Sunday, June 25, 2006

A debate challenge on absolute truth

I respond here to an email discussing truth and nihilism.

----------------------

Dear BH,

Thanks for writing. You write:

I don't suppose you will give this email more than a cursory glance given the number of Christians who must launch their far ranging views at you but I hope you do that at least.
Actually, I try to read all emails sent to me. I enjoy reading views that differ with mine. I am glad for any feedback.

My son has done the same as you. He describes with remarkable similarity the sense of freedom from the 'rules and regulations' of the belief system to which he once adhered. Knowing what he understood I guess anything outside of that would be liberating. Its amazing how he is doing the exact opposite of what he once genuinely believed and condemned. Yes there is freedom in not believing anything and it is liberating to allow one's nature full reign to do what it likes. I know because half my life was as an unbeliever. Interestingly my son who is a deep thinker has started to come to the place where he is starting to question what he calls 'the shallow futility' of his new lifestyle.
Based on this paragraph, it would appear to me that your son has experienced something far different from what I have experienced. You speak of his shallow futility and his lack of belief in anything. This definitely does not describe me. I have discovered a new way of looking at life, a rich and full way of understanding and loving life. I am sorry that your son has experienced a shallow futility and no longer believes anything. Perhaps your son could learn from my website.

The bottom line as far as I can tell and what I would like to suggest to you my friend (if I may have the honor of calling you that) is that there still remains Absolute Truth. By Absolute Truth I mean only one set of facts about who we are, why we are here, where we are going, what happens when we die, and how this world and the known universe came into existence. That A T remains A T whether you or I believe it or not. It is unchanging; absolute. Now, if you can accept that premise I would like to challenge you to a discussion of how we can establish exactly what that truth is. If you don't accept that premise then I will be forced to leave you to choose whatever you want to believe. What do you say Merle?
I agree with you that there is a truth about the universe. Am I absolutely certain of that? Well, no, I cannot be absolutely certain. What if my senses are deceiving me? What if I wake up some day to find the entire universe was something I dreamed up? But assuming my senses have not invented the universe--and that does seem to me like a reasonable assumption--then there is indeed an objective universe with objective truth out there.

You have challenged me to a discussion of how we can establish that truth. I accept. I have written an email accepting the challenge and asking how you want to carry out the debate. You have not responded yet. If you are interested in discussing this, you could add your comments here, or you could write to me and let me know how you would like to continue.

Regards,
Merle

PS. I have written BH informing him of this posting at my blog.

100 comments:

Brian (BLH) said...

Hi Merle

Thank you for the courtesy of replying. Good to hear from you. Yes I would welcome an informal debate. I think that is preferable to one that is too structured provided we dont go off the rails overly much.

May I ask that we agree upon a couple of points There is always a danger that a debate can degenerate into a slanging match. I dont want that to happen and I sense from your website material you dont want to either. I would like to ask that we keep our debate non personal and respect each others views even if we end of at opposite poles"

Could I also ask that we begin our discussion by laying a foundation that we both agree to logically? For example, I gather from your reply that you accept absolute truth or ultimate reality. Thats a common starting point already.

My initial premise that I would like to put to you has three parts . I propose therefore that:

1 AT is an overarching entitly or entity.
You and I exist in relation to it
We exist because of it

If the above are true it seems to me that these are vitally important reasons why we as intelligent beings should search out, understand and establish exactly the nature of AT is, exactly what our relation to it is and exactly how we exist because of it.
Would you agree to that?

2 If you agree to the above would you also agree that it will be possible to know what AT is and that in fact it would not make sense if it was not possible to know what AT is?


3. Absolute Truth - Inflexible Reality
"Absolute truth" necessarily means inflexible reality: based upon fixed, invariable, unalterable facts.

Look forward to your reply

Brian (BH)

SpeirM said...

This should be fun.

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,

I look forward to this discussion, and I hope we can each learn from it.

You ask that we keep this discussion from personal attacks. I agree. We both desire a friendly discussion in which we each show respect to those who differ.

You ask if I can agree to certain premises (shown in bold below).

"1 AT [Absolute Truth] is an overarching entitly or entity.
You and I exist in relation to it
We exist because of it"


I agree that there is an objective universe. and there is objective truth about it. (In my opening I did write a caveat concerning the word "absolute", but otherwise I am in agreement with you.)

" these are vitally important reasons why we as intelligent beings should search out, understand and establish exactly the nature of AT"

I agree. We should try to understand reality. I think the best method we have to do that is the scientific method. Do you agree?

"would you also agree that it will be possible to know what AT is and that in fact it would not make sense if it was not possible to know what AT is?"

Perhaps we need to discuss this point further. To me it makes sense that limited, finite humans would not be able to know AT with absolute certainty. Are we not limited in our ability to observe? Is it not possible that we are sometimes mistaken? If we can be mistaken, does it not follow that we cannot be absolutely certain that we know absolute truth?

"'Absolute truth' necessarily means inflexible reality: based upon fixed, invariable, unalterable facts."

Okay, I'll go along with that definition.

SpeirM said...

Awright, where's da show? We wuz promised a show.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I am waiting for it too...
-julnee

LorMar said...

I too was wondering why he has not answered Merle.

SpeirM said...

May I suggest that the holdup is over point #2? If Merle had stepped unseeing into that pile of dung, he would've deserved his fate. As it is, he takes the obvious--and I think unassailable--position that AT cannot always be reliably discerned with human instrumentation. Consequently, BH, hoping initially that Merle would fall into his trap, is now realizing there's no way he can convincingly make his case if his original proposition is not accepted pretty much without alteration.

Am I close?

Merle Hertzler said...

Okay, so basically we have come to the agreement that a real universe exists. Is that about as far as you intended to take the discussion, or were you leading up to something more?

SpeirM said...

Uh, Merle, who are you talking to?

Merle Hertzler said...

I was referring to Brian. He seemed to want a discussion, but so far the only thing he has presented to us is the idea that a real universe exists.

I thought Brian and I were going to discuss how to know truth. I have proposed the scientific method. Brian has proposed no method. It appears the scientific method wins this discussion by default, for there were no other ideas on the table.

SpeirM said...

"He seemed to want a discussion...."

I'm starting to wonder if it was all bluster.

"It appears the scientific method wins this discussion by default...."

Of course it does. The "scientific method" is just a formalization of the way we all think. That is, when we do think, rather than just accept. At some level Brian must surely know this. And maybe that's why he seems to have developed cold feet.

LorMar said...

SpeirM said...

I'm starting to wonder if it was all bluster.

It probably was.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so that's the end of the debate???
Haha... I was waiting for something more than this... :P

-julnee

SpeirM said...

Frankly, I'm starting to get a little worried now. Yeah, maybe Brian got cold feet. But isn't it a little unusual for somebody to just fall off the map, so the speak?

Have you heard from him at all, Merle?

LorMar said...

Looking at Brian's comments again, I don't believe he got cold feet. His challenge was based on Merle accepting a premise. It appears to me that Merle does not believe in AT. Brian does. Therefore, there is no reason to continue the debate. The only mistake Brian made is believing he could challenge Merle in such a way that he would change his mind. He could not convince Merle any more than Merle could convince him.

SpeirM said...

"It appears to me that Merle does not believe in AT."

Where on earth did you get that idea? Are you confusing "absolute" with "transcendental"?

Acceptance of an absolute reality necessarily entails believing in absolute truth. If I believe in reality, I am as much as admitting that the attributes of that reality are absolutely true. That doesn't mean I see gods, or pixies, or anything else supernatural behind it.

LorMar said...

"It appears to me that Merle does not believe in AT."

Where on earth did you get that idea? Are you confusing "absolute" with "transcendental"?

Acceptance of an absolute reality necessarily entails believing in absolute truth. If I believe in reality, I am as much as admitting that the attributes of that reality are absolutely true. That doesn't mean I see gods, or pixies, or anything else supernatural

Where on earth did you get the idea that a belief in AT meant (to me) a belief in God or pixies or gods, etc? It appeared to me that the wording in Merle's response indicated that he felt there was a difference between Absolute Truth and Objective Truth (preferring the word Objective).

"I agree that there is an objective universe. and there is objective truth about it. (In my opening I did write a caveat concerning the word "absolute", but otherwise I am in agreement with you.)"


If Merle points out that he did not mean it as such then I stand corrected on that point. Still, Merle did not accept his 3 point premise.

SpeirM said...

"It appeared to me that the wording in Merle's response indicated that he felt there was a difference between Absolute Truth and Objective Truth (preferring the word Objective)."

Maybe. But is there any significant difference in this context? Is there necessarily one?

"Still, Merle did not accept his 3 point premise."

The way I see it, he seemed to be accepting #1 and #3 without much modification. #2 was the sticking point.

But, then, maybe this would be a good time to wait for Merle to weigh in. I'm afraid we're going to be putting words into his mouth.

Merle Hertzler said...

I don't know why Brian dropped out. He never wrote back. He may have been concerned about my answer concerning absolute truth.

Let me clarify: I do believe there is an objective world out there, and there are objective facts about the universe. But I do not believe that I can know anything about that universe with [i]absolute[/i] certainty. As I explained in my opening, I cannot absolutely rule out that all of my senses have deceived me, and so I cannot be [i] absolutely [/i] certain about any fact about the universe, even its existance. However, there are many facts about the universe--including the fact of its existance--that I know with such overwhelming certainty, that it is for all practical purposes absolute knowledge. But I will not call that knowledge absolute, for it is all based on my senses, and therefore all subject to interpretation.

And so for the sake of this argument, I can agree that there is an objective universe out there, and can even agree to the word absolute with one caveat. I do not want Brian to argue that since I believe the universe absolutely exists, that therefore I am saying I can know things about the universe with absolute knowledge. I was afraid that was where Brian was leading. So I was careful in my wording, lest Brian tried to hang me on the letter of the English wording. (That would be the first time an apologist pulled that on me.)

Brian, wherever you are, we are all still waiting. Why did you leave?

Merle Hertzler said...

Uh, a quick correction here. (I cannot go back and edit comments.) I meant to say that would not be the first time an apologist tried to trick me in the letter of the English wording. It has happened before.

SpeirM said...

That's the way I understood you. Saying one believes in absolute, objective reality is not the same as saying one believes one can always know what that reality is. That, I suspect, is what guts Brian's argument from the start. Religion, if nothing else, deals in certainties. It wasn't absolute reality he wanted to defend, it was absolute knowledge.

"I meant to say that would not be the first time an apologist tried to trick me in the letter of the English wording."

I assumed that's what you meant.

LorMar said...

Ok. I'd have to admit that I am completely baffled. I don't mean to be offensive in anyway. However, I am beginning to think that A. I have had the wrong definition of universe all along (planets, stars, sun, etc). or B. ????

Before I reach any more unnecessary conclusions (which are most likely ridiculous on my part), could you clarify the following:

"As I explained in my opening, I cannot absolutely rule out that all of my senses have deceived me, and so I cannot be [i] absolutely [/i] certain about any fact about the universe, even its existance."

I understand not being certain about specific facts, but it's existence? I was also taken aback at first when I read this:

"What if my senses are deceiving me? What if I wake up some day to find the entire universe was something I dreamed up? But assuming my senses have not invented the universe--and that does seem to me like a reasonable assumption--then there is indeed an objective universe with objective truth out there."

I thought that you were using a joke to make serious point (nothing wrong with that of course). I guess what I am trying to say is that I can't understand why anyone would call the existence of the universe an assumption (even a reasonable assumption) rather than an absolute fact. Was it tongue in cheek, metaphorical, figurative...did I totally miss the point? That could be the case as I naturally pay attention to word choice or the use of words (which gets me into trouble sometimes).

Merle Hertzler said...

Okay, Lormar let me try to clarify my view one more time: I know that a fixed, objective universe exists, but I am not absolutely certain that the universe exists. That may seem contradictory, but I am making an important distinction.

Let me illustrate. If you ask me if I know where I was born, I would tell you that I do. My parents have told me where I was born, and I have seen it on my birth certificate. But am I absolutely certain that I am right? No. Could it be that my parents mispoke? Could it be that I misunderstood? Could my memory of the past conversations be mixed up? Could the birth certificate be frauldulent? In spite of all those remotely possible conditions, I can still respond that I know where I was born. The chances that I am mistaken on this fact are so slight, it is not worth mentioning that I might be wrong. So I say I know where I was born. But I am not absolutely certain.

Can you see the difference between the meanings I use for the word "know" and "absolutely certain"? Can you understand why I can answer that I know where I was born, even though I am not absolutely, positively, totally certain that I am not mistaken?

Of course, I am much, much more certain that the universe exists than I am of the location of my birth. The chances that I am mistaken on the existance of the universe are infinitesimally small--perhaps many orders of magnitude smaller than one chance in a google to the googleth power.

Once more, the only reason I refrain from using the word "absolute" to describe my knowledge of the existance of the universe is that I sensed a trap coming, in which I was being asked to acknowledge that I absolutely knew that the universe existed, and that this admission was going to be used to "prove" that one could absolutely know other things. So perhaps I am nitpicking on the wording, but I was careful not to walk into that trap.

You seem to suggest that you are absolutely certain that the universe exists. Can you explain to me how it is that you, as a finite person, are absolutlely certain of this fact?

SpeirM said...

