Saturday, December 20, 2008

Darby, Mangan, Auster, Morris -- and disbelief in the central doctine of Christianity

This October 9th, 2007 Webster's post is being bumped to the fore in light of this VFR entry on this Mangan's Misc. entry.

A great and most important discussion, by the way, from all sides.

We've had these discussions before, here and elsewhere, but where have we ever settled the issue? ...


Update: below is my response to certain assertions of commenter "Anonymous" over at Mangan's with Anon's comments highlighted in italics.

Christians claim that there is an all-knowing, all-loving God who created the universe. Several arguments are used to prove God's existence. They are all inadequate.

- A first argument is the Bible: "The Bible says God exists, so he must." The problem is that if we ask a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh or a Jew the same question they too will point to their respective holy books as proof of the existence of their Gods.

First of all, this is an oversimplification (perhaps purposeful) of how Christians determine the Bible to be evidence of God's existence. Some Christians may express it in these inadequate terms, but I personally do not know many, if any, that do. If you want to reduce it to a simple statement it would be more along the lines of "The Bible claims to be the Word of God spoken in human language. If this claim is true then God must exist, and he must possess all the attributes that the Bible says he possesses. And he must have communicated his will for man -- his creation -- in man's language." Of course this also means, by implication, that if the claims of the Bible are not true, then the biblical God most likely doesn't exist, which is not to say that some other supreme being does not exist. But the Bible also denies the existence of all deities other than the singular deity it describes and gives testimony to.

Second, why is it a problem for the God of the Bible that if you ask a Hindu he will point to his scriptures as evidence of the existence of Hindu gods? My understanding about Muslims and Jews is that they believe their God to be one and the same God as the God of the O.T. scriptures, so there seems to be at least some unity here, and I do not understand why Anonymous lumps Muslims and Jews in with Hindus. Muslims and Jews deny Christ's deity, and this is one area where they and Christians part ways. But again, I can hardly see how this is a problem for the God of the Bible. Because the book of Mormon exists, and Latter Day Saints profess belief in its teachings presents no problem for the existence of the Biblical-Christian God.

- Christians will sometimes say "The universe didn't just happen, someone must have made it and therefore there must be a creator God." There is a major flaw in this argument. When it starts to rain we do not ask "Who is making it rain?" because we know that rain is caused not by someone but by something - natural phenomena like heat, evaporation, precipitation, etc. A cause (or causes) need not be a being. Even if we believe that a divine being is needed to explain how the universe came into existence, what proof is there that it was the Christian God? Perhaps it was created by the God of Islam.

Again you seem to be completely unaware that the God of Islam purports to be the same God as the God of the Old Testament Bible. Now, admittedly, Christians who understand what the Koran teaches about Allah will emphatically deny that Allah and the Biblical God can be one and the same being. Christians would maintain that one of them does not and cannot exist -- Allah -- because Allah claims attributes that are impossible for God to possess.

- The Christian will of course maintain that the universe does not merely exist but that its existence shows perfect design. But how does the Christian know that it was his God who is behind creation? How does the Christian know that only one God designed evrything? the universe perfectly?

Because if there is such a thing as a Supreme Being (or God, if that is your preference), then logically there can only be one God. If there were more than one Supreme Being then neither of them could possibly live up to their billing. All the Bible is saying about the deity is that He is necessarily a singularity; a simple being with no potentiality ... as opposed to all others. Moreover, no informed Christian that I know of would ever assert that the universe is perfect. Only God is perfect, and he cannot transmit his perfection to a created thing. But how do you know that the universe is not perfect? Why do the vast majority of us agree that the universe is not perfect, that the earth is not perfect, that mankind is not perfect? Is it not that we are somehow endowed with a sense of perfection? How, I ask, by anyone's standards, did we come by this sense of perfection? Don't tell me, by random mutations and chance occurances.

- Christians will sometimes say that everything has a cause, that there must be a first cause, and that God is the first cause. This old argument contains its own refutation, for if everything has a first cause then the first cause must also have a cause. There is another problem with the first cause argument. Logically there is no good reason to assume that everything had a single first cause. Perhaps six, ten or three hundred causes occurring simultaneously caused everything.

My friend, your statement contains its own refutation. The term "first cause" means exactly that -- first -- which means there is nothing preceding it. When we speak of things in terms of their being "first" we usually mean precisely what the term indicates. Our first POTUS, George Washington, was the first president because no one had preceding him in the office. How could they when the office did not before the ratification of the Constitution exist? What Christians actually say is that everything that is not a necessary existence had a first cause. The only thing that Christians assert does not need a first cause is God, the necessary existence who not only needs no cause, but who can't be his own cause.

- Christians claim that miracles are sometimes performed in God's name and that the fact that this happens proves that God exists. If miracles performed in God's name prove the existence of the Christian God, then miracles performed in the name of numerous other gods must likewise prove that they too exist.

You assume that all so-called miracles, or claims of the miraculous, meet the same criteria. You make this assumption based on what? Muslims claim that their holy book is evidence of the miraculous -- that Mohammed who was illiterate must have therefore had Allah's assistance in writing the Koran. This is not even close to the same thing that Christians claim to be miraculous.

- Christians will often claim that only by believing in God will people have the strength to deal with life's problems, and therefore that belief in God is necessary. It is clear, however, that people from non-Christian religions and even those with no religion are just as capable of dealing with life's crises as Christians are - sometimes even better.

Yes; the United States of America, which was founded largely on Biblical-Christian beliefs (some prefer "Judeo-Christian" beliefs) has many equals in the annals of the history of nations.

- According to Christians, God is all-knowing - he knows all the past, all the present and all the future. If this is so, then God must know everything we do long before we do it. This means that our whole life must be predetermined and that we act not according to the free exercise of our wills but according to our predetermined natures.

You make the oft repeated mistake of believing that predetermination and free will are mutually exclusive concepts. But they are not, and this criticism has been answered thoroughly.


Call Me Mom said...

Very nice Mr. Morris. Thank you.