Thinking Christian

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Do You Think About God As He Truly Is?

Posted on Jun 14, 2014 by Tom Gilson

If these questions don’t challenge you to the depth of your intellect, you’re not thinking of God as God really is:

Read through the list, and then I’ll explain more of what I meant by that.

  • When God created space, where did he put it?
  • Where did God get the idea of energy and matter?
  • When God caused the beginning of the created order, what gave him the idea of “beginning”?
  • Where did beauty come from?
  • What processes and methods did God use to create the universe?

These questions all treat the Creator as if he were like us: drawing on resources outside ourselves, working with given materials, in a given place, at a given time.

This is not who God is.

Beyond Our Comprehension

Can you imagine making something and not putting it anywhere? Can you imagine it not being somewhere in relation to where you are? The space God created has no spacial relationship to himself. He is, in a sense, both inside it and outside it at the same time. He is completely and totally present in the room where you sit, and yet the entire created order cannot contain him. He is where you are and where I am, but if you traveled here from where you are, you would not pass through any part of God, for he has no parts.

Again: Where do we humans get ideas from? We derive them from what we’ve experienced and observed. We combine, re-combine, and set ideas and things in new relationships in our minds. God did not create energy that way: he is not (as the New Agers often say) “energy” in any sense remotely like physical energy. Of course he is not physical matter, either. There is nothing like that in him. So the creation of matter and energy was, for him, a truly creative act, an original idea such as we cannot begin to fathom.

There was in God also no “beginning,” yet he caused something to begin: yet another original idea, to a degree completely unapproachable by humans. The same could be said of physical or musical beauty, or any other beauty whatever.

All this he imagined, invented, devised, and produced by no process or method whatever, except by “the word of his power,” which was not a word spoken but an expression of his infinite intellect.

So if you think of God as having created our universe “somewhere,” if you think of him imagining new things the way we imagine new things, if you think of him processing ideas and producing results as we process ideas and produce results, you are not thinking of God as he is.

Beyond Our Human Limitations

Now, because you and I are human, it is certain that we think of God in those ways, to some extent. It is the only way we are equipped to think. We do not think about God as he truly is. Even if we made none of those mistakes, we would still not think of God as he truly is.

His essence, his magnitude, his power and glory are all beyond searching out. We cannot even form our questions about such things into proper language, since our language is fitted for the created order, not the Creator.

You do not think about God as he truly is.

Yet Not Bound By Imagined Limitations of His Own Infinity

Do you and I then know nothing true of God? Is he so infinitely far beyond our comprehension that we can grasp nothing of his reality?

No.

Indeed, to think God too great, too infinite for us to know him at all, is to belittle him: it is to suppose that he has all power except to communicate anything true about himself. He is greater than that; he is not subject to the imagined limitations of infinity.

So We Can Think About God Truly, Even If Not As He Truly Is

His ways in the world—his actions among his people—we can see and recognize, and from them, know something of God. His work in our realm begins with the inexpressible power and creativity of Genesis 1. It continues in his message to the first humans he made, in his response to their choices, and in his response to our choices ever since then. His work is expressed in his promises made and fulfilled, from Noah, to Abraham and his sons, to David, to his people through all the prophets.

Above all he made himself known in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews says,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

And Jesus himself speaks in John 14:8-9 answering a question from one of his close followers:

 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

The apostle Paul speaks of knowing God, in language unconfined and overflowing (Eph. 3:14-19):

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Do you truly think of God as God is? Paul’s prayer is that you would grow in that knowledge. It will take all of eternity. There is no such thing as all of eternity, however—or if there is, it could only be in the mind of God, not in our experience—so there is no such thing as knowing all of God truly. But there is such a thing as knowing him by his work in the world—especially, and above all, in Jesus Christ.

Postscript for Atheists/Skeptics/Questioners

For those who are inquiring into the possibility of God, you could read this post this way: Is this the God you are wondering about?

For those who dispute the reality of God, you could read this post this way: Who is the God you think you are disputing? Do you think about him as he really would be, if theism were true? If not, then you are not disputing theism as you think you are, but some other imagined system of thought.

For example, a few days ago the Arizona Atheist wrote,

Obviously, a theist will argue that god is not bound by the laws of physics, and for the sake of argument I will concede that god is not bound by those laws. However, my question is how does such an immaterial being interact with a material substance and how could it act in a material world? By what processes might god use to achieve this? In addition, these attributes are logically inconsistent. Theists argue that god exists, but then he has no existence. Huh? I believe all of this mumbo-jumbo is merely a snake-oil salesmen pitch to allow god to avoid any logical or factual arguments against him/it/her, whatever. If someone is going to propose an argument, it must at the very least be logically consistent, if not something tangible, based upon the known laws of physics and other processes humans have discovered. Anything less is pointless gobbledygook.

He is not thinking of God as theism understands God, but God as if God were part of God’s own created order. He thinks he is disputing God, but he is instead disputing a god of his own devising.

To dispute the Christian God as a concept, you owe it to yourself intellectually not to dispute some god other than the God in whom Christians believe.

To inquire into the reality of the Christian God, you owe it also to yourself to inquire into the God as Christianity really believes in.

But you might ask us, “How can we know which God you believe in, since by your own admission, there is so much of him beyond human comprehension?” My answer would be two-fold:

1. If you are thinking of God as if God were part of God’s created order, you are thinking of some other God.
2. If you want to know something about God as Christians understand God, there is no better way—in fact, no other adequate way—than by studying the life and message of Jesus Christ.

129 Responses to “ Do You Think About God As He Truly Is? ”

  1. Aaron M. Renn says:

    Reminds me a big of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin, which has an entire chapter (maybe the longest one) on the topic of God’s overwhelming difference from and superiority to man. He felt dwelling on this would keep people humble and free of sin. He also makes similar arguments that it’s impossible for us to know God as he truly is and that most of our terms to describe his essence come down to “not like us” but that we can never truly understand what something like omnipresence means.

  2. BillT says:

    I found this visual representation of Aquinas’ First Way that will help anyone not a Thomist philosopher understand what Aquinas is saying and what that means in terms of understanding God, His character and attributes.

    It’s certainly worth the few minutes of your time it takes to look through it.

  3. JAD says:

    Here are some thoughts from the book of Ecclesiastes:

    3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…

    3:14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

    Eternity is one of the attributes of God… It’s one of the things that the non-theist must explain or, perhaps, explain away. Either way, you have to confront it.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    BillT, I like that. Thanks. Good points, too, Aaron and JAD.

  5. John Moore says:

    Sorry, but it looks to me like the Arizona Atheist is doing exactly what you recommended. He’s asking the same kind of questions you listed at the top, like “How does an immaterial being interact with material?” And his answer is that he can’t understand it.

    To me also, it seems obvious that we just can’t comprehend God. How can the finite ever comprehend the infinite? It’s just impossible. You’re trying to have it both ways when you write, “We can think about God truly, even if not as he truly is.” This is special pleading at its most blatant.

  6. JAD says:

    Something cannot come into existence uncaused from nothing.

    Therefore, something has “always existed.”

    What is it that has always existed?

    How is it special pleading to ask that question?

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    No, John, his answer is not that he can’t understand it.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Also:

    You’re trying to have it both ways when you write, “We can think about God truly, even if not as he truly is.” This is special pleading at its most blatant.

    It’s not special pleading, John. It’s not even that far from everyday reality.

    Can you think about Mount Everest?

    Can you think about it as it truly is?

    Can you think about your mother? Can you think about her as she truly is?

    What makes this case different is that we can think true things about God if God can give us the ability to think true things about him.

    Now, if that were all the thought, “We can think true things about God,” had going for it, then there would be something illegitimate about moving toward that conclusion. It isn’t, as I said in the OP.

  9. Keith says:

    I would agree it’s fair to expect atheists to confront the best arguments for God.

    But it’s also fair to note there have never been more than a minuscule number of Christians in the history of the world that believed in (or were even capable of understanding), the God you and David Hart describe.

    When atheists attack the anthropomorphic God who is always helping people find their car keys, hates all the same people as His adherents, miraculously heals the sick if you have enough faith, and returns wealth tenfold if you will plant a seed gift, atheists are attacking the God Christians believe in by any standard of proportionality, not a god of their own devising.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    I must have miscommunicated. God does answer prayers!

  11. Keith says:

    Tom @10: if you mean God intervenes in the physical world in specific response to Christian petition (which is how almost every Christian who has ever lived has understood prayer), then I disagree — God can’t answer prayer without us detecting his interference in the natural order.

    Yes, there’s the “trickster God” rebuttal: where God interferes all the time but supernaturally prevents us from detecting it (just like He created light from distant stars in transit and buried the dinosaur bones). If that’s your argument, sure, but I cannot think of any way to argue God answers prayer other than God tricking us.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Then you disagree. Lots of people do! I’m not surprised. Just, please realize that my blog post is a statement of my position, not yours.

  13. JAD says:

    If that’s your argument, sure, but I cannot think of any way to argue God answers prayer other than God tricking us.

    Huh? So, the prayers that God has answered in my life and in the lives of other people I know is God tricking us? Sez who?

  14. Billy Squibs says:

    God can’t answer prayer without us detecting his interference in the natural order.

    And why would this be?

  15. Keith says:

    (Tom, OT — happy to shut-up if it’s wandering too far.)

    JAD @13:

    OK, I’ll bite: Sez me, because I see no logical alternative.

    If God answers prayers and interferes in the natural order, why can’t we detect it?

