Self Existence

One of the major points of contention between atheism and theism in the modern popular debate, is the question of self-existence, or what theology calls Aseity.  Modern atheists will often critique theists who say that the universe needs to have an origin, but God can exist on God’s own.  The Atheists will often respond that theists give no good reason why God should be able to exist on God’s own, but the universe cannot.  This post is an attempt to explain what is meant by self-existence in its theological usage.

In short, self-existence is the property of a thing that exists and does not depend on any other thing for its existence.  It does not, as might be thought, mean that a thing causes itself to exist.  This would be a logical contradiction.  Instead, a being with self-existence has no cause, and simply exists on its own.  Because it has no cause, it must exist, for when we look for a cause of its existence, there can be none, and therefore no contingency involved in its being.  Thus, if a self-existent being exists, it also necessarily exists.

This should be distinguished from all other things that are not self-existent.  A wombat is composite and caused, and thus might not have existed.  It has its being in the composite parts and the universe that it exists in.  Its being is contingent on its creation in the past.  Thus any of these things might have been different, and therefore is neither self-existent nor does it possess necessary existence.

The concept of self-existence is what traditional theism applies to only one thing, God.  This is because God is believed to be simple, meaning that God is not made up of many different parts.  When we say that God has a mind, and power, and will, we are not saying that God has three different things that are all put together.  We are arguing that God, in God’s own being, is wholly and totally simple such that whatever it is that we call “mind” in God is the same thing that we call “being” which is the same thing that we call “power.”  However, they are not exactly like what we would call mind, being, and power[1].  For the way we define these things is dependent on definitions that exist within our universe.  Mind, power, and being all are categories that we understand as functioning within a physical system.  However, when we say that God has mind, power, and will, we are saying that God is something that we do not know, but that is best described with these terms, for we have no others to terms.

Now, when skeptics propose that the universe could be self-existent, we must be very specific about what we mean.  It seems that there could be two specific meanings to saying the universe is self-existent.

1.  The Material Universe

What some skeptics may mean when they say that the Universe is self existent, is that the whole composite universe of matter and energy, laws, fields, and so on, is itself self existent.  If this is the case, then the universe must be necessary.  But modern physics does not say that the universe is necessary, or at least not the universe defined like this.  Instead, there seems to be a general agreement that the universe as we see it might have been very different if one of a number of different factors had been slightly off, and there is no sense that they must have been the way they were.  As well, any system that involves randomness, which they state that the universe has[2], cannot be necessary as it depends on randomness resulting one way and not another.  Thus we see contingency in the universe when it is defined as the whole composite system.

2.  The Framework of the Universe

What some other skeptics might mean when they say that universe is self existent, is that the basic framework of the Universe is necessary and not contingent.   The very ground of the universe, the laws which determine how things exist, and how they interact, are self-existent.  Now this is far better than saying that the material universe is self-existent.  However, there are some major problems here as well.

First, we would have to postulate that there is in fact only one real law of the universe that defines how everything exists.  If there are multiple laws, we must ask what context they exist in together to interact with the universe.  Do they derive from each other?  If so, then the multiplicity of laws can exist within the context of the first law, and thus we really have only one law, even if we can identify many elements to it[3]. Now this doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable problem, as many physicists appear to be trying to find the one most basic law of the universe, one that unifies Quantum and Newtonian mechanics.

But what does cause a bigger problem is that that one law, or one law with many emanating laws, does not create matter/energy.  The one law determines how matter/energy act and interact, but it does not produce either a context for matter/energy, nor does it produce the matter/energy themselves.  There is no indication that the one law of physics has ever produced a single piece of matter, no indication that it has in fact ever caused anything to happen at all.  It is a descriptor, and the One Law of Physics, if it exists, will simply describe all objects and events in the universe.  For it to have any effect on anything, it must have a universe to work on, it cannot produce it.

Thus we find that even a self existent unified law of the universe, while it could exist, cannot be the origin of the universe…with one possible exception.

If the laws of physics somehow found a way to produce the material universe, we must see that they are outside of the universe.  For they cannot be made of matter or energy, or else they are merely the composite contingent universe we described in section 1.  But if they are neither matter, energy, nor space, nor time (for these are also part of that composite universe), then they are by definition supernatural.  They are outside of the universe in a way that Theists propose that God is.

It is possible that the law behind the universe, the one that determines why things do what they do, is conscious and powerful.  If it were conscious and powerful, it could choose to create matter, and be able to do it.  It could order all things, determine all things, and have the power to create them.  Being conscious, it could choose what laws applied to what objects, and perhaps, sometimes change how the laws apply.  Such a Law would also be a Mind, a mind that stands outside of the universe and determines that it should exist.

But then, this is Theism.

[1] See my previous post on “Beyond Words” to get some idea of what this means.

[2] A dubious assertion.  Instead, it seems that it would be more honest if they said simply “we do not see why these things happen.”

[3] Some may see a connection here between this logic and the logic of begetting and procession in the Trinity.  They would be right to do so.


23 thoughts on “Self Existence

  1. As long as one holds that the baseline energy of the universe is self-existent, as the physical laws of the universe are just attributes of the way that particular universe’s energy has woven itself, then everything can come into place completely naturally with no need for a theistic intervention.

    You use “necessary” incorrectly. Putting aside that you are using language (which is not perfectly compatible with reality) to describe reality, you use necessary seemingly to infer that if something exists it must have needed to exist, but nothing “has” to exist. Certain things do exist because of other things that exist causing that effect, but they are not required to exist but merely do or do not exist. At the baseline energy levels particles pop into and out of existence constantly, A particle in existence can provoke a particle into existence, yet that particle is not required to the provocation.

    Oh, and your claim about never creating any matter is false. Scientific processes have both generated matter and generated energy where there previously was the other form. True, since matter and energy are equivalent nothing was created or destroyed, yet matter and energy have been generated nonetheless from where there wasn’t that previously.

    And another thing, due to the whole of the reality being able to been formed naturally, the assertion that there must be a supernatural, conscious, or sentient being behind it is just an unneeded addition that can be removed with occam’s razor.

    Your final premise that a unified law of the universe cannot create the universe is also flawed. As long as the energy of reality always exists that energy creates properties based on the infinite ways it can be arranged provoking. The energy the universe is made up of gives the universe its laws, and those laws can then give rise to higher hierarchies of matter.

    Just as a final note: I don’t completely discount theism as a possibility, just a highly unlikely, unevidenced possibility. And I am completely willing to accept pantheism for consideration, but the other types of theism are veritable hogwash.

  2. Thanks very much for the reply!

    The concept of necessity here is defined only in the context of a self-existent reality. Thus, not all things that exist are necessary, but anything that is self-existent and in fact does exist is a necessary reality, as it has no contingency. If it has no contingency, and exists, it is necessary.

    You also have misread my statement about laws not creating energy/matter. The distinction here is between a natural law, for example “object tend to gravitate toward each other” and a natural process “the gravitation of objects toward each other.” The first, as I have stated above, has never “done” anything. The second is the actual process of “doing.” Therefore I heartily accept that natural process is observed bringing matter and energy into and out of “existence,” but this is not my point. My point is that a baseline law cannot “do” anything, but this is what is required if we start with only the “laws of nature” without any material for them to act upon. And, once there is matter for them to act upon, one is left with the conundrum of how they relate to each other at all. In other words, why does the baseline energy have any attributes at all, and where do they come from? If the energy can be infinitely rearranged, where does this attribute come from? It is certainly not necessary that it should be so, or, if it is, what makes it necessary? Either way, the necessity of these attributes would have to be contingent on something else. Theism avoids this conflict by positing that God’s attributes are in fact not attributes at all, but temporal words for a single simple self-contextual reality without relational attribute. Such a thing cannot be said of a baseline energy that is popping matter in and out of existence in infinite variations.

    Again, that the universe can arise out of “laws” is simply false. That the universe could arise out of a baseline energy is given, but the question of that baseline energy being self-existent is what is up for debate here. By the mere fact that the energy exists in a context of something like empty space, and some manner of temporality, as demonstrated from your statement “As long as the energy of reality always exists that energy creates properties based on the infinite ways it can be arranged provoking” and is therefore contingent on its environment, even if that environment is a multidimensional space empty of all but the baseline energy or single dimensional point with the same attribute.

    Also, given that there is a conflict between the idea that time arises out of this energy, and at the same time fully encompasses this baseline energy, one enters into a contradiction in which the baseline energy is both the context for time itself, but is subsequently (a term difficult to use for such a relationship) dependent or bound up in time.

    Of course if you postulate that there is a kind of super-time over which even the baseline energy exists in, allowing you to use language like “always exists” then you run into the problem of the Kalam.

    I also wonder at your use of Occam’s Razor. Your explanation is rather complicated, and still does not explain the existence of the basic baseline energy. It seems that your hypothesis of “it simply was always there” is no more simple than “A simple and self existent God created it” and thus does not fall under the rule of “not multiplying hypotheses” which William of Occam propounded, being a theologian who did not think that God was “one hypothesis was too many.”

  3. I would counter by saying that self-existence removes the concept of necessity, because if there is no causal link, as you propose for self-existence, it would be wrong to try to apply something of necessity to something in existence with no causal link because it exists without cause and is in no terms “necessary” but “evident”.

    My proposal was that at the base-level, the nature of the object creates the laws similar objects follow, not a law outside of the objects that conforms them to a principle but a principle they follow because they generate the principle themselves. I way to look at this is simply this: If mass did not exist, would gravity? Gravity is contingent of mass existing and without that mass would exist. A more advanced way to approach this is the standard model of physics, where the four fundamental forces (gravity, strong and weak nuclear force, and electromagnetism) are not independent on their own but contingent on the fundamental particles (which are just a certain arrangement of base energy) and those fundamental particles known a “force particles” generate the forces (specifically photons for electromagnetism, gluons for strong force, W & Z bosons for weak force, gravitons for gravity). Because of this hypothesis, what is existing is both what is doing the “doing” and what that doing is being done to.

    Moreover, when you ask “why does the baseline energy have any attributes at all” you are asking the wrong question. Using “why” is only acceptable if there is a purpose or consciousness behind a certain thing or set being questioned. (We humans often wrongly use “why” when we should use “how” because we are taught from an early age that most of the things in our civilization or life have purposes (that we’ve created for things) and all into that grammatical error.) Where did the energy get its attributes, itself of course. How did the energy, itself of course.

    Energy doesn’t necessarily exist in a context because energy is everything, all of reality is energy. Since reality exists, and all reality is energy there is only state. Context: “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.” Context predicates itself upon interrelated conditions, but for baseline energy there is no interrelation or condition on which it exists, it just does. I guess you could call this pseudo-context. Energy is not contingent on anything but itself, no environment is needed because energy creates environment in the first place.

    Since energy is everything, even space is energy at the level of the quantum foam and strings, and time and space are the same thing, Time is merely the product energy moving in relation to other energy. Notice how special relativity would hold that the faster energy (matter) moves through energy (space) then the slower time (energy to energy relation) is for that matter in relation to the rest of the matter in space. But I digress.

    When you say “one enters into a contradiction in which the baseline energy is both the context for time itself, but is subsequently (a term difficult to use for such a relationship) dependent or bound up in time” it isn’t really a contradiction. Imagine I poured a teaspoon of boiling water into a vat of nearly-freezing water. The molecules would act the same on those phenomena and attributes contingent to being all composed of the same substance (both hot and cold water would exhibit their two hydrogen, one oxygen dipolar nature,) but the molecules would act different on those phenomena and attributes not contingent to the same substance (the hot water would diffuse more of its energy to surroundings than the cold water due to its increase thermal energy).

    Well the problem of the Kalam argument applies equally in support of doubt for a theism and the doubt for atheism and never goes anywhere. That is why it is much better to assume a self-existential path more than a causal path.

    My use of Occam’s Razor is used here to discredit all theisms but pantheism, as if in monotheism: “god first exists, then god created the natural principles that nature used to create itself” is inferior to “natural principles allowed nature to create itself”. Pantheism is the only theism which passes the Razor by saying “god, which is everything, created itself” which equates with “natural principles allowed nature to create itself.” It would dishonest to put exceptions to principles based on personal beliefs and opinions wouldn’t it not?

    I await your reply.

  4. For a thing to be necessary it must have no contingency. I argue that only a self-existent thing can be necessary, for all other things are contingent. All other things have an “if” in their being, whereas a self-existent thing has no “if” and is thus the only necessarily existent thing. But I am happy to leave this debate aside as a matter of semantics at this point unless you wish to pursue it further.

    The “why” here is a question about all possible causes. Your insistence on simply “how” is, with no pejorative here intended, in line with a philosophy which is merely concerned with material cause, yet leaves out efficient, formal, and final causes. And this is why there is a category difference between the scientific question and the philosophical question. Remaining merely with material cause (or the “how” of your response) strips you of all other possible answers. You may argue that only the material cause exists ultimately, but you are then left with the problem of logic and the problem of randomness.

