Why Hebrews 11:1 Doesn’t Mean Faith Is Without Evidence

Why Hebrews 11:1 Doesn’t Mean Faith Is Without Evidence

Edited and republished from a post on November 15, 2013.

Jerry Coyne’s recent Slate article on science and faith gives another chance to clarify the contentious meaning of “faith.” In that article he presents three religious and one putative scientific usage of the word, then comments,

The three religious claims (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, respectively) represent faith as defined by philosopher Walter Kaufmann: “intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person.” Indeed, there is no evidence beyond revelation, authority, and scripture to support the religious claims above, and most of the world’s believers would reject at least one of them. To state it bluntly, such faith involves pretending to know things you don’t. Behind it is wish-thinking, as clearly expressed in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Kaufman’s definition as quoted here isn’t bad. If Coyne had stuck with it he might have stayed on solid ground. Oh, well.

Misunderstanding Hebrews 11:1 and Faith

Coyne points to one Christian source, Hebrews 11:1, and tells us it clearly expresses that faith is wish-thinking. Which is an odd conclusion for him to draw: Hebrews 11:1 by itself doesn’t express anything clearly. It’s part of an extended discourse on faith. It wasn’t intended to be read on its own. Ripped out of context, its full meaning is impossible to discern.

We can’t review the whole book of Hebrews, but we can at least look at what else the author of Hebrews has to say about faith. There’s another semi-definitional usage in Hebrews 11:6:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Knowing What We Have Not Seen

Christian (and Judaic) faith is about believing in the reality of God and his goodness to those who seek him. This is the hope that’s referred in verse 1. Of course it’s not seen. Does that mean, however, that it involves “pretending to know things you don’t know”? Not at all. We know all kinds of things we haven’t seen and can’t see. Up until the 1960s we hadn’t seen the far side of the moon, but we knew it was cold and lifeless. Two months ago a long-lost Monet was found in storage at The Louvre. No one had seen it in decades, but everyone who heard the news, and who knew anything about Monet, instantly knew its style was Impressionistic.

All it takes is enough information and good reasoning, and you can draw a sound conclusion about things you haven’t seen.

Bad Evidences, Unsound Reasoning, Unreasonable People?

There is unseen knowledge in Christian faith, but it, too, is a matter good conclusions drawn from relevant evidence and sound reasoning. It rests on a foundation nearly as firm as our knowledge of the other side of the moon or the style of  a newly discovered Monet. Not quite, of course: the evidence and reasoning behind Christian faith are not sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person.

Still there are many among us who think we have good evidence and we’re using sound reason to conclude that God exists and rewards his seekers. Jerry Coyne and Peter Boghossian, from whom Coyne borrowed his definition of faith, would undoubtedly dispute that. They could argue in any of three ways: that the evidence is not there, that our chain of reasoning is unsound, and/or that we are not reasonable people.

Unreasonable People?

I’ve seen some atheists rush straight to that last option: that Christians are not reasonable people. I keep hearing “the title ‘Thinking Christian’ is an oxymoron.” But that would mean Blaise Pascal, James Clark Maxwell, Galileo Galilei, Michael Faraday, William Wilberforce, St. Patrick, and many others like them were unthinking, unreasoning persons, which is obviously wrong.

Some atheists say that Christians are unreasonable for accepting non-empirical, non-scientific evidences in favor of our beliefs. To define reasonability that way, however, is to beg the question. It’s a logical fallacy, which means it’s not rational thinking; for the reasonability of non-scientific knowledge is the very point in question.

In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, the person who says Christians are by definition unreasonable people reveals him or herself as an irrational person, at least as far as that claim goes.

Who’s Pretending To Know Things They Don’t Know?

Coyne’s article is about whether science involves faith, which he denies. I don’t disagree with him much, for while I think there’s a kind of faith involved in science, it’s not the same as what’s involved in religion. Reasonable people can and do disagree — often, and persistently — about fundamental religious convictions. Reasonable people really ought not disagree so often and persistently about basic science. In mature sciences they rarely do. So while the faith of Christianity and the faith of science have some things in common, they also differ in significant ways. Let’s grant that to Jerry Coyne.

But we cannot reasonably grant that Christian faith involves pretending to know things we don’t know. But there is much evidence for God. It ranges from philosophical to documentary to archaeological to experiential; for Christianity claims that God works in history in identifiable ways.

In fact, here we can return Hebrews 11, where the author speaks of men and women who sought God and were objectively rewarded for doing so. Abraham founded a nation. Noah survived a flood. Moses led a people out of Egypt, with many signs and wonders accompanying. Joshua led the same people to the conquest of Canaan, again with signs and wonders.

Faith Tied to Evidence

Did all this really happen, or are we just playing pretend-knowledge games again? Let’s not jump ahead too quickly to that question, because if we do, we’ll miss answering an earlier one: does Hebrews 11:1 describe a wish-thinking sort of faith? No. In context, it’s speaking of people having faith that’s tied to observable evidence. If Hebrews 11:1 is about wish-thinking, then the author changes the meaning of “faith” right afterward when he launches into his history of the faithful.

And consider Hebrews 2:3-4:

It was declared at first by the Lord [the reference here is to Christ on earth], and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Does that sound like Coyne’s version of evidence-free faith?

Consider also the entire letter to the Hebrews, which is a closely argued explanation for how the way of Christ fulfills and supersedes the ancient way of the Hebrew religion. This is reasoning in action. Granted, the letter contains less appeal to contemporary evidence than, say, the Gospel of John, but that’s for good reason: it was written to people who needed a different kind of question answered. But evidence and reasoning are by no means absent.

Again: Who’s Pretending To Know Things They Don’t Know?

In this post I have not explored whether we have sufficient evidence to support Christian faith today. I’m convinced we do, but that wasn’t my topic of discussion. This has been about the meaning of faith in Hebrews 11:1. In its original context, as intended by its original author, it simply could not have meant “wish-thinking.” Still Jerry Coyne, Peter Boghossian, and others tell us with great assurance that it does. When they do that, they display an unreasoning willingness to draw dogmatic conclusions based on conveniently selected, incomplete, context-free evidence.

They pretend to know things they don’t know.

P.S. I’ve grown accustomed to people objecting to my using the Bible to support my position on faith. It’s happened so often I’ve begun aggregating the objections and my answers. Let me add here: if anyone objects to my using the Bible to explain how Coyne and Boghossian misread the meaning of a passage in the Bible, I’m going to petition your school to lower your GPA.

Image Credit(s): Ben White/Unsplash.

