Tom Gilson

Swing and A Miss? (Jeffery Jay Lowder, Secular Outpost)

I’m confused.

According to Jeffery Jay Lowder of the Secular Outpost, I failed to refute Schellenberg’s argument on divine hiddenness; in fact, I failed so badly I didn’t even address Schellenberg’s argument. What worse failure could there be?!

I can tell I let you down, Mr. Lowder. I’m not sure, though, how I set you up for that disappointment. After all, I didn’t actually say the blog post was intended as a refutation of Schellenberg. There are three clues that might have indicated that to you:

  1. The post title has nothing to do either with Schellenberg or with refuting any divine hiddenness argument. It is “A divine hiddenness argument for Christianity.” (Note, by the way, that it’s an exploratory piece, with about 20-25 percent of it devoted to potential problems with that argument.)
  2. I mentioned Schellenberg only once in passing.
  3. Where I mentioned an atheist’s hiddenness argument, it was someone else’s.

Anyway, I can see I failed in refuting Schellenberg. You’ve told me that clearly enough, titling your post, “Swing and a Miss: Another Failed Refutation of Schellenberg’s Hiddenness Argument.” Sure enough, I “swung” at him, by mentioning him once in passing—and sure enough, I missed, making successful contact with another argument instead–the one I was actually aiming at.

How embarrassing!

But (and this is why I say I’m confused) I’m actually wondering where the problem is. Where did I fail to refute Schellenberg, any more than I also failed to refute all the other arguments I didn’t address in that blog post?

And how is it that you missed the real purpose of the article?

Is it possible you swung and missed?

P.S. If we actually were talking about Schellenberg’s argument, I’d focus on point 4 as found in your blog post. If this is to reach the standard of  proof that there is no God, then the apparently empirical information in point 4 needs to reach that standard: there must first be proof that persons such as those described in 4 actually exist. (Something similar seems necessary even if this is to have inductive force.)

It seems to me that proof would be impossible for you to establish without first establishing that the Christian revelation on this question is in error; which, if accomplished, would go a long way toward rendering Schellenberg’s argument more plausible but also at the same time less relevant with respect to the truth of (specifically) Christian theism. That is to say, if the Bible is undermined, then to add Schellenberg’s argument would be like coming along and kicking a dead Christianity further down the hill.

But we weren’t actually talking about that; or at least, I wasn’t.

348 thoughts on “Swing and A Miss? (Jeffery Jay Lowder, Secular Outpost)

  1. I’m vaguely familiar with Jeffery Jay Lowder from his appearances on Randal Rauser’s blog and he seems like a fair and even tempered chap – which goes to make his post all the more disappointing.

  2. there must first be proof that persons such as those described in 4 actually exist.

    I’m (i) not resisting God and (ii) pretty sure I’m capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God but (iii) I don’t believe that God exists.

  3. I guess I don’t really understand the argument he is making. If I substitute someone on earth that exists in a far away country (you’ve heard of this person via writings and discussions) in place of God, am I to conclude that the person doesn’t exist if (i) thru (iii) are true? It seems the conclusion in (5) is a non-sequitur. Maybe I cannot make this substitution or maybe I am understanding the terms incorrectly.

  4. Tom,

    Define “resisting God,” please.

    Schellenberg defines nonresistant inculpable nonbelief as not believing in God for reasons having nothing to do with emotional or behavioral opposition towards God, towards relationship with God, or towards any of the apparent implications of such a relationship. (More at wikipedia). My nonbelief would fall in this category. (My top reasons for nonbelief I think would be the argument from evil and the success of simpler non-theistic explanations for evidence put forward to support God’s existence. God being defined as the God of conservative Christianity)

  5. DJC,

    I’m fascinated! What is the definition of God as in “the God of conservative Christianity”? Please enlighten us.

    JB

  6. P.S. If we actually were talking about Schellenberg’s argument, I’d focus on point 4 as found in your blog post. If this is to reach the standard of proof that there is no God, then the apparently empirical information in point 4 needs to reach that standard: there must first be proof that persons such as those described in 4 actually exist.

    So, what conceivable evidence would convince you that people as described in point 4 exist?

  7. @SteveK:

    I guess I don’t really understand the argument he is making. If I substitute someone on earth that exists in a far away country (you’ve heard of this person via writings and discussions) in place of God, am I to conclude that the person doesn’t exist if (i) thru (iii) are true?

    Under two conditions, yes. Lets call this alleged person in a far away country “Bob” and assume that Bob a) wants to have a relationship with you and b) could make himself known to you (in a way that doesn´t inconvenience him at all – Bob is rich and has all the time in the world). You can conclude that Bob doesn´t exist because if he would, he would have made himself known to you. Without the two assumptions about Bob, the conclusion obviously would not follow.

  8. Andy,
    On further reflection, it seems to me that the belief component of the argument is immaterial to the conclusion in (5). What a person believes about X has no impact on the actual existence of X.

  9. @SteveK

    On further reflection, it seems to me that the belief component of the argument is immaterial to the conclusion in (5). What a person believes about X has no impact on the actual existence of X.

    That completely depends on what “X” is. Assume that “X” is a person who a) wants you to know him and to have a relationship with you, and is further b) a person who could easily (i.e. without causing *any* inconvenience to him whatsoever) make himself known to you. Now, if we assume that you are in principle able to know “X” and have a relationship with him, and further assume that you don´t actively try to prevent “X” from making himself known to you, then your genuine disbelief in the existence of “X” would lead to the conclusion that “X” does not exist – if he would, he would have made himself known to you.
    Again, note that the original argument is directed against a specific subset of conceivable “Gods” – it wouldn´t work against a “God” who is not interested in humans at all or who only wants to have a relationship with some selected humans (it wouldn´t work against a calvinist understanding of “God” as far as I can tell).

  10. Andy,

    That completely depends on what “X” is.

    This is false. For any possible being, X, the existence of X does not depend on your beliefs about X. This argument of Schellenberg’s seems to be about a person’s justification for believing that God exists.

    I could buy into the “absence of evidence is evidence of absence” argument if I was confident that anyone could know that they’ve ‘searched’ the entire landscape of evidences and have determined that God is not there. I’m not that naive.

  11. SteveK,

    This is false. For any possible being, X, the existence of X does not depend on your beliefs about X.

    I laid out an argument for why your beliefs about “X” actually can lead to a conclusion about whether “X” does or does not exist, not generally but for some particular entities that you could substitute for “X”, it would be so – you ignored my argument completely. If you think it is wrong, could you please point out where exactly my argument was illogical in your opinion?

  12. And I laid out a counter-argument that shows that your objection is completely immaterial to Schellenberg´s argument. If you think I was wrong, then again, please point out where my argument was illogical in your opinion.

  13. Maybe you missed my edited comment above, Andy. Here’s why I don’t buy into the logic that Schellenberg put forward.

    I could buy into the “absence of evidence is evidence of absence” argument if I was confident that anyone could know that they’ve ‘searched’ the entire landscape of evidences and have determined that God is not there. I’m not that naive.

    Schellenberg’s conclusion, if the argument was properly formulated, should result in agnosticism.

  14. Amazing.

    Using logic to say no evidence exists which necessitates God’s unique ontological ends.

    How self-defeating.

    Eventual Nihilism vs. Necessary Being.

    It’s almost comical. Andy must be referring to a different sort of reality than our own.

  15. SteveK,

    I could buy into the “absence of evidence is evidence of absence” argument if I was confident that anyone could know that they’ve ‘searched’ the entire landscape of evidences and have determined that God is not there. I’m not that naive.

    Schellenberg’s conclusion, if the argument was properly formulated, should result in agnosticism.

    As I mentioned several times, Schellenberg´s argument is directed against a particular subset of definitions for the word “God” – for those that define “God” in such a way that he created humans and wants to have a relationship with them. And as I also mentioned several times, yes, the argument doesn´t work against “Gods” that do not care about humanity at all or “Gods” that only care about a select few humans, but it absolutely does work against “Gods” that want to have a relationship with all humans.
    And note that the word “God” is pretty much infinitely malleable, it is trivial to come up with definitions of “God” that would make the claim “God exists” irrefutable – it could never, not even in principle, be supported or refuted – but those “Gods” are rather uninteresting because their existence would be in principle 100% indistinguishable from their non-existence.

  16. @scblhrm

    Amazing.

    Using logic to say no evidence exists which necessitates God’s unique ontological ends.

    How self-defeating.

    Eventual Nihilism vs. Necessary Being.

    I actually argued nothing along that line. Everything I said in this thread would in fact be perfectly compatible with the existence of a “necessary being” (or a “necessary thing” alternatively) – it would not be compatible with a “necessary being” that wants to have a relationship with human beings though.

  17. …but it absolutely does work against “Gods” that want to have a relationship with all humans.

    It might work if you indeed aren’t resisting God in some way that prevents the relationship. Have you read the book of Romans, Andy?

  18. It might work if you indeed aren’t resisting God in some way that prevents the relationship. Have you read the book of Romans, Andy?

    You mean Romans 1:20? Yup, I´ve read that – and I know as conclusively as I could possibly know something that Romans 1:20 is false. (I say the “as conclusively as I could possibly know something” part because it seems to me that there is nothing that I could possibly know with as much certainty as what I myself am thinking / believing, would you disagree?)
    You could of course say that I am lying about this, but then we don´t really have anything to talk about, except maybe for the very first question that I asked in this thread – what conceivable evidence would convince you that I am not lying about this?

  19. Andy,

    So you’re talking about *god*.

    Not the Christian’s God.

    Okay.

    Evidence (necessary ends) refused is relationship refused.

  20. @ Andy #20
    scblhrm is correct. This argument, as you have clarified it, serves to show that a god, who isn’t God, doesn’t exist. We agree with that.

  21. scblhrm,

    Andy,

    So you’re talking about *god*.

    Not the Christian’s God.

    No, as far as I can tell, the argument in question in this thread works against many mainstream christian conceptions of “God” (I´m pretty sure that Calvinism would be immune against this argument, but I know very little about Calvinism so I can´t say for sure).

    Evidence (necessary ends) refused is relationship refused.

    You have to explain that to me. I´ll use my earlier “Bob” analogy – imagine you say that there is this rich philantropist called Bob who really likes me and would absolutely love to get to know me and be my friend and that Bob has a private jet and all the time in the world. Now imagine that I would believe you have made this story up. If I would go out of my way to avoid being proven wrong on this, I could see how that could be called “refusing a relationship with Bob” (example: a stranger would knock on my door, and I think that it might be Bob, but instead of opening the door to find out, I escape through the back door and run away). Now, you seem to say that I am doing something similar with your God – and what exactly would that “something similar” be in your opinion?

  22. SteveK,

    scblhrm is correct. This argument, as you have clarified it, serves to show that a god, who isn’t God, doesn’t exist. We agree with that.

    So you believe in a God that is either not interested in a relationship with all humans or doesn´t care about humans at all?

  23. Andy,
    I wouldn’t say you are lying. I’d say you are either ignorant in a non-pejorative way, or you are rationalizing away the evidences available to everyone. These evidences include the sum total of all the arguments for the existence of God.

    No, as far as I can tell, the argument in question in this thread works against many mainstream christian conceptions of “God”

    If the argument depends on denying the things taught in the book of Romans, then the argument doesn’t succeed in doing what you think it does.

  24. Andy,

    Now, you seem to say that I am doing something similar with your God – and what exactly would that “something similar” be in your opinion?

    You aren’t wanting your relationship with God on be on God’s terms. If you did, you would already be in that relationship.

  25. I’d say you are either ignorant in a non-pejorative way, or you are rationalizing away the evidences available to everyone. These evidences include the sum total of all the arguments for the existence of God.

    I´ll just grant you for the sake of the argument that I am a very stupid person and my intellect is simply not sufficient for grasping that all those arguments are based on true premises and further logically valid. Now, do you think that people choose to be smart or stupid and it is thus their fault whether they understand these arguments or not?
    Also, note again that it is not about the existence of *any* God. I could grant you for the sake of the argument that, say, the argument from motion shows that there must be a “ground of all being” (that some people would call “God”), and still conclude based on Schellenberg´s argument that this “ground of all being” is either not interested in humanity at all or only interested in some selected few or maybe not “interested” in anything because this “ground of all being” is not a person.

    If the argument depends on denying the things taught in the book of Romans, then the argument doesn’t succeed in doing what you think it does.

    Why is that? (note that I would deny Romans 1:20 anyway, completely independent of this argument – as I mentioned previously, I am as certain as I can possibly be that Romans 1:20 is false because there is nothing that I can know with more certainty than what I myself think and believe).

  26. SteveK,

    You aren’t wanting your relationship with God on be on God’s terms. If you did, you would already be in that relationship.

    So what are “God´s terms” and why didn´t he tell me those terms?

  27. @ Andy #27
    If you’re looking for evidence that God wants a relationship with humanity, the evidence of history is sufficient for that – biblical history.

    @ Andy #28

    So what are “God´s terms” and why didn´t he tell me those terms?

    I’m surprised you have to ask this considering you seem to know a lot about God – enough to argue against him. God’s terms are a well established part of Christian theology, since the first century. If this is your first time hearing about these terms then I will be glad to discuss this with you as I have the available time.

  28. If you’re looking for evidence that God wants a relationship with humanity, the evidence of history is sufficient for that – biblical history.

    But you are claiming that God wants to have relationship with humans, and that includes the present, not only the past. So where are the relationships that people have with God now, in the present?

    I’m surprised you have to ask this considering you seem to know a lot about God – enough to argue against him. God’s terms are a well established part of Christian theology, since the first century. If this is your first time hearing about this then I will be glad to discuss this with you as I have the available time.

    First I´d like to ask for a clarification: can you interact (note that INTERaction cannot be a one-way street, it goes in both directions) with God and if so, what are common activities that the two of you do together? And can you have a conversation with God? (if so, what were the last words that God has spoken to you?) If you cannot do either one, then you would first have to explain to me how a “relationship” can be possible in the first place without doing some activities together / interacting, and without 2-way communication / conversation.

  29. Where are the relationships today is an odd question. Isn’t it obvious that Christians exist today?

    Interaction with God can be through prayer, through revealed wisdom, through scripture, through experiences, through the imparting of grace and mercy, through dying to oneself, through sustained existence, through other people.

  30. Andy,

    You’re wishing away evidence of necessary ends if you appeal to logic or reason. And you are appealing to them. If you are always refusing such simple letters of ontological evidence neatly tied up in a red bow and delivered to you, if that is all that ever happens, well then, the relationship cannot get off the ground. You’re a free person. If you haven’t studied Logic’s fatal regressions inside of philosophical naturalism I may be able to find a few links that can help you.

    As far as Love’s ceaseless reciprocity – well there too you are appealing to a nihilistic end unless that ceaseless reciprocity can back up all your propositions – and only inside of Trinity will you find such necessary means and necessary ends.

    In Christ we find that interior (inside of Trinity’s ceaseless reciprocity) expressed from God-ward to man-ward in His (Love’s) Eternally Sacrificed Self.

    If Love is delusion: then Naturalism and your argument fails in absurdity. If Love is that final proposition – that final ontological end: then Ultimate Reality (God) is Love and your argument fails.

    This dyad of failure finds you where Logic and Reason are concerned too, not only in Love.

    He is undeniable.

    He is even on your tongue – in all your arguments.

    As long as you keep appealing to Logic, Reason, and Love, I find this whole thread rather amusing. You are immersed in Him – He is everywhere present and nowhere absent and still you refuse Him, for you refuse Logic, and Reason, and Love and instead choose, embrace, eventual nihilism on all such fronts.

  31. SteveK,

    Where are the relationships today is an odd question. Isn’t it obvious that Christians exist today?

    Is it really an odd question? If you believe that all the stories in the Bible happened but that christians today also have a “relationship” with the God of the Bible – then things have fundamentally changed. With regards to the OT, God no longer directly interacts with people as he allegedly did with the hebrews, and with regards to the NT, you can no longer travel with Jesus, eat with him or have a conversation with him. That is why I asked how a “relationship” actually works without all of that.

    Interaction with God can be through prayer, through revealed wisdom, through scripture,

    But that is all one-directional. INTERaction goes both ways.

    through experiences, through the imparting of grace and mercy, through dying to oneself, through sustained existence, through other people.

    And for all of that, I fail to see how this is different for other religions or non-religious people. What kind of “experiences” do you have for example that people that follow other religions or non-religious people like me do not have?

    To come back to my question, I honestly do not understand what “relationship” means if you cannot have a conversation (again, a conversation goes in both directions, if one side is silent, it is a monolog and not a conversation) and if you cannot do things together like Jesus followers did with him (travel together, eat together etc.) – I really don´t know what is left of a “relationship” if you substract all those things, there doesn´t seem to be anything left.

  32. scblhrm

    You’re wishing away evidence of necessary ends if you appeal to logic or reason.

    Be precise, what exactly am I wishing away? Furthermore, what does “wishing away” even mean? Example: it would be much more convenient to jump out of the window in my room instead of walking down all the stairs – but I cannot “wish away” a lifetime of experiences and understanding based on which I am convinced that the jump would kill me. Do you believe I could “wish that away” and jump out of the window while genuinely(!) believing that the jump would not kill me? If you do not mean that, what does “wishing away” mean?

    If you are always refusing such simple letters of ontological evidence neatly tied up in a red bow and delivered to you, if that is all that ever happens, well then, the relationship cannot get off the ground. You’re a free person.

    You just seem to be name-dropping words, what exactly am I “refusing” and what does any of this have to do with a “relationship”?

    As far as Love’s ceaseless reciprocity – well there too you are appealing to a nihilistic end unless that ceaseless reciprocity can back up all your propositions – and only inside of Trinity will you find such necessary means and necessary ends.

    That seems to be word salad.

    If Love is delusion: then Naturalism and your argument fails in absurdity.

    I neither said that love is a delusion nor did I argue for naturalism and “love” being ontic + naturalism being false would in fact be completely and utterly irrelevant for the argument in question in this thread.

    He is undeniable.

    Nope, he is in fact very much deniable.

    He is even on your tongue – in all your arguments.

    I just looked on my tongue via a mirror and didn´t find any Gods there.

    As long as you keep appealing to Logic, Reason, and Love, I find this whole thread rather amusing. You are immersed in Him – He is everywhere present and nowhere absent and still you refuse Him, for you refuse Logic, and Reason, and Love

    How exactly does your position differ from pantheism?

  33. Andy,

    So then Pantheism is more sensible than your Philosophical Naturalism in ontological regression and necessary ends? (Logic, Reason, Love)

    That’s progress.

    At least we’ve gotten rid of a big swath of your entire argument’s entirely nihilistic fate.

    Theism it is then to avoid nihilism?

    Or no?

  34. scblhrm,
    I´d ask you to either ask me what I believe or quote what I said and explain how your inferences about what you think I believe follow from it. You seem to be largely arguing against a straw-interlocutor that exists only in your mind.
    And before I answer your questions, care to answer mine – which was: how exactly does your position differ from pantheism?

  35. Andy,

    You are appealing to logic, reason, and love.

    Fine.

    You’ll need to show your work.

    In purely naturalistic terms tell me where those lines end.

    If you start with untenable presuppositions, that is fine, we all have presuppositions, but in Theism, Pantheism, or whatever, the ontological substrate is there to land in coherence rather than blind axiom and circularity.

    As a starting point, are you starting as a Philosophical Naturalist appealing to the stuff of Logic, the stuff of Reason, and the stuff of Love for your truth claims on how reality should/does work?

    Well show me where those lines end – ontic twists and all.

    Ontological Pluralism, Agnosticism, Mereological Nihilism, and various Theisms seem to populate the field. (PN seems to find its way into the first three)

    If you have another end of regression, then let me know.

    I’ve formally asked you which end is your starting point.

    Mine is Theism(s). Once we come to love and ought and evil I break off into Christianity for many reasons, part experiential, part logical, part reason, and so on, but we aren’t even close to those ontic twists yet.

    So again, I’ve formally asked you which of those ends is your starting point.

  36. scblhrm,

    If you start with untenable presuppositions, that is fine, we all have presuppositions, but in Theism, Pantheism, or whatever, the ontological substrate is there to land in coherence rather than blind axiom and circularity.

    I think you are confused here. What you talk about falls under the Münchhausen trilemma (you might know it as “Agrippa´s trilemma”), and opting for “coherence” instead of “circularity” is in fact nonsense, by opting for “coherence”, you are opting for the first horn of the trilemma and that IS the “circular” horn.

    As a starting point, are you starting as a Philosophical Naturalist…

    I am pragmatically a physicalist although I don´t presuppose that physicalism is true (in the same way as I would presuppose Cogito ergo sum for example), I use it rather only as an interpretative framework and would in fact be very much indifferent towards physicalism being false.

    …appealing to the stuff of Logic, the stuff of Reason, and the stuff of Love for your truth claims on reality?

    Define “stuff of logic” and what it means to “appeal to it”.

    Well show me were those lines end.

    Ontological Pluralism, Agnosticism, Mereological Nihilism, and various Theisms seem to populate the field.

    If you have another end of regression, then let me know.

    I opt for the second horn of the Münchhausen trilemma (i.e. I am an epistemological fallibilist), so I don´t end the regression at all but rather am open to add one element to this regress as often as necessary.

    Mine is Theism(s). Once we come to love and ought and evil I break off into Christianity for many reasons

    Cool. Note though that it does seem increasingly unlikely that you acually do have a valid objection to Schellenberg´s argument with which this thread started.

  37. Andy,

    “I am an epistemological fallibilist, so I don´t end the regression at all but rather am open to add one element to this regress as often as necessary.”

    I’m glad you have an infinite regress.

    But that does not help me.

    Can you elaborate? I have no idea what you are talking about. It sounds like ontological pluralism. Can you show me why it isn’t?

  38. scblhrm

    What does God look like? He looks like Logic/Reason. What does God look like? He looks like Mind/Person. What is God? God is Love.

    Yeah, interesting, then let me make a few substitutions in the beginning of the gospel of Matthew:
    “This is how the birth of LOGIC AND REASON the Messiah came about[d]: MIND AND PERSON´s mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through LOGIC. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

    20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the LOVE appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the . 21 She will give birth to LOGIC, and you are to give him the name MIND AND REASON,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
    – Reads much better, doesn´t it?

    Also, regarding the “untenable presuppositions of philosophical naturalism” – you can repeat that until you are blue in the face, that still won´t magically turn that into what I believe.

  39. scblhrm,

    And #39?

    That is why I was asking how your position differs from pantheism, because I can see no difference whatsoever – “God” is simply the name that you have chosen for all that is / the universe / the totality of being; how you reconcile that with simultaneously believing in a personal(!) deity that is able and willing to have a relationship(!) with you is mysterious.

  40. Andy,

    Yes, we already knew you knew we cannot know anything for sure. How you know that we cannot know. And so on.

    Fine.

    “Knowledge” is utilitarian models at the end of the day.

    Not Truth.

    Like there is only 1, perfectly 1, Actuality (whatever “it” “is”). There may be 1.0000087 Reality-s for all we know. Or 0.99945 Reality-s for all we know.

    Fine.

    Your infinite regress amid three epistemic fates remains silent on ontic fate.

    But #39?

    You didn’t explain how it is that your trilemma isn’t ontological pluralism at bottom.

    It sure looks like it.

    Why isn’t it?

  41. scblhrm

    Yes, we already knew you knew we cannot know anything for sure.

    Aha, so you consider a final proof to be possible? (or do you actually agree with this? If so, ignore the this half of my comment) Interesting, because that would mean that you have found a way to avoid the Münchhausen trilemma, and philosophers unanimously believe that to be impossible as far as I can tell. Care to explain just how you think you can avoid it?

    But you didn’t show my why this isn’t ontological pluralism at bottom.

    Why isn’t it?

    It has in fact nothing to do with ontological pluralism whatsoever, it is not even a position about ontology, but rather one about epistemology. You ask me to provide starting points that itself are, not even in principle, further questioned, and I refuse to choose starting points based on circular reasoning or by dogmatically asserting them, instead of at least in principle allowing them to be questioned (and revised if necessary) as well.

  42. For those not familiar with the ends of ontological pluralism, it ends in pure epistemology as reality, with no sure ontic statement. Which is why Andy likes it – He can truthfully be committed to no-truth. It’s self-defeating in the end as it ends in a perpetual open-endedness claiming to be self-contained and thus rational, but it is – forever – open-ended. Is reality (whatever “it” “is”) perfectly and truly (ontic) 1 or is it 1.00089 or is it 0.998? Well there is no ontic statement, only the epistemic semantic. There really may be only 0.00094 of a reality for all we know.

    Take a look here:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/hawking-and-mlodinow-philosophical-undertakers

    This is the hiddenness of Reality and one must be committed to no ontic revelation (ad infinitum hiddenness) and so that is why Reality must be hidden, and thus God is such an affront for He challenges them. There REALLY (ontic) may not actually be 1.0000098 realities, or 0.000089 realities IF God. But we cannot know that about reality – so no-god.

    See how that works?

    It’s “Hidden” from us you see…….

    Okay,

    My challenge is to you Andy:

    Prove to me that reality is hidden. That “it” is NOT the Perfect-[1].

    How I know that is how I know that. I know it.

    It is self-evident.

    It’s not hidden.

    Prove me wrong.

    Ontic Statement: There are not 1.00009 nor are there 0.999994 realities. [Actuality] is Perfectly-[1]. It is self-evident.

  43. scblhrm,
    since you have been consistently obnoxious and uncharitable, I no longer see the need to be charitable with you.

    For those not familiar with the Münchhausen trilemma, it shows that final proofs are not possible. For every knowledge claim, one can ask “How do I know that it is true?”, and for the answer, one can repeat the question “how do I know that it is true” ad infinitum. There are only three options:
    a) accept this and be open to learn new things and revise your views.
    b) terminate the infinite regress by engaging in circular reasoning.
    c) terminate the infinite regress by positing axioms that you refuse to subject to further questioning.
    scblhrm, wants to fool himself into being absolutely certain so that he can feel superior to people who are intellectually honest enough to admit that they might be wrong, that´s why he goes the dogmatic route and shuts off questioning and doubts by wishing really hard that his favorite dogmas are true.

  44. scblhrm

    My challenge is to you Andy:

    Prove to me that reality is hidden. That “it” is NOT the Perfect-[1].

    I don´t believe that so I see no need to prove it.

  45. Andy,

    It is not uncharitable.

    It is making a final ontic claim.

    [Actuality] (whatever it is) is Perfectly-[1].

    Not 1.00009 actualities
    Not 0.099992 of an actuality

    We know that about “actuality”.

    Now you say I can’t know that about that ontic end.

    But I claim to know it.

    Show me how THAT ONTIC CLAIM is untenable. Prove to me how that un-hiddenness just cannot be unhidden and must remain hidden and please use hidden truth mechanisms to show me how that unhidden ontic statement must remain hidden of ontology.

    It is self-evident Andy.

    You refuse such evidence (self-evident) as tenable for (being a part of) argumentation.

    I’m just making that clear.

    God cannot be known because no final ontic can be known and God just is that final ontic claim.

  46. It is not uncharitable.

    Yeah, saying stuff like “Which is why Andy likes it – He can truthfully be committed to no-truth” and repeatedly imputing views on me that I never explicitly or implicitly espoused is totally not obnoxious and uncharitable.

    It is making an final ontic claim.

    Now you say I can’t do that.

    But I did.

    I can make final ontic claims as well, watch:
    “I am thinking, therefore I exist”
    – For all intents and purposes, I never question that, I rather presuppose it. Does that mean that I am 100% certain in considering it to be true instead of 99.9999999999999999999999…….% certain, and consider it to be in principle beyond further philosophical inquiry? Not at all, and if I am interested in a philosophical brainf**k, then I can read stuff like this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum#Criticisms
    and see that yes, even the most self-evidently true statements can at least in principle be questioned, does that mean that I doubt Cogito ergo sum? Nope, I accept the possibility that I might be wrong on this and everything else, but for this particular case I consider the possibility to be so remote that it has zero pragmatic consequences for me.

    Show me how THAT ONTIC CLAIM in #46 is untenable.

    I´m not interested in doing that because I don´t consider it to be false. You are attacking a strawman, I don´t say that the claim is untenable, I say that you cannot devise a final proof for it (that is, one which can, NOT EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, be further questioned).

  47. Andy,

    Can we make final ontic claims on actuality?

    Can our eyes “see” across that ocean to the end of ad infinitum?

    You said you believe [1] of Actuality.

    I believe you.

    But your trilemma awaits you.

    And neuroscience.

    So I don’t see any hope for you.

    The very substrate here of deductive reasoning becomes nonsense if we dive into Sam Harris’ neuroscience and Hume and so on.

    Hume, you, and Sam Harris all have us landing in their pre-supposed naturalism and therefore the price we see being paid in this thread by you is that we really cannot know for sure much of anything.

    That is fine.

    On naturalism, that is as far as anything can go.

    Everything is Hidden.

    The Hiddenness of Reality – so to speak.

    Where neuroscience breaks down and where matter breaks down we find Man there choosing to pay the price of nihilism – or – we find man coming upon those ontological ends which only God can ultimately satisfy.

    Now, if you mean to make a final ontic claim, then you have your trilemma and physicalism’s neuroscience (Harris, Hume) all waiting to pull all your final ontic claims down.

    Unless they are not problems after all?

    But I think they ARE problems.

    Which is why I see no hope for you.

  48. @ Andy #33

    If you believe that all the stories in the Bible happened but that christians today also have a “relationship” with the God of the Bible – then things have fundamentally changed.

    The fundamentals remain the same if you believe the reports from around the globe today. God continues to relate to different people groups/individuals in different ways – some through a spoken word, some through miracle events and visions, etc.

    INTERaction goes both ways.

    The examples I gave are interactive. God sustains all of reality so nobody can escape the interactive relationship.

    God imparting wisdom to me in the midst of my prayer and me willfully living out that wisdom is the two of us interacting with each other. Me ignoring this wisdom is also the two of us interacting with each other

    God revealing himself to me through scripture and me accepting the truth is the two of us interacting with each other. Rejecting the truth is also an interaction.

    Me asking for forgiveness and God forgiving me is the two of us interacting with each other.

    Me sinning and God leaving me to suffer the consequences of my sin is the two of us interacting with each other.

    And on and on it goes.

    Hopefully this answers the questions posed by the rest of your comment.

  49. scblhrm,

    But your trilemma awaits you.
    ….
    Hume, you, and Sam Harris all have us landing in their pre-supposed naturalism and therefore the price we see being paid in this thread by you is that we really cannot know for sure much of anything.

    1. I guess I can repeat that I do not presuppose naturalism until I am blue in the face, this is what I mean by you being obnoxious – you have this unchangeable preconceived idea of what people who do not agree with you on everything must be like, so you are busy arguing against nothing but your own unexamined prejudices.
    2. It is not my trilemma, it is yours as well and it doesn´t vanish by wishful thinking.
    3. “we really cannot know for sure much of anything”, nonsense, the Münchhausen trilemma only proves that your certainty can never reach 100%, it allows for the possibility of warranted(!) certainty to be arbitrarily close to 100% certainty.

    The very substrate here of deductive reasoning becomes nonsense if we dive into Sam Harris’ neuroscience and Hume and so on.

    “Because I say so” is not a very persuasive argument.

    Where neuroscience breaks down and where matter breaks down we find Man there choosing to pay the price of nihilism – or – we find man coming upon those ontological ends which only God can ultimately satisfy.

    Aha, so the only alternative to your particular “God” is nihilism, because you say so. Again, not a very persuasive argument.

  50. Andy,

    Yes, I know, you know that we cannot know something for 100% Etc.

    “Münchhausen trilemma only proves that your certainty can never reach 100%”…arbitrarily closer….”

    So not 100%.

    But isn’t that the problem here?

    You assert that we cannot know ontic ends.

    We cannot know anything for sure.

    Agnosticism perhaps with three horns of explanation.

    It changes shape and form, but the end is the same.

    “We cannot know anything for sure”.

    But I know I exist.

    And the Perfect-1.

    So if you throw out those because of HOW we know, then just throw them out and be done with it.

    But instead you dance. You have this attempt at this middle ground of saying you know you exist and then saying later that we cannot know anything for 100%.

    This is just equivocation.

    Do you (actually) believe that you may not exist? Are you 100% certain that you exist?

    Tom has a thread on the argument from identity that this seems to land in (in part). The self-evident comes in again there as here……. can’t seem to get away from that.

    We’ve now reached that part of the conversation we always do. Commit to 100% certainty that you exist and deny your own argument. Or hedge on that arbitrary 99.9999% certainty but not really 100% sure that you exist and keep your argument – but lose (the appearance of) sanity.

    It is self-evident.

  51. The fundamentals remain the same if you believe the reports from around the globe today.

    That is why I asked you whether you can have a conversation with God or whether you do some activities together, like Jesus disciples allegedly did. I have actually never met anyone who claims to have done either one – if I ask them what they mean by “talking to Jesus” exactly, it invariably turns out to be the case that they were talking but there was no one talking back, rather only emotional reactions (like a feeling of inner peace for example) after or while praying. I only know of people who claim to have an actual conversation (i.e. one where someone talks back) from the TV – people like Pat Robertson for example, and they are completely indistinguishable from a random fortune teller (that is, their “conversation” with God is completely indistinguishable from cold reading techniques of psychics).

    The examples I gave are interactive. God sustains all of reality so nobody can escape the interactive relationship.

    But then the word is being used for two completely different things:
    1. Jesus washing your feet, having a meal with you, travelling with you, talking with you etc.pp.
    2. God “sustaining all of reality”.

    God imparting wisdom to me in the midst of my prayer

    If you have thoughts / ideas while praying, I assume that you do not believe that all of them were imparted to you by God – so how do you distinguish those that were yours from those that are Gods? (could you finish prayer and say “I had this one idea while praying which came from God” – thus effectively turning you into a prophet?)

    God revealing himself to me through scripture and me accepting the truth is the two of us interacting with each other.

    That is stretching the meaning of the word too far. In that sense, I also have a “relationship” with Atticus Finch because I really like To Kill a Mockingbird and find his character very inspiring.

    Hopefully this answers the questions posed by the rest of your comment.

    I appreciate your answers and I have an idea where you are coming from. But this is simply not what the word “relationship” means to me, I see the examples you describe as being categorically different from the interactions and conversations between Jesus and his disciples as described in the NT and to me, only this latter category counts as a “relationship”.

  52. Andy,

    If you are 100% certain that you exist then we can drop this trilemma nonsense.

    I am assuming you are 100% certain that you exist and therefore, “Münchhausen trilemma only proves that your certainty can never reach 100%”…arbitrarily closer….” is declared to be what it is: insanity.

    Now, the following ONLY applies if you continue to cling to that trilemma EVEN though you KNOW with 100% CERTAINTY that you exist:

    Dialogue with God:

    If you only look at it from the outside, nothing we describe to you from here on the inside will fit.

    If you refuse the lesser forms of manifest evidence there in the self-evident (by clinging even still to your trilemma) which is everywhere manifest as per my prior comments to you, you cannot expect to find the greater forms manifest in the more secrete locations.

