How do we know who god is?

Ok, so I would disagree on how pisteuo (faith/belief) is to be understood.

As far as I can see Jesus and the earliest Christians didn’t make “faith” into some kind of special class of blind belief.

The Greek word for “faith” is a cognate of the verb “believe”. The word “faith” in English tends to have religious and anti-evidential connotations, the Greek word group did not have these connotations.

The Greek words tend to convey something more along the lines of trust (when speaking about a person) or belief. Just as these English words don’t necessarily entail anything about how trust or belief were formed the same is true for the Greek words. The words themselves do not include nor exclude any particular evidential or non-evidential understanding among the earliest Christians.

To understand how the Earliest Christians thought about the nature of faith/belief/trust we have to look beyond those words.

Luke 1:1-4

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed .

Here Luke provides a preface to his Gospel, an account of the life of Jesus.

He explains why he has written his Gospel,

“so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed”

Luke is writing so that the reader can make a reasoned judgment of “the truth” of the Gospel, about Jesus. From this we may ask what is it that enables Luke’s document to function as something that would allow the reader to make an informed judgment about Jesus.

Was it “God said it, therefore believe it?”

Was it “Trust purely in your subjective religious experience.”?

No, it was none of those or anything like those. Instead Luke describes how he wrote his document in the way of an ancient historian,

Something Happened: to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us,

There were witnesses to what happened: who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word

These witnesses proclaimed what happened: just as they were handed on to us

Luke took it upon himself to undertake the task of the historian and investigate the veracity of the story of Jesus: I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account

From this we gain some insight into how some early Christians thought about their trust in Jesus. It wasn’t something that had to be automatic or beyond the normal realm of human experience. Luke undertook the very normal procedure of historical investigation to understand, evaluate, and present Christian claims, in accordance with how ancient historiography was practiced.

We can also look at incident concerning the response to news about Jesus’ resurrection,

John 20:24-28

Thomas , one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas (who was called the Twin) one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas did not believe the other disciples when they told him of Jesus’ resurrection. When Jesus met with Thomas, Jesus acquiesced to Thomas’s evidential criteria.

As far as the earliest Christians were concerned blind acceptance was not the way they thought about the gospel message. The gospel message about Jesus could be investigated and evaluated on grounds within the realm of normal human inquiry.

Your proposal seems to be a form of fideism to me. I find two primary problems with this,

  1. How can we trust the realm of the religious if it is beyond and never comes in contact with critical thought? What happens when a person’s supposed religious land comes into conflict with critical thought? Without critical thought being an active participant with every belief we form there is no control, no way to correct our thoughts, the land of religious belief is merely the imaginary playground of the religious thinker.

  2. Why should religious belief be something that denies our biological toolkit and the normal way we interact with reality?

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It’s not fideism, because it is based on the assumption that we ‘do’ have evidence.

  1. How can we trust the realm of the religious if it is beyond and never comes in contact with critical thought? What happens when a person’s supposed religious land comes into conflict with critical thought? Without critical thought being an active participant with every belief we form there is no control, no way to correct our thoughts, the land of religious belief is merely the imaginary playground of the religious thinker.

Then we reject it, and that’s fine by me.

Why should religious belief be something that denies our biological toolkit and the normal way we interact with reality?

Paul speaks of the grace of God and the indwelling of the spirit being the cause of our salvation, not our biological toolkit.

I was 17 and thought I had it sorted out in my head. All roads lead to God, etc. Then my Jehovah’s Witness friend was at me again as we sat on some poor sod’s fence after midnight. Blah, blah, blah… I just let him keep talking.

Suddenly the thought hit me. From nowhere. What if there was only one way to God, and I missed it? Yeah, but that wouldn’t be fair I responded to myself. Yes, but what if it was true?.. I didn’t know why, but this internal dialogue shook me to the core.
When I wandered home after he left, I couldn’t shake it. I said, God, gods, whatever… if you’re real show yourself to me.

My JW friend moved to the Netherlands. I changed schools. My new best friend over a few beers when we were supposed to be at school told me about things happening at the place he lived - he had been up on 32 counts of breaking and entering when he lived under a railway carriage, so an Anglican minister took him in. It was an Anglican charismatic group, which meant nothing to me. The things happening included people being healed and stuff. I thought… that’s not just people’s ideas. That sounds real. I knew I had to go to check it out.

Mum was away so the night they held the meeting I organised myself a lift to get out to this place. Unexpectedly, as soon as I stepped onto the veranda of the house, I had this incredible sense of peace and wholeness flood over me…

I’m not going to give you the whole story. But I encountered Christ. I encountered God. I later learnt mum’s old lady friends had been praying for me. I later understood that it was the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart that night that had broken into my thoughts and brought a sense of eternity alive to me so crisply that I felt it.

What I’m saying is that God is not just a set of the best ideas. God is real and can be encountered. But the ideas ARE important because they are our framework for interpreting our encounters with God and knowing him. I shared this because of your question.

But unfortunately I don’t understand how can people know god and how do they know it

I don’t think it’s - find the answer to every question and puzzle and when I get to the end I find God. You’ll find the people who met Christ and were transformed by him in the gospels didn’t have their heads together and took a while to sort themselves into some kind of order. But they did change the world.
I think the starting point is Christ. Read any of the four gospels.

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For the most part we are on the same page. However there are some adjustments needed due to new discoveries.