33 thoughts on “Why Hebrews 11:1 Doesn’t Mean Faith Is Without Evidence

  1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

    We are in agreement that your article does not provide sufficient evidence to justify the Christian faith, and I recognize that this was not your intention; however, the hermeneutical game you are playing is a misrepresentation of the biblical definition of faith.

    First, an examination of context. Hebrews was purportedly written by Paul the Apostle to Jewish Christians who, either due to disagreement with Judaic law or persecution, considered reverting to Judaism. The author admonishes the audience as to the superiority of Christ and offers encouragement by citing a number of examples where faith is victorious.

    The beginning premise of Hebrews 11 is a definition of faith, followed by a series of examples in which faith is used. In following the pattern established by verse 1, the author uses motifs of not seeing and not knowing, yet obeying God anyway. The entirety of faith is a commitment to God, even when such commitment does not appear to be outwardly rational. Using both the definition and examples, we can reasonably conclude that faith has some measure of uncertainty attached to it. Faith likewise necessitates not only obedience but also belief, as seen in verse 6: ” But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is…”

    Now, in examining both the context of the epistle and the examples given in Hebrews 11, we can very clearly see that faith is belief without evidence. In each of the examples given by the author, the character is relying upon a promise ‘as of yet unfulfilled,’ undergoes a hardship, and has that promise fulfilled. The trait that each of these characters are said to demonstrate is faith, and function as “the evidence of things not seen.” Now, if the these characters had witnessed God (viz. had objective knowledge that God either exists or would fulfill his promise) faith would be obviated because all uncertainty would be erased. But, acting in spite of their anxiety/uncertainty, their endeavors are considered all the more righteous, and each of them are rewarded. The fact that these characters remained committed to God is considered evidence for his existence/righteousness, consistent with faith’s definition as “the evidence of things not seen,” and this is the crux of the author’s argument.

    Once again taking the audience into consideration, we can see how this interpretation is strong. The people to whom this letter was written are undergoing persecution for their beliefs, and the author admonishes them to keep the faith, citing examples of those who committed to God even when this commitment does not appear to be outwardly rational. The entire argument is summed in saying that because God kept his promises to these characters, who also endured the same anxiety/uncertainty you are, he will likewise reward you if you remain committed to him. Their commitment is evidence that God exists and “that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” The message is meant to boost their morale, and as a rhetorical device, is highly effective.

    Nonetheless, the mere fact that these characters, real or not, performed some great feat because they believed in God is not evidence that such a being exists. The same argument could be used for every martyr of every faith, be they monotheists or polytheists. If faith is the evidence of things not seen, then faith could lead us to just about being or idea we wanted, and that is not a rational ground for belief.

    I agree with you when you say “But we cannot reasonably grant that Christian faith involves pretending to know things we don’t know.” Hebrews clearly indicates that one cannot know God exists, which is why faith is required.

    I have faith that one day you shall come to see reason. But then again, I don’t know that to be true.

    Your friend,
    VOR

  2. VOR, you know not whereof you speak. Please take the time to read this and learn, for you have much to learn. (And I want to find out why this version of a WordPress theme won’t allow me to number a list properly. I know html well enough to know what I’m doing, but something in the CSS is overwriting my best efforts. Anyway…)

    • No one knows who wrote Hebrews. Paul has been named as one possibility, but so have Apollos and several others.

    • The beginning of Hebrews 1 is not a redefinition. It’s a statement of what faith does, not what faith is exclusively and authoritatively defined to be, in place of all other definitions.

    • What we do not see is explained in an article I wrote for The Stream. The uncertainty has to do with current and future experience, not with known facts.

    • Belief is a buzzword often used by atheists to mean something other than knowledge, but epistemologists know better, and maybe you do too.

    • Belief without evidence” is belied by Hebrews 2:3-4, which I mentioned above.

    • You beg the question if you think that the patriarchs’ or prophets’ belief was without reason. They heard from God. Can you give me some good reason to think that wouldn’t produce valid knowledge? I don’t mean knowledge that could be intersubjectively validated, but knowledge that they would know for sure to be knowledge.

    • Your statement, “Now, if the these characters had witnessed God (viz. had objective knowledge that God either exists or would fulfill his promise) faith would be obviated because all uncertainty would be erased” plays straight into the question I raised at The Stream. Either Jesus was about the business of destroying faith by erasing uncertainty (which is not what he was doing!) or your definition of faith is wrong, which is what I’ve been saying all along.

    • “The people to whom this letter was written are undergoing persecution for their beliefs, and the author admonishes them to keep the faith, citing examples of those who committed to God even when this commitment does not appear to be outwardly rational.” You misinterpret. The author used rational evidences throughout the letter to show that the Christian faith was consistent with and yet superior to the Hebrew religion they were departing.

    Therefore, he concludes several times along the way, they should continue with it. But their religion had not heretofore emphasized faith, so he had to address the question of whether that was inconsistent with their religion. Hebrews 11 accomplishes that. It also gives them strong examples of faith to follow. But in no sense is it meant as defining that faith is belief without evidence. You’re reading that into it, partly because you ignore the zillions of times God’s people made reference to evidence in support of belief and obedience, both in the OT and the NT, and partly because you misread Hebrews 11:1 as a definition, which it isn’t.

    • You italicize your point that there “is not evidence [here] that such a being exists.” Fine. There’s also no recipe for a latte here. That’s not what the passage was intended to do.

    • Does Hebrews indicate we can know God exists? No. It also doesn’t show that lattes exist. Why should it? It was written to people who were already convinced on other grounds. It was written to show them that God had revealed himself in a new way, and that this way was consistent with but superior to his prior revelation. And yet consider 2:3-4, 2:9, 4:14, both of which imply knowledge of the resurrection, as does much of the rest of chapters 8 through 10, and also 12:2.

    • Finally, you seem to assume that just because no objective evidence was mentioned in chapter 11, none existed for the persons mentioned there. I hardly know where to begin showing you how wrong you are. There was the miraculous birth of Isaac for Abraham. There was the work of God through Joseph. There were the plagues on Egypt, the Exodus, the water from the rock, the manna, for Joshua. There was the fleece for Gideon. There were the miracles associated with Elijah and Elisha. There was the destruction of Sennacherib’s army for Isaiah and his contemporaries and for later prophets.

    Do not make the mistake of thinking these people had no objective evidence. Learn to read, not just skim for and parrot what you want to find.

  3. I’ll address each of your bullet points in order.

    1) I am aware that Paul may not have necessarily wrote Hebrews. Hence I say “Hebrews was purportedly written by Paul the Apostle,” and refer to the author as ‘the author’ for the remainder of my comments.

