Theistic Agnosticism


(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

Is it possible to be a theist and an agnostic at the same time? I see religion as very important for providing a firm foundation for morality, I also do see evidence for a supernatural, numinous (to use a term from Rudolf Otto) or Unseen (to use a term from Mike Heiser) realm, largely due to what I have heard from my relatives. I frequently pray to God, presupposing that he exists.

But I have yet to see any firm, conclusive evidence that God actually exists. Which is why I consider myself to be an agnostic, in spite of my faith in God. That and the fact that it is most rational for everyone to accept the chance that they could be wrong, which is why I have always said that everyone, atheist or theist should be an agnostic.


(John Dalton) #2

It’s an interesting question. What does it mean to know something, or to believe something? I guess a lot of theists would admit that their theism rests on beliefs and not knowledge, which would make it agnostic theism in one sense–though I’m not sure about “theistic agnosticism”. Then again, in many forms of theism there seems to be a desire or imperative to make a stronger statement of belief than the word “agnostic” would suggest. I guess this label will rest easier on atheists in most cases.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Right. Faith is confidence in your hope, not certainty in your knowledge.


(Mark D.) #4

I agree too. It always struck me as odd to simultaneously profess faith and at the same time claim certainty. If you’re certain, faith is almost beside the point.

Look forward to following this thread. But I’m at an airport now getting ready to board. Hopefully more later.


(Laura) #5

I’d agree with what others have said here about faith vs. certainty.

If “agnostic” is being used in the sense of holding our beliefs with a sense of humility (especially the more minute points), of admitting our own fallibility and finite nature and understanding, then I think that makes a lot of sense. But faith also compels us in ways that I’m not sure agnosticism or mere rationality do – faith in Christ should compel us to do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do, to love unlovable people, desire to grow in graciousness, and many other things I fail at daily, that are really easy to say but often very difficult to do. Does agnosticism compel us to anything?


(George Brooks) #6

@Reggie_O_Donoghue

Frankly, I think “agnostic theist” describes half of humanity on a bad day. All kidding aside, however, I don’t think it would provide much service as a formal category.


(Ryan weatherly) #7

I according to my experiences , feel that I have gone beyond belief to a more substantial footing .
That events have taken me over the threshold marking belief and certainty .

These same events often mark my denomination as zealotry in the eyes of others .

But I can’t deny those events anymore than I can deny evolution .


(Kent Davis) #8

In 1930 Einstein authored a creed which he called “What I believe” which was based on his findings and basically stated the following, “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe, a spirit vastly superior to man.” He followed that up by saying the evidence is so compelling that avoiding this conclusion is blind and lame. The next step is evaluating the evidence which would suggest a personal God and not just a higher being exist. For this evaluation one analyzes their own findings based on certain facts and historical circumstantial evidence. And then one must ask themselves is there enough compelling evidence and rationale to convict them that a personal God exists. We know that science will never be authoritative as it relates to the supernatural, so we are left with a personal decision that is problematic because no amount of analysis will diminish all probabilities, but, important decisions are made all the time that are not completely empirically based. If one has completed an exhaustive analysis and concludes that sitting on the fence can be a legitimate conclusion then I think one should ask themselves if they are sitting on the fence specifically to retain God as an insurance plan.


#9

Einstein didn’t believe in a personal god.


#10

I don’t think so. An agnostic neither believes nor disbelieves, while a theist believes in a personal god.


(GJDS) #11

I think that you conflate knowledge of objects with knowing God exists, and these notions may appear as contradictions. Personal knowledge is intuitive and a phrase use at times as “intellectual sympathy”. A person may confess or profess that God exists, and from that articulate his or her personal knowledge and experience that rests on that belief and faith. When we wish to articulate and discuss our personal view, we may choose scientific terms, or metaphysical contemplations, or find particular theological discussions that seem to express our own view.

However, all this commences from our own intuition and personal position on this matter, and that, in the final analysis is between the person and God.

I cannot see how there can be a theistic agnosticism.


(Stephen Matheson) #12

Hi Reggie, I think you are making a distinction between what you believe (roughly speaking) and what you think you know. And I think that is wise.

The word ‘agnostic’ gets used in various ways, and dictionary debates are never interesting. When I use the term, I refer to a person’s self-assessment of their knowledge. Being agnostic about a god or about tomorrow’s weather is simply being realistic about what you know. When I say I am agnostic about something, I am saying that I don’t know enough to take a position. I think this usage is often flattened to merely “not taking a position,” but the word itself points me to something more than merely indecision (or merely ignorance). And that seems to be what you’re saying about your thinking about gods.

To me, such standoffishness is barely even related to questions of what someone believes, and that seems to be what others are saying in this thread: that being certain of something, i.e. claiming to “know” it, is very different from believing in something, or “having faith.”

So, are YOU both a theist and an agnostic? That’s for you to say, and not for anyone else to question.


(John Dalton) #13

I was interested (and normally apply a healthy dose of skepticism to purported quotes) so I took a closer look here. Not to nitpick, but I’ll relate what I found. Einstein apparently did say this, but in a letter to a young correspondent, and not in “What I believe”–which is still an interesting statement in its own right.

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/12/16/spirit-manifest/

http://drjingma.com/blog/whatibelieve

I’ll dispute this more. I’m not sure that’s even possible. First, even an exhaustive analysis might leave one without a definite answer, with no intent of hedging one’s bets. Next, how would one “sit on the fence”? Would that be acceptable to God and have some function as insurance? If one were making a conscious decision to do that in any way, wouldn’t God be fully aware?


(Kent Davis) #14

I am not sure what you are nitpicking, The link that you attached identifies Einstein’s Credo with a subtitle of " What I believe" which is how his credo was formatted in every search I did.

claiming to have an agnostic-theism outlook is straddling two contradictory philosophy’s, which seems a lot like playing both sides against the middle to me.


(John Dalton) #15

My only nitpick is that I don’t see that quote in that “What I believe”, but it does appear elsewhere in Einstein’s writings.


(GJDS) #16

If memory serves, I recall Einstein accepted the intelligibility of the creation and did not think random events apply to the universe.


(Mark D.) #17

To me this is the important meaning of “agnosticism”. It is about being honest with others and honest with yourself about what you really know. As you say, it is about humility and patience. It isn’t about being undecided. Everyone proceeds regardless, believing what they will or what they won’t.


(Edward Miller) #18

I am sure that is a possibility for some but not for me. I am very much a Christian Trinitarian and a Philosopher
that holds to a theist view. May God bless everyone here.


(Edward Miller) #19

Reggie believes in a God but does not identify with any particular one. Reggie could be Christian, Moslem, Jewish or Hindu or any other theistic philosophy?


(Mark D.) #20

A subtle but astute distinction. I’ve always thought agnosticism did not belong as a third alternative to theism and atheism. Agnosticism as a qualifier for how one holds their belief regarding God (or gods) makes perfect sense to me. But sitting on the fence does not seem like an adequate response to the question “do you believe in God?”

An agnostic atheist could answer “there is no knowing the fact of the matter but I live my life without regard to the possibility that any God is there”. An agnostic theist could answer “it is not a simple thing to know but I choose to live my life in hope that God is there”. What really would an agnostic agnostic believe? “That there is no way of knowing so I shall refrain from living my life in either way?” That seems paradoxical to me.