Conversations with atheists

page 10

B, FZ et al.,

My apologies for not replying to each message individually, but hey, there's only so much time in a day and right now I'm bogged down in some administrative stuff, besides having deadlines,  well you know the score I'm sure.

First, I have enjoyed the discussion and your stimulating (and generally polite) responses.  I agree with you B on the need to keep digging deeper.  The learning process never stops and I think I have much to learn from those with whom I disagree most, if for no other reason than that it is in having our assumptions and opinions challenged that we are forced to think the hardest.  That motivates me to keep coming back.  Now, having said that, it is obvious that I have a view point of my own to get across and I want to elaborate on that some more while responding in a general way to what has been said.

There are several things that seem to stand out in your various responses that point up the nature of our differences.  If my summary reflects a misunderstanding of your position then please correct me, but I think this accurately reflects what I am reading.

1) No one can know ultimate truth, whatever that might be.  So that is not really the issue, or at least is not what you are interested in.

2)  The empirical (scientific) method is the best and most reliable way of knowing truth.  It may not give us ultimate reality but it gives us an approximation.  We know this, or at least should depend on it as trustworthy, because the empirical method works.  It produces results.  It produces computers and all the useful (and not so useful) technology that we have today.  On the basis of this method there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God or gods.

3) Absolute moral values are not available and are not necessary to provide a basis for ethics.  The basis of ethics is survival of the species.

4) Atheism is not a system or world view.  It implies no positive beliefs. It is only the absence of belief in God.

There may be other points, but I take these to be the most important.  I would like to address each of these in turn, although not necessarily in this order.  Indeed, I will start by saying that the second point I have already refuted and the answer I have received from  you is basically a pragmatic, indeed dogmatic reassertion of the position with nothing offered by way of epistemological justification for the empirical method.  But I am not done with this point and I will get back to it momentarily.  For now I will start with points 1 and 4.

Traditionally, atheism has been the assertion of a particular premise, namely that no God exists.  Agnosticism was coined by Thomas Huxley in an attempt to describe what is really a softer form of atheism, but Huxley defended philosophical naturalism overtly.  It has only been recently as far as I can tell (and I could be wrong) that atheists have shifted to the simple notion of a lack of belief.  I think this move is an attempt to relieve themselves of the burden of proof, throwing it onto the theist to demonstrate his case, while demanding that the theist do so in terms of a supposedly neutral epistemological position that the atheist posits as the only reasonable way of knowing.  If the Christian accepts this type of setup it quite naturally gives the atheist a great, I would say, insurmountable advantage and it results in the kind of thing that we see in the traditional proofs for God's existence, such as Aquinas' famous five ways.

Thus, the atheist presents himself with no positive world view to defend, attempting to make himself immune from attack.  I think that LA's rather indignant reply of "No dice" to my challenge is a good example of this move.  However, I think it is misguided for several reasons and only serves to derail the discussion from ever getting at the real issues, which have to do with the preconditions of proof, rationality, and the intelligibility of human experience.  So I will gladly agree with the atheist that the traditional proofs for the existence of God, such as the cosmological argument, and the ontological argument are invalid, at least in the way they have been typically used, because they presuppose the validity of the atheist's own epistemological method.  And this, as I have argued, is the heart of the question.  That the arguments may have some usefulness is another question, but strictly speaking they do not prove the existence of the biblical God.

Now before you get bored and stop reading, thinking that I am only going to repeat myself, I intend to expand into some new issues that have not been broached yet.  So at least hear me out, as you have exhorted me several times to talk to and listen to atheists (that is one reason why I keep this up) then I hope you will do the same, for it is my perception that your responses show that at least some of you do not at all understand what is involved in the assertion of the existence of the Triune God of the Bible.  And I have not perceived that you have really faced the implications that are involved in the denial of the existence of such a God.  But it seems to me that if the central issues are not understood then the conclusions you hold may very likely be invalid.