    The problem of logic appears if you hold only to material causes in that logical connections cannot arise validly out of predetermined action. A thought it logically valid only if it is arrived at through the connection of ground/consequent. So a syllogism, if thought in a rational mind is valid and perhaps sound, but not so if the English letters somehow arose by being eroded on a rock. Logic, and thus mind, brings with it two more causes, the efficient and the final. The efficient because mind does things by means of other things, and the final because mind has purpose.

    Now you may jettison mind as merely one more thing that fits into the one great material cause, but by doing so you utterly invalidate your own arguments by invalidating all logic.

    On the other hand, you may argue that logic is contingent on the “freedom” in the universe to be other than it is, as it has random attributes as well as deterministic ones. We see randomness in some radioactive decay, and in the low level energy that we observe popping particles into and out of existence. But this raises two problems. 1. Freedom and randomness are actually opposite things. Thus a mind is free to do logic not because it has anything random within it, but because it has a cause outside of the material cause of the universe. 2. Randomness is simply a word for “we do not know how or why a thing does what it does, and we’ve looked very very hard at it, so we think it’s random.” If there is randomness in the baseline energy then you have a significant problem of there being causes within that energy which are not part of “the whole show.” If you argue that “randomness is merely how the energy acts” that is a contradiction in terms. There is a “random cause” in the universe then beyond the simple material cause.

    Thus both logic and randomness introduce causes beyond the simple material cause. If logic is not a cause, then your thinking is invalid, as is mine. But then your thinking is the one saying that there is only a material cause, which seems very strange if it invalidates your own thought that arrives at that conclusion, which is a very strange set of affairs. (One which I would argue falls well under Occam’s Razor, but I’ll get back to this at the end). Randomness introduces another form of causation, which can be equated merely to an efficient cause with no corresponding agent.

    Thus the simply argument “material cause is the only cause” (which is my rephrasing of “We humans often wrongly use “why” when we should use “how” because we are taught from an early age that most of the things in our civilization or life have purposes (that we’ve created for things) and all into that grammatical error.” and “at the base-level, the nature of the object creates the laws similar objects follow, not a law outside of the objects that conforms them to a principle but a principle they follow because they generate the principle themselves”).

    I don’t know that your two waters example quite gets at what I was attempting to get at in my argument. If the energy is both the baseline for time and space (which I’m happy to assent to), then it seems contradictory that: 1. Before time it keeps rearranging and changing until it randomly produces matter, for how can a thing change and rearrange if there is no time for it to do it in? 2. Once matter and time pop into existence, the baseline energy takes on a new relationship to time, i.e. its creator, but is itself now subject to time. This is a view, I might add, that is something like that proposed by a Lutheran theologian Alan Padgett which I respect, but think is contradictory based on point 1.

    And this brings us to the Kalam. The Kalam is not a problem for traditional monotheism (which originated the argument) in that God is external to the context of time. God does not exist “forever and ever” in the sense of an infinite regress, but as the creator of the space/time reality. It would be contradictory to say that God has no external attributes and then slap a temporal attribute on him and say “well…except that one.” Thus we cannot reasonably say things like “before God did x” because before and after only apply to things within the space/time construct. We may say it from within the construct that x happened after y within time, and God was the agent behind each, but from the eternal perspective, x and y are either: 1. Simultaneous or 2. rejecting all temporal language for the apophatic approach “Eternal.” To propose that the baseline energy was simply arranging and rearranging itself until something happened is to propound first a non-simple base for the universe, which appears to be nonsense, and secondly a series of temporal events before time appears.

    Again, Occam’s Razor is here improperly used. (Also, Pantheism is not technically a theism, as theism indicates a personal and conscious god, which Pantheism cannot for the obvious reason that the universe is not a conscious being, but is instead a thing that has conscious beings in it. The mere limit of the speed of light prevents any consciousness from existing in our massive universe). The Razor is meant to cut away needless hypotheses within a given mode of cause. Thus within the context of efficient cause, we need not propound wild theories about how a chair came into a room when “Mark brought it in” will suffice. However, the Razor does not cut away Mark’s intentions or the final cause of things. To argue that this debate is happening by merely material causes is, to use your language, inferior to arguing that it is happening for material, formal, efficient, and final causes. For Mark doesn’t bring the chair into the room for no good reason. Occam’s Razor will work when considering a cause within its own context, but not across causal contexts.

    And it really is quite subjective and unscientific to say “x is superior to y” for that is a statement of value, which, if you’re quite correct about the universe being only a material cause, has no meaning and thus, by its own standards, should not be listened to by a rational mind.

  5. Concerning our disagreement on the necessity or evident nature of self-existent things, we’re essentially at an impasse, so we can drop that. Agree to disagree.

    As the naturalistic and material universe is evident and observable, wouldn’t it not be prudent to take a valid natural way the universe could exist before the assumed supernatural? Well randomness is a product of both the butterfly effect and quantum effects, as well as particles coming into and out of existence at the baseline level of energy fields. The problem with logic originates from misapplication of math to language. Since the metaphysical base of all philosophy, theology, and various language games is an attempt to apply mathematical principles (math being a pure language compatible with the universe) to human languages (which are impure, partially-compatible with the universe.) The essential explanation of this is the problem of paradox. In math, there is valid lines and invalid lines, but in language paradoxes can be formed to generate lines which are both valid and invalid.

    I would argue that logical connections are predetermined in a universal way, meaning that the end result of a decision of thought is always predetermined for the set universe that result comes from. As with Schrodinger’s cat and quantum physics, possibilities create new universes based on whether the possibility happened or not. The results of our mind and thoughts, more specifically the chemicals that make them up, result from possibilities that our mind is currently aware of in this universe, as the other parallel universe versions of me are aware of those other possible actions.

    I would also contend freedom and randomness aren’t opposites but different questions entirely. Randomness versus determinism is based on the question of how predictive are the natural forces we view, while freedom versus determinism is based on the question of how we are able to act within those natural forces. Randomness is merely the observation that we cannot currently predict the occurrences. Quantum physics holds that our mere viewing of the more baseline energy and particles in turn causes them to change the outcome of those particles and energy, so quantum phenomena might not be actually random, but due to our observation of it, it might appear that way to us.

    I would also not argue that randomness is an inherent attribute of the baseline energy, but merely our viewing of the infinite possibilities of that energy and how each of them is their own universe entirely. Randomness just results from our viewing of the universe, not the universe itself. Randomness and logic do not induce causes in the material world, but the material world is what induces randomness and logic. Moreover, I would argue back to my metaphysical standpoint of human language, and that because logic is based in it, all logic is flawed to varying degrees with reality. That is why materialistic models with predictive capability are necessary to understand more than logic on to how they should or should not work.

    My water metaphor was an attempt to describe the effects on various attributes. While all things might have and be composed of energy, those different arrangements of energy have different properties. Certain things can be explained as a result of everything being made of energy and certain things can be explain as a result of that particular object having a certain arrangement of said energy. I wanted to use that to allude you were misapplying principles of attribution. Furthermore, I was trying, with the note on special relativity, to also explain how time only exists between varying bodies of energy, and if there is no variance at the start of the universe and all energy is one single field, than time is meaningless because there is no energy-to-energy distance relationship which is time (or what we perceive as time.) Time comes into existence when separate energy objects have been established and if all existence were decomposed back into the primal, base energy time as we know it would cease to exist.

    The Kalam is just a theistic approach to the classic Aristotelian idea of primum movens, or first cause, in which Aristotle himself argued the universal was a result of baseline energy as the first cause. The Kalam argument is classically flawed as it propounds that all things that exist require a cause, the universe exists, thus the universe requires a cause. Yet it fails to explain what caused the causer. As I stated previously, baseline, wholly-contained energy has no time or space, and is thus a suitable naturalistic and more likely equivalent than the theistic explanation of a deity. With the Kalam and any other explanation of first cause, we are forced to assume a self-existent causer outside of original time or space. In this manner, it is more credible and evidential to use the non-theistic naturalistic origin of the universe from baseline energy than automatically go to a causer beyond the scope of natural laws.

    Theism is only the belief in the existence of a deity. Deism, a belief in a generic, personal, and conscious deity, is what you are explaining. Pantheism is possible, because the energy that could be ascribed as a deity isn’t all locked in matter, but a baseline energy still pervades all areas of the universe and, as I previous said, baseline energy, as long as it is in one body, has no time effect between parts of that body. And since that energy pervades all the universe, up to the points around everything, distance or contact would not be a hindrance.

    The Razor is merely saying to cut away extraneous hypotheses. If the universe can form on its own to result in a chair being in a room, the idea that someone had to bring the chair into the room is folly, whether than someone be any variety of believed deities around the world. You assume that the chair has to be in the room for a reason, which it does not. The chair can simply be in the room.

    If you really want to get scientific, considering the outright flaws of all modern religions in explaining the universe, all religions should be discounted for lack of evidence or phenomena alone. However, this is a philosophical/theological debate using scientific principles and facts, not a scientific debate using philosophical and theological principles. Oh, and conscious beings like ourselves can ascribe meaning, as that meaning I hold to be whatever is true and real that have been demonstrated to have more meaning than something that doesn’t. I can do this because meaning is a personal thing evaluated against an internal proposition, as do you in your value statement of believing things without objective meanings or purposes shouldn’t be considered.

  6. A few thoughts and then I’m off for the weekend. I’ll be posting on Monday in response to some of your thoughts here with regard to logic.

    As I’ve posted recently, the “natural” way of approaching the question of where the universe has come from is in fact the way that even what we would normally call “supernatural” perspectives have approached the question. (See my post on Adhumla: The religious “answer” to this question is not in fact a proposed answer to a question, but a proposed revelation that poses the question in a new light. Pagan thinkers were very happy to use “stuff just existed and then got more complicated” for a very long time before the statement “In the Beginning, God Created the heavens and the earth” came about. So yes, it is more natural. But then, the arguments made by theology claim to use both natural and supernatural information.

    Now this claim is useless for science, and that is given. One does not expect a scientist to take into consideration any possible miraculous intervention into the natural universe when doing experimentation. However, as you have pointed out, this is a philosophical argument, and philosophy does not demand the same kind of evidence that science does (more about this on Monday).

    As well, the Kalam does not actually argue that all things must have a cause. It argues that all things that come into existence have a cause. Now, you may disagree with this statement, but it is not something that science can disprove. All science can do is say “we don’t see how a thing has come into being.” As well, As well, the Kalam has included the argument of an impossibility of actual infinitude through incremental addition. Now, if you argue for a pre-existent baseline energy, you need not defend it against the first part of Kalam. But the second part still requires answer.

    I also wonder at your use of the term “infinite possibilities” for the baseline energy. What determines which of these infinite possibilities are actualized? It cannot be the energy itself, for the energy is the thing that has the possibilities. It is either a mind which chooses which of the infinite possibilities to realize, or some possibilities are more likely than others. And given that, all things being equal (and the uniform energy is perhaps the best example of “all things being equal”), the more likely events will happen instead of the less likely events, Thus the less likely events are in fact not at all possibilities. This pattern continues all the way down, from infinite to a billion billion possibilities. Then, of the billion billion, either nothing happens because they are all equally likely, or some are more likely than others. Thus we go from a billion billion to perhaps just a billion, and so on until there is either one possibility that is more likely than all others, and thus is deterministic, or you have even two possibilities that are equally likely, and neither happens. (This, of course, assumes that by “possibilities” we mean mutually exclusive possibilities).

    As per the Shrodinger’s cat argument: The many worlds interpretation of the thought experiment seems a strange argument by someone wielding Occam’s Razor. One may argue that it is a preferable understanding to simply say that the wave form collapses upon detection. Of course, it’s even more simple to say that the thought experiment is just that, and descriptive of phenomena that we observe in our observations, much the way that Ptolemy’s geocentric system was. To offer it as a actual reality is to misunderstand the very concept of a model.

    And you are quite wrong about your distinction between Theism and Deism. Theism is the belief in a personal God who is both immanent and transcendant, Deism is the belief in a kind of “clock-maker” God who creates and then stands outside of the universe, and thus is transcendent and not at all immanent. Pantheism is the belief that the whole universe is God, and thus is wholly immanent and not transcendent. However, since this last identifies the whole of the universe with a thinking God, one might ask very simply where the mode of thought exists? We do not predicate a “brain” in the God of Christianity since God is not material. But since a pantheistic God is wholly material (or energy), one wonders where the mode of thought and consciousness would reside. It certainly can’t be in the baseline energy for that is wholly uniform and is certainly not the kind of thing in which thought arises in. The most basic question would be, is the baseline energy conscious? Is there some kind of evidence for this? And if your only argument for it is “it’s possible” I respond “I don’t see how, but I certainly do see how a transcendent God is possible, but that doesn’t seem to work for you.”

    With regard your statement: “considering the outright flaws of all modern religions in explaining the universe, all religions should be discounted for lack of evidence or phenomena alone” do you consider non-fundamentalist Christianity and Judaism to this? Because with the exception of the disagreement about whether the baseline energy is self-existent or not, we do not disagree about the universe. What we do disagree about is the nature of truth, which I’ll get at in my Monday post.

    But please do not let my absence be a good cause for not responding to this until then. I have left out responses to things you have said here merely because I will be writing a full post on them. I will be happy to continue this discussion here after I post then, if you are still interested in that.