    Is there anything people pray more faithfully and fiercely about than infant health or a loved one with cancer? (A Google search for “God healed my baby” returns 1.5 million hits, but cancer is even more popular, at 2.3 million hits. In fact, if I type in “God healed”, Google attempts to auto-complete with “cancer”.)

    If God answers those prayers, we should not only detect it, but know which religion is the true one. Unfortunately for us, religion isn’t a predictor of cancer or infant mortality.

    How do you explain the lack of correlation between prayer and health (and I intend that as a serious question). I’ve only had people advance a few different explanations:

    Does God not answer prayers about anything for which enough people pray, so that it’s statistically detectable? (That’s just silly: it means that if enough people pray, God can’t interfere.)

    Does God randomly heal an infant, or cure a cancer in every religion each time he answers a Christian prayer, so it’s statistically invisible? (More silliness.)

    Does God supernaturally fake statistical studies so we can’t detect his interference in our health? (Possibly — when Christians say “God answers prayer” at the same time as “God cannot be tested”, what I hear is “trickster God”, it’s the only way I see to reconcile those two statements.)

    Is there another logical explanation, am I just missing the obvious?

  16. Billy Squibs says:

    If God answers prayers and interferes in the natural order, why can’t we detect it?

    I can think of a number of things to say in response to your assertions.

    Firstly, God may choose interact with the universe and bring all manner of changes without us being aware of them. There is no logical difficulty here. If we are not able to detect God’s interaction at a given moment, or refuse to believe that such a thing is possible, then it would seem to be our problem, not God’s.

    Secondly, you seem to be arguing for an automated god and not just a trickster god. Your proposed god seems obliged to answer prayers much like my computer is obliged to run certain processes given the correct commands. Request in, intended response out. However, God as revealed in the Bible is quite apart from this contingent god. His will, as best we understand it, is focused more on the big stories of salvation and of new creation. (I suppose a lot more could be written about what we can say or know about God’s will but this is not the time and I am not the man for it.) It seems to me that petitionary prayer is answered if it in some way connected to these bigger stories. Does that get to the emotional heart of why we believers must contend with unanswered prayers? Nope.

    Thirdly, have you interacted with the Craig Keener’s book(s) entitled Miracles? In a direct refutation of your assertion Keener suggests that miracles can be detected and have been documented. If yoou visit apologetics315 or check the archives of Unbelievable? there are a number of interviews and discussions with Keener on the topic of his book.

    Fourthly, until you can guarantee a control group and also account for God’s independent will (which might well run contrary to that of the researchers’) then all prayer studies – even those that find a positive correlation between prayer and good health – are a waste of time and money. Additionally, I think that there are other potential issues with at least some of these prayer studies. For example, the petition in some of the studied that I’ve seen is made to a very general concept of god and the participants can come from many faith traditions. It’s been a while since I’ve looked so I’m sketchy on the details.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    If God answers prayers, why can’t we detect it, you ask? Who are the “we” you’re referring to? I’ve been able to detect it. Millions and millions of other people have been able to detect it.

    How do you explain the lack of correlation between prayer and health (and I intend that as a serious question). I’ve only had people advance a few different explanations:

    Simple: by pointing to the hundreds of studies that show a definite correlation between prayer and health; that is, people who pray tend to be healthier on just about every health dimension.

    (There are some so-called scientific prayer studies that have attempted to test the effects of prayer by way of a proper experimental design, with randomly selected prayed-for and non-prayed-for groups. This is laughable. You can’t create an non-prayed-for control group, and you can’t double-blind the study to all the potential participants, i.e., God. Because of these serious design flaws, there has never been a well-designed experimental study on prayer, and there never will be.)

  18. Billy Squibs says:

    (There are some so-called scientific prayer studies that attempt to test the effects of prayer by a proper experimental design, with randomly selected prayed-for and non-prayed-for groups. This is laughable. You can’t create an non-prayed-for control group, and you can’t double-blind the study to all the potential participants, i.e., God. Because of these serious design flaws, there has never been a well-designed experimental study on prayer, and there never will be.)

    Exactly. I suppose one could pray for God to confound the researchers by becoming the trickster god that Keith mentions. It’s potentially a legitimate prayer given the extent of the study and I don’t know how one could design an experiment to account for this. One would have to know the mind of God. In all of this I’m reminded of what I think is the central prayer in Christianity, the Lord’s Prayer.

    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

    (Matt 6)

  19. Keith says:

    Billy Squibs @15

    Your 1st & 2nd pointers: I didn’t intend to suggest either how or why God responds to prayer, only if God changes physical outcomes as a result of petitionary prayer. How and why God intervenes is an unnecessary complication to the question. To the end of your 2nd point: if God’s intervention is sufficiently rare, then it would be impossible to detect, but that would be counter to mainstream Christian belief.

    I’ve read Keener’s book on miracles (Keener’s book was recommended on this list, if I recall correctly, one of the many reasons I hang around here — h/t to Tom.) I don’t in any way mean to insult Keener’s work, which I enjoyed and learned from, but I don’t recall any compelling evidence. Bluntly, Keener’s reports are almost invariably anecdotal, and Keener betrays no interest in digging deeper, the report of a miracle is sufficient to his purpose. Keener recounts anecdotes in an entirely uncritical fashion: it’s entertaining, it’s theologically interesting, but it’s convincing only to those who are already convinced. If anyone would like to dig through Keener’s book in detail with me, that would be fun, let’s do it.

    Your fourth point: having a control group isn’t necessary in a study of this size, the sheer number of participants in the experiment allows you to draw conclusions. As another example, country-wide studies of diet — obviously, there’s no possibility of a simple control group, but there are still statistical ways to understand and manipulate the data.

    Your fourth point: yes, God can, in fact, foil the experiment, and that explanation makes sense to me. If you believe God supernaturally prevents us from detecting His intervention, well, I don’t believe it, but I certainly can’t prove it’s not true, any more than I can prove God didn’t create the world as I see it 20 minutes ago.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, if it’s correlational data you want, it’s there in spades.

  21. Keith says:

    Tom @16:

    If you’ve detected answered prayer, in fact, millions and millions of Christians have detected answered prayer, what is your explanation for the fact that science cannot detect it?

    We have an actor that’s effecting physical changes in the world, detected by millions, and for some reason science, which is our best tool for detecting and understanding physical change, conclusively says there’s no change happening. This isn’t something that science cannot detect, this is something science measures all the time, and the insurance industry lives and dies by the numbers.

    How do you explain science cannot detect this physical change?

    When you say “definite correlation between prayer and health”, I agree, but we should note the statement is true for all prayer: prayer helps health and it doesn’t matter to what god you pray. That’s hardly an argument for Christian prayer being somehow privileged.

    When you say “proper experimental design” and the need for double-blinded participants, you’re restating Billy Squib’s argument about control groups. Your claim would imply it’s impossible to perform statistical studies on large populations, which is factually incorrect.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, for one thing (based on your recent comment to me), I don’t think you understand the limitations of correlational studies. To show that x causes y in a correlational study is very difficult.

    For another thing, the correlational studies we have are very positive concerning those who are involved in social circumstances where they are likely to be prayed for. So as much as we can gain through correlational research, it’s supportive of prayer.

    Third, the reason science cannot detect a prayer answer happening is because it’s not (except in the case of true miracles) a case of God breaking natural law. You speak as if God were an outsider poking a stick in machinery, or twiddling dials on a machine. God is immanent in his creation, not outside it as you seem to think.

    Fourth, it’s not counter to Christian theism that miracles should be rare. It’s definitional of miracles that they are rare, and it’s also part and parcel of theism that nature should run in a reliably regular fashion virtually all the time. Otherwise God’s communication to us would be obscured by an outrageously high signal-to-noise ratio, and no human would be able to learn from experience. (Such learning requires that actions have predictable outcomes.)

    Fifth, I don’t know if you’ve thought this through, but I have a question for you: would God want to reveal himself through scientific/statistical research? What purpose of his would it serve?

    Sixth, Keener’s anecdotes are voluminous and not uncritical, in my view.

    Seventh, I have experienced at least two miracles.

    Eighth, I think in my OP I addressed the how question.

  23. Keith says:

    Tom @22:

    I understand the limitation of correlational studies, but you’re seriously overstating those limitations when dealing with such a large population as “Christianity”, accompanied by so few confounding variables.

    Simply put: Christians are statistically no more or less likely to die than non-Christians in a society. Those millions of Christians that were healed — if they were healed, then why did the number of Christians that died not show some statistical anomaly?

    You mention correlational studies, and I agree, they exist and are supportive of prayer. Regardless, Christian and non-Christian prayer demonstrate equivalent results, there’s no argument to be made that Christianity differs from other religions (in any study I’ve seen, I’m certainly open to correction on this).

    Third & Fourth: God not breaking natural law, or true miracles being rare, is irrelevant. If Christians are healed as a result of petitionary prayer, why does science not declare Christians more likely to survive cancer than non-Christians? The mechanism or intent is irrelevant: there is a physical action that science cannot detect, and that deserves explanation.

    Fifth: I agree God has no reason to explicitly reveal Himself this way, and, further, it removes God’s “insistence on human freedom”. That’s also irrelevant, let’s agree God does not wish to explicitly reveal Himself. What is your explanation for the mechanism by which God accomplishes that? How does God answer Christian petitionary prayer and yet not reveal Himself?

    Seventh: if an average Christian were to experience at least two miracles in their lifetime, that argues for more than 60 million true miracles a year. What’s your explanation for how God interferes with natural law 60 million times a year… and yet science never notices?