With the new developments in computer AI to employ learning algorithms that can beat all our best professionals at our hardest strategy games, we have to rethink this emphasis on reason as something special and defining of our humanity. Frankly reason really just amounts to following a few rules and from this alone is derived all the design of nature and living things. Rather than some special ability which enables us to rise above all the other creatures of the earth, reason is really the most basic aspects of the universe built into the very physics and chemistry of the universe. Could this idolization of reason be nothing more than an ego trip for us intellectuals? Are those less capable of reason therefore less human?

Now don’t get me wrong… I do think we are more than just biological organisms. In fact I think the human mind is a non-biological living organism, a different life-form if you will, with language instead of chemistry as its substance or information medium. With a different set of needs, and a completely different system of inheritance – the mind, to borrow Dawkins’ terminology is memetic life rather than genetic life.

I just think that the emphasis on reason is a bit misguided. I don’t even think there is anything inherently reasonable or rational about the human mind. And I also think perhaps that this is a source of a lot of the conflict over evolution. We had been looking for God in the wrong place as a clever watchmaker designer as the ultimate in reason and intelligence, when we should have been looking for God in the examples of loving relationships with living things… in the farmer, the shepherd, the teacher, and parents.

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When I think of this question, I try to break it down by basic deductive categories…

1. Either there really is a god, or there isn’t.

  • If there is not, then every religion is a complete invention of human speculation and has no basis in reality.

  • if there is a God, we must now ask the next question…

2. Either God had communicated Truth about himself to mankind some discreet, comprehensible manner, or he has not.

  • If he has not, we are in the same situation as above… every religion is a complete invention of human speculation and has no basis in reality.

  • If he has, then it is actually possible to know who God is, since he communicated it, and thus some beliefs about God are the result of his revelation, and not human speculation.

Granted, of course, much religion, ancient (and modern) beliefs about a God are indeed the result of human speculation, projection, and/or wishful thinking.

But the essential claim of Christianity is that God has in fact communicated. ”Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

I can see where you’re coming from. I didn’t claim that ‘reason’ was what made us different as humans. All I was saying really is that we can reason, it’s a part of what we are.

Your last paragraph here is something I see as an application of our ability to reason. We may conceptualize about reason differently. You seem to associate reason with AI abilities whereas I would associate reason also with what you state in your last paragraph. I don’t think AI has the capability to reason in the exact same manner we do yet or else AI should be able to make the same conclusions you express as a result of what else but by a process of reasoning.

Doesn’t change the significance you attached to it. Your implication was that this is what we have in addition to biology. AND this is the traditional way of thinking which I am suggesting has been misleading us in a significant way. I am saying reason is already there in the stuff of the universe before life and so this isn’t what makes us more than biological organisms at all. A mind yes and not as an onboard computer but as a living organism in its own right. Minds do not necessarily reason – not well or even at all. That logic and reason are not the essence of the mind is whole point I am making. That is a kind of thinking which came from the Greeks and while I love all that stuff I doubt that we should be idolizing it as if it were of any more importance than any other game we play to entertain ourselves.

I don’t think what I described is reason at all but LIFE, and that what is important. Life is what we have that the machine does not. Our consciousness for example is something which I think is a function of life not reason. So I quite agree with you that AI does not have this. This is not to say that it isn’t possible. But then I would use the phrase “artificial life” rather than “artificial intelligence.” The point is that it is the elements of life which make us more are not cleverness and intelligence. What are these elements of life? Growth, identity (making choices about who we are), subjective experience (want and feeling), and consciousness (ownership of our choices and actions). Sure all life has these things but we have more. But logic and reason is not so special - for that is something which inanimate (non-living) things can do even better than we can.

I am reminded of the sci-fi film Arrival where that silly scientist says that science not language is the foundation of civilization. I think that is a sign of just how warped our perception and priorities are. Don’t get me wrong, I am a scientist so I think science is great and philosophy too. But other people prefer football. And then there is that part of the movie where the Chinese were getting misled because they were using mahjong as their means of communication with the aliens. I am suggesting that in the same way the idolization of reason and science can distort our understanding too. Science for all it power for revealing the underlying nature of the universe is not life.

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You are right in that I am attaching significance to it in a way that at resembles traditional ways of thinking. However I think I conceptualize reason and its relationships in a way that is different than what you suggest reason is.

How else are you making your case other than by reason?

You call it ‘life’ I call it ‘reason’. We can play semantics all day long but we are trying to get at similar realities. My conception of ‘reason’ is more inclusive than yours.

Oh I am an intellectual to be sure. Reason is my delight. I love not only philosophy but I am actually a scientist. But as I said, other people like football instead.

But just because I love philosophy and science doesn’t make it the foundation of civilization like that guy in the movie says. The world does not revolve around me.

And I have much the same attitude about Christianity. I think Christianity is correct. But I think Pascal’s wager is all wrong. You cannot buy your salvation with Christianity any more than you can buy it with football.

YEP. Science may not be life, but semantics might be. I certainly think language is not only the foundation of civilization but the very substance of the human mind. The words we choose make a difference in how we think because of the connections they make. And how we think has a definite impact on how we live.

But… perhaps… and maybe this is what you really mean… I have gone a bit beyond making my point to beating it to death.

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I agree.

The way I conceptualize reason doesn’t exclude this. Someone who likes football is able to use their reason to analyze and explain it in a depth that someone who is an “intellectual” would have difficulty doing. The application of reason can differ between contexts.

I see reason as a tool. Like any tool it is not an unmitigated good.

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