    Logic and Reason and Love’s Ontology – those are interesting, but they only establish one’s acquiescence or one’s refusal of ontologically unavoidable evidence. 100% certainty. But evidence still isn’t Him.

    Follow the evidence if you want to discover Truth. “Dialogue” begins then to become rather pan-experience – far wider than what your anthropomorphic demands/expectations seem to be describing. You seem to want to hear a voice coming out of the wall. Ears are nice. For sound waves hitting air molecules. You’ll discover other eyes, other ears. Pan-Experience.

    Don’t follow the evidence if you’re merely interested in coming out on top. If that is all you want, well then, God won’t stop you. He, after all, came out on the bottom there in Christ. That is what love and truth both look like.

    The Trilemma says you cannot know with 100% certainty this: I-AM.

    But you do know you exist with 100% certainty.

    So the trilemma is nonsense.

    The door is therefore open, only, physical regressions alone won’t hold up. And the trilemma is, well…. you exist. Should you find a defeater to “I AM” then go with that – but you’ll have to exist to find the defeater, and you’ll have to exist to then go with it.

  53. scblhrm,

    you seem to have a hard time of dealing with degrees of certainty, where a certainty that is asymptotically close to 100% is not fundamentally different from a fifty-fifty chance. I don´t see things like that and that view is actually completely alien to me. Being 99.99999999% certain is categorically different from being agnostic and pragmatically almost indistinguishable from 100% certainty. There are quite a lot of things that I for all intents and purposes never question – I already gave you one example, but I always leave the door open for possible questioning, even if it just open for a practically infinitesimal small space. To me, that seems to be the best approach, one example:
    If you dogmatically assert the laws of classical propositional logic in the true sense of the word “dogma”, then that means that you in principle refuse to question them under ANY circumstance. And that in turn would mean that you would have to reject the possibility that quantum logic ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_logic ) is actually the correct logical systems for propositional inference generally *out of principle*, although a very interesting case can be made for this actually being the case:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is_logic_empirical%3F
    – and rejecting this possibility out of principle, for the sole reason of fooling yourself into an unwarranted sense of absolute certainty, seems to be completely unnecessary and also unreasonable to me.

  54. Andy,

    Do you exist?

    100% sure?

    99.99999999% certain?

    It will be your trilemma or it will be the self-evident. That is because by definition the trilemma excludes 100%. The self-evident is in conflict with the trilemma.

    We have to choose. A non-choice is nothing less than equivocation here. Hedging.

    Should you find a defeater to “I AM” – to “I-Exist”, then go with that – but you’ll have to exist to find the defeater, and you’ll have to exist to then go with it.

    My prior comment had a few thoughts about “Dialogue with God”. It may or may not be helpful, but its a kind of step-one sort of thought line. Tom’s thread on the argument from identity may or may not be helpful as well…….

  55. scblhrm

    100% sure?

    99.99999999% certain?

    I already did answer that question. Three times actually.

    My prior comment had a few thoughts about “Dialogue with God”.

    I still cannot distinguish your position from pantheism.

  56. Andy,

    So we can know with 100% certainty. I exist.
    You said that and then later moved into the 99.99999 thing but you didn’t seem to intend to connect the two, so I am assuming that you meant to say 100% certainty that you exist.

    If am wrong you can correct me.

    The trilemma cannot be valid if you know with 100% certainty that you exist as it by definition excludes certainty.

    The self-evident would seem to be a way past the trilemma. One must ask, “Do I exist? Do I?” to cling to the trilemma over the self-evident. One would need to first exist to find a defeater. The self-evident has that feature to it. “I-AM” is just the end of it.

    Theism into the triune God? Yes there are several differences and many self-evident and logical reasons to go that way – some experiential, some logic-driven, some reasoned out, (some self-evident, again). The nature of love and of evil weigh in as well. But I’m still not sure on your take on the trilemma and 100% certainty and the self-evident.

  57. scblhrm

    You said that and then later moved into the 99.99999 thing…

    I was close to calling that a lie but I´ll give you the benefit of the doubt once more. You might want to go back and read what I actually wrote, because I didn´t “move” at all.

    The trilemma cannot be valid if you know with 100% certainty that you exist as it by definition excludes certainty.

    Yup. And 100% certainty would mean that it could not, NOT EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, be questioned, unfortunately for you, it can be questioned like everything else can be questioned:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum#Criticisms
    – and, believe it or not, your attempt at trying to defeat this with a reductio ad absurdum: “Should you find a defeater to “I AM” – to “I-Exist”, then go with that – but you’ll have to exist to find the defeater, and you’ll have to exist to then go with it” – can in fact also be questioned and is questioned in that article. Does that mean that I doubt cogito ergo sum? Nope, because “asymptotically close to 100% certainty” does not even begin to deserve the label “doubt” unless you can only think in perfectly binary categories.

  58. Andy,

    Okay, so you just may be able to, one day, question that you exist.

    In principle, you may not exist. In fact, the (actual) you (actually) may not (actually) exist.

    You choose the trilemma over the self-evident.

    That is clear.

    In that case reality just is hidden from you. The hiddenness of reality came with a price. And you were willing to pay it.

    Theism into the triune God? Yes there are several differences and many self-evident and logical reasons to go that way – some experiential, some logic-driven, some reasoned out, (some self-evident, again). The nature of love and of evil weigh in as well.

    But you’ll have none of it – you’re committed. Even on I-Am.

  59. scblhrm

    You choose the trilemma over the self-evident.

    I could ask you to try to defend the claim that this is a choice (can you choose to genuinely(!) believe that 2+2=37?), because that would require you to try to defend the claim that adopting beliefs is a matter of free choice and that is a VERY hard position to defend.

    In that case reality just is hidden from you.

    Let me repeat my example from earlier:
    “it would be much more convenient to jump out of the window in my room instead of walking down all the stairs – but I cannot “wish away” a lifetime of experiences and understanding based on which I am convinced that the jump would kill me. Do you believe I could “wish that away” and jump out of the window while genuinely(!) believing that the jump would not kill me?”
    – Why is your God perfectly hidden from me (I´d actually say that he is hidden from you as well because it really does seem to me that your only justification for jumping from pantheism to christian theism is wishful thinking) while gravity is not?

  60. scblhrm

    100%.

    It’s that simple.

    That is kind of like answering the question “do you live in New York?” with “my favorite number is 36!”

  61. Reality is hidden.

    Define “hidden” and how do you know that this is true?

    You can’t have it both ways.

    What is “it” and which two ways are you talking about?

  62. Andy,

    I’m not the one claiming that reality is hidden, that we cannot know anything with 100% certainty. Or claiming that I may in fact not exist.

    You are.

  63. And how exactly am I claiming that “reality is hidden” and what exactly do you mean by “hidden”? And what is “it” that I want to have “both ways”?
    You again seem to be arguing largely against your own prejudices.

  64. Andy,

    If you cannot know with 100% certainty that you exist, or any other bit of actuality for that matter, then Hidden is the 100% most accurate word for your capacity to perceive God as well right along with all of reality. We do not have the capacity to know with certainty. I may not exist. My eyes see me, but I don’t believe what they show me. The very first demand God may (or may not) make on you is that of the self-evident – and this you refuse because it unties your trilemma.

    Well then, there is nothing left to discuss.

    I-Am is 99-point-something as I gaze in the mirror and see, perceive, with my eyes, myself. But I don’t believe my eyes. And I never will. I may not be there looking in the mirror.

    99-point-something. Definition dances don’t change that number.

    And I’m looking right at me.

    The self-evident unties this trilemma. It forces us to make a choice between the undeniable (the self-evident) and our own a priori commitments (trilemma, etc.).

  65. This is ironic:

    scblhrm, wants to fool himself into being absolutely certain so that he can feel superior to people who are intellectually honest enough to admit that they might be wrong, that´s why he goes the dogmatic route and shuts off questioning and doubts by wishing really hard that his favorite dogmas are true.

    You seem to be absolutely certain about this. Are you intellectually honest enough to admit you might be wrong? Do you not notice how you’re practically announcing your superiority over scblhrm? D

    Maybe ironic wasn’t the best term. Maybe incoherent; maybe not-self-aware; maybe hypocritical.

    Now, I will admit that having a conversation with scblhrm proceed in linear fashion is difficult. He doesn’t often respond point for point. Your conclusion that he’s engaged in wishful thinking, however, does not follow from his style of dialogue. Where do you get that from? Where does he shut out questioning? How are his dogmas any more dogmatic than yours?

  66. Are you intellectually honest enough to admit you might be wrong?

    This is a ridiculous question because I keep repeating ad nauseam that I might be wrong in this thread and get mocked for admitting that instead of pretending to be 100% certain about what I want to be true.

    Do you not notice how you’re practically announcing your superiority over scblhrm?

    Yes, because I got tired of scblhrm´s lack of charity, obnoxiousness and insistence of imputing views on me that I never implicitly or explicitly espoused, so I tried giving him some of his own medicine for once, again, read the entire thread.

    Your conclusion that he’s engaged in wishful thinking, however, does not follow from his style of dialogue. Where do you get that from? Where does he shut out questioning? How are his dogmas any more dogmatic than yours?

    Read the thread, I am the one who refuses to let anything be beyond questioning (and I said so many times) and scblhrm mocks the very idea of letting anything be beyond questioning (and, again, he said so many times).

  67. Andy,

    It is self-evident that you exist. You claim to be uncertain that you exist.

    100%.

    I’m merely pointing that out.

    It isn’t mocking.

    It’s challenging you on that claim.

    I think you ARE 100% certain that you exist.

    But you’ll deny the undeniable – else reality cannot be ultimately hidden.

    And you have such final ontic ends as a priori hidden.

  68. scblhrm

    It is self-evident that you exist. You claim to be uncertain that you exist.

    You really seem to be utterly unable to think in anything but perfectly binary categories. When I say that I trust the scientific and engineering work that went into the design of an airplane with 99.999999% confidence – so much that I would bet my very life on it being sufficiently accurate to fly the plane from A to B, and bet my life on it without even giving it a second thought – then you are unable to see any difference between that confidence and the 50% confidence (i.e. “no confidence whatsoever due to both possible outcomes being equally likely”) that I assign to me betting on the outcome of a coin toss. It is impossible for me to talk with you about this matter because you seem to be unable to grasp what the word “certainty” even means and that this meaning is most emphatically not binary.

    It’s challenging you on that claim.

    You didn´t give me any challenge, you just keep demonstrating that you do not understand the concept of certainty.

    I think you ARE 100% certain that you exist.

    It is of no interest to me what you think about this because you do not understand the meaning of these words anyway, you see no difference at all between “asymptotically close to 100%” and “fifty-fifty chance”, and that means that your opinion is worthless because you don´t even begin to understand what those words mean.

    But you’ll deny the undeniable

    Interesting. What undeniable things have I denied? If you are talking about cogito ergo sum, I don´t deny it and am actually as confident as I can be in it being true, so much that I virtually always presuppose it instead of trying to justify it somehow. That doesn´t mean that I believe that it cannot, not even in principle, be questioned, because it can be questioned, as can everything.
    So, what undeniable things have I denied in your opinion?

    else reality cannot be ultimately hidden.

    You say that reality is 100% hidden from me, lets turn that around, everything that is NOT hidden from me must not be part of “reality”, so the following list of things cannot possibly be part of “reality”:
    – the “thinkingchristian.net” website
    – the commenter scblhrm
    – gravity
    Congratulations for proving that you do not exist.

  69. Andy,

    Definitions don’t change 99.999 into 100.

    My challenge is this:

    The self aware being that is you – is 100% certain that you exist.

    I’ve yet to read you deny THAT. Airplanes aren’t THAT.

  70. scblhrm

    Definitions don’t change 99.999 into 100.

    And they are not supposed to.

    My challenge is this:

    The self aware being that is you – is 100% certain that you exist.

    That is not a “challenge”, that is an assertion. And this assertion is wrong, because I do not believe that “I think, therefore I am” is a final proof. One obvious way to question it would be to point out that the concept of an “I” is presupposed by this sentence instead of being proven by it, and there are more ways to challenge it ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum#Criticisms ), none of these challenges are sufficient to lead me to be any less certain than asymptotically close to 100% certain in cogito ergo sum being true. But it can still at least in principle be questioned, every claim can be questioned (and yes, that does include this one I just made).

    I’ve yet to read you deny THAT.

    I say that it is in principle possible to question cogito ergo sum, as some famous philosophers (including Descartes himself and Søren Kierkegaard for example) in fact have done. You claim that what these philosophers did and what I just did in this very comment here cannot possibly be done, and you claim that it cannot be done while you observe me doing it and reading famous philosopher who did it.

    Airplanes aren’t THAT.

    Yup. But back to my question, do you believe that airplanes are part of reality and do you believe that the law of non-contradiction holds? If so, your thoughts are incoherent on this matter because you kept repeating in this thread that reality is 100% hidden from me, but that would mean that airplanes cannot possible be part of reality.

  71. scblhrm

    Consider these four sentences:
    1. “I am 99.99999999% certain that x is true, certain enough to bet my life on it being true, certain enough to bet my life on it without even giving this a second thought”
    2. “I think x is very likely true”
    3. “I think that x is more likely than not”
    4. “I think that there is a fifty-fifty chance of x being true”
    – what you said in this thread so far amounts to the claim that those four sentences are literally(!) synonymous and you could substitute the sentence “I am not certain about x” for all of them without losing any information. And this is not by accident – you keep repeating that claim ad nauseam and I keep trying to explain to you how you are mistaken and why it makes no sense to think about “certainty” as a binary switch instead of a continuum with varying degrees of certainty ranging from completely undecided to asymptotically close to 100% certainty. There are only two possibilities left: you are too dishonest to admit that you are wrong about this and therefore deliberately misrepresent me, or you lack the mental capacity to understand what you are talking about here.

  72. Andy,

    You’re not 100% certain that you exist.

    You assure us that 99…. does not apply. Cannot apply. On “that”.

    Semantic equivocation doesn’t change “that”.

    I’m not dishonest. I’m believing what you are saying about your own certainty as to your own existence. 100% is NOT what you said.

  73. “this is what I mean by you being obnoxious – you have this unchangeable preconceived idea of what people who do not agree with you on everything must be like, so you are busy arguing against nothing but your own unexamined prejudices.

    Having just read the entire (at this time) 79-comment thread in one sitting, I can say with 100% certainty, that you, Andy, and not scblhrm is the one to whom this description applies.

    And a quick point: Airplanes are part of reality. I am part of reality. However, we cannot perceive an airplane as a part of reality in the same way that we perceive ‘I’ as part of reality. You’re equivocating.

  74. scblhrm,

    it does seem that you are genuinely unable to follow the conversation and understand the meaning of the relevant words, so we will have to end this here.

  75. toddes

    Having just read the entire (at this time) 79-comment thread in one sitting, I can say with 100% certainty, that you, Andy, and not scblhrm is the one to whom this description applies.

    Interesting. I can easily prove that scblhrm argued against his own prejudices from the very beginning – he kept talking about naturalism and mereological nihilism ad nauseam for example although I never mentioned these positions and them being true or false would have had zero impact on anything I said, in fact, this was the very first thing that scblhrm said to me in this thread:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/11/swing-and-a-miss-jeffery-jay-lowder-secular-outpost/#comment-107556
    – and it never changed. Given that you have allegedly read this thread and think that this description fits myself much better than it does scblhrm, I am sure that you can point to several examples of me attacking my own prejudices instead of quoting scblhrm and asking for clarification or addressing what he explicitly said.
    Go ahead, I´m curious.

    And a quick point: Airplanes are part of reality. I am part of reality. However, we cannot perceive an airplane as a part of reality in the same way that we perceive ‘I’ as part of reality. You’re equivocating.

    No, I am not, scblhrm kept insisting that reality is 100% hidden from me, and since neither airplanes, nor this website, nor the commenters “scblhrm” and “toddes” are hidden from me, they cannot be part of reality if we take scblhrm seriously (and I don´t suggest for even just a second that we should).

  76. Andy,

    I’m only repeating what you are telling me about your own certainty as to your own existence. You are not 100% certain that you exist.

    It’s your statement. Not mine.

  77. scblhrm ,

    I’m only repeating what you are telling me about your own certainty as to your own existence. You are not 100% certain that you exist.

    Absolutely, that is indeed what I said. But you only now say “you are not 100% certain”, what you said before is “you are uncertain”, and I explained why this difference matters:

    Consider these four sentences:
    1. “I am 99.99999999% certain that x is true, certain enough to bet my life on it being true, certain enough to bet my life on it without even giving this a second thought”
    2. “I think x is very likely true”
    3. “I think that x is more likely than not”
    4. “I think that there is a fifty-fifty chance of x being true”
    – what you said in this thread so far amounts to the claim that those four sentences are literally(!) synonymous and you could substitute the sentence “I am not certain about x” for all of them without losing any information. And this is not by accident – you keep repeating that claim ad nauseam and I keep trying to explain to you how you are mistaken and why it makes no sense to think about “certainty” as a binary switch instead of a continuum with varying degrees of certainty ranging from completely undecided to asymptotically close to 100% certainty. There are only two possibilities left: you are too dishonest to admit that you are wrong about this and therefore deliberately misrepresent me, or you lack the mental capacity to understand what you are talking about here.

    You want to fool yourself into being 100% certain in an intellectually warranted way, although you cannot intellectually justify that, your sole justification boils down to wishing really hard. And if that is the reason for why your (and I´m really only talking about your idiosyncratic views now) God is “hidden”, then your God has no intellectual justification beyond wishful thinking.

  78. scblhrm

    so you genuinely lack the intelligence to understand the difference between a fifty-fifty chance and asymptotically close to 100% probability. Sorry for being blunt, but you are too stupid for this conversation.

  79. Andy,

    Less than 100% certain of your own existence is simply what you are saying here. I’m only repeating you.

  80. scblhrm

    Also, it gets tiresome that you edit literally every single one of your comments, even after I already replied to them (you even deleted at least one comment after I already replied to it), even if you would have the mental capacity to follow this conversation, this added dishonesty on top of it makes rational conversation with you impossible.

  81. Less than 100% certain of your own existence is simply what you are saying here. I’m only repeating you.

    No, you keep equivocating between a) “not 100% certain about x but potentially 99.9999999 certain – certain enough to bet my life on x being true without a second thought” and b) “uncertain about x”. I said a), I stand by it, and I get sick and tired of your dishonest equivocations between a and b. I said a), stop lying about it. And if you can explain why your God is hidden unless you start being intellectually dishonest, then be my guest.

  82. Andy,

    Refreshing of pages in those 12 minutes of edit time can lag a bit. Once I see a reply to X I don’t delete X.

    I don’t think repeating what you are telling me makes me stupid.

    If you are certain that you exist then your trilemma becomes invalid so on your a priori commitments I don’t see how you even COULD be 100% sure of your own existence.

    If you think a number less than 100 = 100 then I can’t help you.

  83. Refreshing of pages in those 12 minutes of edit time can lag a bit. Once I see a reply to X I don’t delete X.

    The edit function is intended for fixing typos and you would need a damn good reason to entirely delete comments you already posted. You deleted at least one comment to which I already replied (the comment I replied to in #40 is gone and I haven´t checked if there are more) and you keep substantially adding material and rephrasing it (for your last comment, you rephrased in such a way that my reply which already had been posted became immaterial). This is dishonest and very bad style – the edit function is for TYPOS, if you forgot somethint, write a new comment, and the “delete” function is a last resort that you do not use unless you have a very good reason for it.

    I don’t think repeating what you are telling me….

    You keep equivocating between uncertainty and 99.999999% certainty – if we had it your way, we might as well do away with the criminal justice system entirely because you are unable to recognize the difference between the gradient from “we have no idea” over “the preponderance of the evidence supports x” to “x is true beyond any doubt” (note that our criminal justice system explicitly acknowledges that not even this last and strictest standard can be understood as “absolute certainty” because absolute certainty is an impossible standard).

    If you are certain that you exist then your trilemma becomes invalid

    Aha, so you think that if someone is certain that the world is flat, then his subjective feelings trump all the evidence to the contrary. Interesting.

    so on your a priori commitments

    What a priori commitments would that be exactly?

    I don’t see how you even COULD be 100% sure of your own existence.

    And I don´t give a damn. What I am asking is why your (and again, I am only talking about your idiosyncratic views) “God” stays hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest.

  84. Andy,

    I don’t see the problem here. You’re not 100% certain that you exist. That’s fairly straightforward and you don’t disagree. I’m simply saying what you are saying. On your trilemma’s view I just don’t see any way that you ever COULD be 100% certain that you exist.

  85. I don’t see the problem here. You’re not 100% certain that you exist. That’s fairly straightforward and you don’t disagree. I’m simply saying what you are saying

    And if you stop your dishonest equivocations from now and stop pretending that “uncertain” and “99.9999999% certain” are synonyms, that is fine.
    So, what does this have to do with anything and why does your God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?

    On your trilemma’s view I just don’t see any way that you ever COULD be 100% certain that you exist.

    What does this have to do with anything and why does your God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?

  86. Toddes,

    The way we perceive “I” ~~~ interesting point. Identity is a whole discussion in itself of course. It ties into the self-evident as well. All very fruitful soil.

  87. Andy,

    I appreciate your answers and I have an idea where you are coming from. But this is simply not what the word “relationship” means to me, I see the examples you describe as being categorically different from the interactions and conversations between Jesus and his disciples as described in the NT and to me, only this latter category counts as a “relationship”.

    So our relationship with God doesn’t fit into your strict definition of what it mean to be a relationship. I don’t think that is too much of a problem. The use of the word relationship is shorthand for what the Bible tells us about God’s interactions with us. Some of the things we can correctly say while avoiding the troublesome term of relationship is that God wants us to know him and God wants us to participate in his life while he participates in ours and all this is bound up in love. Yes, it’s different to my relationship with another human being, but are you surprised by that?

  88. Melissa,

    So our relationship with God doesn’t fit into your strict definition of what it mean to be a relationship.

    Then let me ask you a question:
    If you think of any interhuman relationship that you have or had, and substract all common activities (e.g. washing one´s feet, having a meal together, travelling together etc.pp.) and all DIAlog, what relationship-specific aspect is then left? I can´t think of any, can you?

    The use of the word relationship is shorthand for what the Bible tells us about God’s interactions with us.

    I don´t think so because the interactions described in the OT (where Yahweh directly intervened many times and directly spoke to prophets) and also the interactions described in the NT, where Jesus and followers had a relationship like the interhuman relationships we have today, do no longer happen. So the word “relationship” that contemporary christians use to refer to a “relationship with God / Jesus” seems to refer to something categorically different.

    Some of the things we can correctly say while avoiding the troublesome term of relationship is that God wants us to know him and God wants us to participate in his life while he participates in ours and all this is bound up in love.

    Makes sense. This is what Schellenberg´s argument mentioned in the OP addresses, if this were true (that he wants us to know him (and that he has the means to make himself known)) then the existence of sincere disbelief would contradict that.

    Yes, it’s different to my relationship with another human being, but are you surprised by that?

    If I assume that christianity is true for the sake of the argument, then I do find that very surprising indeed – because one of the distinguishing factors of christianity compared to other religions is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, who had interhuman relationships for an entire lifetime with many people. I can think of no good reason for why Jesus would not still be around to do that today, I can´t even think of a bad reason – all reasons that I have heard could just as well be used to argue that it would have made no sense for God to become human in the first place, but since christianity is based on God doing just that, these reasons fail IMO.

  89. Andy,

    You ask this: “What does this have to do with anything and why does your God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?”

    This question is based on a premise that is contradicted by the totality of the human experience: the individual and collective experiences of humanity. God is not hidden, nor does He “stay hidden” because atheists claim that He does.

    Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (1959, 2004) in his book “God, Man and History” says this: “Belief in God is based on encounters with God. Since God is experienced, there is no need for proof. If God is not experienced, no “proof” is convincing.”

    Just because a subset of humans claim that they do not experience God does not mean that God is hidden from humankind or from us individually.

  90. 1. Allegedly? Off to a good start for the obnoxious descriptive. Reading a long comment thread is not that difficult. Never claimed to understand it all.

    2. “I am sure that you can point to several examples…” [And is that 100% sure, 99.999999% or 50% sure?]

    No. I read the exchanges. I formed an opinion on something you affirmed about someone else and I posted a comment on it. Perhaps that opinion is unfounded, perhaps not but I owe you nothing more.

    3. You’re not curious about whether I can provided any examples. At least not genuinely curious. You just want to argue.

    4. Yes, you are equivocating. Your ability to determine the reality of an airplane (much less whether or not it was safe) and your ability to determine the reality of you is not even close to analogous.

    There is little significance in the difference regarding the reality of the plane and whether the certainty is 99.999% or 50%, the same is not true for your certainty of you. Infinity exists between 99.999% and 100% when it comes to that certainty.

    For myself, scblhrm strikes me as a philosophical mystic. It is the wonder and mystery of the journey of Truth that intrigues him.

    You strike me as little more than a run-of-the-mill skeptic. Highly intelligent, obviously, but boringly pedantic. Facts matter to you, not truths or Truth.

    While scblhrm is reveling in the beauty of a sunset, you are considering what atmospheric conditions are present.

    Again, my opinion. May be accurate, maybe not. Ten days, months, years for now, you’ll have forgotten it.

  91. Jenna,

    First of all, note that this was directed at scblhrm´s idiosyncratic views only, because he kept insisting that unless you are absolutely certain of things, despite having no intellectual justification for absolute certainty, God must be hidden – if you do not agree with that, then my question does not apply to you.

    This question is based on a premise that is contradicted by the totality of the human experience: the individual and collective experiences of humanity.

    God is not hidden, nor does He “stay hidden” because atheists claim that He does.

    Well, my very first question in this thread was: “what conceivable evidence would convince you that people as described in point 4 exist?” (point 4 was: “(4) There are (and often have been) people who are (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God without also (iii) believing that God exists.”)
    I claim that I sincerely do not believe that your God is real, and I ask what conceivable evidence would convince you that I am not lying about that. Because if I am not lying about it, then your God is hidden to at least some people. And that would mean that your God either does not exist or does exist but is not interested in being known by all of humanity.

  92. toddes

    it is interesting that you number your points although you actually have not even a single one. I gave you a link to scblhrm engaging exactly in the behavior that I described (in the very first comment he directed at me) and I could easily give many more. Despite that, you still claim that this description does not apply to him at all but to me very well although you cannot even give just a single example for that.
    Your entire justification seems to be that my description was unflattering and since you find scblhrm likeable while you dislike me, you resort to the equivalent of a “I know what you are but what am I ?!!?11?”
    So, I gave you a chance to demonstrate that your accusation is based on anything I actually did write (as I did with my accusation), and you have nothing, so you´ll have to understand that your unwarranted opinions are of no interest to me at all.

  93. @Andy #102

    I claim that I sincerely do not believe that your God is real, and I ask what conceivable evidence would convince you that I am not lying about that.

    I gave you some evidences in #25 and #29. (edited out the last part of my comment)

  94. oh, and another thing @toddes

    you say:

    For myself, scblhrm strikes me as a philosophical mystic. It is the wonder and mystery of the journey of Truth that intrigues him.

    this is breathtaking…. You realize that half of this thread consists of scblhrm trying to mock me for not being absolutely certain of things but rather being open to revise my views on anything. So unwarranted absolute unquestioning 100% certainty is “the wonder(!) and mystery(!) of the journey(!!) of Truth” while being open to change your views on anything is the opposite of that,…. War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength, eh?

  95. @SteveK

    I gave you some evidences in #25 and #29. (edited out the last part of my comment)

    You had three points:
    1. “I wouldn’t say you are lying. I’d say you are either ignorant in a non-pejorative way,”
    2. “or you are rationalizing away the evidences available to everyone.”
    3. I am not looking for God “on God´s terms”.

    Re 1. That is possible, but wouldn´t affect Schellenberg´s argument, because this would not be culpable unbelief (because I would not have chosen my lack of intelligence or my ignorance).
    Re 2. I am not quite sure what that could mean. To repeat my example from earlier: it would be much more convenient to jump out of the window in my room instead of walking down all the stairs, but I am convinced that the jump would kill me. No matter how convenient the jump would be, I am pretty sure that I still could not “rationalize away” a lifetime of experiences that unamiously lead me to believe that the jump would kill me. Do you believe that I could simply choose to jump out of the window while genuinely(!) believing that the jump would not kill me? If you don´t, then I don´t understand what “rationalizing away” could possibly mean here.
    Re 3. I have some idea about what you would tell me when I ask you what it means to look for God “on God´s terms”, based on what I have heard so far from other christians, this “looking” presupposes that I somehow already know that your God is real, but my claim is that I don´t know that. Would you tell me something different, something that does not require me to genuinely believe something that I do not actually believe?

  96. Andy,

    Stating your own position on your own existence isn’t mocking you. It’s repeating you back to you.

  97. scblhrm ,
    it actually took almost seventy comments of back and forth until you finally repeated what I actually said instead of lying about it.
    Also, how often do I have to repeat this until you will answer it:
    “So, what does this have to do with anything and why does your (note that this is only about your idiosyncratic views and not anyone else´s) God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?”
    ?

  98. scblhrm

    Also, how often do I have to repeat this until you will answer it:
    “So, what does this have to do with anything and why does your (note that this is only about your idiosyncratic views and not anyone else´s) God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?”
    ?

  99. Andy,

    The experience of the God is not where I’m aiming.

    I am aiming to reveal the actual substrate onto which any answer sent in your direction is fated to land on.

    Is there a possibility, any possibility at all that you don’t exist?

    You must answer, “Yes”.

    The skeptic asking for “evidence” is coming to the table with THAT substrate.

  100. scblhrm

    Also, how often do I have to repeat this until you will answer it:
    “So, what does this have to do with anything and why does your (note that this is only about your idiosyncratic views and not anyone else´s) God stay hidden unless you are intellectually dishonest?”
    ?

    Hint: read this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument before answering again.

  101. Andy,

    If you think of any interhuman relationship that you have or had, and substract all common activities (e.g. washing one´s feet, having a meal together, travelling together etc.pp.) and all DIAlog, what relationship-specific aspect is then left? I can´t think of any, can you?

    We are not talking about inter-hunan relationships though are we? We actually use the term relationship for our interaction with things other than human beings as well. The word relationship is used in a much wider way than you have acknowledged in this thread.

    I don´t think so because the interactions described in the OT (where Yahweh directly intervened many times and directly spoke to prophets) and also the interactions described in the NT, where Jesus and followers had a relationship like the interhuman relationships we have today, do no longer happen. So the word “relationship” that contemporary christians use to refer to a “relationship with God / Jesus” seems to refer to something categorically different.

    Well I was also including the interactions described post-ascension. Last time I looked those writings were part of the biblical record. And we can’t discount that even today people report a variety of interactions (e.g. visions, dreams, miracles etc) that do correspond to what you seem to think of as the standard for a relationship with God. Anyway these types of interaction were always special and not the norm.

    I can think of no good reason for why Jesus would not still be around to do that today, I can´t even think of a bad reason – all reasons that I have heard could just as well be used to argue that it would have made no sense for God to become human in the first place, but since christianity is based on God doing just that, these reasons fail IMO.

    John 16:7

  102. Melissa,

    We are not talking about inter-hunan relationships though are we?

    Well, yes and no, because one part of your triune God is fully human and is described to have had a lifetime of relationships just like the ones we have with our family and friends. Also, the relationships of Yahweh with the hebrews are not described to be exactly like those relationships, but very similar to them. And what I point out is that both of those kinds of relationships with Yahweh / Jesus do not happen today.

    The word relationship is used in a much wider way than you have acknowledged in this thread.

    True, but it does seem to me that most protestants do understand the word “relationship” in “relationship with Jesus” like that.

    Well I was also including the interactions described post-ascension. Last time I looked those writings were part of the biblical record. And we can’t discount that even today people report a variety of interactions (e.g. visions, dreams, miracles etc) that do correspond to what you seem to think of as the standard for a relationship with God.

    I´m honestly not aware of a single example for that, this would mean that there are genuine prophets today, people who can genuinely speak for God – do you know any?

    Anyway these types of interaction were always special and not the norm.

    Yes and no. Jesus didn´t visit the entire world simultaneously (and I can think of no good reason for why he would not have done that, but anyway), but he is described as travelling a lot and being very open to meeting new people and interacting with pretty much everyone who wants to get to know him – so it could be said that a relationship with him was the norm for those around him.

    John 16:7

    Can you explain that verse?

  103. Andy,

    The skeptic asking for evidence of God holds, truly believes, that it is possible that he – the skeptic himself who is asking for evidence – does not exist.

    We’ve established this, and such was my aim.

  104. scblhrm

    Let me help you:

    Premise 1: Andy does not believe that absolute certainty can ever be warranted and that a degree of certainty that is asymptotically close to 100% is the maximum degree of certainty that could be warranted.
    Premise 2: ???
    .
    .
    .
    Premise N: ???
    Conclusion 1: ???
    .
    .
    .
    Conclusion N: Based on premises […] and conclusions […], it follows that the “God” that scblhrm believes in is necessarily hidden from Andy.

    Kindly fill in the blanks.

  105. scblhrm

    Let me help you:

    Premise 1: Andy does not believe that absolute certainty can ever be warranted and that a degree of certainty that is asymptotically close to 100% is the maximum degree of certainty that could be warranted.
    Premise 2: ???
    .
    .
    .
    Premise N: ???
    Conclusion 1: ???
    .
    .
    .
    Conclusion N: Based on premises […] and conclusions […], it follows that the “God” that scblhrm believes in is necessarily hidden from Andy.

    Kindly fill in the blanks.

  106. Andy,

    You have made this assertion several times above in your posts: “And what I point out is that both of those kinds of relationships with Yahweh / Jesus do not happen today.”

    How do you claim to know this? Of course, relationships with Jesus as a human being do not happen today, but you have no way to declare that relationships with Yahweh (who we today refer to as God) are not like “those kinds of relationships” described in the Bible. And when we Christians speak of/about our relationship(s) with Jesus, we are talking about our relationship(s) with the Risen Christ.

    I think you’re off track in trying to make parallels between a believer’s or believers’ (plural) relationship with God as he/she/they understand God at any point in time and history and the human relationships that Jesus had with his contemporaries during his human life time.

    I also think you are underestimating the value and the depth of perspectives on a relationship with God that come to us from the ancient Hebrews’ testimony of/about their relationship with God (whatever name they used for God) as they understood God in the OT.

    Also, keep these words from the Gospel of John in mind: John: 23-24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

  107. Jenna,

    You have made this assertion several times above in your posts: “And what I point out is that both of those kinds of relationships with Yahweh / Jesus do not happen today.”

    How do you claim to know this?

    Old testament: There are no such things as the ten plagues, the parting of the sea, the trombones of Jericho etc.pp. (I am granting for the sake of the argument that the biblical stories about those events actually did happen) and the handful of alleged prophets today are only acknowledged by (usually tiny) christian sects – not a single prophet existed since biblical times that is unanimously or even just widely regarded to be a genuine one by christians (for very good reasons I might add)
    New testament: Well, Jesus is not here anymore – if he were, we could quit this conversation and talk with him instead ;-).

    Of course, relationships with Jesus as a human being do not happen today, but you have no way to declare that relationships with Yahweh (who we today refer to as God) are not like “those kinds of relationships” described in the Bible.