  7. I shall post a few replies for you to consider and use for your Monday post.

    The revelation religion proposes to the question is that processes which are completely capable of generating everything without a deity intervening are, for some assumed reason, actually the result of such a deity. Belying the historical and archaeological facts that genesis 1 was a late inclusion into the first five books of the bible after the Babylonian exile and that the Hebrews started with similar pagan beliefs before the later takeover by yahwists, the Abrahamic creation myth is no more natural than the Shinto creation myth or the Hindu creation myth. Also, “natural and supernatural information” is just another was to say natural information and personal assumptions.

    Because science demands evidence, which is factual basis for the existence of a phenomenon, and philosophy/theology doesn’t would lead me to conclude that science is superior to the latter two. It also should be noted that a transcendental god (like a god of deism) wouldn’t be testable in science, but a non-transcendental god who intervenes actively in the universe (like that of all Abrahamic tradition) should be quite testable if you were to posit that deity interacts with the physics universe.

    Yes, I already said that Kalam states all things in existence require a cause. I do not argue for pre-existent energy fields, but self-existent energy fields. My point was that if something has to pre-exist to create everything, then a valid naturalistic explanation should be considered closer to the truth than the assumed supernatural explanation.

    According to modern cosmology, all things that are possible by the laws of physics can, have, and do exist. You don’t have to worry about which ones are actualized because they are all actualized. The energy, like fundamental particles, are both what causes the doing and are what the doing is being done to. If all possibilities exist, there is none more likely or unlikely. (Yes mutually exclusive possibilities)

    Occam’s Razor isn’t a perfect principle. It deals with what we should assume or think, but there are times when reality is proven more complex than the simplest number of hypotheses. Yet, as in a philosophic argument, the Razor is a pretty good principle to stand by. Models that have predictive capability are models than can be applied to reality. If, in an ideal world without air resistance, I kick a 10kg ball at 2.4 m/s^2 the force it will apply to whatever it hits will be 24 newtons. We see that the laws of physics do work for our purposes in predictive capability, even the quantum ones can be made to work for us.

    To quote the dictionary:
    Theism: “belief in the existence of a god or gods”

    Atheism: “a disbelief in the existence of deity ”

    Deism: “a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe “.

    The idea of a transcendental, immanent deity is basically a self-contradiction. To have a deity beyond the limits of the universe that is knowable by beings inside the universe and from the universe is not at all logical. You are either outside the universe or inside the universe, they are mutually exclusive states.

    Pantheism claiming that everything is god, and as such the immanence of the deity being obvious, is more likely compared to theism or deism because the pantheism doesn’t have the deity removed from the universe and as such the deity would be able to be perceived by the beings inside of the universe. We all could be the thoughts of the universal, natural deity. Baseline energy is uniform in same ways, but everything is composed of this energy and there are different bodies of energy in existence, thus energy is not uniform is arrangement, only base composition. Oh, and a deity of christianity would have to made of something, which you would like say “itself”. That goes back to our natural v. supernatural self-existent postulates.

    To ascribe consciousness is an interesting matter. Plants are made of matter and complex organisms, but are they conscious? No. Certain lowly animals are complex organisms made of matter with primitive neural ganglia, but are they conscious? Maybe. Higher animals like mammals are very complex organisms that are made of matter with advanced neural capacity in brains, but are they conscious? Almost certainly. We humans are very complex organisms made of matter with the most advanced brain on this planet at this time, and we’re surely conscious. Many higher forms of animal life like apes, dolphins, elephants, and pigs exhibit the ability to recognize themselves from photos or mirrors from others of the same species. So are they conscious? Yes. Are they sentient? Oh that’s the question. Whether or not the universe is conscious matters little if the universe isn’t sentient.

    In regards to non-fundamentalist religion, and knowing you are a theology student, I would pose this: If certain parts of the scripture are personally interpretable from whatever literal reading they contain, would that not put the whole of religion on a slippery slope? If you can personally interpret a small facet of scripture, you can interpret the whole of scripture, and that’s not really following a particular religion but a moral relativism in the clothing of that religion closest to a person’s interpretation.

    I do consider non-fundamentalist religion still in error. While I might agree it’s everyone’s personal right to believe whatever their believe, if you don’t have an infallible faith in a religious doctrine, then there’s little for you do following a specific doctrine alone. A universalist is all someone of such regard can hope to be and still maintain personal integrity to themselves.

    On a personal note:
    From my weak agnostic atheist perspective, however religious you might be, you’re probably much closer to me and my kind than you are to own religious brethren. I wouldn’t doubt it that you’ve already had a least one or two major crises of faith, and if you haven’t, I wouldn’t doubt it if you will have one in a few years. You are aware many, many theology students end up treading that line of skepticism, and many are becoming irreligious. Somewhere in your studies, I think you probably just came upon a time in which you just made a personal assumption to believe regardless of the plethora of evidence against faith, let alone a specific faith.

  8. Since I will not be touching on these topics on Monday, I thought I would find a moment to reply tonight before Greek, German, John Paul II, Irenaeus and the novel that I’m writing all pull me away for a night of study and imagination.

    There is nothing particularly to the point in your discussion of the compositional elements of the Pentateuch. First, Genesis 1 is Priestly, not Yahwhist or “J” while 2 and 3, if I remember correctly, are mainly “E” or the “Elohist” source. At least that is how I was taught when I did my undergrad in Biblical Studies a decade ago, where I focused in ancient Hebrew and the historical critical method. A later date for the revelation of the scriptural basis of “creation ex nihilo” is no argument against it. Although I am aware of heavy anthropomorphic concepts in E, I am not aware of a pre-P source of creation that somehow mirrors other ANE texts that propose a pagan-like creation story. But of course it clearly follows that before it was revealed to the Israelites that God created the universe, they would have believed otherwise.

    And this leads me to respond to your last point already. I can say nothing of the future of my own state of mind, but I can say something about the past, about my relationship with Christianity, and about your comments. First, the question of a crisis of faith is a complicated one. Are there moments when the idea of God seems unlikely? It would be dishonest to say “no” but it would also be misleading to think that they were because of logical argument. They are always emotional. They are always a moment of a feeling, which is itself no great indicator of truth. Feelings that correspond to logical truth, as well as feelings which correspond to both my own and the greater experience of the Christian church, are corroborations of known truth, though they cannot be themselves the conveyors of truth.

    Now I have experienced existential angst, and did so for a year or more before I started my masters degree in systematic theology. In the whole time, not once did I doubt God’s existence, or the truth of the Gospel. Instead, those things appeared with all the certainty of mathematics, though my own small, puny existence was in danger of driving me to despair. I will not bore you with the theological details of my exit from existential angst, but it was Christ, and not another, who pulled me from it. Thus while I reiterate that I cannot know my future state of mind, I do know that I was able to move from fundamentalism as a freshman biblical studies major to orthodox theology without a single doubt of the central realities of the Christian Faith. I was able to travel through all of the Historical and Source critical training without once having the moment where i wondered if it was all false.

    Perhaps there will be a break in this pattern. I cannot say. Though I know nothing about evidence against religious faith. I have not seen any.

    But I do know that what you say about my “religious brethren” is both very true and very false. It is true in the sense that you and I will probably agree on far more than either of us would with an evangelical fundamentalist Christian. Of this I have no doubt. But when set next to those who both have gone before me and who live today who do the kind of theology I do (which is not, incidentally apologetic, which I’m sure you can tell by the paucity of my argumentation here), reject fundamentalism as a modern aberration from traditional Christianity (we also, incidentally, reject Logical Positivism and Scientific Naturalism as aberrations from real Science). To reject science, to use their literal understanding of the Bible so as to remove all history, genera, and allowance for human error is not the traditional method of biblical interpretation that has ruled the church for the majority of its two thousand year old history. It is in the tradition of Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory Palamas, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and yes (though many laugh) C.S. Lewis that I attempt to stand. And with them I have far more in common than I do with my fundamentalist brethren. But then, I would argue, so do you. And so I find that the Christian mind, when raised to its heights, is not often prone to abandonment of the faith.

    I should add here, that while I attempt to stand in the tradition of these, I do not consider myself anywhere near as able as those who I have mentioned.

    Finally, I would add that your statement rings a bit like that fundamentalist position that you will “one day come to the truth of Christ because you are seeking truth, and all truth is Christ’s.” I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and I’m sure it annoyed you. The experience works the other way around as well.

    And on to your other points more briefly than they deserve.

    1. Transcendence and immanence are only mutually exclusive states if they are of the same category, but they are not of the same category. It is not like being in a house and also outside of it. To be fundamentally behind, under, above, or outside of the universe is either to have no relationship with the universe at all, or to have a relationship with it in some way. If the first, then you are right, to be outside is not to be inside. If the second, it it not contradictory to be both fundamentally outside the universe and effectively and potentially active in every point of the universe, as Shakespeare is both outside of Much Ado About Nothing, and present everywhere in it. Or, perhaps, as one playing a video game is absolutely outside of the game, and actively present within it.

    2. The distinction of Kalam is not that “all things must have a cause” but “all things which come into being must have a cause.” A thing which does not come into being does not need a cause. You seem to be reading the argument as if it says “all things, whether they come into existence or not, must have a cause.” But that is not in fact the argument.

    3. One wonders which dictionary. In any case, the term Theism has the special meaning of a personal god in discourse about that topic. Since this is a discussion about that topic, the technical meaning is applicable, just as the term acceleration has one meaning when driving a car, and another meaning in physics.

    4. With regard the personal interpretation question, the short answer is yes, if I argued from a position of personal interpretation. However, being part of what is considered to be “On Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” (i.e. that body of believers that stretches beyond mere denominational lines) I do not propose that personal interpretation is the master. In fact, being Episcopalian I can point to Richard Hooker’s “3 legged stool” of “Scripture, Tradition, and Reason” each balancing the other two. I may, in an ecumenical move, hold forth on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, adding “Experience” to the mix. Each of these balances the other, forcing scriptural interpretation and tradition to conform to reason, for wild speculation and oppressive tradition to be tempered by scripture, and for scriptural witness and speculation to be guided by the thoughts of those holy men and women who have gone before me. These are the epistemological rubrics of at least my tradition. Other traditions have the same tools, but express them slightly differently.

    5. I agree on your point about sentience vs. consciousness. Yet then the question remains open as to how the universe might be sentient.

    6. The point about all possibilities being actualized is curious. In the many worlds theory, one argues that each universe expresses one possibility, and thus all possibilities are actualized. A few questions: 1. Is this merely a model to help us describe phenomena, or is this provable through experimentation? All that I read suggests the second. And if a model, then how can it be used to state actual fact? 2. If the MWT is in fact an accurate description of reality, what ground of relationship do these universes have to each other? And is there not a universe in which the possibility of wiping out all other universes is actualized? If so, how does our universe still exist? 3. Would one of the possibilities of a universe be that it was a created object? If it seems like an infinitesimal likelihood, is it not also “equally possible” based on your showing? And then, is it also possible that our universe is the universe that should be the one created? Since we exist in this universe, or at least since I continue to seem to have consciousness that exists within a single non-divergent reality, what is the possibility (or, in your words, the reality) that my universe is the created universe? Since it is actualized, I conclude that by your own argument, you may have proven that the universe was created by God.

    But then I’m sure that this is not what you’ve meant at all.

    As my camping trip has been cancelled this weekend, I will most likely be able to respond again. And my love of debate almost guarantees it.

  9. I shall reply in reverse order in which you answered them.

    About all possibilities being actualized:
    1) Lots of the principles that go into it are provable, but the overall claim is not yet provable as the apparatus does not exist, but in the future the highly mathematically-based claims shall be testable. Alas great theories in science sometimes come about hundreds or thousands of years before their testability. One wonders what the Ionians thought back in 2000 BCE about their theories of atoms and heliocentrism.
    2) The universes are like self-contained bubbles. Anything possible can exist in them even to the point of the universe’s own obliteration but that is where it ends. Any effects between universes would have to occur in the multiverse between them. Also, positing that a universally-destructive event is possible at all times, equally so a universally-creative event is possible at all times, and the two could in theory cancel each other out.
    3) All universes are created from the same primal singularity after which the possibilities forge new universes. Now a couple things can form new universes: possibilities alone create new universes based on them occurring and not occurring. Also when universes collide in the multiverse the can cause new universes to form. It is also possible to create new universes my branes colliding as well. Since all derivative universes would come from the chain leading back to the singularity, they are all product of the same base event. Our conscious does not actually exist in a single non-divergent reality. It is constantly being copied into new universes based on possibility and the other copies of me in the infinite parallel universes are slightly different and would not share my current consciousness.

    You use this term “created” to say the natural processes require outside intervention they do not require. All universes are equally derived from the singularity. The existence of your consciousness, the universe, nor the infinite parallel universes point towards any form of deity. They are just the result of natural processes.

    Well the universe could be sentient just like we are sentient. Enough interconnections are made between groups of neurons and brain parts to eventually allow it to possess itself. Some people refer to this idea as “we are result of the universe trying to explain itself”.

