John Loftus and His Hypothetical God

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[Update 2/6/17: This is proving to be a learning project for me. Good questions have come up in comments here and on Facebook. So at this stage I’m not seeing my original post here as a complete and satisfactory answer, but as a discussion starter instead. Some important answers may be found in the comments. Even there it’s still in process, but if you have questions or see faults in the original post, be aware that I’m open to discussion. You might find that your question has already been addressed among the comments.]

John Loftus’s opinion is clear: God is a screw-up. Lazy. Ignorant. Incompetent. Or at least that’s what God would be, if God existed.

I’m reading John’s book How To Defend the Christian Faith: Advice From an Atheist, which he was kind enough to send me for review. Maybe he thought it was only fair, because it’s a book-length review of apologists like myself.

Among other things, he says (page 21) we’re “bumbling idiots and incompetent fools” — but that’s in comparison to an all-knowing God, so actually he wasn’t being all that unkind to us at that point. Don’t worry, though, it’s in there — he just saves it for other passages.

God’s Incompetence?

Here in the vicinity of that quote, though, he aims his criticism at God’s “failure” to accomplish his own task of getting people to believe in himself. In the opening paragraphs of chapter 1 he writes,

I’m going to address the most important question of all for would-be Christian apologists. It’s the obvious elephant in the room, not seen by apologists because they don’t have eyes for it. My argument is that God, if he exists, failed to effectively communicate his will. He failed to provide the sufficient evidence we need to believe.

What God should have done, says Loftus, is (1) to present himself to the world with incontrovertible evidence; for example, in the form of “overwhelming substantiation” for the gospel records, or more directly (2), “he could just speak to everyone directly. He could be a voice in everyone’s head.”

Otherwise (3) he could reveal himself through a “full sensus divinitatis” written on everyone’s mind “from birth,” containing “the knowledge of historical events that are necessary to our salvation … along with theological and ethical truths.” We could perhaps suppress this sense of the divine, but in any event “it would be a propositional revelation without human prophets.”

Or (4), if someone wanted to know God, God could simply implant true thoughts into his/her mind. … God could perform private miracles for honest truth seekers.”

And apologists have ignored all these elephant-like possibilities, right?

God’s Desire For a People Who Can Love

Wrong. We’re not so bumbling after all. Sure, in comparison to God we certainly are (serious understatement there!), but not so much in comparison with what Loftus thinks of us.

For there is a very long and strong tradition of teaching, both in Christian theology and apologetics, that God created humans to be able freely to love and follow him. Such freedom necessitates the possibility of choosing otherwise.

This is impossible on Loftus’s suggestions here. His second option makes freely chosen love a complete logical impossibility. The first and third make it nearly impossible from a practical perspective. The fourth assumes that a person would make that choice without explaining to us what information it would be based upon.

Loftus  ignores this core teaching of the faith. He thinks God is a failure just because he (John) and others don’t believe in him. But the first and greatest commandment is not to believe in God but to love him; and Loftus’s suggestions here do nothing to advance that purpose of God’s.

No Other Logically Possible Way

For what sort of response could a human have in the forcible-knowledge circumstances Loftus proposes?

  1. He could “love” God in the same way he knows God: by God’s irresistible action, regardless of his own intellect, emotion, or volition. But that isn’t love.
  2. She could “know” God through overwhelming evidence, but without any necessary compulsion to respond in love. In that case she could know God and hate him.
  3. It might be the case (and in fact I think it is) that no one could genuinely know God without loving him, in which case the situation would be like the first option I’ve described here, although not exactly. I’ll explain further in a follow-up post how God can draw us with his love without its being the answer Loftus is looking for. It’s God’s answer instead.
  4. Or in Loftus’s fourth hypothetical situation a person could “want to know God” for no reason whatever, which isn’t love either.

John wants a God who would coerce all of us by the irresistible power of deity into believing in him, while leaving us free to make our own choice whether to like God or not. Either that or else he wants a God who would force us both to know and to love him. So much for being human.

The fact is God has designed the world so that a choice is possible. As Blaise Pascal wrote (Fragment 563),

The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.

That was nearly 400 years ago. And Loftus acts as if he’s coming up with this issue for the first time. What hubris!

John Loftus and His Hypothetical God

But we need not rely on centuries-old thinking here. Not that it would be a bad idea — Pascal was wise. But let’s imagine God revealing himself to John Loftus himself in just the way he wants: through a direct and undeniable experience of deity and/or incontrovertible evidence. Would he love God or would he hate him?

The answer is all too plain to see. John’s contempt is plain in the opening paragraphs of chapter 1: “I’m going to do a job performance review of the Almighty.… He could have done better, much better.”

Similarly at the end of the chapter: “[God] is lazy.… He’s ignorant.… He’s incompetent.… As Donald Trump would say to him, after just the very first episode of Celebrity Apprentice, “You’re fired.”

John despises the God he doesn’t believe in.

Sure, God could coerce him into believing he exists. But could he force John also to love him? Not without violating John’s very identity — or else the meaning of the word love.

John Loftus and God Himself

This isn’t merely theoretical. Someday God will reveal himself to John Loftus through incontrovertible, direct evidence. At that time he will know that he has chosen neither to know God nor to love him, but to hate him instead. It is a decision he will have to live with for eternity.

It need not be that way — but he will need to change his mind and heart. In time. Before it’s too late. I pray that he will make that turn.

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65 Responses to “ John Loftus and His Hypothetical God ”

  1. The decision to embrace a metaphysic which on necessity annihilates love as reality’s fundamental ethic, its irreducible substratum, is a decision which more facts will not remedy.

    The decision to embrace a metaphysic which on necessity annihilates reason/mind as reality’s explanatory terminus, its irreducible substratum, is a decision which more facts will not remedy.

    But that group of folks is such as might be as well-read as, say, Loftus. He gets it. The absurdity of some cousin of solipsism is the farthest he’ll go — else God. When the “Y” in the road with respect to Reason and Reciprocity (….or Logic and Love — or Mind and Moral….) forces the reductio ad absurdum or else God, take the reductio. Every time. Such is not a matter of the intellect and data, but of the will and data.

    More facts cannot fix “that” because facts which lead reason Godward is precisely what “that” will at any/all costs refuse.

    The rest? Well Loftus isn’t our unread child in Tibet. There are other, less educated folks to whom God will show Himself through this or that window as only He can, such that the trio of reason, love, and truth will — at some ontological seam somewhere — meaningfully — and factually — converge and therein interface.

    For example, the following is only half the story but gives a bit of context to that last paragraph:

    Of course, what *counts* as regarding God as one’s ultimate end requires careful analysis. Someone might have a deficient conception of God and yet still essentially regard God as his ultimate good or end. One way to understand how this might go is, in my view, to think of the situation in terms of the doctrine of the transcendentals. God is Being Itself. But according to the doctrine of the transcendentals, being – which is one of the transcendentals – is convertible with all the others, such as goodness and truth. They are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view. Being Itself is thus Goodness Itself and Truth Itself. It seems conceivable, then, that someone might take goodness or truth (say) as his ultimate end, and thereby – depending, naturally, on exactly how he conceives of goodness and truth – be taking *God* as his ultimate end or good, even if he has some erroneous ideas about God and does not realize that what he is devoted to is essentially what classical theists like Aquinas call “God.” And of course, an uneducated person might wrongly think of God as an old man with a white beard, etc. but still know that God is cause of all things, that he is all good, that he offers salvation to those who sincerely repent, etc. By contrast, it seems quite ridiculous to suppose that someone obsessed with money or sex or political power (for example) is really somehow taking God as his ultimate end without realizing it. (…by Feser…)

    Don’t panic. I said it’s only HALF of the story. It’s not a statement of Universalism nor of “means other than the All Sufficient Himself / Christ”, etc. It’s simply to add context to that convergence and interface alluded to earlier.

  2. Does Loftus assert that it is, on all counts, 100% a matter of the intellect and data? As opposed to the real fact of the will and data? If so then the evidence regarding the doxastic experience clearly contradicts his thesis.

    Routledge Studies In Philosophy has “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief.” by Miriam Schleifer McCormick which is interesting.

  3. John Loftus says:
    (2), “he could just speak to everyone directly. He could be a voice in everyone’s head.”

    Tom says:
    His second option makes freely chosen love a complete logical impossibility.

    I don’t see why this is the case. In fact, it seems to entail the following:

    either (1) God never spoke to Abraham, Moses, Adam, and Eve directly, or (2) Abraham, Moses, Adam, and Eve did not freely choose to love God. Also:

    either (3) God has never spoken to Satan directly, or (4) Satan non-freely loves God.

    ———————
    John wants a God who would coerce all of us by the irresistible power of deity into believing in him, while leaving us free to make our own choice whether to like God or not.

    I don’t think this is necessarily the case. I don’t think that God showing up at my front door would be epistemically coercive any more than it would be if you showed up. If you showed up, I’d have absolutely no choice about whether to believe you exist – you’re literally standing right in front of me. But I’d still be free to respond to you interpersonally in whatever way I want. Why would things be different if it was God?

    ———–
    Someday God will reveal himself to John Loftus through incontrovertible, direct evidence.

    At that point, will John Loftus begin to non-freely love God? If that’s a bad thing, why would God do that? If that’s a good thing, why would God wait until then?

  4. Skep, if you want a direct example of your second question read the gospels where God showed up at people’s front door. That really is the way God works, but John doesn’t want that. He wants God showing up in a way that’s cognitively coercive. You and I can both see or imagine ways God could show up that aren’t so forceful, but John isn’t interested. He wants something that is.

    Your last question misses my point. I’m talking about the final judgment. At that point John will bow the knee in worship (Phil. 2:5-8), finally unwilling to deny the grandeur of God. I do not know for sure whether he will continue to hate God or will finally love him, but either way he will not have chosen freely to love God while he was here on earth, in the time when love can be chosen. Unless he changes his mind, he will go to the meeting with God in an attitude of hate. Whether he loves God then or not, it will be too late for him to enter the fellowship of those who have chosen to love God.

    Finally your first point: Michael Heiser has written convincingly that Abraham’s experience of God was probably with God in a physical manifestation, probably the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. So he wasn’t just the subject of God’s brain-twisting persuasion; he had the opportunity to choose not to believe.

    Further, I’m quite sure I have experienced God speaking to me directly, however; and I still had the choice whether or not to believe.

    The kind of persuasion John has in mind is more forcible even than that.

  5. but John doesn’t want that. He wants God showing up in a way that’s cognitively coercive.

    While I’d agree that Loftus’ 3 and 4 would be cognitively coercive, his 1 and 2 don’t seem to be at all. If you disagree, please explain why.

    Further, I’m quite sure I have experienced God speaking to me directly, however; and I still had the choice whether or not to believe.