  24. BillT says:

    Christians are statistically no more or less likely to die than non-Christians in a society.

    Yup, it’s true. Christians and non-Christians are likely to die at exactly the same rate since, not surprisingly, everyone dies.

  25. BillT says:

    if an average Christian were to experience at least two miracles in their lifetime, that argues for more than 60 million true miracles a year. What’s your explanation for how God interferes with natural law 60 million times a year… and yet science never notices?

    But I’ve never experienced a miracle so that scientifically establishes that it can’t possibly be more than 30 million. Touché.

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith:

    “Science” never notices because there’s no such noticer as “science.”

    Scientists notice, however. Would you like me to introduce you to some who have?

    Scientific journals hardly ever notice, because they’re not primed to look for this kind of phenomenon. Is that what you mean by “science”?

    No scientists noticed my miracles because they weren’t experienced in a lab, and weren’t the kind of thing that I would call and tell someone wearing a white lab coat. Lots of miracles are like that.

    Or consider the fact that my son is up for a new job this week through an astonishing series of coincidences. That’s either a prayer answer or, obviously, an astonishing series of coincidences. Science (whatever “science” is in this context) wouldn’t put much stock in it being anything other than an astonishing series of coincidences, because that’s a possible natural explanation, and whenever there’s a possible natural explanation, “science” won’t notice it as a miracle.

    Is it a miracle? For purposes of this discussion, the answer is this: if it’s a miracle, which it might well be, it’s a miracle unnoticed by “science.” Lots of “astonishing coincidences” are like that. Maybe they’re miracles, maybe they’re not, so let’s go ask “science.” “Science” speaks and says no, none of them are miracles, because there’s always a possible natural explanation. So if it’s not a miracle, “science” says it’s not a miracle. If it’s a miracle, “science” says it’s not a miracle.

    It’s not at all surprising, then, that miracles would go unnoticed by science.

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    But then, I’ve just proved that there can be no known miracles, because by definition a miracle is something performed by a god. But science is the one god of knowledge in today’s world, ruling out all other possible knowledge, except what its bright eye notices in its very narrow sweep of vision. No god can do anything knowable except for what this god allows. Therefore no one knows of any miracle.

    No one, that is, except for us foolhardy infidels who deny science as our god of all knowledge.

  28. SteveK says:

    Is it a miracle? For purposes of this discussion, the answer is this: if it’s a miracle, which it might well be, it’s a miracle unnoticed by science.

    But noticed by scientists (to repeat what was just said). Scientists notice many things that science cannot notice. Scientists notice the love that their husbands have for them. Scientists notice justice being served. Scientists notice human free will and virtue. Billions of these kinds of things are being noticed by scientists worldwide – every single day – and science is blind to them all.

  29. Nigel Owen says:

    On detecting God/miracles when/if God acts in the natural order.
    This, I believe, is a difficult question to answer.

    Firstly if God were to act then would we detect/observe the effect? I would generally say yes. If we take an example: Jesus walking on water. If this took place then it was observed, thus the effect was detected.

    The more interesting question is, if God were the cause would we be able to detect/observe this? the answer is not necessarily so.

    The problem is that most theologians will agree that God is not a physical entity that exists within the natural order that we may detect/observe God. If God is a spiritual being that exists outside of space/time as we basically understand it then it is very difficult to see how we could directly detect/observe God. (At least with the 5 physical senses).

    So given any observed event, whatever it may be, it cannot be concluded with certainty if God was or was not involved.

    The Bible makes it very clear that God not only created the natural order but also sustains it. The Bible also seems to indicate that God’s primary way of interacting with the world is via the natural order. miracles such as the parting of the red sea, turning water into wine appear to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

    If this is the case then it should not be surprising that many people conclude that God can’t be detected or even that God doesn’t exist.

    Of course this just means that using miracles in the general sense makes it difficult to prove that God exists. The existence of God can be well supported by examining other lines of evidence and specific types of miracles such as creation and the resurrection.

  30. JAD says:

    Anglican minister and Bible translator, J.B. Phillips, wrote a classic book in the early 1960’s entitled, Your God Is Too Small. In his introduction Phillips explains, “The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough to meet modern needs…” He then goes on to discuss in the first part of his book several conceptions that people have of “God” that are “too small”: God as a “Resident Policeman”… as a “Grand Old Man”… as a “Managing Director”… etc. He doesn’t claim that his list is exhaustive and certainly dozens of other misconceptions could be listed.

    One misconception that Keith and others like him have is God as “Short Order Cook.” If you need a miracle just put in your order and God will cook one up for you up like it was scrambled eggs. Unhappy with the result? Send it back and demand another… Unhappy with your life? Demand a full refund. Sorry Keith God isn’t like that. He isn’t a short order cook. That kind of “God” doesn’t exist.

  31. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    Yup, it’s true. Christians and non-Christians are likely to die at exactly the same rate since, not surprisingly, everyone dies.

    To make things explicit, the issue isn’t “one death per person”.

    The issue is when they die. Let’s say that in a particular town in New Mexico, there’s a special mineral that leaches into the water, and it helps people recover from cancer.

    Some people in that town will get cancer, and survive, when in any other town they would have died. The average age-at-death in that town will be higher than other towns. The rate of death-from-cancer will be lower. There will be a statistical signal. Given a high-enough rate of cancer, or a strong-enough effect of the mineral, the signal could be quite large.

    If God answers prayers for healing, then people will survive cancer, and other lethal illnesses, that would otherwise have died. It seems this should have a noticeable statistical effect. If Christian prayer were significantly more effective than other forms of prayer, then there should be a pattern displayed. Fewer deaths from cancer among Christians than other groups, for example.

    Now, if God wanted to conceal this signal, there would be a few potential ways. One way would be to have other Christians die of cancer, so as to ‘balance out’ the rates. A perhaps more merciful option would be, when God heals a Christian, He also heals at least one other non-Christian, so as to camouflage the anomaly.

    But this would require active hiding, not an inability of science to detect statistical patterns. Or else miracles are so rare that the signal is lost in the noise, but given the hits that Keith notes in #15, this seems unlikely. 2.3 million cancer cures is a heck of a signal.

  32. Doug says:

    As the O/P puts it:

    [The atheist] thinks he is disputing God, but he is instead disputing a god of his own devising.

    Indeed: atheist arguments invariably are “arguments against strawgods”. But there is irony here. Such arguments are, in fact, congruent with authentic theistic thought!
    Where the atheist says:

    [a] god [who is like that] does not exist

    The authentic theistic thinker says:

    God [who does exist] is not like that

    …and yet the two camps insist that they are fundamentally opposed! :-D

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    Okay, folks, enough of this noise. I haven’t given you the links, so you’ve felt free to ignore the several mentions I’ve already made of it.

    The fact is that there is hardly any finding in social/medical research better established than this: spirituality is highly associated with medical, emotional, and relational health.

    Look ‘em up yourself: https://www.google.com/search?q=spirituality+health+correlation.

    The “signal” is there. It’s pretty clear. It’s not so clear in the research just what kind of spirituality this involves, but let’s at least get to where we’re asking the right question about that, instead of acting as if there’s nothing there to talk about.

    Okay?

  34. Doug says:

    @Ray,

    It seems this should have a noticeable statistical effect

    When I Google “world religious map” and “world life expectancy map”, there is a huge correlation between “years of Judeo-Christian influence” and “life expectancy”. Is this the kind of “noticeable statistical effect” you had in mind?

  35. Keith says:

    JAD @30:

    It is irrelevant to my point how God interacts with believers or the natural world, or whether God is a “Short Order Cook” or the ineffable infinite source of all that is. If God interferes in the physical world, either supernaturally or through natural means, as a result of petitionary prayer, we have tools that should detect that interference.

    A physical effect such as healing cancer falls precisely into what Tom refers to as science’s “narrow sweep of vision”.

    Is there anything more closely studied than human mortality?

    And yet, this physical effect, reported by millions, remains undetected.

    JAD, as a person who believes a god interferes in the natural order: what do you believe is the reason we fail to detect that god’s interference?

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    And yet, this physical effect, reported by millions, remains undetected.

    No it doesn’t.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    Can we please quit discussing false facts?

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Once again (though it’s been said several times):

    There is a reason “science” doesn’t and won’t recognize miracles, regardless of whether they happen or not.

    So please quit drawing unwarranted conclusions from the obvious and necessary fact that “science” today doesn’t recognize them.

    There is no such thing as a valid scientific experimental study on the effects of prayer. (And there is no such thing as a scientific, scientifically-invalid study on anything anywhere.)

    So please quit drawing unwarranted conclusions from any so-called experimental study on the effects of prayer.

    There are reams and reams of correlational studies that support the effects of spirituality.

    So please quit dealing out false facts about that.

    Okay?

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    A couple of definitions:

    An experimental study, in this context, is one where at least two groups are chosen by some appropriate (usually randomized, stratified-randomized, or matched-randomized) method. One group is designated as a control group, the other(s) as the experimental group(s). The control group receives no experimental intervention except in the form of placebo or an analogue to placebo. The experimental group(s) receive(s) the experimental intervention(s).

    A correlational study measures two or more variables already obtaining in a population (or a properly selected sample thereof) and describes associations between those variables.

  40. BillT says:

    To make things explicit, the issue isn’t “one death per person”.

    The issue is when they die.

    Gee! Ray, really? Maybe you should tell Keith that. And don’t forget to correct him in his arithmetic while you’re at it. Of course, given the content in the rest of your post I’m not sure you’re in the position to correct anyone as has been pointed out.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    One more thing about the effects of spirituality and its relationship to prayer in particular: There are some interesting questions here. I’m not implying that correlational studies prove Christian prayer is real.