    Well the thing is, by your own faith, you are incapable making an accurate or valid personal interpretation. Reason, you can reason anything, doesn’t mean it’s god. Tradition, tradition has been barbaric for centuries, the Hebrew society was based on animal sacrifice as much the Aztecs were based on human sacrifice, doesn’t mean it’s god. Experience, the mind can create powerful illusions, and if not being stimulated will even generate them, and eyewitness accounts are often wrong, doesn’t mean it’s god. And the scripture, interpreted, translated, and manipulated for thousands of years, doesn’t mean it’s god either. Without a literal stance you have nothing but your assumptions, no evidence, no science, but purely assumptions to base your faith on. No objective way to find truth. It is all subjective. Science bases itself on objectivity as much as possible and that’s why it lines up with reality so well. I don’t have enough blind faith to base my views of reality on purely my own subjective assumptions and the subjectively-manipulated resources of religion.

    I was using the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Theism does not mean a personal deity, but just a deity. Otherwise atheism would mean disbelief in a persona deity, but a non-personal deity is open for debate. That is not the case.

    Regarding the Kalam I’ve said twice that according to it, all things that exist must have a cause (allowing for self-existent things to be their own cause in themselves).

    Transcendence meaning a deity is removed from the universe. To remain transcendent I would argue you have to remain away from universe. To influence the universe somehow would indicate some form of contact with the universe, and thus no longer be removed from the universe, leaving us with a conclusion of transcendence and immanence being mutually exclusive. A metaphor is saying if I was outside a house completely, no contact, I would be transcendent in relation to the house. But if I, say, wanted to yell into the window my own body would move to force the matter in the air to vibrate and translate that energy through the matter. I would have to have contact with the air as a medium between the house, window, and myself to yell into it. I could yell and be immanent, or I could be removed and stay transcendent.

    You, sir, are a doctoral student of theology and I find it difficult for someone in your position of availability of knowledge and skill to overlook how your religion was created as a combination of Canaanite and Babylonian religions which themselves were derivatives of other prehistoric religions. The Egyptians themselves created a variant of monotheism long before the Hebrews. Even the Pentateuch writers of J, E, D, and P modified and changed the scriptures towards societal and personal viewpoints of the day.

    Someone with your expertise in the field to overlook how humans created the base notion of your monotheistic religion baffles me as much as it intrigues me. You are relying on personal experience for a lot, and I get that. Personal experience feels good, you want to believe it, you want to be able to trust your own senses. I was raised in a very experience-based pentecostal church, people used experience to try to claim things all the time were from “god” but I could always duplicate said experiences just imagining them myself with no need for a intervention of supernatural proportions.

    An essential problem is that the bible itself says to test all things, but here you’ve admitted to relying on mainly subjective principles for all your findings about religions and that you cannot use science because religion isn’t testable. The validity of your religion is just as much valid as everything from Islam to Wicca, Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism, tribal religions, animal sacrifice, voodoo, Buddhism, Judaism, and satanism. If you were a universalist or a pantheist I could see it with your knowledge base. But for someone of the historical and theological knowledge of yourself, as logical as you are, to rely purely on your own subjective assumptions drives me nearly mad. I mean, I can be intellectually arrogant, as I’m sure you are at times, but I could never be that arrogant to claim by subjective reality to be the objective reality without evidence. I digress.

  10. The clarifications on the multiverse are very interesting. If a theory is not testable, how can it have any truth claim in your own epistemology? Does this not appear to be a kind of “faith” in an untestable theory? I am not here proposing a faith in science, but merely a faith in a theory that cannot be verified by science.

    Also, I suppose we can leave the question of a universal sentience aside, as the structure of that sentience seems to me to require complexity which arises in the diversity of the universe, but then does not allow for congnition based on the distances involved and the limits of the speed of light (imagine a human brain the size of the solar system and the delays that would be involved in that thought process). But then, it is a speculation that does not bear on the points we are mainly discussing.

    Now as to the historical record. I was not claiming ignorance of the historical context of appearance of Israelite religion, I was asking for specific textual evidence that this particular historical group had expressed belief in the same beliefs as those who stood as their cultural neighbors. We have texts from Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Moabite, and more cultures in the area. But where are the Israelite texts which hold to the same pagan origin stories? I am not denying that they exist, I am asking for the verifiable historical evidence of the truth claim you are making that the Israelites as a particular historical group believed these things.

    As well, the assumption of preexisting religious beliefs does not indicate a simple composition of a new religion from other religious beliefs. There are two workable theories. 1. The monotheistic religion of Israel appeared as a simple development from other pagan religions. 2. It is the result of divine revelation.

    You can propose that somehow monotheism arises out of polytheism in a rather unphilosophical people, and arrives at the concept of a god whose name equates to something like a free willed being, or the concept of being itself without the prerequisite philosophical traditions that accompanied other similar conclusions. You can propose this, but in this case Occam’s Razor is on the side of revelation. It is simpler to propose a mind introducing these ideas to other minds than ideas arising on their own from premises that do not suggest them, such as polytheism not suggesting monotheism.

    Now the appearance of the religion of Amenhotep is not exactly what we can historically call “the Egyptians coming up with monotheism.” It was the concept of a single man, not a development out of polytheism. This is evidenced by the fact that it was immediately crushed. If it were a “natural development’ more than just the king would have been on board as it would have appeared as an obvious development out of polytheism. Yet this did not happen, nor did it happen when the Israelites encountered other belief systems that might have somehow seen the natural progress from polytheism to monotheism. This is even stranger when we consider how readily polytheistic religions were to adopt gods and practices from others and incorporate them.

    Now Plato is a good example of monotheism appearing outside of Israel. But then, he arrived at the concept through logic, not by assembling other concepts, nor from naturally developing his pagan religion. It was a move of rejection, not consummation, of his culture’s polytheism.

    As regard the term “theism” you insist on using a term from popular meaning in a technical discussion. But the point is not worth debating any longer. You may find with other theologians, however, that the term is used as I have used it. But then again, you may not.

    You infer a lot from my response to your insinuation about my own faith. I merely expressed the closest thing I have had to a “crisis of faith” and you seem to have inferred that I am somehow basing everything on personal experience. That seems to be a very large leap on your part. It’s also incredibly pejorative to express a “Personal experience feels good.” Yes, personal experience feels good, but it is, as I have expressed above, only valuable in a structure of other tools.

    Now to those tools….

    First, to insist that the literal interpretation of the Bible is the only valid way of getting information from the Bible belies your own modernist response to religion. It is fundamentalists and those reacting to fundamentalism who insist that the Christianity of the last two thousand years which has rejected literalism is in fact wrong about how to interpret its own books and belief systems. This is merely a way of invalidating a more complex and less easily defeated mode of Christian belief than mere literal fundamentalism. It is a straw-man argument against an easily defeated enemy. It is also something of a “No True Scotsman” when brought to its end. In other words, “Christians read the Bible literally.” “Well, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and the Main Line do not.” “Well, they are not true Christians then.”

    And you misunderstand the use of tradition, reason, scripture and experience. An example will suffice.

    A person sees a vision, and that vision is of Jesus telling them to murder abortion doctors.

    Now, that experience, within the central core of Christianity as it has been practiced before fundamentalism (again, only about a century old) and continues to be generally practiced int eh main line, the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox churches, needs to be weighed against Scripture, tradition, and reason. What does scripture say? Well, as Christians we center our exegetical understanding of the scriptures through either the Gospels or through the letters of Paul primarily. Using either method brings about an answer that says that the vision is at best dubious, and at worst, the result of evil influence.

    Ok, so what about Tradition? Well, the overall Christian tradition regards killing only as lawful as an act of the state exacting justice, or as an act of a soldier in a just war. Neither of these apply to the vision, and thus the vision continues to seem inauthentic.

    Finally, one tests it against reason. Is it rational that God would command a human being to kill another human being? Well, there is nothing logically contradictory about the idea. And unless we rely on scripture and tradition to understand God’s character, this is as far as we can go with reason. We cannot ask whether it is more likely that this vision is natural or supernatural, because we have no data on the likelihood of supernatural interference, for that we would have to know how predictable God is, and we do not.

    Thus, by weighing Scripture, tradition, and reason, we come out with a very solid case by scripture and tradition that the person is not being told by God to do this.

    Now, if we leave it merely to scripture, and thus have no traditional method for interpretation of scripture, we are left with texts which do describe divine mandates to kill.

    If we are left merely to reason, we find no contradiction in terms.

    Thus, unless we use these tools as the church has used them for two millennia, we are in fact at a loss for knowledge.

    Of course, if left to science, real honest to goodness science and materialism, there is no way to know whether the vision should be listened to or not. And, for all I can see, no real reason to follow it or not.

    Also, when you say “y your own faith, you are incapable making an accurate or valid personal interpretation” you are either saying one of two things. 1. You could be saying that because I have a particular lens through which I interpret reality, that i cannot be trusted to interpret reality outside of that lens. This is absolutely true, but it is true for all people in all cultures and all times. One cannot, no matter how learned one is, remove oneself totally from one’s context. It is the structure of Reason, Tradition, and Scripture which is meant to be a tool for evaluating one’s experience in the larger context beyond one’s simple individualistic sense data.

    But perhaps you mean: 2. Faith is a particular worldview which, unlike the scientific worldview, obscures the reality of one’s experiences. Now this is just sheer nonsense. It is the kind of viewpoint that makes one wonder about the intellectual honesty of people who propose it. Does anyone really think that by adhering to a scientific perspective that they are suddenly free from their own contextualized reading of their experience? This is nonsense.

    Now, to your final point. I don’t know that it is relevant, but as you bring it up, I am a universalist. Now, by that I mean that I believe that Christ, when he says “I shall draw all things unto myself” and when the Bible says that hell will be cast into the lake of fire, that this means that hell itself will be utterly destroyed. I find this tradition in the Greek fathers, and in thinkers like George MacDonald. I find it in the hopes of modern Catholic documents. Thus I see that it exists in tradition. I find no contradiction in it in reason. And as I have said, I find it in scripture, albeit alongside of statements about punishment, and thus I do not insist on it as a dogma.

    The problem of the subjective/objective divide is really not as wide as you think. What you look for in verifiable repeatable experimentation, the tradition of the church provides us with a massive number of persons who have also experienced God telling us what they have found there. Of course this is not scientific experimentation, but it is a rather dubious philosophical position to take scientific experimentation as the basis for philosophical positions. They are categorically different.

    And finally, the question of transcendence. The concept of “outside” the universe is ultimately technically wrong. “Outside” is a predication of space. God does not fundamentally exist spatially. But because God is, if we are to put it this way, the ground and context of our reality, God has total access to the whole of it. And thus is as St. Anselm put it, “with all places” but is not spatially present in all spaces. Again, “with” is a metaphorical word. It is meant to convey the access that God has to all points in space on a basic level.

  11. Scientific principles are laid out as derivations of it’s parts that have been proven and then work backward and forward from those proven parts. Now when math predicts something using the previously proven statements into a new way I tend to give it more support than without the math. I have the name conviction in multiverse theory as i do in the standard model of physics. The standard model was predicted wholly by math, and most of it has been proven to exist, and the two particles left (the Higgs boson and gravitons) remain, and the Higgs data coming from the LHC indicates a high likelihood of it existing and there just refining the data currently. After that, gravitons will be the last of the standard model to prove.

    A final note of universal sentience, some physics and biologists have collaborated to conclude that more energy-based life could be possible, and they could last for long periods of time theoretically where thoughts could take thousands of years to form.

    Ok. You understand that of the Pentateuch, P, the fourth writer, wrote from genesis 1:1 until 2:1 centuries after J and E wrote onward from that. Well the Babylonian religion expressed in the Enuma Elish ( a link for your convenience) holds that the champion of the Babylonian pantheon, Marduk slayed the evil female serpent (or dragon) Tiamat. Then after the Babylonian exile of the Hebrews, the writer P incorporates the Hebrew god yahweh defeating the serpent (satan) while a female introduced the concept of evil (or sin) into the world. You can see a very interesting parallel. Also, the cosmology of the Babylonians was introduced as well.

    This guy does a great job in a scholarly way of explaining topics surrounding his journey from christianity to pantheism to atheism. This video (and it’s part 2) is pretty good as explaining the progression of the israelite religion from other sources.

    That video also helps with that following paragraph. And the Razor doesn’t necessarily help you.

    God exists in capacity of Abrahamic tradition
    God creates the universe and the people in it
    God reveals something to israelites

    Monotheistic Compliation:
    Universe produces itself and the people in it
    Priesthood compiles monotheism from people

    The Razor still errs on the side of naturalism regardless because supernatural first and always assumes god exists.

    I would also argue that due to the tribal/feudal nature of the culture, the whole culture is not required to be philosophical but only a few with power. The priesthood would be the most learned, literate, and knowledgeable of the group, and they could control a culture by their decree if so desired.

    There’s definitely evidence of Plato being a skeptical dualist, but not much more. Plato liked to write more on politics and philosophy than theology or religion. It might be good if you take into account the god being worshiped depending on the god’s role in the pantheon and the people’s current plight.