    Let’s put aside John Loftus, who despises the God he doesn’t believe in, and look at the experiences of people in general. Do you think that literally every person who has not had such an experience holds similar attitudes to Loftus? If not, then why haven’t those people had experiences similar to yours?

  6. You say,

    “While I’d agree that Loftus’ 3 and 4 would be cognitively coercive, his 1 and 2 don’t seem to be at all. If you disagree, please explain why.”

    It’s so obvious to me, Skep, I think I’m going to have to ask you to explain why you disagree.

    I don’t think your second question is on topic.

  7. It’s so obvious to me, Skep, I think I’m going to have to ask you to explain why you disagree.

    Ok.

    “(1) to present himself to the world with incontrovertible evidence; for example, in the form of “overwhelming substantiation” for the gospel records”

    We have overwhelming substantiation for all kinds of things, for example, the existence of the sun, or the law of gravity. I could list literally thousands and thousands of things we have incontrovertible evidence for. But none of us ever consider ourselves coerced in any way when we’re presented with the incontrovertible evidence that these things exist. Nor do we consider our free will to be violated. For God to overwhelmingly substantiate the gospel records would be no different than our senses overwhelmingly substantiating the sun.

    “(2), “he could just speak to everyone directly. He could be a voice in everyone’s head.”

    Imagine you go into a Starbucks. The barista greets you. His nametag says ‘Jim’.

    Have you been coerced into believing that Jim exists? No, of course not, unless you stretch the meaning of coercion out of all recognition or common sense. If God speaks to everyone directly, telepathically or otherwise, he’s not doing anything meaningfully different than Jim did. The only difference is the scope.

  8. The core of the question seems to be related to the “hiddenness of God” argument which in its current evolution is probably best put forward by the atheist J.L. Schellenberg. When this argument was first put to me, I struggled with it for a while. This compilation of essays probably helped me the most through it:

    https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Hiddenness-Essays-Daniel-Howard-Snyder/dp/0521006104/ref=pd_sim_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BFABW8D82XDZPKH9SH1B

    Tom, does Loftus cite any of the academic literature anywhere?

    The easiest answer I often find is to make an analogy. God wants us to love Him for who He is and what He is, but not simply for the sake of what He can do.

    Imagine a rich and powerful King who find himself deeply in love with a peasant woman in his kingdom. He knows that if he pulls up in a carriage in all of his regal splendor, and proposes marriage she will undoubtedly say “yes”, but it might not be because she wishes to marry him. It might very well be that she says “yes” because she wishes to marry his office, and his wealth, and his power. Nowadays they call this a “gold-digger” I think?

    In any case- this king chooses instead to approach her as a poor beggar. He strips himself naked from all of his power and glory and approaches her in the street in complete humility. She might come to love him in this way, and say yes to his poor marriage proposal. It’s only then that he reveals himself for who he truly is, knowing that she loves the man, rather than the money.

    In fact, the fact that the king chooses to do it the second way rather than the first might even make it EASIER for her to love him for who he is, since being human, we are naturally seduced by the allure of power.

    Skep, does that seem to make things somewhat clearer?

    I think God gives us plenty of good reason to think that he is real (see all of the philosophical arguments, or the instances of eucharistic miracles, or the miraculous appearances such as that of Our Lady at Guadalupe or Fatima, the list goes on), but not so much as to overwhelm us and compel us to try to act piously merely for the sake of ourselves. Those who find are those who sought to find.

    On another note, one of the essays in that volume linked above drives home the very clear point that no matter what type of “evidence” God might choose to give us, the clever skeptic can always seek to rationalize it away. Let’s say that God were to inscribe into the moon in shimmering gold letters a passage from scripture every night, or some such thing. I think that if someone really wanted, they could conclude that the existence of aliens who might try to commandeer us by doing such a thing is a “more likely” explanation than the existence of God as the ontological grounding of reality itself, and so by “occam’s razor” would still dismiss the existence of God.

    As a final note, I think that there is a fellow who has produced an excellent video to the same effect as my answer here, allow me to link it for anyone who might find it useful.

  9. Travis Wakeman:

    Schellenberg responds to Snyder’s New Essays in his papers The Hiddenness Argument Revisited (I) and The Hiddenness Argument Revisited (II). I also think your analogy and subsequent commentary misses the point of Schellenberg’s argument.

    However, Schellenberg’s argument is not Loftus’ argument, so further discussion of that will probably be off-topic here. Perhaps Tom would be interested in making a new post specifically for discussion of Schellenberg?

  10. Skep:

    I’m genuinely curious, (in a nutshell) how is Loftus’ argument different from Schellenberg’s argument?

    May I ask (in a nutshell) how you think my commentary misses the point?

    You of course acknowledge that there is a difference between writing in response to, and responding to the arguments of a critic. I suspect we are of two different minds concerning Schellenberg’s rejoinders.

  11. Except Scripture has an answer for this also. Having chosen to not love God, humans proceed to deny his existence.

    This makes sense, in a perverted sort of way. If God existed, I would have an obligation towards him (to love and to obey). But I prefer not to have such an obligation. Therefore I will believe he does not exist.

  12. Do you guys believe that Satan knew God and yet rebelled? I’m just wondering about that, because it looks like Satan was not forced by knowledge to love. Satan seems to have chosen to rebel even though he knew all about God.

    If that’s true, then it might work for us too – God could present us with undeniable evidence of himself, and we would still have freedom to love him or not. So I’m wondering how you guys deal with this idea. Thanks.

  13. Travis:

    Most notably, Schellenberg’s argument focuses on the mere existence of nonresistant nonbelievers, while Loftus’ focuses on nonbelievers in general (resistant or not), and whether there’s sufficient evidence in an objective sense.

    Regarding your commentary, I’d argue that the king analogy doesn’t accurately reflect Schellenberg’s argument – a more fitting analogy would be one where the king was just already married to the peasant woman. Schellenberg doesn’t argue that God would eventually get around to convincing nonresistant nonbelievers; he argues that they wouldn’t ever exist in the first place. Furthermore, the “clever skeptic” in your scenario is not a nonresistant nonbeliever – a N.N. would approach evidence with intellectual honesty, not attempt to explain it away at all costs.

  14. Skep @7,

    I think you’ve missed the basic point of my OP. It’s Loftus’s error, too. God doesn’t primarily want us to believe he exists, he wants us to live in a relationship of love and trust with him.

    “The only difference is in the scope.” Where the scope is infinite the difference is infinite.

    And I think that defines the real problem here. You think God is a lot like his creation only different in scope. Not so. God is of a completely different order of reality. He defines reality. Everything else is contingent. Everything else derives its being from him. He is infinite in love, in holiness, in perfection, in power; he is in time and beyond time.

    And he has chosen to make it possible for humans to live in a real love relationship with him. The form of the relationship is trust and love, but to love and trust God as he deserves is beyond all human capacity; in fact we have rebelled against him in distrust and hatred. Still the door is open for that relationship, and he has made the requirement for entering it a far simpler one: we may enter if we believe in his reality, his trustworthiness, his love expressed through Jesus Christ, and our need for that love in Christ because of our rebellion.

    So please catch this distinction: the form of the relationship is trust and love, but the entry to it is through belief. Those who believe enter into a growing love relationship with him.

    Since God wants a significant element of human freedom in this relationship, he has made it so there is a significant element of human freedom in our believing in him. As Pascal said in what I quoted above, there’s plenty of evidence to believe but not enough to force belief, which leaves room for choice.

    Now, none of this has any analogy in the other examples you presented, so please try to remember this is God we are talking about.

  15. Good question, John B. Moore. You could have mentioned Adam and Eve, too — except they disobeyed partly because of deception. They were “innocent” of good and evil, not understanding evil, and chose naively albeit also disobediently.

    Honestly I don’t understand why Satan rebelled, except that he decided he could be like God himself. But I don’t know that an unanswered question from that realm of creation tells us we’re on the wrong track for this realm.

  16. I have just added this to the top of the original post:

    [Update 2/6/17: This is proving to be a learning project for me. Good questions have come up in comments here and on Facebook. So at this stage I’m not seeing my original post here as a complete and satisfactory answer, but as a discussion starter instead. Some important answers may be found in the comments. Even there it’s still in process, but if you have questions or see faults in the original post, be aware that I’m open to discussion. You might find that your question has already been addressed among the comments.]

  17. Ryan Downie asked me this on Facebook:

    I have to admit your response to Loftus aggravates me. To say that if God reveals “His” existence beyond any reasonable doubt, then this makes love impossible is a horrible non sequitur. In fact, one cannot really love what one isn’t even sure exists.

    I asked where he got that from, and he answered with this quote from the OP,

    “This is impossible on Loftus’s suggestions here. His second option makes freely chosen love a complete logical impossibility.”

    Then I responded,

    I see what you’re saying now. Thanks.

    I didn’t quote Loftus fully there, and I did not analyze his argument completely, either. I made the author’s mistake of not realizing what one is not saying. My error, and I acknowledge it.

    I’ll have to think this through further.

    I think the answer to Ryan’s question is contained in my comment #15 to Skep. It’s not that it makes love an impossibility but it reverses the order in which God wants us to enter into relationship with him.

    I’m still considering this a learning process for me, though.

  18. When I first started writing this post I was reacting more than anything else to John’s suggestion that apologists have never considered the problem he raises. If I’d stuck with that, this would have been much easier, for apologists have been thinking about it at least as far back as Pascal. John is obviously wrong on that — but that’s trivial, even if it’s annoying. The real question happens to be harder and more interesting, both at the same time.

  19. Skep,

    I agree with Loftus and Schellenberg that rational disbelief exists, as does E. Feser at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/road-from-atheism.html ~ Here’s an excerpt:

    To be sure, like any other atheist I might have cited the problem of suffering when rattling off the reasons why theism couldn’t be true, but it wasn’t what primarily impressed me philosophically. What *really* impressed me was the evidentialist challenge to religious belief. If God really exists there should be solid arguments to that effect, and there just aren’t, or so I then supposed. Indeed, that there were no such arguments seemed to me something which would itself be an instance of evil if God existed, and this was an aspect of the problem of evil that seemed really novel and interesting.

    I see from a look at my old school papers that I was expressing this idea in a couple of essays written for different courses in 1992. (I think that when J. L. Schellenberg’s book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason appeared in 1993 I was both gratified that someone was saying something to that effect in print, and annoyed that it wasn’t me.) ….. (by E. Feser)

    The problem for Loftus / Schellenberg and their theses is two fold. First, every human being has his own unique “doxastic experience” within which the love of Truth and the love of Self come up against one another and we all, universally, engage in “that” truth stock exchange, as it were. The boy in Tibet who cannot read has one such interface, just as someone highly educated has such an interface, and that those two are unique and distinct from each other — yet both real and meaningful under their respective conceptual ceilings — is obvious.