LorMar,

When the subject is absolutes you have to be careful. That, I think, is all Merle is doing. Philosphers in the past have made it clear that the existence of the universe itself cannot be rationally proven. That's because the issue is too fundamental for reason.

There are certain things that have to be taken for granted in any rational discussion. These "percepts" are basal concepts not vulnerable to investigation. For instance, to argue against the efficacy of reason you would have to employ reason. That would be incoherent. It doesn't make any sense. Likewise, to start from any position other than that the universe exists leads to no useful conclusion. Being part of the universe, if I insist there is no universe, I'm also saying I don't exist. Who, then is doing the arguing? That, too, is incoherent. But just because it's incoherent doesn't prove in any finally conclusive way that the universe exists. Merle is just giving a nod to that realization.

That doesn't mean that he believes the universe exists any less than you do. Indeed, he's taking it as a basic assumption. An assumption isn't a tentative thing. It's not "What if?" It's the foundation upon which you base your argument. Naturally, you want your assumptions to be as rock solid as you can make them; things nobody can rationally argue against. You can't get much more rock solid than "The universe exists." That's why Merle said he assumes the universe exists. He's not expressing doubts about that by calling it an assumption.

LorMar said...

Sperm

"But just because it's incoherent doesn't prove in any finally conclusive way that the universe exists. Merle is just giving a nod to that realization.

That doesn't mean that he believes the universe exists any less than you do. Indeed, he's taking it as a basic assumption. An assumption isn't a tentative thing. It's not "What if?" It's the foundation upon which you base your argument. Naturally, you want your assumptions to be as rock solid as you can make them; things nobody can rationally argue against. You can't get much more rock solid than "The universe exists." That's why Merle said he assumes the universe exists. He's not expressing doubts about that by calling it an assumption."

That clears it up for me.

Merle

"Okay, Lormar let me try to clarify my view one more time:"

Did you think that my previous reply was offensive or combative? I tried to make it clear that it wasn't. It is in my nature to ask a lot of questions in order to understand an issue or a person's POV.

"You seem to suggest that you are absolutely certain that the universe exists. Can you explain to me how it is that you, as a finite person, are absolutlely certain of this fact? "

Merle,

One thing we need to understand is that everyone comes to a conclusion based on what is logical/rational in their own eyes. Granted, some people are correct in determining what is rational, others are wrong. Also, some people could be mistaken about what is the "absolute truth" and others are right. Determining who is right or wrong cannot be understood in simple conversations or debates; but with careful observation within the passage of time (IMO). With that said, I have no problem with absolutes. Furthermore, I am absolutely certain that my senses have not deceived me (i.e., it is not possible that the universe is something I dreamed up). It could be that I am thinking of the universe in more concrete terms whereas you think of it in abstracts (thus, my reason for stating I could have had the wrong definition of universe). If my definition was wrong, than I will determine (after the passage of time filled with study and observation--still though, not something I dreamed up) that what I believed was AT was in fact an untruth. I have always believed that the universe included the earth, stars, sun, moon, etc. If I can see those things in the sky and live in the earth, the universe exists. I am absolutely certain where I was born, my existence, etc. To me, calling something such as these assumptions creates more problems than solves any. You don't see it that way and that's fine with me. I recognize that there are reasons why you came to the conclusions you did, reasons that I do not fully understand (but am trying to). I have a feeling this may be going in an unintended direction. No need to argue over this since your views are your views and you are certainly free to express them. Understand though, mine are mine :-).

LorMar said...

I just realized SpeirM's username was written incorrectly. That was not done on purpose.

MSpeir said...

"I just realized SpeirM's username was written incorrectly. That was not done on purpose."

Oh, sure you did! ;)

Actually, I almost didn't choose that name for the very reason that I knew somebody was bound to do that eventually. I'm surprised I haven't slipped up and done it myself yet. I think I'll try MSpeir fo a while.

MSpeir said...

"To me, calling something such as these assumptions creates more problems than solves any."

I know you're addressing Merle here, but it shows that what I wrote you really didn't clear up the misapprehension.

Calling something an assumption does not in any way suggest that you see it as anything but absolutely true. Indeed, an assumption is just something that's taken for granted as being true. In fact, that's pretty much the definition of "assumption."

Merle Hertzler said...

Lormar,

You write: "Also, some people could be mistaken about what is the 'absolute truth' and others are right. Determining who is right or wrong cannot be understood in simple conversations or debates; but with careful observation within the passage of time (IMO). "

Yes, that is the problem. People can be mistaken about absoloute truth. Although truth about the universe must most certainly exist, many people have been mistaken about their views of the universe.

The reason is simple. we are fallible humans. Our brains consists of neurons processing signals from nerve cells. Our brains work, but they sometimes make mistakes. So how can we be absolutely certain of anything, if our brains sometimes are deluded?

I agree that careful observations will, with time, lead us to knowledge of the universe. But how could our fallible observations lead to "absolute" knowledge?

You continue: "I am absolutely certain where I was born"

May I ask how you are absolutely certain of your birthplace? All you have to go by is what people have written down or told you (or, more accurately, by your current memories of what you have read or heard). Can this be sufficient evidence to know something with "absolute certainty"?

In the past people thought they were "absolutely certain" that the earth was flat. But they were mistaken. Isn't it best for us to realize that we might also be mistaken on many details? Isn't it best to admit that we might be mistaken about our birthplace (although, of course, the chances that we are mistaken are extremely low)?

Merle Hertzler said...

Mspeir,

You make some interesting observations on the philosophy of existance. You write:

"Being part of the universe, if I insist there is no universe, I'm also saying I don't exist. Who, then is doing the arguing?"

Yes, it would be difficult to deny the existance of the self. "I think, therefore I am" could arguably be called an absolute argument.

I guess our discussion of the universe demands a definition of the universe.

If the universe is defined as "the set of everything that exists", then by definition the universe exists (but it could conceivably be the empty set).

If we include ourselves in the definition of the universe, than we run into the problem that denying our own existance is nonsense, so arguably one could say the existance of the self--and therefore at least one part of the universe--is an absolute.

But when we move on to the existance of objects outside the self, that is where we clearly move beyond the realm of absolute knowledge.

MSpeir said...

"I guess our discussion of the universe demands a definition of the universe."

That has become more of a problem recently with the various "multiverse" notions. Still, I tend to use "universe" to mean "all that is wherever it is." And, of course, that begs the question to some extent of whether anything "is." But I'll stick to what I said before that calling existence into question isn't a useful exercise because no useful conclusion can come of it. It's fine as an intellectual abstraction, but it doesn't lead anywhere. If we're wrong about it, there's no way to demonstrate that we are. We wouldn't be meaningfully wrong. ("Meaningfully wrong?" Kinda made sense when I wrote it.)

"But when we move on to the existance of objects outside the self, that is where we clearly move beyond the realm of absolute knowledge."

And the farther away, the less certain. Soon we reach a point where we can only claim absolute knowledge, not possess it. We can ask better questions than the answers we can hope to divine. Still, there can be no certainty at all unless we're willing to take our own existence for granted. It's just that all things we can properly call "certain" will lie fairly close to home.

And, of course, I have to bring Will Rogers into the the discussion: “It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.” It's easy to be certain. It's a lot harder to be right.

Anonymous said...

Note: Brian asked me to post the following since his computer is having difficulty adding comments. --Merle

----------------

Sorry for the long delay but I had some very tough personal matters to attend to and they took up all my time recently. Nothing to do with the debate.

As for "cold feet" dont worry thats not an option for me though if I feel that I am out of depth or we cannot move forward then I will withdraw (though I will announce it first).

You have proposed our discussion should be based on a scientific method. Ok but does that mean you are unwilling to consider any other method? For example you said "To me it makes sense that limited, finite humans would not be able to know AT with absolute certainty. Are we not limited in our ability to observe? Is it not possible that we are sometimes mistaken? If we can be mistaken, does it not follow that we cannot be absolutely certain that we know absolute truth?" I agree that as finite beings this places limitations on our powers of understanding. But it seems to me that AT, whoever or whatever AT is, by virtue of being AT, must coexist quite comfortably with us and our limitations as finite beings and that it remains AT whatever our level of understaind is. Therefore what should our attitude be towards that which we dont know as individuals beings and what we dont know as a species? What about the bits of knowledge that we dont have access to at this stage, for whatever reason, or the bits we do have access to but dont understand? Do we then say that they dont exist? I am sure you would not say that so I propose that what we dont know but acknowledge must exist as beyond our ken, we are bound to accept by the method of faith. Would you agree? Faith is a method we use all the time, whether we are conscious of it or not. For example, I have never been to your country. I accept that it exists, based on faith in the evidence that comes my way but I have never seen it in the flesh. One definition of faith is the belief in something that has not been or cannot be seen. I have faith that there is AT about all aspects of life even though right now I may not be privy to a thorough understanding of it all. Indeed I may never be able to understand it all. Let me tell you that I am naturally seriously sceptic about presented facts that have no corroboratory evidence. but I remain open minded until compelling evidence appears. I am prepared to accept anything provided there is compelling evidence, even if that evidence is not necessarily backed by scientific evidence. That doesnt mean I accept popular interpetation given for the evidence. For example I believe in the phenomenon of UFOs but that doesnt mean I accept the popular interpretation of UFOs because, according to my personal knowledge base, there is overwhelming evidence to support that that interpretation is not valid. While I value scientific evidence I am not dependent upon scientific evidence alone.

And how reliable is scientific evidence alone? Again, you ask "Is it not possible that we are sometimes mistaken? If we can be mistaken, does it not follow that we cannot be absolutely certain that we know absolute truth?" Well if you apply that to scientific testing of something then we must admit that where scientific method comes short we must accept the rest in faith IF WE BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF AT which we agreed we did. Perhaps a good example here is gravity. The working of gravity is a part of AT or reality WHICH BECAUSE IT IS AN AT IT NEVER CHANGES IN ITS PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION irrespective of how we might individually imterpret its manifestation (individual interpratation of gravity). Perhaps I stand to be corrected but is it not true that the cause of gravity cannot be explained scientifically? We can explain its effects but not its cause right? But I am sure you will agreee that because we cannot explain gravity's cause doesn't mean that it doesn't exist as AT. That same principle could be applied to a host of other phenomena. I guess there may be better examples than gravity but the point I am making here is that you and I must surely have to agree that we need more than one method to continue to debate AT

What do you think?

Brian

MSpeir said...

Merle,

Is this going to be open to everybody now? I had assumed it would be a more or less private debate like you had with Scott.

Are we all free to join in?

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Glad to see you post again.


LorMar

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,
I'm sorry to hear about your tough personal matter. I hope everything worked out okay.

"You have proposed our discussion should be based on a scientific method. Ok but does that mean you are unwilling to consider any other method?"

Sure. Which method do you refer to? How do you know this method works?

"I propose that what we dont know but acknowledge must exist as beyond our ken, we are bound to accept by the method of faith."

Your statement refers to those times that we acknowledge that something must exist. On what basis do we make that acknowledgement? If it is based on the evidence, than we are using the scientific method. And yes, I agree with such use of the scientific method.

But if we use some other method to come to that acknowledgement, exactly what is that other method you refer to?

Once we come to an acknowledgement you say we use the method of faith. Okay, but it appears you are not suggesting that faith is a method to establish truth. Rather, you seem to be saying that we acknowledge something based on some other method, and then have faith in what this method revealed. Fine, but what method brings us to that acknowledgement?

"Faith is a method we use all the time, whether we are conscious of it or not. For example, I have never been to your country. I accept that it exists, based on faith in the evidence that comes my way but I have never seen it in the flesh."

Oh, I see, by "faith" you seem to mean the act of coming to a conclusion based on the evidence. You have basically described how we use the scientific method. That is what science is all about. We look for evidence, and where we find conclusinve evidence, we trust the evidence and come to conclusions. Is this what you mean by "faith"? If so, our difference is simply a matter of nomenclature. I call conclusions based on evidence "science," not "faith".

" is it not true that the cause of gravity cannot be explained scientifically? We can explain its effects but not its cause right? But I am sure you will agreee that because we cannot explain gravity's cause doesn't mean that it doesn't exist as AT. That same principle could be applied to a host of other phenomena"

Science does not demand that we understand the cause before we accept that something is true. Folks have understood the laws of gravity for a long time without understanding what causes gravitational attraction. They made observations and calculations of the way gravity works, and came to conclusions. This is a good application of the scientific method.

"Let me tell you that I am naturally seriously sceptic about presented facts that have no corroboratory evidence. but I remain open minded until compelling evidence appears. "

I agree. We should remain skeptical until we have compelling evidence.

So when I hear people talking about God, miracles, and inspired books, I remain skeptical until I see compelling evidence. How about you?

Merle

Merle Hertzler said...

Sure, feel free to join in. I'm not sure what Brian's plans are, but lets just add our comments here unless Brian asks to take it to a more formal level.

Merle Hertzler said...

Sure, feel free to add comments on this thread. I understand this is an informal discussion

MSpeir said...

"Perhaps I stand to be corrected but is it not true that the cause of gravity cannot be explained scientifically?"