    Ok with your quadrilateral approach, my fundamental approach is that when you say that experience must be weighted “against Scripture, tradition, and reason” you are committing an error. I shall explain. For scripture you claim: “Using either method brings about an answer that says that the vision is at best dubious, and at worst, the result of evil influence.” The problem is that you are selecting the answer, your interpretation of the scripture, what you and other people think it says.

    Similarly with tradition you say “Well, the overall Christian tradition regards killing only as lawful as an act of the state exacting justice, or as an act of a soldier in a just war. Neither of these apply to the vision, and thus the vision continues to seem inauthentic.” Yet you are personally mediating that this situation is not a war nor a mediation of justice. Now the person who had this vision might see it as a war or a necessary breach of justice. Once again, what makes you (and other people’s ) views any more closer to the truth than his? And with reason you say that reason doesn’t allow you one way or the other.

    My contention is this: If your mediation of scriptural, experiential, reasonable, and traditional correctness is based on how you can interpret (which is always has, is, and well be) than your view and everyone else’s view is not necessarily objectively right. Even if 100% of the people said it was, that does not make it objectively right.

    It was not a comparison of one denomination’s preference of literal interpretation versus liberal interpretation but that the flaw in itself is that you are using interpretation itself! Without something that is held as objective, you have absolutely nothing to rely upon than your own subjective interpretation to define reality, good and evil, and anything else. I am arguing you cannot have anyway a stable belief system without establishing an assumed objective canon of teachings, scriptures, or principles by which are infallible and cannot be moved.

    Actually with science, the principle of testing can be used for claims that deal with the natural world. Yet due to this vision concerning a personal moral concept, science cannot remedy it for that sake. We can, however, scan the man’s brain with an MRI to determine if his brain is hallucinating or not.

    Regarding that statement of incapability of accurate faith I was mainly arguing 1, and I would append it by saying a true realty would exhibit the laws and the effects of said reality regardless of a personal interpretation or belief in them. The classical example of this is that gravity is generally thought correct because regardless whether you believe in it or not, throwing something up will always end in that coming back down (if no external forces) regardless of whether you find gravity correct or incorrect.

    By universalist, I meant one who believes that all belief systems are equally correct in terms of their likelihood of existing and being the correct answer. You may be a wide-spectrum christian, but you are a christian nonetheless. I take it you don’t believe in reincarnating eventually until you reach nirvana do you? Well of course not.

    Actually I think the divide is much greater than you claim concerning subjectivity and objectivity. Using your example of people for thousands of years “experiencing god” and “knowing” his existence, I can propose an easy and similar history. For tens of thousands of years people claimed to know the earth was flat, they experienced the earth was flat everyday. Does that mean the earth is flat now we can see it from all sides with satellites and have indeed circumnavigated it? Of course not. Ascribing validity to a popular opinion is just the classic argumentum ad populum. It’s not just religion too, for centuries physicists believed in the luminiferous ether, but now that’s been discredited. Doesn’t mean those people were right for all believing in it.

    Well considering your belief in god being omnipresent, the idea of transcendental doesn’t really apply to him, but immanent certain does in that context. Your god would actually be just as likely as the “god is made up of everything” that pantheism expresses, a notion which you completely try to discredit. All you argue in addition is that your god (which is part of everything) is also a distinct something.

  12. I fail to see how the many worlds theory is shown to be necessary from a mathematical viewpoint. How does it stand as demonstrably superior to the Copenhagen explanation of collapsing wave-forms?

    I am very well aware of the Enuma Elish, and the supposed developments of different pieces of the pentatuech from them. Some are very obvious, such as the flood story being a repurposed composite of previous flood stories. Some are less obvious, such as the connection that you are making here between Tiamat and the serpent in the Garden. What is more normally done is the linguistic connection between Tiamat and Tehom, the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1 for the deep. The connection to Leviathan as well in the book of Job, which is, next to the Deuteronomistic material, probably the oldest thing in the Hebrew Bible, puts this connection in something of a doubtful position.

    You are making a common error of assuming that literary and historical theories carry the weight of fact, especially when they are based on as scant evidence as we actually have of the development of texts and traditions. Every honest biblical scholar I know, and having majored in it, I know several, admits that the models for these theories are mainly models that show similarities. To insist on direct causal connection is to beyond our evidence and to commit the post hoc fallacy.

    I can only laugh at the propositions you have put together as if “priesthood compiles monotheism from people” were a simple and uncomposite statement. The composition is actually far more complex than that, and you betray your own prejudices by falsely simplifying the terms as if “priesthood compiles monotheism from people” were not a major number of steps each predicated on the other, for example

    1. naturalistic process gives rise to rational mind
    2. rational mind makes non-logical connection between nature and the supernatural.
    3. non-logical connection between the supernatural and morality appears.
    4. non-logical leap from polytheism to monotheism appears.
    5. priesthood compiles monotheism from people.

    All of these things are required for your side of the argument to stand.
    However, while some of these things may be true on the other side, they are not necessary.

    1. God exists in capacity of Abrahamic tradition
    2. God creates the universe and the people in it and reveals something to Israelites (one simple eternal consistent act since God is simple and uncomposite and Actus Purus)

    Now, I’m not saying that because this side has less arguments that it is necessarily true, but I am showing how you have conflated a ridiculous number of non-logical steps together into a deceptively short argument.

    Your statements about Plato are merely irrelevant. When he wrote on deity, he wrote on it coming to the conclusion very near to monotheism, with the only difference being that his demiurge did not create the world, but merely applied the forms. Further development of his thought in middle and neo-platonism shows the development of generally non-religious mono-theism, culminating in Plotinus. Also, attempting to explain away inconvenient writings because they don’t suit you is rather disingenuous.

    And now we come to the heart of all of this. The need for objective grounding. The simple fact is that human beings are limited, flawed creatures that can get only so far in truth. Now, I hold that deductive logic, when argued soundly, brings about truth. To deny this, which you seem to have done, is to undermine all human thought and leave you without even science as a source of truth. But then, this is what I will discuss on Monday.

    Suffice to say, human beings are multifaceted creatures who know things in numerous ways. Christianity, by being a relationship with the living God who is also declared to be the God of philosophy, meets humanity at each level of its ability to know, factual, experiential, logical, and inter-personal. Now, of course, all inter-personal reality is experienced reality. But it is a special kind of experienced reality where the experienced reality is also a free agent or mind.

    Science, for all of its certainty about the things that it can test, only meets humanity on a single level, the fact. It literally does nothing for us on the logical, experiential, and inter-personal level. This is why, when proponents of science hold it up to be the source of all human knowledge, they also attempt to undermine all other kinds of knowledge.

    They also say things like “other kinds of knowledge do not offer the kind of certainty that science does.” This is true, for science offers its own kind of certainty, while experience, logic, and inter-personal knowledge all offer their own kinds of certainty. For example, science does not offer deductive certainty about anything. Logic offers that. Science is merely inductive, and cannot, no matter what we do to it, reach deductive certainty.

    Now, Christianity is, from within, the appeal to humanity which knows on all of these levels. it appeals through the logical, through the factual, through experience, and through the inter-personal. Together they form a convincing knowledge reality that is suitable for the whole human person. No one aspect is raised above the others so that it might become a megalomaniacle tyrant over the others as a view that only takes science into account does.

    And thus, we admit that there is no 100% certainty, but then, from your own blog, so do you. Yet, the witness of the historical factual death and resurrection of Jesus (and yes, I’m aware of the “historical Jesus movement” and I think both their premises and arguments are bunk, as I think the dating of Mark based merely on the Little Apocalypse is circular reasoning and thus invalid), the logic of creation and the brute fact of logic at all, the experiences I have had as well as the experiences that the church has had, as well as the direct inter-personal experience of God’s own self, all stand together to argue for God.

    But, I do not deny that from the outside all of those things can each be explained away. So can someone passing the salt when you’ve asked for it, but it would be foolish to do so. I can also see that there are psychological reasons for wanting as close to 100% certainty, and that the seeming steadiness of the ground of science appears to offer that. But I would argue that that is a sinking ship, and will do so on Monday.

    Also, please find me the textual evidence of the “flat world” of the ancient world. My reading has shown me no such overwhelming belief. And since Eratosthenes, I can find no evidence of such a belief except perhaps remnants in myth. You are perhaps propounding the well disproved “flat earth myth” put forward by two misguided followers of Darwin and readers of Washington Irving’s story about Christopher Columbus.

    And you are really confusing categories. God is not a natural phenomenon. If God was, then personal experience would be less important than the scientific method. However, we argue that God is personal, and thus personal experience, especially inter-personal experience, is a fully valid way of getting information about God, and in fact the primary way. And as human beings we know this to be true, since the way you get to know a person is not by studying them in a lab and subjecting them to experiments, but by talking to them, and meeting their friends. One becomes very suspicious when everyone knows Joe to be a kind, gentle, and honest guy, and someone comes along claiming that Joe told him to stab his grandmother. This is the argument from tradition.

    And you do not seem to get the concept of how transcendence “works.” God is fundamentally outside of the universe, though not spatially outside of the universe, for space is predicated of the universe itself. Since all we know is space, it begins to be hard to describe how that relationship can work without falling into picture language (even “outside” is of course, spatial language). However, again, if we picture an author with the book she is writing, she is not physically outside of the story (though you may say that she is not any of the written words) because physicality is not predicated of a story. However, she is fully present in all parts of the story, and has access to all of them at any point.

    Again, this is an imperfect image. But insisting that transcendence is contradictory to immanence is to misunderstand the two ideas as of the same category. God’s fundamental being is not in the universe as one of its parts, but has access to every point in spacetime and can assert power at any point. It is fundamental to understand, however, that this ability no more puts God in spacetime than playing a video game actually locks my being into the world of Mario.

    Your argument for “meaning 1” of the perspectives discussion does not show why then a person of faith has invalidated themselves as an interpreter of their own experience. How does the statement “God exists, and is in relationship to the universe in a personal way” invalidate one’s ability to interpret one’s experiences? And how does “No God exists, or at least none that does anything” not equally invalidate someone? The first may or may not have a penchant for attributing this or that action to God. The second absolutely must never do so. This seems to me to be an argument that atheists are not to be trusted to interpret their own experience since they, by an a priori and not verifiable position discount possible causes for their experience, while the person of faith makes room for multiple causes.

  13. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics is largely criticized nowadays due to essential paradoxes from the EPR paradox to just basic illogical thoughts. In other interpretations such as Many-Worlds, Ensemble, Bohm, and interpretations based on consistent histories don’t require wave function collapse for existence (and it is considered redundant.) A specific criticism by Steven Weinberg noted “The Copenhagen interpretation describes what happens when an observer makes a measurement, but the observer and the act of measurement are themselves treated classically. This is surely wrong: Physicists and their apparatus must be governed by the same quantum mechanical rules that govern everything else in the universe.” which is a very valid criticism.

    I am surprised you consider the Deuteronomistic material material to be the oldest. Yes, there is some evidence to indicate Job is probably one of (if not the most) oldest of texts. But lots of evidence indicates that in terms of the Pentateuch that the writer D wrote the Deuteronomistic material centuries after J and E wrote their early material.

    I am making the most informed position. While they may not be concrete fact as in a mathematical proof or demonstration of scientific phenomena, they are the closest things we would have to understand based on the evidence. All social science faces this dilemma versus the “hard” sciences. And while these models might not indicate completely for a position, it certainly brings the possibilities of doubt and likelihood of development from other ideas into account.

    Despite all this, it would be surely ignorant to ignore other things from biblical development. How so many religions that had already existed before the writing of the biblical scriptures included thing that seem to be complied into the biblical accounts, especially the new testament creation of jesus, who comprised a large amount of characteristics from those other religions’ main figures.

    Well, my friend, you have done the same. Note: while you can say that god is one being, the actions of that being are not all one. I could easily expand your list:

    1) God exists in Abrahamic capacity
    2) Natural processes god creates result in the rational mind
    3) Rational mind has supernatural revealed to it so that the mind personifies it in a being like themselves. (This happens worldwide giving rise to polytheism)
    4) God reveals himself to select group of polytheists that he’s the only god
    5) People accept monotheism

    To my perspective Plato’s god is closer a god of Spinoza than the Abrahamic god.

    I hold that human thought can be right, but is not necessarily right by nature of being logical. Even what is completely logical can be wrong. What is right is to measure the human thought against reality.

    The part that scares me is it seemed that you dislike that science is base solely on fact. Humans have levels of connection but none of them speaks anymore to reality than the other: they don’t. Fact is the only truth. Science offers no deductive certainty of anything because there isn’t deductive certainty of anything, logical thought doesn’t make something exist. I would argue conversely that the reason gods in society have to exist on emotional and interpersonal levels is because they do not exist in reality, but are a extension of the mind being able to create what it thinks reality is. We’re so hypocritical as a society. People who claim to hear voices and see visions telling them to do things are put in sanitariums as schizophrenics, unless, of course, they invoke the name of some religion. For some reason, it’s regarded as sane by society to be completely deluded and insane as long as you invoke a popular religion.