    “Conceptual ceilings?”

    Well yes. There is no such thing as a “high enough” ceiling when it comes to the ABYSS between “Man” and “God” and John Moore addressed that as he alludes to the fact that “More Facts” is not the issue with Lucifer nor with us. Reading is not a prerequisite to the Kingdom. It is not that some tree termed Knowledge / More Facts is “not good“, because there are no bad-trees in Eden (…as it were…). Rather, instead, it is that something else precedes and outreaches that, and that has to do with volition, with love’s reciprocity, and with the self. As contingent beings it is just unavoidable: at some ontological seam somewhere the self must find the Beautiful not in its own isolated self, not in privation, but instead in love’s reciprocity amid (…its own…) self and (…the immutable good…) which comes in the unicity of “Man in God / God in Man”. More-Facts is not the terminus of the problem:

    ““The problem with your question is that it assumes a purely humanistic, and perhaps even naturalistic, point of view with respect to finding the knowledge of God. It takes for granted that it’s basically up to us to figure out which religion is true. But whatever other religions may teach, this is not the point of view of Christianity. If God were to abandon us to our own intelligence and ingenuity to work out whether or not He exists, He would be a very cruel God indeed. As one of the students in my Defenders class remarked, getting into heaven should not be like getting into Harvard!”” (W.L. Craig)

    That said, culpability and belief only come into play in [1] and [3] in the following:

    1) Rational disbelief.
    2) Rational belief.
    3) Rational agnosticism (unable to comment period, mouth is shut).

    4) Irrational disbelief.
    5) Irrational belief.
    6) Irrational agnosticism (sly meandering, mouth isn’t shut).

    The rest, or those other four (….according to Loftus’ and Schellenberg’s premises…) are all that Scripture discusses ever being addressed by God and the reach of His “communique”.

    But that’s false.

    L and S both find [1] and [3] and then fail to follow through with Scripture — in that they fail to allow Scripture’s definitions on the reality of what does happen [A] without missionaries and [B] after the death of the physical body with respect to [C] the contingencies of time and circumstance. Now, both [A] and [B] with respect to [C] make sense given what the term “God” entails and given the fact that frail and mutable contingencies such as time and circumstance are just not “too much” for the reach of *God*, which is why we’re not surprised to find such events in Scripture. But I fear that both Loftus and Schellenberg would be resistant to the fact that we find such communique in scripture (…without the physical body / after death, and without missionaries…).

    Given that those events and communique are found in Scripture, it seems Loftus’ and Schellenberg are arguing against a [SET] of facts (etc.) which Scripture does not affirm, and in fact which Scripture contradicts, which can be stated in the following summary:

    Loftus / Schellenberg Summary:

    In fact it is the case that God has neither the means nor the will to interface with [1] and [3] and/or in fact it is the case that Scripture demonstrates neither the means (…in God…) nor the will (…in God…) to interface with [1] and [3].

    The LS Summary is not interfacing with truth as found in Scripture. Which is to say that the Divine Communique in question, which is in play in only 2 out of 6 doxastic experiences, does not have the terminus which the LS Summary asserts, but, instead, has a different and demonstrable terminus which Scripture’s truth-claims demonstrate.

    In short: Scripture factually removes from the LS Summary the intellectual right to claim the terminus which the LS Summary is in fact claiming.

    Interestingly, when we take Scripture on face value here, we find neither the need for nor the inclination to foist either “Molinism” or the free-will-annihilating vectors found in both Hyper-Calvinism and Universalism. Instead, we find exactly what the rest of Scripture’s terms and definitions affirm: informed and volitional motions amid the proverbial self and the proverbial other — between Man and God — constituted of what God has Decreed from the get-go and which therefore cannot be otherwise, namely the Image/Likeness of His Own irreducible substratum which His Own Trinitarian processions provide — as per the Imago Dei. And what is that? Well that is nothing less than love’s timeless reciprocity within which we find ceaseless self-giving.

    In Eden the syntax of “More Facts” and of “Life” and of “Gospel/Good News” are all unavoidable: God intends from the get-go to fill with Himself, to avail Himself to and for, to Pour-Out Himself (…as the Means/Ends…) both for and into “Mankind” as, not unsurprisingly, “More Facts” vs. “Eternal Life” find the very same trio of Will and Intellect and Love in-play all over again just as in the LS Thesis. And, on this side of Eden the syntax of Gospel is, as expected, timeless and unchanged: God from the get-go in fact intends to Atone for, Pour Out Himself (…as the Means/Ends…) both for and into, “Mankind” with respect to “Every-Man” and that God in fact reaches into Time and Physicality to do just that and that God in fact will not fail to follow through with what must be — prior to the mutable putting on the immutable — nothing less than love’s proposal. Such just is the singular metanarrative of Scripture. More comments on that and why both [1] and [3] from the list of six doxastic experiences in fact have a different terminus than the LS Summary must claim in order to maintain rational traction are in the com-box at: https://www.str.org/blog/pauls-solution-problem-unevangelized-gospel#.WJhnR2IrJLU

  20. Tom #15:

    God doesn’t primarily want us to believe he exists, he wants us to live in a relationship of love and trust with him.

    I’d agree with that, but notice that believing someone exists is a necessary condition for having such a relationship with them.

    When I mentioned scope, I was referring to the number of relationships, nothing more; God has a finite number of relationships with humans because there are a finite number of humans.

    As Pascal said in what I quoted above, there’s plenty of evidence to believe but not enough to force belief, which leaves room for choice.

    I find this idea that there’s “just the right amount of evidence” a bit confusing. If we happened to find more in the future, how would you respond to it? For example, if (hypothetically, of course) we dug up an alien artifact in the middle eastern desert, and it happened to be a device that recorded the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in high definition, would you consider that a bad thing? If you found that device, would you destroy it so no one else could watch it?

  21. Skep, you might look here for more.

    Your further explanation of scope makes your answer just as wrong as before. It’s not the “only difference.”

    “I’d agree with that, but notice that believing someone exists is a necessary condition for having such a relationship with them.” Someone said that on Facebook too. I’d count it as too obvious to need “noticing.”

  22. Tom, the argument you make in that post might be a great response to Ebon Musings, but it’s not so great as a response to Schellenberg; and in fact the version Ebon Musings offers is not the same as the one Schellenberg offers.

    The nonresistant nonbelief Schellenberg discusses is not merely a lack of evidence; he explicitly points out that many of these people are very strongly open to matters of the heart, and in some cases very much want to be in a loving relationship with God. In other words, the ‘heart’ condition is already satisfied, and it’s only the ‘evidence’ condition that’s missing.

    (Regarding evidence, Schellenberg doesn’t use it in an objective sense; rather he’s talking about what sort of reasons would subjectively convince an individual.)

  23. Skep, the reason I pointed you to that article is because it provides my answer to your question in #21 on “the alien artifact…” etc.

    I’m not debating Schellenberg here.

  24. I just read your article again, and I don’t see how it answers my question. I also don’t understand why you won’t just answer it straight up – would you destroy the alien artifact, or not?

    Here’s the issue put another way:

    We have much more evidence today for the historicity of the bible than we did prior to 1946, when we started discovering dead sea scrolls. Was it the case that Christian belief was unjustified prior to 1946? Or are the dead sea scrolls “too much evidence”? if we find more scrolls in the future, is that too much? What about native americans in 300, who had only the vaguest evidence in broad natural phenomenon?What about the apostles, who presumably had direct evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, because they were there?

  25. Also, Tom: if the amount of evidence we have for God is fine-tuned and thus itself evidence for God, wouldn’t that mean that more evidence for God would be evidence against God?

  26. @ Skep #14

    I don’t think that there really is such a thing as a non-resistant nonbeliever (since that seems to suggest that someone can successfully rationally undergird their nonbelief), and so I think I would reject there being any categorical difference between Schellenberg and Loftus in their arguments.

    I find it interesting that you think that the “clever atheist” I suggested is being intellectually dishonest. I actually would maintain that the philosophical arguments for the existence of God (such as Aquinas’ argument from essentially ordered cause and effect) are actually much more potent because the conclusion that God exists follows rationally and inevitably from their premises.

    The argument:

    1: Golden passages of scripture appear on the moon every night.
    2: Such would only happen if there were a God.
    3. Therefore there is a God.

    Seems to fall apart on premise 2, where the skeptic could easily suggest the possibility of observing and manipulative aliens. Since the belief in such aliens doesn’t involve a paradigm shift in understanding the nature of reality as contingent upon a divine mind- they would probably not find it very difficult to go with “aliens”. In fact, I think skeptics would tout that reasoning as evidence against Christianity. “See, you used to think that there was a God, but this recent business with the moon shows that it was probably aliens all along.” They’d probably suggest that Jesus was an alien all along.

    Likewise with a “voice” appearing in everyone’s head. Likewise with some sort of “alien artifact” which would probably be the easiest to dismiss for anyone who is familiar with video editing and special effects.

    Consider instead what I think is evidence that we actually have available to us, the existence of our own consciousness which seems inexplicable on a philosophical naturalist paradigm. The existence of us as volitional beings seems to directly imply something about the nature of reality. To say (as we can with those others above) “ah well maybe there are other contingent, conscious aliens out there who made us” doesn’t actually seem to get us anywhere with consciousness but kicking the can down the street a little way.

  27. Travis, Schellenberg’s nonresistant nonbelievers need not successfully rationally undergird their nonbelief. All they need to do is be nonbelievers, and be both epistemically and personally open to changing their minds. To defeat this part of his argument, you need to argue for one of the following:

    1. No one who has ever existed has ever been a nonbeliever.
    2. Every nonbeliever who has ever existed has not been open to changing their mind.

    Consider instead what I think is evidence that we actually have available to us, the existence of our own consciousness which seems inexplicable on a philosophical naturalist paradigm.

    Even if that were true, it wouldn’t entail anything about atheism, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up.

  28. @Skep #28

    If one cannot rationally undergird their position (irrationality?), then how would one be epistemically and personally open?

    It seems relatively intuitive to me based on my personal observations that nonbelievers often have an innate resistance to having their mind changed that has very little to do with reason. For many there quite obviously seems to be an emotional stumbling block which prevents them from making an accurate assessment of the data.

  29. The L.S. Summary moving further:

    We cannot apply one wide, undiscerning, sloppy, and unthinking “definition” to “ALL” varieties of belief/unbelief. Rational disbelief, Rational belief, Rational agnosticism (unable to comment period, mouth is shut), Irrational disbelief, Irrational belief, and Irrational agnosticism (sly meandering, mouth isn’t shut), all emerge and diverge.