    See above, do you think that there are genuine prophets today and miracles that compare to stuff like the ten plagues? (if so, could you give examples?)

    I think you’re off track in trying to make parallels between a believer’s or believers’ (plural) relationship with God as he/she/they understand God at any point in time and history and the human relationships that Jesus had with his contemporaries during his human life time.

    Ok, but why?

    I also think you are underestimating the value and the depth of perspectives on a relationship with God that come to us from the ancient Hebrews’ testimony of/about their relationship with God (whatever name they used for God) as they understood God in the OT.

    Alright, but I don´t see how that is a relationship, I have read a lot about MLK and admire the man very much, but that doesn´t mean I have a relationship with him.

    Also, keep these words from the Gospel of John in mind: John: 23-24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    I honestly do not understand what that is supposed to mean.

  108. Andy,

    You may not exist.

    You believe that.

    That’s all the help we need in demonstrating the substrate we’re dealing with.

    Equating yourself (you) with a premise (1, 2) is even more helpful. Very helpful given that you must believe that you/they equate.

    And amusing.

  109. Andy,

    The relationship between the Hebrews and God as they understood God is called the Covenant. It was/is like a contract, an agreement. This relationship is what the entire OT is about. If you don’t get this, then what do you think the OT is about? With paradigm or understanding do you read the OT about what it is meant to convey, to the posterity of its Hebrew authors and preservers?

    Yes, I believe that there are miracles today. All the time. There is no reason to think that miracles have ceased in post-biblical times. We do not have miracles on the “scale” of those we learn about from the OT because such miracles are not needed in our relationship(s) with God today. But the miracles that we know of and experience in our own lives and in those of people we know and love are the basis on which we are able to understand and relate to the miracles told about in the OT.

    And for us Christians, our model and paradigm for understanding God and relating to God is/are the Gospel(s) and the New Testament. Keep in mind that Jesus teaches us to relate to God as our Heavenly Father and Father Almighty. This metaphor and anthropomorphism of God serves the purpose for us to think of and relate to God on very personal and intimate terms, through spirit and through truth.

  110. scblhrm

    You make it exceedingly hard to not insult your intelligence, well now that I think about it, quoting your words directly is actually the best way to insult your intelligence:

    Andy,

    You may not exist.

    You believe that.

    That’s all the help we need in demonstrating the substrate we’re dealing with.

    Equating yourself (you) with a premise (1, 2) is even more helpful. Very helpful given that you must believe that you/they equate.

    And amusing.


    ????????????

    Therefore, the “god” that scblhrm believes in is necessarily hidden from Andy

    Kindly fill in the blanks.

  111. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

    Andy,

    I could try and shed some light on this. The Helper is I think widely accepted to be the Holy Spirit. He is the person of the Trinity that is here in a way that before Christ he wasn’t. So, true, we don’t have God in human form here but we do have the Holy Spirit (who I admit is the most difficult person of the Trinity to comprehend). So the relationship is different but that doesn’t mean it fails to meet the standards of a relationship. After all, God is God, he’s not your neighbor Fred or your wife or son. Our relationship with him is different but it’s quite real.

  112. Jenna,

    The relationship between the Hebrews and God as they understood God is called the Covenant. It was/is like a contract, an agreement. This relationship is what the entire OT is about. If you don’t get this, then what do you think the OT is about?

    I don´t disagree. But how does it follow from this that Yahweh no longer does the stuff described in the OT, not with the descendants of the hebrews and not with anyone else?

    Yes, I believe that there are miracles today. All the time. There is no reason to think that miracles have ceased in post-biblical times. We do not have miracles on the “scale” of those we learn about from the OT because such miracles are not needed in our relationship(s) with God today.

    But why were they needed back then?

    But the miracles that we know of and experience in our own lives and in those of people we know and love are the basis on which we are able to understand and relate to the miracles told about in the OT.

    How so? Can you give an example for that? Like “this miracle [insert miracle here] helps me understand [insert biblical miracle here]”?

    And for us Christians, our model and paradigm for understanding God and relating to God is/are the Gospel(s) and the New Testament. Keep in mind that Jesus teaches us to relate to God as our Heavenly Father and Father Almighty. This metaphor and anthropomorphism of God serves the purpose for us to think of and relate to God on very personal and intimate terms, through spirit and through truth.

    Those “personal and intimate” terms are precisely the problem I see here, because the relationships with Jesus / God seem to be completely disanalogous to interhuman relationships – there are no common activites and no dialog (a “dialog” with God / Jesus would necessarily entail that you are a prophet) and without that, what “intimate and personal” aspects of a relationship are left? I can see how the relationships between Jesus and his followers in NT times were “relationships”, but I fail to see how the relationships between contemporary christians and Jesus are anything like that.

  113. Andy,

    I’ve already told you that the experience of God is not where I care, aim, to go. I only mean to show the substrate which the Skeptic comes to the table with. Did you miss that earlier? It was in #111.

    Read more carefully. Maybe then you won’t make so many demands that I dance to your call here.

    No dancing.

    Sorry.

    My aim is to reveal the Skeptic’s substrate.

    1) You are not certain YOU exist
    2) You believe it is possible that YOU do not exist
    3) You equate – literally – by identity – the self-aware being that is YOU to Random Premise X about – say – an apple pie – though we could pick anything.

    You’ve been quite helpful for my goals.

    And – as noted already – amusing.

  114. scblhrm

    1) You are not certain YOU exist

    And since you now resort to the same dishonest equivocations as before, I will call you a shameless liar, because that is what you are.

    3) You equate – literally – by identity – the self-aware being that is YOU to Random Premise X about – say – an automobile.

    😀
    What you say here is literally(!) equivalent to this argument:
    1. Andy has used this syllogism once:
    “All men are mortal.
    Andy is a man.
    Therefore, Andy is mortal.”
    2. Therefore, Andy equates “literally – by identity – the self-aware being that is Andy to Random Premise X about – say – an automobile”

    Well, there is only one adequate response to that:

  115. Andy,

    Equivocation?

    So you ARE certain that you exist?

    There is NO POSSIBILITY that you do not exist?

  116. Andy,

    And what I point out is that both of those kinds of relationships with Yahweh / Jesus do not happen today.

    I think Jenna adequately covered the Hebrew-Yahweh relationship and Jesus isn’t with us physically right now so I’m not sure what you’re getting at there.

    True, but it does seem to me that most protestants do understand the word “relationship” in “relationship with Jesus” like that.

    Really? You think they think of their relationship with Jesus as being the same as their relationship to their friends?

    I´m honestly not aware of a single example for that, this would mean that there are genuine prophets today, people who can genuinely speak for God – do you know any?

    I doesn’t follow that people who have visions or dream dreams or hear God’s audible voice are prophets, for one their message may not be for the people. I know people that have had visions and I know of people who God has revealed himself to in dreams. You should hear some of the stories from Muslim followers of Jesus. I think God reveals himself in a variety of ways that speak to where each individual is at.

    so it could be said that a relationship with him was the norm for those around him.

    Exactly, normal for those around him, not for anyone else. Last time I checked we’re the anyone else.

    John 16:7

    Can you explain that verse?

    It is only after Jesus has left them that he can send his Spirit to the apostles. It is the Spirit that empowers the church for life and witness.

  117. scblhrm
    Leviticus 19:11, “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.”

  118. scblhrm
    Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

  119. scblhrm

    Proverbs 19:9
    A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.

  120. scblhrm

    Proverbs 12:22
    Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

  121. scblhrm

    I see you are again busy editing comments that I have already replied to and frantically deleting comments that I also have already replied to – this behaviour is not strictly “lying” but it is definitely deceitful, so maybe one last scripture for you:
    Psalm 101:7
    No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.

  122. Andy,

    First, a response to this comment of yours: “I can see how the relationships between Jesus and his followers in NT times were “relationships”, but I fail to see how the relationships between contemporary christians and Jesus are anything like that.”

    I already agreed with you that the relationship of contemporary Christians with Jesus Christ is not like Jesus’ relationship with his contemporaries during his human lifetime. But why should you expect it to be? That’s not what any Christian I know of means when he or she talks about his/her relationship with Jesus. Jesus was a teacher, a rabbi. What he taught us about how to relate to/with God was framed in human terms and analogous to human relationships we know, experience and understand in order to deepen and enrich our understanding of God and God’s truth. Understand Jesus’ relationship with God, who he referred to as “our Father” is theology. We cannot ignore the differences between God as God and Jesus as human but we have to engage in deeper thinking to understand the theology of God as God and Jesus as God Incarnate, the Son of God, different from us.

    As for this statement: “But how does it follow from this that Yahweh no longer does the stuff described in the OT, not with the descendants of the hebrews and not with anyone else?” The “stuff” to which you refer is miracles, yes? I already explained that miracles continue today. The term “no longer” doesn’t apply. Miracles are a form of communication with/from God. IMO, God uses them very judiciously and prudently for His purposes. This is certainly true in my case and in the lives of people I love.

    I highly recommend David Bentley Hart’s (2013) book, The Experience of God, for a powerful read about many of the questions you ask here. You might enjoy reading my review of the book on amazon.com.

  123. Andy,

    We’ve been over the 12 minutes before.

    The equivocation seems to be amid Possible and No Possibility – on your end in your claims about the existence of YOU. #128 addresses that.

    Possible cannot be/share identity with No Possibility.

    The skeptic’s subtlety absurd substrate is – here in the self-evident – inevitably revealed.

  124. Melissa,

    I think Jenna adequately covered the Hebrew-Yahweh relationship and Jesus isn’t with us physically right now so I’m not sure what you’re getting at there.

    My point was, that I see no reason for why Yahweh stopped interacting with the descendants of the hebrews or some other group of people or humanity in general in ways comparable to those described in the OT, and that I also see no reason for why Jesus is not here right now. For the latter one, you and others here have provided the answer that this (him leaving) was necessary so that he could send the holy spirit, but I don´t see how he would be limited in that way, he is God, why can´t he be here and send the holy spirit?

    Really? You think they think of their relationship with Jesus as being the same as their relationship to their friends?

    Not exactly the same, but something very similar to it, I have heard it quite frequently that protestant christians talk about a *personal* relationship with Jesus, in a way that does make it sound analogous to interhuman relationships.

    I doesn’t follow that people who have visions or dream dreams or hear God’s audible voice are prophets, for one their message may not be for the people. I know people that have had visions and I know of people who God has revealed himself to in dreams. You should hear some of the stories from Muslim followers of Jesus. I think God reveals himself in a variety of ways that speak to where each individual is at.

    But that variety of ways seems to be limited today to some people having dreams and visions, and, assuming that christianity is true, that does seem to be very strange to me. Because these kind of religious experiences are nothing that is uniquely christian – every religion has that. If the OT / NT stories about Yahweh / Jesus are true, then christianity would certainly be unique because no other religion has a monotheistic God becoming human and directly interacting with people. Does it make sense to you that christianity today is limited to the kind of experiences that followers of other religions have as well?

    Exactly, normal for those around him, not for anyone else. Last time I checked we’re the anyone else.

    Yup. But the only reason for why “those around him” does not include every single one of us seems to be that Jesus needed to leave so that he could send the holy spirit – and the “needed” makes no sense to me, he is God after all so he cannot be limited in that way.

  125. scblhrm

    Ephesians 4:25
    Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

  126. Andy,

    Again, you make an unfounded assumption as expressed in this comment: “Does it make sense to you that christianity today is limited to the kind of experiences that followers of other religions have as well?”

    This remark reflects a misunderstanding of what monotheism is. Why would experiencing God, the One and the Only God, be different for Christians than for say, Muslims or Janists or Buddhists, etc.? How do you claim to speak with any knowledge or authority about some alleged limits to the kinds of experiences Christians or anyone else has/have of/with God?

    What I see here Andy is attempt after attempt to reduce God to your own understanding of God, which is, as I understand it, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the understanding of an atheist, which entails the belief that God does not exist. Most certainly, I do not disagree with you that a non-existent God cannot communicate with and reveal himself/itself (whatever that is not) to humans. But that’s not the God of monotheism. Answer this question for me, please: What is it that monotheism deifies?

  127. Andy,

    My point was, that I see no reason for why Yahweh stopped interacting with the descendants of the hebrews or some other group of people or humanity in general in ways comparable to those described in the OT,

    As far as I can tell the NT writers thought Jesus ushered in a new age so that seems like a pretty good reason to me. According to them God is doing something new now.

    in a way that does make it sound analogous to interhuman relationships.

    Analogous like God having hands and feet?

    Does it make sense to you that christianity today is limited to the kind of experiences that followers of other religions have as well?

    I don’t think Christianity is limited in that way. I think the church is (when it allows itself to be) empowered by the Holy Spirit.

    the “needed” makes no sense to me, he is God after all so he cannot be limited in that way.

    Yes but God can choose to self-limit for reasons that he isn’t required to disclose. But speculatively I would think that the church would be less likely to rely on the Holy Spirit which would make a big difference in the way it functions. God chooses to work through his church at the moment. He doesn’t have to limit himself this way, but he does.

  128. Jenna,

    This remark reflects a misunderstanding of what monotheism is. Why would experiencing God, the One and the Only God, be different for Christians than for say, Muslims or Janists or Buddhists, etc.?

    Did I claim that it necessarily had to be different? I can´t recall doing that. But if they were the same, then this would imply that God does not care about what views people hold wrt the doctrinal differences between different religions (whether Jesus was divine or not for example), doesn´t it? (because people understand religious experiences like dreams and visions as a validation of their religious views, and if God causes people of all religions to have similar experiences, then he would validate all of their views – wouldn´t he?)

    How do you claim to speak with any knowledge or authority about some alleged limits to the kinds of experiences Christians or anyone else has/have of/with God?

    What kind of limits did I put on them?

    What I see here Andy is attempt after attempt to reduce God to your own understanding of God,

    I do not have *one* understanding of “God”, “God” means different things to different people (even the capital-G “God” is not always understood in the same way because some people deny that God has attributes like impassibility while others affirm it), so I try to figure out what the people I talk to mean by “God” and to talk about that concept. If I misunderstood what you mean by “God” then please correct me and sorry if I didn´t ask enough questions for clarification in this thread.

    Answer this question for me, please: What is it that monotheism deifies?

    Afaik, the only common denominator of everything that is subsumed under the label “monotheism” is the belief in one, and only one, God (I just looked up some definitions and some include the label “personal” for this “God” as well, but I think that a monotheistic God doesn´t necessarily have to be a personal one or does he?)

  129. Andy,

    I’m sorry to say, but I can’t quite figure out where your ideas about spiritual/religious experiences are coming from or are based on. It is a know and widely accepted fact that people of all religious faiths and no religious faith or affiliation have spiritual/religious experiences, which we Christians speak of and witness to each other as experiences of/with God. I offer you as example of the ubiquity of the acceptance of this reality, the work of humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, who says this about what he terms “peak experiences” in his book, Religions, Values, and Peak-experiences (1971).

    “.. to the extent that all mystical or peak experiences are the same in their essence and have always been the same, all religions are the same in their essence and have always been the same. They should, therefore, come to agree in principle on teaching that which is common to all of them, i.e. whatever it is that peak-experiences teach in common (whatever is different about these illuminations can fairly be taken to be localisms both in time and space, and are, therefore, peripheral, expendable, not essential) …we may call [these] the “core-religious experience” or the “transcendent experience.” (p. 20)

    Maslow also says, “We must remember, after all, that all these happenings are in truth mysteries. Even though they happen a million times, they are still mysteries.” (p. 113)

    God reveals Himself through such experiences to all humankind, regardless of their religious, cultural, historical and traditional expressions of spirituality and what Maslow calls “core religious experiences” and their understanding(s) of God and ways of “languaging” about God.

    You didn’t address my question: What does monotheism deify? I know what makes monotheism mono-theism and not polytheism nor atheism. What I want you to articulate is what it is that monotheism deifies as “God.” I ask this to get you to think about what monotheists mean by the term/name/label God, not just what any one particular individual monotheist may understand God to be/mean. This is so that you can appreciate what Maslow means by the “core religious experience” that does not affirm or validate any particular religion or theological/philosophical understanding but rather, validates the spiritual connection we have as human beings and humankind to the One, the Creator of all that is.

  130. Edited to add to my previous comment as my last sentence was very poorly worded. God does not only work through the church but his church is a major way he works in the world and as such he may limit himself to let the church be what it is meant to be.

  131. Andy,

    We get to watch now as Melissa and JB encounter your substrate – your a priori commitment.

    1) There is a real possibility that the self aware being that is YOU does not exist.

    2) There is NO POSSIBILITY that the self aware being that is YOU does not exist.

    That EQUIVOCATION – that nonsense dance and attempt to have one foot in each paradigm is why I am not aiming at The Experience of God with you.

    JB’s recommend book by that name is a great idea. You may want to read it.

    But JB and Melissa CAN’T make final progress – because your logical substrate cannot allow the undeniable to be finally tenable – the trilemma MUST finally come out on top. You’ve proven this in the arena of your self-awareness, the existence of the Self-Aware being that is YOU.

    It is 1, or it is 2.

    Possible cannot be/share Identity with No Possibility. Equivocation is all that is left.

    We speak here on the existence of the Self-Aware being that is YOU.

  132. toddes, Andy,

    This was interesting: “….  difference regarding the reality of the plane and whether the certainty is 99.999% or 50%, the same is not true for your certainty of you. Infinity exists between 99.999% and 100% when it comes to that certainty….”

    The “I” of which we speak is experienced, tasted, known. Perceived. Lived in. The electron microscopes cannot locate the ontic “Me” – cannot reveal the ontic “I-Am”.

    Andy’s sacred trilemma MUST finally have the final word.

    That is why no progress has been made here – and cannot be made here – amid the unassailable separation between the two paradigms of Possible and No Possibility.

    God is Being. He is not weighed in kilograms, He is not measured in meters. He is known. Experienced. Perceived. Lived in. He is the Great I AM.

    The existence of the Self-Aware being that is YOU – or that is God – and so on – cannot be finally tenable for the skeptic – because the skeptic’s trilemma MUST itself be finally tenable.

  133. Andy,

    Possible cannot share ontological real estate with No Possibility.

    It’s odd – and revealing – that you seem to consider that an untruthful statement – a lie.

    In #127 you said I was equivocating – but I only repeated your definitions:

    100% certain is never actually achieved. The real possibility remains that the self aware being that is YOU does not exist.

    You defined those terms.

    Not me.

    So in #128 I asked how you figure I’m equivocating by stating those same definitions. Your definitions.

    You’re equivocating.

    Your trilemma must be – finally – tenable.

  134. scblhrm

    Psalm 109:2
    For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.

  135. @ Jenna Black,

    I noticed your reference to David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God”, subtitled, “Being, Consciousness, Bliss”. One of my favorites. The peculiar ontic that is Being is the question of the day it seems. Such is fully known. Fully experienced. Fully perceived. Fully lived in. Hidden – forever – from the eye of the electron microscope searching for but never finding “Me”. And so on there in the ontic ends of Being. In case you’ve not heard of it, Hart has another (somewhat denser) work worth exploring in his, “The Beauty Of The Infinite – The Aesthetics of Christian Truth”. You (and Melissa and others) continue to bless and enrich my understanding of these topics – thank you for that.

  136. Jenna,

    I’m sorry to say, but I can’t quite figure out where your ideas about spiritual/religious experiences are coming from or are based on. It is a know and widely accepted fact that people of all religious faiths and no religious faith or affiliation have spiritual/religious experiences, which we Christians speak of and witness to each other as experiences of/with God. I offer you as example of the ubiquity of the acceptance of this reality, the work of humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, who says this about what he terms “peak experiences” in his book, Religions, Values, and Peak-experiences (1971).

    “.. to the extent that all mystical or peak experiences are the same in their essence and have always been the same, all religions are the same in their essence and have always been the same. They should, therefore, come to agree in principle on teaching that which is common to all of them, i.e. whatever it is that peak-experiences teach in common (whatever is different about these illuminations can fairly be taken to be localisms both in time and space, and are, therefore, peripheral, expendable, not essential) …we may call [these] the “core-religious experience” or the “transcendent experience.” (p. 20)

    I have to start here by saying that I am a) not very familiar with research that has been done on the diversity (or lack thereof) of religious experiences in different cultures, b) not a religious or spiritual person and never was and c) therefore largely relying on anecdotes and the bits of research in this area that I´ve read about.
    Now, I understand you (and Maslow) as saying that there is a common core to all religious experience and the differences between them are appendages, cultural and personal idiosyncracies that carry no meaning which would be of any importance to what those experiences have to teach. Is that correct?
    It does sound very plausible to me that there is plenty of overlap between religious experiences, even between those experiences of people that come from vastly different cultural backgrounds – but saying that ALL of them have the same “core” sounds too extreme to me. Just looking at christian religious experiences alone – visions and dreams of Jesus, visions and dreams of the virgin Mary, speaking in tongues, the born again experience etc.pp. – it does seem very strange to say that all of those experiences have the same common core and all their differences are unimportant. In my personal experience, catholics (for example) cannot identify with the religious experiences of born again christians, quite the contrary – they sound very alien to them and I have never seen a catholic who said that this matches (at least in essence) his or her own religious experiences. I have however seen followers of eastern religions who did describe experiences that did sound very similar to the born again experience of christians.
    So, what I would suspect is that there is not just one type of religious experience / that not ALL religious experiences have a common core, but rather that there are several different types (with none of those types being limited to only one particular religion but potentially occuring in all of them). What do you think?
    Also, it does seem to me that if the “peripherals” in religious experiences have nothing important to teach, then it would follow that all religious doctrines that are exclusive in some sense (the catholic extra ecclesiam nulla salus doctrine for example, or the view that a “accepting Jesus as your savior” is absolutely necessary for salvation), are false, while the core principles of the Bahá’í faith are correct, doesn´t it?

    God reveals Himself through such experiences to all humankind, regardless of their religious, cultural, historical and traditional expressions of spirituality…

    I am not denying that those experiences are ubiquitous, I´m also not denying that there is probably much more overlap between them then many people think there is (although I am skeptical that there really is just ONE general type of religious experience as I mentioned above), but people like me are also part of “humankind” – so the ALL, goes a bit too far maybe 😉

    You didn’t address my question: What does monotheism deify? I know what makes monotheism mono-theism and not polytheism nor atheism. What I want you to articulate is what it is that monotheism deifies as “God.” I ask this to get you to think about what monotheists mean by the term/name/label God, not just what any one particular individual monotheist may understand God to be/mean.

    So, you mean a list of attributes of “God” that every monotheist would necessarily have to affirm qua being a monotheist? If so, I cannot think of anything beyond “God” referring to the one “supreme being” – everything else that is being said about “God” in monotheistic traditions doesn´t seem to be unanimously agreed on by all of them as far as I can tell,

  137. Melissa,

    As far as I can tell the NT writers thought Jesus ushered in a new age so that seems like a pretty good reason to me. According to them God is doing something new now.

    But can you honestly say that this “something new” was a good idea? Assuming that christianity is true, this “something new” was a handful of people studying a book (because only a handful of people were able to read for the longest time in christian history) and praying on it – and we´ve seen how that worked out.

    Analogous like God having hands and feet?

    No, but analogous wrt communication.

    I don’t think Christianity is limited in that way. I think the church is (when it allows itself to be) empowered by the Holy Spirit.

    The idea here is that if you sincerely try to understand the meaning of scripture, then the holy spirit will help you in understanding it, correct? If so, then I honestly don´t understand how this idea is not falsified by the last 1900 years of history.

  138. @ JB:

    Differences in religious experiences:

    “The most plausible way to take this objection could be as follows: You could say that the presence of false claims to the witness of the Holy Spirit ought to undermine my confidence in the reliability of my cognitive faculties in forming religious beliefs because apparently those faculties go wrong so often. Look at all the people in the world whose cognitive faculties have gone wrong in leading them to think they have a witness of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The fact that so many people apparently sincerely and yet falsely believe that God’s Spirit is testifying to them of the truth of their religious beliefs ought to make us suspicious of our own experience of God.

    As I said, I think that is the most plausible spin to put on this objection. But I think there are two things wrong with this construal of the objection.

    First of all, the Christian does not need to say that all non-Christian religious experience is simply spurious. We are not committed to saying that all religious experience outside of Christianity is just spurious. It may well be the case that adherents to other world religions do enjoy a veridical experience of God in some measure. For example, as the ground of all being – as in Eastern religions – the ground upon whom we all depend as finite creatures. Or maybe an experience of God as the moral absolute from whom all values are derived. Or maybe even a veridical experience of God as the loving Father of mankind. We are not at all committed to the view that people’s cognitive faculties for experiencing the divine are simply unreliable. I think that there can be genuine experiences of God in various ways in different religions.

    But secondly, notice that the objection unjustifiably assumes that the Christian experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit is indistinguishable experientially from other religious experiences. In fact, that is just not true. It is not true that Christian religious experience is not distinctive compared to the religious experiences of other religions. For example, Buddhist or Hindu religious experience is very different from Christian religious experience. The Buddhist or Hindu typically has a religious experience of a sort of loss of self and a loss of sense of distinctness from the All, a sense of being subsumed in the All or the totality of things. That is very different from Christian religious experience of being related to a loving and personal God. So why should I think that when they have their religious experience that it is the same as mine and that mine isn’t distinctive? When a Mormon claims to have a burning in the bosom that attests to the truth of the Book of Mormon, why should I think that his experience is exactly the same as mine? When I have an experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit, I don’t see any reason to think that these non-veridical experiences in other religions are indistinguishable from Christian experience.

    One way to get some empirical evidence for this would be to ask converts from Islam and Mormonism to Christianity, “Is your experience of God, now that you are a Christian, different then it was when you were a Mormon or Muslim?” I hazard to say that the vast majority will say, “Yes, it is very different – I never knew Christ in a personal way as a Muslim or as a Mormon – my religious experience of the witness of the Spirit is very different than what I knew as a Mormon or as a Muslim.”” (W.L. Craig)

    Differences matter, just as, areas of overlap matter. The whole-show matters and is subjected to historicity, to reason, to logic, to the physical sciences rather than to the fallacious absurdity of scientism, and to the self-evident contours of ontic necessity/being, which outreaches scientism’s bizarre mandate.

  139. @ JB,

    It is worth adding that it is the case that every person experiences – lives in – the self-evident contours of ontic necessity/being, which outreaches scientism’s bizarre and absurd mandate. The child may not know of “gravity” but he experiences it. We all do. Ontic ends fail to grant immunity from Actuality. In fact that is impossible. Hidden from the absurdity of scientism is not – in actuality – hidden at all.

  140. Andy, RE:#150

    You ask me this: “So, you mean a list of attributes of “God” that every monotheist would necessarily have to affirm qua being a monotheist? If so, I cannot think of anything beyond “God” referring to the one “supreme being” – everything else that is being said about “God” in monotheistic traditions doesn´t seem to be unanimously agreed on by all of them as far as I can tell.”

    No, I do not mean a list of attributes of “God” or any “unanimously agreed on” consensus about what “God” is or what the term/name/label “God” means. Under monotheism, the whole notion of such a thing is as unanimity in understandings of God is both impossible and irrelevant. You appear not to understand what I mean by “deify” and “deification.” It means, in short, what monotheism makes holy and worthy of worship.

    My purpose is to explain to you the misguided thinking and futility of atheism. Since our understanding(s) of God are based on our experiences of/with God, the atheist takes on the task of trying to convince the believer in God that what our experiences of/with God teach us about God either (choice one, more or all) 1) wrong 2) a lie or fabrication 3) never happened 4) hallucinations, delusions or another form of insanity and 5) that they (atheists, non-believers in God) are the only ones with a true and reasonable understanding of all reality, including everyone and anyone else’s experiences.

    I see that you seem to be sincerely seeking to understand what other people mean by the term/label/name or concept of “God” believe about God, which is that which leads us to believe IN God, that which monotheism deifies. May I ever so humbly suggest that it is the best place to start is to seek to truly and clearly understand what the ancient Hebrews understood as “God” and working chronologically and theologically from there, what Jesus Christ teaches us about God. That’s enough of a big chunk to bite off.

    From there, you can explore with believers in God, specifically Jews and Christians, what we believe about God and how the Hebrews’ understanding of “God” and Jesus Christ’s teachings about God inform and guide our understanding of the God we experience in our own lives. This does not involve in any way a “list of attributes” of God or a search for unanimity in understandings of God. But it does require a willingness to suspend judgement about how others express and live out their experiences of/with God based on our understanding of God.

  141. Jenna,

    No, I do not mean a list of attributes of “God” or any “unanimously agreed on” consensus about what “God” is or what the term/name/label “God” means. Under monotheism, the whole notion of such a thing is as unanimity in understandings of God is both impossible and irrelevant. You appear not to understand what I mean by “deify” and “deification.” It means, in short, what monotheism makes holy and worthy of worship.

    I…. honestly don´t understand how this is not a contradiction in terms.
    You say “It means … *what* monotheism makes holy”, so I can only assume that you are asking me what I think this “what” is, but you also say that a description of the object of worship is NOT what you had in mind as the correct answer here. Again, this to me seems to be a contradiction in terms. Could you maybe try to rephrase or give what you consider to be the correct answer to your question?

    My purpose is to explain to you the misguided thinking and futility of atheism. Since our understanding(s) of God are based on our experiences of/with God, the atheist takes on the task of trying to convince the believer in God that what our experiences of/with God teach us about God either (choice one, more or all) 1) wrong 2) a lie or fabrication 3) never happened 4) hallucinations, delusions or another form of insanity and 5) that they (atheists, non-believers in God) are the only ones with a true and reasonable understanding of all reality, including everyone and anyone else’s experiences.

    I have had conversations with a lot of people about their religious experiences, people coming from wildly different cultural backgrounds – and for pretty much every single one of those experiences (all except for two), I wouldn´t classify them as *any* of your items 1-5, I rather think that they happened pretty much exactly as described (with a little uncertainty of course because our memory is imperfect). What makes you think that I cannot be both an atheist and also accept that the vast majority (not all, but definitely most of them afaict) of those experiences are “genuine” in the sense that they are not covered by any of your items 1-5?

    From there, you can explore with believers in God, specifically Jews and Christians, what we believe about God and how how the Hebrews’ understanding of “God” and Jesus Christ’s teachings about God inform and guide our understanding of the God we experience in our own lives. This does not involve in any way a “list of attributes” of God or a search for unanimity in understandings of God.

    Here I have the same problem as in the first part of my comment – you recommend that I should try to understand how a certain group of people understand a concept, but this does not in any way involve a description of what this concept means… The only way for me to read this without assuming that it is a contradiction in terms is to assume that this concept (of God) is absolutely, literally absolutely and in every respect, ineffable. Is that what you mean?

  142. Andy,

    Your use of the term “the object of worship” is, for me, what may be the problem here that prevents us from understanding each other. IMO, monotheism has no “object” of worship because to worship an “object” is idolatry, not monotheism. This may seem like hair-splitting or an argument over semantics, but I think that it is at the very core of what makes monotheism different from both polytheism and atheism.

    You say this: “Here I have the same problem as in the first part of my comment – you recommend that I should try to understand how a certain group of people understand a concept, but this does not in any way involve a description of what this concept means…”

    For me, a departure point is to explore the conceptualization and understanding as God as the Creator, as God (Elohim) is introduced in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning …”

    I will also tell you that I can state summarily that my fundamental understanding of God is that God is whatever and whoever (anthropomorphized) caused the Big Bang. I assert that this is very much parallel to and congruent with the conceptualization of the ancient Hebrews of God as the Creator as in Genesis 1. Is this something we can work with? The ancient Hebrews’ naming of God as the Creator and my belief in God as the Creator? I am an Episcopalian, so this conceptualization of God is expressed in our Nicene Creed:

    “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”

    As far as God being ineffable, human language and the concepts that language names, describes, explains, etc. is the best and the only tool we have for conveying our understanding of God. Language is inadequate in terms of completeness and precision simply because the finite cannot fully describe the Infinite with a finite set of intellectual and linguistic tools but are most certainly enough for us to communicate our understandings of God with/to each other.

  143. Your use of the term “the object of worship” is, for me, what may be the problem here that prevents use from understanding each other. IMO, monotheism has no “object” of worship because to worship an “object” is idolatry, not monotheism. This may seem like hair-splitting or an argument over semantics, but I think that it is at the very core of what makes monotheism different from both polytheism and atheism.

    Maybe “object” was a poor choice of words, but you say that monotheism “worships”. And there must be [insert appropriate word here] that this worship is directed at , right? What I don´t understand is how you can simultaneously ask what this [insert appropriate word here] is, but also say that this does not in any way involve describing what [insert appropriate word here] is – again, I really do not see how this is not a contradiction in terms unless the correct answer is “[insert appropriate word here] is absolutely and in every respect 100% ineffable”.

    For me, a departure point is to explore the conceptualization and understanding as God as the Creator, as God (Elohim) is introduced in Genesis 1:1

    So “God” is a / the “creator” – is that not saying something about him? Is that not one of the things that define what “God” is, one of his attributes? If so, then this would be an instance of what you told me this should NOT be about, isn´t it?

    I will also tell you that I can state summarily that my fundamental understanding of God is that God is whatever and whoever (anthropomorphized) caused the Big Bang. I assert that this is very much parallel to and congruent with the conceptualization of the ancient Hebrews of God as the Creator as in Genesis 1. Is this something we can work with?

    Yeah, that works. So you say that there is a first cause, and you identify this first cause with God – I am a little (really just a little) familiar with thomistic philosophy and classical theism, so that idea is not new to me. However, afaik, this does involve conclusions about the nature of this first cause (like for example the conclusion that the first cause must be necessarily immutable), and such concepts – like the God of classical theism – are what I had in mind when I thought about how to answer your question about what it is that monotheism deifies. I am still confused however as to where you were aiming with that question.

    I am an Episcopalian

    Ok, that is a tradition that I know virtually nothing about ;-). But I take it that your conception of what “God” means is identical or at least very similar to the God of classical theism, is that correct?

  144. Andy,

    But can you honestly say that this “something new” was a good idea?

    I can honestly say that this “something new” is very good news for the cosmos.

    Assuming that christianity is true, this “something new” was a handful of people studying a book (because only a handful of people were able to read for the longest time in christian history) and praying on it – and we´ve seen how that worked out.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information from. You may want to read the NT and then work forward from there.

    No, but analogous wrt communication.

    Well I think this is where you’re going wrong. For Christians there is love and there is interactions but the interactions are not identical to those in human-human relationships. No one disagrees with you that the majority of God’s interactions with humanity are not the same as the human-human interactions we are familiar with. Relationship is used analogously just as we analogously might talk of God’s hands and feet.

    The idea here is that if you sincerely try to understand the meaning of scripture, then the holy spirit will help you in understanding it, correct?

    The Holy Spirit works in a variety of ways, not just in helping us understand Scripture, again you might want to read the NT and then move forward from there through history to see what major Christian thinkers have written in this area.

    I really don’t understand where you think you are going with this whole line of argument. The God-human interaction is not like human-human interaction, I’m not sure what exactly that has to do with the hiddenness of God.