    I could argue that you misspoke when you said “…[Christianity] appeals through the logical, through the factual, through experience, and through the inter-personal.” by reason of saying factual. While religion can appeal on a logical level (though most people don’t use logic with religion), experiential and interpersonal levels as well, it does not, has not, (and in my opinion never will be,) on a factual level. The main way to test factual versus nonfactual is to test claims, but you discount the literal interpretations which provide claims to test. Instead, you rely mostly philosophic and theological arguments. Using a literal interpretation, defeating religion is quite easy. Like when Genesis claims the sun and stars are different and created at different times, or creating the universe in six days (or six thousand years depending on view), or when the Quran claims that salt water and fresh water don’t mix (what hogwash!), or when the Hindu traditions in the Vedas and Upanishads claim the universal brahman is something like 11 trillion years old, which we know the universe is not.

    I do agree there isn’t 100% certainty, but there is certainty beyond a shadow of doubt. My form of certainty says that if I go out in a downpour, I will most likely get wet and there might only be a centimeter or so that isn’t soaked. Your certainty seems to be that you wish to walk out in a downpour and believe you won’t get wet in any way.

    Ok, regarding “the witness of the historical factual death and resurrection of Jesus”. You are aware aren’t you of all the evidence against that statement right? Like how no roman contemporary speaks of jesus’ existence or death, but acknowledges Pilate did exist. And the gospels were written up to 150 to 200 years after jesus’ supposed death. (With the later gospels having much more miraculous claims than the first.) Even Josephus was born after jesus’ supposed death, he only heard stories. And not to mention that jesus would’ve been born in Nazareth if he was born, as the Roman’s extensive records record absolutely no census in that area in that time period, not even when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And whole fallacious story of the “500 witnesses” after jesus’ supposed resurrection doesn’t have much historical or contemporary basis.

    Putting all those aside, it would still be in doubt if you just looked at the possibilities. It is much more likely that various things could’ve happened than an actual death and resurrection of the same jesus. it is more likely for jesus to have a twin (some sources indicate he had a brother) or someone disguised as him to come back after the death of a local cult leader. We see this pattern in many cults historically and modern, if the leader is killed, often someone claiming to be that leader assumes control. We are also left with doubts as to the medical knowledge of the period. Who is say that jesus (if he lived) was ever dead to begin with. If i was the romans, I’d help a local cult figure like jesus get started to influence the jews to be more pacifist like jesus was. Who’s to say that if the story is even true that the romans didn’t break jesus’ legs not because he was already dead but because they claimed he was dead. There’s too many naturalistic possibilities

    As for you “logic of creation” and “brute force of logic” I refer previously to lack of evidence and the flaws of logic. Just because logic could argue that the world was flat, and be quite convincing, does not mean it is. And with your experience, the same base problem. Relating to experience, I might remind you that if since you were most likely raised christian and in the christian culture of the united states, your mind has developed a need a supernatural. And when the brain needs something, it will create it even if it is not there.

    For that whole text evidence of a flat earth, you can just easily read the tons of citations on the Wikipedia article regarding it: By the time of Columbus, most thinking people knew of the spherical earth, so I don’t purport that, no.

    Personal experience is always less important the science. Your contention fails with many thing people “know” about people that are completely false. Many psychopaths and sociopaths who committed murders and heinous atrocities were described by the people who knew them as generally kind, caring, loving, and other positive attributes. Experience gives us generalizations that are moderately accurate for social situations after we grow into adult, but this is only after years and years of being taught the base principles of interaction since birth.

    Also, just a thought. If the only secure thing to exist is a deity, wouldn’t that deity not be the most natural expression of reality? And thus what we think of as “nature” would just be a derivative reality of that deity?

    It might be better grammar to say concerning transcendence that a deity is “removed” from the natural world. But if considering your metaphor of writing, the deity (author) is in someway in direct contact (pen) to the natural world (paper/book). I think of your illusion of a “spirit creature” of sorts being your deity to be hilarious false. All interactions, even that of base particles must come from interaction with other particles. You cannot interact with something without direct contact to that something (or something attached to the something you are trying to contact.) But then again you deity claims to not even be removed from the natural world, but omnipresence. But I digress. You seem to want to say that if a puppeteer doesn’t directly have his hands on the puppet but merely the control strings, he isn’t in contact with the puppet.

    For you to interact with the world of Mario, it must be mediated somehow. Your physical body is not in there, no, but your control is via manipulation of a physical apparatus connected to both you and the console. You are not transcendent in relation to the video game, while you maybe be quite immanent.

    To say a deity has universal access but is removed from that universe but then saying the deity is in there and acting in the universe is akin to saying a deity exists in a giant room full of all the mailboxes in the world with all the keys to open them with, yet your deity would claim to be removed from when while simultaneously having his hand inside every mailbox.

    My argument alone is that nobody is to be trust with their own subjective experiences but to rely solely on what is repeatable, demonstrable, and observable as part of the universe. We are not to be trusted as much as you are, the only thing to be trusted is the evidence.

    On another personal note:
    Do you think I’m an atheist because I want to be? It’s a load off the mind for anybody to not have to think for yourself and believe you are lowly play-toy of a deity. I would absolutely love to be religious in any aspect that was provable. If you could demonstrate how christianity, islam, judaism, bah’ai, wiccan, scientology, hindusim, buddhism, taodism, shinto, primitive religions, new age, or any other as correct with evidence, I’d love to believe in them. I’m an atheist because all the evidence indicates the claims made by religion are purely a bunch of man-made hokum, and I realize my own lack of ability to perceive truth via my senses, so I rely on objective scientific evidence (which has an exceptional track record of validity and nature interaction compared to religion.)

    • I am writing this on my iPhone so apologies for any strange words and for its brevity.

      To claim that Christ was “created” by the new testament is so much a position of ignorance and cultural bias that it hardly bares responding to. However, since you have been taken in by the whole “late gospels agenda” I suppose I’m not surprised. There is in fact no consensus that the gospels are written anywhere near as late as you suggest.

      The general dating of Mark is 65-80, Matthew and Luke 75-90, and John 95-110. However the logic goes like this: “We don’t know when to date Mark, but there is this strange story of Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple. We know that temple fell in 70 so…people can’t really predict things, right? So Mark has to be after the temple fell. And since we now hold Markan Priority, we need to give some time for Matthew and Luke to get their hands on Mark, decide that they want to expand on it, and writ…so let’s add another 10 to 15 years. Then, since John talks about persecutions, and again, since people don’t actually predict things, those are probably the persecutions of the 90’s…so let’s put John after that.”. Truly compelling logic to some, though I have never found it to be so.

      As well you ignore the Pauline documents which no one ducts to be from the 50’s, in which he references people from the gospels who are living as if the historical event of the resurrection happened.

      This is perhaps a matter of taste, but I do find it rather annoying when you ask if I’m aware of these things when I have made it clear that this was my field in undergrad. It’s not bothersome that they should come up, it’s bothersome that you think that there is no other explanation for rejecting them than having never heard them.

      We are about to tread on Monday’s post at this point in the discussion on knowledge, so I’ll refrain from response to that point.

      And now, as I sit here in Thomas Mann’s library at Princeton, where Einstein would chill, I must be off.

  14. Brevity is the soul of wit as a Bard used to say.

    Well the name Jesus was common in that time period, so it would be like I made a modern religion about a guy named “Tanner”. But the character is nothing new. Many many religions before the Hebrews created theirs had things wrongly attributed to the old testament, and many many more religions had characters with attributes ascribed to Jesus before the new testament was written. Essentially, the writers just used a stock religious character and modified it for Israel at the time.

    Yeah nobody disputes Paul’s writing was before the Gospels were written. Yet there’s an interesting pattern. Paul’s writing is generally speaking dull and unexciting. It’s lots of theology and philosophy with little supernatural miracles ascribed. But as we go forward in the Gospels (despite the problems with the stories not lining up at times) miracles tend to be added and embellished, kinda like big fish stories do through time.

    The whole problem with that logic about Mark is as follows:

    1) They are human writers, they don’t have to necessarily write what Jesus said, only what they say he say. They could insert material relevant to the time into their version of the Gospels as a way for the struggling early church to explain what was going on. We see historically many groups editing foundational documents and texts to explain current phenomena.

    2) People might not be able to predict things, but they can observe them in reality and retroactively write them into the scripture the same way in the documentary hypothesis D writes Deuteronomy centuries after they claimed it was written and P writes in the whole hebrew bent of the babylonian and cannanite religious stories into genesis 1 centuries after it was claimed to have been written.

    Well it just seems to me that however you may no about them, you try to search for complex ways to get around valid criticisms. And yes we might have perspectives and criticisms each other has not heard and ones we might have, it just seems you do a lot of hoop jumping for you base positions.

    Have fun at the library and I guess this thread ends! I will await your post on Monday!

  15. Nope, this thread doesn’t end, it just doesn’t go into Monday’s material. 🙂

    Here is the problem. You start from the a priori that Christianity is wrong. You then find every theory and possible argument that either puts the Gospels late, or makes spurious statements about Paul (whose central theme, throughout his letters is “A man rose from the dead, and if he didn’t, we’re doing all of this for nothing”). These answers are possible answers, because our information is in a similar state to many pieces of historical information. It is a rearrangement of the information we have to suit your preconceived notions about what is real.

    Yet, the documents themselves offer no good reason to doubt them, unless you start with the a priori that “these documents are wrong.” We have literally NOTHING like the Gospels in the ancient world. They are their own genera. As well, comparisons of Jesus’ statements and acts, especially within the context of Judaism, do not function the same way that approximations of older traditions into composite or later figures actually do in literature. Loomis’ work on the Arthurian traditions and textual sources shows a good pattern of how what you are describing actually happens in written documents, and we see none of those characteristics in the Gospels.

    What we do see are similar themes. A teacher, a wonder worker, claims of divinity, death, and rising from the dead. But they are taking place in a people who repudiated any connection of divinity with humanity on the model that the pagan stories do, and a close reading of the Gospels reveals no textual borrowing from any source for things attributed to Jesus. You may find similarities in his teachings, and closeness to his viewpoints in rabbis of the generation before him (as in Hillel), but what you don’t find is the kind of source borrowing that we see in both the Old Testament and in other kinds of documents that do what you are describing.

    Could the Gospel writers, or even just one of them made it all up? Sure, but there is no reason to think that they did. When people lie, they do it to get something. The early Christians got nothing but grief, to put it lightly. And when they did tell their story, they did not show their own leaders in any kind of good light (another factor we do not see in the ancient world). Could we imagine some maniacal person writing a totally false tale from composite old myths, weaving it together with a genius that no other literary writer has ever had, which is to so mask his sources that we cannot find anything except similar themes in cultural settings that would not allow for them under normal circumstances? Sure. But that is one heck of an instance of the multiplying of hypotheses.

    The texts themselves therefore offer no reason to doubt their date, unless what you want to do is argue against Christianity, and then can therefore cobble together an argument that is at least somewhat plausible based on what COULD have happened. Sure, it COULD, but there’s no good reason to think it did, unless, as previously stated, you start with the statement “all of this is false” and then you can find people who will agree with you. Just like there are some scientists who agree that the world is young. They have an agenda, and they can rearrange data to support their agenda. But there is no firm prompting in the texts themselves to do this, as there is in something like “Ecclesiastes” which has Hebrew from a clearly much later date than the time of Solomon.

    I can safely say this because as far as I can tell, you have presented no argument as to WHY the Gospels should be dated late, all you can say is “here are some features of the Gospels, and some people who agree with me about God read these features in the same way, and thus the arguments are strong.” But because you have the a priori “Christianity is wrong” you are biased toward the most detrimental theories of other people who agree with you.

    Whereas, I can, while still believing Christianity to be true, argue that the Gospels may be late, but there’s no reason to say that they are. I can argue that the Deutero-Pauline canon is not in fact written by Paul, despite its claim to be, because of actual textual criticism, not merely something I read from someone who agrees with me. And this is the difference between someone who thinks that arguments have weight because “someone said it somewhere” and someone who has actually done the work themselves. You appear to base your arguments on the work other men and women who agree with you have done. I have actually done the actual work in Historical/Source/Form/Literary Criticism and find your arguments to be merely propaganda.

    But then, as I have viewed how your arguments work time and time again, I am not surprised. Fundamentalist arguments function in this way. Find the merest scrap of someone who believes what you do, and ride that to death. I’m sure you hate it, knowing how actual science works, to have someone who does not actually know what they are talking about waving fringe theories in your face and then asking “why you are ignoring the evidence?”

    As I said before about a similarly Fundamentalist style statement that you made, the experience works both ways.

  16. My last comments bear some further explanation.

    Biblical Criticism for dating a text functions in the following ways.

    1. Are there linguistic evidences for the dating of the text (i.e. are there grammatical or syntactical clues that can pin us down to a time)?
    2. What are the earliest references to the text that we can absolutely pin down a terminus a quem of the docmuent?
    3. What is the historical situation that best seems to fit for the composition of a text. This is always from internal evidence of the text, not from mere speculation as to “why” someone would write a text at that time. The “why” always comes after the conclusion.
    4. What literary forms are being used, and what other evidence do we have of that form being used at certain times? (In other words, form criticism)
    5. Are there sources that the text itself uses that will help us set a termius a quo for the text? (I.e. source criticism)

    Thus we find with the prophecy in the book of Daniel that points to the high priest Joshua in the second century BC. The prophecy very clearly points to the figure of Joshua, and thus meets very much the criteria of #3 for being a late composition.