    The Loftus/Schellenberg summary is only applicable in a third of “real world cases”, namely, [1] and [3] (….rational disbelief and rational agnosticism…). Given that the premise that there is such a reality as the terminus of the “un-evangelized” is untenable within Scripture’s narrative wherein God’s Act, Intention, Decree, Reach, and demonstrable Means/Will all clearly outdistance frail and mutable contingencies such as time and circumstance (…described earlier…), the LS Summary [A] fails to interface with the Christian metaphysic and [B] fails to follow through to a rational terminus with respect to the Divine Communique that has been brought to the table.

    We can, for the moment, leave [A] as a stand-alone and make one further comment on [B], and that is that where [B] is concerned we must ask if the terminus presented by the LS Summary is even logically possible given the “trio” of, first, the universality of the human stock-exchange that just is truth-trading within the interface of *self* and *truth*, and, second, what the term *GOD* vis-à-vis “Being Itself” necessarily forces on the ground-floor of that stock-exchange and, thirdly, the Christian metaphysic with respect to “The Good” as it presses in upon the unavoidable doxastic experience within what cannot be less than an irreducible “…convertibility of the transcendentals…”. And, to remind us, [B] here is in addition to [A].

    But what about the other two thirds of “real world cases”? There we find (…in a few, but not all, slices…) another interesting situation where our doxastic experience is concerned. To introduce that, a brief recap of one point made by T. Wakeman:

    Quote:

    On another note, one of the essays in that volume linked above drives home the very clear point that no matter what type of “evidence” God might choose to give us, the clever skeptic can always seek to rationalize it away. Let’s say that God were to inscribe into the moon in shimmering gold letters a passage from scripture every night, or some such thing. I think that if someone really wanted, they could conclude that the existence of aliens who might try to commandeer us by doing such a thing is a “more likely” explanation than the existence of God as the ontological grounding of reality itself, and so by “occam’s razor” would still dismiss the existence of God.

    The argument:

    1: Golden passages of scripture appear on the moon every night.
    2: Such would only happen if there were a God.
    3. Therefore there is a God.

    Seems to fall apart on premise 2, where the skeptic could easily suggest the possibility of observing and manipulative aliens. Since the belief in such aliens doesn’t involve a paradigm shift in understanding the nature of reality as contingent upon a divine mind- they would probably not find it very difficult to go with “aliens”. In fact, I think skeptics would tout that reasoning as evidence against Christianity. “See, you used to think that there was a God, but this recent business with the moon shows that it was probably aliens all along.” They’d probably suggest that Jesus was an alien all along.

    Likewise with a “voice” appearing in everyone’s head. Likewise with some sort of “alien artifact” which would probably be the easiest to dismiss for anyone who is familiar with video editing and special effects.

    Consider instead what I think is evidence that we actually have available to us, the existence of our own consciousness which seems inexplicable on a philosophical naturalist paradigm. The existence of us as volitional beings seems to directly imply something about the nature of reality. To say (as we can with those others above) “ah well maybe there are other contingent, conscious aliens out there who made us” doesn’t actually seem to get us anywhere with consciousness but kicking the can down the street a little way.

    You say, “Schellenberg’s nonresistant nonbelievers need not successfully rationally undergird their nonbelief. All they need to do is be nonbelievers, and be both epistemically and personally open to changing their minds.”

    If one cannot rationally undergird their position (irrationality?), then how would one be epistemically and personally open?
    It seems relatively intuitive to me based on my personal observations that nonbelievers often have an innate resistance to having their mind changed that has very little to do with reason. For many there quite obviously seems to be an emotional stumbling block which prevents them from making an accurate assessment of the data.

    End quote. (by T. Wakeman)

    True/Real Belief Within Self Deception:

    One can in fact “truly believe” in, say, Not-God or Not-X and yet culpability within the universal human experience that is truth-trading will be found offended by one’s “volitional rock-bottom” or by one’s terminus within the *self* as such interfaces with *truth*. At the start of all of this we pointed out that “More Facts” is not always the solution and why is that? Well because the *Intellect* and data may be rescued by “More Facts” whereas, there is that ontological seam where the *Will* also has her say and therein “More Facts” may, or may not, be “enough”. As volitional beings we cannot just “expunge” that “slice” of what is “in-play” here. A meticulous picture of the process that is self-deception is in the following quote, and, to set the frame, it concludes with this:

    So, though I don’t doubt that some of these folks in some sense sincerely believe what they say, that doesn’t absolve them of the charge of intellectual dishonesty. Self-deceived people would not be self-*deceived* if they didn’t in some sense really believe what they say.” (by E. Feser)

    The path to get there is not a pure, isolated box called “I-Will-Now-Deceive-My-Self” but is – as all human psychology is – comprised of an array of “boxes”.

    Here’s the quote:

    I agree that one must always be very careful about “psychoanalyzing” an opponent. However, there is a distinction to be made between:

    (a) purporting to answer an argument by “psychoanalyzing” the person giving it, and

    (b) “psychoanalyzing” a person in order to try to understand some odd behavior he is exhibiting.

    Doing (a) amounts to a kind of ad hominem fallacy. But doing (b) is not fallacious. Now, what I was doing in the post above is (b). I was not saying “Coyne and Co. raise such-and-such objections to the cosmological argument. Let me answer those objections by uncovering what I take to be Coyne’s hidden psychological motivation for raising them.” That would be ad hominem. Nor, of course, did I ignore his actual objections. Instead, I explained how they rested on misunderstandings of the arguments he’s attacking. And of course, neither did I say (nor would I ever say) that atheists in general have the psychological motivations described in my post. (Of course they don’t.)

    Instead, what I was saying is: “Coyne and others of a specifically New Atheist bent have a tendency to attack the same straw men over and over and over again, to ignore attempts to explain why they are straw men, to lash out even at fellow atheists who try to point out why these are straw men, etc. This is very odd and unusual, especially since these people are mostly not stupid. It cries out for explanation, and I think the explanation is this…”

    But I agree that one needs to make sure that in doing (b) one does not slide into (a). And if Coyne ever actually tried seriously to respond to something I wrote, I would certainly not even get into (b) in replying to him, let alone (a).

    Indeed, four years ago I really thought Coyne might do so when he said he was “dead serious” about wanting to find out what the best arguments for theism were, said he would read up on Aquinas, etc. I thought “Great, maybe he’s a decent guy after all and this could lead to a more interesting exchange.”

    Hence it was very disappointing to see him almost immediately slide back into New Atheist hack mode and to see his pledge to look into the best arguments, study Aquinas, etc. go right down the memory hole.

    I also want to emphasize that I don’t dismiss the work of Coyne, Dawkins, Dennett, or other New Atheists in general. I think that Dennett, for example, has very interesting things to say on issues in philosophy of mind despite the fact that I think his whole project there is misguided and ultimately rests on certain key fallacies. In general, you can really learn from someone who thinks through a position thoroughly and systematically, even when the position is ultimately doomed. In part this is because an erroneous position typically takes one aspect of the truth and exaggerates its importance, and often people who do that will see things that are missed by people who don’t make the same exaggeration. In part it’s because an intelligent and systematic thinker is unlikely in the first place to be wrong about everything, but will make important discoveries which can be disentangled from his errors. And in part it’s because errors themselves can be instructive in that we can learn how and why certain ideas and lines of argument which seem attractive ultimately won’t work. Similarly, I’m happy to learn whatever I can from Coyne and Dawkins when they write on biology and other areas in which they have some real expertise.

    The trouble is that these guys simply don’t have anything interesting to say on religion, specifically. Many atheists do — e.g. Mackie, Sobel, Oppy, and many others I’ve mentioned over the years — but not the New Atheists. And it’s such a glaring defect in the thinking of otherwise intelligent people that, again, it cries out for a type (b) treatment.

    …..[There] is the question of what we mean, or should mean, or might mean, by “intellectual dishonesty.” Certainly I don’t think Coyne or the more unreasonable people in his combox are consciously and explicitly thinking “I know this isn’t what theists mean, but I’m going to pretend otherwise for rhetorical purposes.” But I don’t think that intellectual dishonesty is usually as blatant or self-conscious as that. I think it is usually a kind of self-deception, and self-deception is, of course, by its nature less than fully conscious. It involves a tendency to avoid letting one’s attention dwell on unpleasant facts or ideas, a tendency to try to focus one’s attention instead on evidence and ideas that will reinforce what one wants to believe, and so forth. It also typically involves a kind of touchiness when some other person raises some uncomfortable piece of evidence that might jeopardize the self-deceiver’s attempt to convince himself that the thing he wants to believe is really true. Think of the alcoholic who doesn’t want to face his problem, lets his mind dwell only on ways of interpreting his behavior which make it seem within the normal range, minimizes behavior that other people would take to be clear evidence of addiction, gets touchy and defensive when the subject arises, etc.

    Now, when someone like Coyne keeps attacking the same straw men over and over and over again, over the course of many years and despite the fact that even people who otherwise agree with him gently advise him to stop doing it, when he gets touchy even with atheist readers who call him out on it, when he doubles down on the rhetoric about how obviously stupid his opponents’ arguments are, etc. — well, that sort of behavior is pretty consistent with that of someone who is interested in convincing himself that he was right all along rather than that of someone who really wants to find out if he is in fact right. That is to say, it sounds like classic self-deception. And that’s the kind of intellectual dishonesty I’m talking about.

    Second, it is true that analytic philosophers do, at least “officially” if (unfortunately) not always in practice, highly value a willingness and ability to try to reconstruct an opponent’s arguments in as plausible and fair-minded a way as possible. Certainly that was something drilled into me in grad school, and I have always been grateful for it. Again, there are analytic philosophers who do not live up to this ideal, and I can certainly think of some analytic philosophers with a prominent online presence who do not even try to live up to it at all when they think that refraining from doing so might further some political cause they favor. Still, it is an ideal that analytic philosophers all know they should strive to live up to. It is also an ideal that Scholastic philosophers value highly.

    Now, as a Scholastic trained in analytic philosophy, it is certainly an ideal I value highly, and I confess that I have very little patience for academics and other intellectuals who don’t value it. I make no apologies for that, because the reason analytic philosophers and Scholastics value it is that philosophy, science, and intellectual pursuits in general are about truth, about finding out how things really are and not merely confirming prejudices, furthering agendas, etc. Trying to give an opponent’s views a fair-minded reading is just part of this project of attaining truth, both because you never know when an opponent might have seen something you’ve missed, and because getting into the practice of reading an opponent’s views fairly is a good way of training oneself not to be blinded by one’s own prejudices.

