What Would You Consider Your "Intellectual Reasons" for a Godly Belief?

(Shawn T Murphy) #41

You do not seem to understand the Apokatastasis. I suggest you read up on it.
Best Wishes, Shawn

(GJDS) #42

I do not need to read your material - Apokastasis is a name given in the history of theology to a time to come when all free creatures will share in the grace of salvation, and was taught, for example, by Gregory of Nyssen. You can easily find detailed discussions on universalism in Orthodox sites on the web.

(Shawn T Murphy) #43

Your interpretation that it means a new Heaven and new Earth is not what was written. Restoration is not reconstruction.

(Mitchell W McKain) #44

Just finished watching the sci-fi film Aeon Flux again. It tells of a future world built upon a scientific version of reincarnation using human cloning. It is, of course, a nightmare which the hero of the film brings to an end, so that real human life can go forward again. The bad guys just want to live forever, even if they have sacrifice their humanity and the future for it.

We face the same philosophical dilemma with the advance of medical technology. What shall we do if we find a cure for old age? What will become of us if we put an end to physical death. It is nightmare again. Life in this world serves a purpose. Extending it endlessly or repeating it over and over again does not!

(Mark D.) #45

I think it is important to remember what we actually have reason to believe we know vs what we act on based on our assumptions. I choose to suppose that consciousness is much more extensive than that part over which we feel we have control. I also suppose the other consciousness within is entirely different than our own. Where we reason our way to conclusions the other consciousness knows intuitively, but is far from omniscient. Ideally I think we form a symbiotic relationship. We in our conscious minds are important but it is easy not to notice or forget the many aspects of our experience which are gifts.

Perhaps what we identify as our conscience is another gift of the other, one like most others which we can take for granted or even refuse.

(GJDS) #46

I would be interested to know what you mean by ‘the other’.

(Tim) #47

I have been trying to put the pieces together. What you mention about going through hell till we get it right, sounds like a pre-pergatory teaching. The actual doctrine came about a century after Origin. But Pythagoras’ concept of living 4 previous lives was called metempsychosis. Origin rejected that. It was only a heretical teaching at best.

Not sure which version you use for John 3, but the only version I could find was the Complete Jewish Bible which says, that Jesus answered yes. Not sure why verily verily would be translated as “yes”. It was not a Jewish teaching, except by kabalah teachings, and way after the 8th century, because it was rejected at first. It was metempsychosis or transmigration of the soul. In order to get into heaven, keeping the 630 some commands, one must keep repeating life until all are met.

Origin did seem to toy with the idea, but he differentiated between soul and spirit. The spirit could be left to another, like Elisha had both his spirit and Elijah’s spirit, and did twice the miracles. Origin taught the restoration of all souls, but that is universalism. The church has danced back and forth with that. Settling on Purgatory as means to work one’s way to heaven after death. Carnation is the act of receiving a flesly body. To do it again, means the first one was left behind. Physical flesh cannot enter heaven, except Enoch and Elijah, if indeed they were not immediately transfigured.

(Mark D.) #48

So would I. It is the something more that I wait for to chime in when I’m looking for a solution or inspiration. I don’t really know. But I never feel my choices are arbitrary or that I just have to please myself. There is a fact of the matter way in which each choice fulfills or it does not. How we treat others generally feeds back on that fulfillment.

(Shawn T Murphy) #49

Dear Tim,

Yes, I understand the confusion of trying to understand Origen’s teachings today, without access to his entire body of work. Scholars are starting to dare to rediscover his teachings that led him to be declared a heretic, but few go as far as Edward Mooreor Robert Sträuli. In my paper, Origen: Prophet or Heretic, I started with the nine Anathematisms that the Emperor Justinian claimed against Origento provide the basis for the choices the emperor made, and which the church 10 years later ratified. I am happy to discuss this with you.