Brian,

You seem to be trying to use gravity as an analogy, but it's unclear what you mean it to be an analogue of. With gravity we have an indisputable phenomenon. And, no, it doesn't matter much if we understand how it works. It's what glues to my seat as I type. It's the reason we needed millions of pounds of propellant to get a tiny capsule to the Moon and back. Unquestionably, gravity exists. We would consider a man mad who insisted otherwise. To what phenomenon are you comparing it? Does this phenomemon lie just as undeniably within the common human experience as does gravity?

Other than that, I'd like to see your answers to Merle's questions before I ask more of my own.

LorMar said...

From a spectator here, any thoughts on this from Brian:

And how reliable is scientific evidence alone? Again, you ask "Is it not possible that we are sometimes mistaken? If we can be mistaken, does it not follow that we cannot be absolutely certain that we know absolute truth?" Well if you apply that to scientific testing of something then we must admit that where scientific method comes short we must accept the rest in faith IF WE BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF AT which we agreed we did.

MSpeir said...

I stated earlier that the scientific method is just a formalization of the way we all think. Therefore, I don't believe there's really any alternative to it. Theists, too, follow the general pattern. It's just that their assumptions are not demonstrably valid.

Testability, that's key. What alternate way of arriving at truth will allow us to repeat previous results so as to prove our assumptions? If we can't do that, what assures us we've arrived at AT? Intuition? Word of mouth? Revelation fails, too. Why? because there's no way of testing. If I hypothesize that the Sun will rise in the morning, a few hours from now we'll know for sure, won't we? If, on the other hand, I say God has told me that the dead will rise someday, how do I test that? Wait around until it happens? Because I don't see any evidence of the dead rising, what should lead me to believe it will ever happen? Why should I order my life around a supposition that not only can I not verify, but that flies in the face of the universal experience that the dead stay dead?

And let's be careful not to equivocate here. There's faith and then there's faith. Saying I have faith the Sun will rise in the morning is hardly the same thing as saying I believe the dead will rise one day. One has veifiable experience behind it. The other, of course, does not. Just because we use the same same word for both concepts does not make the concepts themselves identical.

LorMar said...

"And let's be careful not to equivocate here. There's faith and then there's faith. Saying I have faith the Sun will rise in the morning is hardly the same thing as saying I believe the dead will rise one day. One has veifiable experience behind it. The other, of course, does not. Just because we use the same same word for both concepts does not make the concepts themselves identical."

LOL, here I go again getting hung up on word usage. I'd agree with you that faith would not be the same based on the concept of time within both "faith statements." One indicates a definite time (morning) and the other is open ended (one day).

"Theists, too, follow the general pattern. It's just that their assumptions are not demonstrably valid."

Huh? I am very curious about your specific experiences before your deconversion. Of course we cannot go into it on this thread. Do you have a blog or website similar to Merle's that I could read?

MSpeir said...

"Huh? I am very curious about your specific experiences before your deconversion. Of course we cannot go into it on this thread. Do you have a blog or website similar to Merle's that I could read?"

No, I don't. I'm deliberately avoiding that. I spend too much time as it is on the Internet.

When I say that theists' assumptions are not demonstrably valid, I mean they cannot be validated by testing. I went round and round with somebody on another site about this recently. He wanted to believe that the Resurrection proved the validity of Christianity. I told him he couldn't even prove the Resurrection. Indeed, I've never seen anyone rise from the dead. Neither had he. Neither of us knew anyone who had. In other words, neither of us had any experience that even hinted that someone could rise from the dead after more than two days. The question I kept coming back to was, "What, then, tells you it really happened?" Now, obviously, it went deeper than that. But in the end he couldn't give a believable answer and bowed out of the discussion.

These "other ways of knowing" leave a lot to be desired because in the end you just have to take somebody's word for a subjective experience. "God told me thus and thus" rings a little hollow. "Why should I believe God told you thus and thus?" is the prefectly justifiable response. And it doesn't matter if the claim is that God told Paul or Moses thus and thus. If anything, we have even less reason to believe that. There's still the same problem with subjectivity, but added to it is the fact that I don't know Paul at all. I don't have any way to judge whether he's even believable. And it sure is a farfetched tale! Furthermore, I have to take the Bible's word that he even had an experience.

Lots of people have wierd experiences. Some of them even claim to be hearing from God. How do I tell which ones have and which ones haven't? Why should I assume any of them have? Now, if they told me God was going to turn back the Sun ten degrees tomorrow at noon, and then it happened, that would be something. A specific prediction would have been made that, in fact, proved out. As it is, we really don't have anything but unverifible hearsay.

Brian Hyde said...

Hi everyone. No, I don’t mind who joins in. I welcome and like the comments I have read so far even though I personally may not agree with all that has bcen concluded.

I will answer this from Merle’s response because it focusses on what I think is a very important point.

“Oh, I see, by "faith" you seem to mean the act of coming to a conclusion based on the evidence. You have basically described how we use the scientific method. That is what science is all about. We look for evidence, and where we find conclusinve evidence, we trust the evidence and come to conclusions. Is this what you mean by "faith"? If so, our difference is simply a matter of nomenclature. I call conclusions based on evidence "science," not "faith".”

Merle if that is how you define faith I am willing to go along with it. I thought by scientific evidence you meant empiracle evidence. Apologies. I am not sure how to express what I mean in the context of some of the thoughts that have been given under so far under this discussion but I will have a go anyway.

My understanding of faith per se might be much broader than Merles. For myself faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration.

I understand faith to be belief based on that which can be seen but, more often than none, cannmot be seen. It is based on evidence, which might be from the visible world around me or from from direct revelation which appeals to reason.. Now the latter may sound very vague but let me explain and, hey guys, this is where I think I owe it to you all to come out of the woods and fly my true colours. I believe in God as Creator and I do so essentially because of two things: -- the evidence of intelligent design ion in the material universe and the evdence of intelligent revelation, which I consider to be the Bible. I am a believer because God has transformed my life by His grace. For myself that’s the greatest proof for His existence. I have concluded that the evidence for God as AT is overwhelming and consistent with all aspects of life and revelation. I have been a believer for some thirty years now and my conviction continues to deepen with the passing of time as the evidence piles ever higher and is ever consistent.

Now my intention in starting this discussion with Merle was to work through the issues, one by one, step by step, and for us to come to a consensus that I believe would have led both of us to agree that AT has its existence with God alone. Ok, I can hear you say, that’s an assumption but listen if I am right (that God is AT) and we were both honest with the facts, then I am convinced that this must be the ultimate conclusion of our reasoning. But I have since considered that this would have taken a very long time because of the medium of communication.

Brian

LorMar said...

MSpeir
"No, I don't. I'm deliberately avoiding that. I spend too much time as it is on the Internet."

Oh well, I guess I'll have to leave it to this blog to discover what your life was like specifically. I'd have to say your last post gives a good summary of the whole picture.

Brian (BLH) said...

Merle,

You said to

“Now, if they told me God was going to turn back the Sun ten degrees tomorrow at noon, and then it happened, that would be something. A specific prediction would have been made that, in fact, proved out. As it is, we really don't have anything but unverifible hearsay”


As if I havent said enough already but I simply had to respond to this comment which reminds me of Gideon’s request and more especially something Jesus said once, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” John 4:48. I personally believe that there is no excuse for doubt or skepticism about God. God has made ample provision to establish the faith of all men and women if they will decide from the weight of evidence. But if they wait to have every seeming objection removed before they believe, they will never be settled, rooted, and grounded in the truth.

I think God will never remove all seeming difficulties from our path. Christ revealed this with the proverbial doubting Thomas when He said to him, “You believe because you have seen but blessed are those who have not seen but believe”. He also said to the Jews, “Even if one rose from the dead you would not believe”. And that was proven true because when He raised Lazarus from the dead they still refused to believe. (Incidentally, as you know, even when He himself rose from the dead they would not believe, even though He had SPECIFICALLY PREDICTED IT on more than one occasion).. They denied the evidences of their senses on this occasion and on many others. Amazing but true. Those who wish to doubt may find opportunity; those who wish to believe will find plenty of evidence upon which to base their faith. If we refuse to believe until every shadow of uncertainty, and every possibility of doubt is removed, we will never believe. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith. Why? Because faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration.

LorMar said...

"Hi everyone. No, I don’t mind who joins in. I welcome and like the comments I have read so far even though I personally may not agree with all that has bcen concluded."

I don't agree with "99%" of what is usually stated on this blog. I think it's important for me to understand where others are coming from. As a result, I am learning much about where I am on this journey so to speak.

"I will answer this from Merle’s response because it focusses on what I think is a very important point.
Now my intention in starting this discussion with Merle was to work through the issues, one by one, step by step, and for us to come to a consensus that I believe would have led both of us to agree that AT has its existence with God alone."

Interesting. I have a feeling this debate could go on for a long time if that's the task.

Lastly, I really like your comments.

LorMar said...

Brian (BLH) said...
Merle,

You said to

“Now, if they told me God was going to turn back the Sun ten degrees tomorrow at noon, and then it happened, that would be something. A specific prediction would have been made that, in fact, proved out. As it is, we really don't have anything but unverifible hearsay”

Merle and MSpier are two different men.

brian (blh) said...

In response to mspeir


"Brian,
You seem to be trying to use gravity as an analogy, but it's unclear what you mean it to be an analogue of. With gravity we have an indisputable phenomenon. And, no, it doesn't matter much if we understand how it works. It's what glues to my seat as I type. It's the reason we needed millions of pounds of propellant to get a tiny capsule to the Moon and back. Unquestionably, gravity exists. We would consider a man mad who insisted otherwise. To what phenomenon are you comparing it? Does this phenomemon lie just as undeniably within the common human experience as does gravity?"

Hi mspeir. It was a defensive comment in which I was trying to demosttate our common use of faith which is normally relegated to religion. I guess I was trying to say that we use faith all the time without realising it. Because we cannot explain everything we are obliged to accept the rest of what we dont know in faith. We dont necessarily reject as invalid phenomena we cannot explain. And sometimes we are forced to accept things as truth notwithstanding they cannot be explained in human terms.

brian (blh) said...

Thanks LorMar - yours too

MSpeir said...

"I personally believe that there is no excuse for doubt or skepticism about God. God has made ample provision to establish the faith of all men and women if they will decide from the weight of evidence. But if they wait to have every seeming objection removed before they believe, they will never be settled, rooted, and grounded in the truth."

Brian,

Somehow, I expected it was going to come down to this. It almost always does. Although I really don't believe you mean any offense, you're as much as saying unbelievers are liars. At some level we know the truth and for devious reasons have rejected it. This, of course, is what your religion demands. (Romans 1:20) God would be unjust in punishing simple ignorance, so the claim has to be made that, somehow, "we all just know."

But you're going to have to get past this "every seeming objection removed" stuff. In fact, the objections are very strong and the evidence for is very weak. If that is not the case, you will need to demonstrate how our objections are weak and bring forth strong evidence for your beliefs. Saying I should just know won't hack it. I don't know. Saying you believe won't hack it. I know you believe. That point is established. Show me why I should believe. Simply throwing out a unsupported "there are other ways of knowing" won't answer.

What ways? Faith? Do you really think of faith as a way of knowing? Is there any limit to that? Does the Muslim not have faith? Does the flat-Earther not have faith? Gerardus Bouw holds a legitimate Ph.D. in astronomy, but he's just sure the Sun goes around the Earth. What makes him so sure? His faith in the "Word of God!" (Hey, take it up with him: http://homepages.bw.edu/~gbouw/ and http://www.geocentricity.com/) How do we distinguish faith in something real from faith in something unreal? Clearly, the one is as easy as the other and at least as common. Is this also something you just know? Can you tell truth from falsehood by feel? Are you aware that the Muslim does the same?

You're really going to need to come up with some hard answers here.

"We dont necessarily reject as invalid phenomena we cannot explain."

But we even less necessarily have to believe in them without good evidence.

"And sometimes we are forced to accept things as truth notwithstanding they cannot be explained in human terms."

I don't think we're forced to do anything of the kind. Again, gravity and, say, God, are not equal propositions. The one can't be denied except by those kidding or insane. Just because we can't explain the finest nitty-gritty of gravity doesn't take anything away from the empirically established fact of gravity. God, on the other hand, is not personally in evidence at all. There's nothing we even hypothetically attribute to God that can't be equally or better explained in some other way. And when we try to test for God, we always come up empty. Now, maybe God is purposely hiding himself; but why should we think so? Absence of evidence isn't *proof* of absence, but it certainly is evidence of absence. It stands in as proof until strong, countervailing evidence is presented. I don't see any such evidence.

I hope you won't take any of this as overly harsh. It's just that so far you really haven't said much very convincing. Is it possible you need to take a time-out to re-think your position?

Anonymous said...

MSpeir,

Just a question,

Would you mind elaborating on the following either in this thread (if Merle doesn't mind) or via email:

"There's nothing we even hypothetically attribute to God that can't be equally or better explained in some other way. And when we try to test for God, we always come up empty."

I know I've declared over and over again that one should not question the born-again experience that you and Merle claimed to have had. However, after reading many comments here and on Merle's site, I am not so certain anymore.

In other words, how have you tested for God and come up empty? To be honest, I've questioned the validity of the Bible before. I sincerely looked for reasons why I should abandon the Bible and declare christianity a farce. I've read much of Merle's site, writings by Dan Barker and others, and I've also explored the Skeptics guide to the Bible (which was mentioned in another thread) and honestly, I still find the case against the validity of the Bible and God to be weak. I have been listening to various arguments literally for years. Therefore, I am puzzled as to how we are all looking at the same things but coming to different conclusions. I'd like to actively listen to how you came to the conclusion above (while trying not to give my opinion on anything you say) Anyway, this particular thread focuses on AT so I don't want to go off on a tangent. If you don't mind email, mine is LNowlin73@aol.com.