    2) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, [faith is] the evidence of things not seen.” This is quite obviously a defintion. I believe the interpretations that use “conviction” instead of evidence is more applicable in the context of this chapter, but I conceded this point as a matter of courtesty. Convictions by their nature do not require evidence, and neither does faith.

    3) You are correct in that uncertainty does not have anything to do with known facts. That seems to be a bit of a tautology.

    4) I am aware there is a distinction between belief and knowledge. The nature of this conversation is evidence of that fact.

    5) I venture to say that no one to whom this epistle was written witnessed any signs or wonders from God. Whether that actually happened is as faith based a question to them as it is to you or I. They would have to accept that such an event actually occured, despite not having any evidence to indicate that happened. Faith, if you will.

    6) When you argue that these individuals heard from God, you have to provide evidence. The burden of proof is not on me to show that they did not hear from God; my disbelief is a direct result of you not having shown any evidence that they did. Explanations are not the same as evidence.

    7) I’m glad you brought up Jesus, because he defintely agrees with me here. Did Jesus not say “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29)? It’s almost as though people who believe and stay committed to God despite not having seen him are considered higher than those who have certainty and stay committed. Just like Hebrews 11.

    8) I agree that this was also a function of the epistle, but nonetheless, I think you would be hardpressed to say that this was not meant as a letter of encouragement, whether it appealed to the audience’s emotions or reason.

    And all of the evidence provided in those ‘zillion’ times had to be accepted on faith to those who were being preached to. If I tell you that my father is the most reliable man ever, and that he has never failed on a single one of his promises, you would have to accept that position on faith because you have no evidence beyond my testimony to accept that conclusion. For all you know, this is a total fabrication. I may not even have a father.

    9) Clearly whether or not faith could be used to justify continued commitment to God is absolutely pertinent here. The audience is considering reverting back to their old laws, and the author is making an argument (however fallacious) that God always delivers, and that the people who followed God in the past, having thus received rewards, function as evidence of that fact. Once again, conviction is a better word here, but we’ve already conceded this point.

    10) We agree that Hebrews does not indicate we can know that God exists – meaning that we have insufficient evidence to say that we have proof, and yet we ought to believe anyway. Once again, faith is belief without evidence. As for “knowledge of the resurrection,” I once again venture to say that at most the audience ‘believed’ Jesus was resurrected. They did not know, and neither do you or I.

    11) You cannot call this objective evidence when the very people to whom this epistle was addressed did not have any objective grounds to believe that any of the stories cited actually happened. The audience is asked to take a faith based position (that God shall deliver them) based on faith bases premises (that God literally caused these events to happen to these OT figures). You are examining this text as a literary work and calling it a work of nonfiction. You have to validate each of the premises (that each of these events actually happened) before you can even approach the conclusion. These certainly cannot be considered evidence if we do not know that these things even occured.

    Do not make the mistake of thinking that story-telling is objective evidence. There’s a word for this, and that’s hearsay.

    And that’s exactly what all of the ‘evidence’ you cited is.

    Your friend,
    VOR
    (@WeOfLittleFaith)

  4. Oh, my goodness.

    a) The point of this discussion is to find out what the author meant to say when he wrote Hebrews 11:1. For purposes of understanding the author’s intention, it is not necessary to prove that the patriarchs and prophets or anyone had evidence supporting their faith. It is only necessary to inspect the record, and use that record to try to ascertain what was in the author’s mind when he wrote. That makes your points 5, 6, 8, and 11 irrelevant and wrongly directed.

    b) You beg the question quite badly when you assume the readers hadn’t seen any signs.

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, [faith is] the evidence of things not seen.” This is quite obviously a definition

    c) You write

    10) We agree that Hebrews does not indicate we can know that God exists – meaning that we have insufficient evidence to say that we have proof, and yet we ought to believe anyway.

    No. Good grief, how could you possibly jump from that first clause to the second without hurting yourself by the fall?

    First, I misspoke. I should have said Hebrews does attempt to prove that God exists, for its readers already believed that he did. My error there. Still, even on the basis of what I wrote, including the next sentences which really do matter, the conclusion is not that the author of Hebrews intends us to believe without proof. The conclusion is that the author of Hebrews wasn’t trying to prove it because he was working on something else. You’ve committed a glaring non sequitur to reach the conclusion you’ve reached.

    d) You write, “Clearly whether or not faith could be used to justify continued commitment to God is absolutely pertinent here.” But then you go on to say that the author appealed to reasons. It was, indeed, reasons that he used to justify continued commitment to God. Faith is an attitude of trust one has based on what one considers to be true. It is not the way one comes to consider it to be true; it follows upon what one considers true. So it is not the justification for continued commitment, it is the attitude of trust that allows one to continue in that commitment.

    e) As for the Thomas incident, you need to read something other than the atheist Reddit pages, or Internet Infidels, or wherever it is you get your talking points from. I thought I’d written on this but I can’t find it, so I’ll reference a friend’s explanation instead.

    You need to learn to read.

  5. a) Your contention is that faith is not belief without evidence, but then totally shrug off the necessity of providing evidence for any of the supporting examples used by the author. I agree that the author did not believe it was necessary to require evidence for belief; perhaps that’s why he didn’t bother. It appears you are beginning to agree with both the author and myself.

    b) Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I have yet to see any indication that the audience here saw any wonders or signs from God. If they did, this epistle would seem rather redundant, but I do not offer that as definitive proof it did not happen.

    c) At what point does the author provide any proof beyond hearsay? I’m sure you would agree that none of the events cited here occurred during the lifetime of the audience. They would have had no means of confirming the Exodus, the Flood, etc. Yet, despite not being able to prove any of these examples, the author asserts that they ought to believe. He clearly “intends us to believe without proof,” because the ‘evidence’ he provides is all hearsay, both to us and to the audience.

    d) I’m not sure to what reason you are referring to, because the reasoning used by the author here is fallacious, which I say in point 9. And even if we accept that “faith is an attitude of trust one has based on what one considers to be true,” unless the things one considers to be true have evidence then the belief/trust is without evidence. And once again, no actual evidence is being provided either by you or the author. If faith is not belief without evidence, why is the commitment of those who have not seen yet have believed considered more honorable than those who have seen and believed? Why is faith not simply defined as knowledge rather than belief?

    e) And yes, I am familiar with the story. Jesus regards belief without seeing (without evidence) as more blessed than belief with evidence. And sure, Jesus from time to time felt the need to prove he was the Son of God by performing miracles. Why? Because no one would have believed him otherwise. But he still considered belief by faith superior to belief by evidence, and so does the author of Hebrews.

    And once again, we don’t have any proof Jesus actually performed any miracles. We can only accept that position by faith.