I understand the distinction that Origen makes between the soul and spirit, and must admit I often blur this point in some of my posts. The spirit is the immortal, ethereal body that God created in His image. Our soul is the container of the Spark of Life and all of our virtue (or not). It is non-virtuous intension that dims the light in our soul and virtue that allows His light to shine in us. The soul is located in the center of the spiritual body, behind the heart. It is the source of our conscience, not the muscle mass pumping our blood.

I use Zwingli’s translation of John and Origen’s notes on John to interpret. Zwingli uses wahrlich meaning “truly” which is consistent with the English meaning of verily, “truly or certainly.” Also, yes apocatastasis is a form of universalism, but universalism is not apocatastasis. Universalism does not explain how all are saved.

Best Wishes, Shawn

(Dominik Kowalski) #50

Sure. My point was that if a premise leads to theism, atheism logically has to support the negative of this premise. And if the PSR leads to theism, so atheism has to reject it, but then we would have to engage with the consequences for science, since one of its main premises to work in the first place has been said to be untrue. Were all the findings then real knowledge we gained about the universe or were they abstractions from something completely different? And how could we still have gotten so far with our technology if it were false? Generally atheism has to take a negative view on the capability of the human mind to gain real knowledge about the structures of the universe. Nietzsche and David Hume knew that and it is an important part of their work.

I don´t doubt that we will get answers.

You threw several things in there. For what we want to find out about the natural world, science is certainly the best method with obvious frontiers, but those narrowed methods are what makes it so effective. And E=m*c² on its own doesn´t depend on anything divine. However that wasn´t the argument I was making at all. Metaphysics concerns with what is beyond the physics as we apply it and tries to put it together into a coherent picture of existence. As I have already argued above, it is already deeper than the physical science because the latter has to presume some principles of the former in order to provide any objective knowledge. And, as the arguments go, in the coherent picture of existence it ultimately has to rely on God, no matter if the narrowed down version looked upon doesn´t rely on him in a specific model.
Your remark that you don´t see how the suggestion that God made it sheds any light on the “how-question” itches me a little bit, because it makes two significant mistakes. The first being a categorical mistake, it is equivalent to the chemist walking into the history department and asking what they ever did for him. The argument that causality has to rely on a first cause which has attributes which makes him resemble to the being the major religions of the world call God isn´t supposed to show how the causality should work, especially because the hierarchy of matter makes it naturally more complicated. The second mistake is that your remark represents the argument made, as you make it sound that God as the first cause is presupposed, but the strength of the cosmological arguments presented is that God isn´t the premise, but the only possible conclusion to a valid argument with a premise which seems to be true for everyone by experience.

Just focusing on what you wrote about consciousness I don´t have to disagree necessarily. In fact it doesn´t threat any aspect of the arguments I made. I expect us to gain knowledge about the nature of consciousness, but particularly the rational aspect of it, I don´t expect to be explained by the scientific method only, because it has a too narrowed view on the nature of matter. But ironically, to answer you saying that you see no reason why “consciousness” (God would have something different, so I would say in his case “intellect”) should be the creator of the universe, I would refer to the First-cause-argument above.

(Mark D.) #51

I’m not even sure my position is best described as atheism. I think there is more going on in the world than the playing out of physics, nature and the choices we make as people. If you wish to call that something more “God” fine by me, but I don’t think you can decide God’s attributes by deciding what He needs to be in order to make the cosmos make sense to the human mind. So the kind of metaphysical argument you offered just doesn’t interest me. I’m content to admit I don’t know the answer to the big questions regarding the origins of the cosmos, life or consciousness and neither do I pretend to know the nature of that something more which we are calling God.

I prefer to admit I don’t know what is beyond that which is knowable by us. I’m dubious of arguments for what must lie beyond the veil which are based on what makes the world make sense to us because I don’t have any reason to believe that our minds are up to the task. So I’m not here to refute your argument but neither do I find it persuasive. My disinterest isn’t based on any compulsion I feel to deny God since I don’t. Rather I reject that sort of argument as nebulous.

I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you it is not my intent to provoke or irritate you. I’m trying my best to be fully honest but respectful.

I simply don’t find the notion that there must ever have been a first cause at all compelling. I suspect that the attraction that notion has for so many must be grounded in something innate about us. But not everyone finds it to be self evident.