LorMar

MSpeir said...

"In other words, how have you tested for God and come up empty?"

I mean empirical testing, just like I've been talking about all along. There's no test for God where one can come back with definitive results one way or another.

Exactly what kind of test would you conduct, LorMar? What would you do that where, after it was done, you could point to something concrete and say, "See? God exists!" It would have to be better than a subjective experience. Like I've pointed out, people have all kinds of subjective experiences. Many of those are contradictory. What I'm talking about is something you could show me that demonstrates the existence of God and where God is the best explanation of the results. The existence of the universe, for instance, is no good. There are other explanations; and an eternal universe is easily as likely as an eternal God. Get the idea?

"Therefore, I am puzzled as to how we are all looking at the same things but coming to different conclusions."

Sometimes it puzzles me, too. But perhaps not as much as you because I've been on both sides of the fence. I know what it's like to hang onto something because I desperately wanted to. It's been said that belief is an act of the will. I actually agree with that. But it isn't that one can simply will oneself to believe a thing. Most of us have our beliefs drilled into us at an early age. Once we have them, for whatever reasons, we form emotional attachments to them. Those aren't easily broken. Our minds tend to shut out evidence that it knows might lead to uncomfortable comclusions. We can stare right at it and not see it--not really.

For instance, I've been talking about the Resurrection. (Simply because I needed some example.) Now, we all know the dead don't rise. (Let's not quibble over such things as immediate resuscitation with defibrilators and the like. Obviously, I'm talking about someone having been dead for days, like Jesus supposedly was.) It doesn't happen. I've never seen the dead rise. You've never seen the dead rise. Neither of us knowe anyone who has. There's nothing in all the medical literature about the dead rising. It doesn't happen. What's more, there's no conceivable mechanism, even hypothetically, whereby the dead could possibly rise. Does that prove Jesus didn't rise from the dead? Not at all. But what it does is make that not the way to bet. That means it's incumbent upon those who believe Jesus rose from the dead to show convincing proof that he did. Millennia old documents by unnamed authors won't do. I can show you old documents that make equally outrageous claims that neither you nor I would believe. The fact that a lot of people died for the Faith won't do. There have been martyrs in most religions. People have given their lives for all kinds of crazy things. All the other so-called "evidences" for the Resurrection are just as lacking. They convince people who want to believe, but don't overcome the insurmountable obstacle I just pointed out, namely, that the dead do not demonstrably rise. Consequently, there's no good reason for me to believe any dead person ever has risen.

Let me try this. Suppose I were to tell you that ten years ago I died and was dead for three days, then came back to life. Would you believe me? I suspect you would not. Think it through. Why wouldn't you believe me? Write down your reasons. Then turn around and apply those same reasons to the supposed Resurrection of Jesus. What of significance is different other than that you're getting my story from the horse's mouth, so to speak, and that it happened ten years ago rather than almost 2000? Bear in mind that the so-called eyewitnesses to the Resurrection are not demonstrably anything of the kind. The authors of the Gospels are not named. Tradition calls them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but we can't prove that's who wrote them. How would it change things if we could? Do you know Matthew? Do you know that he's reliable? Even though he tells you stories that you'd consider outlandish in any other context?

Surely, you can see a little of what I'm talking about. Christianity is based upon some fairly outlandish tales. And yet, we're not provided with the kind of overwhelming evidence for the truth of those tales that any of us--yourself included--would require to believe similar stories in which we had nothing personal invested.

"If you don't mind email, mine is LNowlin73@aol.com."

I hope you won't take this personally, but I tend to shun e-mail debates anymore. (And let's not kid ourselves: it would end up as a debate.) I've gotten hold of that tar baby in times past and thought I'd never get loose!

LorMar said...

My attempt at active listening:

"In other words, how have you tested for God and come up empty?"

I mean empirical testing, just like I've been talking about all along. There's no test for God where one can come back with definitive results one way or another.

God cannot be proved or disproved.

Exactly what kind of test would you conduct, LorMar? What would you do that where, after it was done, you could point to something concrete and say, "See? God exists!" It would have to be better than a subjective experience. Like I've pointed out, people have all kinds of subjective experiences. Many of those are contradictory. What I'm talking about is something you could show me that demonstrates the existence of God and where God is the best explanation of the results. The existence of the universe, for instance, is no good. There are other explanations; and an eternal universe is easily as likely as an eternal God. Get the idea?

We need something that would definitively prove the existence of God. There really is no way to prove God.
"Sometimes it puzzles me, too. But perhaps not as much as you because I've been on both sides of the fence. I know what it's like to hang onto something because I desperately wanted to. It's been said that belief is an act of the will. I actually agree with that. But it isn't that one can simply will oneself to believe a thing. Most of us have our beliefs drilled into us at an early age. Once we have them, for whatever reasons, we form emotional attachments to them. Those aren't easily broken. Our minds tend to shut out evidence that it knows might lead to uncomfortable comclusions. We can stare right at it and not see it--not really."

Many times, we hold on to our belief in God because we are emotionally attached to that belief. To embrace the concept of God's non-existence is too uncomfortable for us. We can see evidence that points toward the possibility that no God exists, but we refuse to accept it.

"For instance, I've been talking about the Resurrection. (Simply because I needed some example.) Now, we all know the dead don't rise. (Let's not quibble over such things as immediate resuscitation with defibrilators and the like. Obviously, I'm talking about someone having been dead for days, like Jesus supposedly was.) It doesn't happen. I've never seen the dead rise. You've never seen the dead rise. Neither of us knowe anyone who has. There's nothing in all the medical literature about the dead rising. It doesn't happen. What's more, there's no conceivable mechanism, even hypothetically, whereby the dead could possibly rise. Does that prove Jesus didn't rise from the dead? Not at all. But what it does is make that not the way to bet. That means it's incumbent upon those who believe Jesus rose from the dead to show convincing proof that he did. Millennia old documents by unnamed authors won't do. I can show you old documents that make equally outrageous claims that neither you nor I would believe. The fact that a lot of people died for the Faith won't do. There have been martyrs in most religions. People have given their lives for all kinds of crazy things. All the other so-called "evidences" for the Resurrection are just as lacking. They convince people who want to believe, but don't overcome the insurmountable obstacle I just pointed out, namely, that the dead do not demonstrably rise. Consequently, there's no good reason for me to believe any dead person ever has risen."

Resurrection from the dead is both logically and scientifically impossible. Medical science has never confirmed it. We are not speaking of death for a few minutes and then resuscitation. But rather, being dead for a few days and coming back to life. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that Christ (if he ever lived) rose from the dead.


Let me try this. Suppose I were to tell you that ten years ago I died and was dead for three days, then came back to life. Would you believe me? I suspect you would not. Think it through. Why wouldn't you believe me? Write down your reasons. Then turn around and apply those same reasons to the supposed Resurrection of Jesus.

"If I claimed to have died for 3 days and rose from the dead, you wouldn't believe me. So why would you believe in the resurrection of Christ."

What of significance is different other than that you're getting my story from the horse's mouth, so to speak, and that it happened ten years ago rather than almost 2000? Bear in mind that the so-called eyewitnesses to the Resurrection are not demonstrably anything of the kind. The authors of the Gospels are not named. Tradition calls them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but we can't prove that's who wrote them. How would it change things if we could? Do you know Matthew? Do you know that he's reliable? Even though he tells you stories that you'd consider outlandish in any other context?

"We really don't know who the authors of the Gospel are (doesn't matter what some people may claim about the author's identities). Did you know Matthew? How do you know he is reliable? If the story of the resurrection was told under any other circumstance in any other context, you wouldn't believe it. Why would you believe it in this case?"

"Surely, you can see a little of what I'm talking about. Christianity is based upon some fairly outlandish tales. And yet, we're not provided with the kind of overwhelming evidence for the truth of those tales that any of us--yourself included--would require to believe similar stories in which we had nothing personal invested."

Certainly, you must see why there is no reason for you to believe in Christianity. It is based on tales that are impossible. We are told to believe in them, but we are not given any sufficient evidence as to why we should believe such outrageous claims.

Did I understand you correctly? Did I leave anything out?

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,
"I believe in God as Creator and I do so essentially because of two things: -- the evidence of intelligent design in in the material universe and the evidence of intelligent revelation, which I consider to be the Bible. "

Okay, you see evidence for intelligent design in the universe. Exactly what evidence are you referring to? Please be specific.

And what about malaria, hurricanes and weeds? Are these evidence against belief in your intelligent designer? Or did your intelligent designer want these? Or shall we just ignore them in our discussion?

"I am a believer because God has transformed my life by His grace. For myself that’s the greatest proof for His existence. "

Okay, so the greatest proof is your transformed life? Are you aware that there are people of many religions that make similar claims? They claim to have had a transformed life as a result of their religion. Do you agree that their transformed life proves their religion is true? Their religion differs from yours. If a transformed life proves that a religion is true, are all religions then true? Or do you discount all transformations but your own (and those that agree with you)?

"Now my intention in starting this discussion with Merle was to work through the issues, one by one, step by step, and for us to come to a consensus that I believe would have led both of us to agree that AT has its existence with God alone."

Can you explain to me exactly what you mean when you say, "AT has its existence with God alone"? Since this is the point you are trying to make, I think you should clearly define what you mean.

Once I understand what you are trying to convince me of, we can examine the strength of your case for your claim.

Can you understand why some might think your case is weak? You have told us the greatest evidence you have to prove your point is your transformed life. If that is your greatest evidence, than you will need to show to us that the transformation in your life has been so great, that therefore, "AT has its existence with God alone." I await to hear your case that your life has been so transformed that it verifies your claim.

MSpeir said...

"Did I leave anything out?"

A rebuttal?

LorMar said...

Okay, so the greatest proof is your transformed life? Are you aware that there are people of many religions that make similar claims? They claim to have had a transformed life as a result of their religion. Do you agree that their transformed life proves their religion is true? Their religion differs from yours. If a transformed life proves that a religion is true, are all religions then true? Or do you discount all transformations but your own (and those that agree with you)?

Going to have to agree with this. I personally have heard of muslims who believe that islam has transformed their lives. I believe that many of them lead moral lives. The deli lama (although not muslim) appears to me to be a very peaceful man. I believe that we are transformed by whatever religion/faith/belief/unbelief according to that "perspective." of transformation.

LorMar said...

"Did I leave anything out?"

A rebuttal?

Why? I am not interested in arguing with you. As I said, I am trying to understand how you think? You've had one too many debates, LOL.

MSpeir said...

"You've had one too many debates, LOL."

Indubitably.

No, you've got the essence of it. Perhaps you've distilled it down a little too much. And I have a quibble or two.

"There really is no way to prove God."

I don't know that. I do know that I have seen any evidence I find convincing.

"Resurrection from the dead is both logically and scientifically impossible."

"It is based on tales that are impossible."

I'm pretty careful not to use the word "impossible" in this kind of context. I don't know that it's impossible. Improbably and implausible in the extreme; but impossible? Who am I to say? The question is, In light of the fact that these things are so implausible and improbable, why should I believe them?

"To embrace the concept of God's non-existence is too uncomfortable for us."

It's only uncomfortable for those who have based their lives on the belief.

LorMar said...

I'm pretty careful not to use the word "impossible" in this kind of context. I don't know that it's impossible. Improbably and implausible in the extreme; but impossible? Who am I to say?

LOL, are you intentionally trying to be difficult ;-)Why should you not call it impossible? On third thought, maybe I should not doubt your previous born again experience. I am getting more and more confused everytime I read your responses, LOL.

MSpeir said...

"Why should you not call it impossible?"

"Impossible" is an absolute that I don't know I could support. I will say that resurrecting from the dead after three days appears to be impossible. I'm not aware of any way it is possible. But for all I know medical science may find a way to do it. Then I'd seem pretty silly for calling it impossible, wouldn't I?

LorMar said...

I mean empirical testing, just like I've been talking about all along. There's no test for God where one can come back with definitive results one way or another. -MSpeir

"There really is no way to prove God."--LorMar

I don't know that. I do know that I have seen any evidence I find convincing.--MSpeir

Then could there possibly be a test for God then? Btw, I think you mean haven't seen

MSpeir said...

"Then could there possibly be a test for God then?"

I haven't seen one that produces unequivocal results. Got one in mind?

"Btw, I think you mean haven't seen"

Yeah. That only happens when I type, speak, or otherwise try to communicate. :)

LorMar said...

"Then could there possibly be a test for God then?"

I haven't seen one that produces unequivocal results. Got one in mind?

You are a good dancer, LOL. As for the test, I have a different perspective on that. I don't believe that we have to prove God (i.e. the burden of proof isn't on you, me, or any human being). Rather, the burden of proof is on God. That may sound blasphemous to some, but hey it's what I believe. Personally, I am rethinking things I have previously considered (since coming to post here). Now, I don't know that anyone who has lived life as a born again christian can ever truly be an atheist or agnostic (although you did mention that there is really an element of agnosticism within most who claim atheism). I could be wrong about that.

