arguments, and discuss philosophy. It doesn’t run counter to all human experience.

    So no, we don’t require physical evidence to assume LOTS of things are true. So when do you require physical evidence of a phenomenon? Maybe when it runs counter to all current observations on how the universe works?

    The faithful never require it. It doesn’t matter if its the claim of walking on water, rising from the dead, or huge Wars in America between the Laimites and the Nephites. They don’t require physical evidence.

    Religion always falls prey to special pleading I think. And faith is a slippery word, but I still think it is used in 2000 different situations. If you take the word out, you’re still left with a starting premise that has no reason to be there. That is the core little nugget of “faith”. Its not requiring any physical evidence for things that run counter to all current human knowledge. “Pretending to know things you don’t know” should be added along all the other definitions.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    Quick note to Allen: in my discussion policy, I mention that I require a valid email with every comment. I guarantee that it will not be misused.

  32. Anthony says:

    I think Allen brings up some valid issues that are worthy of a response.

    Since I’m using a valid email, hopefully Tom will respond to Allen’s comment here:

    [From Allen on January 9, 2014:

    What is evidence except an observation of fact? I’m having a very similar discussion with someone now. Lets pick a very simple claim of a miracle. For there is no need to contest the non-magic parts of the bible. Take Jesus walking on water. We have three books, and all three are very brief on this story. What here is evidence? Is simply writing something down three times evidence? I think we can distill down the “leap of faith”. Eventually the converted will have a base assumption that is propped up by nothing more than an untested axiom of sorts. That core is believed on faith alone, and assumed to be true. Once that assumption is made, they count ‘things’ as evidence. Since we haven’t agreed on that first premise, we’re bound to go in a huge circle arguing that none of that is evidence, because the base assumption is not agreed.

    So from the stand point of the skeptic, of course none of that is evidence. Stories of an eye witness accounts cannot be evidence of an impossible event 2000 years ago. So to believe and say God did walk on water, you must already agree he is the son of God, or God in another form, and of course God can walk on water. But there isn’t and cannot be any surviving evidence. (No films, just written in three books. Alien abductions have just as much anecdotal validity.)

    So to believe in the idea that a man walked on water is what? What is the assumption that must be made to get there? Any of the painfully detailed miracles are independent claims of an event that supposedly happened. How can any of them be taken on anything except erection of a house of cards, that requires a keystone belief before any of it can be true.

    Even with C.S. Lewis and many others, there is always a leap. Once they make that leap, and the basic premise is established, of course all the other pieces fall into place. Once you’ve already accepted God is present, then sure, God can do anything, so it doesn’t matter what is said here, because it’s possible. However if you take each story one at a time, none of them can thought to be true without an assumption of faith.

    Even the logical constructs that assume a God (Something rather than nothing, Prime Mover, etc.) Never get into the characteristics of said God. So the assumptions must be made that “God” has characteristics we can relate to. I have no clue why we ever get there. But it is a complete blind jump to get there.

    Once you knock out the axioms that must be taken on faith, all the so called evidence falls apart. Because with out that 1st leap, none of the rest of it makes any sense. None of it stands on it’s own. Take any one of them out of the bible, and look for the evidence. What could possibly provide evidence for a man walking on water, or healing the blind 2000 years ago? No you have to provide evidence of thing x, or thing y, and then assume that none of the stories are made up.

    So, I’m of the mind set that yes… Faith is simply asserting truth at SOMEPLACE in the chain of thought with nothing to back it. It is claimed knowledge, with nothing else there. Blind, lacking evidence, etc.

    Should adding things to your world view require physical evidence? Of course there is no physical evidence of Socrates , that is the common tactic on this one. But of course the man named Socrates was never reported to heal the lame by magic. So we don’t have physical evidence he existed, however it is plausible that a man could live with a name as such, and create logical arguments, and discuss philosophy. It doesn’t run counter to all human experience.

    So no, we don’t require physical evidence to assume LOTS of things are true. So when do you require physical evidence of a phenomenon? Maybe when it runs counter to all current observations on how the universe works?

    The faithful never require it. It doesn’t matter if its the claim of walking on water, rising from the dead, or huge Wars in America between the Laimites and the Nephites. They don’t require physical evidence.

    Religion always falls prey to special pleading I think. And faith is a slippery word, but I still think it is used in 2000 different situations. If you take the word out, you’re still left with a starting premise that has no reason to be there. That is the core little nugget of “faith”. Its not requiring any physical evidence for things that run counter to all current human knowledge. “Pretending to know things you don’t know” should be added along all the other definitions.” ]

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    Anthony, I think that what’s required in the chain of coming-to-know that certain miracles have happened is not “God exists.” It’s something more like, “God is possible, as far as I know.” Once that possibility is admitted into the chain, then one has the opportunity to consider whether the putative miracle was one in fact, or whether it was not.

    The same is true for the logical arguments for God. I disagree, by the way, that none of them reveal anything about the nature of God. The Kalam Cosmological Argument, if valid, seems to require that there be a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent being who caused the universe to come to be. It’s not a full description of the God of the Bible, but it’s a lot more than nothing at all.

    That’s not to say that God is to regarded as an hypothesis whose truth is always and necessarily confirmed/disconfirmed by the reality/non-reality of miracles, the validity/non-validity of logical arguments, etc. Don’t take me to be saying more than I am.

    The point is that it’s possible to make rational assessments of these evidences without assuming at the outset concerning their conclusions.

  34. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Anthony:

    Even the logical constructs that assume a God (Something rather than nothing, Prime Mover, etc.) Never get into the characteristics of said God.

    (1) The “logical constructs” do not “assume a God”; they purport to give rigorous metaphysical demonstrations that God exists.

    (2) They never “get into the characteristics of said God”? Really? Aquinas devotes literally hundreds of pages of painstaking demonstration of the attributes of God; e.g. the treatise De Potentia Dei or the section Questions on God from the Summa Theologiae. Samuel Clarke’s Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God purports to do the same thing. Book II of Garrigou-Lagrange’s God: His existence and His nature, clocking over 500 pages, likewise. I could go on and on.

  35. Jenna Black says:

    Anthony,

    Although I am not a Bible scholar, my understanding of the four gospels based on my research and study is that the gospels together document (contain testimony about) 34 different miracles that Jesus performed. It seems to me as though it is rather spurious to take one miracle and question its likelihood (probability). The essential question is this: Based on the testimony that comes to us in the gospels and in the entirety of the New Testament, is it rational and reasonable to believe that Jesus was capable of performing miracles and did he in fact perform miracles? Based on one’s answer to this question, we can then ponder what Jesus’ power to perform miracles tells us about his relationship with/to God, i.e., his divinity.

    Thanks for the discussion. JB

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