    What I am saying is this: there is some very interesting information out there, it’s certainly suggestive of something, and let’s at least ask the right questions based on the right information.

  42. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, in case my last few comments aren’t clear or convincing to you, and if you think this is still true:

    If God interferes in the physical world, either supernaturally or through natural means, as a result of petitionary prayer, we have tools that should detect that interference.

    … what are those tools?

    They’re not “scientific prayer studies.” No such thing is possible, as I’ve said above. So what are the tools?

  43. Keith says:

    Tom @33:

    Speaking for myself, I’m in total agreement with you: spirituality correlates with health. I acknowledged that in 21 (only noting, as you said, the correlation isn’t associated with any particular flavor of spirituality as far as I know).

    To rephrase one of the questions I’m asking, why don’t cancer or infant mortality rates correlate with Christianity?

    Are the people reporting healing through prayer confused, or wrong?

    Or is there something else going on?

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith:

    why don’t cancer or infant mortality rates correlate with Christianity?

    They do.

    Any further questions?

  45. Keith says:

    Tom @41:

    Correlating mortality rates with religion would be perfectly adequate for this purpose.

    If Christians had different mortality rates than the general population, there would be a measured outcome different than the expected outcome.

    Are you saying that if members of any religious group were more likely to survive cancer, or have different infant mortality rates than the general population, we would be unlikely to notice?

    Tom @44:

    I’m hearing you say that Christians are less likely to die from cancer than the general population (including otherwise similar, religious populations).

    On what do you base that claim?

  46. Billy Squibs says:

    I’d be interested to hear more on that, Tom. But even if they didn’t the objection misses the point. I think that Keith, despite his protestations, is still operating under the conception of God as a “short order cook”.

    What if we consider the possibility that God only decides to answer prayers for healing if the result is somehow in line with his will. If this amounts to 1 prayer out of a very large number of prayers and without time constraint then how would this be detectable?

  47. Chris says:

    “why don’t cancer or infant mortality rates correlate with Christianity?

    They do.

    Any further questions?”

    Wow, that is a strong assertion. If that were true then everyone would want to be a Christian!

    Do you have anything to support that?

  48. JAD says:

    Keith,

    JAD, as a person who believes a god interferes in the natural order: what do you believe is the reason we fail to detect that god’s interference?

    We? Who do you mean by we? You + me? Or, people who share your disbelief? I don’t fail to “detect” God’s intervention in my life. And I know people who share my experience. So if you are claiming that you and whoever else is failing “to detect that [G]od’s interference,” how is that my problem?

  49. Tom Gilson says:

    Chris and Keith, I gave you the google search link. I have lots to support my assertions. Feel free to do the homework.

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    Do you need more help? You could google “spirituality cancer mortality,” or you could click https://www.google.com/search?q=spirituality+cancer+mortality

  51. Keith says:

    Billy Squibs @46:

    About “short order cooks”: I don’t see how it can matter how I (or anybody else) thinks God operates. How and why God does what He does doesn’t matter, only the fact that somehow, for some reason, God caused unexpected outcomes in the natural world.

    If I’m just missing the obvious, please try explaining it again, I’d appreciate it!

    If this amounts to 1 prayer out of a very large number of prayers and without time constraint then how would this be detectable?

    I agree, at some level, that would be undetectable.

  52. Keith says:

    JAD @48:

    I think you and Tom are pushing back against my dismissal of personal accounts, “anecdotal” evidence, if you will. (And I don’t intend to use “anecdotal” in a pejorative way, I simply couldn’t think of a better word to distinguish between the types of possible evidence.)

    Fair enough, I don’t object to that.

    Maybe another way to characterize part of the discussion is that the “anecdotal” evidence for healing based on petitionary prayer is at odds with the “scientific” evidence. Part of what I’m asking is how theists explain the fact that the two types of evidence point to different conclusions.

  53. Keith says:

    Tom @49, 50:

    Spirituality studies tell us exactly nothing about Christianity, or more specifically, petitionary prayer to the Christian deity.

    Unless the big reveal is you’re actually a polytheist? :-)

    I’ll shut up and go back to lurking, now — thank you all.

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith @52:

    What scientific evidence are you talking about????

  55. Billy Squibs says:

    Going all the way back to #19…

    Your fourth point: yes, God can, in fact, foil the experiment, and that explanation makes sense to me. If you believe God supernaturally prevents us from detecting His intervention, well, I don’t believe it, but I certainly can’t prove it’s not true, any more than I can prove God didn’t create the world as I see it 20 minutes ago.

    Remember that I’m not suggesting the trickster god as a serious option. Rather, I’m pointing out a weakness in the experiment. How in principle does one factor in the will of an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being into an experiment? Theology isn’t a factor in answering this question.

    About “short order cooks”: I don’t see how it can matter how I (or anybody else) thinks God operates. How and why God does what He does doesn’t matter, only the fact that somehow, for some reason, God caused unexpected outcomes in the natural world.

    When you say, “How and why God does what He does doesn’t matter” I think we are as far away from each other as north is from south. Quite aside from the reservations I’ve expressed about the worth of prayer studies, I would have thought it obvious that knowing God’s intentions are key to detecting a pattern. You could simply be testing for the wrong thing. Alternatively (or additionally), we might simply be incapable of seeing a pattern given how close we are to the ground. We are, after all, the subjects of God’s great plan for rescue and perhaps not best placed to be conducting experiments.

  56. scblhrm says:

    The God of Christianity answers prayers of the “non-covenanted” – either hearing, speaking to, acting on behalf of, or against, answering, leading, thwarting, aiding, and so on, the non Covenanted outsider in the OT and NT, whether a non Israelite, Samaritan, Wise Man, Ethiopian, non Christian, Whore, Thief, or whoever, and is thus – obviously – not the graceless god Keith (etc) argues against – as he posits a god unable or unwilling to hear/move (act in X manner) in such juxtapositions ( – polytheist ?).

    Do we think of God as He actually is…..

  57. djc says:

    Tom,

    Or consider the fact that my son is up for a new job this week through an astonishing series of coincidences. That’s either a prayer answer or, obviously, an astonishing series of coincidences. Science (whatever “science” is in this context) wouldn’t put much stock in it being anything other than an astonishing series of coincidences, because that’s a possible natural explanation, and whenever there’s a possible natural explanation, “science” won’t notice it as a miracle.

    Is that a scientific principle or just a temporary inability to collect the necessary data? I say it seems more like the latter. With the proper data collection tools, each and every coincidence can be studied in depth. Imagine, for example, a not-to-distant future where microscopic embedded devices with video and internet connectivity exist in every imaginable human product and all human history is (intentionally or not) recorded in exquisite detail. If beneficial coincidences are proven to happen more often to Christians than any other religious (or non-religious) group, that would surely be scientific grounds for the existence of a “Christian-philic Force” in the universe. There would be heated debate about whether such a force was natural or supernatural I’m sure, but science would certainly take notice.

    Or would the existence of a virtual blanket of digital recording devices force God to stop helping Christians lest he be found out? That seems unlikely to me. Why would planting sensors everywhere make God do anything other than what he already wants to?

  58. scblhrm says:

    “Beneficial”? djc…

    Huh?

  59. scblhrm says:

    djc I just prayed….in my mind…. did you record it?

  60. scblhrm says:

    Like Keith’s non-god god, djc’s line is a non-god god though for different reasons. djc’s line will end in 1 of 2 places: A- Rich$ = Winner. B – Evil = No God.

    Do we think of the Necessary Being as He is….

  61. JAD says:

    djc,

    If beneficial coincidences are proven to happen more often to Christians than any other religious (or non-religious) group, that would surely be scientific grounds for the existence of a “Christian-philic Force” in the universe. There would be heated debate about whether such a force was natural or supernatural I’m sure, but science would certainly take notice.

    Another example of trying to put God-in-a-box. God is not a force or “the Force”, he is a volitional being who acts with a purpose. Human beings are also volitional being who act with purposes. For example, there is a bridge, fairly close to where I live, which spans a 800 foot gorge. I could drive over there this October and jump off the bridge and live to tell you about it.

    Since the early 1980’s The National Park Service has allowed hundreds of people to jump off the bridge into the New River gorge . Of course I would have to learn how to use a parachute, then how BASE jump and buy all the proper equipment etc., but I don’t think I’m going to do it. But still, there is a chance I could do it. I mean I’m in good shape. I’m adventurous. I’ve done things like that in the past and I’ve thought about it. (I might even be very tempted if I fortuitously met someone who was an experienced BASE jumper who would show me how and loan me the equipment.) So what are the odds I will do something like that? Design a study that will predict if and when I’ll jump off the New River Bridge. I’m a human being who doesn’t really know my own future what I will and will not do.

    God is an eternally existing/ infinite personal Being who does know the future and has a preordained purpose for everything but has not revealed every detail of his plans and purpose to us. My point is, I have a degree of freedom what I intend and plan to do with my life, but another person studying me scientifically would have no way of predicting what I will and will not do. God’s freedom is infinite. Only he knows everything He will and will not do. I don’t see how you could study a Being like that scientifically like He was some kind of impersonal force.

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    djc,

    I have a lot of problems with your proposal, but the most obvious one is that it’s a cascade of what-ifs, whereas the question that’s being asked now is whether “science” now notices any effect of prayer.