I know I haven’t intended to say that but perhaps you felt something I said implied it. But surely there are other reasons to believe in the something more we’re calling God than to provide a beginning cause for cosmology?

(Dominik Kowalski) #52

In my head I always file you under mysticism. I think this sums it up pretty good, as it doesn´t require any more clarification.

As you can see, the only time I refered to the human mind was while making the rationalistic argument, and the consequence of how we would have to look on the facts we would have found through the scientific method if we would have found the PSR to be wrong. The Aristotelian argument makes no reference to the human mind and the way it relates/arises to/from matter. It is simply irrelevant for it. What the argument is for what attributes would God have to have in order to bring about a cosmos with change into existence, if the causal relationship for change was coherent, like we experience it, because things don´t come into existence from nothing. Hence my argument, that if naturalism is true, we would come to know that fact by accident, because human reasoning couldn´t get us there, if we assume that our experience about causality were true, because if it weren´t our experience is unreliable. The divine attributes aren´t attributed by choice, but by logic, since they arise from the notion of what pure actuality has to mean. St. Aquinas spent hundreds of pages defending every attribute against every possible objection he could come up with in the Summa Theologia so I can´t possibly give his whole argument here.

I also am not arrogant enough to presume that we know the nature of God. However what I presume is that the human rationality is able to at least know some aspects of him. This is for the philosophers. The rest would have to come about through revelation and is a matter of history and not philosophy. Like the late Mortimer Adler once said: “Revelation would be unnecessary, if we could know the same things by reason.”

This would be the position of cognitive skepticism. But I assume that you don´t approach your own thoughts primarily with the notion that they will almost guaranteed give you a completely wrong picture of your environment. Every argument, including the ones I made above, presume that we are able to gain knowledge about the universe. If that weren´t the case then I´d argue atheism to be possible in the light of rationalistic philosophy, but once again this would be an accidental truth.
However the metphysical arguments made aren´t concerning with what lies beyond what lies beyond our experience, but with the aspect of reality, that lies beyond the natural sciences. So I oppose scientism and believe that there is knowledge to be gained in the humanities, arts, history and philosophy. Metaphysics and the arguments made above are part of the latter and concern with a crucial part of reality, namely a coherent picture where everything can fit together. That what is unknowable to us isn´t to be seen in an esoteric way but something that requires a different approach to become known by us.

I didn´t answer this post to make anyone a follower of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy in an instant, but to plant the seed of curiosity so that people might be more interested in engaging with it, because I argue that it provides the most rational arguments for the existence of God and that they are far superior to the reasons I normally hear from Plantinga, Lane Craig or Moreland or other mainstream christian apologists. My journey began with the books and the blog of Ed Feser and the number of words in laying out the argument for the first cause don´t even resemble the number of pages he spent to defend it. Because current day society is mostly philosophically illiterate, especially in regards to scholasticism, the arguments seem strange at first, but I would challenge you to give it a closer look on how it is presented/argued for by trained philosophers who champion that philosophy before you doom it to be nebolous or unpersuasive.

Mark, I have read your comments for quite some time before I signed in this forum, so I have no doubt about your intentions. I always enjoy your thoughts.

I leave that to the expert:

Remember that we don´t talk about a series in time. I don´t care if the universe is eternal. And please participate in a little thought experiment: If you want to open a door, how could you do that if there were an infinite chain of causality? Your muscles depend on the nervus system, which depends on molecules, which are made out of atoms, which are made out of quarks, which are made out of possibly strings or something else. Where would your causal power root in? Where do you get your causal power to answer to my posts, if the chain is infinite and thus the power is rooted nowhere?

If it were we wouldn´t have that discussion. However I bring this up here for people to engage with it, since when the arguments are presented, they are sound. The hard part is to actually get anyone motivitated to engage with it, because it requires endurance to read about a philosophy that is foreign to us on the surface, although we unconsciously are confronted with it permanently.