    The language of the Song of Solomon is late Hebrew, not early Hebrew, and thus falls under #1.

    Composition of the whole composite structure of D seems to meet the standards of the Babylonian Exile, as you have pointed out. But centeral material in D seems to match up well to the “book of the law” that Josiah finds in the temple and the reforms that he institutes. Thus the role of D is more complicated. As a final composition, it seems to be 7th to 6th Century BC. But the core law code seems to be far older.

    The Noah story is clearly a composite of Akkadian, Summerian and/or Babylonian flood stories. Thus it must have been written after those, and thus we have a theoretical terminus a quo of Noah rooted in #5 above.

    Now, when we try to use these to try to understand when Mark wrote his gospel, we find that we cannot use 1. 2 Puts us in the first half of the early second century (less than 100 years after the death of Jesus), and 4 doesn’t help us at all.

    All we are left with is 3. And 3 is what people have used, and this has to do with the date of the fall of the temple. But the logic here is, “Jesus predicts the fall of the temple, and either: 1. People don’t really predict things or 2. People don’t record predictions before they come true.” Now, both of these are utterly false assumptions. They also do not follow the struct rules of criticism. They are a philosophy of epistemology or a philosophy of motivation. But, and this is very important, motivation is never a cause for dating a text, motivation comes after we have established, by other means, the date of a text. Motivation is the answer to “why did they write this then” not “this is how we know they wrote this then.”

    Thus the dating of Mark does not hold, and we are left with…well…nothing. There is nothing that helps us to date Mark. We have the terminus a quo of Jesus’ death, and the terminus a quem of the reference to it in the early second century. However, neither of these indicates your late dating.

    Now there are linguistic pieces we can use to show that it is most likely a compiled source (#5 above), and thus we can make some guesses about how long it would have taken for other written sources to come together to allow the author of Mark to cobble together his work. But that is guesswork, and again relies on certain guesses about motivation. When would Christians have started to write things down? Early? Late? Who knows. One can come up with workable models for both.

    It is your lack of familiarity of the inside process of how this work is actually done that shows you to be an outsider to this process. Simply coming up with models that could show “why” a text might be written is not in fact historical/source/form/literary critical work. You are putting the cart before the horse in your assumptions here.

  17. For the sake of your two long comments, I intend to be quite brief.

    First, you are working from your own version of an a priori truth and no doubt there is no amount of evidence or logic I could show you that would ever sway you from the position of being a monotheist, more specifically a christian. You base all your arguments on a personal position that it the bible and its version of the cosmology are correct, and there is no denying that.

    Second, you invert the burden of proof throughout the whole of those comments. Things don’t start out correct and become doubted and thus wrong. Things start out wrong and are proven to be correct. Just because I cast doubt by providing more plausible natural ways things could’ve happened doesn’t prove my side, it just makes your look more and more less plausible.

    Third, there are many more well-studied than I or yourself that have come to varying conclusions. Some claim validity, some claim invalidity. It is up for either of us to weigh their expert conclusions ourselves and determine their application for us.

    Fourth, to say there is no reason for the gospels (or the new testament in general) to be a much of fiction is quite ignorant of human psychology throughout history. Humans want to be right, humans want a supernatural, and as such they desire to be right about the supernatural most. Human beings will lie to themselves (and then to others) about the validity of a religion just for personal sake. All religions have pain and bloodshed when starting up, and this isn’t just limited to the meager scope of christianity but all religion.

    Fifth, I might not have the technical skill to do the research as I would like to (as I am not fluent in either hebrew nor ancient greek), it does not invalidate my use of other scholars much more knowledgeable than you or me. All I seek is to promote doubt. If things have much more ways something could’ve happened, it’s quite less likely that things happened the way you say they did. But then again you’ve given no direct support to your side either.

    Sixth, fringe theories are necessary in science, because the can be truth. Originally, compared to the majority of the world, heliocentrism was a fringe theory of science. They are to be measured among with the evidence. Even Einstein’s theories of relativity are becoming less immortal, per say, of a theory compared to some new advancements in Machian-type theories of physics. The existence of the other theories doesn’t alone disprove Einstein’s, but it casts more doubt on the validity of such things.

    Seventh, with mainly your second comment you mainly focus on ways of dating text, which I acknowledge you have much more experience in doing. The problem is that when the methods used can’t even render you a complete and definitive answer in such case as the gospel of mark. Furthermore, I do find it relevant to note why a person might write something, especially at this time when writing was a unique and special skill not all possessed and the materials for doing so had significant cost.

    Eighth, you might be able to use textual evidence to determine a rough date for such texts, but if someone where severely skilled and literate (as the scribes of the time were) it would be possible not only for the priests around the time of D, but any places there were established priesthoods and scribes to write older. For example, this is 2012 and we use modern english, but there are well-learned Shakespearean scholars and linguists that could accurately write text whose syntax and form would emulate that of Shakespeare’s early modern english to a great degree. This could occur with Chaucer’s style of middle english and even the old english found in the earliest recordings of Beowulf. With care you can write back to the period, and note that the knowledge of oral tradition compared to now is immensely different. Certain scribes knew the entire ancient texts by heart and could write them all from memory, a feat now almost impossible in the modern era.

    Ninth, due to the scope and nature of analyzing old texts, specifically ancient texts in ancient languages, our best methods of analysis doesn’t fully and securely tell us what is going on. For that reason, establishing doubt is important as it gives alternatives. The biblical texts and canon have, throughout the millenia, been subject to constant revision, editing, and rearranging. Not just be the authors and people during the times of the writing but also later in the myriad of biblical ecumenical councils determining and editing what was canon and what was not, and what could be if slight alterations be made. It’s just doubt.

    From your perspective, I may not be that close to your level of knowledge or intellect, and rightly so. If you hadn’t already known, I just graduated high school, I’m 18 years old. And granted I’m probably leaps and bounds more knowledgeable than most of my peers on the ideas of philosophy, metaphysics, theology, and physics, I’m most certainly not at your level of study. Yet, despite all of that, it doesn’t validate or invalidate my plausible scenarios of doubt. As you have been in academia longer, it would seem you have gained knowledge and insight, though it almost might have possibly conformed your mind (to a degree) to the scope of your own concentrations. And while I may say I’m no less conformed to a point of view, it is necessary we see that and try to get around it.

  18. 1. You are right and wrong. If you could show logically deductive truth that the position is wrong, I must, in all honor, agree. Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t fight to define terms, to understand the logical connections, and to make sure we are not using thoughts equivocally. But, all of that said and done, if we agree on terms, agree on deduction, and we come to a conclusion that shows me to be wrong, I must admit that I am wrong.

    2. The “burden of proof” is a concept that has many meanings. For a whole human being’s experience, the burden of proof of faith is met by its effects on their lives. Experience here meaning “All that a person is in the world.” That burden has been proven by billions. But it is not a scientific burden, it is a human one, and humans are not merely science machines. So, I would say the burden is then on you to show that billions are wrong. What science can properly do is say “how” human beings are effected by religion, but they have nothing to say on whether or not there is a “why” (to use your previous distinction). And if there is a “why” then what it might be. You have made major categorical errors in thinking that because you know “how” a thing functions that you can say anything at all about whether it has a “why.” With your facts, you simply cannot. So to ask for proof given your category errors and incredibly narrow limitation for proof, the proper response to such a question is probably to shrug one’s shoulders and say “if you wish to make wild claims of authority over human truth, you are free to, but so is the man who declares that the sky is made of blue pudding.”

    3. I agree. However, I am not the one asking if you are aware of research and then assuming that the only reason why you would reject it is because you are not aware of it. And, having spoken to many of these scholars of the New Testament and Old Testament, I’m rather intimately familiar with how they think. That gives me no authority at all over your point of view. It does give me insight into how solid some of these theories really are, straight from the horse’s mouth.

    4. Humans also want religion not to be true, for it if is, then someone is watching every dirty thing they do. Do these positions not cancel each other out? Is it not more true that what we really want is a simple promise of continued existence and a God who just wants to see us have a good time? If that’s the case, shouldn’t the Gospels look like that? If you make the claim for the consolidation of power, you can find no historical evidence of that in the first two hundred and fifty years of the church. And trying to validate a text’s authenticity based on your own views of what people want, when all you can really know about them is what they have written, is a circular process. The valid process is to read the text, look at the historical situation, and weigh the historical facts. Christians were treated badly because of these texts. Many died. The first ones, the ones who saw the risen Christ, or didn’t see him, all went to horrible deaths. Possible to explain by mass hysteria? Sure. Is that in keeping with the kind of minds that would write the very lucid and sane books of the New Testament? No. And if you want a good comparison, read the Gospel of Thomas, or what Irenaeus writes about the Valentinian belief systems.

    5. How did you come to be where you are right now? Did the world pop into existence five minutes ago? Could be. How about ten minutes ago? Could be. Were you brainwashed so that when you woke up this morning you were convinced that your whole life beforehand was what you think it is, but really wasn’t? Could be.
    Do these scenarios seem unlikely? Sure. But what is our basis for saying that they are actually unlikely? Nothing. We cannot actually calculate any probability for these possibilities. Therefore there are literally an infinite number of ways you could have come to where you are right now. None of them is technically less likely than any other. They all FEEL unlikely, but what is that to a man of science such as yourself? But then, by your reasoning in point five above, “If things have much more ways something could’ve happened, it’s quite less likely that things happened the way you say they did” then I conclude that the narrative that we both would give of you having existed for 18 years and coming to today whole and untampered with is actually probably very unlikely. It doesn’t feel unlikely, but it must be.

    And, as well, I do not intend to demean your level of learning (there is nothing to demean, you have acquitted yourself most admirably and with great persistence in this debate), I attack the fact that you use theories that you do not fully understand against someone who does understand them, and you have the audacity to say that “Well it just seems to me that however you may no about them, you try to search for complex ways to get around valid criticisms” without actually understanding whether the criticisms are really valid or not. You cannot claim validity for a criticism unless you understand the process by which that criticism comes about, and the context in which it arises.

    6. I agree about fringe theories. But as you say, it must be tested, and by the testing of the actual methods of the discipline, these theories have already failed to pass muster. It is one thing to present a new novel theory that has not yet undergone scrutiny. It is another to trot out an old theory that the vast majority of people have already concluded is false, without any new evidence, and then to treat it as if it is (pardon the expression) “Gospel.” Trot that old theory out, by all means, if you have new information, or a new way to look at it, but otherwise it’s best to leave it in the pasture.

    7. My point exactly about Mark. We can’t date it. We can have a start date, and and end date, but that’s all. And if you want to make an argument for why someone might write something, you are in a bit of a quandary. Given human psychology, we can posit numerous reasons why a person would write it, from “The things actually happened” to “none happened, but we need to solidify the story.” The problem is, without evidence from the text, you are left with pure speculation. Given all of the other experiences of Christianity, and what the document itself purports to be, the historical situation, and the textual traditions around it, there is weight that goes against the “they did this for the wrong reason.”

    8. This is all probably true, though there is no evidence of it. What we do have evidence of is that people wrote pseudepigrapha all of the time, and they made no efforts at all to do what you are suggesting (which is why we can date Ecclesiastes or Enoch as late as we do). As well, there is something (which as far as I know has no name, but I’ll here name it) called “The Test of Knowable Verifiability” (TOKV). The TOKV says that it is very unlikely that someone in a time where X is not known as a testable factor, would falsify for X. Thus, if fingerprints are unknown, it is highly unlikely that someone would falsify fingerprints at a crime-scene. Textual and linguistic criticism was unknown in the ancient world, and falsified texts were done merely by putting someone else’s name on them. Even in a more literarily and philosophically sophisticated age, like the Greco-Roman world, the pseudepigrapha that makes up the Deutero-Pauline corpus simply adds “from Paul and whoever another letter of Paul says its from” and adds a few lines from other Pauline thoughts. It doesn’t do in depth vocabulary studies like we do today. Thus, while your theory about priests writing old styles is true, there’s no reason to believe it is, and a good reason to believe it’s not.

    9. This perspective needs some amending. First, you are right that we do not have certitude about much, but we have very good reasons to believe many things about the texts which we can get from the critical method. Second, you seem to think that the Biblical text simply got handed down through the church in an unbroken chain from the beginning. This is simply not true. You should read up on the Ad Fontes movement of the late 15th and early 16th century in the humanist movement in Europe. And even now, as we find “new” copies of old texts, the variations of texts are incredibly small. There are hundreds of variations of New Testament fragments that we have. Not a single one of them is a substantial difference. They amount to changes between words like “in” or “among” or “by” instead of “with.”