So back to 1 and 4.  What we are dealing with here is the issue of world views.  The atheist says he is not promoting a belief, just stating a lack of one.   Back of this is the hidden assumption that the atheist and the theist inhabit the same conceptual universe, except the theist believes in the existence of an additional element in that universe which the atheist simply does not believe in.  It is as if both the atheist and the theist are traveling on the same ship together, with the theist believing that there is an additional passenger (maybe even that God is the captain), while the atheist simply sees the ship as being self-driven, on automatic pilot so to speak.  Thus the atheist looks about the ship and failing to see the invisible captain, challenges the Christian to prove that he exists.

But this conception represents a distortion of the Christian position that cuts to the very heart of what the Bible teaches about the nature of God and the universe.  If the Christian position were taken seriously in its claims (and if it turned out to be true) then this analogy is not at all accurate, because we are talking about two entirely different ships on two different oceans where the meaning of everything is different.  The Trinitarian theistic claim is not at all that God exists as an element of a common universe which the atheist and Christian interpret alike, except for one element.  The theistic claim is that the real universe is essentially different from what the atheist thinks it is and that his lack of belief in God alters entirely how the universe is to be understood.  This becomes clear as we look at the claims of the Christian position, which I will attempt to briefly summarize.

God is a self-contained, independent, personal Being, in whom exist three distinct centers of consciousness (called persons), who equally exhaust the essence of the one divine nature, yet relate to one another in absolute love and unity of purpose, thought, and action.  This God existed in eternity before the creation, standing in need of nothing.  Yet he (note that I do not believe that God has gender) freely decided to create.  The universe was created from nothing, that is, it is not eternal and its existence is not independent.  The universe was created as a real entity, distinct from the Creator and according to a divine plan which includes its history.  The universe, then, is not the ultimate reality, indeed, it is not ultimate in any sense at all.  Its origin is personal and it is ordered with a design and purpose in mind.  God is not merely an element of the universe or a larger Being in general.  As a friend of mine put it, the existence of the Christian God  "... is not merely one debate topic among others.  The issue of God's existence is of such a character that if true, it would affect the relative meaning of every other proposition, since such a god would be the condition of being and meaning of all other facts and propositions."   The created universe does not encompass all that is, it is entirely dependent upon God for its being, structure, and interpretation.  Subsequent human sin altered the state of the universe from its created form, introducing evil (which we can discuss later if you wish).

The upshot of this is that the Christian and the atheist are not on the same ship at all.  The Christian assertion implies that the ship is something of a completely different sort than what the atheist thinks it is.  Hence, the lack of belief in God is not simply a discussion about who is on board.  It is a discussion about what is the meaning of "ship" in the first place, and whose interpretation of "ship" is intelligible.  So when the atheist denies or says he does not believe in a God, he is necessarily making a number of positive world view presuppositions about the nature of the universe.  What are some of these?  At least the following:

1) The universe is self-sufficient in its existence and operations.  It is autonomous and not dependent upon another external entity, but functions based on the laws of nature which determine its character.

2) The principles of knowledge or interpretation of the universe are contained within and derived from the universe itself.  There is no need for a revelation or interpretation of the universe from a vantage point outside of the universe.  Since there is no outside the universe, according to the atheist, no such revelation could exist in any case.  Therefore, the ultimate reference point for predication and interpretation is a principle such as logic, sense perception, intuition, all of which must exist in the universe, and which were derived ultimately from human reason.  The human mind (or brain) is autonomous and is adequate to discover truth on its own, using its own methods.  All truth claims must pass the test of human reason.  There is no higher authority.

3) Right and wrong are relative terms that describe social norms developed by humankind to enhance its survival and pleasure.  There is no absolute right and wrong and in the end, it is the autonomous human mind that legislates morality.

4) There is no discernible purpose to history or in the operations and existence of the universe.  The universe is the ultimate reality and it is impersonal and unconcerned about us or our fate.  It is simply there and appears to be what it is largely as a result of chance.  The human future is undetermined, since there is no divine plan governing it.  The meaning of life is what we make of it based on the decisions of our autonomous wills, and there is no final meaning in the end.