  145. Melissa,

    Well I think this is where you’re going wrong. For Christians there is love and there is interactions but the interactions are not identical to those in human-human relationships. No one disagrees with you that the majority of God’s interactions with humanity are not the same as the human-human interactions we are familiar with. Relationship is used analogously just as we analogously might talk of God’s hands and feet.

    I didn´t mean to say that they have to be identical, what I pointed out was that, afaict, they are nothing like interhuman relationships – although many christians talk about them as if they would be very similar. An example is this WLC quote that was posted earlier in this thread:
    “I hazard to say that the vast majority will say, “Yes, it is very different – I never knew Christ in a personal way as a Muslim or as a Mormon”
    And this is not at all uncommon, google “personal relationship with Jesus” for example. A “personal relationship” or “knowing in a personal way” does imply a relationship that is very similar to interhuman (personal) relationships, but it doesn´t seem to be similar at all. Maybe this is just me being pedantic about language, but it really does seem to me that many christians strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus that IS analogous to interhuman relationships.

    I really don’t understand where you think you are going with this whole line of argument. The God-human interaction is not like human-human interaction, I’m not sure what exactly that has to do with the hiddenness of God.

    You are right, the focus of the conversation has shifted very much. It started (at least for me) with me asking Tom “what conceivable evidence would convince you that people as described in point 4 exist?”
    “Point 4” refers to a point in Schellenberg´s argument that was mentioned in the OP: “(4) There are (and often have been) people who are (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God without also (iii) believing that God exists.” Tom said that this is the point he would focus on if he would want to criticize the argument – he said “there must first be proof that persons such as those described in 4 actually exist”.
    I claim that I sincerely do not believe that there is a God, and I asked what conceivable evidence would convince Tom (or you, or anyone else who might doubt that) that I am not lying about that. Because if I am not lying about it, then your God is hidden to at least some people. And that would mean that your God either does not exist or does exist but is not interested in being known by all of humanity.
    The nature of the “relationship” with God / Jesus is not completely irrelevant to this – if a “personal relationship with God” really would be analogous to interhuman relationships, then there would be no atheists, because God would be as obvious as our parents, friends, and coworkers are obvious (it would still be possible to “reject” God, but it wouldn´t be possible to genuinely doubt his existence).

  146. “Nothing like interhuman…” ??

    So are we to infer that God LACKS the capacity to interact with Man to the very depths of Man’s relational nuances?

    I thought we were talking about God.

    My mistake.

    Are we to infer that God CANNOT (IMPOSSIBLE?) so relate to / with Man?

    Or that God = Relationally less nuanced than Man’s capacities?

    On what grounds? Why would it be out of place IF God so motioned? (POSSIBLE?)

    Impossible and Possible seem to, sort of, share ontological real estate. And X is a liar who is equivocating when X is pressing that definition to its proper limits.

    All as expected.

    Fallacies and equivocations.

  147. scblhrm

    Now you did it, there are no more adequate Bible verses about lying so you force me to resort to secular sources:
    “If you don’t want to slip up tomorrow, speak the truth today.”
    ― Bruce Lee

    You are an unrepenting compulsive liar and in your own interest, you should take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself if that is truly the person that you want to be. Lying sometimes hurts others but it always eventually hurts yourself, this is a lesson you really should try to learn.

  148. Andy,

    So is it IMPOSSIBLE or is it POSSIBLE for “God” to interact with Man to the very limits of Man’s relational nuances as per #160??

  149. scblhrm

    “Lies and secrets, Tessa, they are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.”
    ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

  150. The skeptic bemoans this:

    “… but it really does seem to me that many christians strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus that IS analogous to interhuman relationships….”

    Certainly this isn’t “impossible” of G-O-D.

    Of course, we expect that there would be (at least) that AND far, far – far – more available from Him.

  151. Andy,

    No, the conceptualization or understand of what the name/word/term “God” refers to is not an attribute of God, any more than “the cause of the Big Ban” is an attribute. And think about the meaning of the term “attribute” which is, according to one dictionary online, is “an abstraction belonging to or characteristic of an entity. …Attribute comes from the Latin verb attribuere, which is made up the prefix ad, meaning “to,” and tribuere meaning “give or bestow.” “Creator” (with a capital C) is not a characteristic we humans give or bestow on God.

    I really don’t believe that monotheists think in terms of God’s “attributes”, knowing as we do that these are projections of our language and intellect and not what that which we speak of as God actually is.

    And this paraphrasing of what I said, or at least what I am trying to say, is not accurate either. Andy: “…you identify this first cause with God.” No, I don’t identify the first cause with God. I believe that God is the First Cause. I am puzzled as to why the difference is so hard to convey. At the core of this is the disentanglement of the name/word/term “God” as a linguistic artifact from the deep and true understanding of what we are speaking of when we speak of/about God.

    Perhaps this is what you mean by “ineffable” and if so, then I can consider that perhaps the term applies. A great book on the topic that I recommend is Nathan Stone’s book, “Names of God” (2010) that explores 12 names of God from the Bible. His thesis is that God has many names because no one name of/for God conveys or represents all that God is.

    And by “the God of classical theism” do you mean the God of monotheism? Perhaps encompassing all that which/whom monotheism deifies?

  152. scblhrm, RE: #162

    I’m with you in requesting a straight-forward answer to this question from Andy.

    I find Andy’s accusations (both biblical and secular quotations) against you for allegedly telling lies to be totally spurious and out of bounds.

    And thanks to you for your beautifully spoken ideas and your faith. I appreciate your contribution to my understanding. God bless you.

    JB

  153. JB,

    IF God wanted to relate with Man it almost necessitates “something like” Man-in-God, God-in-Man.

    Reciprocity…..

    Christ’s many ontic contours begin to emerge.

    If God loves, that is.

  154. Jenna,

    And think about the meaning of the term “attribute” which is, according to one dictionary online, is “an abstraction belonging to or characteristic of an entity. …Attribute comes from the Latin verb attribuere, which is made up the prefix ad, meaning “to,” and tribuere meaning “give or bestow.” “Creator” (with a capital C) is not a characteristic we humans give or bestow on God.

    The “give or bestow” part is not necessarily implied by using the word attribute, in philosophy, the meaning is:
    “Attribute may refer to:
    In philosophy, a property, or a conclusion of a characteristic of an entity or substance”
    I don´t think that I am using the word attribute in an idiosyncratic way here, there is a wikipedia article called “Attributes of God in Christianity” for example ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributes_of_God_in_Christianity ) and the Catholic encyclopedia also has an article called “Divine Attributes” ( http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02062e.htm ) and there are dozens more. The word “attribute” seems to be adequate here – both colloquially and as a technical term.

    And this paraphrasing of what I said, or at least what I am trying to say, is not accurate either. Andy: “…you identify this first cause with God.” No, I don’t identify the first cause with God. I believe that God is the First Cause. I am puzzled as to why the difference is so hard to convey.

    Here I have to disagree, because your “God *IS* the First Cause” [emphasis mine] is *exactly* what I meant to convey in my comment and I am pretty sure that the words I have chosen were adequate to convey that. I said you “identify with”, meaning that there is an identity relationship between “God” and “First Cause”, or that God *IS* the first cause (i.e. *exactly* what you are saying here). I am not a native english speaker so I might of course be wrong here, but I am pretty sure that the phrasing I have chosen here was in fact adequate.

    Perhaps this is what you mean by “ineffable” and if so, then I can consider that perhaps the term applies.

    Again, when you say “worship”, there must be a [insert appropriate word here] that this worship is directed at. And you asked me to say what this [insert appropriate word here] is, but you also told me that this in no way entails describing what [insert appropriate word here] is… And I can only parse this in a way that would not make it a contradiction in terms by assuming that the [insert appropriate word here] that the worship is directed at CANNOT be described in any way, hence being completely and in every way ineffable.
    To clarify, you could maybe give me what you yourself consider to be the correct answer to your question (about what it is that monotheism deifies).

    And by “the God of classical theism” do you mean the God of monotheism? Perhaps encompassing all that which/whom monotheism deifies?

    There is a short but accurate wiki on classical theism:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_theism
    – This “God” concept is the one of the Aristotelico-Thomistic tradition, it is the official teaching of the Catholic church, and all protestant traditions that I am aware of teach a God concept that is either identical to it or very similar to it (divine simplicity and divine impassibility are characteristics of “God” that some (maybe many, I´m not sure) protestant philosophers deny for example)

  155. Jenna,

    I find Andy’s accusations (both biblical and secular quotations) against you for allegedly telling lies to be totally spurious and out of bounds.

    I am not sure if you have read the entire thread, but let me give you an analogy here, imagine that I´m invited to a party and am a little late, so scblhrm gives me a call and asks if I can still make it, leading to this dialog:

    scblhrm: Hey Andy, do you think you can still make it?
    Andy: Yeah, I´m just around the corner, I´ll be there in three minutes.
    scblhrm: Are you certain you can make it?
    Andy: I just told you, I´ll be there in three in minutes.
    scblhrm: But are you certain?
    Andy: Yes! I´ll be there in three.
    scblhrm: Yeah, but are you certain, like, are you absolutely 100% sure that there is not even one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion chances that you get hit by lightning or attacked by a rabid dog coming out of nowhere or get a heart attack in the next three minutes?
    Andy: What the…?!
    scblhrm: So you cannot rule that out? You are uncertain if you can make it?
    Andy: NO!! I told you I´m certain I´ll be there in three minutes!
    scblhrm: So you know with absolute 100.0000% certainty, that NOTHING could possibly under ANY circumstances stop you from coming? There is not even one chance in n, with n being the largest number that could possibly be displayed by using the information desity of the entire observable universe, that you will not be making it?
    Andy: Of course this chance is a theoretical possibility, you are being ridiculous.
    scblhrm: So you are uncertain?
    Andy: NO!!
    scblhrm: *hangs up* – guys, Andy is uncertain whether he can make it.

    This is what scblhrm has been doing for half of this thread, and I strongly believe in Hanlon´s razor – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity – but scblhrm has ruled the latter possibility out, because I have written four very long comments, explaining to him *exactly* what I meant, and he acknowledged that briefly and then started lying about what I said again.
    This is the lie he repeated most often but he also lied about many other things, he lied about me equivocating on the meaning of “certainty” although I used the same meaning in the entire thread, he lied about me having a precommitment to the Münchhausen trilemma although I do not presuppose it at all, he lied about pretty much everything.
    So, I think that my accusation that scblhrm is a compulsive liar is entirely justified, if you disagree – feel free to read the entire thread and tell me how my description here was misleading.

  156. Andy,

    “Are you 100% certain that the self aware being that is YOU actually exists”.

    THAT is, was, the question.

    NOT – “….can you make it to a party” etc….

    I believe that the trilemma ipso facto rules out that DEGREE of certainty – and that your answer is, “No – not 100%” (on THAT SPECIFIC QUESTION).

    I’m pushing the question of DEGREE to its proper limits of POSSIBILITY.

    Also now lately with possible/impossible with God’s capacity to relate with Man to the very depths of Man’s relational nuances (God-Man reciprocity…..)

  157. scblhrm

    You accused me (ad nauseam) of being UNCERTAIN about cogito ergo sum in this thread.
    So, let me prove that you have been lying about this.

    I quote the definition of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” from the legal dictionary:

    The standard that must be met by the prosecution’s evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

    If the jurors or judge have no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant should be pronounced guilty.

    The term connotes that evidence establishes a particular point to a moral certainty and that it is beyond dispute that any reasonable alternative is possible. It does not mean that no doubt exists as to the accused’s guilt, but only that no Reasonable Doubt is possible from the evidence presented.

    Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof that must be met in any trial.

    Note two things about this, it is a) the *highest* standard in our criminal justice system, but it is also b) still a *theoretical* possibility that the established point is not true – this theoretical possibility is however ruled out to a point of “moral CERTAINTY” (that means that you can in good conscience assign the strictest sentence (potentially the death penalty, depending on where it happens) to the person that has been convicted).

    Using the word “certainty” in such a way is not idiosyncratic, it is common-sensical and it is used in such a way by virtually every english speaking person everywhere.

    Now, answer this question please:
    If someone is convicted in a murder trial, guilt has been established beyond any reasonable doubt – and a journalist writes about the verdict “BREAKING NEWS: Court is UNCERTAIN but sentences the accused to life in prison anyway!”
    – is the journalist deliberately misrepresenting this? Yes or no? You can assume that the journalist is not a complete moron. So what is it, yes or no?
    Don´t weasel your way out of this one – was the journalist deliberately misrepresenting this or wasn´t he?

  158. Andy, RE: #68

    In the hope of avoiding our wandering too far afield here, please allow me to return to the questions and conversation that began this exchange: your puzzlement with what we Christians mean when we speak of/about our relationship with God. (I am hoping that between Melissa’s and my answers, you now understand what we mean and don’t mean by our relationship with Jesus Christ.) As I understand your comments and responses, you do not have a problem with accepting the authenticity and reality of people’s spiritual/transcendent experiences, what Abraham Maslow refers to as “peak experiences” and as “core religious experiences.” You recognize that such experiences are ubiquitous and that people of from all religions and faith communities have such experiences and I infer, correct me if I’m wrong about your understanding, that you acknowledge that atheists have such experiences as well.

    So, here is my question: Do you or do you not see how spiritual, transcendent experiences are an element in a relationship with God, with the acknowledgement that the name or term “God” is what many or most speak of as what they/we learn about from these experiences? Can you not then see how we speak of having a relationship with God, since these experiences are “teaching and learning” experiences that are transformative and deeply meaningful in our lives?

    We do not relate to (have a relationship with) God’s attributes. We relate to/with God. I am trying to understand here why, if as I understand it, you self-label an atheist, and atheism is a rejection in the existence of God, you can sustain the claim that what Jews and Christians (monotheists) speak of as God has no basis in an existing reality, thereby rendering the “question” of God’s existence or non-existence incomprehensible.

    IOW, what does your atheism mean to you? What is/are your belief(s) about God as an atheist. Is your atheism what I frequently find atheism to be for other atheists: merely a strong disapproval of whatever concept of God any person has and a strong disapproval of deification of any reality? Why do you, if you actually do, find the concept of a personal experiential relationship with God, to be incomprehensible or incoherent or unacceptable? And if/when you understand that Christians relate to Jesus Christ as theos, God Incarnate, can you not accept and appreciate that this is also a relationship?

  159. Andy,

    Maybe this is just me being pedantic about language, but it really does seem to me that many christians strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus that IS analogous to interhuman relationships.

    Yes, analogous in the same sense as God’s hands and feet.

    I claim that I sincerely do not believe that there is a God, and I asked what conceivable evidence would convince Tom (or you, or anyone else who might doubt that) that I am not lying about that. Because if I am not lying about it, then your God is hidden to at least some people. And that would mean that your God either does not exist or does exist but is not interested in being known by all of humanity.

    I don’t think you’re lying about it and I think that God can be hidden from some people … I’ve been there. Looking back though I think that I just did not see at least some of the evidence that was in front of me. For whatever reason it wasn’t enough to break through to me at that stage in my life. I fully appreciate this is a reinterpretation of my experiences through my current lens but I also think this is warranted by what I perceive as my original misinterpretation. I really think there is a third option and it doesn’t include you lying about your unbelief, we just fail to see and I think that is due to factors that can run below our conscious awareness.

    Just look at the people who deny we have thoughts that are about anything because of the problem of the physical (as studied by physics) being about something. They ignore and explain away the evidence of their own experience because they are so strongly wedded to materialism (a worldview that buttresses their atheism). They seem perfectly sincere to me. My point is that data needs to be interpreted and in the interpretation there is always wiggle room.

    I’m fully aware that this can cut both ways, but I guess we just try to do the best we can :).

    The “hiddenness” of God is an important and interesting theme though. Not in the sense of us being unaware of God but rather in the sense that even when God reveals Himself he remains free, mysterious, never a prisoner to our concepts and categories. Although this does seem to be a stumbling block to many.

  160. Andy,

    I did not – even once – ask you about a criminal case.

    I did not – even once – ask you about your coming to a meeting.

    I asked you about a vector of knowing, perceiving, which is wholly distinct from your entire analysis: that of the Self / Identity.

    So your whole analysis does not apply.

    If you think the way we achieve certainty outside of the Self, outside of Identity, is identical to those modes which exist within the Self, within Identity, then you are either honestly mistaken or you are just avoiding that distinction in order to keep your trilemma finally tenable.

    Remember now as I again ask you the question I’ve been asking you all along that we are pushing the issue of DEGREE to its proper limits of POSSIBILITY – The degree which we call 99.9999% (Etc.) means that there is a (real, but very small) POSSIBILITY of error.

    So,

    Does the self-aware being that is YOU exist?

    Is there ANY POSSIBILITY that the self aware being that is YOU does NOT exist?

    This has direct ties to how we know God – Person – Identity – and the Skeptic for whom the trilemma must remain – always – finally – tenable reveals a substrate which may not be open/honest with God, Person, Identity as lines of perceiving there inside of Being, Consciousness, Bliss ~~~

  161. Andy,

    Let me rephrase that for clarity:

    Are you 100% certain that the self-aware being that is YOU does in fact exist?

    Is there ANY POSSIBILITY that you are mistaken about that, that the self-aware being that is YOU does NOT in fact exist? Is there ANY POSSIBILITY that the truth statement on reality SHOULD BE:

    “I do not exist!”

    In THIS paradigm, it will be your trilemma and absurdity as finally, ultimately, tenable – or – it will be Being and Identity as finally, ultimately, tenable.

  162. Andy,

    Separate topic:

    On the matter of which vectors God [can, may, cannot, won’t] interact with Man to the very depths of and limits of Man’s relational nuances:

    I don’t see that there is, or even can be, a limit here on God’s side of the equation either in smallness of degree such that an uneducated fisherman in the first century could “relate/interact” nor in greatness of degree such that the whole of Mankind atop the Tower of Babel could ever hope to spy the “end of” just any vector at all.

    But you seem to think there are limits to God in this paradigm of God-Man reciprocity – not on Man’s side but on God’s side, with this:

    “… but it really does seem to me that many Christians strive to have a personal relationship with Jesus that IS analogous to inter-human relationships….”

    We grant that if that were ALL God-Man inter-relational contexts consisted of then there would be error. But that is not ALL which Christians claim of such lines. It is a Part-Of, not the Whole-Of.

    Therefore:

    On possibility, on feasibility, we are 100% certain that this is not “impossible” of G-O-D given that God is the very A through Z of Being, Consciousness, Bliss, and so on.

    Of course, in Christian theism, we expect that there would at least be “that” AND far, far – far – more available from Him, from God.

    I see no way we can define God properly and then infer that God CANNOT (IMPOSSIBLE?) so relate to / with Man or that God is somehow relationally less nuanced than Man’s capacities.

    On what grounds would we infer this? More importantly – why would it be out of place IF God so motioned?

    Hidden?

    The transcendental nature of Identity, of Being in relationship with the Nature that is Man brings us to some rather unique ontic ends for if God (the uncreated, underived) wanted to relate with Man (the created, derived) it almost necessitates “something that looks like” the following: Man-in-God, God-in-Man.

    Reciprocity’s Man-God. Reciprocity’s ontic contours. Or, if it helps: Self-Other. This is all assuming that God loves Man and enters into relationship with Man, for reciprocity houses – again – rather unique ontic ends.

    Christ’s many ontic contours begin to emerge – coherence and plausibility begin to actualize within Time and Physicality.

  163. @ JB,

    You said this to Andy: “Why do you, if you actually do, find the concept of a personal experiential relationship with God, to be incomprehensible or incoherent or unacceptable? And if/when you understand that Christians relate to Jesus Christ as theos, God Incarnate, can you not accept and appreciate that this is also a relationship?”

    In #176 this may perhaps become a matter of degree in moving forward as Christ begins to emerge as the most robust articulation of reciprocity, of God-in-Man, of Man-In-God which has ever been enunciated. I would offer that if relational reciprocity were to actualize then we begin to find Christ’s peculiar array of ontic contours actualizing within that very dialogue.

  164. @scblhrm

    I won´t even read your comments until you answer the question in #171 – is your answer to it “Yes” (meaning that you are a serial liar) or “No” (meaning that you are a complete moron – not meant as an insult, just as a statement of fact).
    We have nothing to talk about until you answer #171 and I will copy this exact comment here as a response to everything you say to me until you answer it.

  165. Andy,

    Criminal case certainty is a fundamentally different and distinct paradigm as I’ve already explained.

    It’s meaningless here.

    Unless you mean to assert that these are NOT fundamentally distinct paradigms?

    Can I assume that to be the case?

    If that is the case:

    You seem to be utterly unable to see the necessary distinction and hence seem beholden to a category error.

  166. @scblhrm

    I won´t even read your comments until you answer the question in #171 – is your answer to it “Yes” (meaning that you are a serial liar) or “No” (meaning that you are a complete moron – not meant as an insult, just as a statement of fact).
    We have nothing to talk about until you answer #171 and I will copy this exact comment here as a response to everything you say to me until you answer it.

  167. Andy,

    Category Error.

    So it is then.

    I tried.

    I won’t operate under your fallacious conclusion based on your inexplicable false identity claim of A = B, which is but a manifestation of your being wedded to your category error amid two distinct paradigms of perception.

    I really thought you had the intellectual wherewithal to distinguish those two as non-identical, to appreciate that A is in fact not B.

    Oh well.

    I’ll await your re-copy-paste of your category error. Heck I’ll even read that logical error again.

    Onward:

    Care to comment on the OTHER topic? The one which challenges you on where you SEEM TO infer that God CANNOT relate to Man to the very limits of Man’s relational nuances?

  168. When the Christian is asked by the Skeptic to talk of A, or, when the Christian speaks to the Skeptic of A:

    The Skeptic equivocates and DEMANDS that the Christian do so under B’s terms and if the Christian refuses – well then the Skeptic refuses to let go of B’s terms and you get what awaits us from the Skeptic as his copy/paste appears below dealing with B rather than A, even though B is not A.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll be pleasantly surprised instead.

  169. @scblhrm

    We have nothing to talk about until you answer #171 and I will copy this exact comment here as a response to everything you say to me until you answer it.
    I won´t even read your comments until you answer the question in #171 – is your answer to it “Yes” (meaning that you are a serial liar) or “No” (meaning that you are a complete moron – not meant as an insult, just as a statement of fact).

  170. Andy,

    The term Liar:

    If I thought there was no category error you would be correct.

    But since you haven’t taken the effort – not once – to ASK me WHY I find your criminal certainty utterly, totally, meaningless here in THIS paradigm of perception (Being) then you’ll have to go with name calling / liar instead of seeking further understanding of one another. If you want to concede your category error I’d be happy to go further. Or if you’d like to explain why there is NO category error (I’m officially asking you for your understanding of things there) then I’d be happy to go further.

  171. Melissa,

    Yes, analogous in the same sense as God’s hands and feet.

    Well, I heard very many christians talk about having a personal relationship (not just relationship, a *personal* relationship) and about *personally* knowing Jesus. I have never heard one saying that they allegedly “shake God´s hands” or “wash God´s feet”.
    I´ll probably go into a little more detail into why I think the difference between “relationship” and “personal relationship” matters in my next reply to Jenna.

    I don’t think you’re lying about it and I think that God can be hidden from some people … I’ve been there. Looking back though I think that I just did not see at least some of the evidence that was in front of me. For whatever reason it wasn’t enough to break through to me at that stage in my life. I fully appreciate this is a reinterpretation of my experiences through my current lens but I also think this is warranted by what I perceive as my original misinterpretation. I really think there is a third option and it doesn’t include you lying about your unbelief, we just fail to see and I think that is due to factors that can run below our conscious awareness.

    That sounds plausible (and thanks for believing me! 😉 ). However, if we would go back to Schellenberg´s argument, this would not dismantle point 4, because it also happens that people die after a lifetime of sincere unbelief (one of my Grandmothers for example) – and the existence of such people, IMO, rules out the possibility of a God that wants to be known by all humanity. Btw, it is not my aim to convince you or anyone here that your God is not real – I just like thinking about and working on arguments and I think Schellenberg´s is actually one of the better ones that can be raised against the existence of the christian God (not all conceptions of him, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, Calvinism is probably immune against it).

    Just look at the people who deny we have thoughts that are about anything because of the problem of the physical (as studied by physics) being about something. They ignore and explain away the evidence of their own experience because they are so strongly wedded to materialism (a worldview that buttresses their atheism). They seem perfectly sincere to me.

    You are talking about eliminative materialism I guess. Well, I wouldn´t be surprised if there are some (or many) atheist philosophers of mind who go that route largely due to being atheists/materialists, despite the apparent absurdity of denying that there is such a thing as intentionality ;-). However, I doubt that all of them think like that, I would personally call myself a physicalist (which you could use as a synonym for “materialist” or “naturalist” in almost every context) but that is a position that I adopt for purely pragmatic reasons and I wouldn´t mind it at all if I would eventually need to revise that position and, say, acknowledge that there is in fact a fundamental division between the mental and the physical. In fact, I would revise my position on that right now if a non-physicalist approach could actually provide an explanation (not necessarily a scientific one, a philosophical-conceptual one would already be very impressive) for phenomena like intentionality.
    I don´t think that my view on this is very rare, and that there are many other atheists who call themselves naturalists / materialists / physicalists, but do so largely for pragmatic reasons and wouldn´t mind revising their views on this at all. I fully agree with atheist philosopher Stephen Law on that matter:
    http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/secular-humanism-dont-define-it-as.html
    and people like PZ Myers (who is about as certain that there are no Gods as it is humanly possible to be, afaict 😉 ) agreed with Law on that as well:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/09/20/is-naturalism-a-good-hill-to-die-on/

    My point is that data needs to be interpreted and in the interpretation there is always wiggle room.

    I fully agree. However, there are situations where this wiggle room can be almost infinitely small – if you wanted to deny that your friends and family exist for example, then you would need to come up with an absolutely incredibly far-fetched story (way more far-fetched than something like a Matrix scenario because even if we lived in a Matrix, your friends and family would still technically not be “non-existent”), so for all intents and purposes, you have no wiggle room that would allow you to deny the existence of your friends and family. And if christianity is true, then God once did put some people into such a situation where there was for all intents and purposes no wiggle room at all.

  172. scblhrm

    I see that this website has a mechanism against redundant comments in place so copy-pasting doesn´t work, too bad.

    The term Liar:

    If I thought there was no category error you would be correct.

    But since you haven’t taken the effort – not once – to ASK me WHY I find your criminal certainty utterly, totally, meaningless here….

    Show me ONE authoritative source that uses the word “uncertain” the way you used it in this thread wrt my position, just ONE that uses the word “uncertain” like you used it instead of using it like I use it and like the legal dictionary (that would be an example of an authoritative source) uses it. Go ahead, try to find one.
    Or save yourself the effort because I can already tell you that there are none, because this is NOT what the word means.
    There is no category error here, the meaning of the word is entirely clear. Again, show me just ONE source that would allow you to use “uncertain” as a SYNONYM for “certain beyond ANY reasonable doubt” or “asymptotically close to 100% certain”.

    Find me such an authoritative source or answer #171 (or just apologize for deliberately(!) misrepresenting me ad nauseam).

  173. Andy,

    Shall we move to the comment on the OTHER topic? The one which challenges you on where you SEEM TO (you may not mean to infer) infer that God CANNOT relate to Man to the very limits of Man’s relational nuances or that He “would not” so motion? As per #176 ~

  174. scblhrm

    No, I suggest that we stop talking to each other because I am not interested in having a conversation with you and I am quite certain that there is also no one else here who would be interested in following any further interactions between the two of us.

  175. Tom,

    I hold that the term “Impossible” is a valid ontolgical term.

    I hold that the term “Possible” is also valid.

    I hold that if A is Possible, then A cannot be Impossible.

    And so on.

    I hold that it is impossible that I do not exist. The statement made by me, “I do not exist” canont, ever, in any unverse, be a truth statement made by me in that universe. Impossible. Zero possibility. Hard-stop.

    Impossible/Possible are valid terms and these are the lines, terms, I’m pushing with Andy. Such absolute, certain, truth is achievable.

    Sorry for the mess.

    I’m officially moving to that other topic (#176) as “Possible” and “Impossible” seem to be lost causes.

  176. Tom,
    if you follow the entire thread, you´ll see that scblhrm accused me many times of being “uncertain” about things of which I am in fact certain beyond any reasonable doubt (and most unreasonable doubts as well). And since I explained to him precisely what I mean by being certain (and I don´t use the word in an idiosyncratic way), and did so several times – writing four long comments with examples for variying degrees of certainty – and since scblhrm always did acknowledge that briefly and then proceeded to accuse me of being “uncertain” again, I am forced to conclude that he knew that he was misrepresenting me and thus deliberately told falsehoods about my positions. And did so many times.
    That is only the most blatant violation of your discussion policies that he engaged in, he also accused me (again, several times) of equivocating on the meaning of certainty although I was very specific in what I said and always used the word with the same intended meaning, to name just one further example.

    I´m sorry for this mess and will not engage scblhrm any further, but I´d appreciate it if you´d tell him to stop writing comments directed at me or about me.

  177. So can we say that until you guys have kissed and made up that you are not going to engage with each other? This means refraining from asking the same question over and over or using terms like “idiot” and “liar”.

    It would be showing a kindness to the rest of us.

  178. Tom, RE: The “Divine Hiddenness” Argument

    I had never heard of the Divine Hiddenness Argument or J.L. Schellenberg until you posted this OP. Thanks for linking us to the Patheos website, since my visit there has prompted me to do some research on the topic. I must say, this is the most bizarre and convoluted argument I have ever come across for atheists in my internet interactions with them (so far). It is, as I understand it, atheists arguing that they themselves, or at least those among them that are not culpable and non-resistant, are proof of God’s nonexistence. Schellenberg argues that since belief is involuntary, these creatures should always have evidence “causally sufficient” for such belief.

    This argument is based on several assumptions, which come out in further analysis:
    1. That belief in God is involuntary
    2. That non-belief is therefore not “culpable” (the “I just can’t help it” argument
    3. That God’s revelation of Himself, if He exists, must be both unambiguous and unanimous.
    4, Since there is no unanimity of belief in God among humans, this is evidence that God does not exist

    Schellenberg creates a number of rather original and dubious concepts that are self-contradictory:
    1. How can there be culpable and non-culpable belief in God if belief is involuntary? Who can be blamed for doing or not doing anything if we have no choice in the matter?
    2. If belief is involuntary, what does it matter whether God reveals Himself in an ambiguous or non-ambiguous fashion? What does “causal sufficiency” of evidence for belief matter if belief is involuntary?

    This is just for starters in my analysis and counter-argument I plan to go premise by premise in my rebuttal, although I’m sure that Jeffrey Jay Lowder would find my analysis of the Divine Hiddenness argument just as unsatisfactory as yours. But I might go to his website to give it a try. I wonder if he will ban me like another Patheos blogger has done?

  179. Jenna,

    I was thinking the “same thing” myself. Though I don’t think as well or thoroughly as you do! It’s a puzzling argument for if God is who we say he is then he gets to do as he pleases as far as the way he approaches and interacts with his creation. Complaining that he isn’t doing that in a way that you find understandable is just what we would think is perfectly reasonable (or maybe not unreasonable) given who we are talking about. The basic premise “that if God existed and wanted people to believe in him, he would make himself known more plainly.” contains enough assumptions and so ignores the reality of Christian belief as to make the whole exercise pointless.

  180. BittT,

    You got it! In addition, we have to ask our atheist interlocutors, for whom and with whom is this argument? Are they arguing with believers that they are non-culpable in their involuntary non-resistant non-belief in God? IOW, are they trying to convince us that their atheism is not their own fault? Why would they feel a need to do that? Even those believers who misguidedly threaten atheists will hell fire and damnation, they must recognize as totally incapable of carrying through with or acting on any such threats. Only God can send someone to hell.

    Or, are atheists making their case to/with God, that same god that they do not believe exists? This is like a dialogue with God in which the atheist says, “God, I don’t believe in you or your existence, but it’s not my fault. I have no choice in the matter because you haven’t met my conditions for making me (involuntarily) believe in you. You have not unambiguously revealed yourself to me in such a way as to give me, individually and personally “causal sufficiency” to overcome my involuntary non-belief in you. My non-belief n you is your fault (or the fault of those who do believe in you), not mine, so don’t even think about punishing me for it!”

    In this scenario, certainly the atheist has a “conscious and meaningful relationship with god” if she or he argues with and places conditions on God in exchange for the precious gift to God of his/her belief.

    Which also raises the question about the Divine Hiddenness argument: Isn’t holding beliefs ABOUT God just as much a conscious and meaningful relationship with God as believing IN God? I keep in mind that atheism (a-theism) is theism, just like poly-theism is theism and pan-theism is theism. Without theism, there would be no atheism. So how can atheists claim that they have no theistic beliefs (beliefs about theism).

    Which brings us to this reality: If God were non-existent, we wouldn’t be able to hold this conversation, because there simply would be nothing to talk about. I have yet to hear a cogent argument from atheists about and for that particular brand of non-existence they attribute to God.

  181. Andy,

    I have never heard one saying that they allegedly “shake God´s hands” or “wash God´s feet”.

    Irrelevant.

    ´ll probably go into a little more detail into why I think the difference between “relationship” and “personal relationship” matters in my next reply to Jenna.

    Personal just means between two persons as opposed to, for example when we might say “Sally has a complicated relationship with food.” According to classical theism God is/has will and intellect therefore a personal relationship is possible even if it doesn’t look the same as our human-human relationships.

    However, if we would go back to Schellenberg´s argument, this would not dismantle point 4, because it also happens that people die after a lifetime of sincere unbelief (one of my Grandmothers for example) – and the existence of such people, IMO, rules out the possibility of a God that wants to be known by all humanity.

    OK, I obviously wasn’t quite clear with where I was going with the wriggle room. I think we can hide God in the wiggle room. so I would argue 4 is false.

    And if christianity is true, then God once did put some people into such a situation where there was for all intents and purposes no wiggle room at all.

    I don’t agree. We know that some people involved in the major events in the Bible did deny God.

  182. Jenna,

    This argument is based on several assumptions, which come out in further analysis:
    1. That belief in God is involuntary
    2. That non-belief is therefore not “culpable” (the “I just can’t help it” argument
    3. That God’s revelation of Himself, if He exists, must be both unambiguous and unanimous.
    4, Since there is no unanimity of belief in God among humans, this is evidence that God does not exist

    Let me start out by saying that this is obviously not directed at every possible definition of what “God” could mean, it is directed against a conception of “God” that involves said God being able and willing to have a relationship with all mankind (which is why I said in an earlier comment that Calvinism for example would be immune against this argument.
    Your point about whether belief in God (or beliefs in general) are a matter of volition is somewhat relevant here, but even if we were to assume that beliefs could be freely chosen (this is not a very popular position and an extremely hard to defend one, google the term “doxastic voluntarism” if you are interested in the various philosophical opinions on this), we´d have to posit that some people “resist” God – by choosing to not believe in him despite God reaching out to them (God reaching out to them in some way is implied by assuming that God wants a relationship with all humanity and not just a subset of it) – but #4 in Schellenberg´s says that there are people who sincerely do not believe in God despite being open to believing in God and not “resisting” this belief in any way (I´d count me as an example for that).
    Regarding the “unambiguous” in your #3 – well, this is not really an assumption, this follows from the nature of the “God” that this argument is directed at, a God that wants a relationship with all humanity, and that is not compatible with him reaching out in an ambiguous way to people.
    I think you are right that the matter of whether beliefs are a matter of volition or not should be tackled explicitly in the argument, but it would work either way for the reasons mentioned above.