    And I’m afraid faith just isn’t good enough.

    Your friend,
    VOR
    (@WeOfLittleFaith)

  6. VOR,

    You’re conflating categories. First, as per the oh-so-humdrum rules of historicity….

    Category 1:

    Did Pilate exist?
    Did Jesus?
    Did David?
    What about Paul?
    Was Christ executed?

    How do you know?

    Category 2:

    As for the definition of Miracle, WHERE do those oh-so-humdrum rules of historicity comment on Metaphysical Naturalism (M.N.)?

    CAN they comment on M.N.? DO they comment on M.N.?

    I’m genuinely concerned with the fate of the Non-Theist with respect to his own self-image as science continues to march onward and outward mastering and subduing physicality.

    I mean, how long do they plan to try to pull off their shout of “Black Magic!” as neuroscience and so on marches on, healing the lame in ever widening degrees? How long before they stop shouting Black Magic at the concept of Causal Agents intentionally rearranging nature’s fundamental building blocks and inventing never before seen elements… cells… tissue layers… and so on? Forever? Will such additions to the Periodic Table of Elements forever disturb the Non-Theist’s emotional commitment to his evidence-free joys of yesteryear’s Hume/Mackie shouts of Black Magic? How long before they stop knowingly and intentionally changing the Christian’s definitions in the arena of Miracles?

    Forever? Sure, the syntax of Causal Agents intentionally rearranging and manipulating nature’s fundamental building blocks converges with the predictions and prescriptions of the Christian Metaphysic, long before we even understood such syntax, but then that is where reason, logic, and evidence allow all of us to lean upon the Knowns as we navigate the Unknowns. It’s called Faith. Speaking of Faith, the proverbial “person” that is “science” has faith based on evidence that the lame can one day walk (…causal agents… intentionally manipulating and rearranging nature’s fundamental building blocks… we do it all.. the… time…) and spends billions within the arena of neuronal regeneration / generation. It’s not clear why our Non-Theist friends are so resistant to such basic, everyday, oh-so-humdrum contours of the real world as it actually is.

    A very basic example as per the trio of [A] http://disq.us/p/1nx4mkc and [B] http://disq.us/p/1nphbgm and [3] http://disq.us/p/1nppieu

    This isn’t complicated. You merely need to stop re-defining the Christian’s actual metaphysic and instead interact with that metaphysic’s actual premises.

    https://www.metachristianity.com/

  7. It’s always interesting to hear the secular say things like faith involves pretending to know things you don’t. Yet, it’s the undeniable implication of a secular worldview that that leaves one pretending to know things they don’t. They don’t have any explanation for the existence of the universe, the existence of life or the existence of even their own consciousness. Yet, these deficiencies in their worldview are assiduously ignored. Instead, we get their misinterpretations of scripture and errant definitions of the terms therein. And in the “we’re going to tell what you believe” category, scriptural interpretation is a subject they have no reason to have any expertise in at all. Nothing like some scriptural interpretation from people who deny the validity of very category of scripture.

  8. Brown,

    With respect to all of the questions you listed under Category 1, the onus is on you to answer those questions if you are to assert that Christianity is true.

    As for metaphysical naturalism, which rejects all claims of the supernatural, they most certainly are applicable to the rules of historicity because any historical document that asserts that a supernatural event occurred would naturally be disregarded. It is for this reason that many legends of great persons in the past, such as the virgin birth of Alexander the Great and the impregnation of his mother Olympia by a lightning bolt, are disregarded by historians. I would venture to say that you do not actually believe that Kim Jong Un, for example, actually has the strength of 100 men, despite the fact we agree that Kim Jong Un exists and historical documents about his life may include these claims, and within North Korea may actually be asserted to be true, though we know this to be false.

    “I mean, how long do [Non-Theists] plan to try to pull off their shout of “Black Magic!” as neuroscience and so on marches on, healing the lame in ever widening degrees?”

    Belief in black magic, witches, and demon possession are almost exclusively found among theists, not non-theists. If you are familiar with the Bible, you should be aware that it condemns sorcery and witchcraft, and also attests that demon possession is an actual phenomenon. I am not familiar with any non-theist who asserts that any of these things are real, and if they do, I disagree with them as much as the theist who makes similar assertions.

    “How long before they stop shouting Black Magic at the concept of Causal Agents intentionally rearranging nature’s fundamental building blocks and inventing never before seen elements… cells… tissue layers… and so on? ”

    This is blatantly a straw man. The objection is that these Causal Agents as you have described them have not been proved to exist, and likewise, have not been proved to actually be “rearranging nature’s fundamental building blocks.”

    “Will such additions to the Periodic Table of Elements forever disturb the Non-Theist’s emotional commitment to his evidence-free joys of yesteryear’s Hume/Mackie shouts of Black Magic?”

    This is not an argument. This is ad hominem.

    “How long before they stop knowingly and intentionally changing the Christian’s definitions in the arena of Miracles?”

    Would you mind defining what a miracle is?

    “Sure, the syntax of Causal Agents intentionally rearranging and manipulating nature’s fundamental building blocks converges with the predictions and prescriptions of the Christian Metaphysic, long before we even understood such syntax, but then that is where reason, logic, and evidence allow all of us to lean upon the Knowns as we navigate the Unknowns. It’s called Faith.”

    I appreciate that you have offered somewhat of a definition for faith; yet, you erroneously imply that the existence of this Casual Agent “converges” with Christian Metaphysics when in fact it is a fundamental part of the metaphysics. The existence of a supreme Causal Agent is likewise a part of Muslim Metaphysics, Judaic Metaphysics, Hindu Metaphysics, Buddhist Metaphysics, etc. I agree that reason, logic, and evidence are necessary to making the Unknown known, but clearly we would first need to differentiate between all of these mutually exclusive Causal Agent claims, and then actually verify whether these claims are true or not. Only then could we arrive at a logical conclusion, no?

    “Speaking of Faith, the proverbial “person” that is “science” has faith based on evidence that the lame can one day walk (…causal agents… intentionally manipulating and rearranging nature’s fundamental building blocks… we do it all.. the… time…) and spends billions within the arena of neuronal regeneration / generation.”

    Interestingly, this was accomplished by the advancement of science, which is predicated on the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism that rejects the supernatural claims, and not by praying to the supreme Causal Agent until we achieved the desired result. Here you conflate your supreme Causal Agent (God) manipulating the universe with the causal agent that is man. That man exists and is able to capitalize on his knowledge of the universe is not in dispute. That God exists and is likewise able to do this is in dispute.

    “It’s not clear why our Non-Theist friends are so resistant to such basic, everyday, oh-so-humdrum contours of the real world as it actually is.”