Each of these four notions corresponds to an interpretation of the four areas that define a world view: ontology (the nature of reality or being), epistemology (the theory of how we have and justify knowledge), ethics (the theory of the ultimate good and of moral action), and teleology (the theory of the purpose of it all).  Thus, we see that the denial of belief in God necessarily implies a basic set of world view assumptions (axioms or presuppositions) that form a positive interpretation of the state of affairs.  Now, it won't do for the atheist to deny that we are discussing the nature of ultimate reality, because that is exactly what these assumptions are about.  Everyone has a world view, and everyone has presuppositions, and these, held consciously or not, are views about what is ultimately real.  Also, the atheist may protest that there are numerous atheistic philosophies and they cannot all be reduced to one world view.  I will grant that there are different atheist philosophies, but the difference between them should not obscure the fundamental agreement on these basic points.  The dialectical materialist Marxist, the existentialist, the pragmatic scientist, and the secular humanist may disagree on a number of important but secondary issues, but they are all riding on the same ship, no matter how much they differ in their arrangement of the deck furniture.

So the atheist position is not at all the simple denial of a belief, but rather involves a definite interpretation of reality with a number of positive assertions, all of which have the character of assertions about what is ultimate in each of the four respective world view areas.  Now once this is brought out in the open, it immediately becomes legitimate, particularly in a discussion of faith and reason, to ask whether or not this set of presuppositions is coherent or internally consistent, and whether or not they satisfy the claim to rationality.  Indeed, it becomes imperative to examine them to see if they are capable of giving an intelligible account of human experience and knowledge.  That, then, becomes the burden of proof for the atheist, precisely because he continually claims that the Christian belief is irrational, without evidence, illogical, etc.  Yet he assumes his own position is rational without a critical evaluation.  It is to that that we now turn.

Now returning to points 3 and 4 above, we must examine again the questions of epistemology and ethics, before we address ontology and teleology.  This time, however, we will not restrict ourselves to the problems of empiricism, but we go directly to the problem of universals and particulars.  One of the central problems of philosophy is the relation between Unity and Diversity, Permanence and Change, Universals and Particulars.  The ancient Greeks recognized that in order to make any intelligible predication about reality it would be necessary to somehow bring to bear universal or general categories of interpretation on the particular elements.  The atheist view implies a nominalist view of the universe.  The only thing that really exists are the particulars; particles of matter and energy, and the physicists are busily debating about what these really are.  (Indeed, some are moving towards pantheism (which is not really theism at all since it denies the existence of an ultimately personal Being back behind the universe), implying that all things in the end reduce to a field of energy and hence all is One.  We won't concern ourselves with this as most atheists do not accept it, but the criticisms of atheism are equally applicable to this view).

The Greeks early on divided into two camps, some following Heraclitus who taught that all is flux with the Many being ultimate, and others following Parminides, teaching that all is One and that change is illusion.  Later Greek philosophers tried to resolve the problem, such as with Plato and his theory of the world of ideals, but none of them succeeded, and as I have pointed out before, the Greek philosophical experiment eventually degenerated into skepticism and mysticism as has happened in our own culture.

So what's the point?  Basically, that upon the presumption that the Universe is all there is and that the principles for interpreting it are to be found within it, the One and Many problem immediately arises as the central problem for establishing a rational interpretation of reality. Ontologically the question is, which is ultimate or original, the diversity of the individual particles of matter and energy  or the so called laws of nature that supposedly give order to them? 