    So, I don’t see a willingness to try accurately to represent an opponent’s views as merely a special interest of professional philosophers. I would argue that it is partially constitutive of serious inquiry of any kind, and thus of intellectual honesty. Hence, if someone is unwilling to make an effort to represent an opponent’s views accurately, I would say that he is ipso facto intellectually dishonest. So, since Coyne and other New Atheists have demonstrated this sort of unwillingness, they have to that extent shown that they merit the charge of intellectual dishonesty.

    Furthermore, Coyne and Co. make a very big show out of how much they allegedly value evidence, not letting preconceptions color one’s inquiry, etc. So, they can hardly complain when they are asked to look at the evidence concerning what their opponents actually have said, and when they are expected not to let their own preconceptions about what theists believe color their interpretation of arguments like the cosmological argument. And they certainly get touchy when they think their own arguments have been misrepresented. So, they can hardly complain when someone expects them to show the same courtesy to their opponents.

    So, though I don’t doubt that some of these folks in some sense sincerely believe what they say, that doesn’t absolve them of the charge of intellectual dishonesty. Self-deceived people would not be self-deceived if they didn’t in some sense really believe what they say.

    End quote.

  30. Tom Gilson

    You say, “There is a very long and strong tradition of teaching, both in Christian theology and apologetics, that God created humans to be able freely to love and follow him. Such freedom necessitates the possibility of choosing otherwise.”

    Of course there is just as long a tradition of teaching (going back to Augustine), both in Christian theology and apologetics that suggests God’s love is particular or limited to the elect which is chosen from out of a fallen humanity. All of humanity has inherited a sinful nature (from Adam) that limits all people and insures that the natural inclination of all people is to sin, leading to the damnation of all. Except for God’s particular love for the elect, all of humanity would be lost. God’s purpose from eternity past was never to save all of humanity but only the limited number of people, chosen from eternity past. The sacrifice of Christ, although sufficient to save all, is applied only the elect. Those chosen for salvation, choose Christ by the enabling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Apart from this empowering, even the elect would not choose Christ. There is an abundance of Scripture to support such a view. In such a view, God accomplishes exactly what he has always decreed from eternity past. This is the Calvinist perspective, which is held by many Presbyterians, Reformed, Lutherans and evangelicals.

    Such a view accords more nearly with Loftus’ perspective, only God’s purpose or hope is not to save all, as Loftus seems to think is God’s ideal, as well as many evangelical Christians. Of course such a view paints a more sinister picture of God. But of course God being God, he can do as he pleases. His plans and purposes are not subject to human preferences.

  31. Roger,

    The evidentialist argument which Loftus makes and which Feser comments on (etc.) is applied across the board irrespective of which Theism is under review. If you want to add to that argument that in your chosen paradigm volitional/can-do-otherwise is ultimately illusory vis–à–vis the fundamental nature of reality (etc.) then you agree with some slice of theism somewhere and therefore arrive again back at square one (….and in the “useful but not true” deflationary truth value in all your claims…). On the otherhand if you want to add to the evidentialist argument that in your chosen paradigm volitional/can-do-otherwise is ultimately real and irreducible in the ground of being itself then you agree with some slice of theism somewhere and therefore arrive again back at square one.

  32. scbrown

    Tom Gilson says, “John wants a God who would coerce all of us by the irresistible power of deity into believing in him, while leaving us free to make our own choice whether to like God or not. Either that or else he wants a God who would force us both to know and to love him. So much for being human.”

    That perspective is the Calvinistic perspective on salvation, only not applied to all, but only to those predestined to salvation. God effectively, by his Spirit, convinces those whom he chooses, to see their sinfulness and need of a savior. He softens the heart of his chosen ones so that they freely turn to God in repentance and faith with a true love for God in Christ. The acronym for the basic Calvinistic position is T-U-L-I-P with the “I” standing for “irresistible grace,” in other words God’s grace to his chosen is effectual in accomplishing his goal of salvation for the elect. Apart from the powerful working of the Spirit, no one would turn to God. If I were a believer of the Bible, this would be the form of theism I would gravitate toward, because it has the greatest Biblical support. As a Christian, you can either choose to believe the Bible, or some form of philosophical human reality that has it’s origin in human thought, not the Christian Scriptures. The evidence that you think is missing from the Calvinistic worldview is the Scriptures themselves.

  33. Roger,

    We’re glad you agree with a huge swath of Christendom as both Scripture and our first person experience affirm the reality of volitional/can-do-otherwise. What is your evidence that a huge swath of Christendom has in fact gotten it right? Is it, say, “Feelings-full-stop”? Experience-full-stop? Physics-full-stop? Is it, say, that you agree that “Being Itself” is irreducibly volitional/can-do-otherwise? Or what? Agreeing with the majority of Christendom on planet Earth isn’t enough. You’ll need evidence for such claims. The evidential argument seems to be settled in your mind on the side of affirming most of Christendom as getting it right. Which, again, is fine. But as to what that evidence is, well you’ve not said.

  34. Evidence, Hand Waving, Aliens, and Physics:

    Of course we all know that once the buzz word of the moment such as, oh, say, “volition/can-do-otherwise” and physics and etc. comes crashing down in this or that reductio for the Non-Theist’s supposed “concern” well then his dance will just hand-wave as if the point never really mattered anyway. And then his dance will just move on to something else. No self-examination and no unpacking one’s own premises. Just the wave of a hand and a shuffle over into, say, “….well but aliens might ground our reality!! …like… umm… like, like a matrix or something….!!”

    That behavioral pattern is often seen in the proverbial “unexamined life“.

    A segue of sorts:

    There’s a series with its index here:

    http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog/fundamental-reality-index/

    It opens with this:

    “Here is an index for my now complete series on the metaphysical question of what is the most fundamental aspect of reality, giving my own take on the Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Consciousness, and the Argument from Ethics.”

  35. scbrown

    You agree that I have taken the side of a huge swath of Christendom. That huge swath of Christendom is what has basically come out of the Protestant Reformation of the church in the fifteenth century. Early Reformers like Luther and Calvin held strongly to the idea of the bondage of the will. They went in a completely different directions than the Catholic church on many issues including the freedom/bondage of the will. What was unique about the Reformers was their insistence on Scripture being their authority or evidence, as you suggest is needed. You ask, “What is your evidence that a huge swath of Christendom has in fact gotten it right?” That evidence is the preponderance of Scripture that teaches that the human will acts according to its own desires and nature. That nature and desire is always in the direction of sin, as a result of the sinful nature inherited from Adam. So if by free will you mean that a person can act as he/she chooses, yes, but he or she will always choose according to the natural inclination of his/her heart. The apostle Paul is the perfect example of that, as he gives his own testimony in Romans 7 of life apart from Christ. He says he is not able to do the good that he intellectually knows and even appreciates because sin (sinful nature) always leads him to act according to such nature. That’s also the point of Romans 8:7-10.

    The argument you make for the freedom of the will is largely a philosophical argument which for most philosophers is made apart from Scripture and even for Christian philosophers is made mainly from human reason. The Calvinistic and Lutheran idea is derived solely from Scripture. So again, if you are listening, the evidence for such a view is the Bible.

    In these comments, I’m not arguing in favor of one or the other (freedom or bondage). I’m saying that the historic Christian view says the human will is bound by a sinful nature to do what is natural according to that nature. And a choice for Christ is always made under the influence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as Loftus suggests would be ideal, especially if it was carried out in all people. But it isn’t. That’s what the Bible teaches, if one even believes the Bible.

  36. Roger,

    Since you obviously believe in volition/can-do-otherwise, then you obviously agree with the majority / huge swath of Christendom which, like you, affirms that reality. The problem with that belief of yours is this: do you have any evidence to support your claim that volition/can-do-otherwise is a valid truth claim?

    What percentage of Christians affirmed moral choices amid God and Man in the year 100 CE?

  37. Roger,

    You’re arguing for TULIP as the real-deal. That’s fine. It seems to be the only melody you know. So keep singing — it’s not a bother. But you should know that the majority of Christendom disagrees with you. In fact, that same majority argues quite convincingly that history is on its side.

    It seems that our entire first experience in fact affirms what that same majority of Christendom tells us about volition/can-do-otherwise.

    If you want to disagree with the majority of Christendom and with your own first person experience, well you are certainly free to do so.

    Does the evidence lead you in that direction?

    If you want to agree with the majority of Christendom and with your own first person experience, well you are certainly free to do so.

    Does the evidence lead you in that direction?

  38. scbrown

    Interesting, I didn’t see anything about Scripture in your view. Yours is a philosophical argument, not an argument from the Bible. And most people, including Christians, will argue this issue based on their own feelings of independence or autonomy. People are free to choose as they please, but the apostle Paul argues that because of the inclination of people’s heart (sinful) they will not choose for Christ, but will choose against him. That is the free choice that people experience. That’s the Bible’s position, not yours.

  39. Roger,

    Unfortunately for you on the evidential problem of volition/can-do-otherwise, the historical and present majority of Christendom agree with our own first person experience and with the data of psychology 101. Apparently that your melody sings of said history and said majority that they’ve no Scripture is somehow soothing to your ears. QED on Psych 101 and Feser’s described modes of self-deception.

  40. Since, it seems, Roger is like the proverbial “dog with a bone” here is his question asked by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and answered by Dr. Timothy Keller.

    But I’m troubled by the evangelical notion that people go to heaven only if they have a direct relationship with Jesus. Doesn’t that imply that billions of people — Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus — are consigned to hell because they grew up in non-Christian families around the world? That Gandhi is in hell?

    The Bible makes categorical statements that you can’t be saved except through faith in Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12). I’m very sympathetic to your concerns, however, because this seems so exclusive and unfair. There are many views of this issue, so my thoughts on this cannot be considered the Christian response. But here they are:

    You imply that really good people (e.g., Gandhi) should also be saved, not just Christians. The problem is that Christians do not believe anyone can be saved by being good. If you don’t come to God through faith in what Christ has done, you would be approaching on the basis of your own goodness. This would, ironically, actually be more exclusive and unfair, since so often those that we tend to think of as “bad” — the abusers, the haters, the feckless and selfish — have themselves often had abusive and brutal backgrounds.

    Christians believe that it is those who admit their weakness and need for a savior who get salvation. If access to God is through the grace of Jesus, then anyone can receive eternal life instantly. This is why “born again” Christianity will always give hope and spread among the “wretched of the earth.”

    I can imagine someone saying, “Well, why can’t God just accept everyone — universal salvation?” Then you create a different problem with fairness. It means God wouldn’t really care about injustice and evil. (One of the points I made that you never addressed, Roger.)

    There is still the question of fairness regarding people who have grown up away from any real exposure to Christianity. The Bible is clear about two things — that salvation must be through grace and faith in Christ, and that God is always fair and just in all his dealings. What it doesn’t directly tell us is exactly how both of those things can be true together. I don’t think it is insurmountable. Just because I can’t see a way doesn’t prove there cannot be any such way. If we have a God big enough to deserve being called God, then we have a God big enough to reconcile both justice and love.