Depends. I would argue not in the case if we are to think about existence with only using our rationality. History is probable and I accept the christian believes to be valid. Philosophy can bring us certainty about several concepts. And agin, this is not the Kalam Cosmological argument, I don´t need the beginning in time. The arguments from rationality is for people who aren´t believers but are open to learn about the best arguments for theism our thinkers came up with. For those who are already christians, these are just further confirmations. But for the agnostic the arguments that the ontological first cause necessarily has to have some attributes that we identify with a personal divine being, it is a great nudge to engage with the religions worshipping the divine. I´d argue that the Christian doctrine of reincarnation. But this is a topic for another day. People are getting convince by different arguments. What I have presented was for example what made Antony Flew abandon atheism. So the judgment if there are better reasons depend on the focus of the individual.

(Mark D.) #53

I’m not insulted but I don’t really know what that means. I guess it is because I don’t assert a theory based explanation for the something more. I would describe my approach as phenomenological.

Since its origination with the philosophical works of Edmund Husserl, phenomenology has aimed at descriptions of occurrences, events, experiences—in short, of world—that are not obscured by theoretical, philosophical, or cultural assumptions.


Admittedly it would be naive to think that one could just lay all assumptions and cultural biases aside, but I think I prefer to at least resist digging in to defend a particular theory based set of answers. If I don’t know, I don’t know. It might be nice to already know the answers but I prefer to stay focused on the questions. My answers are limited but I’m okay with that.

I have other responses to parts of your very generous post, but I’m disinclined to wrap my head around these elaborate but theoretical arguments. It just goes against the grain for me. But I’ll have another look soon for other points I can respond to.

(Daniel Fisher) #54

To respond to your initial question… My 11¢, if interesting. Some of my own convictions for trusting and embracing Christianity are, in no particular order…

  1. Biological life is far too complicated to have just happened. But since that one is rather controversial on this page, I’ll say no more on that one.
  2. There is the initial question you mentioned, that there must be a beginning. But this beginning could be almost anything, so it doesn’t attract me toward any particular faith. In theory the basic Greek myths would fulfill this requirement.
  3. We know there is such a thing as morality, it is as real and discoverable as the multiplication table, and this simply has no basis in nature alone without something transcendent or supernatural in origin. Ultimate reality is moral, not amoral. And neither molecules nor fundamental forces create “morality” for us to discover. Morality requires a personal judgment, and hence ultimate reality is unmistakably personal.
  4. Besides morality, there are many other aspects of the world which logically demand ultimate reality to be personal… things which are integral to reality that are so obviously inexplicable by subatomic particles and fundamental forces. Recognition of visual beauty, poetry, humor, love, mercy, justice, courage, honor.
  5. The recognition that our minds actually comprehend truth. Our thoughts can’t be true because we exercised independent thought and because our thoughts are the inevitable outcome of a long series of inevitable natural processes.
  6. The fact we recognize there is such a real thing as “evil.” There’s no such thing as evil without an absolute, transcendent standard of ”good.”
  7. If our minds and thoughts are subsequent to matter and natural processes, then free will of any kind is a complete delusion. And it is logically self-defeating to deny this.
  8. Dead people don’t start living again, generally. And the witnesses of Christ’s resurrection had every reason against inventing such a ludicrous conspiracy and dying for it.
  9. Jesus life and claims are simply astounding. The simp,est explanation tends to be he really was who he claimed to be.
  10. The music of J. S. Bach. You either get this or you don’t.
  11. And finally, to close with something probably as controversial here as my first… we as humans are so perfectly designed to recognize, experience, and appreciate #2-10 above. Especially #10. That natural processes would give us the finely tuned ears to be able to instantaneously recognize all manner of specific mathematical ratios so as to be able to recognize the beauty of Brandenburg Concerto is just astounding.