    And to your final paragraph:

    I don’t care how old you are, you have argued very well. That you are 18 may make it more impressive to some, or it may “explain” some of your perspectives. I tend to think that treating someone different because of their age in a debate is insulting. If you have taken from my attack against your use of Biblical Criticism as an attack against your intelligence or your ability here, you have my most sincere apology. Your arguments must stand on their own, not based on your age. And to base your arguments on another’s work is absolutely valid. But to insinuate the ignorance of the other person when you yourself are ignorant can be a very risky move. This is my criticism, nothing else.

  19. 1. Yet what is a valid, logical truth is up for the individual to determine. Like you said, if we completely agreed on the methods of determining truth, and I bested you logically, then you would concede. Though it is obvious we are not completely agreed on the methods of determining truth.

    2. The burden of proof of faith fails on account of natural laws. By experience, one can believe with faith that the phenomenon we call gravity does not exist, and conclude via their faith that gravity does not exist. Yet, this does not change the observable phenomenon that occurs every time if an external force is not present. Moreover, you use the assumption that there is a valid “why” present anywhere outside of living, corporeal beings such as ourselves. If I can know “how” something functions, according to natural laws, I do not need to know “why” it functions because “why” is simple “how” with the inclusion of a purpose or reason. Yet natural laws, and their resulting effects, do not occur for a specific (non-how) reason or purpose, as they natural and based in a non-supernatural context. And to allude to why I should have to prove billions of theists wrong is incorrect. A) Just because lots of people believe it doesn’t make it true (argumentum ad populum), B) Just because you can’t disprove something doesn’t make it validly proven. I could posit for the sake of argument that Satan wrote the Bible. You cannot prove me wrong, but that would not make it true in your opinion because you believe God-inspired men wrote the Bible for God.

    3. I would tend to agree as long as you conclude that however well-studied you are that you could be completely wrong as I would also agree that I could be. And sometimes I can develop some vitriol in a debate, and I know that, so I apologize if it comes out in a negative way.

    4. We must do a risk-reward analysis. Humans want various things: freedom, power, knowledge, fun, meaning, and so forth. We must rank them according to value. A natural human desire is for continued existence, and another is hedonistic pleasure gathering. Yet to gain pleasure, one must continue to have life. By logic of selfishness one could see how a person would choose to continue their existence over momentary pleasure if they believed they could. For sake of discussion, consider an afterlife just like this life, no utopian heaven awaiting, just another world like this one. If a person believed that existed, they would still fulfill requirements to get there because it continues their life. Knowledge of cosmology also feeds another human desire: power. If they know how the universe works, for them it gives them some mental measure of control about it. All this in keeping with the observable truth that almost all humans desire to continue living and derive satisfaction from some means. Yet we also must weigh the beliefs being given. If you are promised an eternal afterlife of paradise by means of following a certain religion, and truly believed it, would physically dying for that certain religion mean anything to the person? Eternal afterlife in utopia for a relatively short period of pain and death in the natural world. The former would seem more preferable to almost any human being. Discussing the deaths due to societal impacts, I think it is much more likely that early Christianity was viewed as a cult that threatened the power of the existing establishment of Roman influence through the Jewish authorities. Roman held the power, the Jews gained power by cooperating with the Romans, and any threat to that power (putting aside cosmological implications) would definitely be grounds for a society such as that to want to hunt down and kill the early Christians.

    5. Those are all valid possibilities, yet what leaves us to determine their validity? Well the science claims the universe is 13.6 billion years old, and there’s evidence of that via telescopes. So we could look and calculate every single day and see that the age of the universe is still basically the same (plus one day that would barely register for cosmological time). There are intuitions based on life experience that are what makes a proposition or claim “feel” likely or unlikely, yet that of course is still possibly in error, so basically it’s confidence in the measurement that every day the universe will the same age (plus one day) and it happens like that so securely that we can accept it as a truth for all practical purposes to live by. I might be only seven years old, who knows? All I know is the record the universe around me has of my past eighteen years of existence which I hold to be correct. To say otherwise would border of solipsism.

    6. Well like I said about Machian physics versus Einsteinian physics, physicist Julian Barbour has worked decades on developing a Machian theory which has been proven to demonstrate gravitational effects as accurately as Einstein’s theories without the underlying fabric grid known as spacetime. (To read more, go here: ) He actually contends that space and time are separate and that time merely the illusion of successive change. Though finge and controvertial, his view has been gaining ground in recent years as the math is correct and his equations of a purely relative theory resolve much of the problems with matching relativity theories with quantum theories. All that to say this, new ways of thinking and new methods even for problems considered solved and preached as gospel can arise and be correct.

    7. Well the problem exists in that we are examining Mark with no more accurate of a measure of “why” than the writer himself would’ve been able to measure the “why” of whatever happened during his time. That is the annoying bit of trying to extrapolate ancient texts, as most of it is all just speculation.

    8. Well an easy reason to believe it could definitely be would just be sheer obvious method of transport. If you read an english translation of the bible, you are left with the conclusion that many words that are the same in english were the same in hebrew or greek, which you and I both know is completely untrue. Even putting that aside, reading would not be the primary method of conveying the texts to the public, but an oral presentation. When reading things orally it becomes apparent certain consistencies or inconsistencies. Such as when Deuteronomy was “discovered” in the time of the writer D, to explain the new scriptures and laws would be presented orally. As the priesthood of the time claimed Deuteronomy (written by D) was actually written by Moses, it make sense the words, which were read expressly verbatim from the scrolls (due to their “holy” nature,) would be cast back into language of an earlier time period for sake of presentation. A good example of this would be that if I had been reading Shakespeare to a class I taught on the subject all the tradition works of Shakespeare, and suddenly out came a work that was claimed to also be Shakespeare, but when read it sounded and appeared more like English of the US Colonial Era instead of three hundred years prior, it would be obvious that it probably wasn’t an authentic work of Shakespeare. An even more simple example would be the obvious lack of validity in a piece of paper from a southern plantation around the Civil War which referred to the slaves as “african-american” instead of the period-correct “colored” or “negro”. But I digress, you get the point I would assume.

    9. I was trying to allude to the opposite, that various groups took various selections of texts with them and used them for their own devices. Also, I wasn’t talking about 15th or 16th century, but in the early 5th or 6th centuries during many ecumenical councils that decided between books considered more canon and the more apocryphal books considered non-canon. Who’s to say where a book is canon or not? Despite this, many revisions of the canon took place in the early centuries of the church.

    Well I have similar views. It stands to reason that we are both quite ignorant indeed, otherwise this debate would’ve been much, much shorter. On another note, I have directed a friend to eventually (in a month or so) try to talk to you on here. He is a Christian, but he is learning the value of skepticism, logic, and reason in understanding his faith after I provoked him to tell me why he believed what he believed. His name is Trevor, and I hope you can teach him something.

  20. 1. If you really believed this, you would not argue. This touches on this week’s post.

    2. You are confusing proofs again, natural proof and logical proof. And Since I include experiential proof, i.e. the argument from the vast majority of human history, as well as the personal experience of people I find to be reliable and honest, you leave out that proof as well. Again, this is NOT scientific proof, but does not purport to be. It purports to be proof appropriate to the category of information. if you say “this is not information, because it is not scientific information” you again fall into the same myopic category error.

    3. You may use a risk/reward, I am not bound to. I am bound to ask logical questions. Yes, all of those things are possible. Do they match the tenor of the actual subject matter of the texts we are talking about? No. Do they present a sensible answer to people who knew (did not believe, but knew) whether a man rose from the dead or not? No. Do they answer for those who believed afterward? Yes, I’m sure there are many who they do apply to. But again, you speak of what you do not know. Apply those standards to the scientific community as a whole, and one might develop a great suspicion of the claims that it makes. Why do you not turn your own hemeneutic of suspicion on the whole scientific community? You claim that verification keeps one honest within the community. But does it keep a whole community honest? These are merely rhetorical questions, not an attempt to cast doubt on the scientific community’s honesty.

    5. You’re making a very simple categorical mistake. You want to prove that the universe exists by means of your senses and reason, when they are the very things than any infinitude of eventualities might have deceived. You have literally no way, no measurement, that can tell you what the likelihood is of these possibilities.

    6. Yet everything in the record is against you on your “Late gospel” theory. I don’t like to use recent discoveries as I find them to be sometimes unreliable, just as I don’t like “new ideas” in quantum physics. Let them become old, tested, and then let them carry weight. However, i will break my rule for this particular example. A paper being published next year after further examination, will most likely show that we have a significant part of Mark from the first Century, as well as six other new NT texts from the first half of the second century. You may go here ( ) to read about it from the respected scholar who is in charge of the center for the study of New Testament Manuscripts ( as well as some information on how reliable those old manuscripts are.

    7. This kind of temporal arrogance is unfounded. People knew very well whether someone was dead back then, and whether babies were produced without a man taking part. They knew the laws of nature as well as we do, even if we know their mechanism better. Your assumption that Mark is an unreliable testimony is to be treated the same way we treat someone who says that Caesar’s report of his Gallic wars is unreliable because he knew nothing about war. It is to be ignored.

    As an overall observation, I see that you use “why” reasons when it suits you, and “how” reasons when it suits you. So do I. However, my epistemological framework allows for me to use both, where yours must exclude the “why” ultimately.

    Looking forward to your response to Monday’s post.

  21. 1. I will touch on that when I write my blog post responding to your monday post. (It is in the works)

    2. I am merely pointing out that a faith-based system of proving things is not necessarily correct due to the nature of faith. If you are against appealing to a majority experiential proof that again falls under argumentum ad populum and does not validate it.

    3. I would argue it would apply to even supposed eyewitnesses of a resurrection because mistakes, foolery, and misunderstanding plague all variety of people, especially eyewitnesses testimony, which has been found to be repeatedly lacking validity, especially concerning out-of-the-ordinary events. I am mere appealing the psychology of why a person’s brain might conjure up something that isn’t there (even “eyewitnesses”). Just because someone sees what they think is a resurrection can be explainable other ways, but they say it is a resurrection because they believe it is in the present. Even if we held for sake of argument that Jesus did, in fact, exhibit the appearance of death (like a coma), and he were then to awake from said state. People would claim “Resurrection!” instead of “He woke up from a coma.”

    I do carry a degree of skepticism and doubt about the claims made my scientists. There have been tens of thousands of wrong scientific claims made in history, but thanks to evidence and peer-review we are left with only the ones which bear weight in truth. Actually what keeps the scientific community most honest is ludicrous claims by people who claim to be psychic, shamans, “God-men”, and various religious superstitions. Constant force against the illogical and unevidenced keeps the scientific community very strict with logic and evidence.

    5. Well, if my senses cannot be in any way accurate, than solipsism is the only correct position. I posit that my sense have the possibility of being correct outside my body, but are not necessarily correct.

    7. Actually, the evidence shows that in cases were the body isn’t completely destroyed (such as decapitation, completely bled out, multiple pieces, mutilated beyond repair) declaring somebody dead back then was very hit and miss. Even up to the 18th and early 19th centuries some people of affluence still put bells above their coffins in case they were wrongly pronounced dead. A current example just this year of how some people can still get it wrong ( is this story of a chinese grandmother who was thought dead until she climbed out of the coffin and started making food.

    I understand your statement about two sexes being rhetorical, but also I had a side-note. Considering now days that if a woman had been naturally impregnated versus intrauterine sperm injection we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference by the the pregnancy alone. With that in mind, would it be possible for those in the past to determine if a pregnancy was from Joseph or another another man. All variety of things can be attributed to “God” that could’ve had a natural explanation.

    Did they know the laws of nature as good you think they do? They believed people could become miraculously conceived. Their scripture contains plenty of things not congruent with natural laws: Ax heads floating, fire coming from heaven that burns up wet offerings, giant worldwide floods, jericho falling due to trumpets, yelling, and marching, and every other idea of a “miracle”.

    To assume a General such as Caesar to know nothing of war is absurd.

    My framework allows me to use “why” anytime we are discussion human actions, thoughts, feelings, etc. Any other use of the word when “how” should be used is just a result of being inculcated with bad grammar from a young age by my culture.

  22. 3/7. People did not “wake up” from crucifixions. Piercing wrists and ankles produces permanent crippling. You may want to read Josephus’ account of attempting to save someone who was crucified who was very clearly still alive It didn’t work. The Romans were very efficient killers. To somehow assume that professional killers made a mistake, and then that people who saw it somehow mistook a crippled man for a resurrected god, is far more unbelievable than an actually resurrected god. Why? Because we know it is inherrently unlikely that what you suggest would happen. The other is not inherrently unlikely. To suggest that it is, one must have data to support it. You do not, so you do not have any way of saying whether it is likely or not, thus you cannot claim its inherrent unlikelihood.

    5. Yes, this is true. Or, you realize that your epistemological foundation is in fact unfounded faith in your senses. You are right that they have the possibility, but again, you have no data on what that likelihood is. Thus the whole base of your skeptical position is one of inherent and unjustified faith with far less evidence than the resurrection.

    And as far as people knowing the laws of nature, the answer is obvious. If they didn’t know the laws of nature, they would not have considered these things miraculous. You cannot consider something miraculous unless you know what the laws of nature are. To consider something miraculous when you do not know the law to which it is an exception is simply a contradiction in terms.

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