    I´ll get to your earlier comment later.

  183. Personal just means between two persons as opposed to, for example when we might say “Sally has a complicated relationship with food.” According to classical theism God is/has will and intellect therefore a personal relationship is possible even if it doesn’t look the same as our human-human relationships.

    I don´t agree with that characterization. The two of us have a “relationship” in several impersonal ways, we attract each other gravitationally for example (the force of gravitational attraction between our bodies is negligible, but existent) – what I mean by that is that a relationship between two persons can (and often is) still be impersonal. I´d say the personal component largely involves common activities and communication – that´s why I´d say that the relationship between Jesus and his disciples as described in the NT unambiguously was a personal relationship. The relationship with God today however seems to be an impersonal one (if you disagree, what would you say are the personal components of this relationship for the average christian?)

    OK, I obviously wasn’t quite clear with where I was going with the wriggle room. I think we can hide God in the wiggle room. so I would argue 4 is false.

    Ok. Do you believe that God wants all humanity to know him? If you do – I´d say that this causes a contradiction to the existence of this wiggle room that needs to be resolved somehow, would you agree?

    I don’t agree. We know that some people involved in the major events in the Bible did deny God.

    Yeah, but what does “deny” mean here exactly? The three denials of Peter for example didn´t mean that he believed that Jesus is not real or not who he said he was, he lied when he denied Jesus, didn´t he?
    Are there examples in the NT narratives of someone like doubting Thomas who remained a skeptic despite Jesus trying to demonstrate to him who he was?

  184. Jenna,

    You got it! In addition, we have to ask our atheist interlocutors, for whom and with whom is this argument?

    I can´t speak for Schellenberg obviously, but my take is that this is an argument directed against a God who is able and willing to be known by all humanity, and thus an argument for people who want to debate whether such a God does or does not exist.

    Are they arguing with believers that they are non-culpable in their involuntary non-resistant non-belief in God? IOW, are they trying to convince us that their atheism is not their own fault?

    I strongly doubt that, because that is not one of the conclusions of the argument.

    Or, are atheists making their case to/with God, that same god that they do not believe exists?

    Of course not, this would be completely ridiculous – what has led you to considering that to be a possibility?

    Isn’t holding beliefs ABOUT God just as much a conscious and meaningful relationship with God as believing IN God?

    I´m confused. Do you think that by stating this argument, you automatically must have beliefs about God / about what God is like? If so – this is most emphatically not the case (and I really wonder how you could have possibly gotten this idea?). If I use this argument in a discussion for example, I am not communicating that I believe that there is a God and that “wanting to be known by all humanity” is part of his nature, I am rather just considering this definition of “God” for the sake of the argument and try to argue against it. This has obviously no consequences for other conceptions of what God is like and if I´d discuss with a Calvinist for example, I would never use it at all but rather use different arguments that involve a different understanding of what “God” is.

    I keep in mind that atheism (a-theism) is theism, just like poly-theism is theism and pan-theism is theism. Without theism, there would be no atheism. So how can atheists claim that they have no theistic beliefs (beliefs about theism).

    ???? Do you believe in leprechauns? No? Then you are an a-leprechaunist, does that mean that you have beliefs about leprechauns? No.

  185. BillT

    It’s a puzzling argument for if God is who we say he is then he gets to do as he pleases as far as the way he approaches and interacts with his creation. Complaining that he isn’t doing that in a way that you find understandable is just what we would think is perfectly reasonable (or maybe not unreasonable) given who we are talking about. The basic premise “that if God existed and wanted people to believe in him, he would make himself known more plainly.” contains enough assumptions and so ignores the reality of Christian belief as to make the whole exercise pointless.

    That is fine. But then you are conceding that if there is a God, he is either unwilling to be known by all humanity or unable to make himself known to all humanity. It doesn´t mean that there can be no God, but if there is one, being able and willing to be known by all humanity would not be part of his nature.
    Also, the “he would make himself known more plainly” you say would need to be rephrased, you could drop the “more plainly” because the argument assumes that there are people to which God has not made himself known at all – if there wouldn´t be any such people, the argument would be defeated.

  186. But then you are conceding that if there is a God, he is either unwilling to be known by all humanity or unable to make himself known to all humanity.

    This simply isn’t true.

    Let’s look at a key phrase of your above statement. “…or unable to make himself known…” The word “make” here is the key. We don’t believe in a God that makes people believe and love him. We believe in a God that gives people the free will to choose whether to believe and love him or not. Thus, the entire premise that under girds you premise fails.

    Let me ask you something. Would you want to make someone love you? If you could make someone love you, would you? I think the answer is obvious but you can tell me if I’m wrong. Your premise includes an assumption that God wants to make people love him. He doesn’t. He wants, just like you do, to have people choose to love him.

    Thus, we have a God that gives us enough to choose to believe in and love him and yet also gives us enough room to choose not to. Isn’t that a God that loves his creation enough to allow us all to be truly free in our decisions.

  187. BillT

    This simply isn’t true.

    Let’s look at a key phrase of your above statement. “…or unable to make himself known…” The word “make” here is the key. We don’t believe in a God that makes people believe and love him. We believe in a God that gives people free will to choose whether to believe and love him or not. Thus, the entire premise that under girds you premise fails.

    You are not contradicting what I said, because you lump “believe in” and “love” together, but I only talked about one of those. Whether God would force people to love him (or only create people who would freely love him (which he could do given some conceptions of what omniscience means)), is not relevant to the argument here – if I´d grant you that God does NOT want to force people to love but rather to love him freely, this would cause no problems for the argument at all.
    The second part of your objection here – “believe in” – is a different matter. If he wants to be known by all humanity, then being as obviously real as your friends and family are real (and as obviously real real as Jesus WAS real if christianity is true) would naturally follow from that.

    Let me ask you something. Would you want to make someone love you? If you could make someone love you, would you? I think the answer is obvious but you can tell me if I’m wrong. Your premise includes an assumption that God wants to make people love him. He doesn’t. He wants, just like you do, to have people choose to love him.

    As mentioned above, you are lumping “believe in” and “love” together, but I only talked about the believe part – so your objections here wrt love are moot.

    Thus, we have a God that gives us enough to choose to believe in

    I deny that (I would also deny that beliefs can be chosen at all, but that is not really relevant here) – I cannot choose to believe that your God is real anymore than I could choose to jump out of the window right now while genuinely(!) believing that the jump would not kill me.

  188. Andy,

    I´d say the personal component largely involves common activities and communication

    Except that you rule out the ways Christian say they participate and communicate with God as being common activities and communication. Once again the God-human relationship is not the same as the human-human relationship. Are you surprised by that? And “personal relationship” is used analogously. You don’t agree that the God-human interaction as described by Christians should be termed a personal relationship. That’s fine, lets call the interaction a gazoomba. Therefore God wants a gazoomba with human beings. In case my point is not clear, your argument rests on an equivocation.

    Ok. Do you believe that God wants all humanity to know him? If you do – I´d say that this causes a contradiction to the existence of this wiggle room that needs to be resolved somehow, would you agree?

    Wanting something and enforcing it are two different things.

    Are there examples in the NT narratives of someone like doubting Thomas who remained a skeptic despite Jesus trying to demonstrate to him who he was?

    There are examples of people all through the Bible who react with either faith or not in response to God’s actions. The Israelites in the desert would be one. Judas would be another.

  189. Andy,

    Your attempt to separate those phases “know, believe and love” may be key to your argument but they just aren’t realistic. If God makes himself known us he makes those to whom he makes himself known believe in and love him. There is no middle ground. This isn’t like meeting someone at a bar. You know them but you still have a choice whether to like them. If God where to make himself known, know enough to be real to everyone, he would have to reveal himself in a way that would give no choice whether to believe in and love him.

    Look at the story of Moses on Mount Sinai. God reveals himself to Moses but he has to hide Moses in the cleft of a rock because to allow Moses to actually see him would have killed Moses. He doesn’t hide from us to keep us from knowing him. He hides because it’s the only way to truly give us the freedom that is one of his greatest gifts.

  190. Except that you rule out the ways Christian say they participate and communicate with God as being common activities and communication.

    Yes, for most examples I have heard of, I do that. But I do not do that arbitrarily IMO. If christians say for example that they communicate with God via prayer, then I ask what message God has communicated to them – and so far, I have not met anyone who claimed that God either a) literally speaks to them (in a manner analogous to telepathy) or b) imparts wisdom on them while praying in a way that they actually can tell apart their own thoughts from what was imparted to them by God (so that they could say “God imparted upon me this idea / thought / message / whatever: […]”. I think I am justified in denying that this is “communication with God” because this is simply not what the word means – it would be like me saying that I have ongoing “communication” with you, but would be literally unable to tell apart what was said and thought by me from what was said and thought by you, this would not be a dialog, this would be a monolog.

    Once again the God-human relationship is not the same as the human-human relationship. Are you surprised by that? And “personal relationship” is used analogously. You don’t agree that the God-human interaction as described by Christians should be termed a personal relationship. That’s fine, lets call the interaction a gazoomba. Therefore God wants a gazoomba with human beings. In case my point is not clear, your argument rests on an equivocation.

    I never claimed that they would have to be the same. I listed examples of personal components and claimed that I cannot see such personal components in those relationships and that I cannot think of other things that could be seen as “personal components” (and asked if you can think of some). I am no equivocating, it rather seems to me that we are simply in agreement on this matter.

    Wanting something and enforcing it are two different things.

    They sure are. Lets use an analogy, imagine that I find out that there is a branch of my family that I was previously unaware of, and I´d love to get to meet them and have a relationship with them. So I could a) introduce myself to them, try to get to them, and if it turns out that they do not want to have a relationship with me, I would leave them be. I could also b) not introduce myself to them but rather spread some hints about my existence in their environment, hints for which I can be sure that some of those people will not notice them at all or misunderstand them and not infer my existence from them.
    I´d say that neither a+b can reasonably be called “enforcing” anything – do I really force anything by just introducing myself? And I´d say that only a is compatible with the claim “I want this previously unknown branch of my family to get to know me”.

    There are examples of people all through the Bible who react with either faith or not in response to God’s actions. The Israelites in the desert would be one. Judas would be another.

    Afaict, these examples do not involve the israelites not believing that Yahweh is real (instead of simply not obeying his commandments) or Judas not believing that Jesus is real or not being who he said he would be. Am I wrong? (if so, could you point me to the verse in question?)

  191. Andy,

    You appear to have created three distinct levels of “relationship” and non-relationship with God in your responses to me and BillT: 1) non-belief in God (which appears to have several subsets), 2. belief in God (specifically, God’s existence) and 3. love of/for God. You seem to argue that #1 does not constitute a relationship with God, even though a person can meaningfully and consciously hold beliefs ABOUT God, which means that he or she must have some source of revelation about God enough to formulate their own concept of God. This IMO is your big fallacy #1.

    Why isn’t conscious thought and formulation of an understanding of God a relationship with God? Let’s examine this description of the issue: If “…there is a God and that “wanting to be known by all humanity” is part of his nature…” Is non-belief IN God with belief(s) about God, not an achievement of God’s intent for “all humanity” to know Him? Or are you using the term to “know” God to be synonymous with believing in God and/or loving God? Perhaps, like in “to know Him is to love Him) Engelbert Humperdinck, correct?

    I suggest that rather than dragging in conceptualizations by Calvinists vs. Episcopalians vs. atheists, that we examine the OT and the ancient Hebrews relationship with God, starting with the 10 Commandments that God gave them (and us). God told them specifically: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Now remember, this was a commandment given specifically and exclusively to the Hebrews as part of their Covenant (relationship) with God. The Hebrews believed that the first three commandments regarding a relationship between them and God applied only to the nation of Israel, as in the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4 The Hebrews believed in two sets of laws: The Law of Moses, which was for them to obey, and the Laws of Noah, which applied to the Gentiles (all non-Jews). The Gentiles were not held to a commandment to love God and were judged only against the standard of righteousness. The Hebrews believed that if a Gentile was righteous as judged by God standard, he or she could enter heaven.

    So, you see, Schellenberg’s argument is anachronistic and not congruent with the teachings of the OT, and even superfluous in light of the Seven Laws of Noah. God’s love for humankind did not require “belief in” God. God truly did want humans to have free will to chose to love or not love Him. This makes perfect sense, because a loving Father does not cease to love His child because he or she does not love Him back. Love given, even when not reciprocated, constitutes a relationship.

  192. BillT

    Your attempt to separate those phases “know, believe and love” may be key to your argument but they just aren’t realistic. If God makes himself known us he makes those to whom he makes himself known believe in and love him. There is no middle ground. This isn’t like meeting someone at a bar. You know them but you still have a choice whether to like them. If God where to make himself known, know enough to be real to everyone he would have to reveal himself in a way that would give no choice whether to believe in and love him.

    Yes… I think you have constructed a logically valid defeater for Schellenberg´s argument. We have to assume:
    1. To know God IS to love God, the former is literally impossible without the latter (or maybe they are even the same thing)
    2. Every human being has the ability to freely choose to believe in, to know God.
    3. God wants a) to be known (and thus loved) by all humanity, and b) wants people to freely choose to believe in / know him.
    – And this is afaict, a logically valid defeater to Schellenberg´s argument.
    I would deny (stronly) that it is sound though, because I think 1 is very implausible and 2 is evidently false.
    #1 would mean that it is impossible to believe in God / know God, without simultaneously loving him – and there certainly are testimonies from people who believed that there is a God but not only didn´t love him but rather hated him (the best example I can think of is the “God trial” in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the inmates put God on trial in absentia for abandoning them – one of the survivors wrote a play about it based on the true story ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trial_of_God ) ). I´d also say that the Bible itself contains examples of people knowing God without simultaneously loving him. So I´d say that #1 is false on empirical grounds.
    Re #2, well – again, I can only tell you that I do not have this freedom you speak of and know many others who do not have it. Is there any conceivable evidence that would convince you that this is indeed so – that we indeed do not have the freedom to choose to genuinely believe what we do not believe?

    Look at the story of Moses on Mount Sinai. God reveals himself to Moses but he has to hide Moses in the cleft of a rock because to allow Moses to actually see him would have killed Moses.

    That is not really hiding – if I talk to you on the phone, you can´t see me, but you can talk to me, and I couldn´t deny that there is someone on the line speaking to me.

  193. Jenna,

    You seem to argue that #1 does not constitute a relationship with God, even though a person can meaningfully and consciously hold beliefs ABOUT God, which means that he or she must have some source of revelation about God enough to formulate their own concept of God. This IMO is your big fallacy #1.

    No, as I already told you, me using one concept of God FOR THE SAKE OF THE ARGUMENT does not mean that I have any beliefs about any God. I have discussed about countless different conceptions of what “God” means – because he does mean very different things to different people – but I do not have any beliefs about God.
    I have no idea where you got this from…. This is like you saying:
    “Santa cannot be real because a fat dude in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers is physically and biologically impossible” and me replying “aha, so you do have beliefs about Santa! You believe that he flies in a sleigh for example, so you must have had some source of revelation about Santa to formulate your own concept about him”. This would be ridiculous, because you didn´t get some magic revelation about Santa, you are simply criticizing the idea that one popular conception of
    Santa could be real instead of being make belief.

    Why isn’t conscious thought and formulation of an understanding of God a relationship with God?

    Because then people would also have relationships with Gandalf, Harry Potter, Santa, the tooth fairy, the Boogeyman and literally every other fictional person and fantasy creature ever thought of by anyone.

    I suggest that rather than dragging in conceptualizations by Calvinists vs. Episcopalians vs. atheists

    It makes no sense to include atheists in there. An atheist could discuss the episcopalian conception of what “God” means with an Episcopalian, if the atheist accepts this definition for the sake of the argument, but vice versa is not possible because there is no such thing as an “atheist conception of God” – an “atheist conception of God” is a square circle.

    , that we examine the OT and the ancient Hebrews relationship with God, starting with the 10 Commandments that God gave them (and us). God told them specifically: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Now remember, this was a commandment given specifically and exclusively to the Hebrews as part of their Covenant (relationship) with God. The Hebrews believed that the first three commandments regarding a relationship between them and God applied only to the nation of Israel, as in the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) The Hebrews believed in two sets of laws: The Law of Moses, which was for them to obey, and the Laws of Noah, which applied to the Gentiles (all non-Jews). The Gentiles were not held to a commandment to love God and were judged only against the standard of righteousness. The Hebrews believed that if a Gentile was righteous as judged by God standard, he or she could enter heaven.

    So, you see, Schellenberg’s argument is anachronistic and not congruent with the teachings of the OT, and even superfluous in light of the Seven Laws of Noah.

    I have literally no idea what any of the words before “So, you see,…” have to do with any of the words coming after it. I am sorry (really) but you would have to rephrase this completely because I cannot even begin to make sense of this.
    EDIT: Or maybe…. Are you talking about the culpability thingy here? If so, this is not what this is about, the conclusion of the argument is that “God” does not exist, not that atheists are not culpable for their unbelief.

  194. Andy, RE: #204

    You say this: “I think I am justified in denying that this is “communication with God” because this is simply not what the word means – it would be like me saying that I have ongoing “communication” with you, but would be literally unable to tell apart what was said and thought by me from what was said and thought by you, this would not be a dialog, this would be a monolog.”

    No, you are not justified in denying what Christians describe as communication with God through prayer is communication with God. You have no basis on which to categorize communication with God into a category of “not” communication with God based solely on your belief in how God can and does communicate with humankind, individually or collectively. God is not limited by your belief in possible and impossible modes of communication between Him and His creatures and creation.

    I thought we went over communication with God through spiritual, transcendent, “peak experiences and core religious experiences yesterday and ended the discussion with your acceptance of these experiences as a reality, with the understanding that people frame these experiences differently in symbolic, linguistic, culturally in “localism” particular to their background. Allow me to recommend another two books on this topic:

    William James. (1902). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature.

    Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman (2009). How God changes the brain: Breakthrough findings from a leading neuroscientist.

  195. No, you are not justified in denying what Christians describe as communication with God through prayer is communication with God. You have no basis on which to categorize communication with God into a category of “not” communication with God based solely on your belief in how God can and does communicate with humankind, individually or collectively. God is not limited by your belief in possible and impossible modes of communication between Him and His creatures and creation.

    It is not about what is possible and impossible to God, it is about what words mean. I´ve read about MLK a lot and admire the man very much, I also had a lot of great (at least IMO) ideas while reading about him and thinking about what he did. So, if I said that MLK (or at least his spirit), is actually still alive and that he planted at least some of those ideas into my mind (I couldn´t tell you exactly which one, just like no christian I´ve ever met was able to tell apart his own thoughts from what was imparted to him by God), would you then agree that you Jenna, would have no basis to deny that I am communicating with the spirit of MLK?
    Yes or no?
    I´d say that this is simply not what the word means.

    I thought we went over communication with God through spiritual, transcendent, “peak experiences and core religious experiences yesterday and ended the discussion with your acceptance of these experiences as a reality, with the understanding that people frame these experiences differently in symbolic, linguistic, culturally in “localism” particular to their background.

    We did. But how does the validity of those experiences contradict what I said? I do not deny at all that those experiences happen, what I claim is that the overwhelming majority of those do not involve a DIAlog of any form – the people that experience this do not literally hear God´s voice or are able to say which of the thoughts / ideas they had through these experiences was imparted into their minds by God (instead of being one of their own ideas / thoughts).

  196. Andy,

    I am unpersuaded by your argument in your post #207 that you have no beliefs about God. This is an argument atheists frequently make, that IMO, is a fallback into agnosticism when faced with a challenge to their/your beliefs about God. But it doesn’t really matter in this discussion here. What we are discussing is what YOU mean and perhaps Schellenberg means by God “being known to all humanity.” You have not explained why knowledge that leads to opinions about other people’s understandings of God is not knowledge of God. And if and when the atheist says that s/he lacks evidence to believe in God, s/he must be operating under a concept of God in order to evidence in or out to either confirm or deny God’s “existence.” IOW, a conclusion of non-existence must be based on knowledge. If you deny this, then you have successfully and single-handedly obliterated atheism as having any knowledge base whatsoever. (Which I wouldn’t disagree with).

    Has it ever occurred to you that God may not give any gravitas or importance whatsoever to whether or not any humans either believe He exists or believe He doesn’t exist because He knows that it is a non-issue and non-question from the get-go? This is, IMHO, because God knows that any and all human understandings of Him are simply the best our limited human intellects can come up with, and He loves us anyway.

  197. Andy,

    Just to clarify, this is #2 of Schellenberg’s premises that we are discussing the truth or falsehood of:

    (2) Necessarily, one is at a time in a position to participate in meaningful conscious relationship with God only if at that time one believes that God exists.

    What I am asking for is a cogent argument that belief in God’s existence is “necessarily” required for a meaningful conscious relationship with God. It seems to me that the answer is entirely dependent on what you mean by “God” because, as I explained in post #205, this premise is NOT the teachings and beliefs of Judaism or Christianity. Schellenberg, and you, are arguing this premise based entirely on your own conceptualization and definition of God, which you are free to reject, as do I.

    It also seems to me that Schellenberg should have added this premise to his argument: Necessarily, if God does not exist, no one can have a relationship (meaningful and conscious or otherwise) with God, since it is impossible to have a relationship with non-existence. but, I suspect, he didn’t want to go there.

  198. Jenna,

    I am unpersuaded in your post #207 that you have no beliefs about God.

    Really? Do you think I´m lying here? On what grounds do you believe that I have some beliefs about some God? (and which ones do I have?)

    This is an argument atheists frequently make, that IMO, is a fallback into agnosticism when faced with a challenge to their/your beliefs about God.

    What does any of this have to do with agnosticism?

    But it doesn’t really matter in this discussion here.

    Probably, I´d still would like you to address my questions above.

    What we are discussing is what YOU mean and perhaps Schellenberg means by God “being known to all humanity.” You have not explained why knowledge that leads to opinions about other people’s understandings of God is not knowledge of God.

    Alright, lets test the claim that Santa is real and wants to be known by you. You probably know what many children believe about Santa, so you have knowledge of Santa, so it turns out that the claim that Santa is real and wants to be known by you is well supported by the evidence.
    Do you see the problem? There is an equivocation going on here – if I say that I know something about Hercules (and I do), and say that I know Hercules (as if we had a beer together yesterday), then this sounds very similar but the meaning could not be more different.

    And if and when the atheist says that s/he lacks evidence to believe in God, s/he must be operating under a concept of God in order to evidence in or out to either confirm or deny God’s “existence.”

    True. This is a problem in many discussion about God and the single biggest reasons for why people talk past each other. People usually silently presuppose one specific definition of God, and as long as you stay in a culturally homogeneous community, this is not a problem because almost everyone silently presupposes the same definition of what “God” means. However, if we say that seven strangers meet at a bus station – An atheist who used to be a Jehovah´s witness, a southern Baptist, a sufi Muslim, a roman Catholic, a shakta Hindu, a Pentecostal christian and an atheist who was never a believer at all – and they start talking about “God”, then chaos will ensue and people will inevitably start talking past each other.
    For the typical atheist however, we are not operating under any single concept of God, I´d say that most of us know at least a handful of different ones (those that are believed in by the people we know) – and we don´t believe in any of them, that´s why we are atheists.

    Has it ever occurred to you that God may not give any gravitas or importance whatsoever to whether or not any humans either believe He exists or believe He doesn’t exist because He knows that it is a non-issue and non-question from the get-go?

    Of course! I said so several times in the thread didn´t I? Schellenberg´s argument has nothing to say about a God that doesn´t care whether people believe in him or not.

  199. Just to clarify, this is #2 of Schellenberg’s premises that we are discussing the truth or falsehood of:

    (2) Necessarily, one is at a time in a position to participate in meaningful conscious relationship with God only if at that time one believes that God exists.

    What I am asking for is a cogent argument that belief in God’s existence is “necessarily” required for a meaningful conscious relationship with God. It seems to me that the answer is entirely dependent on what you mean by “God” because, as I explained in post #205, this premise is NOT the teachings and beliefs of Judaism or Christianity. Schellenberg, and you, are arguing this premise based entirely on your own conceptualization and definition of God, which you are free to reject, as do I.

    You are free to interpret scripture and define “God” as you want, if your God doesn´t care whether people believe in him or not, then I can add “Episcopalian” to the list of “God” definitions that are immune against the argument.
    Note though that you are claiming to speak for all of christianity and judaism here and that many of them completely disagree with you on this (I am not denying that your interpretation of your scripture wrt this issue is the most sensible one – it might well be – I am not in any way qualified to make such a judgment).
    If any of the other christians are still following this – I´d be very curious about your 0.02$ wrt whether you believe that God wants to be known by all humanity / wants all humanity to believe in him, and what denomination you belong to.

  200. Andy,

    Please do not bring the term “lying” into this discussion. No, I don’t think you are lying. I think that you don’t see the contradictions in your own arguments. This is not lying, because there is no intention on your part to deliberately and knowingly deceive anyone, which is the definition of “to lie.”

    An example of what you believe about God: You believe that God cannot communicate with humans unless those humans “hear God’s voice” much as they would hear another person’s voice. That is clearly a belief about what God can and cannot do. It is a belief about God.

    I refuse to entertain or discuss analogies to Santa Claus in this discussion because very, very few normal, intelligent, sentient and reasonable adults believe in Santa Claus and say they have a relationship with Santa Claus, while billions upon billions of normal, intelligent, sentient and reasonable adults living today and throughout human history have a relationship with God. Stick to the topic, please.

  201. …there certainly are testimonies from people who believed that there is a God but not only didn´t love him but rather hated him…

    Actually the best example is Satan. He couldn’t be more certain that God exists. Maybe though I wasn’t clear enough. Love can’t be forced. If it’s forced it isn’t love. That’s why God stays “hiddden”. Because he loves us so much he willing to risk losing us in order to give us the freedom to choose.

    I can only tell you that I do not have this freedom you speak of and know many others who do not have it.

    We all have free will. We all live in a universe with a sovereign God. Is there some mystery in that. Yes, there is. There is some mystery in all of the aspects of our relationship with God. We strive to understand but we accept that we don’t know everything.

  202. Andy, #213

    You ask me this: “If any of the other christians are still following this – I´d be very curious about your 0.02$ wrt whether you believe that God wants to be known by all humanity / wants all humanity to believe in him, and what denomination you belong to.”

    Again, let me state what I believe, not just as an Episcopalian but as a Christian:

    Yes, God wants to be known by all humanity and in fact, He is known by all humanity. He has already accomplished that “desire” of His with His creatures. Does God want a conscious meaningful relationship with each and every person. Yes, He does, and that relationship is one of love, but He so deeply respects our free will that He will not force a relationship on any one of us or force us to love Him. Love is an act of free will. Love is only love if it is freely chosen. And if there is to be love, there must also be non-love. The existence of atheism (and atheists) is evidence of free will and is/are therefore, evidence of God’s love for us.

  203. A common mistake: Atheists claim to have no beliefs about God.

    But they must.

    Does About = In ? Not at all.

    The only possible out is for the person who has never heard so much as a blip on a screen in God’s general direction.

    Like a child who has never heard of gravity. Of course the child knows gravity (and has no belief about nor a belief in gravity) – just not by name.

    Being. Identity. Good. Evil. Relation. Ought. It’s impossible to not know reality. Fragmentation of X being offered as a proof of No-X is self-defeating when you think about it. It’s arguing that Gravity doesn’t exist because though everybody knows it they often touch on different elements of its manifestation. As if my run up the ladder isn’t embedded in that same ocean as another’s trip on the carpet. The atheist (shortsightedly) protests, “But they’re different!”

    God is the very source of…… ground of….. ultimate fullness of…

  204. Jenna,

    An example of what you believe about God: You believe that God cannot communicate with humans unless those humans “hear God’s voice” much as they would hear another person’s voice. That is clearly a belief about what God can and cannot do. It is a belief about God.

    Absolutely not, this would not be a belief about what God is like but rather a belief about what the word “communication” means.
    Also, I did not limit it at all to people hearing God´s voice. I could think of other ways how God could communicate to people – for example that God imparts wisdom to people while they pray (without them actually hearing a voice).
    However, for all of those potential modes of communication, I would add one restriction – and one that is IMO not arbitrary but rather absolutey essential to the meaning of the phrase “communicating with”. And that is that the persons that are part of the alleged communication are able to say which message comes from which person. Example: if you would claim that God occasionally imparts wisdom to you while you pray, but you are unable to tell apart your own thoughts from those that were influenced by God or imparted to you by God, then this is most emphatically not what “communicating with” means. This would be like me claiming that I am “communicating with” Jenna Black, but I am unable to say which message that was part of the communication came from me / emerged in my mind, and which came from Jenna / emerged in her mind – this would be indistinguishable from a monolog, I literally could not tell apart what you said / thought from what I said / thought, and a monolog is not what “communicating with” means.
    Again, this is not a belief about God, this is if anything a belief about what certain words mean and do not mean.

    I refuse to entertain or discuss analogies to Santa Claus in this discussion because very, very few normal, intelligent, sentient and reasonable adults believe in Santa Claus and say they have a relationship with Santa Claus, while billions upon billions of normal, intelligent, sentient and reasonable adults living today and throughout human history have a relationship with God. Stick to the topic, please.

    I didn´t mean to offend you and I didn´t mean to imply that belief in God is analogous to believing in Santa, I merely tried to illustrate an equivocation that was going on between the meanings of “to know x” and “to know something about x”.

  205. BillT

    Actually the best example is Satan. He couldn’t be more certain that God exists. Maybe though I wasn’t clear enough. Love can’t be forced. If it’s forced it isn’t love. That’s why God stays “hiddden”. Because he loves us so much he willing to risk losing us in order to give us the freedom to choose.

    Well… but then you do retract what you said earlier wrt to “knowing God” and “loving God” being necessarily coupled, and then my earlier objections where I pointed out that I wasn´t talking about the “love” part in any way, but rather only about the “know” part.
    So your objection would no longer work – the argument doesn´t involve anything that would even remotely imply that God would have to force anyone to love him.

    We all have free will.

    This is not about free will – free will is about chosing what to do. This is about beliefs, and whether they can be chosen or not. I would repeat an earlier question:
    I am convinced that jumping out of the window in my room would kill me. But it would certainly be much more convenient than walking down all those steps…. So, do you claim that I am able to choose to genuinely(!) believe that the jump would not kill me, and then jump without any worries at all – until I hit the ground of course.
    Yes or no?

  206. Jenna,

    Yes, God wants to be known by all humanity and in fact, He is known by all humanity. He has already accomplished that “desire” of His with His creatures. Does God want a conscious meaningful relationship with each and every person. Yes, He does, and that relationship is one of love, but He so deeply respects our free will that He will not force a relationship on any one of us or force us to love Him. Love is an act of free will. Love is only love if it is freely chosen. And if there is to be love, there must also be non-love. The existence of atheism (and atheists) is evidence of free will and is/are therefore, evidence of God’s love for us.

    I´m not talking about love – the argument has nothing to do with it. This is only about belief. And you are contradicting yourself now because you said earlier (#210):
    1. “Has it ever occurred to you that God may not give any gravitas or importance whatsoever to whether or not any humans either believe He exists or believe He doesn’t exist because He knows that it is a non-issue and non-question from the get-go? This is, IMHO, because God knows that any and all human understandings of Him are simply the best our limited human intellects can come up with, and He loves us anyway.”
    But now you say:
    2. “Yes, God wants to be known by all humanity and in fact, He is known by all humanity.”

    Which one is it? If it is #2 – then again, is there any conceivable evidence that would convince you that I do not know your God?

  207. Andy,

    I am no equivocating, it rather seems to me that we are simply in agreement on this matter.

    Yes, we agree that the God-human interaction is different to the human-human interaction. But you want to present that as evidence that a God who wants God-human interaction does not exist. do you see how your argument rests on an equivocation?

    I´d say that neither a+b can reasonably be called “enforcing” anything – do I really force anything by just introducing myself? And I´d say that only a is compatible with the claim “I want this previously unknown branch of my family to get to know me”.

    And the Christian belief would be that a is exactly what God has done.

    Afaict, these examples do not involve the israelites not believing that Yahweh is real (instead of simply not obeying his commandments) or Judas not believing that Jesus is real or not being who he said he would be. Am I wrong? (if so, could you point me to the verse in question?)

    They involve people not believing what God has revealed of himself which is exactly the same as the person who doesn’t believe God exists.

  208. As all that is Good comes from Him we can certainly perceive – especially over time – those letters (communication) which are sourced from Him. Awareness here comes on countless topics. Rarely is this a single “injected” thought (only 3 in my life). Prayer – like Being – like Identity – like Relation – and so on – are crowded with Him. Differences are expected given His sheer Size – and given His obvious interest in variety. Not that pale “mere sameness…..” as C.S. Lewis reminds us.

  209. Melissa,

    Yes, we agree that the God-human interaction is different to the human-human interaction. But you want to present that as evidence that a God who wants God-human interaction does not exist. do you see how your argument rests on an equivocation?

    Oh, sorry, that is not what I meant by that – I also do not remember how I started this tangent of the discussion because the thread has gotten so large. My point here was really only that the “personal” part in “personally knowing God / Jesus” and “having a personal relationship with God / Jesus” is misleading because there are no personal components involved. I didn´t say that this leads to the conclusion that there is no God (I also don´t believe that this follows) – this conclusion is part however of Schellenberg´s argument that we are also discussing in this thread.

    And the Christian belief would be that a is exactly what God has done.

    And then we are back to square 1 and I have to repeat the question I started with in this thread: is there any conceivable evidence that would convince you that God has in fact not done this with at least some people? (including some who died after a lifetime of sincere nonbelief)

    They involve people not believing what God has revealed of himself which is exactly the same as the person who doesn’t believe God exists.

    Do you think “I do not believe Melissa exists” and “I do not believe what Melissa says about herself” are effectively synonymous?

  210. Andy,

    You deny that you have beliefs about God and then confirm that you do with the statements that follow. What you are doing, whether you realize it or not, is putting limitations and qualifiers on what constitutes communication with God based on your own understanding of God, not just the meaning of the term communication. Yes, there has to be “communing” in communication, but no, you cannot eliminate forms of “communing” with God as such based on your definition and understanding of God without having definite ideas about God. Don’t be afraid of this. Just take responsibility for it like a man, or “man up” so to speak.

    I don’t object to your claim that you are defining “God” arguendo, but your arguendo argument is based on an understanding of/about God, which is perhaps, that God is non-existent. In this case, it is an understanding about what a loving God would or would not do, if he exists.

    The problem that atheists have and must face is that in any discussion of/about God, their arguendo God is an understanding about God. Atheists are simply folks who never have encountered a linguistic and conceptual description of “God” that they agree with or accept as truth. They have criteria on which they base their rejection of depictions of and understandings of God as true, excluding, perhaps, their own. Some call this exercise “burning straw men at the stake.” It generates much more heat than light. As I have said many times before. If I believed about God what atheists believe about God, I wouldn’t believe in God either.