(Tom Rogers) #55

Very well stated Daniel.
To add some new science to your beliefs and faith, recent evidence verifies that Super-Intelligence (far beyond that of mankind) is essential for finding, sorting, selecting, counting, and precisely assembling all the right numbers of the right atoms to construct every cell-part, cell, and living entity, including us.
In addition, the divine “Breath-of-Life” has to be added to the inanimate atoms as no cell lives or functions without it. When this is removed, the cell no longer lives.
There is only one such Super-Intelligent force known to mankind and that is the triune God of the Bible, the God of many nations including the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
The new science is called "atomic biology’. It acknowledges that micro-evolution exists but that even mutant cells have to be constructed of atoms.

(Mitchell W McKain) #56

But all of this has been demonstrated to be completely incorrect. Evolutionary algorithms used in AI has all the so called super intelligence required to not only design better machines than we can, but to beat all the professional players of our hardest games. So, I am afraid that this argument, long known to be unsound, has now been proven conclusively by demonstration to be utterly incorrect.

Living organisms are NOT a product of intelligent design in the usual sense, but are all a result of self-organization. And this is in fact more compatible with Christianity than this flawed antiquated metaphor of God as a watchmaker, because a watch is, after all, nothing but a machine and a tool and not alive. Living things are not created in that way, and in fact as we master the mechanism of DNA and biochemistry to make machines employing the same materials, it will become rather apparent that design is the ONLY difference between living things and machines. Machines are designed and living organisms are not. Living organisms are a product of self-organization, growth, and learning. They are what they make of themselves, for that is the very essence and nature of life itself. Thus God’s role in the creation of living things is not as a designer or machine maker but as a farmer, shepherd, teacher, or parent who involves Himself in our lives to guide and advise us in the direction of better life, for those of us choosing to follow Him.

(Daniel Fisher) #57

I struggle to understand the basic epistemology of this claim. How, exactly, does one claim to know what God is or is not OK with?

In other words, someone else could come along and state their belief that “God is not OK with that.” And then we simply have two contrary opinions. Do we then have any basis on which we can judge between these opinions?

(Shawn T Murphy) #58

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your list of intellectual reasons. I would suggest to anyone who doubts your #1 to watch the Netflix series Our Planet with David Attenborough, specifically episode 3. Socrates said beauty is a symbol of goodness, and nothing better exemplifies this in nature for me than the dance of the bird of paradise. There is no logical, intellectual argument that would convince Socrates that the bird of paradise is a product of self-organization.

I would also like to emphasize the intellectual reason behind JS Bach, your #10. There are multiple studies that have demonstrated the healing power of this divine music. Of the great composers, JS Bach was the humblest and most God loving, and the music he left behind maintains these qualities.

(Mark D.) #59

I can appreciate that. I have difficulty with the epistemology of most claims made in relation to the bible, but most especially with those which purport a particular interpretation to be the one and only correct one.

I assumed she was saying that since people do regularly interpret parts of the bible differently and nonetheless find it useful in forming a relationship with God, that is what would be pleasing to God. What she didn’t say but I would is that God may be a lot more elastic than some give Him credit for. God may just be trying to teach us to dance expressively; perhaps He gets frustrated when camps form insisting that the fox trot is the one and only dance pleasing to God.

(Daniel Fisher) #60

A person might subjectively feel that some or other interpretation enhances their relationship with God. But it seems far more important as to whether God agrees with this. The people at Westboro Baptist Church presumably find their interpretation useful in forming their relationship with God. Other people in history interpreted the Bible in support of a white supremacy, and presumably they also found it useful in forming their relationship with a God, but I don’t see any way whatsoever that it follows that this is therefore pleasing to God.

I doesn’t follow that any interpretation is therefore automatically valid, or one’s beliefs true, simply because one finds it useful.

May, or may not be? Perhaps he does, but perhaps he doesn’t? All this goes back to my basic question of epistemology:

Is this a total blind guess on your part? Wishful thinking? A deduction from other facts?

Do we believe God is more “elastic” in this sense because God revealed this about himself? Because it is what we want to believe? Because this thought brings us comfort? Because it is consistent with or deduced from other religion? Because it is unanimous across world religions?

In other words: How, exactly, do we determine this is objectively true about God, rather than something we prefer to believe about God?