Normally, an atheist will say that there is no purposeful order to the universe, so all is ultimately reduced to random chance.  The evolutionary process is driven by random mutations, for example, and even scientific literature frequently waxes eloquent over the purposelessness of the universe.  This fits with atheistic ontology, because it holds that the only real or concrete elements that exist are the particulars of matter and energy.  But the notion of pure chance is incompatible with the idea of causality, for a purely chance event would be uncaused.  To account for the apparent order of the universe the atheist appeals to the laws of nature, or to logic.  But both of these are problematic in a non-theistic universe.  Atheists claim that things behave according to principles that are rational - so for example, not just any combination of atoms can occur since the particles have positive or negative charges and only certain ones can combine in any one reaction.  So a law of nature is invoked to stave off the threat of a chaotic universe that follows logically from the notion of chance.  But then, the idea of the laws of nature creates a mechanistic reality, and if humanity is included, then such notions as free-will go out the window.  So the atheist will say that the laws of nature are not really laws after all, but only descriptions of how nature behaves.  They are only theoretical constructs that seem to describe reality.  And so then we are back to chance again.  Now, I have seen this kind of ping-pong back and forth between deterministic law and indeterminate chance in atheistic literature as well as in debates with Christians. And it raises some significant problems.

The atheistic principle of diversification (chance) destroys the unity of things.  The atheistic principle of unity (logic or laws of nature) threatens the individuality of the particulars, but it even involves more serious problems.  I have a tape of a debate between a Christian and an atheist where the atheist talked about the laws of logic, the law of contradiction for instance, as being essential for rationality.  Later, the atheist cross-examined the Christian and asked, "Do you believe in the existence of immaterial entities? If so, give me an example."  The Christian responded, "Yes, the laws of logic."  And here is the problem.  If ultimate reality is reducible to matter and energy, and your assertion, FZ, that only brains exist and not minds, is an example of this, then explain to me how there can possibly exist any type of universally true, abstract principles of reasoning such as logic.  They are immaterial.  They are not generated by the universe, for no immaterial realities exist.  Or if they are generated by the universe they are generated in the individual specks of the matter and energy found in the brains of the people who formulated them.  In that case, then, they cannot have a transcendent character, being simply finite elements generated by chance process in the brain.  Thus, no necessary universal validity.

In defense of empiricism, or the scientific method, it has been stated that the method works, it produces technology, so obviously we ought to depend on it to tell us about truth.  It may not give us the final truth, but it gives us a close approximation of truth  and after all, its all we've got.  This response seems reasonable on the surface, but it has several serious problems.  First of all, the idea that it gives us a close approximation to the truth, but not the truth itself and that it is the only access we have to the truth, violates the law of contradiction and is hence irrational.  There is no way that the method could be known to give a close approximation of the truth, unless the truth itself were already known and this could be compared to the results of the empirical method to see if it is actually a close approximation.  But it is precisely the final ultimate truth that is admittedly not known (and presumably unknowable) by the atheist.  But the atheist must presuppose that the final truth is known in order to know he has an approximation.  Hence, this defense of empiricism assumes that the atheist both knows and does not know the ultimate truth.  In fact, this defense merely begs the question and leaves the atheist asserting, by blind faith, that the result of his scientific method is actually approximately close to an unknowable truth about an unknowable ultimate reality.

The other fallacy in this atheistic defense of empiricism is the idea that because science "works" then the empirical method must tell us truth about reality.  But this notion can be shown to be patently false on the basis of historical examples.  That is, there are various examples, both ancient and recent, of theories that were held to be true for years, that functioned fine as predictors of various physical events and phenomenon, yet are today thought to be totally in error as to their description of reality.  One of the best examples is the Ptolemaic system of astronomy which places the earth at the center of the solar system, with the sun and planets revolving around it in circular orbits.  The mathematics of this system were worked out by the ancient Greeks.  Indeed, even before Ptolemy, Thales of Miletus was able to successfully predict an eclipse as long ago as 500 BC.  The ancient Greek system functioned for nearly two thousand years and adequately handled the empirical data available.