  211. Andy, RE: #221

    The problem here is that you are equivocating. You equate the concept of “knowing God” with “believing in God” and further, you equate “believing in God” with “believing that God exists.”

    This is what I said and that you quoted: JB “Has it ever occurred to you that God may not give any gravitas or importance whatsoever to whether or not any humans either believe He exists or believe He doesn’t exist because He knows that it is a non-issue and non-question from the get-go?

    I do not think that God gives importance or gravitas (seriousness) to whether or not we believe He exists. Evidence of this for me comes from the OT’s teachings about the Gentiles and from my observation that practitioners of non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism, who do not even entertain the “question” of God’s existence or non-existence, appear to be to be very godly and righteous people, who I believe God are in God’s grace and doing God’s will in the world. (My eldest son, who is an ordained Buddhist priest, is one of them.)

    In fact, if you recognize it, I am agreeing with the truth of this #4 in Schellenberg’s argument:

    (4) There are (and often have been) people who are (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God without also (iii) believing that God exists.

    However, I do not accept Shellenberg’s conclusion that such people are evidence that God doesn’t exist or that God does not want humankind to know Him, because many of these people do, in fact, know God. This is my interpretation of the OT as well.

  212. Jenna,

    You deny that you have beliefs about God and then confirm that you do with the statements that follow.

    You gave one example for this which I have refuted (#219). I have no “beliefs about God”, all of this is for the sake of the argument and if I am building a strawman of the position that I am arguing against at some point, it is not intentional, just point it out to me and I´ll adapt it.

    What you are doing, whether you realize it or not, is putting limitations and qualifiers on what constitutes communication with God based on your own understanding of God, not just the meaning of the term communication.

    Then explain why this is allegedly so. I have dismantled your earlier claim in #219 and if you think that I am putting such limitations, don´t just assert it – tell me where I do it (if I do it, it is not intentional and I will adapt it as soon as you point it out).

    Yes, there has to be “communing” in communication, but no, you cannot eliminate forms of “communing” with God as such based on your definition and understanding of God without having definite ideas about God.

    What I said had nothing to do with any understanding of God and everything to do with an understanding of the phrase “communicating with” – and I´d ask you to go back to #219 and try again to understand what I wrote because you have misunderstood it completely (you could substitute “God” by any other name in that comment, and it would still work, in fact, I did just that in an example in that comment – because this was not about God per se but rather about language).

    Don’t be afraid of this. Just take responsibility for it like a man, or “man up” so to speak.

    Wow, condescending much? From your comments so far, I would have thought that such statements are beneath you.

    I don’t object to your claim that you are defining “God” arguendo, but your arguendo argument is based on an understanding of/about God, which is perhaps, that God is non-existent. In this case, it is an understanding about what a loving God would or would not do, if he exists.

    That is a misrepresentation, because what you understand “God” to mean is a “loving God” (isn´t he?) and he would still be completely immune against the argument in question because you said that he isn´t interested in whether people believe in him or not (and that is the part that matters, not the “loving” part).

    The problem that atheists have and must face is that in any discussion of/about God, their arguendo God is an understanding about God. Atheists are simply folks who never have encountered a linguistic and conceptual description of “God” that they agree with or accept as truth. They have criteria on which they base their rejection of depictions of and understandings of God as true, excluding, perhaps, their own. Some call this exercise “burning straw men at the stake.”

    Jenna, I hope you realize that what you say here amounts to the claim that accepting premises for the sake of the argument is an impossibility because you will inevitably argue against strawmen unless you believe the premises instead of just accepting them for the sake of the argument. This would in one fell swoop destroy the possibility to have a reasoned argument about anything between people that do not already agree on the subject in question anyway. This is beyond absurd – you cannot possibly mean this nonsense, can you?

  213. Andy,

    Why can’t you just admit that your arguendo God/god is based on your understanding of and about God? I don’t understand your problem with this?

    And please note the contradiction in this statement of yours: “They involve people not believing what God has revealed of himself which is exactly the same as the person who doesn’t believe God exists.”

    There is a difference between not believing what God has revealed of Himself, which must of necessity assume that God HAS revealed Himself and something of/about Himself, versus the belief that God does not exist, because if God does not exist, it is impossible for him/it (whatever he/it isn’t) to reveal himself. A non-existent something or anything has nothing to reveal.

  214. Jenna
    Regarding your #227
    I can only repeat what I already said – yes, your conception of what “God” means is completely immune against Schellenberg´s argument and that I will add you conception to my mental list of “God” concepts that this argument doesn´t work against.
    I never claimed that the argument would work against any conception of “God” that anyone could possibly have, I quite explicitly said that it doesn´t (and gave one example myself – a Calvinist conception of “God”). It is impossible to devise one argument that works against all popular conceptions of what “God” means simultaneously, they are too diverse for that.
    Note again though that when you speak about your God, you are not speaking for christianity as a whole, your interpretation of your scriptures might well be the most sensible one (I couldn´t possibly say because I am in no way qualified to assess this) but there are most definitely many christians that disagree with you on the points that make your concept of God immune against Schellenberg´s argument, and this includes the largest (by far) christian denomination.

  215. Jenna

    Why can’t you just admit that your arguendo God/god is based on your understanding of and about God? I don’t understand your problem with this?

    What does that even mean? Does this mean “I´ll accept your conception of God for the sake of the argument, but then I´ll replace it with my own, which I must have because you say that I have one so it must be true, and then I will proceed to argue against my own conception of God, pretend that this is yours as well, and thus effectively argue against a strawman of your position”?
    If this is what you mean, then we will have to stop right here because what you say is equivalent to you being certain that a reasoned argument between people that do not already agree on the subject anyway, is impossible, and everything we have been talking about so far was a farce and necessarily could have been nothing but a farce.
    If this is not what you meant…. well, what did you mean then?

    And please note the contradiction in this statement of yours: “They involve people not believing what God has revealed of himself which is exactly the same as the person who doesn’t believe God exists.”

    I never said this, that is a statement of Melissa in #222.

  216. Andy,

    Your notion of “all popular conceptions of God” is really puzzling to me. If an argument for atheism cannot succeed given even one “conception” of God, then it fails totally, and can safely be thrown onto the trash heap of discarded arguments. Are you in search of a conception of God that a certain argument, according to your understanding, “works” to defeat, while simply not considering those conceptions of God against which an argument fails? This, I think, is rather futile, is it not, since if a conception of God is impervious or, as you use the term, immune to/against any and all arguments, then it is the truth. I believe that this is what the Gospel is and what Jesus Christ is, the conception of God against which atheism fails.

    Is not the quest for a conception of God that is the truth, a quest to know God and therefore, a relationship with God? It seems to me that anyone who is totally convinced that God does not exist would not even bother to find out what others believe about God (their conceptions of God) because a priori, that person has concluded that because God does not exist, the term “God” is meaningless and has no basis whatsoever in reality. So what is the purpose of examining and either accepting or rejecting conceptions of/about God if/when a person is totally convinced that God does not exist?

  217. Andy,

    Oh, sorry, that is not what I meant by that – I also do not remember how I started this tangent of the discussion because the thread has gotten so large. My point here was really only that the “personal” part in “personally knowing God / Jesus” and “having a personal relationship with God / Jesus” is misleading because there are no personal components involved.

    Sorry that I misread what you were meaning. I will just add that I think when people talk of having a personal relationship with God, the personal is used to denote intimacy.

    And then we are back to square 1 and I have to repeat the question I started with in this thread: is there any conceivable evidence that would convince you that God has in fact not done this with at least some people? (including some who died after a lifetime of sincere non belief)

    Probably not, but I think that some people might know God (to some extent) but have rejected a conception of god that is not God.

    Do you think “I do not believe Melissa exists” and “I do not believe what Melissa says about herself” are effectively synonymous?

    No, but God’s revelation isn’t limited to what God has to say about himself. My point was that in the bible they are presented as not believing the evidence God has provided. Of course, in biblical times it would have been taken for granted that God or gods exist so we can’t turn to the bible to answer the question you have. Although modern people have their own alternate explanatory stories I guess.

    This is off topic but I was curious about this:

    In fact, I would revise my position on that right now if a non-physicalist approach could actually provide an explanation (not necessarily a scientific one, a philosophical-conceptual one would already be very impressive) for phenomena like intentionality.

    If intentionality can’t in principle be accommodated within physicalism then why would you not conclude physicalism is false even if you don’t have a viable alternative?

  218. Volition: Physicalists do not count the Self-Aware lines we call intentionality nor being/existence nor ought as [Absolute] – as void of [Possible Error]. The ontological real estate of the “impossible” in its [true meaning] is found to be applicable exactly [nowhere] inside of Self. (….and thus too by default in Other/God…) Indeed in Ontic Perception: There is always a decimal point followed by a million nines on the question of Possible Error. A-L-W-A-Y-S. – There can never be the Ontic Perception of Zero Point Zero Possible Error (Absolute Truth) – We should not be surprised then that physicalism calls Intention/Volition a delusion (possible delusion) when on the very question of Being/Existence itself it is forever unwilling to let go of that string of nines – on definition forever avoiding [Absolute Impossibility] where Possible Error is concerned. It can never be [Zero Point Zero]. It MUST always be a Zero followed by a string of nines because [Absolute Truth] MUST remain Hidden. We speak here of the Ontic Absolute – not some other paradigm.

    We speak here of Ontic Possibility. Not some other paradigm.

    This is all an a priori commitment of the physicalist / naturalist.

    If the Theist thinks that a final [Ontic Possibility] of delusion is a threat to the physicalist’s “workable model” then the Theist is mistaken. If the ontic acreage of [Zero Point Zero Possibility of Error] is ultimately conceded on the question of the very Being/Existence of the Self – of one’s own Self – then it is ipso facto forever conceded in all other X’s in any final question of ontic ends.

    Possible Ontic Error remains permanently embedded in Man’s Perception on ALL fronts and we speak here of the Ontic Possible / Impossible of the Absolute – not some other paradigm.

  219. Andy,

    I think a better explanation (I hope you will give me some leeway) would be that for God to reveal himself in a way that would make everyone sure of his existence would compromise our free will.

    Andy do you want people to love you. Do you want people to choose to love you. So does God. But, as I mentioned before, God is not like someone you meet at a bar. For God to act in a way the would make everyone certain of his existence would fundamentally change who we are and the freedom of choice we have. He wants us to choose to have him as part of our lives.

    This is not about free will – free will is about chosing what to do. This is about beliefs, and whether they can be chosen or not.

    I think this is a false distinction. Our free will certainly extends to our beliefs. You can weigh the evidence and choose to believe in Freudian or Jungian psychology or evolution or creationism or global warming or not or whether you’re a conservative or a liberal or if you believe vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate or any of hundreds of other choices between different beliefs. And the truth is you Andy have made those choices and were able to make them because you have free will. Faith in God is no different than those choices and it’s a choice you have made.

    And the question you ask sets up a false analogy. This isn’t a choice between what you believe and the physical reality of the height of your window above the ground. Our beliefs don’t change physics. Your sceniero is “apples and oranges.”

  220. @ JB,

    In #226 you mentioned your son. Does he experience God? I think he does – and I would offer it is impossible for him not to. As per Dr. Craig’s quote in #152 it seems an inevitable fallacy that “difference” “equals” “non-experience” where God is concerned for obvious reasons (touched on in #218). Everyone, all of us, know gravity – and are immersed in “It”. Obviously lines begin to diverge as we follow, dissect, and extrapolate and where those contours of Being, of Bliss, of Evil, of Good, of Love, and of Reciprocity Amid God-Man is concerned the inevitable ontic ends of God-In-Man, of Man-In-God – of such ontic reciprocity – finds its most robust enunciation within time and physicality there in Christ. Nothing else even comes close to tying up all of those metaphysical ends inside of an ontic singularity. Such things there become NOT a matter of Yes/No as the Atheist here fallaciously concludes but RATHER such lines become a matter of Degree. It is not that, as Dr. Craig affirms, this or that Non-Christian experience of God is a Non-God-Experience – that is essentially impossible (Gravity, Being, Ground, Source, Final Ends, Etc.) but, rather, we find that these experiences all share ontic necessity in means and ends and as we approach Christ we find yet ever greater degrees of coherence, yet ever greater degrees of clarity, yet ever greater degrees of actualization.

     

     

    The skeptic has no grounds to assert his false dichotomy (or false identity claim) that [Difference = Non-God] and given what God “IS” we actually expect reality to be crowded with Him whether or not we each identically describe this or that impact of Him (as in Gravity and so on). It is the Theist’s logical conclusion that “Differences In Our Experiences of God” simply do not equate to grounds for the skeptic to label such lines as “Non-God Experiences” and “that” juxtaposed to Pantheism is extrapolated further in this by C.S. Lewis:

     

     

    “If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mys­tery to you….. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a par­ticular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine sub­stance…… For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual………. What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other crea­ture can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another, the commu­nion of the saints. If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note…… each has some­thing to tell all the others — fresh and ever fresh news of the “My God” whom each finds in Him whom all praise as “Our God.” For doubtless the continually successful, yet never completed, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others (and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations) is also among the ends for which the individual was created. ….. For union exists only between distincts; and, perhaps, from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. Pantheism is a creed not so much false as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created: He caused things to be other than Him­self that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him, and achieve union instead of mere sameness….”

  221. Friends,

    I want to thank all of you for a stimulating conversation. I gained some valuable insights from the discussion. Please allow me to summarize.

    1. Something new to me that I realized here is that some atheists are folks who have pre-formulated arguments and are in search of a conceptualization (understandings) of God that they think will be toppled with/by their argument. They avoid conceptualizations and understandings of/about God that are impervious or “immune” to these particular arguments. I think of one of those worksheets we give first graders where they have to draw a line between a picture and the first letter of the word it depicts when learning phonics. Some atheists take these discussions as a matching game: find a depiction of God to match up with an argument, preferably one that will defeat a particular conceptualization of God. To this they add: claim that the rendition of that conceptualization of God is mainstream monotheism (usually Judaism and Christianity, with the possible exception of Calvanism). It occurs to me that this is idolatry.

    2. Conceptualizations or understanding of God that is impervious to atheists’ arguments are truth (although always incomplete truth). Therefore, atheism (perhaps inadvertently) serves a purpose: to help us sharpen, clarify and deepen our understanding of truth. This is why atheists very rarely (almost never) attack or challenge what Jesus Christ says about God. Instead, they concoct arguments to challenge Jesus’ very existence (mythicists, Jesus-deniers). Although this is most certainly a more challenging and difficult strategy, it’s the only one they see as having any hope of working against Christianity’s understanding of God. But, of course, it doesn’t.

    3. Many times, atheists arguments are glaringly self-contradictory, but they have a very hard time acknowledging this fact. This, I think, is the explanation for the “involuntary belief” defense, which is a perfect example of a self-contradictory argument in and of itself. The atheist claims to hold no beliefs about God while claiming that whatever beliefs s/he or anyone holds are involuntary. So does the atheist involuntarily hold no beliefs about God or do whatever beliefs they hold about God, or don’t hold about God, they hold against their will? And therefore, they are not “culpable” for either a “lack of belief in” God or any ideas they have about God. And we must ask ourselves, what force external to themselves is it “out there” that makes them involuntarily hold beliefs or not hold beliefs?

    4. I have never heard an atheist make an argument for God’s non-existence. This fact was driven home to me in this discussion. This they usually avoid through the “burden of proof” argument. The problem here is that if they are truly atheists and hold the belief (voluntarily or involuntarily) that God does not exist, then it seems that to maintain this position, they must refuse to even discuss God because there is nothing to say about non-existence. I have also observed that to claim agnosticism (not knowing) rather than atheism, would seem to side-step this problem, but is avoided because to claim no knowledge vs. knowledge is to acknowledge that knowledge of God is possible, which doesn’t fit with an involuntary belief or non-belief/lack of belief scenario or with the claim of God’s non-existence.

    Again, thanks to all for engaging in this dialogue. Thanks, Tom, for providing this forum and the stimulating OPs that get the discussion going.

  222. Jenna,

    Your notion of “all popular conceptions of God” is really puzzling to me. If an argument for atheism cannot succeed given even one “conception” of God, then it fails totally, and can safely be thrown onto the trash heap of discarded arguments.

    Imagine you are a defense lawyer and the prosecution has five pieces of A-E evidence that incriminate your client. You have one argument that would dismantle A, another one that would dismantle B and D, another one that would dismantle A, B and E, and yet another one that would dismantle A-D. So, would you say then that you have no case at all, because none of your arguments dismantles all pieces of evidence simultaneously, so they are all useless?

    Are you in search of a conception of God that a certain argument, according to your understanding, “works” to defeat, while simply not considering those conceptions of God against which an argument fails?

    No, of course not – can you quote me as saying anything in this thread which would even remotely indicate something as what you say here?

  223. Jenna,
    your comment #236 is full of glaring misrepresentations – nothing of what you say has anything to do with my position and you will be unable to quote me as saying anything that is even remotely similar to what you accuse me of.
    I´d ask you to either quote me and argue why you think that any of your characterizations follow (and I can already guarantee you that you will fail with this as you did everytime so far) or retract this.

  224. scblhrm,

    Yes, my son RAL the Buddhist priest does experience God. As a teacher and an ordained cleric (“priest” is my word that comes as close as possible for me to describe his role in his religious community), RAL meditates routinely for several hours a day. I believe that disciplined meditation and prayer (a term he has no problem with) is a vehicle for conscious contact with God, whatever a person’s understanding and linguistic and conceptual expression of God is. My son and I regularly talk about religion and have very deep and meaningful exchanges of views on religion and spirituality. He is a joy! He told me that my Christianity and the importance I placed on spirituality and religious discipline in our home when he was growing up is what “gave him permission” to become a Buddhist. I often quip with him that I think of him as a “Buddhapalian” since he is accepts and embraces the traditions and rituals of the Episcopal Church in which he was raised. I am proud and gratified that my son has dedicated his life to a life of religious service.

    Thanks for responding to this comment of mine. JB

  225. Andy,

    Please note that the comment to which you are reacting was addressed to “Friends” and is, as I stated, a summary of what I have learned from this conversation. You are not the only one I am dialoguing with here, so there is no obligation on my part to address you or your arguments directly or to quote you. What do you think I am supposed to “retract”? I merely state what I have learned. If you want to refute my ideas, then you are certainly free to quote me and analyze what I said and how it”misrepresents” you personally, or atheists or atheism. That’s how it works here.

  226. BillT

    I think a better explanation (I hope you will give me some leeway) would be that for God to reveal himself in a way that would make everyone sure of his existence would compromise our free will.

    Andy do you want people to love you. Do you want people to choose to love you. So does God. But, as I mentioned before, God is not like someone you meet at a bar. For God to act in a way the would make everyone certain of his existence would fundamentally change who we are and the freedom of choice we have. He wants us to choose to have him as part of our lives.

    Now we are turning in circles…. It goes like this:
    1. You object to my claims about divine hiddenness by lumping together “love God” and “know God” (in the sense of believing in him) in a way that makes it sound as if one is impossible without the other.
    2. I counter that “loving God” and “knowing God” cannot be the same thing or necessarily coupled because there are people that know God but hate him.
    3. You acknowledge point #2 (and say that Satan would be the best example for it)
    4. I point out that by acknowledging this, your objection in #1 becomes moot.
    5. You go full circle and change back to asserting #1.
    I guess that we have to agree to disagree here, but I would maintain that I have dismantled your objection in comments #199, #201, #206, #220.

    I think this is a false distinction. Our free will certainly extends to our beliefs. You can weigh the evidence and choose to believe in Freudian or Jungian psychology or evolution or creationism or global warming or not or whether you’re a conservative or a liberal or if you believe vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate or any of hundreds of other choices between different beliefs.

    Can you? Then do me a favor – whatever your current position on evolution is, choose to sincerely believe the negation of it (i.e. if you think that common descent is true, choose to sincerely believe it to be false and vice versa). Do it right now out of the blue without trying to get any additional information about the subject. Then freely choose to sincerely believe your original positions again, and repeat this a few times. Can you do this? (you must be able to do it if what you say here is true, saying that you do not want to do this doesn´t work – just freely choose to want to do it in that case). If you can do this – where does it end, did you land on your original position again? If so, why did you freely choose that instead of the choosing the negation of it? Is it because your original position seems more sound and persuasive to you? If so, why didn´t you just choose then to find its negation more persuasive and sound?
    I know that this exercise sounds silly, but you most definitely would be able to do all of this if what you say here is true – I would deny that you could do even just the first step. Would you be willing to say something along the line of “Andy, I just freely chose to genuinely believe the negation of my position on evolution that I still had at November 20, 2014 at 8:27 am, I did so out of the blue, without trying to gain any more information about the subject, honest to God that´s what I did”? It shouldn´t be a problem if what you say here is accurate, and again, if you don´t want to do it, just choose to want it.

  227. Jenna
    there is only one atheist commenting in this thread, and that is me, you start your comment with:
    “I gained some valuable insights from the discussion. Please allow me to summarize”
    And every claim about atheists that follows is a claim about me because there is no other atheist commenting here and we also didn´t talk about any atheists except for myself. So when you say things like:

    Something new to me that I realized here is that some atheists are folks who have pre-formulated arguments and are in search of a conceptualization (understandings) of God that they think will be toppled with/by their argument. They avoid conceptualizations and understandings of/about God that are impervious or “immune” to these particular arguments.

    You are talking about me, and calling this a “misrepresentation” would be an understatement – this has literally nothing whatsoever to do with my position (if anything, the exact opposite of what you say here would be in some ways similar to what I have done in this thread (it would still be a very inaccurate characterization that I would reject completely though)). I dare you to quote me as saying anything that would allow you to conclude this.
    This is only the most blatant misrepresentation, your claims with regards to doxastic voluntarism (whether beliefs are a matter of volition) are also completely false in every conceivable respect – I explicitly said that whether beliefs are a matter of volition or not is of no relevance here actually, this tangent is independent of Schellenberg´s argument (in the sense that the argument would work either way) and I also didn´t say or imply anything about culpability, this is completely your fabrication. And saying that you were not talking about me here is again completely ridiculous, because there is no other atheist commenting here or being talked about, but you claimed that you have gained this “insight” from the discussion here, so it logically can only be based on what you think my position is.
    That is the second most blatant misrepresentation in your comment, I would continue after you have retractred the two mentioned above or showed how I am wrong here and your characterizations actually do follow from what I said.

  228. BillT,

    Choosing to reason is part of choosing not only who and what to trust but also how to trust. Non-volition in belief really means non-reasoning in belief.

    I don’t see that you need to bother with that because no Christian means that by choosing to trust a person or a premise. Neither Faith nor Reason have any relation to such silliness. Which is why I choose not to employ, practice, trust, it.

    Non-Volition in Reason is a final ontological end of regress in philosophical naturalism – thus absurdity – though not in Theism.

    Apparently (final) absurdity just “forces itself” on the naturalist.

    Good thing love isn’t like that.

  229. Melissa,

    Probably not, but I think that some people might know God (to some extent) but have rejected a conception of god that is not God.

    I see. I think that is probably the main problem with Schellenberg´s argument – most people that disagree with the conclusion would challenge point #4 (Tom indicated that he would do that in the OP and you are going in the same direction), and establishing that it is true is hard because you can´t give people an “inside view” of your mind.
    I had some ideas how this point could still be established, I´d say that accounts of the Pirahã tribe are extremely good evidence for the existence of people to whom God, if he exists, is hidden. There is a great article about this tribe here:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/16/the-interpreter-2
    – it´s very long but also very interesting (not only wrt the issue here). If you are interested in reading it, I´d love to hear your opinion about whether you´d agree or not that there is overwhelming evidence that this tribe is an instance of people to whom God is hidden.

    This is off topic but I was curious about this:

    “In fact, I would revise my position on that right now if a non-physicalist approach could actually provide an explanation (not necessarily a scientific one, a philosophical-conceptual one would already be very impressive) for phenomena like intentionality.”

    If intentionality can’t in principle be accommodated within physicalism then why would you not conclude physicalism is false even if you don’t have a viable alternative?

    Good question. Two main reasons:
    1. I am not completely sure that intentionality cannot be accomodated within a physicalist framework. I am quite sure about this though, meaning that this route can only go into the direction of eliminative materialism. I have no opinion on exactly how crazy eliminative materialism is, I haven´t read any book from a philosopher of mind that defends this position or leans towards it (I have three books in this respect on my to read list, but not at a very high spot ). I have had people whose opinion I generally trust tell me that it is not as crazy as it superficially sounds and others whose opinion I generally trust tell me that it is even crazier than it superficially sounds – so, I´m not quite sure what to make of this yet 😉
    2. The interaction problem that a non-physicalist approach necessarily faces is much more severe than many people realize IMHO (I can recommend some reading if you are interested in this), and from what I can tell so far, it seems as insurmountable a problem for non-physicalist approaches as intentionality seems to be one for physicalist approaches.

    So, based on this, it is very much a case of Occam´s razor for me, both choices have severe problems, but the more complex one (the non-physicalist one) does not lead to a gain of explanatory power (at least not right now), so I lean towards the simpler approach.
    A lesser reason would be an appeal to expert opinion, according to the 2009 philpapers survey (the biggest survey among professional philosophers ever conducted), physicalism wrt the mind is more popular among philosophers in general:
    Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
    Accept or lean toward: physicalism 526 / 931 (56.5%)
    Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 252 / 931 (27.1%)
    Other 153 / 931 (16.4%)
    And also the more popular one among philosophers specializing in the philosophy of mind:
    Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
    Accept or lean toward: physicalism 117 / 191 (61.3%)
    Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 42 / 191 (22.0%)
    Other 32 / 191 (16.8%)

    I am not saying that this can be settled by polling philosophers, it obviously cannot, but it is one very small reason that makes me lean more towards the physicalist side.

  230. Sam Harris equally asserts that our thoughts are not at bottom volitional. Non-volitional “thought” = determined thought. Cascades of dominoes.

    Blind dominoes. Physical / determined systems.

    Philosophers with a priori commitments to philosophical naturalism will pay ANY price to remain faithful to those commitments. Absurdity ad infinitum.

    The appeal to popular dogma as authoritative on ANY level GIVEN that dogma’s commitment to non-volitional “thought” is nothing more than amusing.

    Even a little sad.

  231. Andy,

    Let’s get this straight. You are insisting that I “retract” my observations about “some atheists” (plural) because you think that my observations don’t apply to you (and you may be right) because you are the only atheist commenting on this thread. IOW, I take it that you are personally offended by my comments.

    Certainly you know that you are not the only atheist I interact with, either on this website or others. In fact, as Tom can reasonably expect and provides the opportunity to do, and as anyone blogging here might do, I went to Jeffrey Jay Lowder’s website, read his OP about Schellenberg’s arguments and followed links he provided to other OPs he has done on the topic. I even read many of the comments (mostly from other atheists) that are posted there in response to his “Divine Hiddenness” OP and arguments. That’s what “this discussion” means to me. I can see how your arguments are consistent with his and theirs, but if you claim that you do not fit into the category of “some atheists” then I apologize if you take offense. But retract? No, I won’t. My ideas are now “out there” on this thread for examination, analysis and critique and no retraction is needed.

  232. @ JB,

    On differences among our various experiences of being, of identity, of ought, of love and reciprocity – of God – I came across this and thought it may offer another angle of approach:

    “It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.

    In plain language, the question should never be: “Do I like that kind of service?” but “Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?”

    When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules common to the whole house……..”  (C.S. Lewis)

  233. scblhrm

    if I would program a spambot based on the collected quotes at the “fundies say the darndest things” website, it would sound very much like you, only more educated, less arrogant, and lacking the occasional made up word like “trimotional”. The sad thing is how easy it would be to write this bot, and that it would have a better chance of passing the turing test than you do.

  234. Andy,

    Your writing is always enjoyable to read – concise, crisp, and well done. It’s been helpful to me in those lines.

  235. Andy, #241 post to BillT

    You make this argument and give this hypothetical about/in favor of the claim that belief is involuntary: (Please correct me if I am wrong.)

    Andy: “Can you? Then do me a favor – whatever your current position on evolution is, choose to sincerely believe the negation of it (i.e. if you think that common descent is true, choose to sincerely believe it to be false and vice versa). Do it right now out of the blue without trying to get any additional information about the subject. Then freely choose to sincerely believe your ORIGINAL positions again, and repeat this a few times. Can you do this? (you must be able to do it if what you say here is true, saying that you do not want to do this doesn´t work – just freely choose to want to do it in that case). If you can do this – where does it end, did you land on your original position again? If so, why did you freely choose that instead of the choosing the negation of it? Is it because your original position seems more sound and persuasive to you? If so, why didn’t you just choose then to find its negation more persuasive and sound?”

    First, it appears to me that you are arguing that all beliefs about science, and not just God, are involuntary since you use “evolution” as an example. Allow me to examine this hypothetical. When and why does anyone take a position about evolution, such that the person has an “original position” on the science of evolution to examine? It seems to me that what you are talking about in terms of a “position” on evolution must involve a voluntary, volitional, choice of a person’s own free will to examine and ponder not the science of evolution itself, but the theological implications of the science of evolution. Unless a person is willing to entertain an examination of these implications, based on his/her knowledge about the science of evolution and his/her knowledge of and beliefs about theology, the person cannot arrive a position on the matter, whether this agrees with his/her “original position” or not. Do you claim that a person holds an original position on/about evolution involuntarily, but can (your word) examine it and “return” to his/her involuntary original position voluntarily? Or is the entire process of intellectual, cognitive and philosophical examination of a “position” involuntary? And if involuntary, then what external force is forcing/compelling this person to involuntarily take a position or return to an original position?

    I ask these questions because I really am baffled by this involuntary belief argument. Where do you think it “gets” you?

    I highly recommend this book about how we constantly examine and reexamine our faith (or lack thereof, if you prefer) throughout a lifetime.

    James W. Fowler (1981). Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning.

  236. Jenna,

    First, it appears to me that you are arguing that all beliefs about science, and not just God, are involuntary since you use “evolution” as an example. Allow me to examine this hypothetical. When and why does anyone take a position about evolution, such that the person has an “original position” on the science of evolution to examine? It seems to me that what you are talking about in terms of a “position” on evolution must involve a voluntary, volitional, choice of a person’s own free will to examine and ponder not the science of evolution itself, but the theological implications of the science of evolution.

    Free will and doxastic voluntarism are not the same thing. Free will is about choosing what to do, like for example to read up on a subject, think about it, discuss it, do research on it etc.pp. This logically does not necessarily involve that you have the ability to freely choose to have a particular insight or a particular creative idea, or to choose to find a given argument persuasive or not. This latter ability would be called direct doxastic voluntarism – and if you think you have it, then you would be free to do what I challenged BillT to do. If you think you can do this, be my guest and try it out, tell me how it worked.
    If you can do it (seriosuly, try it) I would be especially interested in your answer as to what your reason is for ending up at any particular position instead of freely chosing to be persuaded by the negation of this position. I can already give you a hint there, for every possible reason you could give, I could always reply “so why did you freely choose that reason to be persuaded by x instead of freely choosing a different reason to be persuaded by the negation of x” – there is one and only one answer to which I could not reply this, and that would “I freely chose x for no reason“, but that would be literally synonymous to your beliefs not being chosen at all but rather being randomly selected. That is why doxastic voluntarism is a self-refuting idea. It is not possible for you to freely choose to be persuaded by something.

    Do you claim that a person holds an original position on/about evolution involuntarily, but can (your word) examine it and “return” to his/her involuntary original position voluntarily? Or is the entire process of intellectual, cognitive and philosophical examination of a “position” involuntary?[1] And if involuntary, then what external force is forcing/compelling this person to involuntarily take a position or return to an original position?[2]

    1. Of course not, you can choose to think about the subject of doxastic voluntarism and to discuss it with me, or you can choose to stop doing it, for example. In other words, you can choose to expose yourself to new ideas, new arguments and examinations of ideas and beliefs that you already have, or you can choose to not do that. What you cannot do is freely choose to find any of this persuasive or not, for the reasons mentioned above.
    2. This boils down to the claim “unless I can freely choose my beliefs, these beliefs are imposed on my by outside factors”. And this is a complete non sequitur.

    I ask these questions because I really am baffled by this involuntary belief argument. Where do you think it “gets” you?

    BillT claimed that I can freely choose to believe in his conception of God, I deny that. But note that this is only a tangent and that Schellenberg´s argument would still work even if one would grant doxastic voluntarism.

  237. JB,

    I touched on this in #243 with BillT.

    Also – cognitive dissonance is real in all of us. That is choice-based in large part.

    Also:

    Non-volitional belief really means non-volitional reasoning.

    Physicalism: Final absurdity in non-volitional “thought”. Blind (physical) dominoes. Absurdity “forces itself” on “reason”.

    Theism: Final coherence in volitional thought. True reason. Free thought. Choice. ~ God.

  238. Andy,

    Again in this discussion, I am introduced to a term and concept that I had never heard of before: doxastic voluntarism. Or wouldn’t it be better called doxastic involuntarism? Is there such a term. This is what I love about language. It’s so versatile and creative!

    From the outset, I tell you that I totally disagree with this concept, based on my knowledge of cognition and cognitive development and my knowledge of and experience with spiritual/faith development. I think that some of what you say about how we encounter new or different ideas can be better and more intelligibly framed using the concept of the paradigm. One dictionary definition of paradigm is this: A paradigm is a standard, perspective, or set of ideas. A paradigm is a way of looking at something. I You encounter ideas about religion and theology and process them through a/the paradigm of Christianity. You encounter ideas about religion and theology and process them through a/the paradigm of atheism. None of this is involuntary. Of course I can freely choose to find some new idea or argument persuasive or not, cogent and coherent or not, in congruence with reality or not. If I couldn’t and you couldn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    I noticed that above in a comment I can’t locate now, you use the analogy or metaphor of a criminal trial by jury. I often use this analogy myself. I ask you to think about what a juror is asked to and expected to do in reaching a verdict, based on the evidence presented in court. He/she is expected to examine and think critically about the evidence, relate this evidence (from all witnesses) to the prosecution’s theory of the crime and weigh the evidence in relationship to/with the criminal charges and the prosecution’s burden of proof (first degree murder vs. negligent homicide) to reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty. A juror arrives at a verdict based on the paradigm s/he applies in his/her deliberations, which is founded in his/her life experiences, values, and beliefs. To assume that this cannot be done because a juror cannot freely arrive at a verdict is to deny any possibility of achieving justice through trial by jury.

    Please point me in the director of the creator of the doxastic voluntarism term and argument so I can look up him or her or them on the internet.

  239. scblhrm,

    You say this: “Theism: Final coherence in volitional thought. True reason. Free thought. Choice. ~ God.”

    I completely agree. What you point out is that Schellengerg’s argument does not work at all with theism, monotheism and Christianity.

    Thanks. JB

  240. JB,

    I ran out of edit time – but I meant to add that we all choose to fight (or not to fight) our own forms of cognitive dissonance. We choose there in our reasoning/belief. Of course that is only one aspect of such volitional thought/belief as we of course find in Theism the necessary means and ends of volitional mind.