I must admit that it is difficult to find out what you really believe. I will try my best to make as clear as I can. I am not here to debate, try to change your mind, or even challenge in any way. In an attempt to find out what you believe, I ask sincere questions. Many times, questions aren't answered but I receive questions instead. From my perspective, answering a question with a question makes you appear to be uncertain or shakeable in what you believe. (and I would say that to a christian as well)

So that I understand your POV, what is your answer (note, not your question, but your answer) to the following. If you feel that it is "something we cannot know", feel free to state such but give a reason:

The Bible is not divinely inspired. Errors, inconsistencies makes it impossible.

Although we cannot rule out the possibility of "a God", the Biblical God is not "that God".

There is no proof one way or the other that Jesus ever lived.

Christian concepts such as the Trinity, salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit (and all things included) are certainly false or cannot be proven (pick one).

I'll stop here for now. My part of the deal is not to challenge or provide any rebuttals, but simply to read/listen. Fair?

MSpeir said...

"You are a good dancer"

You truly have me mystified, LorMar. I'm being neither unclear nor evasive. I've said exactly what I think as precisely as I can. If I may engage in a bit of speculation, you're accustomed to people taking a categorical stand on such things as the existence of God. As was with me, God's existence is a given to you. It's not a subject for debate, it's the very bedrock of your thinking. All you've ever known would be unimaginable without taking God's existence for granted. Consequently, it's inconceivable to you that one might honestly leave the question open. Thus, when I say I don't see good evidence for God you can't quite believe I'm on the level. Surely, I must be "dancing," because nobody could really think like that. Well, I assure you I do. And my thinking is quite coherent. If I've said anything that you think contradicts anything else I've said, point it out. I believe I can easily demonstrate the consistency in my words that you're missing.

"Now, I don't know that anyone who has lived life as a born again christian can ever truly be an atheist or agnostic (although you did mention that there is really an element of agnosticism within most who claim atheism). I could be wrong about that."

Not only can you be wrong about that, you certainly are. I think it would be a rare person I knew as a Christian who tell you they ever doubted I was "saved," including those who knew me best. I KNEW I was saved. Do you know you are saved? What's the difference in our knowing?

"...the burden of proof is on God."

And when he comes through with that proof, I'll change my opinion. In the meantime, why should I?

"The Bible is not divinely inspired. Errors, inconsistencies makes it impossible."

The Bible is self-evidently and deeply flawed. I really don't think any impartial examiner could come to any other conclusion.

"Although we cannot rule out the possibility of "a God", the Biblical God is not "that God"."

It sure doesn't look like that if there is a God it is the biblical God. If the Bible is in any way a product of his, it has been badly, badly mishandled over the millennia. Its represenation of him is now, at best, a caricature.

"There is no proof one way or the other that Jesus ever lived."

Personally, I suspect there's enough smoke to hint at at least some real fire somewhere. But, for reasons I've already stated, I can't buy the outlandish stories the Evangelists tell about him. C.S. Lewis notwithstanding, "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" aren't the only available options. "Exaggeration" is at least as likely as any of those. (Some say "Legend" to maintain the alliteration.)

"Christian concepts such as the Trinity, salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit (and all things included) are certainly false or cannot be proven (pick one)."

I'm not sure why you're bringing up specific Christian doctrines. But, obviously, if I don't believe the Bible, I don't believe in the Trinity, salvation, the baptism of the Spirit, and whatnot. These, far from just not being proven, are very, very likely not to be true.

Brian (blh) said...

Dear Merle

You said “Can you understand why some might think your case is weak? You have told us the greatest evidence you have to prove your point is your transformed life. If that is your greatest evidence, than you will need to show to us that the transformation in your life has been so great, that therefore, "AT has its existence with God alone." I await to hear your case that your life has been so transformed that it verifies your claim.”

I guess I was thinking about how I am able to follow that which is morally pure now rather than that which is morally corrupt. But now you will demand a definitiuon of what I mean by “morally pure”. The best definition I know is Exodus 20. My friend if you knew me before I was converted you might just marvel. Gods Spirit transforms me not religion. I am daily transformed by the renewing of my mind through Gods power, as I willingly submit to it, so that I can now do the things I couldn’t do before because I did not have the power to do them even though I desired them Romans 7 and 8 describes this experience well. Without the impartation of Gods loving grace I would gradually revert back to my old ways (sinful thinking and feeling) because, until I am finally changed, I retain a sinful nature.

About other religions and transformations. Of course some people are transformed by their religion and they become terrorists; others become the most loveable people on earth. But that doesn’t make their religious doctrine true. Of course my standard of what is true must accord with the Bible and I am not ashamed of that.

You said “At some level we know the truth and for devious reasons have rejected it. This, of course, is what your religion demands. (Romans 1:20) God would be unjust in punishing simple ignorance, so the claim has to be made that, somehow, "we all just know”

Well, why not write Romans 1:20 in full. It says: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Let me make it clear that the following response is obviously based on my belief – I am not prepared to apologise for them or justify them because it would take too long and I don’t have the time:

Merle, the words of Rom 1: 20 are not my words they are the words of God. Obviously I believe these words because He spoke them. He is the final arbiter of the thoughts and intents and motives of men and women. Only He can read them and so only He can make this statement. This verse tells me that everyone knows that there is a God and that they have no excuse for not believing. To justify this statement it must mean that they are given compelling evidence to make an intelligent decision for or against God. The context tells us that Gods eternal existence and divine power is evidenced all around them in creation. As for creation in apparent chaos, even then God is overruling and whatever happens has a reason according to His will whether we like it or not.

No, personally I don’t think God would punish simple ignorance. That would be, as you imply, unjust. Indeed I think there will be some “saved” in Gods kingdom who were ignorant of the conditions for salvation and other who never heard of God or Christ, but they will be there because their hearts responded to the promptings of the Spirit.

You asked me to explain why I said AT is God. What I meant is that AT, or ultimate truth, lies with God since He is the depository of truth. Christ said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. AT is the real truth or the real facts, as I said at the beginning, for example: for my existence, what really happens when I die, how the universe came into existence, etc etc I could go on but I am sure you understand my drift. It is the point beyond which the search for understanding finds full or absolute satisfaction. But since God is infinite, truth is infinite and therefore it cannot be fully explained or fully comprehended by the human mind. I cannot understand the dimension God lives on so I personally am forced to accept what I don’t understand in faith. I would never be able to satisfy you or convict you with all the evidence I give you here because of this very fact. There would always be that which cannot be explained. If I attempted to do so then our debate would continue forever.

The search for absolute truth necessarily must be mixed with faith. I have discovered that when I accept in faith what I cannot understand God is able to lead me step by step until I reach the place where with further information that He gives me I can then understand what I could not understand before. For example for yearI could not fully understand the relationship between law and grace, now I do. Realizing truth like this can be exciting. This has happened to me so many times I have lost count.

I return to the thought which I expressed in my last submission. If a person wishes to doubt he or she will find plenty of hooks upon which to hang their doubts. But Merle forgive me I do sense your frustration that I am not giving you evidence. I want to give you plenty of evidence to back my statements but I suspect you would still decry it despite how much I supply and despite how convincing it is to me personally. My evidence is based on a spiritual experience and is, consequently, a spiritually subjective experience. How could I then provide evidence I have amassed based on a subjective spiritual experience and which will not satisfy you? The Bible says “spiritual things are spiritually discerned”. That’s why the existence of God cannot be proved to one person by another. And perhaps that (spiritual discernment) is part of the problem. The Bible tells me that a successful debate is possible only when we are both prepared to be taught by God through the Bible which He claims as His word. But you, by your own admission, no longer have faith in the Bible. I do not wish to sound patronizing but I have learned that demonstration will never work with anyone who is not prepared to exercise faith. Consider: why is it that some believed Christ and some did not? Because they chose not to. Because they refused to believe despite the evidence. That’s why Christ never appeared to the religious leaders after His resurrection. Interestingly He never once performed a miracle with the Samaritans because they believed His teachings.

By the way people are raised from the dead today. It has happened over and over again but it is never taken up by the media because people would simply refuse to believe, just like you said yourself. There is now sound scientific evidence for the effectiveness of prayer. It cannot be explained scientifically. It defies rationality. But evidence like this never gets the light of day. It is treated the same way as much evidence is for Creation and the Flood. It is not even considered. It is selectively ignored because it doesn’t fit the humanistic or evolutionistic bill. That’s worse than ignorance, that’s intellectual dishonesty.

When we choose to give such evidence a chance (and that’s what I mean by wanting to believe – not just blind belief) God can open our minds and personally show us more evidence to back what He has already showed us by the initial evidence.

Of course we are not forced to accept anything. You don’t have to believe I exist if you don’t want to. You don’t have to accept that there is space out there beyond the atmosphere but it is foolishness to ignore the weight of evidence just because you haven’t seen me or been out there in space and experienced it. What I mean is that when we have evidence and KNOW there is more beyond what we have personally experienced but the evidence justifies it existence beyond reasonable doubt then, if we are honest, we will accept it as true. We are forced to submit to REASON. But if you say how can you be sure that you can accept anything as true, even the evidence provided by your own physical senses, then there is no basis for a rational debate.

“I hope you won't take any of this as overly harsh. It's just that so far you really haven't said much very convincing. Is it possible you need to take a time-out to re-think your position?”

No, I don’t, on both counts Merle. I am not here to convince you nor am I here to convince you on the basis of evidence. I am merely sharing on the basis of reason. However, I now realize that the latter has been a big mistake. Interestingly, it was the Apostle Paul’s mistake too and it led him to quit reasoning and stick to proclaiming the straight Gospel of Christ and Him crucified. Again, I don’t need time out because I now realize that this is an exercise in futility.

I have appreciated the exchange, nonetheless, and the kind spirit you have exercised toward me.

MSpeir said...

Poor Merle. He's getting the blame for the words I wrote.

Brian, I don't know whether you will check back, but I'll get around to responding, although my response will be pretty much the things I've already said. You have not not bothered to answer except by reference to your faith. That, as I've pointed out, is not convincing.

LorMar said...

"You truly have me mystified, LorMar. I'm being neither unclear nor evasive."

I think the issue is that I needed to ask direct questions in order to get answers. After writing the last post, I realized it could have seemed condescending or argumentative. Since I am the type that must say or ask what's on my mind, it could appear in ways unintended by the listener. I guess it's too late to clear my intentions up now.

"Not only can you be wrong about that, you certainly are."

It appears from your answers, I certainly was wrong. If you say you were saved, I'll take it as that (although I am sure you meant "at one time I considered myself to be saved--I no longer believe in the concept).

Another ex-born-again christian once told me that anyone who was truly born-again would not ever declare with certainty that God isn't real (meaning atheism with no ifs, ands, or buts). Only a person who never experienced salvation could make such a claim. I also got into a discussion with other christians (showing them this blog) and the consensus was the same. If someone truly knew God, they would not abandon a belief in God (note, not reject salvation, but a belief in the biblical God in general.) Naturally, I declared that someone could indeed have been a born-again christian and move on to atheism. So, I am now on a quest to prove myself right (big mistake I guess). Honestly, I am coming up short. To make a long story short, this isn't really about you. It is a much larger disagreement that I have with other christians; thus trying to find real evidence to support my position.

LorMar said...

"About other religions and transformations. Of course some people are transformed by their religion and they become terrorists; others become the most loveable people on earth. But that doesn’t make their religious doctrine true. Of course my standard of what is true must accord with the Bible and I am not ashamed of that."

Exactly. Every religion transforms. The best thing to do would be to speak with people who have been sincerely involved within a religion but then switch to another. (ex-buddhists, hindus, or muslims who become christians, pentecostals who become wiccans, etc.) If not, we will assume that one tranformation is the standard for all. If I am not mistaken, Merle's questioning of "evidence of transformed life" was due to the fact that transformation was not defined or unclear.

MSpeir said...

Brian,

You seem to be confusing me with Merle a lot. Most of your latest post is actually in response to me, not him. Thus, I've tried to weed what applies to me from what applies to him.

"You said “At some level we know the truth and for devious reasons have rejected it. This, of course, is what your religion demands. (Romans 1:20) God would be unjust in punishing simple ignorance, so the claim has to be made that, somehow, "we all just know”

Well, why not write Romans 1:20 in full. It says: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"

Yes, and? I used to teach the Bible. I know what it says. That's why I referenced it.

"Let me make it clear that the following response is obviously based on my belief – I am not prepared to apologise for them or justify them because it would take too long and I don’t have the time:

Merle, the words of Rom 1: 20 are not my words they are the words of God. Obviously I believe these words because He spoke them. He is the final arbiter of the thoughts and intents and motives of men and women. Only He can read them and so only He can make this statement. This verse tells me that everyone knows that there is a God and that they have no excuse for not believing. To justify this statement it must mean that they are given compelling evidence to make an intelligent decision for or against God. The context tells us that Gods eternal existence and divine power is evidenced all around them in creation. As for creation in apparent chaos, even then God is overruling and whatever happens has a reason according to His will whether we like it or not."

Who says Roman 1:20 contains the words of God? Why should I believe that?

Then, who says Paul was right? I'd hardly expect him not to see some god behind the cosmos--it was the way he was taught to believe before he even knew how to think. And, wonder of wonders, it just happened to be the very God he was taught. Lucky him!