  41. BillT

    You say, “Since, it seems, Roger is like the proverbial “dog with a bone” here is his question asked…” Bill it seems you are more like the proverbial dog coming back with the same question you asked about from another article. You apparently seem to think I’m concerned about the billions of people who have never heard the gospel. Where does that come from? Talk about the proverbial dog with a bone. Do you have a mirror?

  42. scbrown

    You say, “Apparently that your melody sings of said history and said majority that they’ve no Scripture is somehow soothing to your ears.”

    Since you put little stock in Scripture, perhaps you are not espousing Christianity, but some other religion or the religion of popularity. Is Psych 101 your source book?

  43. Roger,

    Since you claim that the largest swath of Christendom has no Scripture or makes no use of Scripture, it’s just not clear what your point is.

    If you reject data/information about our own humanity in the arena of psychology or any other arena, that’s fine. But don’t expect the Christian to ignore “the rest of reality” when Scripture instructs us to embrace the whole of reality.

    If your proverbial T.O.E. or paradigm does not like seamless coherence well again don’t expect the Christian to follow you in that move.\

  44. scbrown

    I am suggesting that “you” don’t use Scripture, which is unusual for Christianity. Your appeal seems most often to be to philosophy. As you well know, Protestant Christianity has substantially followed Reformational Christian thinking from the time of the Protestant Reformation. One of the major tenets of Reformational thinking has been “sola scriptura.” That leaves you in left field.

  45. Roger,

    “I am suggesting that “you” don’t use Scripture, which is unusual for Christianity…”

    And your premise there is that the largest swath of Christendom “therefore” does not have its roots in Scripture nor in convergence with our universal first person experience.

    Is that an evidence based premise?

    Another premise you now introduce is that sola-scripture ought to lead us away from convergence and synergy with “the rest of reality“.

    Is that premise an evidence based premise on your part?

    Christianity is evidence based and you seem to think all the different arenas of reality ought to be diverging from synergy.

    Huh?

  46. scbrown

    I have often suggested that the huge differences of Biblical interpretation do not bode well for the legitimacy of Christianity. But I have been told repeatedly, by you and Tom G, that most of the differences within the Christian religion are not significant and that there is consistency in the essentials. I’m wondering, is this freedom/bondage of the will difference simply a difference that bears little weight on the core of Christianity? It seems so significant here in this discussion that it could split Christianity down the middle. My point once again, if Christians cannot interpret their own Scriptures, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, then Christianity lacks integrity.

  47. Roger,

    The evidence based seems illusive to you. Your premise is that the fragmentation of the knowledge of good and evil contradicts the landscape affirmed by Scripture and, also, that it contradicts the predictions of Scripture with respect to Man, God, Knowledge, and the means to The Good.

    Now, how is it possible that those premises — which obviously contradict [1] Scripture’s descriptions of our current reality and [2] our universal first person experience — can ever be evidence based?

    Please explain.

  48. scbrown

    Evidence based first person experience would naturally dictate that I can do as I please. I have freedom to choose as I please but when it comes to good and evil, because of the sinful nature that I and all others have inherited from Adam, a person’s natural inclination is to gravitate toward evil. If you are talking about such freedom, of course we can do as we please. But, as far as God is concerned, such freedom is always predictable. That’s the Bible’s position, and as far as many Christians understand their own experiences, accords with their first hand experience. Until regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the human will always acts according to its nature or natural inclination. So you see that the human first hand experience is evidence based and accords with the teaching of the Bible, unlike your point of view. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin (pillars of the Reformation) saw those holding the Arminian position of free will as heretics and standing outside the arena of Christianity. So I guess this is an issue that is of such fundamental character that it splits Christianity down the middle and casts suspicion on Christianity altogether. That’s the feeling I also get from many websites that make freedom/bondage of the will such a fundamental issue.

  49. Roger,

    The largest swath of Christendom and our universal first person experience affirm that we can in fact intentionally move into self-giving within love’s timeless reciprocity amid one another and into/out-of our embrace of The Good.

    It’s not complicated.

    The technical term for it is reality.

    On humanity’s Peaks and Nadirs through the centuries which scripture and our universal first person experience testify of:

    [A] As fragments of our brokenness come closer together over time and knowledge *grows* and we move towards light, is that evidence of No-God?

    [B] As fragments of our brokenness descend and *decrease* in knowledge and we move towards dark, is that evidence of No-God?

    [C] Does it surprise you that God’s kiddies constitute a blemished and spotted group of misfits?

    The evidence based: A, B, and C are tangible facts affirmed by both Scripture and our universal first person experience.

    Evidence based premises regarding both Scripture and the real world as we actually find it all gel with increasing synergy.

    Why do you willingly choose to dance against the evidence?

  50. This is a common fallacious move by Non-Theists….. when it comes to Man’s awareness of The Good, both increasing knowledge and decreasing knowledge of The Good throughout humanity’s many painful peaks and nadirs are couched as evidence of No-The-Good (….or of No-God…).

    It’s fun to gently nudge them into that silly dichotomy and just camp out on it and watch them dance and hedge. They seem unaware that they’re actually affirming how good we can be at denying the obvious by inventing and hiding behind some rather silly premises.

  51. So as I take it, the Calvinist and Lutheran positions are built on silly premises and stand outside the pale of Christianity. You apparently hold this as such a fundamental issue (like Calvin and Luther) that you would exclude those holding a position different from yours as outside of the arena of Christianity. Your exclusionary view does cast suspicion on the validity of Christianity.

  52. Roger,

    Please quote me where I claimed A or B or C were not Christian.

    Please quote me where I claimed an X of this or that Christian was silly.

    You may want to re-read where I described your silly dichotomy with respect to knowledge. The silly premise was specifically pointed out there. Not in the places you just invented and shoved into my mouth.

    You see, this is why the evidence escapes you. You just turn facts on their head and make stuff up and all while ignoring the actual complaint about your premises.

    Let’s try again:

    [A] As fragments of our brokenness come closer together over time and knowledge *grows* and we move towards light, is that evidence of No-God?

    [B] As fragments of our brokenness descend and *decrease* in knowledge and we move towards dark, is that evidence of No-God?

    [C] Does it surprise you that God’s kiddies constitute a blemished and spotted group of misfits?

    So then:

    The difference between us is that you claim “A” (…folks in Christendom disagree…).

    I then affirm or disaffirm your premise (…I affirm it here….people in Christendom disagree….).

    I then show why that fact does not function as a stand-alone and in fact actually agrees with the largest swath of Christendom and so on, and so on.

    You then ignore that last thing and just re-state that people disagree.

    You don’t seem to interact with real facts nor with real words on your real screen.

    Evidence is all around. But if you treat it like the way you are in this thread, well, it’s no wonder you are confused about the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

  53. scbrown

    There are so many exceptions to your so-called rule of freedom of the will, that the rule itself holds no validity. I would assume that God above anyone would have a freedom of the will, but does he have the freedom to sin? No, because he always acts according to his righteous character. Or what about Christians who have reached the final destination of heaven and reached a state of complete sanctification? Do they have the freedom to sin in heaven, or do they also, like God, act in accordance with their redeemed character? Or what about Satan? Is he free to do both good and evil? Or does he always act in accord with his fallen and evil character? Your idea of freedom fails to take into account such examples (we could include fallen and heavenly angels as well), and disproves your point on freedom of the will. Humans are born with a sinful nature and also consistently act according to their nature. That, again, is the Bible’s position and accords with the evidence of experience.

    As you say, “Evidence is all around. But if you treat it like the way you are in this thread, well, it’s no wonder you are confused about the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” You must be talking about yourself.

  54. Roger,

    “There are so many exceptions to your so-called rule of freedom of the will, that the rule itself holds no validity….does [God] have the freedom to sin….?”

    If you don’t believe you can intentionally do anything, that’s fine. Don’t expect the majority of Christendom nor our universal first person experience to agree with you.

    Though it’s odd that you think you cannot intentionally choose to, say, self-sacrifice, to embrace “The Good“. Never mind about the convertibility of the transcendentals as your one, wide brushstroke isn’t discerning enough to stay in the line.

    If you want to define the content of “Being Itself” and “The Good” in a manner in which you attach a logical impossibility to the term and count that as rational, then you’re uninformed about what is being “said” when the Christian employs the term *GOD*.

    Equating the trio of Eden, Privation, and Heaven is just silly and that your conflations expunge what God is and does relative to all three is even worse. Though, that you splash one wide sloppy brush stroke across all three and equate their ontological status is not entirely surprising given your demonstrated inability in this thread to interact with actual facts. You probably think the metaphysics of love’s proposal isn’t necessary for the metaphysics of love and you probably think the metaphysics of two becoming one is the same as the metaphysics of the proposal. But there’s no need to go into that rich soil given that you don’t ask. Instead you just run about splashing paint you know not where.

  55. Roger,

    You don’t seem to think things “through to the end” as it were. Can that which the Christian referents with the term *GOD* in fact create a rock so heavy that He can’t move it? What is stated when the Christian referents “Being Itself“? What about when he referents “Goodness Itself“? What about “The Good“? More generally, how does that unpack with respect to the rational mind’s approach to that which is in all worlds being’s ultimate explanatory terminus as such compels reason into what cannot be less than the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility? From there, then, we find ourselves racing towards the epicenter of our own particular world defined by the Divine Decree of the Imago Dei. Within that paradigm, our paradigm, when it comes to the trio of Eden, Privation, and Heaven we find them all pressing in on the following caution to Non-Theists in general: You probably think the metaphysics of love’s proposal isn’t necessary for the metaphysics of love and you probably think the metaphysics of two becoming one – of a wedding – is the same as the metaphysics of the proposal. It is at that juncture where you will need to stay with the Christian if you mean to interface with the Christian’s metaphysic. It is at that juncture where you will need to delineate some of the necessary differences with respect to the metaphysics of love when one is within (….on the one hand…) the arena of “God” or “Trinity” as opposed to when one is within (…on the other hand…) the arena of contingent beings in relation to the Necessary Being (…God/Trinity…). But, again, there’s no need to go into that rich soil given that you don’t ask. Instead you just run about splashing paint you know not where.

  56. scbrown

    You have a unique way of trying to squirm out of a loss. You speak a lot of nonsense that makes no sense to anyone, hoping that somehow you have totally confused those who disagree with you. It doesn’t work. Your comment makes no sense to anyone, thereby admitting your failure to make a valid point. Nice chatting.

  57. Roger,

    Probably about three times so far I’ve taken you up on your confusion with an offer to you to quote a part that is tripping you up and what you suppose it might be discussing so that we can work through it. So far you’ve offered accusations without ever following up for clarification. It’s a pattern of yours. I see no need to replay that dance a fourth time.