In my history and philosophy of science class as an undergraduate I was surprised to learn that at the time of the Copernicus and Galileo controversy, the data available actually supported Ptolemy better than it supported Copernicus.  (BTW I did not attend an evangelical or Christian university).  The observations of Galileo (who believed in the inerrancy of the Bible) began to raise empirical doubts about the Aristotelianism that made a philosophical dogma of the ancient Greek system, but it wasn't until Tycho Brahe's observations in the latter part of the 16th century that sufficient data existed to show that the Copernican system might be preferable.  But even then, until the mathematics of elliptical orbits was worked out by Kepler, the Ptolemaic system was equal in its ability to predict.  One of the main motives for moving to the idea of the sun at the center of the solar system was that it eliminated the necessity of epicycles (small circular motions) in the orbits in order to explain the observation (from earth) of the temporary reversals of direction in the planets' motions through the sky.  Thus, one of the major motivations for the new theory was that it was simpler and thus more aesthetically pleasing.  In fact, the law of parsimony (the simplest explanations are usually the best) is frequently appealed to in science today, but it is merely a metaphysical assumption, or even an aesthetic preference, and itself not empirically proven (scientists in practice often chose theories for non-empirical reasons).  The shift to Kepler's system, however, seemed to be preferable for mathematical reasons as well and it comports better with the much superior data we have today.  But this case clearly demonstrates that a theory now known to be false, that of Ptolemy, can qualify as one that works to produce good practical results.

In 1983 J. L. Mackie, an atheist, presented a theory that denies the Special Theory of Relativity but is empirically equivalent (see Space, Time and Causality, ed. Richard Swinburne).  I am not qualified to evaluate this theory, but it exists as an option.  Personally, I have no reason to doubt either Kepler or Einstein, but it seems reasonable to suppose that if history has shown various false scientific theories to work in the practical world of application and technology, then the fact that a current empirical theory works is in no way proof that it is true, much less that it tells us anything about ultimate reality.  This has led many philosophers and scientists  to adopt operationalism, the notion that science is really a set of laboratory and experimental operations, and not a description of any supposed external reality.  The conclusions of the scientist are about the readings on his instruments, and these are adequate to produce technology and successfully predict other experimental results.  In any case, you can consult any good text on the philosophy of science or works on the history of science such as Thomas Kuhn's The Copernican Revolution and the books of Stanley Jaki for more information.  

So the defenses offered in favor of empiricism by atheists stand refuted and my original challenge unanswered.  Empiricism, assumed as the source of all knowledge, cannot tell us anything about what actually exists or not, about what is real or isn't real.  The empiricist can only tell us about what his sense experiences are and even then he has to smuggle in universal and abstract categories that he does not get from empirical knowledge in order to communicate the content of these senses.  He cannot tell how abstract ideas and universals can be derived from sense experience, he cannot justify nor explain the universal necessity and applicability of the laws of logic and he cannot show that what he thinks he knows actually corresponds to anything objective outside his own head.  In the end, the Christian would say that the atheist has knowledge, but the atheist cannot explain why or how, and indeed if the atheist were consistent with his own presuppositions all rationality would be destroyed as all universals evaporate in the abyss of the pure chaos of the random Many and all facts, or particulars, become absorbed into the undifferentiated unity of the One.

So my conclusion remains.  The atheist is irrational in his assertion that his empirical method provides a valid reason to not believe in God because by it he sees no evidence of God.  The atheist draws a conclusion about the nature of ultimate reality based on a method that he admits can say nothing about what is ultimately real and in fact, that I (and many others) have shown to be incapable, on the basis of atheistic assumptions, of providing any truth whatever.

Now we shall return to the question of ethics.  B>>I can, but will not cheat on my wife, because I told her I wouldn't. She should be able to bank on that. I can't defend myself if I went back on that. I wouldn't expect her to understand if I did. If she did, she's a better person than me.<<

B, you gave an admirable attempt at defending ethics in the absence of absolutes, but really, there is no reason other than personal preference that you should act as you have described.  Without absolutes, the statement that I should not cheat on my wife is on the same level as the statement, "I don't like cream cheese."  It just tells us about what you like.  I admire you for being a man of your word.  But why should she be able to bank on it.  Because it will make her happy?  So is that the standard of right and wrong?  What exactly is the standard?

You and several others stated that the survival instinct produced ethics.  First of all this is a purely dogmatic assertion.  It is not empirically verifiable.  But beyond that, this confuses the question entirely.  The survival instinct might generate behavior useful for survival, but it tells us nothing about why anybody should survive.  And that is what ethics is about.  It is not an anthropologist's description of what is, but rather discussion of what ought to be.  Even your own assertion presupposes this.  You could not know that your wife was a better person than you for understanding, because on the basis of your theory of ethics, the notion of better or worse has no referent.  It is vacuous.  Or are you saying that her understanding has better survival value?