    The ‘atheist/theist’ independent model that is the scientific method relies upon the contours of the real world, and is responsible for your having a computer to reject the same method that brought you the computer. This comment made me smile.

    “This isn’t complicated. You merely need to stop re-defining the Christian’s actual metaphysic and instead interact with that metaphysic’s actual premises.”

    Perhaps you’d like to present these premises as you understand them?

    Your friend,
    VOR
    (@WeOfLittleFaith)

  9. Bill,

    “They don’t have any explanation for the existence of the universe, the existence of life or the existence of even their own consciousness.”

    I am sure you are familiar with the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution, which function as explanations for the existence of the universe and the existence of life respectively. These questions are most certainly not ignored, and are certainly not explanations derived from Christianity.

    “Instead, we get their misinterpretations of scripture and errant definitions of the terms therein.”

    Christianity literally has hundreds of mutually exclusive denominations predicated on what you call ‘misinterpretations of scripture’ and ‘errant definitions.’ You likewise have Christians disagreeing with who is a Christian, what books are canonical and what are not, as well as fundamental disagreements on the validity of alternative explanations for life and the universe, such as the aforementioned theories of evolution and cosmic inflation. Division is as common if not more common among the Christians as the secular, and that is excluding the overriding disagreements among the religious in general.

    “And in the “we’re going to tell what you believe” category, scriptural interpretation is a subject they have no reason to have any expertise in at all.”

    Actually, we do. When an individual claims that these scriptures are absolutely true, that we are bound to serve the deity described in these scriptures, and that the precepts contained within these scriptures ought to be enforced by social pressure if not by law, we have excellent reasons for reading and understanding the contents of the scripture.

    “Nothing like some scriptural interpretation from people who deny the validity of very category of scripture.”

    Surely we have both read a fiction book. Does the fact it is fiction preclude us from interpreting the book? I should think not.

    Your friend,
    VOR
    (@WeOfLittleFaith)

  10. Brown,

    “Interestingly, this was accomplished by the advancement of science, which is predicated on the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism that rejects the supernatural claims,”

    Correction: The scientific method is not predicated on metaphysical naturalism but methodological naturalism. I argue that metaphysical naturalism is supported by science and its reliance on methodological naturalism, however, I was wrong to say that science itself is based on the philosophy of metaphysical naturalism.

  11. VOR,

    Huh? It is YOUR redefining which gets you into trouble, pretending that you can avoid Sean Carroll’s slow but inevitable slide into the illusory knot of absurdity v. “useful but not true” — pretending that the Christian metaphysic does not outreach that knotty ball of equivocations. Per our discussion of Category 1 (…plain and boring and evenhanded rules of historicity…) and Category 2 (…your seeming move to infer that those rules CAN and DO comment on Metaphysical Naturalism…) we found the following:

    [1] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128848
    [2] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128849

    You’re still failing to make even rudimentary distinctions, and that is despite the fact that the various T.O.E.’s force them upon us.

    ~~~

  12. Unless the ancients had the same conceptions of reasoning (logic and empirical evidence) that we do (after the Scientific Revolution), this kind of discussion is bound to get bogged down in equivocations. Faith for the ancients might have been based on “reasons” in the sense that the attitude of trust was thought to be caused by hearing God’s voice or seeing a vision of God or some other miracle. But that doesn’t mean the faith was remotely reasonable in the modern sense.

    In the same way, if someone today claims to hear the voice of God, the reasonable interpretation is that the person is speaking dramatically about her own inner voice or that she’s mentally ill (schizophrenic). By contrast, the ancients took for granted theological interpretations of inner voices (intuitions or split personality), dreams, and natural wonders (thunderstorms, the sun, the design of living things, etc). They had their rationalists and skeptics, too, as in elite Roman or Greek circles, for example, but the ancient masses were much less aware of elite standards of thinking than are today’s average individuals, thanks to modern egalitarian ideals (the creation of a middle class, etc).

    So what does the New Testament teach on the subject of whether religious faith is reasonable or the height of anti-reason? That depends entirely on whether you assume a conception of reason that was commonplace in the ancient world or one that’s standard today, after the early-modern rationalists and empiricists worked out the nature of proper reasoning.

  13. Tom,

    “Wow. Ancient reason wasn’t like ours? Chronological snobbery much?”

    The ‘ancients’ believed the earth was the center of the universe, that mental illness was demon possession, and wind currents were the movement of spirits. This is not snobbery — this is simply a statement of historical fact.

  14. What the ancients had in common with us are obviously the same types of neural processes. As cognitive scientists explain, most of our native thought processes are technically fallacious. (Evolution didn’t care, because our brains evolved to enable us to survive in challenging environments, not to puzzle out the ultimate nature of reality.) In addition, we have two broadly different styles of thinking, analytic (the formal, abstract breaking of wholes down into parts, focusing on narrow subjects) and holistic (context-dependent searching for themes and other patterns, focusing on the relation between elements as parts of a collective).

    What’s historically different, of course, is the meta-level understanding of how our thought processes should work. In other words, there’s been a history of logic. So in the West, for example, Aristotle’s view of logic reigned for centuries until the Scientific Revolution. Then came along Newton, Frege, and cognitive science, so we have a more advanced understanding at the meta level. We still have the same human neural hardware as well as cultural and evolutionary commonalities, which is why most people are still religious and why those that reject theistic religions tend to worship idols as substitutes.

    But this is only descriptive. If we’re asking whether the New Testament teaches that religious faith is rational, we’re asking whether faith is supposed to live up to certain cognitive ideals. My point is that those ideals, the meta-level understanding of the rules of rationality depend on which period of the history of logic we’re talking about, because while our basic neural programs may be the same, our formulation of the cognitive ideals we’re trying to live up to has changed.

    Today, Aristotle’s syllogistic logic is no longer the paragon of reasoning; that role goes to modern science. And religious faith is obviously anti-scientific; it’s the very heart of the medieval world order–dogmatic trust in intuitions, traditions and institutions–that provoked early-modern scientists, philosophers, and leaders to attempt to build a revolutionary, progressive kind of society. But according to the New Testament and the majority of ancients, religious faith is necessary and theism is axiomatic. After all, even Aristotle accepted deism and teleology. That is, the ancient world wasn’t powered by a functionally-atheistic institution such as modern science, so the masses’ prejudices were challenged only by some elite skeptics and naturalists who had to keep their doubts secret (as in Plato’s noble lie).