    The second most obvious problem I have with it is that there’s an underlying assumption that if we got scientifically clever enough we could figure out God’s ways—force him out into sight, as it were—when in fact we already have his own revelation of his ways.

    The great difference between the one way and the other is that one is the attempt to flush God out of the tall grass as if we were the hunters and he were the hapless partridge, where we’re in control and it all happens on our terms. The other way, in contrast, is God making himself known to us on his terms.

    There’s some terrific hubris there, which God must laugh at. There there’s the even sillier supposition that if there is a God, the way to find that out is by seeing if we can make that God play our game our way.

    Let me explain it this way: if there is no God, then there will be no God playing our game our way. If there is a God, God will not play our game our way. Why think, then, that the game means anything?

    If there is a God (as theists understand God), then that God is either unknowable, or else that God has defined the terms by which he can be known. The game is his, so to speak, not ours. So if your question is whether there is a God who might be known by humans, your next question must be whether there is any hint anywhere of such a God offering terms under which we might know him.

  63. Doug says:

    To some degree, the future will be like the past… only more so :-D

    That is, I believe my grandmother’s stories about answered prayer. Really quite amazing miracles of provision were experienced by a widowed mother of four young boys who trusted in the Father of the fatherless.

    My father has also had numerous answers to prayer, but none nearly so amazing or “impressive” as his mother.

    My experience is along the same trajectory: miracles, certainly, but perhaps less life-changing — and none over life-and-death issues.

    I won’t make any claims (God can behave as He sees fit), but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if increased self-sufficiency (conscious or subconscious) that comes with higher standards of living “crowds God out”. (Of course, some would say that I simply don’t have the same level of faith — which could also be true :-) ) But we may unwittingly be teaching our children to rely on the “systems of the world” and in so doing handicapping their faith-experience with a Matthew 13:58 result.

    So even if an experiment like dlc’s is ever performed, it might be much too late in the game.

  64. Hi Tom,

    “Or consider the fact that my son is up for a new job this week through an astonishing series of coincidences. That’s either a prayer answer or, obviously, an astonishing series of coincidences.”

    If people have free will than it must be an astonishing series of coincidences. And with more than 2 billion Christians in the world a series of coincidences is going to be happen to a large portion of them and is not really that astonishing.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  65. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    The great difference between the one way and the other is that one is the attempt to flush God out of the tall grass as if we were the hunters and he were the hapless partridge, where we’re in control and it all happens on our terms.

    The Abominable Snowman Sindrome: (1) God is like the Abominable Snowman (2) The Abominable Snowman leaves marks of his presence — a footprint, the leftovers of a half-eaten animal, etc. (3) We see no footprint, no leftovers, etc. (4) Ergo, most likely there is no God.

    Of course, the right conclusion is that God is not like the Abominable Snowman, but for some odd reason this hardly ever factors into most atheist disquisitions. Maybe the right strategy is to be upfront and admit that we are also strong atheists about such petty, small gods?

    Now, if the Abominable Snowman were ever to appear in the supermarket…

  66. scblhrm says:

    This simple topic of prayer and the “objections” raised in this thread “against” God reveal that the skeptic does not think of God as He truly is. They would even question His freedom to create or to not create Eden, Man, Etc., their own god of I.D. ( indifference – determinism ) being the same incoherent presupposition by which they define God, Man, Reality, and all other lines – which they actually argue against unawares.

  67. scblhrm says:

    A helpful book here may be this one, by Dolezal: God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness.

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    Shane @64: you’re supporting the point I was making when I brought that up. Thank you.

  69. Tom Gilson says:

    G. Rodrigues: was “Sindrome” (rather than “Syndrome”) a felicitous typo, or was it intentional? It fits nicely!

  70. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    was “Sindrome” (rather than “Syndrome”) a felicitous typo, or was it intentional? It fits nicely!

    Typo; probably triggered because the Portuguese spelling is “Síndrome” (accent on the i).

  71. Ray Ingles says:

    JAD –

    Human beings are also volitional being who act with purposes.

    And yet, we can statistically detect intelligent human intervention. When particular nurses or doctors are involved, death is more likely – which is used to detect ‘angels of death’.

    If there was some intelligent being intervening for the medical benefit of people, I don’t see a principle that’d bar statistics from indicating their presence.

    Tom –

    If there is a God (as theists understand God), then that God is either unknowable, or else that God has defined the terms by which he can be known.

    And the Christian God has defined that He is not to be known by or through medical miracles?

  72. Doug says:

    @Ray,

    No thinking Christian would ever tell God what he cannot do! ;-)

  73. JAD says:

    In my example, I was talking about extraordinary, not ordinary, events. Me jumping off the the New River bridge into the 800 foot deep New River gorge, while not impossible, would be a very extraordinary thing for me to do. My challenge was that “another person studying me scientifically would have no way of predicting” whether or not I would ever jump (with a parachute) off that particular bridge. (Not even I can predict that.) Analogously I think the same reasoning can be applied to God doing extraordinary things. By definition miracles are very infrequent or rare as well as extraordinary.

    While it is true that millions of Christians around the world may claim to have experienced something miraculous in their lives, I think it’s also true that most of them would acknowledge that the occurrence of a genuine miracle, individually in their personal lives, is quite infrequent. Furthermore, not all miracles are related to health issues. Some have to do with financial or other matters. Certainly miracles can be studied historically; I don’t see how they could be studied statistically.

  74. djc says:

    JAD,

    My point is, I have a degree of freedom what I intend and plan to do with my life, but another person studying me scientifically would have no way of predicting what I will and will not do.

    But is that a limit to the scientific method or just a current shortage of computation power? In theory, if mind is brain and we can model brain, we can predict what a mind will do. Brains are staggeringly complex, of course, so we must wait for orders of magnitude improvements in computing power before we can hope to model brain. However, computing speed and memory capacity increases by roughly 10 times each decade. So eventually we will be able to model the brain. If at that point, we fail to predict your behavior, then science has proven that mind is not the same as brain.

    God’s freedom is infinite. Only he knows everything He will and will not do. I don’t see how you could study a Being like that scientifically like He was some kind of impersonal force.

    We won’t know until we try. But my point is that in the near future, we will be able to study coincidences in greater depth thanks to technology. If beneficial coincidences are proven to happen more often to Christians than any other religious (or non-religious) group, that will be scientific grounds for the existence of a “Christian-Friendly Force” in the universe. What are the implications of this?

  75. djc says:

    Tom,

    I have a lot of problems with your proposal but the most obvious one is that it’s a cascade of what-ifs, whereas the question that’s being asked now is whether “science” now notices any effect of prayer.

    This isn’t really a “what-if”. It seems extremely likely we will have the proper data collection technology and tools to study coincidences in far more detail than today at some point in the future. Video, wireless sensors are getting smaller, faster, ubiquitous. Certainly privacy and government laws will be enacted; however, some brave souls will elect to have their lives stored in perfect detail on the condition only impersonal algorithms can process the data. Suppose a dedicated Christian volunteers to have his life recorded. Will science (in the form of statistical and data mining algorithms) detect the presence of a Christian-Friendly Force in the life of that person? If God exists, the answer to me would most certainly have to be “yes”.

    Let me explain it this way: if there is no God, then there will be no God playing our game our way. If there is a God, God will not play our game our way. Why think, then, that the game means anything?

    So to you, if God exists, the answer above would be “no”, we would not detect the presence of a Christian-Friendly Force in the life of that person. Is that a fair statement?

  76. Melissa says:

    Yep, still thinking about God as he is not.

  77. Tom Gilson says:

    djc, I read your opening paragraph beginning, “This isn’t really a ‘what-if’,” and for the life of me I can’t find anything about it that isn’t a what-if. Really. You’re proposing that we consider what might be discovered if certain research were done. The fact that you consider the if to be relatively certain doesn’t remove the fact that your expected discoveries will only happen if the research is done, and if your expectations are on target.

    My answer about detecting a Christian-Friendly Force is two-fold. One, if you look for it in God’s terms it’s already obvious, both in correlational research and in life-reports of those who are in a relationship with God. Two, those who persist in ignoring God’s ways, and insist on him conforming to our ways so we can flush him out of the high grass, he won’t play our game. He doesn’t have to. He is God.

    Do you think about God as he truly is? Have you ever considered who God would be truly, if he truly was what Christianity claims he is? Please re-read the OP.

  78. SteveK says:

    Christian-Friendly Force

    Gee, I didn’t know detectable forces had personalities that instruments could detect. Does “Christian-friendly” show up as an extra squiggle on the chart – or is that one the Jewish-friendly force?

  79. scblhrm says:

    What about the Non-Israelite FF (Friendly Force)?
    What about the Samaritan FF?
    What about the Ethiopian FF?
    What about the Non-Christian FF?
    What about the Prostitute FF?
    What about the Thief FF?

    What is [Man] and what is the [FF] housed in [For God so loves....] ?

    What, again, is Friendly?

    What, again, is [Man]?

    Does [Evil Happens] equate to [No God]?

    Does [Rich$ + Massive Biceps] equate to [FF] as some seem to think?

    Does [Bankruptcy + Large Tumor] equate to [FF] as some seem to think?

    Do we think of God as He truly “is” ?

  80. scblhrm says:

    “Yet this seeming also is the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep; lest if we never met the dark, and the road that leads nowhere, and the question to which no answer is imaginable, we should have in our minds no likeness of the Abyss of the Father, into which if a creature drop down his thoughts forever he shall hear no echo return to him.” (C.S. Lewis)

  81. Shizzle says:

    When did God become a “scientifically detectable being”?
    You haven’t detected the human soul and you are already jumping over to detect a being who has never been seen, touched or smelt but has only been heard.