    On your bizarre premise, explain how “The Good” not doing evil is problematic. Be sure to include in your reply what [A] “The Good” entails and what [B] “The Good Minus Something” entails. Can A be B? Can Being be Non-Being? You’re premise must answer “yes”. So please explain your premise.

  58. Roger,

    If you want to count the times you’ve not taken me up on an opportunity to quote/clarify see the last few threads we’ve shared on this blog. As for your claim that “Being” to be free He must be able to be “Non-Being“, to not exist, feel free to clarify and justify. Perfect Freedom may be a metaphysic you’re not willing to embrace.

  59. Good Day to All,

    I know that I am late to comment on this post, and I know that some of what I say will be the same as what others have already mentioned, but given that this post concerns the so-called issue of “divine hiddenness”, I would like to comment anyway.

    Point 1: So, when speaking of the issue of divine hiddenness, and the issue of so-called ‘rational unbelievers’, the first point to note is that, technically, no amount of evidence that God could provide would ever be sufficient to non-coercively overcome a disbeliever’s doubt if the disbeliever did not wish to be convinced. Indeed, given the ability for hyper-skepticism to create doubt no matter what the evidence is, it must be pointed out that no matter what God did, a skeptic could always—if he wanted—attribute the event to aliens, or a hallucination, or that he was in a computer simulation, etc. And skeptic Michael Shermer even has a “law” which states that any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence would be, to us, indistinguishable from God; as such, atheism and naturalism are thus unfalsifiable if they wish to be given that any seemingly miraculous event could always be attributed to aliens rather than God. In fact, I know a prominent atheist who admitted that even if the stars spelled out the Apostles Creed and the whole world saw it, he would likely go mad or believe everyone had gone mad rather than believe that God had made a miracle occur. So, the point here is that even God could not freely convince certain unbelievers to believe in Him no matter how much evidence He might provide; and since God knows this to be the case, then this fact no doubt factors into His thinking when He provides the evidence that He does.

    Point 2: When speaking about rational unbelievers, it is actually questionable whether any such individuals exist, at least if they are neurologically-typical. Indeed, one can doubt both the “rational” part and the “unbeliever” part of the idea of a ‘rational unbeliever’. For example, I have seen some of the reasons unbelievers use to claim not to believe in God, and it is at least questionable whether those reasons can be considered rational. Next, for neurologically-typical individuals, it is plausible to question whether any such individuals truly are unbelievers. Indeed, I am actually just finishing up a 12,000 word essay which claims that it is plausible, and even reasonable, to believe that neurologically-typical individuals who claim to be unbelievers actually do believe in God, or, at the very least, do not actually disbelieve for rational reasons but rather for psychological and/or moral ones. So again, the idea of a rational unbeliever is at least open to debate.

    Point 3: If rational unbelievers with “open hearts” do indeed exist—and I do not doubt that some do—there is evidence to suggest that such unbelievers are neurologically-atypical, such as being high-functioning autistics, and so their unbelief is non-culpable, just like a color-blind person cannot be held responsible for not being able to see the color ‘red’. And indeed, there is mounting evidence to suggest that atheism is linked to autism; consequently, I think it can be predicted that rational unbelievers are also people who are neurologically-atypical. Thus, the rational unbeliever is neurologically-atypical, whereas the neurologically-typical individual is not actually a rational unbeliever.

    Con’t…

  60. Con’t…

    Point 4: Now, with all the above points in mind, when it comes to the issue of the “non-obviousness” of God, not only are there a number of good reasons for God to not make Himself obvious, but, on Christian theism, we would actually expect God not to be obvious given what we are told God is and what God wants.

    Sub-Point A: First, when we understand that life is a test—a test concerning our desire to follow God’s rules or our own, and thus a test shown in our actions, which are a true manifestation of our character and our desire—we thus realize that, in such a situation, God’s existence (and all that it entails, such as heaven and hell) cannot be obvious or else this would skew the test to such degree that it would not be a legitimate test. To understand this, consider this analogy. Say that a person suddenly stumbles upon a million dollars. Now, the person could either steal the million dollars or not. But in the person’s particular world, which is a hyper-surveillance state, there are actually hundreds of cameras in the area filming everything, and, in fact, there are three police officers in the area looking directly at the person in question. Furthermore, the person in question knows that he is being watched and that the whole event is being recorded. The person also knows that the sentence for theft is life in prison. So, in such a situation, would the person truly be able to do what he really wanted to do concerning the million dollars or would the knowledge of certain capture and the fear of punishment be so overwhelming that the person would not steal the million dollars even though he wanted to. Furthermore, could the person’s true and free character come forth given that the person would always know that he would be captured and punished if he ever broke the rules. No, it could not. By contrast, if the person knew that the police might be in the area, but he was not sure if they were or not, then the person would be much freer to express his true character by either stealing the money or not. And so it is the same with God: if God is utterly obvious, then most people, in practice, would not be able to truly express their character and desires in the moral choices that they make given that the fear of punishment and certain capture would be so coercive that it would make them act a certain way even if they did not wish to do so. By contrast, if God is present, but not obvious, then there is knowledge of sin and potential punishment, but also doubt that the sin and punishment are actually real, thus leaving the person in a true state of non-coercive freedom where he can be tested in the most honest and genuine way possible.

    Sub-Point B: Now, in saying all of the above, it should also be pointed out that even if God was obvious, there might still be people who would reject Him and chose disobedience over obedience. But in such a case, the rebel’s sin would be that much greater given his greater knowledge of God’s existence. Thus, in a way, God’s non-obviousness is also a mercy to sinners, for their punishment would be astronomically greater if God was obvious and they rejected him anyway. And I think the fact that Satan’s ultimate punishment is viewed as being much greater than man’s is a testament to this fact. Furthermore, this is in much the same way as would be the case when a criminal who is rather ignorant of the law that he breached is treated much more leniently by a judge than a man who was absolutely certain of the law, had been warned by the police about it, and breached it anyway. Indeed, the latter will be harshly punished, whereas the former, not so much. And so God’s non-obviousness is also done as a mercy to the sinners who would reject God no matter what.

    Con’t…

  61. Con’t….

    Sub-Point C: It can also be noted that God’s main desire is that all men be saved, and since God being obvious could actually lead some men to resent Him and deny salvation, then it is not clear that God being obvious is necessarily in keeping with His main desire and His loving nature. Again, think of the police. Although the police are there for the good of the people, someone who sees the police on every street corner, and watching everything that they do, might actually come to resent the police rather than appreciate them. Indeed, in certain people, a certain disdain and willful disobedience (see Point B) might come about precisely because the police are so obvious. And it could be the same with God. Thus, the non-obviousness of God could be leading more people to salvation rather than away from it.

    Sub-Point D: Finally—and I think this is the most important point, plus the most unique one—the non-obviousness of God is also necessary for believers! Why? Well, think about what unbelievers often accuse believers of doing: namely, believing merely for self-interested reasons and as a means of avoiding hell. So, in light of this, why is the non-obviousness of God relevant? Because by making His existence non-obvious, and possibly doubtful—although not reasonably doubtful—God thus creates the conditions for believers to love Him in a truly genuine and selfless way. Consider this illustration: when a husband loves his wife, but the wife loves the husband back and totes on him endlessly, it is always possible to view the husband’s love as self-interested rather than selfless. After all, the wife constantly gives back to the husband and he might be staying with the wife not because he genuinely loves her, but because she gives him stuff and treats him well. By contrast, now imagine that after five years of marriage, the wife suddenly falls into a coma and a vegetative state. Now, the husband has no idea if his wife, as a person, is even still alive or not, or if she will ever come out of the coma. But now imagine that for the next fifty years, the husband visits his wife daily, cleans her, takes care of her, and still loves her even as he is unsure if she still really exists or not. Now, in such a situation, the husband has the opportunity to truly and genuinely love his wife with no guarantee of reciprocation. The husband’s love is about as selfless as possible, with very little doubt that he is doing what he does simply because he loves his wife, not because he is getting something from her. But now think of this situation with God. Take Mother Theresa for example. Early in her life, she had a number of intense divine experiences, but then those experiences went away and she even doubted God during her long career. Why would God allow this? Because by doing so, Mother Theresa could show a selfless love which could not fully or deeply manifest itself if God constantly and continually reciprocated to her. After all, we are told to be perfect, like God is perfect, and God selflessly loves the very sinners who either hate Him or do not believe that He exists, and so by being non-obvious, God is also giving believers the chance to love Him just like He loves us: namely, in a truly selfless way.

    Sub-Point E: As a side-note, it should also be noted that even if a person does not believe in God’s existence, this does not necessarily stop the person from desiring that God exists and acting like He does, much the same way that a woman who does not know if she can get pregnant can nevertheless still hope to have a baby and prepare a room as if a baby is coming. So this is also a key point: that a person does not need to believe in God to act as if He does and desire that He does, and such a course of action, in my view, will count for much in the eyes of God.

    So, in the end, when all these points are considered, it is clear that God has very good reasons not to be obvious.

    Cheers!

    Damian Michael
    http://www.reconquistainitiative.com
    http://www.damianmichael.com

  62. We find rational disbelief on the one hand and self-deception on the other hand. The former is intellectually non-culpable and can exist in this or that particular human being at this or that particular time in this or that human being’s particular life. And yet that very same rational disbelief is found intimately amalgamated with the expressly ubiquitous In General category – which rationally and coherently affirms that all human beings engage in trading away some contour of *truth* (…the price…) for the sake of some contour of the *self* (…the gain…). We all do that on more levels than we care to share – and Psychology 101 will suffice as our universal first person experience affirms Scripture’s descriptive.