  15. Ben,

    With respect to your premises surrounding the physics of neurons and sodium pumps, neuroscience, faith, and the Christian premises populating the Christian Metaphysic with respect to 1. Underived Mind via 2. the Trinitarian Life with respect to 3. Being Itself, what am I missing, if anything:

    [a] Using perception, reason, and observation to interpret the physical order is new. 3000 years ago no one did that.

    [b] The final intelligibility of the physical order, which is rejected by Sean Carroll’s Poetic Naturalism (…it’s messy… Presentism and/or Eternalism and so on…), is also rejected by the Christian metaphysic.

    [c] Faith is anti-scientific.

    [d] Neuroscience, therefore No-God.

    [e] Faith affirms “violations” of “physics”.

    [f] Knowledge decreases (nadirs, etc.), therefore No-God.

    [g] Knowledge increases (peaks, etc.), therefore No-God.

    [h] Knowledge changes, therefore No-God.

    [i] Should the Christian just GRANT the Non-Theist all knowledge of all physical systems, then there would be no more “GAPS” left in Knowledge with respect to physical systems, and, so, then we arrive once again at: therefore No-God.

    Yes/No?

    ~~~

    [1] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128871

    [2] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128857

    [3] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128884

    [4] https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128876

  16. SC Brown,
    What you’re missing is that your comment is a red herring. I wasn’t arguing for atheism. I was arguing that the notion that Hebrews implies that faith isn’t contrary to reason is bound to rest on confusions about the definition of “reason.”

    For example, you say that the ancients likewise used “perception, reason, and observation to interpret the physical order.” But how did the ancients understand reason and evidence? Did they naively trust their observations or did they assume that the data should be explained by testable hypotheses (or by deferring to some such scientific explanations)? What rules of logic did they allow for? Did they rule out as irrational what we would call fallacies (such as the confirmation bias or appeals to popularity)? What structures of argumentation did they use? Did they even think their beliefs should be justified by arguments (by logically-related statements)?

    But talking about “the ancients” is too broad. It’s clear to me that Hebrews attempts to encourage the readers to think like the Jewish heroes of old. Those heroes sacrificed their earthly life for their faith in God. They trusted in God and were punished by nonbelievers, according to Heb.11: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

    In Hebrews faith acts as an instrument by which God supposedly uses people to do his long-term bidding. Likewise, God uses nonbelievers’ pride and hatred to make object-lessons out of them (as he used the Pharaoh in Exodus). God hardens hearts to punish sinners (except when sinners get away scot-free, as happens all the time), and God “rewards” the faithful by using them to build a better future for their descendants.

    This is to say that the biblical view of faith is largely noncognitive. To speak of the rationality of biblical faith is to make a category mistake. Faith for the New Testament doesn’t have much epistemic value, since the truth of Christian doctrines is presupposed or argued for fallaciously (by appealing to hearsay, anecdotes, coincidences, etc). The point of her religious faith isn’t to prove anything, but to demonstrate the Christian’s strength of character. A Christian with strong faith is useful to God, and that’s all that matters to the Christian. The Christian believes what she does in the first place not because of reason or evidence, but mainly because of fallacies, social utility, and fear of the unpleasant alternatives.

    Hebrews declares that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” but that’s a sophistical statement, since it presumes that faith can never be misplaced, that if you have faith, that necessarily means it will pay off in the long run. The very existence of faith is supposed to confirm the substance of what the faith is about.

    Suppose you put your faith in a con artist who tricks you into giving away all your money. Your faith represents your trust in a certain happy future that never comes to pass. You can look on the bright side and say you learned a lesson, but it would still seem empty to speak paradoxically about how your faith is itself some kind of rational evidence that that future will happen.

    What the ancient Jews did is interpret their “history” optimistically, forgetting that the biblical history was written in its current form long after the alleged facts were supposed to have occurred and was edited to promote monotheism and thus exclusivist faith. The biblical heroes were object lessons for much later Jews, devised not so much by God but by the monotheistic editors especially over the course of the First Persian Empire.

    As to why faith is unscientific, it’s simply because scientists are skeptical, not trusting. Faith entails that doubting your religion can itself be sinful, whereas scientists are interested more in the truth than in morality. If anything, scientists think it’s progressive to think for yourself and not to trust in traditions or in scriptural hearsay. Scientists may have faith in their hypotheses, but that only motivates them to put their hypotheses to the test. Reason, evidence, and a theory’s explanatory power win the day in science, not faith.

  17. Ben,

    Think it through. The doxastic experience of being human testifies, on all counts, against your premise.

    That is why I raised the issue of Changes In Knowledge. All you have done is appeal to a different degree of Knowledge with respect to The Knowns and then argued as-if that particular degree somehow extracts what cannot be extracted, which is that the human being trusts the Knowns while navigating Unknowns.

    Perception, Authority, Books, Others, Feelings, Experience, and so on all press into the Doxastic Experience and populate the landscape of Knowns and it is, quite inexplicably, your claim here that there can be some sort of generalized “for the most part” leveled over an entire swath of Human existence, as if there was, for the most part, no interface with Perception, Authority, Books, Others, Feelings, Experience, and so on (…the Knowns…) as said Swath traversed life’s many Unknowns.

    You’ve expunged an entire swath of Humanity’s doxastic experience and attempted to justify that expunging. But to expunge Knowns from the doxastic landscape is untenable. The simple Child has his Knowns, and if that is only the voice of his Mother is irrelevant, as in it makes no difference to that mind’s Knowns/Unknowns landscape (…in that child’s noetic frame / doxastic experience…).

    Degrees of Knowledge just won’t do the work you want it to do.

    Faith: Christian definitions related to the doxastic experience:

    [1] http://disq.us/p/1gbijxo
    [2] http://disq.us/p/1gaid51
    [3] http://disq.us/p/1jpx6zj
    [4] http://disq.us/p/1k6c2ip

    Corrie ten Boom, no stranger to the hard problem of evil, commented,

    “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

    [A] We know and have good reasons to trust someone. [B] Then, there is all that happens outside and around ourselves and that person.

    “B” cannot “un-do” “A” unless and until “B” somehow demonstrate otherwise in “A”.

    Right there with Corrie ten Boom is a new challenge in how to get a man into orbit around the earth, which cannot “un-do” the mathematics we will trust, lean on, to work through the problem. Is it confusing at first? Well yeah. Is it hard? Well yeah. But that’s got nothing to do with leaning on, trusting, that which we’ve rational reasons to trust, namely mathematics, as we journey through, work through, the problem, the unknown.

    scbrown (lhrm)
    https://www.metachristianity.com/

  18. Ben,

    As we follow your line of reasoning further it becomes apparent that in order to expunge Knowns from this or that Swath of Humanity’s doxastic experience (…for the most part…and etc…) and then try to cram that into Scripture, you have to go through all sorts of contortions.