But suppose he's right about nature attesting to some deity. Have you noticed how he leaps directly from "Nature's God" to Christianity's God? Have you noticed that he doesn't even try to support that assertion? And yet, somehow he thinks we're "without excuse"--without giving us any reason to make the connection!

"You asked me to explain why I said AT is God. What I meant is that AT, or ultimate truth, lies with God since He is the depository of truth. Christ said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. AT is the real truth or the real facts, as I said at the beginning, for example: for my existence, what really happens when I die, how the universe came into existence, etc etc I could go on but I am sure you understand my drift. It is the point beyond which the search for understanding finds full or absolute satisfaction. But since God is infinite, truth is infinite and therefore it cannot be fully explained or fully comprehended by the human mind. I cannot understand the dimension God lives on so I personally am forced to accept what I don’t understand in faith. I would never be able to satisfy you or convict you with all the evidence I give you here because of this very fact. There would always be that which cannot be explained. If I attempted to do so then our debate would continue forever."

Well, I can't read your mind, but I wish I had kept count of all the times some Christian was going to overawe me with evidence but didn't have the time. Hey, maybe in all my years as an apologist I somehow missed all these convincing arguments. But somehow I suspect not. Not enough to make a difference.

"The search for absolute truth necessarily must be mixed with faith. I have discovered that when I accept in faith what I cannot understand God is able to lead me step by step until I reach the place where with further information that He gives me I can then understand what I could not understand before. For example for yearI could not fully understand the relationship between law and grace, now I do. Realizing truth like this can be exciting. This has happened to me so many times I have lost count."

What you have discovered, whether you see it or not, is that if you assume your conclusions and try hard enough you will end up interpreting everything so as to endorse your faith. There can be no contrary evidence because you take it for granted that your faith is founded on something firmer than it is. But this is the way of all such faith. As I've pointed out, there are people who believe in all kinds of wierd things. Through the magical lens of faith, everything that happens supports what they want to believe. You'll never convince them otherwise, no matter what evidence you bring forward.

"I return to the thought which I expressed in my last submission. If a person wishes to doubt he or she will find plenty of hooks upon which to hang their doubts. But Merle forgive me I do sense your frustration that I am not giving you evidence. I want to give you plenty of evidence to back my statements but I suspect you would still decry it despite how much I supply and despite how convincing it is to me personally. My evidence is based on a spiritual experience and is, consequently, a spiritually subjective experience. How could I then provide evidence I have amassed based on a subjective spiritual experience and which will not satisfy you? The Bible says “spiritual things are spiritually discerned”. That’s why the existence of God cannot be proved to one person by another. And perhaps that (spiritual discernment) is part of the problem. The Bible tells me that a successful debate is possible only when we are both prepared to be taught by God through the Bible which He claims as His word. But you, by your own admission, no longer have faith in the Bible. I do not wish to sound patronizing but I have learned that demonstration will never work with anyone who is not prepared to exercise faith. Consider: why is it that some believed Christ and some did not? Because they chose not to. Because they refused to believe despite the evidence. That’s why Christ never appeared to the religious leaders after His resurrection. Interestingly He never once performed a miracle with the Samaritans because they believed His teachings."

You refer to Merle but you seem to be responding to me, so I'll answer. Do you know that I, too, have had spiritual experiences as a Christian? My conversion experience was quite cathartic and, to me, wonderful. I was raised in a Pentecostal fellowhip. I've spent plenty of times speaking in tongues. I had two experiences I called visions. I know how powerful these experiences can be. I also know how misleading they can be. Believers of all religions have similar experiences--and their experiences reinforce their faith and deny yours.

Now, as to looking for hooks upon which to hang doubts, let me assure you that I was a Christian for many years. I did not look for hooks upon which to hang doubts. On the contrary, I clung desperately to my beliefs. I had my doubts thrust upon me by the kind of evidence I've presented here and a great deal more. Still, I went kicking and screaming into unbelief. If you think I don't believe because I went looking for reasons not to believe, you're so dead wrong that it hurts.

"By the way people are raised from the dead today. It has happened over and over again but it is never taken up by the media because people would simply refuse to believe, just like you said yourself. There is now sound scientific evidence for the effectiveness of prayer. It cannot be explained scientifically. It defies rationality. But evidence like this never gets the light of day. It is treated the same way as much evidence is for Creation and the Flood. It is not even considered. It is selectively ignored because it doesn’t fit the humanistic or evolutionistic bill. That’s worse than ignorance, that’s intellectual dishonesty."

Have you ever seen anyone raised from the dead? Do you know anyone who has? If so, what have you done to verify it? Or, perhaps, you've just accepted the tale because you wanted so much to believe it. Tell me this: why should I believe it? Because you say so? Really? Do you expect me to swallow everything you say? Do you swallow everything others tell you? Or is your skepticism only held in abeyance when it comes to the things you want to be true?

Justify this for me: "There is now sound scientific evidence for the effectiveness of prayer." You're not seriously referring to the few scientific investigations into the efficacy of prayer, are you? Most of them show no aberration from chance. (http://www.religionnewsblog.com/14167) The one or two that do show a slight statistical improvement have been shown to be either methodologically flawed or not repeatable. (http://members.aol.com/garypos/Harris_study.html) And, anyway, there really are alternative scientific explanations. A person's mental state, for instance, can greatly influence one's recovery. And, at any rate, there have been no reports that I know of of any unexplainable healings (miracles) in any of these studies. People just got better--but not always. People do that a lot.

I'm not going to get into the Creation and the Flood here. Suffice it to say that I used to be both a Six-day Creationist and a believer in the Flood. Not only did I not fail to consider the "evidence" for both, I eagerly sought out such evidence. I used to argue in favor of Creationism on the Internet. (And, frankly, made a fool of myself in the process.) And yet, somehow I'm intellectually dishonest? It seems like I'm the one who has given both sides a look, not you.

"When we choose to give such evidence a chance (and that’s what I mean by wanting to believe – not just blind belief) God can open our minds and personally show us more evidence to back what He has already showed us by the initial evidence."

And again, your mind will be open to what you want to believe. It's called selection bias. Prayer is a good for instance. Christians pray a lot. Whenever something happens that they can even remotely interpret as an answer to prayer, they latch onto it and trumpet it as proof. When things don't happen that way, they just kinda forget it. Either that or they'll retreat into such sophistry as "God always answers prayer. Sometimes he says yes, sometimes he says no, and sometimes he says wait." In other words, there can be no contrary evidence. Everything must be spun so as to endorse faith. Now, if you're looking for intellectual dishonesty, that's it.

"Of course we are not forced to accept anything. You don’t have to believe I exist if you don’t want to. You don’t have to accept that there is space out there beyond the atmosphere but it is foolishness to ignore the weight of evidence just because you haven’t seen me or been out there in space and experienced it. What I mean is that when we have evidence and KNOW there is more beyond what we have personally experienced but the evidence justifies it existence beyond reasonable doubt then, if we are honest, we will accept it as true. We are forced to submit to REASON. But if you say how can you be sure that you can accept anything as true, even the evidence provided by your own physical senses, then there is no basis for a rational debate."

Boy, is this a leap! There's good empirical evidence for outer space. Show me something as concrete for God.

Of course there's truth beyond what I've experienced. (I'm always discovering new things, so why should I think there aren't yet more things to discover?) How does that argue for your Faith? Because I haven't been in outer space and yet believe in outer space I am obliged also to believe in God? Didn't you just say we have to submit to reason? Where's the reason in that? The evidence for outer space is good. The evidence for God is poor.

"“I hope you won't take any of this as overly harsh. It's just that so far you really haven't said much very convincing. Is it possible you need to take a time-out to re-think your position?”

No, I don’t, on both counts Merle. I am not here to convince you nor am I here to convince you on the basis of evidence. I am merely sharing on the basis of reason. However, I now realize that the latter has been a big mistake. Interestingly, it was the Apostle Paul’s mistake too and it led him to quit reasoning and stick to proclaiming the straight Gospel of Christ and Him crucified. Again, I don’t need time out because I now realize that this is an exercise in futility."

Again you're addressing Merle but citing my post, so I'll respond.

So, let me get this straight. You claim to be arguing "on the basis of reason," and yet you laud Paul for forsaking reason? In the first place, I don't agree. Paul did use reason, just like we all do. It's just that his reasoning, like yours, was founded upon assumptions he couldn't justify without circularly referencing his faith. Do you really believe anybody without a religious bone to pick would be convinced by that reasoning? Indeed, have you ever known of anyone who became a Christian on the basis of reason? Can you cite the name of anybody who couldn't believe in the existence of God and then, say, ran across William Lane Craig's variation on the Kalam argument and then proclaimed as the light went on, "Wow! It's all so clear now. Of course I'll accept Christ!" (Even assuming Kalam really did prove what he claims it does.) It doesn't happen that way and you know it. People become Christians by having their heartstrings tugged, not "on the basis of reason."

LorMar said...

A person's mental state, for instance, can greatly influence one's recovery.

Are there any scientific studies which show that a person's mental state can influence someone else's recovery (like a parents mental state influencing the recovery of a child for instance or sibling, or spouse, or friend)?

LorMar said...

He is the final arbiter of the thoughts and intents and motives of men and women. Only He can read them and so only He can make this statement.

I often wonder, is the Bible clear on the concept of mind-reading?

MSpeir said...

"Are there any scientific studies which show that a person's mental state can influence someone else's recovery (like a parents mental state influencing the recovery of a child for instance or sibling, or spouse, or friend)?"

Well, such things are all over the Web. Look here, for instance: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-10-12-mind-body_x.htm

It's always a psychological boost when we know somebody else cares. It's even a further boost when we believe strongly that what they're doing will be efficacious. If I know people are praying for me and I believe strongly that their prayers will help, I'm likely to have a brighter attitude. That could very well speed my healing.

"He is the final arbiter of the thoughts and intents and motives of men and women. Only He can read them and so only He can make this statement."

I'm not sure what statement you're referring to here.

"I often wonder, is the Bible clear on the concept of mind-reading?"

It doesn't really go into that except to say God knows our minds. Unless I'm just misremembering.

LorMar said...

"If I know people are praying for me and I believe strongly that their prayers will help, I'm likely to have a brighter attitude. That could very well speed my healing."

One who is 3 years or younger would not be able to understand that prayers help or have a better attitude?

Boy, if one believes strongly that prayers will help, it could lead to a better attitude thus a possible speedy recovery. The mind is that powerful huh? I wonder if I could apply that to other things?

On a more serious note, I experienced the deaths of 3 of those close to me (including my father) during 2004-2005. I didn't tell any of them that I'd pray for their recovery or that I'd pray about their conditions at all. I wonder...

"I often wonder, is the Bible clear on the concept of mind-reading?"

"It doesn't really go into that except to say God knows our minds. Unless I'm just misremembering."

Maybe Brian knows of something. I wonder what the scientific community says about that?

MSpeir said...

"One who is 3 years or younger would not be able to understand that prayers help or have a better attitude?"

So? Do you have evidence that some 3-year-old got over some dread illness and that his recovery was due to prayer? Like I said, people with illnesses very often get better.

"Boy, if one believes strongly that prayers will help, it could lead to a better attitude thus a possible speedy recovery. The mind is that powerful huh? I wonder if I could apply that to other things?"

Are you trying to make a point with this? Yes, it would appear that a positive attitude tends to help. Would that extend to other things? I don't know. How does that bear on the discussion?

Brian (blh) said...

Hi Merle

PS
You asked me to define ID

Intelligent design refers, I submit, that an intelligent cause that is responsible for the origin of the universe and of life in all its diversity. I would add that the intelligence cause has its origin in God.

You also asked how there can be ID in hurricances and other natural disasters. The implication is that there is no design or purpose in these things. Others go further and shake their fist at God and accuse Him for crimes against humanity for allowing them. I would argue that there is -- a very important design in them. It has to do with our guilt as rebels against Gods sovereign authority. But the guilt does not so much lay in not being able to see ID in these things but in not being able to see the condition of our hearts. To quote Piper (2005)"God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they’ve never committed any. But God commits no crimes when he brings famine, flood, and pestilence on the earth. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6). The answer of the prophet is no. God’s own testimony is the same: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). And if we ask, is there intelligent design in it all, the Bible answers: “You meant evil . . . but God meant it [designed it] for good” (Genesis 50:20).

This will always be ludicrous to those who put the life of man above the glory of God. Until our hearts are broken, not just for the life-destroying misery of human pain, but for the God-insulting rebellion of human sin, we will not see intelligent design in the way God mingles mercy and judgment in this world. But for those who bow before God’s sovereign grace and say, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever,” they are able to affirm, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:36, 33). And wisdom is another name for intelligent design.

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,

You were arguing for the existence of your God, and you had said, "I am a believer because God has transformed my life by His grace. For myself that’s the greatest proof for His existence." So I asked you about this marvelous transformation, the one that you say is your greatest proof. You responded, "I guess I was thinking about how I am able to follow that which is morally pure now rather than that which is morally corrupt...My friend if you knew me before I was converted you might just marvel. Gods Spirit transforms me not religion. I am daily transformed by the renewing of my mind through Gods power."