    If God were so dectable by “science/scientists”, how does that make God omniscience and omnipotent? It’ll mean scientists caught God off-guard and knew what He didn’t.

    Did you even read the article?

  82. Ray Ingles says:

    Doug –

    No thinking Christian would ever tell God what he cannot do!

    And see, here’s the thing. Many, many Christians say that they see God working in their life. They know Jesus at least in part because He’s done miracles for them. There are lots of miracle stories, particularly miraculous healings. (One of the signs of Jesus’ power – and that of the apostles after – was, in fact, miraculous healing, so there’s even precedent.)

    The thing is, no pattern in the distribution of miracles seems to turn up. In the same region, Christians and non-Christians seem to suffer similar rates of various maladies. And whatever medical benefit “spirituality” provides, that benefit doesn’t seem to be limited to Christians.

    there is a huge correlation between “years of Judeo-Christian influence” and “life expectancy”

    With strange outliers like many less religious countries having better health and life expectancy and infant mortality than more Christian ones, sure. And again, within the same region, we can’t find a pattern of Christians being medically better off than others.

    JAD –

    By definition miracles are very infrequent or rare as well as extraordinary.

    Of course, Keener’s Miracles – referred to above – specifically sets out to establish that miracle claims aren’t that rare, and indeed are fairly frequent in many parts of the world. Gamma-ray bursts are rare and unpredictable, but we still can discern some patterns when, opportunistically, we happen to catch sight of one. And GRBs seem to happen about once a day. Miracle claims seem to happen at least as frequently.

    This, of course, doesn’t rule out a God doing occasional miracles. But it doesn’t seem to offer particular support for Christianity.

  83. Ray Ingles says:

    (Say, if detecting God scientifically is supposed to be limiting God, what does that say of things like ID or the fine-tuning argument?)

  84. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, based on what you read here and what you know about ID and the fine-tuning argument, how would you answer your own question?

  85. Doug says:

    @Ray,

    I don’t follow: I say “a thinking Christian would never tell God what he cannot do” and you say (more or less) “but Christians appear to be willing to say what God has done.” What’s the problem?

    With strange outliers like many less religious countries having better health and life expectancy and infant mortality than more Christian ones

    I did say “years of” — what outlier is there besides Japan?

  86. SteveK says:

    In the same region, Christians and non-Christians seem to suffer similar rates of various maladies. And whatever medical benefit “spirituality” provides, that benefit doesn’t seem to be limited to Christians.

    This is explained by God’s goodness and the pouring out of his grace that is common to everyone.

    In other words, Ray, when it’s raining down grace everyone will get wet, but some more than others. One would come to expect that Christian’s would get more wet (receive more of God’s grace) compared to others and the correlation data seems to suggest that. Physical well-being is only a small sliver of what it means to be more wet. Most of it is spiritual.

  87. G. Rodrigues says:

    @SteveK:

    Physical well-being is only a small sliver of what it means to be more wet. Most of it is spiritual.

    Is not even this a tad too strong? Quite apart from whatever empirical evidence there is, what Jesus promised his followers was the sword and persecution and humiliations. And one of History’s lessons seems to be (I am trying my best not to sound definitive — admittedly difficult) that when Christians find themselves on the side of the Wealthy and the Powerful and the Strong things tend to go awry.

    Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit as well, but I just think this whole line of inquiry troubling, to say the least.

  88. SteveK says:

    G. Rodrigues

    Is not even this a tad too strong?

    Here’s my 2-cents…

    The fruit of the spirit (patience, kindness, gentleness, etc) should result in an observable difference in the lives of Christian’s vs. non-Christian’s. As the song goes “And they’ll know we are Christian’s by our love, by our love”. That difference is relative to who the person was before Christ came into their lives.

    So, if the person was (by God’s grace) a very loving and patient Muslim, the observable difference might be very small. If the person was a sometimes loving, but most of the time impatient and cranky atheist then it’s easy to see the difference.

    It’s nearly impossible to pick up on the difference when comparing large groups of people, as Ray and others are suggesting.

    BTW, I wasn’t suggesting that Christian’s will necessarily be more healthy or live longer lives. I don’t see that promise made in scripture.

  89. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom –

    Ray, based on what you read here and what you know about ID and the fine-tuning argument, how would you answer your own question?

    Well, if I knew, I wouldn’t have asked! ID in particular seems to be an explicit effort to establish, on a scientific basis, God’s intelligent intervention in the natural order – an “attempt to flush God out of the tall grass” of biology.

  90. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK –

    It’s nearly impossible to pick up on the difference when comparing large groups of people, as Ray and others are suggesting.

    I dunno about that. We’ve developed some pretty decent data-mining tools. We can compare matched cohorts for all kinds of conditions.

    Be that as it may, though, shouldn’t it be possible in principle to look at converts to Christianity, and see patterns in what changed? (For completeness, you’d also want to look at converts from Christianity, and to and from other religions…)

  91. Ray Ingles says:

    Doug –

    What’s the problem?

    Tom seems to be saying that we can’t expect to see any patterns in medical miracles, but so many other Christians say that medical miracles happen on a fairly regular basis. What Christians are saying God has done would seem to be something that could be detected statistically.

    what outlier is there besides Japan?

    The United States, for one. Exclusively majority Christian for its entire existence, more Christian than any other industrialized nation, and yet ranks below every other industrialized nation in infant mortality, health outcomes, etc. Especially compared to other nations that have become majority secular, such as Sweden and Norway.

  92. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray,

    I don’t think you have any clue about how things are detected statistically in medicine. Think, “control group.” I wrote about it in the other recent thread.

  93. Tom Gilson says:

    There are studies on converts to Christianity, Ray. It’s actually a well-known missiological problem, called “redemption and lift:” People come to Christ, and become better off in many ways than their neighbors, lose touch with their neighbors, and have trouble passing the good news along.

  94. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    For completeness sake, allow me to intrude with a prior thought in a related thread and describe the incoherence of your model, which treats both prayer and God as subsumed within your False I.D. paradigm (Indifference / Determinism), as opposed to the God as God Model in which Real I.D. (Intentionality / Design) consists of textures which your False I.D. cannot – on necessity – detect. You are using – to borrow from Jenna – a thermometer to measure air pressure. Predicting Action presupposes Intention and thus assumes to control the God Factor and thus leaves you with hubris wrapped up inside of a half-baked methodology.

    It will – firstly – be helpful to touch on a wrongfully placed emphasis – that some act of God inside of nature necessarily violates nature’s substance/texture and is therein – necessarily – detectable. If there is pneumonia and then it is gone, how does science tell us if it was God or Nature which eradicated the pneumonia? There is no level of Nature which is a closed door for Him to enter – all the way “down” to quarks/quanta and so on – and thus any action on His end need not violate any observable flux within Time/Physicality as we know them. Hume tells us we can’t recognize a Miracle, whereas others tell us Miracles don’t happen. (I believe it was Hume). Hume seems to have made the error that grandness is the issue – which is also akin to the thermometer / air-pressure error Jenna touched on.

    God – the Anselmian Necessary Being – precedes the quark/quanta and – so – can move in manners we cannot measure – and – He can move in manners we can see. All of that layered atop being unable to control the God variable is very, very troubling for any kind of liner model. Take careful note of the regress here – which ends in Intention – not in Indifference/Determinism. The God as God Model expects non-linear, both/and blips on the screen.

    And that is exactly what we observe.

    Science is purely physical, which is fine, but the Naturalist/Atheist is – by that Ceiling – stuck with their own False I.D. Model (Indifference / Determinism) at the end of all regressions – and thus that model is the wrong instrument to employ should one wish to detect all of what is Real I.D. (Intentionality / Design), particularly if the intent (purpose) behind the design both involves and outreaches Time/Physicality. Predicting Action presupposes Intention. The Both/And there will be very, very confusing – even defeating of – the False form of I.D. as at times it will seem that Time/Physicality matter to Him (for of course they often do on some given level) and at other times it will seem that they do not matter to Him (He has other passions, ends, for us).

    All of which – again – describes the observational reality which the God as God Model predicts – which is what our eyes actually observe. Are there correlations in prayer/results in the data? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Are the prayers of Non-Israelites, Non-Christians (Etc.) followed up with His Hand in Scripture (and thus in reality)? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Does such agree with the observed world? Well of course. All of these observations – and other observations in other disciplines – help us decide which Model is more plausible: The False I.D. Model is far, far less plausible – as it does not cohere with observational reality. The True I.D. Model is far, far more plausible – being more consistent with knotty, potholed, uneven, non-linear reality as we actually find it.

    “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies – these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.” (C.S. Lewis)

  95. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom –

    Scientists notice many things that science cannot notice. Scientists notice the love that their husbands have for them.

    Imagine some Hollywood alien invaders – perhaps insectlike – intelligent but totally lacking “philia” and “agape”. Certainly much of human behavior would be puzzling to them, but I think they’d twig to the existence of love eventually. How else to explain the effectiveness of taking hostages?

    I can imagine experiments they could perform – not ones that sane, moral humans would ever consider, but still. “How many volts is this guy willing to endure to keep us from eating his children?” You could get a numeric value for that. “How long will this guy keep bailing water to keep his wife from drowning?” Such crude and brutal “experiments” I proposed don’t measure all of love; they’re more like a light-meter or Geiger counter, not a 12-megapixel camera. But they are sufficient to demonstrate love’s presence or absence.