    You have to, first, stop appealing to the motives of editorial boards “back-then” because what we are left with records all of the many Knowns listed in the previous comment and, secondly, you have to keep expunging from Scripture all the areas in which immediate experience is appealed to and all the areas where reason unpacking nature (Natural Theology) is appealed to, and all the areas where our own human failings are appealed to, and all the …..and all the…. and all the…

    It’s a circular sort of dance that must never cease in its expunging of Scripture’s content from Scripture’s content and which must never cease in its expunging of our own undeniable human / doxastic experience from our own undeniable human / doxastic experience until, at last, all knowns have been extracted, so to speak.

    Such circles are problematic.

    So problematic that in fact we have come full circle and landed again here:

    [f] Knowledge decreases (nadirs, etc.), therefore No-God.

    [g] Knowledge increases (peaks, etc.), therefore No-God.

    [h] Knowledge changes, therefore No-God.

    [i] Should the Christian just GRANT the Non-Theist all knowledge of all physical systems, then there would be no more “GAPS” left in Knowledge with respect to physical systems, and, so, then we arrive once again at: therefore No-God.

    And so on.

    scbrown / https://www.metachristianity.com/

  19. Mathematics finds no voice.

    My beloved wife ~~ shall I follow her? Die for her? Delight in her? Ah but I shall. I will. I do.

    Mathematics is silent. Unable to give council. Unable to reply. Unable to traverse.

    The small and anemic sight-line of Non-Theism extracts our humanity from our humanity, extracts all that we in fact Know.

    Well, not actually. It’s a mere dance. Of equivocations. Reductio.

    As we traverse these peculiar Unknowns amid Time & amid Physicality & amid Becoming we cannot rid ourselves of the Always and the Already, of that which is forever Beneath and Above, of these peculiar Knowns which themselves are populated by the universal transcendentals which carry reason into the rational reply of our true felicity, our final good.

    ~

  20. Benjamin, there’s a world of hurtin’ in your understanding of epistemology here. No time to respond in detail, but all I can say is wow.

  21. I am sure you are familiar with the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution, which function as explanations for the existence of the universe and the existence of life respectively.

    I hate to resort to cliches but, “this would almost be funny if it weren’t so sad”. But, let’s go. Do you have an explanation for the Big Bang? As you admit the universe was created in the Big Bang. But created things can’t create themselves. So, what caused the Big Bang. The only thing possible is something that’s not created (to avoid infinite regression). However, your worldview can’t account for anything that’s isn’t created. So, your saying the Big Bang Theory functions as an explanation for the existence of the universe is simply words without substance.

    But, that’s almost erudite compared to “the Theory of Evolution explains the existence of life.” No, the theory of evolution explains the origin of the species (as Darwin put it). For there to be evolution, life already had to exist. The question I posed was how did life begin. Evolution has nothing to do with where life came from. The only place that science has shown life comes from is other life. From where life came from, you also have no explanation.

  22. The Big Bang? Evolution? Defining one’s T.O.E. by mutable and contingent Reference Frames is, ultimately, irrational. The Reference Frame of Totality, or, the Absolute’s Own Reference Frame, finds the only logically possible terminus of explanation.

    [1] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-is-there-anything-at-all-its-simple.html
    [2] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-god-further-objection.html
    [3] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/04/further-thought-on-one-god-further.html
    [4] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/07/carroll-on-laws-and-causation.html

    The Non-Theist must make up his mind: Eternalism or Presentism? Either way, left with only [Physics Full Stop], Non-Theism gently slides into an illusory knot of equivocations. Whereas, Non-Theism easily subsumes, and houses, BOTH, though that statement carries us beyond [Physics Full Stop]. That’s not the point of this comment though, as in defending Theism. Rather, the point is to push Non-Theism to ITS terminus and, then, await that inevitable and gentle slide.

    Infinite time would metaphysically sum to an infinite contingency. Then, from there, the difference between an infinite contingency (…on the one hand…) and the Necessary — metaphysically void of contingency — (…on the other hand…) is NOT, as our mind sort of by default gently slides into thinking, “just a little bit less” than infinite. The categories are not “almost nearly the same“. That the Necessary knows and/or subsumes the entirety of an infinite contingency and all contingent frames of reference speaks not to the near sameness of the two but to the radical and ontic disparity which we find and which at first shocks us.

    Then, from there, if we miss that and allow that default slip, we miss something fundamental about what it is we are in fact referencing in the term “GOD” / “Being Itself“.

    Quote:

    “….Furthermore, what “allows us to speak the language of causes and effects” has nothing essentially to do with tracing series of events backwards in time. Here again Carroll is just begging the question. On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent. The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it – even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe – will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be…..”

    End quote.

    Another way of alluding to this slip into the metaphysical absurdity of “just a little bit less” than infinite is the following quote as we approach the radical category change in moving from non-being and into being:

    Quote:

    “This is arguably the besetting mistake of all naturalist thinking, as it happens, in practically every sphere. In this context, the assumption at work is that if one could only reduce one’s picture of the original physical conditions of reality to the barest imaginable elements — say, the “quantum foam” and a handful of laws like the law of gravity, which all looks rather nothing-ish (relatively speaking) — then one will have succeeded in getting as near to nothing as makes no difference. [Yet] in fact, one will be starting no nearer to nonbeing than if one were to begin with an infinitely realized multiverse: the difference from non-being remains infinite in either case. All quantum states are states within an existing quantum system, and all the laws governing that system merely describe its regularities and constraints.

    Any quantum fluctuation therein that produces, say, a universe is a new state within that system, but not a sudden emergence of reality from nonbeing. Cosmology simply cannot become ontology. The only intellectually consistent course for the metaphysical naturalist is to say that physical reality “just is” and then to leave off there, accepting that this “just is” remains a truth entirely in excess of all physical properties and causes: the single ineradicable “super-natural” fact within which all natural facts are forever contained, but about which we ought not to let ourselves think too much.” (by D.B. Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss)

    End quote.

  23. scbrownlhrm, I confess that this is opaque to me. Not understandable. And I’m pretty good at deciphering complex sentences.

    The Non-Theist must make up his mind: Eternalism or Presentism? Either way, left with only [Physics Full Stop], Non-Theism gently slides into an illusory knot of equivocations. Whereas, Non-Theism easily subsumes, and houses, BOTH, though that statement carries us beyond [Physics Full Stop]. That’s not the point of this comment though, as in defending Theism. Rather, the point is to push Non-Theism to ITS terminus and, then, await that inevitable and gentle slide.