    The ubiquitous-ness of that (…our…) own interior human stock-exchange amid truth-trading isn’t the point of this comment, but, it is mentioned simply to offer background information on Romans 1 as it relates to the following links in which some apply Romans 1 by zooming in on the more distal part of the that Stock Exchange’s spectrum at the “now/specific” truth-trading with respect to “the Christian God” while others apply it by zooming in on the Stock Exchange’s more proximal part of the spectrum with respect to the more general and fundamental essence which our humanity ubiquitously shares. With that qualification, the following offer context:

    Ed Feser talks about intentionally repressing knowledge and (…rightly…) argues that while many No-God claims *are* intellectually culpable, not *every* claim of No-God is born out of “repressing God” as he zooms in on the more now/specific truth-trading with respect to “the Christian God” at [EF1] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/10/repressed-knowledge-of-god.html and [EF2] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/10/repressed-knowledge-of-god-part-ii.html and [EF3] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/10/koukl-responds.html and, then, up front, Greg Koukl agrees with Feser at [GK] http://www.str.org/articles/when-your-argument-lacks-impact#.Viy4s-9dE6Y And, then, Greg Koukl leaves that part of the spectrum and zooms in on the more general and fundamental essence which our humanity shares and (….rightly….) argues that mankind shares in that ubiquitous essence at [GK1] http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/10/are-atheists-just-suppressing-the-truth-in-unrighteousness.html and [GK2] http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/10/a-response-to-edward-feser-on-romans-1.html

    Feser and Koukl have far, far more convergence than they do divergence. Like most sane apologists, in his essay “When Your Argument Lacks Impact” at http://www.str.org/articles/when-your-argument-lacks-impact#.Viy4s-9dE6Y Koukl affirms rational disbelief as we recall the obvious – that – like Feser, much of Koukl’s work is ipso facto engrained in interfacing with our own (their own) culture’s peculiar brand of Atheist:

    “But arguments have limits; they don’t always work. When that happens, some are tempted to think that arguments themselves are useless. This is a mistake. If you’re searching for that perfect line of logic capable of subduing any objection, you’re wasting your time. There is no magic, no silver bullet, no clever turn of thought or phrase that’s guaranteed to compel belief. Yes, rational reasons can be a barrier to belief. The Christian message simply doesn’t make sense to everyone, or it raises questions or counter-examples that make it difficult to even countenance Christianity until those issues are addressed.” (by Greg Koukl)

    In addition to the earlier quote of Feser discussing *some* New Atheist’s and their self-deception (….see comment #30 which opens with The L.S. Summary moving further….” etc….) there is also Greg Bahnsen’s work in his book “The Apologetic Implications of Self-Deception”. Greg Bahnsen has a brief intro at http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA207.htm and also a 200 page PDF by same author on same topic (Self Deception) is at https://biblicalthinker.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/the-apologetic-implications-of-self-deception.pdf

    Both Koukl and Feser are correct and their “divergence” comes by which part of the human experience they’re zooming in on. Koukl is more accurate with respect to Romans 1 as it speaks to our ubiquitous truth-trading stock-exchange whereas Feser takes that opening theme and moves it further downstream – well beyond Acts 17’s Unknown “Other/Outer” and also well beyond Romans 2’s “Ought” – and over into the specific revelation of the God of Israel, perhaps even the revealed Christ – which is actually much farther downstream than what Romans 1 is identifying or pinpointing in Mankind. Feser *is* perfectly correct and in his lens we have to be careful not to go racing ahead of any ontological real estate which Koukl seems to be claiming. Paul’s thesis seems obviously engrained with a statement on Mankind’s culpability where Knowledge/Perception is concerned and echoes the tone of Romans 1 such that we find, in all of us, in Mankind, perceived truth volitionally traded away for the sake of the self such that, shall it be the *truth* (…whatever that truth is…) or shall it be the *self* – well the volitional trading away of some contour of truth in order to gain some contour of self then ensues – and *that* is *ubiquitous*. As for embracing and/or rejecting The Good, such carries us to God in and by the “….convertibility of the transcendentals….”, and while that is a separate topic all on its own, it is mentioned to provide relevant background information on our own humanity as it relates to what ultimately lands within non-culpable and culpable truth-trading.

    Rational Disbelief Exists:

    The concern seems centered on two categories of culpability at the inflection point of the Perception/Response curve: [1] The In General category – which rationally and coherently affirms that all human beings engage in trading away some contour of Truth (…the price…) for the sake of some contour of the Self (….the gain…), and [2] the This-Specific-Atheist category – which takes the first category and zooms that lens in to look at the express interior ruminations of all claims of no-god as opposed to some claims of no-god.

    Scripture affirms our universal first person experience:

    The existential and the intellectual both saturate mankind’s experiential geography and it is plausibly a worthwhile effort to incorporate the entire map. The peculiarity that is found ubiquitously tasted by all of us through the eons of the human experience is a certain offence against love’s grain at some seam somewhere in life, in our own life, and, a certain offense against truth’s grain at some seam somewhere in life, in our own life, such that Reason’s attempt to hide behind the morality of “as-if” fails and Reason is herself found factually contradicting the constitutional grain of reality, as it were. Such is so utterly concrete that the one among us who denies his own membership in humanity’s stock-exchange in truth-trading is immediately counted a liar – or a lunatic – and we know this given the fact that should one among us today claim of themselves the moral spotlessness which Christ claimed of Himself the reaction would be…… ubiquitous.

    The trading away of the irreducibly obvious – of both truth and love – for the gain of the obscure, or for the gain of the unintelligibility of the eliminative, or for some *isolated* or *privatized* contour of i/self – and so on – is a dance which we all, unfortunately, partake of amid perceived contours of reality. Such obtains in a thousand different forms and in a thousand different fashions amid a thousand different cultures amid a thousand different norms. But the dance itself, that mode itself, the trading itself, is of a singular nature, or of a singular archetype. All of that sums to nothing less than the trading away of truth for the sake of the Self which all of us, both Christian and Non-Christian, volitionally and intentionally move within at many and various seams amid interfacing with “The Good”. We so often freely embrace, say, self-giving just we so often embrace, say, the isolated gain of the isolated self. Such volitional and free motions are, unquestionably, intimately related to the factual pains of our own privation. We find that love’s peculiar acquiescence of the Self – being found ceaselessly within the Triune God – is not a motion which Man ought to think he can simultaneously avoid and yet somehow come to know wholeness. Reality cannot be otherwise, as the Self-Sacrificing God makes Man in His Own Image and – therein – is the way of it.

    All of that finds Mankind – in his privation – volitionally and freely and intentionally engaged and the layers and levels of psychology that could be unpacked there could fill libraries.

    Can large swaths of “that” effervesce upward into the conscious act of this or that particular Atheist?

    Well of course.

    Similarly, does all of that effervesce upward into the conscious act of every single human claim of no-god that has ever passed the lips of any human being?

    Well of course not.

    Okay – STOP: That is a question about intellectual culpability in a specific human being at a specific point in time in his or her particular life. It is *not* about that more fundamental and moral culpability – that in general stock-exchange of Truth Trading for the gain of the Self described earlier and which is, unfortunately, ubiquitous. The distinction here is intentional in order to drill down to the question at hand. Granted, the intellectual and the moral are not separate boxes floating in midair entirely disconnected from one another, but, then also, “A” is not “B”. Is there intimate interplay? Yes. Are they identical? No. The danger comes when we try to treat them as-if they are in fact identical or when we try to treat them as-if they are different but then fail to account for that intimate interplay.

    Today’s culture is ripe with that dance and to disaffirm the very real intellectual and existential “locations” of different human beings as they (…perhaps for the first time…) encounter these kinds of questions would be assuming the role of the ostrich. Fortunately, neither Feser nor Koukl (….nor Gilson.…) have their head in the sand.

  63. Roger,

    With respect to #56, #57, and #58, the following came up elsewhere and I thought I’d put it here to add some clarification as to the nature of the proposal contrasted to the nature of the wedding and so on. Keep in mind that when the Christian referents “reality’s irreducible substratum” he is referencing “Trinity” and the relational nature therein (…etc…). So, with that said:

    The résumé and the proposal and the wedding and the begetting……..

    With respect to the premise of …..Sin A or Sin B or Sin C or Sin D or Sin E, and, well, “IF” Sin A or B or C or D or E, “THEN” one will not ultimately see Man’s final felicity – Man’s true good…., a few points of clarification:

    Our syntax has to be precise. Sin matters. The purpose of man and reality matters. “The Good” matters. *Yet* our sins are not what decide our fate or inheritance. Not ultimately. The résumé which we freely and volitionally hand to God is what decides what we inherit.

    [A] If on said résumé I am listed as the all-sufficient, then I’m given my preference, my preferred heaven, my first love – the isolated or privatized self – the “Pure-I”, that which is Me/Man minus God (….or minus immutable love….).

    [B] If on said résumé the all-sufficient is found instead in the immutable love of the Necessary Being – Who Himself Pours Out, and Fills – if the all-sufficient is found in Christ – then I am given my preference, my preferred Heaven, my first love – the community or unicity or wholeness of self/other – of God in Man / Man in God – and therewith – finally – immutable love wherever I shall motion, whether above my head or beneath my feet or into my own chest – ad infinitum.

    Neither our sins nor our righteousness can win the day. Only God’s righteousness wins the day. Only Christ. Our condition does not matter. Only our volition and will to freely embrace Life, to freely embrace Christ. Changes will come following that interface, but we all change at different paces and through different degrees. Just ask Peter and others in the book of Acts and in Corinth ….and so on all the way up through modernity and the Christian journey.

    It’s the résumé which the applicant submits. It’s not the applicant.

    Reason and logic press in and compel our definitions:

    The résumé vs. the applicant cannot be some other way in any possible world given the two facts of [1] the Decree of the Imago Dei and [2] the fact that we are contingent beings. We cannot rise to the level of being our own means given the end that is the immutable love of God – the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

    That’s on the pure force of logic – and that Scripture’s metanarrative comports with that is as expected. Going one step further we find that the same goes for love and contingent beings:

    It is logically necessary that the metaphysics of love house love’s proposal, just as it is logically necessary that the metaphysics of love’s proposal house two possible outcomes amid self/other with respect to the contingent being’s reply, just as it is logically necessary that the metaphysics of that proposal are not and cannot be the same metaphysics which we will find in the Wedding which follows the proposal as “proposing” and “begetting” are not identical.

    Being careful with terms:

    We must always delineate some of the necessary differences with respect to the metaphysics of love when one is within (….on the one hand…) the arena of “God” or “Trinity” as opposed to when one is within (…on the other hand…) the arena of contingent beings in relation to the Necessary Being (…God/Trinity…).

    Conclusion:

    One of the reasons I am a Christian is that in that paradigm alone reason and logic are satisfied that love’s timeless reciprocity is in fact a contour of reality’s irreducible and immutable substratum and is thereby seamless with the rational. What the rational mind claims as ontic-truth is thereby in fact the highest ethic vis-à-vis love’s timeless reciprocity. Reason as truth-finder is compelled by the unrelenting demands of both logic and love to chase after Christ, and after His Means, and after His Ends.

  64. I came across this post on Google. The Gospel was simple. Simple enough even for the unconverted to comprehend. It is not about evidence, only faith alone. That’s why religion has failed and will continue to fail the masses. That’s why people across the world from many religions claim to know of God or a Deity, and personally experience the divine, not because of a holy book but because of faith. God is too great to be monopolized by any religion and yet, God is humble enough to acknowledge the smallest child and the meekest person. This truth alone is enough to rouse the indignation of organized religions which depend on devoted adherents, while defying the demands of Atheists who insist by “Evidence Alone”.

    Faith = Costs $0