    (We can imagine more ethical experiments, too, of course. “How hard will this guy work to make sure his children are fed, housed, and educated? What is this woman willing to give up to make her mother-in-law happy?” etc. People do have ways to detect love in practice – how many songs are there about the difference between saying you love someone, and actually behaving as if you do?)

    I think we can conclude that love does have an effect on people’s observable behavior – or else it’s not really love, is it? We can even detect such things statistically, in a broad sense. It’s a sad but demonstrable fact that adopted children and stepchildren are significantly more likely to be abused than biological descendants. (The “Cinderella Effect”.) The vast majority of adoptive and step parents love, and thus take good care of, their kids… but there’s enough of a difference to be detected scientifically.

  96. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    Be that as it may, though, shouldn’t it be possible in principle to look at converts to Christianity, and see patterns in what changed? (For completeness, you’d also want to look at converts from Christianity, and to and from other religions…)

    I’m sure this sort of thing has been attempted. The two problems I see are quantify things that cannot be quantified and the lack of any control.

    How do you quantify a relative increase in patience, kindness, selflessness in order to compare that to someone else who didn’t convert? On what time scale do you look at this? How do you know the observed effect is the result of having Christ in their lives or if it’s the result of something else like the love of money or the desire to be popular? You don’t know any of this.

  97. Doug says:

    The United States, for one. Exclusively majority Christian for its entire existence, more Christian than any other industrialized nation, and yet ranks below every other industrialized nation in infant mortality, health outcomes, etc. Especially compared to other nations that have become majority secular, such as Sweden and Norway.

    The (centuries of) Christian history of Sweden and Norway is by no means a secret, Ray. Be honest about it? Thanks.

  98. scblhrm says:

    “You don’t know any of this”

    Well said – In that the variables claimed to be controlled for cannot possibly be controlled for – God and so on.

  99. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK –

    How do you quantify a relative increase in patience, kindness, selflessness in order to compare that to someone else who didn’t convert?

    The tools we have to examine personality are, indeed, crude today. Yet we can find some interesting correlations nonetheless. You could look at things like volunteerism and contributions to charity, reported interpersonal conflict (ideally cross-referenced with family and co-workers), run a few simple tests of things like patience and cooperation in the kind of experiments that psych students have been doing for ages, etc. We already know how to match cohorts for things like education, socioeconomic status, region, etc.

    On what time scale do you look at this?

    Some people claim instant personality changes after converting – e.g., no longer being tempted by a former addiction. Assuming the rate of personality change is anything greater than zero, a longitudinal study should – eventually – see some kind of signal. Give me a sample size and a timeframe, and I could calculate exactly how small a signal could be detected. (Frankly, if a curve showed up I’d be really interested to see what the shape might be. A fast jump in the first few months, settling down to a slow rise? Or a series of ‘plateaus’? What about downswings – how many, is there a pattern to when they occur?)

    As you note, showing a correlation with Christianity wouldn’t demonstrate that Christ or Christianity was the cause of increased kindness, selflessness, patience, etc. But lets say such a study was done, and no correlation between Christianity and such traits could be found. Wouldn’t that be even a little troubling?

  100. Ray Ingles says:

    Doug –

    The (centuries of) Christian history of Sweden and Norway is by no means a secret, Ray.

    Oddly enough, their health outcomes have gotten better over the several decades they’ve become more secular, though. It’s that to which I’m referring.

  101. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    You blindness to what Grace actually is in the life of a bastard such as myself can only – I am guessing – stem from your own rather different baseline.

    Should we live so long, 100 years from now, Ray, the bastard typing these letters will seem to be – to your eye – filth.

    And this bastard is telling you: you will be right. And by your own f(x) tools I’m “highly functional” and “socially beneficial”.

    You have no idea what Grace is, Who Christ is, nor where Immutable Love’s vectors come streaming through.

    You will never discover Christ looking for Him with the limited, deterministic tools you are using.

  102. scblhrm says:

    In a long thread dealing with “evolutionary morality” the atheists appeal over and over and over to a trend in humanity. Well there it is. As the Christianized conscience – well, let us give context to that phrase – the command to master physicality birthing science – innate value – ought love – love the unlovely – embrace the one who is to your mind a real bastard – treat your slave as Christ’s brother – and so on, and so on, as that conscience-structure which the atheist Russell stated was a kind of necessary and sufficient bedrock for such social change in social conscience arenas as occurred in India brings us to the Pan-World proof of the Light/Truth of His Vectors effecting real change in the real world. Obviously we know it was not genetic shift – 3K years is not enough – nor is 10K years – which the atheists freely admit – and thus it is but Two Tress of Two Kinds of Knowledge which are in play here. And as such sightlines have spread we have seen the “peaks” and the “nadirs” (atheism must embrace both as chosen by selection) somehow sway in motion. Pan-World evidence? It is there in spades. The only difference is the atheist wants to attribute it to neurobiological change – as in genomic/structural change in too, too short of a time – while the God-Model tells us it’s been there the whole time in Man’s fragmentation and merely needs Water and Light. The God as God Model predicts observational reality just as it is. And a few thousand years ago we couldn’t have guessed it using the atheist’s limited, f(x) deterministic tools, though Christ and others told us that such was exactly the case.

  103. scblhrm says:

    Let us add another conscience-structure which the Mind of Christ has been spreading across the planet we call Earth: Husbands and wives; submit one to another. Wives, submit to your husband. Husbands, submit to your wives. One to another. Husbands, love her the way Christ loves the Church: spread your arms wide, and pour out all that is your Self for her. Consider it a Crown of Thorns (I wear mine poorly). Husbands (and this is never told to the wives) love your wives in that way – and if you don’t – don’t think that your prayers will be heard by God. (in Peter’s epistle) Telling such to a 1st century male is the definition of insanity. But the Two Kinds of Knowledge in this Garden are just that: Insanity, or, Life. Now, Christ comes to give us Himself, to give us Life, All Sufficiency Himself being our Means, and All Sufficiency Himself being our Ends, but that is another vector (for another time) within the Metaphysics of Immutable Love.

  104. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    I am guessing

    I can tell. Pretty much everything in that comment – at least, about me – is wrong.

    Obviously we know it was not genetic shift… and thus it is but Two Tress of Two Kinds of Knowledge which are in play here.

    Because those are the only two possibilities. Right.

    the atheist wants to attribute it to neurobiological change – as in genomic/structural change in too, too short of a time

    You don’t understand what you’re arguing against. It’s that simple.

  105. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Wrong about you? I didn’t say X about you, other than a guess qualified as such.

    A trend in humanity over the last 5K years….Sloping “up” in the last 1500 years… obvious…. and we both know genetics changing and neuro-webs changing had nothing to do with it. Water and Light……

  106. scblhrm says:

    “I want to see change / correlation.”

    Pan World correlation easily shown…..in spades.

    “No….no…that is your delusion…it was nature…”

    Some conversations are going nowhere from the get go.

  107. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    and we both know genetics changing and neuro-webs changing had nothing to do with it

    “Genetics changing”, obviously not. “Neuro-webs changing”? That’s a different story – assuming I’ve decoded your neologism-rich vocabulary correctly, of course. Brains change way faster than genes – but you persist in conflating the two.

  108. scblhrm says:

    So Man’s neuro webs are incapable of going back?

    How does a kidney change without the genome changing? Are you a Lamarckian? Or are you arguing Water and Light like the Christian?

    Also, see #106. Wanna stop now? You have a massive correlation spanning 5000+ years of seamless metaphysics.

  109. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    So Man’s neuro webs are incapable of going back?

    Please quote the passage of mine that you construe as claiming that. I’d be frankly fascinated.

    How does a kidney change without the genome changing?

    Um… very few humans think, or even emote, with their kidneys. (Though if you do, that would explain a great deal…) Apparently I really don’t understand what you mean by “neuro-webs”. If you want to discuss anything further, you’re going to need to provide an actual comprehensible definition.

    So, I won’t be pursuing this rabbit trail. But I think you should read David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution For Everyone”. You don’t seem to have even heard of epigenetics, or differential expression of developmental genes depending on environment, or indeed much of anything I can recognize as actually related to genetics or evolution.

  110. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    “Brains change way faster than genes.”

    If that is not Lamarckian, I don’t know what is.

    If you’re not a Lamarckian, then none of the correlations we are speaking of here can be attributed to “evolution” and thus that genomic change may be “necessary” (presuppositions on the table) to “get us here” (presuppositions) but it still just is nowhere near “sufficient” to explain the Water and the Light which do the real work we are actually talking about, the work done – in large correlational style – by the 5000+ year “metaphysical and historical accident” the atheist must contend with (it’s better to call such a titanic mountain an accident than it is to say the mountain isn’t there. Clearly it’s there).

    You did ask for correlation. Perhaps this kind presented on such a massive scale wasn’t really what you were asking for. Though, it seems the major would – does – satisfy the minor.

  111. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    To clarify:

    I didn’t say you said that our neurobiological fluxes cannot go back to cruelty. I mean that you are speaking about real change in what can only be seen as a Lamarckian style and thus if we are speaking of evolution rather than Sight then the “change” would be one akin to that of a kidney “changing” in that it is essentially certain that our kidney will never evolve to the kidney of a human 300K years ago (nephron count, structure, etc.). Present Potential is right now – and in evolutionary terms “right now” means at least 20K years for the sort of stuff we mean to imply, but my guess is far, far longer.

    So we are not talking about evolution.

    We are talking about Knowledge, about Sight, about Understanding, about Love, and about a vacuum void of those entities.