So that is it? That is the greatest proof you can come up? You used to do things that were morally corrupt, now you do things morally pure, and this is the greatest proof that you have? Oh, please do tell me more about this marvelous transformation. After all, doesn't this kind of thing happens every day? In our youths, we often do immature and anti-social things that we later realize are not good. You matured in your thought, and this is the greatest proof you have that you are right about God's nature? Really? That's all you have? How do you know this could not simply be something that happened because of a change in your attitudes and circumstances? How do you know that the marvelous transformation could not have been done without your God?

But if you want to convince us that this change is proof of (your particular) God, tell us please, what horrible moral corruption did you commit before this transformation? How can you expect to convince us that this transformation is proof of your God if you give us no details?

"About other religions and transformations. Of course some people are transformed by their religion and they become terrorists; others become the most loveable people on earth. But that doesn’t make their religious doctrine true."

Ah, yes, I agree. The fact that a person was transformed does not prove that his doctrine is true.

Uh, you just cut off the branch you were sitting on!! You told us the greatest proof that you are right is the fact that your were transformed. Now you tell us that transformations do not prove anything, that one can be transformed and it doesn't prove he was right.

So which way is it? Does a transformation prove that one's idea of God is correct, or doesn't it?

"Of course my standard of what is true must accord with the Bible and I am not ashamed of that. "

I see. And the Bible says it is a blessed thing to smash babies against rocks. (Psalm 137). I think that Psalm 137 is wrong on that point. What do you think? Do you think smashing Babylonian babies against rocks is the standard of good moral behaviour?

"If a person wishes to doubt he or she will find plenty of hooks upon which to hang their doubts. But Merle forgive me I do sense your frustration that I am not giving you evidence. I want to give you plenty of evidence to back my statements but I suspect you would still decry it despite how much I supply and despite how convincing it is to me personally. "

Okay, so you give me no real evidence because you suspect I will decry it. Try me. Give me some evidence. Then you can see how I respond. But until you give any real evidence, how can you possibly know how I will react?

"The Bible tells me that a successful debate is possible only when we are both prepared to be taught by God through the Bible which He claims as His word. But you, by your own admission, no longer have faith in the Bible. "

And how about you? Do you have faith that Psalm 137 is telling us the truth about the morality of killing babies? Do you agree with Psalm 137?

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,

"You asked me to define ID"

Sorry, I did not ask you that. What I said was, "Okay, you see evidence for intelligent design in the universe. Exactly what evidence are you referring to? Please be specific."

Now please answer the question: You say that you see evidence for Intelligent design. What specific evidence do you refer to?

I also asked you about malaria, hurricanes, and weeds and you replied, "I would argue that there is -- a very important design in them. It has to do with our guilt as rebels against Gods sovereign authority."

But there were malaria, hurricanes, and weeds, long before there was human guilt. So how can you pass all these things off as though they are caused by guilt?

Brian (blh) said...

Merle
Lets take a closer look at Psalm 137 v 9 to which you refer

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. Fierce was the heart of the Jew who had seen his beloved city the scene of such terrific butchery. His heart pronounced like sentence upon Babylon. She should be scourged with her own whip of wire. The desire for righteous retribution is rather the spirit of the law than of the gospel; and yet in moments of righteous wrath the old fire will burn; and while justice survives in the human breast it will not lack for fuel among the various tyrannies which still survive. We shall be wise to view this passage as a prophecy. History informs us that it was literally fulfilled: the Babylonian people in their terror agreed to destroy their own offspring, and men (Babylonians) thought themselves happy when they had put their own wives and children to the sword.
That was Babylon's choice not Gods Babylon, the gigantic robber, had for many a year slaughtered nations without mercy, and her fall was the rising of many people to a freer and safer state. The murder of innocent infants can never be sufficiently deplored, but it was an incident of ancient warfare which the Babylonians had not omitted in their massacres, and, therefore, they were not spared it themselves and they were "happy" to do it.

God does not contradict himself. Christ taught us to love and to protect our little ones from abuse and cruelty of any sort and promounded a woe upon those who do. The sixth commandment is clear Thou shalt not kill (murder).

But if a nation chooses to resort to murder it will eat the fruits of its cruelty through divine judgment. This is demonstrated with Egypt when it murdered the first born of the Jews. During Gods judgement of that nation a destroying angel was sent and all their first born were killed. God who gives life has a right to take it.

Brian (blh) said...

Merle
You said "Now please answer the question: You say that you see evidence for Intelligent design. What specific evidence do you refer to?"

Well the evidence is vast But lets take a look at one example which I found recently on the internet:
"Over the last 40 years, scientists have found the same type of evidence inside the cell that prompted the pilot's radio call for help. They have discovered that the cell's biochemical machinery is an information-based system. Moreover, the chemical information inside the cell exists as encoded information. The genetic code (the rules used to encode the cell's information) defines the cell's biochemical information system.

By itself, the cell's encoded information offers powerful evidence for an Intelligent Designer. And, like the islander's grass hut, recent discoveries provide additional proof validating the premise. Molecular biologists studying the genetic code's origin have unwittingly stumbled across profound evidence for Intelligent Design—a type of fine-tuning in the rules that form the genetic code. These rules impart to the genetic code the surprising capacity to minimize errors.

Error-minimization properties in the genetic code allow the cell's biochemical information systems to make mistakes and still communicate critical information with high fidelity." Source mislaid

Anothe example:

"Fine tuning of the universe

Fine Tuning of the Physical Constants of the Universe
Parameter Max. Deviation

Ratio of Electrons:Protons 1:1037
Ratio of Electromagnetic Force:Gravity 1:1040
Expansion Rate of Universe 1:1055
Mass of Universe1 1:1059
Cosmological Constant 1:10120
These numbers represent the maximum deviation from the accepted values, that would either prevent the universe from existing now, not having matter, or be unsuitable for any form of life.


Recent Studies have confirmed the fine tuning of the cosmological constant. This cosmological constant is a force that increases with the increasing size of the universe. First hypothesized by Albert Einstein, the cosmological constant was rejected by him, because of lack of real world data. However, recent supernova 1A data demonstrated the existence of a cosmological constant that probably made up for the lack of light and dark matter in the universe.2 However, the data was tentative, since there was some variability among observations. Recent cosmic microwave background (CMB) measurement not only demonstrate the existence of the cosmological constant, but the value of the constant. It turns out that the value of the cosmological constant exactly makes up for the lack of matter in the universe.3

The degree of fine-tuning is difficult to imagine. Dr. Hugh Ross gives an example of the least fine-tuned of the above four examples in his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, which is reproduced here:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.). Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. (p. 115)

The ripples in the universe from the original Big Bang event are detectable at one part in 100,000. If this factor were slightly smaller, the universe would exist only as a collection of gas - no planets, no life. If this factor were slightly larger, the universe would consist only of large black holes. Obviously, no life would be possible in such a universe.

Another finely tuned constant is the strong nuclear force (the force that holds atoms together). The Sun "burns" by fusing hydrogen (and higher elements) together. When the two hydrogen atoms fuse, 0.7% of the mass of the hydrogens is converted into energy. If the amount of matter converted with slightly smaller—0.6% instead of 0.7%— a proton could not bond to a neutron, and the universe would consist only of hydrogen. With no heavy elements, there would be no rocky planets and no life. If the amount of matter converted with slightly larger—0.8%, fusion would happen so readily and rapidly that no hydrogen would have survived from the Big Bang. Again, there would be no solar systems and no life. The number must lie exactly between 0.6% and 0.8% (Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers)."

Sorry about the length of the article but it says it all. The evidence is manifold and all over the internet. This one was from
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html

Come on Merle, such fine tuning like this, mathematical precision like this does not come about by mere chance or accident!! And this is only one such example There are many many others -- all unique in the amazing design they demonstrate.

MSpeir said...

Don't mean to cut in on what's going on between Brian and Merle, but....

Brian, if you're really interested enough to see what real scientists say about ID and the anthropic principle, look here: http://www.talkreason.org/index.cfm?category=10

If not, that's fine, too.

LorMar said...

So? Do you have evidence that some 3-year-old got over some dread illness and that his recovery was due to prayer? Like I said, people with illnesses very often get better.

I don't have the evidence but my mother does. But what does that prove? I personally don't believe that anyone can be convinced of anything until it hits home. The event is one of the reasons why my mother still believes in God (although not a christian). It has no bearing on my belief in God though (as I was around 3 or younger). It hasn't hit your home. There could be a number of reasons.

"Are you trying to make a point with this? Yes, it would appear that a positive attitude tends to help. Would that extend to other things? I don't know. How does that bear on the discussion?"

Honestly, I believe that the "positive attitude" arguement is just as harmful as the "name it claim it" type attitude I hear from a denomination that shall remain nameless (for now).

The lines between the "we need facts/evidence" crowd and the "name it claim it" types are more blurred than ever (in my eyes at least).

LorMar said...

And how about you? Do you have faith that Psalm 137 is telling us the truth about the morality of killing babies? Do you agree with Psalm 137?

As many times as I've read it, I've never heard of the connection you are making until I read your site. I am not telling you what to believe about the verse. However, why should someone else accept that interpretation? When I read it, I see that someone was so worked up about the attrocity committed against his people that he wanted the same horrible things to happen to them? Nothing more nothing less. I've been the victim of serious crime. I've felt the same way about those who harmed me. Am I now immoral or bloodthirsty? Again, it is amazing how we read the same things but come to different conclusions.

I know that there are instances where babies were killed in the Bible. But to anyone who complains about that, I wonder if they are against elective abortions from about the 6th month on? What if a woman needed an abortion to save her life at the 8th or 9th month? I guess no one who complains about the biblical passages would favor the legalization of partial birth abortion. Whether dashed against stones or late term abortion to save the life of the mother, the baby is still dead.

MSpeir said...

"I don't have the evidence but my mother does. But what does that prove? I personally don't believe that anyone can be convinced of anything until it hits home. The event is one of the reasons why my mother still believes in God (although not a christian). It has no bearing on my belief in God though (as I was around 3 or younger). It hasn't hit your home. There could be a number of reasons."

This is all well and good, but what's the point of bringing it up if you're not going to follow through? Hey, for all I know for sure, this three-year-old really wouldn't have gotten better without divine assistance. The problem is, you've given me no good reason to think so. It just seems to be an off-hand reference to some sorta event that might've happened at one time or another.... Indeed, about the only concrete thing you've said about it is that the kid was three years old--and I'm not absolutely sure about that. I mean, I'm glad he/she got better, but you've given me just about nothing to make any determination from. What did you want this to add to the discussion?

"Honestly, I believe that the "positive attitude" arguement is just as harmful as the "name it claim it" type attitude I hear from a denomination that shall remain nameless (for now)."

I'm a little leery of taking it too far myself. The New Agers always sieze upon this kind of thing and try to turn it into something it's not. But a lot of doctors say that people with a positive attutude tend to get better more quickly. Now, there could be other interpretations. Maybe it's that people who are likely to get better more quickly as also likelier to have positive attitudes. Neither goes very far toward the supporting the notion that prayer did the trick. And, as the referenced articles pointed out, studies saying otherwise have not proven very reliable. (Here's an interesting page where a Christian tries to explain away the negative results: http://sguthrie.net/prayer_study.htm)

LorMar said...

"This is all well and good, but what's the point of bringing it up if you're not going to follow through? Hey, for all I know for sure, this three-year-old really wouldn't have gotten better without divine assistance. The problem is, you've given me no good reason to think so. It just seems to be an off-hand reference to some sorta event that might've happened at one time or another.... Indeed, about the only concrete thing you've said about it is that the kid was three years old--and I'm not absolutely sure about that."

Mspeir,

I am not absolutely sure that you knew you were saved as you so strongly declared. I'm just taking your word for it. When you read my response, you saw the following:

But what does that prove? I personally don't believe that anyone can be convinced of anything until it hits home. The event is one of the reasons why my mother still believes in God (although not a christian).

Because my mother had a direct experience such as that, she still believes in God. I was too young to understand what was happening to me so it has no bearing on my belief in God. I needed my own experience in order to trust that God is real and the Bible is valid (although I DO TAKE ISSUE WITH MANY THINGS WITHIN IT). This has no effect on you because it wasn't your experience. So there is no need for you to expect proof or evidence from others because you need your own so to speak.

"I mean, I'm glad he/she got better, but you've given me just about nothing to make any determination from. What did you want this to add to the discussion?"

See comment above.

"But a lot of doctors say that people with a positive attutude tend to get better more quickly. Now, there could be other interpretations. Maybe it's that people who are likely to get better more quickly as also likelier to have positive attitudes."

I am uncomfortable with this because it could place more pressure on those who already have enough to deal with. Someone with a dreadful disease could feel like a failure for not maintaining a positive attitude and fall into despair. The article speaks of Christopher Reeve, but he died positive attitude or not. Perhaps he lived a bit longer, but he was still paralyzed. I will say that the article made an important point that this does not cure disease. I am not against a positive attitude. What I do believe is that a positive attitude makes a positive attitude. Nothing more.

LorMar said...

ON SECOND THOUGHT...

Earlier comment:

So there is no need for you to expect proof or evidence from others because you need your own so to speak.

I should say that it's my opinion that one needs their own experience rather than the way I stated it (since everyone decides what is appropriate for them to "believe".

MSpeir said...

"I am not absolutely sure that you knew you were saved as you so strongly declared."