Perhaps another way of putting the question would be to discuss the notion of justice.  About 15 years ago when I lived in Colorado, a little 3 year old was kidnapped and three days later found abandoned at the bottom of an outhouse in a park in the mountains near Denver.  The child was alive, but had been there for a couple of days.  Quite naturally, there was a general sense of moral outrage over this.  And this from Christians and non-Christians of all varieties.  How do you feel about this?  Was this an act of injustice?  Is there an objective standard of justice that demands that the perpetrator be punished? On an emotional level I bet you would agree.  But on the basis of your presuppositions it logically follows that no such standard of justice exists.  The very notion of justice presupposes the existence of an objective moral standard that is absolute.

Once the notion of moral absolutes is introduced we are once again back in the realm of universal abstract concepts that cannot be derived from a universe composed of energy and matter.  Such ideas seem to be necessary, unless we are to abandon justice entirely, but they are not available in the atheist's system.  However, the atheist lives and acts as though they were.  If, after all, we reduce ethics to survival of the species or to social consensus, then really, what basis is there for saying that Hitler was wrong?  Maybe his action would support the survival of the species, nobody could predict what the results would be in 200 or 1000 years.  If ethics is derived from survival of the species, then why not take control of our own destiny and improve the human race by eliminating inferior races?  Sounds horrible, but in the atheist's universe there is no rational reason not to follow this course.

I will not belabor the ethical problem as I have raised it repeatedly and again, no one has justified morality on the basis of naturalism.  The Leff article to which I referred earlier still stands in need of a response if atheism is to commend itself as a rational world view.

B >>Yet this still avoids the crux of the do we, how can we know this "revelation" is from God and that this God, among countless other competitors, is the one we should trust as reliable? Ya see, it comes back to a bias thingie. If you start with a God/creator bias, it slants everything you see, just like you and your wife duking it out over covers vs. ten tons of air conditioning. She's right to want to be warm under a heap of steam heated blankets while asleep, you're right to want an iceberg suspended from the ceiling dripping on your bare chest so you can snooze. But who is ultimately right?<<

B, this does not avoid the crux of the matter, but it gets right to the crux of the matter because the matter is the question of bias, or rather presuppositions. And they do slant everything, just as your presuppositions slant everything in your interpretation.  But as for the matter of why this God, the Triune God of the Bible, instead of the other competitors, it is because there are no other competitors.  That is, there is no other God who is distinct and prior to the universe and who is absolutely personal in his nature.  He is both One and Many and is hence not dependent upon the universe for the experience of diversity or anything else for that matter.  As Creator he is the source of the being of all particulars.  Yet since ultimate reality is personal then universal abstractions do exist.  Logic exists and is grounded in the character of God.  He is rationality itself and since he created the universe according to his own rational plan, its order is perfectly accounted for.  Universal abstractions such as moral absolutes reflect the character of God, and they also exist.

Now the atheist has knowledge and he has ethics and even insists, in moments of moral indignation, that there is real objective justice, but his presuppositions logically destroy both knowledge and ethics (oughtness).  He lives in a universe of both abstract universals and real particulars, but his ontology, if allowed to go to its logical conclusion destroys either the unity or the particulars.  His world view cannot explain both the oneness and the manyness of the universe.  The atheist is left with a mass of confusion in an unknowable universe, but by blind faith in his principles he keeps going.  He must, for he cannot live consistently as if what he thinks is true actually were true.  Unable to justify them in terms of his atheistic axioms, the atheist must borrow concepts such as universal abstract principles of logic, moral oughtness, and purpose from the Christian theistic world view and from the general revelation of God in nature and in his own heart (metaphorically) (Romans 1:20-21).  In this sense he is living on the cultural capital of the Christian west, which produced modern science in the first place (see Stanley Jaki, Science and Creation: from eternal cycles to an oscillating universe for a detailed history of the cultural roots of modern science and exactly why it never developed to fruition in a non-Christian context).