    When I encounter this kind of problem, I usually don’t read on to see what the rest of the comment even says. (I thought you should know that; it’s hindering your communication here in a big way.)

    But this time I did read on. I have no trouble understanding the Hart quotation, even though it’s complex and densely stated, and even though it makes reference to philosophical material that’s not all that widely known.

    There really is a difference between complex and opaque. Again, I thought you should know that. (Again.)

  24. Here’s how I view this kind of writing, by the way. In a word, David Bentley Hart is an amazing writer. His command of the language is superb. I’m a good writer, but I read him (among other reasons) just to learn style; he’s a master. But unless and until I learn to write as well as he does, I’m a lot wiser not to try to write with the same level of complexity he employes.

  25. Tom,

    Evidence, Faith, & Absurdity:

    The 4D Block universe as it relates to the A/B theories of Time is interesting. As is Presentism. Short of Theism the defense of each is embedded in physics (obviously). To employ Presentism v. Non-Theism is to employ something worse than an infinite regress, which is Time as an infinite contingency (…there’s a subtle difference as it relates to reference frame…), particularly as it depends on a contingent frame of reference — throughout. The opposite move of eternalism again employs physics and the contingent frame of reference, but to eliminate Time, change, and the contingent frame of reference ITSELF. There are reasons why the baggage of metaphysical naturalism piles up in BOTH of those, unable to avoid, not gaps, but absurdities.

    Those reasons are not in the scope of a comment etc., and the purpose of pointing out the proverbial baggage (…read Sean Carroll’s The Big Picturehttps://strangenotions.com/the-big-problem-with-sean-carrolls-poetic-naturalism/ ..) in a thread about Faith/Evidence is simply to allude to 1. that baggage and to 2. the rational alternative (…void of those pesky reductio’s …) afforded by the Christian’s metaphysic.

    If one is following one’s evidence and one finds, upon following one’s Map, not Gaps but absurdities, then either the Map is wrong or else the lens focusing on the Map is wrong.

  26. Bill,

    “But created things can’t create themselves. So, what caused the Big Bang. The only thing possible is something that’s not created (to avoid infinite regression). However, your worldview can’t account for anything that’s isn’t created.”

    I am not a cosmologist, but the “Big Bang” as I understand it is the creation of the universe. Your argument that there must have been an uncaused cause, first mover, etc. is a perfectly valid justification for the idea that the universe began to exist without a cause — or, in other words, the Law of Cause and Effect, like Time and Space, did not exist prior to the Big Bang, the very beginning of the universe.

    “No, the theory of evolution explains the origin of the species (as Darwin put it). For there to be evolution, life already had to exist. The question I posed was how did life begin.”

    Abiogenesis is the specific term used to describe life coming from nonlife, and I will not pretend to have an answer as to how that happened, though I am aware this is a major question among scientists who are working on answering it. You are correct in saying that the theory of evolution is meant to describe how living things change over time, and does not necessarily deal with abiogenesis; however, the subjects are certainly connected as one could not have evolution if one did not have life, and hence I say it is used to “explain the existence of life.” But really, that’s just semantics.

    Nonetheless, the fact we do not have answer to this question leads us to two important points, the first being that simply lacking an answer does not give us license to make up stories. That an all-powerful superbeing created the entirety of the universe and placed life on a single planet to govern them and require that they worship it is a totally ungrounded proposition. Nor is this claim unique, as a vast number of religions have similar stories, with so many variations in details big and small that religion cannot be said to provide a definitive, objective answer.

    Second, even if the Big Bang did not happen, and life does not evolve, and life only comes from other life, that is still not a basis upon which to say that a superbeing exists. When you say “God did it!” you are in essence equivocating by offering a non-answer. It is no different than saying that this happened by magic, which is to say, either it is entirely imaginary or else we do not actually know how it happened.

    I could offer any number of explanations for how life and the universe came to be, but the value of an explanation lies both on its power to be falsified and its power to make accurate predictions. So far, I am not aware of any explanation that has more of either of those traits than the theory of evolution does for life and cosmic inflation theory does for cosmology.

    So rather than argue on the subject of evolution and the Big Bang, a subject I am certainly no expert in and I doubt you are either, why don’t you explain why you think the biblical mythologies are not in fact mythologies?

  27. VOR,

    I am not a cosmologist, but the “Big Bang” as I understand it IS the creation of the universe.

    Then your understanding is inadequate as it has it that the universe (actually) came out of (actual) no-thing & (actual) no-cause. Your childhood beliefs in Magic and Absurdity are hindering your progress.

    Your argument that there must have been an uncaused cause, first mover, etc. is a perfectly valid justification for the idea that the universe began to exist without a cause….

    There’s your childhood beliefs in the Magic & Absurdity of No-Thing & No-Cause with respect to the universe again.

    Neither Sean Carroll, nor Stephen Hawking, nor the Christian metaphysic share / affirm your beliefs. In fact all three reject them.

    See https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2018/04/atheists-and-evidence/#comment-128986

  28. VOR,

    Evolution? Tracing the history of Non-Being to Being to Dirt to Neuron?

    Irrelevant.

    Recall that the Christian is happy to Grant you all knowledge of all physical systems such that there are no Gaps left in describing that particular history.

    Why might that be so happily granted?

    Perhaps you’re leaving something out. But what?

  29. VOR,

    You have a poor understanding of the Big Bang and the origin of life. The Big Bang is the event that created the universe but there still needs to be an explanation for what caused it. Wrongly claiming that evolution is the cause of life is just semantics is laughable. And abiogenesis is a fancy word for “we don’t have a clue how life came from non life.”

    There is no “God did it” or any reliance on magic in my explanation. Positing the existence of a creator God, given the need for first cause, is a completely justifiable and valid explanation and continues to stand as such since Thomas Aquinas posited it over 700 years ago. The existence of God is a philosophical concept and the philosophical explanations for his existence have proven to be viable and able to withstand any and all challenges to them over many centuries.

    And as far as the New Testament, it may be true or it may not be true. However, one thing we know for certain it’s not is mythology. Mythology is a heavily researched academic literary field of study the parameters of which are well established. We know for certain the dates of authorship of the NT and given it was written withing 60 years of the events it describes makes the possibility that it is mythology is zero.

    Mythologies require a gap of hundreds of years between the events and the writing so that no eyewitness accounts or original descriptions exist. Thus, there is nothing or no one to challenge invented details. Further, the literary style of mythologies differs significantly from the style of the NT writings. The NT is an eyewitness historical account as evident to anyone familiar with the relevant literary styles and the text of the NT.

    So far VOR, you have shown very little, if any, knowledge of the Big Bang, evolution and mythology. Perhaps another subject would suit you better.

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