  241. Andy,

    Sorry. I made a mess of my first argument. I’m not sure I even know what I said. My Bad.

    Then do me a favor – whatever your current position on evolution is, choose to sincerely believe the negation of it (i.e. if you think that common descent is true, choose to sincerely believe it to be false and vice versa). Do it right now out of the blue without trying to get any additional information about the subject.

    Why would I do that and what does doing that have to do with free will? Free will isn’t changing one’s mind without reason or thought or evidence. Free will is being able to choose your beliefs based on reason, thought and evidence.

  242. Jenna

    Again in this discussion, I am introduced to a term and concept that I had never heard of before: doxastic voluntarism. Or wouldn’t it be better called doxastic involuntarism? Is there such a term. This is what I love about language. It’s so versatile and creative!

    Erm… you are aware of this thing called “Google” aren´t you? This is the established terminology for this subject and has been for ages, here are the articles on doxastic voluntarism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the peer-reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and wikipedia:
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/doxa-vol/
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-belief/#BelCon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doxastic_voluntarism

    From the outset, I tell you that I totally disagree with this concept, based on my knowledge of cognition and cognitive development and my knowledge of and experience with spiritual/faith development. I think that some of what you say about how we encounter new or different ideas can be better and more intelligibly framed using the concept of the paradigm. One dictionary definition of paradigm is this: A paradigm is a standard, perspective, or set of ideas. A paradigm is a way of looking at something. I You encounter ideas about religion and theology and process them through a/the paradigm of Christianity. You encounter ideas about religion and theology and process them through a/the paradigm of atheism. None of this is involuntary.

    This is all fine, but doesn´t touch anything I have said at all.

    Of course I can freely choose to find some new idea or argument persuasive or not, cogent and coherent or not, in congruence with reality or not.

    Alright, lets examine this – please tell me the reason for why you have freely chosen to find the idea that doxastic voluntarism is false, based on what I said, to be unpersuasive. Imagine that for whatever reason you give me, I would press “ok, but why did you freely chose that reason for finding it to be unpersuasive instead of freely choosing a different reason for finding it to be persuasive instead?” – imagine I would ask this ad infinitum, you can at all times stop the regress by saying “I freely chose that for no reason”, but then you would be contradicting yourself because that would be equivalent to your beliefs being randomly selected. So, unless you can find another way to terminate the regress, what you say here is simply flat out wrong.

    If I couldn’t and you couldn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    That is a completely non sequitur afaict. Try to argue for why this should be so.

    A juror arrives at a verdict based on the paradigm s/he applies in his/her deliberations, which is founded in his/her life experiences, values, and beliefs. To assume that this cannot be done because a juror cannot freely arrive at a verdict is to deny any possibility of achieving justice through trial by jury.

    Another non sequitur, you say that if they cannot freely choose their beliefs, then they cannot reach a verdict at all, this doesn´t follow.
    Think about this instead: imagine you are a juror in a murder trial and the prosecution presents mountains of evidence of the highest imaginable quality, the defense lawyer is unable to even come up with one argument that would cast even the slightest doubt on the prosecutions case and you can´t think of any such arguments either. Now you tell me that you have the freedom to think to yourself “ah, f**k it, I like the accused so I will now freely choose to find all this evidence to be completely unpersuasive and then proceed to vote Not Guilty in good conscience”. Contrary to what you say, it is actually your position that would make a farce out of a jury trial.

  243. Andy,

    Yes I know – you count me as childishly adorable for trying to participate and as a liar and as generally poor in/at writing.

    As I noted before, your writing is always enjoyable to read – concise, crisp, and well done. You’re definitely a help to me in improving those areas.

  244. Andy,

    First, I ask you please to refrain from using obscenities, even when part of the word is deleted. It is offense and unnecessary.

    No, you misconstrue the argument about the job of a juror. As I said, the jurors must “weigh the evidence.” If they are not free to “weigh the evidence” as in think about it critically (and voluntarily) without prejudging the evidence or the defendant on the basis of rigid and extraneous beliefs (stereotypes, prejudices, bigotry), then the jurors are not doing their job. If the jurors are not free to find the evidence unpersuasive, neither are they free to find it persuasive. If they are not free to find the theory of the crime and the evidence either persuasive enough to convict or persuasive enough to acquit, then justice cannot be serve. Your scenario is one of an irresponsible juror, which does not cogently address the issue of freedom to choose a verdict.

  245. scblhrm

    Yes I know – you count me as childishly adorable for trying to participate and as a liar and as generally ugly on the screen.

    As I noted before, your writing is always enjoyable to read – concise, crisp, and well done. You’re definitely a help to me in improving those areas.

    What would be a help to you would be trying to talk with people instead of talking about them. Read your first comment in this thread again (#16), most of what you wrote here is like that, even in the later comments that were directly addressed to me, you didn´t try talking with me, but rather mostly talked about me. Well, not really “me” because what you actually talked about wasn´t me but rather a construction built out of your own prejudices. I can guarantee you that I will not be the last one who loses respect for your opinion because you insist on doing that instead of having a real conversation with them.
    What would help you would be changing that attitude.

  246. Andy,

    Thanks for so kindly sending me some links to information about doxastic involuntarism. This saves me time and directs me to specifically what you are talking about and referring to here. I learn something new every day.

    One source, the Stanford summary, brings up another new, and in my thinking, questionable concept: the ethics of belief. It seems to me that beliefs cannot per se be classified as either ethical or unethical, only actions can. Do a person’s beliefs lead to ethical or unethical behavior or actions? That is the question. It is most especially a question because we cannot establish a causal link between a belief and an action. It’s not that straightforward. This is why I like the concept of the paradigm, such as in a moral paradigm, a way of analysis and problem-solving around moral quandaries or dilemmas that may be the reasoning behind deliberate and intentional actions. This is akin to the concept of mens rea or “evil intent” that is a necessary element in some crimes such as first-degree (premeditated) murder.

    But all of this discussion of doxastic involuntarism (what the Stanford references calls “the Challenge”) doesn’t answer my question to you earlier. Where and what does it “get you” as an atheist to argue that beliefs are involuntary?

  247. Jenna,

    No, you misconstrue the argument about the job of a juror. As I said, the jurors must “weigh the evidence.” If they are not free to “weigh the evidence” as in think about it critically (and voluntarily) without prejudging the evidence or the defendant on the basis of rigid and extraneous beliefs (stereotypes, prejudices, bigotry), then the jurors are not doing their job. If the jurors are not free to find the evidence unpersuasive, neither are they free to find it persuasive.

    And where do I deny that they can think about it critically? Where do I say that they need to prejudge the evidence?
    I don´t, never did. What I deny is that the conclusion of this critical thinking process is a free choice. And I think I have presented a good argument for that, care to respond to the other half of my comment as well where I did talk about this argument?

    If they are not free to find the theory of the crime and the evidence either persuasive enough to convict or persuasive enough to acquit, then justice cannot be serve. Your scenario is one of an irresponsible juror, which does not cogently address the issue of freedom to choose a verdict.

    And here you are wrong. The juror in my hypothetical example would not be irresponsible – she was able to vote Not Guilty in good conscience after all. She didn´t lie, she was genuinely(!) persuaded that the evidence is inconclusive – that´s what she has freely chosen.
    That is why I said that your position would make a farce of a jury trial, because it would mean that even if the case is crystal clear, completely unambiguous, it would still be possible that the jurors would understand that all the evidence conclusively proves the guilt of the accused, but then freely choose to find the evidence completely unpersuasive and vote Not Guilty in good conscience!

  248. Andy, RE: #264

    I don’t understand. In what way is a juror’s choice between a verdict to convict or to acquit not free? As you make the case that a verdict to acquit or convict can be made “in good conscious” despite the evidence, but yet argue that this “in good conscious” verdict is not free. Be explicit please. In what way is the verdict not a free choice, made of the juror’s free will, based on his/her good conscious?

  249. Jenna

    Thanks for so kindly sending me some links to information about doxastic involuntarism. This saves me time and directs me to specifically what you are talking about and referring to here. I learn something new every day.

    You´re welcome. IMHO, the IEP article on doxastic voluntarism should be mandatory reading for most of the people that like to debate theism / atheism. It is probably not very relevant to your own beliefs because, afaict, you do no believe that people are morally culpable for not believing certain things. Many (maybe most) christians however do believe this and therefore, doxastic voluntarism often becomes a highly relevant subject.

    One source, the Stanford summary, brings up another new, and in my thinking, questionable concept: the ethics of belief. It seems to me that beliefs cannot per se be classified as either ethical or unethical, only actions can. Do a person’s beliefs lead to ethical or unethical behavior or actions? That is the question. It is most especially a question because we cannot establish a causal link between a belief and an action. It’s not that straightforward. This is why I like the concept of the paradigm, such as in a moral paradigm, a way of analysis and problem-solving around moral quandaries or dilemmas that may be the reasoning behind deliberate and intentional actions. This is akin to the concept of mens rea or “evil intent” that is a necessary element in some crimes such as first-degree (premeditated) murder.

    We are largely on the same page on this. I also do not consider beliefs (or lack thereof) to be morally objectionable per se. If someone is a white supremacist for example because he was raised by parents and in a community that indoctrinated him with this point of view – then it is not his fault for ending up believing what he was indoctrinated with. However, if he has opportunities to learn that his white supremacist views are wrong, and choses to reject those opportunities, choses to reject chances to examine his beliefs and expose himself to ideas, arguments and evidence that challenge the views he was indoctrinated with – then I would consider him to be culpable for rejecting those opportunities.

    But all of this discussion of doxastic involuntarism (what the Stanford references calls “the Challenge”) doesn’t answer my question to you earlier. Where and what does it “get you” as an atheist to argue that beliefs are involuntary?

    As I mentioned earlier, this is a tangent, it is tangentially relevant to Schellenberg´s argument (but again, I would say that it works either way – whether doxastic voluntarism is true or not, but this might need to be made more explicit in the argument).
    And as I also mentioned earlier, it does not seem to be relevant to your conception of God, just like Schellenberg´s argument is not relevant to your conception of God. As I also mentioned, there can be no one size fits all argument against everything that anyone could possibly understand the word “God” to mean, beliefs on this matter are too diverse. If we had a discussion on your conception of God and whether believe in this God is warranted or not – I would neither refer to Schellenberg´s argument nor to the issue of doxastic voluntarism.

  250. Jenna,

    I don’t understand. In what way is a juror’s choice between a verdict to convict or to acquit not free? As you make the case that a verdict to acquit or convict can be made “in good conscious” despite the evidence, but yet argue that this “in good conscious” verdict is not free. Be explicit please. In what way is the verdict not a free choice, made of the juror’s free will, based on his/her good conscious?

    Again, I deny that the conclusion that a juror reaches is freely chosen by him at all. I refer again to my argument for why the claim that beliefs can be freely chosen is actually self-refuting in #259 – maybe it is wrong, but if you disagree with my conclusion here, I´d like to see you address this and see if you can find a flaw in my reasoning there.
    What I do NOT deny here is that the juror can freely choose what he does – like choosing to join the discussion with the other jurors and thinking about the matter instead of dozing off while the other jurors debate. But I absolutely do deny that the conclusion the juror ends up with in the end is freely chosen – the actions he has freely chosen to do and the information that we was exposed to compel him to reach a certain conclusion. This conclusion could change afterwards, for example if the juror has reached a conclusion, but then decides to think about it some more and discuss it again, this could lead the juror to a different conclusion because his actions could lead him to find new information, ideas, arguments, evidence etc. that he has not considered before. But the new and updated conclusion that he reaches would again not be freely chosen and he would again be compelled to reach this belief based on the actions he has chosen and the information that he was exposed to.
    If you disagree with me on that, then this would mean that a juror can understand (i.e., he has the mental capacity to follow the lines of reasoning) that a mountain of evidence conclusively proves the guilt of the accused, but then still vote Not Guilty in good conscience (i.e., without lying or in any other way being dishonest), because there is nothing that compels him to reach a certain conclusion – no matter how unambiguous the guilt is, he could always freely choose to find it actually ambiguous, or even to find that innocence is what the evidence unambiguously demonstrates! (and again, without lying to himself! He could do this while being absolutely sincere)
    Again, this would make a farce out of a jury trial.

  251. BillT

    Sorry. I made a mess of my first argument. I’m not sure I even know what I said. My Bad.

    No worries. I really liked where you were going with this actually because it does lead to a logically valid defeater for the argument that no one so far really considered. If you (or someone else) is interested in trying to dismantle Schellenberg´s argument, I think your approach is the one that has the most potential from the ones I´ve seen so far.

    Why would I do that and what does doing that have to do with free will? Free will isn’t changing one’s mind without reason or thought or evidence. Free will is being able to choose your beliefs based on reason, thought and evidence.

    I see where you are coming from, but the issue of choosing beliefs is treated as a seperate one from the issue of free will – it is absolutely possible to affirm free will but deny that people can freely choose their beliefs (and many philosophers do just that – I can recommend this article if that issue interests you: http://www.iep.utm.edu/doxa-vol/ ).
    IMHO, the idea that you can freely choose what you believe is wrong. I think I have presented a good argument for that in an earlier comment. It boils down to the reasons you have for believing something or disbelieving it. For everything you believe, I could ask you what reason you have to believe it. And if you tell me the reason, I could again ask you “why did you freely choose to be persuaded by that reason instead of freely choosing to be persuaded by a different reason and reach a different conclusion?” And when you answer this, I can ask the same question again – ad infinitum. The only answer you could give in this ad infinitum chain that would not allow to ask the “why…?” question again would be this one: “I freely chose to be persuaded by this for no reason“. But that is a contradiction, “for no reason” would mean that you didn´t choose at all, but rather that your beliefs were selected randomly. That is why I argue that the idea that beliefs can be freely chosen is self-refuting, it is not a logically coherent one. And that is why I deny that you can freely choose what you believe – I say that the actions you have chosen to do (like joining a debate for example) together with the information you are exposed to, compel you to reach a certain conclusion.

  252. Andy,

    This is becoming unproductive, I’m afraid. IMO, you just keep repeating the same fallacious arguments, which I find to be self-contradictory: the juror is free to change his mind about his verdict but his final verdict is not a free choice, made freely? And if his verdict is not a free choice, conscience has nothing to do with anything, since we cannot make a moral judgment about choices that were not choices at all. And you equivocate with the word/concept “compel”, which in this case is a synonym for persuasive or convincing, which is inevitably a freely made judgment.

    And more troublesome that all of that for me is the fact that I have asked you a question two times that you have yet to answer, so I’ll ask it a third time: What and where does this argument get you? Please either answer or tell me that you decline to answer.

  253. Andy,

    establishing that it [not resisting/non-belief] is true is hard because you can´t give people an “inside view” of your mind.

    I agree, especially considering that many of our motivations are hidden even from ourselves at times.

    I had some ideas how this point could still be established, I´d say that accounts of the Pirahã tribe are extremely good evidence for the existence of people to whom God, if he exists, is hidden. There is a great article about this tribe here:

    I read that article a few weeks ago. I agree it is fascinating. Do you think we can be said to know what we can’t or haven’t conceptualised? I lean towards the side that our knowledge outstrips our ability to break it down into concepts.

    The interaction problem that a non-physicalist approach necessarily faces is much more severe than many people realize IMHO

    I agree that a basically physicalist view with the added extra of the mental does not work. Maybe there’s more than two options?

  254. Jenna,

    1. I have presented an argument that you keep ignoring – your response boils down to personal incredulity, which is not bad per se, but please do not call my argument fallacious unless you can actually point out a fallacy in it. You didn´t show that I contradicted myself, you simply condensed and rephrased what I said to make it sound contradictory. Your (not mine) wording of ” free to change his mind” is one that I would only agree with if you make it more explicit what this means and do so in a way that it matches what I myself have written – in which case there would not be any contradiction at all.
    2. I didn´t equivocate, you are misinformed about what the word means.

    compel, verb (used with object), compelled, compelling.
    1. to force or drive, especially to a course of action:
    His disregard of the rules compels us to dismiss him.
    2. to secure or bring about by force.
    3. to force to submit; subdue.
    4. to overpower.

    3. I did answer your question both times. I last answered it in #267, and very clearly so. With regards to your beliefs about “God”, it doesn´t “get me” anything (and don´t say I haven´t told you so earlier, I did, and I did so several times). It would “get me” something wrt what many other christians believe about God and it “gets me” something in the sense that it is a subject I find fascinating and like talking about. If it doesn´t interest you, then we will simply drop this tangent.

  255. Andy, BillT,

    1) Andy it is the case that BillT said it best: “Why would I do that and what does doing that have to do with free will? Free will isn’t changing one’s mind without reason or thought or evidence. Free will is being able to choose your beliefs based on reason, thought and evidence.” Your infinite regress into Logic and Reason [you charge BillT with a harmful (absurd) thing there] are only absurd on Naturalism. In Theism the landing zone for truth is Absolute Truth, Mind, Reason, and so on. That is the ontological real estate which BillT regresses to, lands in. Not you.

    2) Cognitive dissonance – we choose to fight and move there – to reason up one arm of the Y or up another arm. We are not compelled in the way you describe here (in physicalism we are compelled here too, but you mysteriously SEEM to deny this).

    3) “Again, without lying to himself”. It’s not lying if you can find a good reason to justify it. Up one arm of the Y. Justification and weighted reasoning like that goes on all the time. It’s weighted. It’s chosen. And if you do it long enough…….. You just assume that no such self-talk (volitional self-talk) is “going on” there. But it is. I don’t see that your model fits the reality.

    4) The only thing I see you doing is moving from one layer to another and claiming the most distal layer (belief) to be non-volitional and claiming all the other layers beneath it to be volitional. However, in physicalism ALL layers are non-volitional and therefore all your talk about being able to choose what you “DO” but not what you “BELIEVE” is meaningless. It is not coherent unless you can show us your work on volitonal physical systems – not the appearance of it – but “it”. I don’t see that your model fits the reality. Whereas: In Theism belief and reasoning are seamlessly interconnected and volitional.

    5) You challenged me earlier to show you how free choice is do-able (something about proving it to you) and that it would be VERY hard for me to do. It is not hard. It is impossible inside of philosophical naturalism. So I see no way out of #’s 1 through 5 here for you. You don’t get a pass on volition at ANY level in physicalism / philosophical naturalism. Suddenly belief = reason = weighing = judging evidence = compelled = determined “thinking” in cascading dominoes = (final, eventual) absurdity. The very SAME infinite regress you just challenged BillT with comes around and – unable to harm him – ends up doing irreparable harm to your paradigm.

    6) Your entire definition of belief vs. reasoning is completely inapplicable to the Christian. You’ve taken a fancy concept (for which you provided a link for to JB, Etc.) and are trying to force the Christian to play within THOSE definitions of belief vs. reason (and to seemingly ignore choice inside of cognitive dissonance). But we don’t define belief the way you do. BillT said it in #1 (the quote of him in #1 here) better than I can. As for my attempt to say it, it is from #243 with the following: “Choosing to reason is part of choosing not only who and what to trust (believe) but also how to trust (believe). Non-volition in belief really means non-reasoning in belief. I don’t see that you (BillT) need to bother with [Andy’s exercise] because no Christian means “that” [Andy’s non-Christian definition] by choosing to trust (believe) a person or a premise. Neither Faith nor Reason have any relation to such silliness…… Non-Volition in Reason is a final ontological end of regress in philosophical naturalism – thus absurdity – though not in Theism. Apparently (final) absurdity just “forces itself” on the naturalist. Good thing love isn’t like that.”

    7) Non-volition in belief really means non-reasoning in belief. If there is non-volition it is in ALL layers – as in reasoning and in weighing evidence. In physicalism all is compelled by that which causes it. Cause Effect. Reason as the End of Ontic Regress means Theism, God. The ontology of Physicalism doesn’t have the tools of Theism to escape that. Yet you just foist ipso facto that your premise works. But it cannot work – because of physicalism’s end of regress. Volition is at best a delusion unless you can show your work and prove intention within a physical system.

    8) Until you show your work there your whole premise is nothing more than:

    A) A pre-supposed volitionality in physicalism on many but not all levels (doing vs. reasoning vs. believing)

    B) A pre-supposed Non-Christian working definition of “belief”

    C) The need for the Christian to accept both of those preconditions

    D) The realization that you have not given the Christian anything close to what amounts to a good reason to grant you those pre-conditions

  256. Melissa,

    I agree, especially considering that many of our motivations are hidden even from ourselves at times.

    I think one of the reasons for why Lowder likes this argument particularly is because of his motivations – he is one of the atheists that strongly desires christian theism to be true, but remains unconvinced by the arguments for it. I don´t know if that is a rare sentiment or not, I myself am very much indifferent as to whether christianity is true – I wouldn´t mind it being true and I wouldn´t mind it being false.
    Do you have an idea for what subconscious motivations could prevent a guy like Lowder from reaching the conclusion that christianity is true? (assuming of course that christianity is in fact true).

    I read that article a few weeks ago. I agree it is fascinating. Do you think we can be said to know what we can’t or haven’t conceptualised? I lean towards the side that our knowledge outstrips our ability to break it down into concepts.

    I lean towards the other side – I think that everything you know is built out of the mental concepts you have available (which doesn´t have to be an immutable set of concepts, I think that children continuously aquire new ones as they grow up for example), and that what cannot be built by them cannot be known by you.

    I agree that a basically physicalist view with the added extra of the mental does not work. Maybe there’s more than two options?

    Well, on the most abstract level, it could be all physical, physical and mental or all mental, right? And then there of course many options within each of those three.

  257. scblhrm

    You are still doing the same thing as before, you notice how someone says A, and then proceed to write a comment of epic length that boils down to “Aha, so you must believe B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J….. as well, which is like totally absurd and stuff, while I believe K, L, M, N, O, P which is liek totally awesome and not absurd and stuff”.
    The main problem is that you do not, at any point, actually rely on an argument – you never justify how:
    1. any of B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J follow from what I said.
    2. any of B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J are in fact absurd.
    3. any of K, L, M, N, O, P are in fact not absurd.

    And that is ignoring the fact that about a third of the terms and phrases you use are completely made up by you and have no established definition anywhere – and you do not even bother yourself to define those idiosyncratic made up terms and phrases.

    Study this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
    Try to learn how to argue, use established terminology, and ASK ME WHETHER I ACTUALLY DO BELIEVE ANY OF THIS STUFF BEFORE TALKING ABOUT ME AS IF I DID.

  258. Andy,

    Swing and a miss on letter “D” – on giving us a valid reason for granting you your two preconditions – especially your presupposed Non-Christian working definition of belief.

    Strike one.

  259. scblhrm

    “…on giving us a valid reason for granting you your two preconditions.”
    – Which would be……?

  260. Andy,

    I delineated them with reasons for my conclusions stated. If they – the reasons or the conclusions – are inaccurate then prove it.

    Strike two.

    I’m with JB. Nonsense is tiring.

  261. scblhrm
    What can be asserted without argument can be summarily dismissed without argument. And I hereby summarily dismiss your incoherent ramblings.

  262. Andy,

    A Non-Christian definition of belief it is then. Physicalism’s final ends it is then.

    It is for the Christian to define “belief” in his view.

    Not the other way around. We don’t just dance to the skeptic’s definitions. THAT is the Christian being talked TO by the Skeptic – NOT with.

    My reasons, assumptions, and conclusions were stated (#273).

    No refutation was given.

    Strike 3 ~

  263. scblhrm
    Well, I guess that is what I deserve after giving you the benefit of the doubt once more and assuming that you are actually being sincere, following your pitiful #260.
    No good deed goes unpunished.

  264. For everything you believe, I could ask you what reason you have to believe it. And if you tell me the reason, I could again ask you “why did you freely choose to be persuaded by that reason instead of freely choosing to be persuaded by a different reason and reach a different conclusion?”

    Andy,

    Why wouldn’t I answer (truthfully) “Because I found those reasons to be the most compelling when compared to others.” And when you ask me that again nothing would change. There would be no ad infinitum chain of questions. Your chain of questions is a fiction if they illicit no different answers.

  265. Andy,

    Do you have an idea for what subconscious motivations could prevent a guy like Lowder from reaching the conclusion that christianity is true? (assuming of course that christianity is in fact true).

    One scenario is that he has other false worldview beliefs that lead him to conclude that Christianity is false when he really should be questioning some of those other beliefs. Our belief re Christianity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    Well, on the most abstract level, it could be all physical, physical and mental or all mental, right?

    What if your conception of the physical that rests on mechanistic assumptions and causes some major philosophical problems was inadequate?

  266. BillT,

    Why wouldn’t I answer (truthfully) “Because I found those reasons to be the most compelling when compared to others.” And when you ask me that again nothing would change. There would be no ad infinitum chain of questions. Your chain of questions is a fiction if they illicit no different answers.

    Oh, sorry, I think I wasn´t clear here. I didn´t mean that I would ask you the same question about the same reason again. Let me try to illustrate it with an example:
    1. I ask you on what grounds you do believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
    2. You would give me the reason (or reasons) for why you do believe that to be true. Lets say that the historical reliability of the gospels is one of those reasons.
    3. I would ask you why you have freely choosen to find the gospels to be historically reliable instead of freely choosing a reason to find them unreliable.
    4. You would give me a reason (or reasons), lets say it would be that scholars like Richard Bauckham make a persuasive case (for you) that the gospels are based on first hand eyewitness testimony and thus reliable.
    5. I ask you again what you reason you have for freely choosing to find Bauckham´s argument to be convincing instead of freely choosing a reason for concluding that his argument is deeply flawed? (That is what I meant by “same question” it is the “same question” in the sense that I again ask you for a reason why you find something convincing, but this reasons is one farther step down in your thought processes)
    6. You go into more detail about what Bauckham´s argument is and give me the reasons for why you find his premises and his reasoning persuasive.
    7. For all of those reasons, I again ask the “why did you freely choose that reason instead of freely choosing a different reason that would have led to a different conclusion?”

    And so it would continue and we would keep tracing back your thought process that has eventually led you to find the claim that Jesus rose from the dead to be a convincing one – it could potentially trace back your thought process way back to a time when you were still a child, to your earliest memories about your thoughts wrt this issue (but not in reality of course because no one remembers so well how he formed his respective beliefs of course and this ignores all the subconscious factors that go into this). The point is that I can keep asking these questions and there is never a reason that you can provide for which I could NOT ask the follow up question why you freely chose that reason instead of freely choosing a different one that would have led you to a different conclusion. This chain will terminate at some point because sooner or later, you would be forced to say something along the line “I do not know why I chose this, I just did” / I freely chose that for no reason“.
    That is why I argue that freely choosing your beliefs is not a logically coherent idea, it leads to the contradiction “I have freely chosen to believe in x – but ultimately, I do not know why I believe x / believe x for no reason”.
    And that is why I would say that your “Because I found those reasons to be the most compelling when compared to others” comment – doesn´t mean that you have freely chosen to find those reasons compelling. There are reasons for why you found them compelling instead of finding them not compelling. And there are reasons for why you found those reasons compelling instead of finding them not compelling, and so on and so forth. And it will always end in “I do not know why / I have chosen it for no reason”.

  267. Andy,

    scblhrm has identified the same problem as I have with your argument about free choice in the juror analogy with this comment:

    4. The only thing I see you doing is moving from one layer to another and claiming the most distal layer (belief) to be non-volitional and claiming all the other layers beneath it to be volitional.

    You seem to make a leap of logic from jurors who can change their minds and jurors who can act contrary to the judge’s directions to the jury “in good conscience” to a final verdict that it not freely chosen in the case. These “layers” as scblhrm calls them don’t add up. Do volitional, at will sub-choices not add up to a freely chosen final decision? If you say no, then why not? I’m thinking of all the times in life when what appears to be an either/or, yes/no choice is actually arrived at through a myriad of freely chosen sub-choices or decisions at different junctures in the process.

    Examples: Should I marry Pete or Nick? Should be go to war with Iraq? Should I become a Christian or remain a Jew? Should I leave Christianity and become an atheist? These choices, freely taken, are the culmination of many “layers” of volitional, voluntary, free choice. I may feel “compelled” to marry Nick instead of Pete, but I am not in fact compelled to marry him, or Pete either, or anyone for that matter. I am truly free to choose, then make a commitment and act on my belief that Nick will be a better husband for the rest of my life if I so choose.

    But I think I am clearly now on my question about what you get out of making this argument. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are actually addressing this argument to those Christians who make moral judgments about those who call themselves atheists based solely on their non-belief, or lack of belief in God, as those Christians understand God. This, I take it, is because you think that arguments such as Schellenberg’s challenge and possibly “correct” their misunderstanding, which you term “conception” of what God is or isn’t and possibly, how God Himself judges atheists.

    I’ll say this about that: There are most certainly Christians with whom I disagree about what/who God is and isn’t and about the meaning of the OT and the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles of the early church that come to us in the NT. This makes for wonderful Bible study sessions, where we think, analyze, discuss and critique God’s Word. I have also joyfully participated in Bible study with my Jewish friends, including several atheist Jews. And, of course, as I explained above, I engage in wonderful deep discussions about spirituality and religion with my son RAL, the ordained Buddhist priest. My late husband was an atheist Jew who experienced a miracle-filled conversion to Christianity 10 years before his death. I am blessed with a diversity of religious and non-religious viewpoints and perspectives in my faith journey.

    But, to cut to the chase, I don’t think that there are any arguments based on atheism that are at all helpful or convincing, let alone compelling, that will convince Christians who have a mature and active faith.

    Above, I recommended the book on stages of faith development by Professor James Fowler. IMO, the paradigm of faith development, where we constantly and continually re-assess and renew our faith as we grow in knowledge of and in our relationships with God, renders moot and inapplicable the concept of “involuntary doxastics.” I most certainly do not conceptualize and understand and relate to God the same way today as I did when I was 8 years old (my first memories of communing with God), or 16 years old, or 40 years old, etc. up to the present. I can “see” the stages in my own growth in faith. At no point has my belief/faith in God been “involuntary” or not something I choose of my unencumbered free will.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowler's_stages_of_faith_development

    IMO, these arguments about “involuntary belief” from atheists are quite defensive, self-rationalizing and needlessly self-exculpatory. They diminish atheists’ credibility rather than enhancing it by making them/you sound as if you’re saying “It’s not my fault I’m an atheist” when none of us would ever want to claim that “It’s not my fault…” that I’m a Christian.

  268. Melissa,

    One scenario is that he has other false worldview beliefs that lead him to conclude that Christianity is false when he really should be questioning some of those other beliefs. Our belief re Christianity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    Sure. There are many background beliefs (often unexamined ones) that influence our thought processes. But I have a hard time imagining how it could be that someone like Lowder, who wants christianity to be true and who has invested many hours over many years thinking about arguments for and against the existence of God and the truth of christianity, still never thought about and questioned the relevant background beliefs.

    What if your conception of the physical that rests on mechanistic assumptions and causes some major philosophical problems was inadequate?

    You´d have to be more specific – what mechanistic assumptions about the physical world did you have in mind?

  269. Jenna,

    You seem to make a leap of logic from jurors who can change their minds and jurors who can act contrary to the judge’s directions to the jury “in good conscience” to a final verdict that it not freely chosen in the case.

    I already told you, please address what I actually said. You are criticizing a complete strawman here. Jurors that can “change their minds” is your wording, not mine, define what you mean by that (change their mind HOW?), go back to what I actually have written and check if this definition actually fits what I wrote. If it does (and I´m almost certain that it doesn´t), then please explain what that alleged leap of logic is and don´t just assert that I made one.

    Examples: Should I marry Pete or Nick? Should be go to war with Iraq? Should I become a Christian or remain a Jew? Should I leave Christianity and become an atheist? These choices, freely taken, are the culmination of many “layers” of volitional, voluntary, free choice.

    And all irrelevant to what I am saying. My point is not about the actions it is about the BELIEFS. Lets say you contemplate whether to marry Pete or Nick – and what you like most about Pete is that you find him to be very reliable, while what you like most about Nick is his great sense of humor. Now, the question whether you can freely choose to marry Pete instead of Nick and vice versa or cannot make this choice is not what I am talking about, again for emphasis – this is NOT what I am talking about. What I talk about is your freedom to choose beliefs, what I deny is that you have the freedom to freely choose to believe (everything else being equal of course) that Pete is actually totally unreliable and freely choose to believe that Nick has actually a terrible sense of humor.
    And again, I have presented an argument for why I deny that you can freely choose this – please address this argument if you think that my conclusion here is unwarranted.

    But I think I am clearly now on my question about what you get out of making this argument. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are actually addressing this argument to those Christians who make moral judgments about those who call themselves atheists based solely on their non-belief, or lack of belief in God, as those Christians understand God.

    Depends on what you mean by “this argument”. If it is Schellenberg´s argument, that is one I would use against all conceptions of God that entail that God wants to be known by all humanity – i.e., I would not limit it to those conceptions of God that entail that not believing in God is morally culpable. If you mean by “this argument” my argument wrt doxastic voluntarism, then yes, that one I would only use wrt conceptions of God that entail that not believing in God is morally culpable.
    Note also how I already mentioned in this thread that my reasons for discussing such issues like whether God exists or whether beliefs can e chosen, is largely that I like thinking about arguments, working on them and debating them – its fun and if smart and charitable people are involved it leads to plenty of opportunities to learn new stuff and hone your critical thinking skills. I´d find it equally enjoyable and educational to talk to atheists about why I think that the argument from motion for the existence of God is actually an excellent one and why virtually all popular atheist objections against it fail. I am not operating under the delusion that having an online discussion with me would lead you to abandon your religious beliefs and I also have no intentions of “deconverting” you.

  270. This chain will terminate at some point because sooner or later, you would be forced to say something along the line “I do not know why I chose this, I just did” / I freely chose that for no reason“.

    Andy,

    I believe you have mistaken the “terminus” of your chain of questions for the end instead of what it really is, that being the beginning of a thought process. You have tuned the process around and lost track of what your finding. Where you believe the chain terminates because you’re working backward in time is for me the beginning of my inquiry. When we get to that “last” question the answer isn’t “I do not know why I chose this, I just did” it’s “Because that’s where my inquiry began”. You need to look at the chain from its beginning to its end, not, as you’ve done, the other way around.

  271. BillT

    I believe you have mistaken the “terminus” of your chain of questions for the end instead of what it really is, that being the beginning of a thought process.

    Yeah, I guess my wording was misleading there. But the beginning of the thought process is exactly what I indeed did mean.

    You have tuned the process around and lost track of what your finding. Where you believe the chain terminates because you’re working backward in time is for me the beginning of my inquiry. When we get to that “last” question the answer isn’t “I do not know why I chose this, I just did” it’s “Because that’s where my inquiry began”.

    Ok, you think that would “the answer” – what do you think would be the “last question” if we would talk about why you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

  272. …what do you think would be the “last question” if we would talk about why you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

    Your last or mine. In other words the question at the beginning of my inquiry or the end of it.

  273. BillT

    Your last or mine. In other words the question at the beginning of my inquiry or the end of it.