We all begin, as I said, with a faith commitment.  That is, we start our reasoning with propositions that we take for true that have not been proven by empirical means or prior rational arguments.  Otherwise they would not be axioms.  And all thinking presupposes something.  If, after a thorough examination, the axioms of atheism are found to be self-contradictory and incapable of accounting for knowledge, ethics, the nature of the world we encounter, and unable to provide meaning for life, then the only rational course of action is to reject them in favor of a system that can meet these requirements.  At least, once we see where atheism (and agnosticism as well) really leave us, the atheist may not be as inclined to ridicule the Christian theist for choosing different axioms, namely, that the starting point for all reasoning is on the basis of the presupposition of the Triune God and his revelation in the Bible.

The reason for accepting the God of the Bible as the true God is simply, that unless he is presupposed, rationality dissolves into the abyss of skepticism, morality evaporates into arbitrary opinion, and the meaning of life finally is crushed in the future destruction of everything human as this world, and eventually the entire universe succumbs to the inevitable dominion of entropy.  The existence of this God is the necessary presupposition of all rational predication.  Unless he exists it is not possible to rationally prove anything at all.  The Bible says that "The beginning of knowledge is the fear of the LORD" (Proverbs 1:7).  This is not a pietistic cliché.  It is a profound epistemological statement.  There is no adequate reference point for interpreting the universe to be derived from within it.  Such a referent must come from a sovereign and omniscient mind that knows and controls the universe from beginning to end.  It must come from outside of the finite universe, from an infinite point of reference.  In sum, it must come from God's revealed word.  And only one revelation exists which presents us a God adequate to meet the epistemological, ethical, and existential needs of humankind.

FZ >>I'm sorry, Alan, but this is absurd.  You have not brought a convincing argument to the table, despite your otherwise excellent style.  What kind of "truth" would revelation bring?  The contents of the CRC handbook?<<

F, you may not be convinced, indeed, only God the Holy Spirit can convince you, but given the disastrous implications of your presuppositions, I prefer to choose presuppositions that can account for:

1) the laws of logic,

2) rationality,

3) both the order and disorder of the universe,

4) morality (the  reality and intensity of love as something that is intrinsic to reality since ultimate reality is  personal, rather than a mere function of the secretion of hormones driven by our DNA's need for survival, the sense that we all have that there is justice and things ought to be a certain way),

5) human knowledge - the fact that what is in my head does correspond to what is out there (since a rational God made them both so that they would), and so on.

And the kind of truth that the revelation of God in the Bible brings is exactly this truth that tells us who God is, what the universe is (a creation of God), who we are (creatures of God in his image, who are sinners in need of salvation) and that this is God's universe and he will one day call each of us to give an account of ourselves to him.  You may find this absurd.  I'm sure you do.  But it is not because you have a rational alternative.  It is rather, as the Bible teaches, a result of ethical rebellion against your Creator.  The apostle Paul put it well when he said "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing...where is the wise?...where is the disputer of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Cor. 1:18, 20).  And the appropriate response to this is to repent, give up the presupposition of your autonomy from your Creator, and exchange your irrational world view for the only one that can rescue you from the epistemological and ethical futility of denying him.  He came to this world, suffered and died in the place of sinners like us, so that we might be saved from such intellectual chaos, and that we might have eternal life.  Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is the Logos, the logic, the rationality that illumines the world.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8).

Well, its been fun guys and I'd like to continue in the future some time, but for now I will take a break I think.  I have enjoyed our discussion and wish you the best.



I was swamped with work at this time and had high hopes of gracefully exiting from the discussions as I had insufficient time on my hands to respond adequately.  However, there came a few more posts that demanded a response, so the dialogue continued for several more days.

Alan Myatt, Ph.D.

Previous Page    Next Page    Articles    Home
1     2    3   4    7   6    8    8    9    10      11    12   13    14    15