    Like it or not, those are the only cards in play in this game.

    And in this game there is that titanic mountain of that 5000+ year metaphysical-historical correlational elephant in the room.

  112. scblhrm says:

    I did pushups today. My triceps changed fast and my genome didn’t change at all.

    Thus any “change” we speak of, study, in that whole gym has no correlation to genomic change – with evolution. It has to do with Man upon the stage – as he is – with his present potential. He can be emaciated… or he can be a muscular marval. And none of it – neither condition – is “because evolution just did it”. Unless Lamarckian……. Fancy terms don’t make the subtle Lamarckian “hint” more hopeful of being invited to this game. The cards in play in this game (described in #111) are in play atop a stable genomic table, in Motion while the table remains Motionless, freely dancing atop a motionless – static – surface unable to play us a tune. Yet we sing.

  113. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    Like it or not, those are the only cards in play in this game.

    Those may be the only cards you want to play, but those aren’t the only possible cards. You acknowledge that people can be muscular or flabby based on their environment. Their brains can be educated or ignorant, too, based on their environment – including the social environment.

    Once humans evolved sapience, a whole new kind of development became possible – that of ideas. Our ideas can change drastically without the slightest change to our genome. An example – do you think that humanity’s undeniable progress in engineering over the past 10,000 years requires either an evolutionary or spiritual explanation? Or are there other options?

    You tend to use words in your own idiosyncratic way, but if you want to call that “Lamarckian” then you’re no longer speaking English anymore. And I don’t feel like learning a whole new language just to talk to you.

  114. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    We agree.

    Social evolution (change) over the last 5 thousand years has had nothing to do with genomic change (biological evolution).

    It has everything to do with knowledge.

    And nothing to do with evolution (genomic change).

    I call it knowledge.

    You call it environment.

    Since you seem to think that word-play matters……

    It’s all the same thing though.

    Social evolution/change has had nothing to do with genomic/biological evolution/change.

    Man today is just as ripe for being a monster, and, Man 5K years ago is just as ripe for being a physicists of today. A baby from today put into the 5K year-ago home will become that. A baby from 5K years ago put into today’s home will become that.

    It’s all about knowledge.

    And it has had nothing to do with biological evolution (genomic change).

    And we both know that nothing that happens in the brain in either baby gets passed onto the descendent. Therefore: zero evolution in play. All that is in play is knowledge.

    If you persist in hinting that evolutionary “change” is the mechanism for the “change” in social evolution, then I can only think of Lamarckian nuances being smuggled in.

    But it seems you agree with me: no genomic change (no biological evolution) has had anything to do with the social evolution we’ve witnessed over the last 5K years, as we both know that the genomic table for neurobiological structures embedded that deep are far, far to motionless to account for the motion which Man can and does move within in the arena of Knowledge/Sight.

    Nothing spiritual was appealed to here so relax. Only Knowledge was appealed to. Like Genesis said it would come down to.

  115. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    I’m confused by your resistance to the obvious.

    A baby from 5K years ago:

    Put him in today’s schools/homes etc. and he becomes an open minded, tolerant physicist.

    A baby from today:

    Put him in a “place” from 5K years ago and he becomes a worrier who thinks the wind is his dead great-grandfather and he’ll kill the guy wearing the wrong colored rings.

    Or whatever.

    Social evolution upwards, downwards….. those infamous Nadirs and Spikes and so on.

    It’s all about Knowledge. Genomic flux (what we call biological evolution) gets no credit for the baby flux.

    Genesis does not reduce these vectors to spooky spiritual ghosts, but to Knowledge. Observational reality agrees. Strongly. There is a robust correlation.

    It’s all rather simple.

    I’m a bit perplexed by your resistance to this very obvious interplay of babies and knowledge. Today’s babies are our tomorrow.

  116. scblhrm says:

    Typo:

    “Warrior” would be for today’s baby put into the world of 5K years ago, while “worrier” would be for a baby from 5K years ago put into today. Warrior, worrier…..apologies. Perhaps it’s a mistake worth adding to our definitions as Knowledge comes into play along many, many vectors.

  117. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    If you persist in hinting that evolutionary “change” is the mechanism for the “change” in social evolution, then I can only think of Lamarckian nuances being smuggled in.

    Persist? When did I start? A link to the exact comment would be most helpful. Quote which of my words led you to think that.

    Either you’re confusing me with someone else, or your idiosyncratic understanding of language has betrayed you.

  118. scblhrm says:

    As I said right after that – to qualify that – we agree that social evolution happens without biological evolution. “Brains change faster than genes” links two things (brain and gene) with ONE word – change. But clearly you meant two DIFFERENT kinds of change. Biological evolution is unnecessary here. Man as he “is” is necessary. But not sufficient. Knowledge + Man gets us the whole show. Babies + Light…..and so on. Both Genesis and observational reality robustly correlating all of the above.

  119. Ray Ingles says:

    Oh for…

    As I said right after that – to qualify that

    You’re not “qualifying” that. You’re backtracking. I “clearly… meant two DIFFERENT kinds of change”. But you went ahead and accused me of “Lamarckism” anyway.

    Knowledge + Man gets us the whole show. Babies + Light…..and so on. Both Genesis and observational reality robustly correlating all of the above.

    Okay, this I can’t parse. Pretend I only speak English and try again.

  120. scblhrm says:

    Babies and no Knowledge?

    Surely you can figure out what that combonation leads to in the context of social evolution. No?

  121. scblhrm says:

    I recall a commentary on television dealing with social engineering and the person interviewed stated that we (humanity, a particular society, etc.) are always hovering just one generation away from total darkness, and with each new generation that is born in our delivery rooms the entire civilization has to be rebuilt all over again, and again, and again. It was an interesting discussion. Man upon the Stage, Knowledge in/of Good, Knowledge in/of Evil. Whole and Broken. Dark and Light. Biological evolution is a non-player here as all the Change and Motion we are speaking of is happening atop the Static and the Motionless. The Necessary and Sufficient for this discussion finds us with no need at all for biological evolution and we find that Man is left standing there, alone on the stage, and juxtaposed to him there is the Arena we call Knowledge.

  122. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    Biological evolution is a non-player here as all the Change and Motion we are speaking of is happening atop the Static and the Motionless.

    Except to whatever extent that biological evolution set the stage, arranged that “Static and… Motionless” landscape on which “Change and Motion” take place. The ocean is ever-changing, but it does have to work around, and flow on, the land.

  123. Tom Gilson says:

    Really?

    Explain that, please. I can’t think of anything static or motionless, on naturalistic evolution. Nothing relevant to this case, at least.

  124. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom, (so far as I can tell) scblhrm is claiming – and I am agreeing – that no significant evolution of humans has happened over the recorded history of civilization. (You agree with that, too, so far as I can tell.)

    In the context of social change, the biological nature of humans is effectively static. The development of democracy, for example, was not a biological change.

  125. scblhrm says:

    The scope of all possible worlds is easily glossed over and so let us be clear that it is not an idea called democracy alone, nor one civilization alone, for which biological evolution is found unnecessary but it is the entire recorded anthology of all that can be marked as human thought. The Mind-Dependent – it’s uncanny – is found pushing where genomic evolution is found pushed, is found choosing, selecting where genomic evolution is found selected. In this Arena of Motion & Change the necessary and sufficient comprises an odd affair. It is a strange but inescapable discovery that we find what can only be called possible worlds between the Man left standing there – alone on the stage – and the peculiar Arena juxtaposed across from his face – which we call Knowledge. All Civilizations ever known and all Civilizations yet to come are from the ground up streaming anew through time again and again and again the entire distance from ignorance to brilliance birthed anew through the Minds of every generation as every world builds itself again – and yet again should it last – Mind birthed anew in Minds birthed anew. All worlds hover a single generation – a mere step – away from the darkness just as all worlds are in the span of one lifetime fabricated all over again in and through what just is the Mind-Dependent, this perhaps in the Idealist’s sense, or perhaps simply in the sense of being free from genomic evolution – though likely in both senses. Mind hands off to Mind where Genome remains silent as no thought at all is uttered to that New Mind from thence. No. It is from Mind to Mind in and through Time. Mind is found in motion atop the motionless and all this is not merely in Time but is just as much through Time and this it seems is the case whether we speak of Mind full of blindness or of Mind full of sight. Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man on some level ponders similar themes though from a different direction.

  126. Ray Ingles says:

    Okay, I’m done fighting through that vocabulary. I don’t know if you’re incapable of phrasing your point in common vernacular, or not choosing to, but either way I just don’t find comprehending you to be worth the effort.

  127. scblhrm says:

    Mr. Ingles,

    Just as Atheism needs the Timeless and Immaterial to get off the ground, so Theism finds no need at all of biological evolution for Mind’s Possible Worlds to get off the ground, both within Time and outside of Time.

  128. scblhrm says:

    Mr. Ingles,

    My last comment can be worded more precisely:

    While Atheism needs the Timeless and Immaterial to get off the ground, Theism finds no need at all of biological evolution for Mind’s Possible Worlds to get off the ground, whether within Time, through Time, or outside of Time.

  129. glowing_coat says:

    If I can sum up this really engaging article:

    An Atheist has learned how to disprove our experience of “God the unknown” by accusing us of “irrational emotionalism.” They are wrong, of course. We need a balance of logic and emotion, reason and feeling, masculine and feminine.

    However, he or she has not learned to disprove our experience of “God the unknowable,” lending an extra dimension to the debate between the Atheist and the Christian.

  130.    

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