    My “last question” to you – the one that is about the beginning of your inquiry to which you would reply “Because that’s where my inquiry began”,

  274. Melissa,

    One scenario is that he has other false worldview beliefs that lead him to conclude that Christianity is false when he really should be questioning some of those other beliefs. Our belief re Christianity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    By implication, this would apply to me or to any other non-theist.

    “Beliefs”, I think, are best characterized as complex web of probabilistically weighted hypotheses that are constantly being strengthened or weakened by evidence, experiences, introspection, study, etc. A belief feels like it should be called “false” to me if it seems, upon introspection, to be more likely false than true (truth possibility somewhat less than 50%). A belief feels like it should called “true” to me, if it seems to more likely to be true than false (truth possibility somewhat greater than 50%).

    But holding a belief to be false at, say, 25% still means there is considerable truth potential. Holding a belief true at, say, 75% still means there is a great deal of problems associated with it.

    If I hold Christianity to be false, I simply mean that currently its truth possibility to me seems somewhat less than 50% upon introspection of evidence, experiences, and study. Likewise, if I hold physicalism to be true, I mean that currently its truth possibility to me seems somewhat better than 50% upon introspection of the same. But future evidence and experience will likely change those numbers and it’s impossible to say in which direction.

    For me, the best reason to keep questioning beliefs that seem true as well as reconsidering beliefs that seem false is because science does that.

  275. I have no idea really. But if we’re going to allow some hypotheticals then “Christians claim Jesus rose from the dead, I wonder why?”

  276. Andy,

    But I have a hard time imagining how it could be that someone like Lowder, who wants christianity to be true and who has invested many hours over many years thinking about arguments for and against the existence of God and the truth of christianity, still never thought about and questioned the relevant background beliefs.

    We all have cognitive biases. I expect to have many more of mine exposed before I die.

    You´d have to be more specific – what mechanistic assumptions about the physical world did you have in mind?

    That the material world is fully reducible to meaningless, purposeless particles with no qualitative aspects at all. These aspects are said to reside in the “mind” not in the things themselves. This in term creates an intractable mind-body divide because teleology and things like colour, warmth etc are moved from the reality outside us and into the mind.

  277. Andy,

    Perhaps it would be helpful if you describe (not just define) for us what you think a belief is and what beliefs are. I ask this because in the research summary you linked me to, it describes different perspectives on belief-formation, without my finding a description or explanation of what this means. You seem to be talking about beliefs in a way that implies that they are isolated and discrete, sort of like ice cream in the cartons at Baskin Robbins, where we choose whatever flavor we like. I’m puzzled, because I think in terms of (my paradigm) wrt beliefs is that they are not isolated or discrete but part of belief systems that entail and involve knowledge, experience, analysis, judgment, values (very much akin to beliefs), abstract reasoning and logic, all rolled up together in an inextricable whole.

    I can’t even really grasp the concept of an involuntary belief: Possibly akin to a reflex of pulling my finger back when I touch a hot burner on the stove? It seems to me from reading the Stanford research summary that you linked me to, belief-formation theory and research is all over the place, with references ranging from Pascal in 1670 to Audi in 2008. But perhaps you are focusing on theories of how belief-formation may not be “under the control of will” while behavior is, such as in this quote: “But if a behavior isn’t ‘up to us’ in any important sense, then it is hard to see how we could be responsible for performing it (see Alston 1987 for an influential argument along these lines).” I simply don’t understand how belief(s) (generic, singular or plural) can ever NOT be “under the control of the will.” Do you think that beliefs can be isolated from a belief system? From knowledge? From experience?

  278. Melissa,

    We all have cognitive biases. I expect to have many more of mine exposed before I die.

    Sure. But the thing with cognitive biases is that you don´t choose to have them and you don´t consciously examine them and how they might affect your thinking, unless some experience makes you aware of them. And if christianity is true, and if such a bias (or several of them) is the reason for why someone doesn´t arrive at a belief in the christian God (and we assume that he wants to be known by all humanity), then he would create a situation for such people that would allow them to examine those biases. Maybe you believe that he in fact does exactly that, but that would be contradicted by the experiences some of people that died without ever believing in God. For one of my grandmothers for example, the question of God (or religion in general) was never on her radar, she was a very down-to-earth person and simply never had any interest in this issue.

    That the material world is fully reducible to meaningless, purposeless particles with no qualitative aspects at all. These aspects are said to reside in the “mind” not in the things themselves. This in term creates an intractable mind-body divide because teleology and things like colour, warmth etc are moved from the reality outside us and into the mind.

    Ok, I think I see what you mean. But you still have the same problem, you have physical “stuff” (the meaningless, purposeless particles) and mental “stuff” (subjective conscious experiences like seeing “what red is like” etc.) and they would need to interact somehow – if you say that the qualia aspects are “in the things themselves”, then you just expand the scope of the problem, it is now not only about mental stuff interacting with the physical stuff that the brain is made of, but rather also interacting with pretty much all that is physical (all that we could potentially look at, touch, smell etc. and that we could have a subjective conscious experience about).
    You would only avoid this problem by saying that the physical stuff is an illusion and only the mental stuff truly exists, but that has its own problems.

  279. Andy, JB,

    In 287 JB REDEFINED BELIEF TO SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN ANDY’S NON-CHRISITIAN DEFINITION.

    I noted in my reasons, assumption, and conclusions given to Andy (which he claims is not arguing) that in the Christian paradigm all layers are merged into one seamless body such that reasoning just is belief – there is not this very artificial and made-up mystical wall of separation.

    Man isn’t that kind of animal inside of reasoning/thinking/believing.

    The whole show in Physicalism is compelled.

    Whereas, in Christian Theism the tools to break free from such compulsion there inside of reasoning/thinking/believing (one seamless reality there) are well in hand.

    Andy we challenge you on your non-Christian premise that Man’s Mind has these walls with sudden breaks where reasoning/thinking/believing is concerned but – well, you already made it clear that that would be “not making an argument” and that that would be “a strawman”. Yes, Christian definitions are defined as strawmen in a Christian thread/blog. By the Skeptic.

    Presenting reasons, assumptions, and conclusions, and Christian Definitions of Belief, is “not making an argument”.

    Huh?

    Andy: Both JB and I have challenged your definition with the Christian definition and tried to talk WITH you about what is actually in play in the Christian paradigm.

    How we see things.

    We shared that

    With you.

    Your response to JB?

    Talk with?

    Talk at?

    It is to talk AT:

    “…….address what I actually said. You are criticizing a complete strawman here…”

    And:

    JB: These choices, freely taken, are the culmination of many “layers” of volitional, voluntary, free choice.

    Andy: And all irrelevant to what I am saying. My point is not about the actions it is about the BELIEFS.

    But, Andy, JB just redefined things to THE CHRISTIAN DEFINTION.

    You tell the Christian that the Christian definition of Belief is a strawman in a Christian Blog/Thread. Huh?? You tell the Christian that the Christian’s defintion is not relevant to YOUR analysis.

    In short: You tell the Christian that YOUR definition of belief is the definition the Christian MUST JUST DANCE TO IN THIS THREAD.

    It merits repeating then:

    It is for the Christian to define “belief” in his view.

    Not the other way around.

    We don’t just dance to the skeptic’s definitions.

    THAT is the Christian being talked TO by the Skeptic – NOT talked WITH.

    You really should try talking with Christians about Christianity at some point in this thread instead of demanding that they dance to your Non-Christian paradigm.

  280. JB, Andy, BillT,

    In my last post I listed #287 – where Andy quoted JB, but the quote from JB was in #285’s,

    “Do volitional, at will sub-choices not add up to a freely chosen final decision? If you say no, then why not? I’m thinking of all the times in life when what appears to be an either/or, yes/no choice is actually arrived at through a myriad of freely chosen sub-choices or decisions at different junctures in the process.”

    In the Christian paradigm it is the seamless and volitional motion of Reasoning-Weighing-Inferring-Believing-Acting. None compel the other. Actions don’t finally compel Belief -and Belief does not finally compel Acts (an act contrary to one’s belief) – and so on – and so on….. in the seamless Ocean of Being, of Consciousness, of “Man”. An ocean. Singular.

    Man is a “Volitional Being” ~

    As in – you know – Christian Theism.

    This is where/why Andy’s silliness with BillT is yet ANOTHER demonstration of Ontic Regress wherein you (Andy) are demanding that BillT regress to YOUR Non-Christian ontic stopping point RATHER than to the Christian’s ontic stopping point – which can regress right out of – distal to – (or if you prefer Andy) – proximal to – any physical stopping point.

    Proximal or Distal – either way the Ontic Stopping point is going to be the Christian’s – not the Skeptics.

    Because Skeptic’s can’t just talk AT the Christian and demand that the Christian just DROP his own ontic stopping points (definitions).

    Andy, again, you really should try talking with Christians about Christianity at some point in this thread.

  281. scblhrm

    I didn´t read 90% of your last two comments because I have never seen you say anything that would be even remotely interesting, and this saves time. But based on the first 10%, it seems that you still whine about me allegedly using a different definition of “belief” than “christians use”.
    I quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.

    When the “scblhrm definition of belief” means something different than that, like, I don´t know…. maybe “a seat, especially for one person, usually having four legs for support and a rest for the back and often having rests for the arms” (trust me, I really wouldn´t be surprised if that is the “scblhrm definition of belief”), then just tell me what other word you would like to use to refer to “the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true”. If you haven´t yet made up a word for it, here are three suggestions from the fake word generator: “swooflia”, “plakil” and “jobox”.

  282. Andy,

    In our lives we make lots of choices, overtime these can undoubtedly leave us in a position where we are blind to God.

    i don’t think there is any reason to conclude that God must provide extra evidence to those who won’t believe what is already available and whether it would make a difference is questionable anyway (Luke 16:19-31) Although I am tentatively of the opinion that he is able to sort out what is what. (Edited to add: should read I am tentatively of the opinion that he will sort out what is what, I’m sure he is able)

    Ok, I think I see what you mean. But you still have the same problem, you have physical “stuff” (the meaningless, purposeless particles) and mental “stuff” (subjective conscious experiences like seeing “what red is like” etc.) and they would need to interact somehow –

    No, what I mean is that the “physical stuff” is an abstraction. You might be interested in this:

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

  283. Andy,

    Of course you don’t want to analyze this from the Christian’s ontological ends in reasoning / thinking / believing in a Christian thread.

    That would necessitate dialogue between us.

  284. Last sentence in first paragraph in my previous comment should have been I am tentatively of the opinion that God will sort out what is what, he is of course able to.

  285. Melissa,

    i don’t think there is any reason to conclude that God must provide extra evidence to those who won’t believe what is already available and whether it would make a difference is questionable anyway (Luke 16:19-31 )

    Well, this is the “if all that doesn´t convince them, then nothing would convince them anyway” attitude and I honestly don´t understand how anyone can have such an attitude unless (s)he has never spent any time at all among unbelievers. It can be somewhat frustrating and (and I really don´t mean to offend you by this, it is just the closest thing I can think of) it sometimes feels like talking to a 9/11 truther because this also usually leads to a “well if that doesn´t convince you, then nothing would convince you anyway”.

    No, what I mean is that the “physical stuff” is an abstraction. You might be interested in this:

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

    Are you sure that that is the right link? This is an article about scientism and I don´t subscribe to that position (and frankly, I have never met anyone who does) and I also do not see the relevance for what we had been talking about. Let scientism be false (which I believe anyway) – so what then? How does that solve any of the problems of physicalism, physical/mental dualism or idealism (the idea that the physical is an illusion and only the mental is real)?

  286. scblhrm

    So your definition of “belief” is different from “the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true”, but you absolutely refuse to say what the totally different “scblhrm definition of belief” is, so that you can falsely accuse me of trying to smuggle in a definition that “christians do not accept”.

  287. Andy,

    Your artificial breaks in volitional layers are most certainly not accepted by Christians. I can’t help it if you won’t read my posts on those lines.

    JB and myself have tried several times…..but you just talk AT. As delineated in my posts. Volition and belief remain connected in Christian ontic means/ends.

  288. scblhrm

    Here is the definition of “belief” that is used in philosophy:
    “the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true”
    And here is for contrast the “scblhrm definition of “belief””:
    “…”

    Fill in the blanks or out yourself as a liar again.

  289. Andy,

    You claim there is just that in separation from reasoning, thinking, and volition.

    Christians disagree and need not accept that artificial wall of separation.

    As described more fully in my previous posts.

    It’s the separation, Andy. That is YOUR definition.

    Read my posts. It’s all there. I’m not copy-pasting them Etc.

    Belief and Volition and Reasoning and Thinking and Weighing remain connected in the volitional being.

  290. scblhrm

    You claim there is just that in separation from reasoning, thinking, and volition.

    Don´t change the subject, I will not address this accusation until you substantiate the earlier accusation that you made:

    In 287 JB REDEFINED BELIEF TO SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN ANDY’S NON-CHRISITIAN DEFINITION.

    [typos and emphasis in original]

    So you say that I have a “non-christian” definition of “belief” while you have a different “scblhrm definition of belief”. If that is true, then what you believe the word “belief” to mean cannot be this “the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true”, because that is what I take it to mean. So either show your allegedly totally different “scblhrm definition of belief” (I checked and none of your earlier comments define the word “belief”) or retract your accusation.

  291. Andy,

    You claim belief isn’t volitional.

    Other than that we ARE close enough in agreement to work with. 100%. But non-volitional belief?? That is all YOU.

    As I’ve made clear as my point of definition contention which you are demanding we dance to.

    The volitional ties are – it seems to me – the point of contention where proximal – distal ontic stopping points are concerned.

    If you had read my posts you would see that it is that volitional point of contention and not what belief consists of which is the issue.

  292. scblhrm

    You claim belief isn’t volitional.

    Other than that we at close enough in agreement to work with.

    See, that is the problem I pointed out earlier. I provided arguments as to why beliefs cannot be freely chosen, I didn´t “define” beliefs to be like that, I argued why I think they have to be like that. I don´t care if you “define” a belief as something that can be freely chosen, if my argument is sound (and I don´t say that it is, feel free to look for flaws of logic), then your definition is false, period.
    You cannot counter an argument by defining its conclusion away. If someone presents a good argument for why women should be allowed to vote – and you ignore this argument and instead reply “but we have defined voters as male” – you wouldn´t even be trying to address the argument, you would just be defining the conclusion away.

  293. Andy,

    As per #273, 297, & 298 your premises / arguments are neither convincing nor sufficient to trump the Christian’s proximal and distal ontic ends.

  294. scblhrm

    “Your argument is invalid because I say so” is not very widely accepted to be a valid form of reasoning, quite the contrary actually – people who use it are either trolls or ignorant of how reasoning works.

    Also, “ontic ends” is a completely made up phrase – all google hits for it lead to this website right here and no one uses it except for you and you never define what you mean by it. You might as well use “printure waratels” instead of “ontic ends”, it would be just as meaningless.

  295. Plausibility:

    JB noted, “Do volitional, at will sub-choices not add up to a freely chosen final decision? If you say no, then why not?

    Physicalism has Unfree + Unfree + Unfree + Unfree (layers) = Unfree.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Not at all.

    Theism has Free + Free + Free (layers) = Free.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Well yes. It is by far more cogent with reality.

    Belief and Volition and Reasoning and Thinking and Weighing remain connected in Christian Theism’s volitional being.

    The Ontic Start Point and Ontic End Point (proximal or distal ends of ONTOLOGICAL regression, either way) in Christianity begin and end in the Necessary Being (and all the ontological tools which He necessarily grants us here as means to argue by….) and provides ontological coherence for a model that matches our brutally repeatable experience. Whereas, Sam Harris is telling us that we did not choose this morning when we looked at our OJ and our Coffee – that it was all a delusion.

    And his “argument”?

    “….well…. ’cause physicalism…. ’cause naturalism….. ’cause a priori no-god….”

  296. scblhrm

    Physicalism has Unfree + Unfree + Unfree + Unfree (layers) = Unfree.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Not at all.

    Theism has Free + Free + Free (layers) = Free.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Well yes. It is by far more cogent with reality.

    Then freely choose to believe what you just said to be false. If you don´t want to do that, then freely choose to want to do that.
    If you cannot do that, then your claim to be free in all of those layers is not “cogent with reality” (the word “cogent” is a very poor choice of words btw) but rather evidently false.

    The Ontic Start Point and Ontic End Point (proximal or distal regression, either way) in Christianity begin….

    Cool story bro. But what does christianity say about chillaid brewtines?

  297. Andy,

    I’ll await your argument against JB’s question to you: “Do volitional, at will sub-choices not add up to a freely chosen final decision? If you say no, then why not?”

    “Then freely choose to believe”

    Huh?

    I freely reason – weigh – think – infer –

    There is no magical wall of separation there between belief and “all the rest”. I believe AS I reason, think, weigh, infer – and so on. Ontological ends in the Necessary Being permit this.

    Not so in physicalism. Unfortunately for you.

    Ontological end/start points? You don’t understand that? As I stated: The Ontic Start Point and Ontic End Point (proximal or distal ends of ONTOLOGICAL regression, either way) in Christianity begin and end in the Necessary Being.

    You can now add these posts to the list as to reasons, assumptions, conclusions, and ontological extrapolations given as to why your arguments fail to convince AND fail to trump the Christian’s ontological regressions in Man’s Mind, in the volitional being. So now it is #273, #297, & #298 & #313 and #315. Of course, there are all the other commentators here too.

  298. scblhrm

    “Then freely choose to believe”

    Huh?

    Thanks for conceding that what is allegedly “cogent with reality” is actually evidentially false.

    You can now add my last post to the list as to reasons, assumptions, conclusions, and ontological extrapolations given as to why your arguments fail

    Oh, let me try that:
    “I define “God” as being imaginary. Therefore, God cannot be real. Checkmate christians! All your arguments for why there is a God fail because I have presented “reasons, assumptions and conclusions” for why there cannot be a God. If you disagree with me, you´ll have to use my definition of God or you will be strawmanning my position”.
    That was fun – scblhrm “logic” is so much easier than actually thinking 🙂

    and ontological extrapolations

    As opposed to “nonontological extrapolations” I presume.

  299. Andy,

    I’ll await your argument against JB’s question to you: “Do volitional, at will sub-choices not add up to a freely chosen final decision? If you say no, then why not?”

    You ask:

    “Then freely choose to believe”

    Huh?

    I freely reason – weigh – think – infer – There is no magical wall of separation there between belief and “all the rest”. I believe AS I reason, think, weigh, infer – and so on. Ontological ends in the Necessary Being permit this. It’s seamless. Non-volition in belief amounts to non-reasoning in belief. If we don’t reason, then we have no choice in what we believe. But in Christianity’s volitional being reasoning, thinking, weighing, and so on are all volitional and believing is all wrapped up right there in those free motions. Seamless.

    And all of this matches our brutally repeatable experience.

    Not so in physicalism. Unfortunately for you.

  300. Andy,

    Then you completely misread it.

    In Christianity’s volitional being it is the case that reasoning, thinking, weighing, and so on are all volitional and believing is all wrapped up right there in those free motions. Seamlessness. There is no separate box for Belief floating out there all by itself.

    Shall I try again?

  301. scblhrm

    Oh, I have misread you? My mistake, so you in fact did freely choose to believe that this:

    Physicalism has Unfree + Unfree + Unfree + Unfree (layers) = Unfree.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Not at all.

    Theism has Free + Free + Free (layers) = Free.

    Does that match our brutally repeatable experience?

    Well yes. It is by far more cogent with reality.

    is false? Alright, then we agree now.
    But in case I didn´t actually misread you and you still believe that – no problem, just freely choose to want to stop believing it and then freely choose to no longer believe it. Easy as pie.

  302. Andy,

    “Then freely choose to believe”

    Huh?

    I freely reason – weigh – think – infer – There is no magical wall of separation there between belief and “all the rest”. I believe AS I reason, think, weigh, infer – and so on.

    There is no box called “belief” floating out there all by itself.

    Ontological ends in the Necessary Being permit this. It’s seamless. Non-volition in belief amounts to non-reasoning in belief. If we don’t reason, then we have no choice in what we believe. But in Christianity’s volitional being it is the case that reasoning, thinking, weighing, and so on are all volitional and believing is all wrapped up right there in those free motions. Seamless. There is no separate box for Belief floating out there all by itself.

    Shall I try again?

  303. scblhrm

    Aha, so your argument is “I could totally freely choose to do this because magic and stuff, but if you ask me to prove that by not just saying that I could do it but rather actually doing it, I won´t be able to, but I absolutely insist that I totally could do that because magic and stuff”.
    Cute.

  304. Andy,

    Choose to believe? Again? There is no “box” called “belief” floating out there in isolation.

    That is YOUR definition of how belief works

    Not the Christian’s.

    We don’t need to dance to it – especially since your model is totally incongruent with our experience inside of cognition and consciousness and identity.

    If presupposed philosophical naturalism and presupposed philosophical theism are now going to be called magic then there is no further place to go.

    We all come to the table with such ontological presuppositions.

    My brutally repeatable experience in cognition, consciousness, moral ought, and so on are the same as yours.

    Physicalism seems to not match up with any of it as we move into necessary ontological regressions.

    But your regressions are not “magic” and nor is the Theists.

    If you think that is how this works then I can’t help you.

  305. scblhrm

    Cool, so your position is: “I freely choose everything I do, reason and believe. So I can freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. But I also cannot freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said.”
    Sounds legit.

  306. Andy,

    On your definition of where belief is located, that does sound silly.

    But that is Physicalism’s location.

    The Christian does not need to dance to those locations or explain Theism by them.

    Perhaps you’d like to discuss Christianity?

    In Theism’s volitional being, there is no separation and therefore non-volition in belief is nothing more (would be nothing more) than non-reasoning in belief – there are no seams. Interestingly, this merges with the argument from Identity. The location of “ME” or of “I”.

    Physicalism has one set of locations.

    Theism another.

    It would be peculiar for a Skeptic to come to a Christian thread and demand that Christianity be evaluated in and by the Skeptic’s locations.

  307. scblhrm

    😀 That literally made me laugh out loud.
    Well then let me fix my summary!
    So your position is: “I freely choose everything I do, reason and believe. So I can freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. But I also cannot freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. Without christianity, this sounds silly. But with christianity, it is not silly at all because christianity defeats the law of non-contradiction and allows square circles and married bachelors to exist! Christianity can even be completely true and completely false at the same time!”
    Sounds legit. But you might want to rephrase “Christianity” to “Contradictionanity”.

  308. Andy,

    You said, “So I can freely choose to start believing that I am wrong ”

    You can keep insisting that your definition of where volition is located is a definition which the Christian has to dance to.

    Non-volition in belief cannot exist unless or until non-volition in reasoning, weighing, and inferring exists. Belief isn’t this sort of cloud that evaporates up out of the volitional being. It is there with all the rest. As we choose to reason and choose to weigh and to infer we thereby choose inside of belief, inside of reasoning, inside of volition.

    But that is Theism’s location of volition/belief.

    Not yours.

    Of course, we don’t need to isolate “belief” from “reasoning” the way you insist we should.

    In fact, in my experience, that isn’t what belief “feels like” or “looks like” any way. My reasoning is wrapped up inside of my believing. It’s all seamless. It’s all “Me”. Speaking of locations……

    I really don’t see your separate boxes as I look inward. Your view seems very artificial.

    Which is just another reason that we need not take your premises as weighty. The first reason being that they are based in Physicalism’s incoherent regressions of [Free + Free = Unfree] sort of artificial boxes (they are not Theism’s locations).

  309. scblhrm

    You can keep insisting that your definition of where volition is located is a definition which the Christian has to dance to.

    Of course, we don’t need to isolate “belief” from “reasoning” the way you insist we should.

    No problem! We´ll just use your definition and assume that it is ALL free, as you said “Theism has Free + Free + Free (layers) = Free”.

    Which means that my summary of your position is spot on: “I freely choose everything I do, reason and believe. So I can freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. But I also cannot freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. Without christianity, this sounds silly. But with christianity, it is not silly at all because christianity defeats the law of non-contradiction and allows square circles and married bachelors to exist! Christianity can even be completely true and completely false at the same time!”
    Again, sounds legit. But you really might want to rephrase “Christianity” to “Contradictionanity”.
    It´s not my cup of tea but that doesn´t matter because if your contradictionanity is true, then you can just assume that I believe in it (hey, I can believe it and not believe it at the same time can´t I? Contradictionanity defeats the law of non-contradiction after all).

  310. Andy,

    On Theism, Non-volition in belief cannot exist unless or until non-volition in reasoning, weighing, and inferring exists. On Theism, Belief isn’t this sort of cloud (your separate box) that evaporates up out of the volitional being. It is there with all the rest. As we choose to reason and choose to weigh and to infer we thereby choose inside of belief, inside of reasoning, inside of volition. Seamless. “Me”. “I”. Your separation of reasoning from belief seems untenable. I really don’t see your separate boxes as I look inward and so, really, your view seems very artificial, very contrived. In my experience that isn’t what belief “feels like” or “looks like” AT ALL. My reasoning is wrapped up inside of my believing just as my believing is wrapped up inside of my reasoning. And I choose to reason. It’s all seamless. It’s all “Me”. Speaking of locations……

  311. scblhrm

    Your separation of reasoning from belief seems untenable to me.

    Where did I do that? Hey, I granted you everything in #328 – free beliefs, free reasoning, free actions, free everything.
    So you can freely choose to reason in a way that would lead you to freely choose to believe that everything you said before is actually completely false. And if you don´t want to do that, then you can just freely choose to want it (its “free+free+free=free” after all!)
    So my summary of your position is completely and absolutely accurate, it is not a strawman, it is based on granting you EVERYTHING you wanted – free+free+free+free=free, and what it gets you is contradictionanity:
    “I freely choose everything I do, reason and believe. So I can freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. But I also cannot freely choose to start believing that I am wrong about what I just said. Without christianity, this sounds silly. But with christianity, it is not silly at all because christianity defeats the law of non-contradiction and allows square circles and married bachelors to exist! Christianity can even be completely true and completely false at the same time!”

  312. Andy,

    Yes, in Physicalism (your definitions) where there must be an unwrapping of and untying of reasoning from believing from volition from inferring, that which you describe there does sound silly.

    Fortunately in Theism there is no such unwrapping. My reasoning and my believing go hand-in-hand in one, seamless location.

    As noted already, my reasoning is wrapped up inside of my believing just as my believing is wrapped up inside of my reasoning.

    And I choose to reason.

    Sam Harris disagrees, of course. Which is why your definitions of untying would probably sound convincing to him – being a physicalist and all. But Theism’s descriptive (and prescriptive) is very, very different. We don’t untie reasoning from believing from volition from inferring…. and so on…..

    And of course, we choose to reason.

    Proximal or distal ontological regressions – either way – are helpful for the Theist.

  313. scblhrm

    Yes, in Physicalism (your definitions) where there must be an unwrapping of reasoning from believing from volition from infering, that which your describe does sound silly.

    I actually never posited such an “unwrapping of reasoning from believing” anywhere. And I also keep granting you over and over again everything you want. Right now it looks like this:

    Andy: If I grant you your “free+free+free+free=free” claim, then this leads to a contradiction because [see argument in comments #330, 328 etc.pp.]
    scblhrm: This only sounds silly because you use your definitions instead of mine.
    Andy: Dude, I just told you that I am using YOUR definitions, I grant you everything and it leads to this contradiction [see argument in comments #330, 328 etc.pp.]
    scblhrm: This only sounds silly because you use your definitions instead of mine.
    Andy: I have granted you everything, I am using YOUR definitons, you have everything you wanted – all is free, it is exactly your “free+free+free+free=free” claim
    scblhrm: This only sounds silly because you use your definitions instead of mine.

    At this point, I start genuinely wondering whether you are a bot.

  314. Andy,

    I can’t help you.

    My reasoning is wrapped up inside of my believing just as my believing is wrapped up inside of my reasoning.

    And we choose to reason.

    This is why, on Theism, there cannot be non-volitional believing unless or until there is non-volitional reasoning.

    There are no such artificial “boxes” isolated from each other as your model implies. And even worse for you, my experience in consciousness affirms Theism’s descriptive of unity. Not Physicalism’s descriptive of separate boxes. Not YOUR locations of isolated locations, one for belief, one for reasoning, one for volition, and so on.

    I wonder, why on earth would you believe in that? Is that what your experience of Consciousness, of Identity, is like for you?

    The Christian does not need to dance to YOUR model / locations of where volition/reason/belief is located.

  315. WOW. So now I have granted scblhrm his definitions four times in a row, and in a way that could not be more explicit and unambiguous, only to have scblhrm reply that I am not granting him his definitions over and over and over and over again.
    Proving once and for all that scblhrm is either a troll or a spambot – I´m undecided.

  316. @All
    Well, this has become a thread of epic length and I´ll have to drop out now – I might come back to reply to the comments I have missed (I think I´ve replied to everything except for Jenna´s last comment) but definitely not before next week.
    Thank you all (except for scblhrm) for an occasionally nice discussion (only “occasionally” because scblhrm´s constant trolling really does kill the flow)

  317. Andy,

    I can’t speak for you, but:

    My experience in consciousness affirms Theism’s descriptive of unity. My reasoning is wrapped up inside of my believing just as my believing is wrapped up inside of my reasoning. And volition is embedded through all of it. My experience in consciousness does not affirm YOUR seemingly artificial locations of isolation – one location for belief, one for reasoning, one for volition, and so on. Fortunately the Christian does not need to dance to YOUR premises of such locations of where volition/reason/belief is located.

    I wonder, why on earth do you believe in that anyway?

    Is that what your experience of Consciousness, (and perhaps of Identity), is like for you?

  318. And now that scblhrm ignores for the fifth time in a row that I did grant him everything he wanted. Maybe one last comment to find out whether scblhrm is a spambot or a troll.

    scblhrm, what time is it right now?

    If my hypothesis that scblhrm is a spambot is correct – he will ignore this question and instead poste some word salad involving the words “physicalism” and “volition”.

  319. Andy,

    I’m assuming you wanted an answer to that question of course….. It’s X time here by me — (privacy, time zones…. I think in Tom’s time zone it is 9 or 10 or so but I’d have to look at his homepage bio etc…….) Feel free to answer my question about your experiences. Ours are probably pretty much the same.

  320. scblhrm
    So the question from #334 is settled – you are not a poorly programmed spambot but rather a human troll.

  321. Melissa,

    In our lives we make lots of choices, overtime these can undoubtedly leave us in a position where we are blind to God.

    Can making an immoral choice to be blind be explained and defended in a context other than that of Christianity, say, in psychology for example? Or is this to be understood as a religious phenomena only?

  322. Andy,

    Are you sure that that is the right link?

    Sorry, I meant to direct you the the 6th paragraph and following which is the relevant part.
    Well, this is the “if all that doesn´t convince them, then nothing would convince them anyway” attitude and I honestly don´t understand how anyone can have such an attitude unless (s)he has never spent any time at all among unbelievers.

    Maybe I wasn’t clear enough earlier in the thread. I was an unbeliever, looking back I see there was evidence that could have and should have challenged some of the beliefs buttressing my unbelief but I didn’t let it. At the time I did not see it that way. I fully accept that there is a possibility Mu own experience and the testimony of other people’s similar experience is in fact evidence the people do resist without consciously acknowledging their resistance. Am I absolutely positive that every single unbeliever is resisting? Not 100%. But if I was wrong about it I would just need to revise my beliefs about what God is doing.

  323. Melissa,

    It might be important to recognize the fundamental problem of atheism. Atheism is an obstacle to a person’s proper loving relationship with God. That’s why it’s a concern of/for Christians.

  324. scblhrm, RE: #333

    You are on the right track here with the “boxes” analogy to address Andy’s argument. May I propose a linguistic analysis? Fundamentally, Andy fails to understand the difference between can/cannot and could/could not and will/will not and would/would not.

    Can/can’t is a question of ability to do something or to refrain from doing something. If/when atheists claim that a belief is involuntary, then a person cannot make a choice to either hold or not hold that belief. When someone will do something, volition is at work.

    So, to use Andy’s hypothetical, if I cannot change my “position on evolution”, I am unable to, even if I wanted to. My “belief” is involuntary. But if I can change my “position on evolution” but will not, volition is at work.

    Andy is confusing the reasoning process, where ideas are analyzed and accepted into a belief system or rejected based on some criteria (usually their congruence or lack thereof with reality), with some other kind of a process that is, according to him, “not under the control of the will” and therefore, involuntary.

    One has to wonder: Do atheists believe that God does not exist because they cannot or because they will not? If it is the former, they are atheists involuntary and if it is the latter, they could change their mind, but will not and are therefore, voluntary atheists.

  325. JB,

    It’s far worse than that.

    That which God “IS” necessitates the impossibility of any such thing as the Amoral at ANY level of perception and therefore compelling on and in all levels of perception becomes ipso facto impossible.

    That’s the short version.

    The better one is 900 or so words 😉

  326. In an odd way any and all perceptions of “God”, of that peculiar “IS”, finds on necessity all the affairs of volition, all the affairs of reason, all the affairs of the irreducibly moral, and we find that none of these do nor can motion in isolation from the other. In fact this affirms our own experience of being as our (faint) image, though far lesser, merges with those contours found also (first) in Him. To reason perfectly is to find the perfectly moral, and this in turn is the perfectly loving, perfect reciprocity, and this in turn is the perfectly volitional. Divine Simplicity awaits us there at the end of things and there is no such thing as some faint contour thereof which Man perceives which houses a part and not the whole. There is no Amoral perception of, question of, approach into, God. Compulsion, there, is ontologically impossible.

  327. scblhrm,

    I am reading neuroscientist Andrew Newberg’s most recent booK.

    Andrew Newberg (2014). The metaphysical mind: Probing the biology of philosophical thought.

    Dr. Newberg’s analysis supports and affirms our shared opinion that we cannot isolate cognitive processes and the “will” in analyzing metaphysical thought, which is what thinking about and reasoning about “God” is, whether the thinker and reasoner calls what they are thinking/reasoning about “God” or not. Nor can a person, physiologically speaking, isolate the brain’s processing functions one from another: The whole of metaphysical thought is not merely the sum of its “parts” or sub-processes.

    According to Dr. Newberg, what Andy and what many atheists may be engaged in is reductionism and fragmentation, which he has a chapter about in his book. Newberg points out (p. 116) that “scholars” such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett “…subscribe to a strong reductionism in which the material world, as demonstrated through science, is how all things can be understood.”

    I always suspect that there is a hidden subtext or meta-text that is aimed at self-justification and self-aggrandizement when atheists argue from a reductionism perspective, but more about that later. Suffice it to say, a holistic view of cognition is the only one that I find meaningful in analyzing metaphysical thinking (as in philosophy and theology).

    God bless. JB

  328. Tom,

    I am reading J.L. Schellenberg’s book “The wisdom to doubt: A justification of religious skepticism (2007). I got interested it the book because of this blog and your dialogue with Jeffrey Jay Lowder. I wonder if any discussion of the book is ongoing since I can clearly see the rather glaring (IMO) flaws and fallacies in Schellenberg’s argument, some in addition to yours here. Do you know of any other Christian bloggers who are taking Schellenberg on these days? If so, could you let me/us know? I’m planning to write a review of my own when I finish reading and get some time to work on it.

    Thanks. JB

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