Well, of course. How would you know? In fact, I no longer believe I was "saved." (Mainly because I no longer believe there's any such thing as being saved.) On the other hand, I'll bet I was as sure of it at the time as you are now about your own salvation. You must understand that I had many conversations where I took the same line you're taking now. I made the same kind of confident assertions you and Brian are making.

"But what does that prove? I personally don't believe that anyone can be convinced of anything until it hits home."

Did you read where I told Brian about my two visions? (No, I won't go into details.) There was another time I would've sworn God had spoken to me in distinct words. (Although, not audibly. And, no, I won't tell you what those words were.) Those things "hit home." They were the main reason I remained a Christian as long as I did. In the end, though, I had to admit the evidence against Christianity is so strong that there must be some other explanation than the one I preferred, namely, that they were divine manifestations. Indeed, it's not hard to find other, more plausible explanations. I've already spoken about this, so I won't go into it again.

The fellow rushing around shouting that the Moon is falling may very well have had an experience of seeing the Moon falling. For him it has "hit home." So what? The Moon isn't falling, no matter what his experience. I don't care how real and vivid it was to him--the Moon is not falling. Consequently, I have to come up with other explanations for his experience that align with the facts better. Maybe he's a kook in need of being in an institution. Maybe he had one of those dreams that was so real he thought it might be. Maybe there was some kind of atmospheric disturbance when he looked up. Maybe somebody was playing a trick on him. Maybe it's something else I haven't even thought of. But this much is sure: the Moon is not falling. In time even he will have to admit that unless he wants people looking askance at him for the rest of his life.

"So there is no need for you to expect proof or evidence from others because you need your own so to speak."

I need for you to consider again something I've already gone over. Christianity simply cannot take the stance you've just suggested. On the contrary, it insists you MUST believe on pain of eternal damnation. Can't you see the arrogance in that? If somebody's going to point a finger in my face and tell me that I'd better believe like him or go to Hell, he'd better have a lot more convincing "evidence" than a subjective experience or an "inner witness" that he can't export to me. He'd better be able to either prove his case or, at least, show why it's so much stronger than evidence to the contrary that his conclusions become all but inescapable. Christianity CANNOT COME CLOSE to doing that.

"The article speaks of Christopher Reeve, but he died positive attitude or not."

And people die all the time from horrible diseases, prayer or not.

"What I do believe is that a positive attitude makes a positive attitude. Nothing more."

Okay. Other people believe other things. I didn't come here to defend positive attitudes in healing. However, it seems easily as plausible an explanation for the statistical aberrations in these studies as prayer.

LorMar said...

"I am not absolutely sure that you knew you were saved as you so strongly declared."

"Well, of course. How would you know? In fact, I no longer believe I was "saved." (Mainly because I no longer believe there's any such thing as being saved.) On the other hand, I'll bet I was as sure of it at the time as you are now about your own salvation. You must understand that I had many conversations where I took the same line you're taking now. I made the same kind of confident assertions you and Brian are making."

Sure, you probably said the same things I am. Again, I'll take your word for it. Even if I didn't. There is no such thing as salvation according to you. Therefore, you weren't saved.

"But what does that prove? I personally don't believe that anyone can be convinced of anything until it hits home."

"Did you read where I told Brian about my two visions? (No, I won't go into details.)"

Yes, and I wanted to ask you about it. You don't want to speak of it and I'll respect that. I will say though, you didn't really have any visions. You don't believe in this.

"There was another time I would've sworn God had spoken to me in distinct words. (Although, not audibly. And, no, I won't tell you what those words were.) Those things "hit home."

Could you please stop talking about Him as though you believe He's an actual person? You don't believe in Him. This is all getting way to confusing.

"They were the main reason I remained a Christian as long as I did. In the end, though, I had to admit the evidence against Christianity is so strong that there must be some other explanation than the one I preferred, namely, that they were divine manifestations. Indeed, it's not hard to find other, more plausible explanations. I've already spoken about this, so I won't go into it again."

I thought I had divine manifestations too. As it turns out, it was all in my mind (no I won't go into it).

"The fellow rushing around shouting that the Moon is falling may very well have had an experience of seeing the Moon falling. For him it has "hit home." So what? The Moon isn't falling, no matter what his experience. I don't care how real and vivid it was to him--the Moon is not falling. Consequently, I have to come up with other explanations for his experience that align with the facts better. Maybe he's a kook in need of being in an institution. Maybe he had one of those dreams that was so real he thought it might be. Maybe there was some kind of atmospheric disturbance when he looked up. Maybe somebody was playing a trick on him. Maybe it's something else I haven't even thought of. But this much is sure: the Moon is not falling. In time even he will have to admit that unless he wants people looking askance at him for the rest of his life."

I agree. The moon ain't falling. No reason to believe it is.


"So there is no need for you to expect proof or evidence from others because you need your own so to speak."

"I need for you to consider again something I've already gone over. Christianity simply cannot take the stance you've just suggested. On the contrary, it insists you MUST believe on pain of eternal damnation. Can't you see the arrogance in that?"

It insists I MUST believe so that I will have eternal life. I am an optimist. I don't focus on hell or anything negative. If I am running a race, I focus on the prize at the end, not the potential loss. Besides, I've heard of born-again christians who don't believe in a hell of physical pain or punishment but simply separation from God.

"If somebody's going to point a finger in my face and tell me that I'd better believe like him or go to Hell, he'd better have a lot more convincing "evidence" than a subjective experience or an "inner witness" that he can't export to me. He'd better be able to either prove his case or, at least, show why it's so much stronger than evidence to the contrary that his conclusions become all but inescapable. Christianity CANNOT COME CLOSE to doing that."

"The article speaks of Christopher Reeve, but he died positive attitude or not."

"And people die all the time from horrible diseases, prayer or not."

Agreed. PRAYER OR NOT.

"What I do believe is that a positive attitude makes a positive attitude. Nothing more."

"Okay. Other people believe other things. I didn't come here to defend positive attitudes in healing. However, it seems easily as plausible an explanation for the statistical aberrations in these studies as prayer."

My disagreement was not directed at you, but at the assertion that I realize you didn't originate.

Ok, so you were once a born-again, spirit filled, tounge talking christian and now you believe it was all bogus based on OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AGAINST IT. I hereby acknowledge that the case is closed as far as you and christianity goes. What do you think of Buddhism?

MSpeir said...

"Therefore, you weren't saved."

And the day may come when you'll say the same thing about yourself.

"I will say though, you didn't really have any visions. You don't believe in this."

But I did at the time. Paul believed he had visions, too. I see no reason to think his were any more reliable than mine. I think the same thing about other people's visions.

"Could you please stop talking about Him as though you believe He's an actual person? You don't believe in Him. This is all getting way to confusing."

LorMar, you continue to amaze me. I don't believe he's an actual person. It's a shorthand, nothing more. I don't intend to preface every reference I make to God like this, "Well, you know, I don't believe he actually exists, but...." Wouldn't that get a little tedious for both of us?

"It insists I MUST believe so that I will have eternal life. I am an optimist. I don't focus on hell or anything negative. If I am running a race, I focus on the prize at the end, not the potential loss. Besides, I've heard of born-again christians who don't believe in a hell of physical pain or punishment but simply separation from God."

Simply ignoring the issue by focusing on the positive is no way to deal with it. Do you not believe in Hell? If not, say so. The question becomes academic at that point. But if you do believe in hell, as I rather suspect, then it remains just the very issue I've been describing--regardless whether you ever actively entertain the thought again.

Remember when I asked you this question in a previous thread?

"Basically, what evidence for Christianity is so compelling that one should have to buy into it on pain of hellfire [or whatever brand of eternal discomfort you subscribe to]?"

Christianity with only a few expections had always preached some kind of eternal punishment for unbelievers. Soften it as you will, it's still eternal punishment and it's unwarranted by the evidence. Justice demands we not be punished for ignorance. It would simply not be just for God to punish us--whatever that punishment might be--for not believing what there is no compelling evidence to believe.

"What do you think of Buddhism?"

I never was a Buddhist. I really don't know a great deal about it. I understand it is possible to be a Buddhist while believing in no gods at all. If I have been told correctly, Buddha himself believed in gods, but despised them. He thought of them as reincarnated beings come back into a life of such ease and luxury that they inevitably fell into debauchery. But I can't back that up.

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,

We have been discussing absolute truth, and you have suggested that we should turn to the Bible to find it. I think perhaps that even you sometimes disagree with the Bible.

"Lets take a closer look at Psalm 137 v 9 to which you refer"

Uh, before we do that, lets take a closer look at http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/TreasuryofDavid/tod.cgi?book=ps&chapter=137&verse=009
where it happens to use the exact same words you use to explain this verse. Amazing. Can you explain to me how you and this writer happen to use the exact same words? Isn't that an amazing coincidence?

"His heart pronounced like sentence upon Babylon. She should be scourged with her own whip of wire."

Actually the retribution was against the babies of Babylon, that is the problem. I can understand retribution against Babyonian soldiers. But that is not what this verse recommends. It recommends attacking the babies.

Do you or do you not think it was a good idea to kill Babylonian babies?

"We shall be wise to view this passage as a prophecy."

Really? What part of this verse makes it sound like a prophecy to you?

"The murder of innocent infants can never be sufficiently deplored, but it was an incident of ancient warfare which the Babylonians had not omitted in their massacres, and, therefore, they were not spared it themselves and they were 'happy' to do it.
"

I see you put "happy" in quotes. I understand. You don't think the folks that killed babies were really happy when they killed babies, do you? The Bible doesn't put the word happy in quotes like you do. It says people will be happy (other versions say blessed) that kill babies. I don't think it is blessed to kill babies. Do you?

"The sixth commandment is clear Thou shalt not kill (murder).
"

Uh, actually the sixth commandment is not clear at all. For the original doesn't use the word "kill" or "murder" but rather, the Hebrew word "ratsach". Now what does the Hebrew word ratsach mean? The sixth commandment forbids ratsach, but how does this command help us? What act of killing is a ratsach killing--and thus forbidden--and what act of ratsach killing is permitted? It doesn't tell us. So what good is a commandment that tells us that ratsach killing is wrong if we don't know what ratsach killing is?

For instance, when someone killed Babylonian babies was that ratsach killing or wasn't it? Was it forbidden by the sixth commandment?

So if you think the command not to ratsach is clear, please let us know exactly what ratsach means and how you know it means that. For the scholars can't even agree on that one.

No, I do not think we can find absolute moral truth by reading ancient writings of the ancient Hebrews, words we don't even fully understand.

And no, I don't think a verse that praises the killing of babies is absolute truth.

LorMar said...

MSpeir said...

"Therefore, you weren't saved."

"And the day may come when you'll say the same thing about yourself."

And in that day, I will also declare that I may not be female as my senses may have deceived me all this time. For I will awaken and realize my body was something I dreamed up as God was something I dreamed up.

"I will say though, you didn't really have any visions. You don't believe in this."

"But I did at the time. Paul believed he had visions, too. I see no reason to think his were any more reliable than mine. I think the same thing about other people's visions."



Apparently, yours weren't reliable at all.

"Could you please stop talking about Him as though you believe He's an actual person? You don't believe in Him. This is all getting way to confusing."

"LorMar, you continue to amaze me. I don't believe he's an actual person. It's a shorthand, nothing more. I don't intend to preface every reference I make to God like this, "Well, you know, I don't believe he actually exists, but...." Wouldn't that get a little tedious for both of us?"

I will concede this point. Honestly, I find it annoying when unbelievers declare there is no evidence for God then speak of Him as though he were real. But again, you don't have to repeat over and over again that the Biblical God does not exist. Your position is clear.


"It insists I MUST believe so that I will have eternal life. I am an optimist. I don't focus on hell or anything negative. If I am running a race, I focus on the prize at the end, not the potential loss. Besides, I've heard of born-again christians who don't believe in a hell of physical pain or punishment but simply separation from God."

"Simply ignoring the issue by focusing on the positive is no way to deal with it. Do you not believe in Hell? If not, say so. The question becomes academic at that point. But if you do believe in hell, as I rather suspect, then it remains just the very issue I've been describing--regardless whether you ever actively entertain the thought again."


I suspect that you are a difficult person to get along with. One thing you need to understand is that your views are not the standard for all. Focusing on the positive was no way for YOU to deal with it. Reading your posts, it appears that hell was your main focus day in and day out. If one thinks hell, hell, hell, I am sure they too would deconvert. I believe there is a hell. However, I have taken stock of my life. I asked myself "if there was no hell, would you still be a christian?" I realized that I actually enjoy being a christian...so the answer is yes. That may be hard for you to believe, but hey...what I feel is what I feel. Besides, there are groups who believe I am going to hell. Do I care? No.


Remember when I asked you this question in a previous thread?

"Basically, what evidence for Christianity is so compelling that one should have to buy into it on pain of hellfire [or whatever brand of eternal discomfort you subscribe to]?"

"Christianity with only a few expections had always preached some kind of eternal punishment for unbelievers. Soften it as you will, it's still eternal punishment and it's unwarranted by the evidence. Justice demands we not be punished for ignorance. It would simply not be just for God to punish us--whatever that punishment might be--for not believing what there is no compelling evidence to believe."


No compelling evidence to you. Are you willing to let others decide what compelling evidence is?


"What do you think of Buddhism?"

"I never was a Buddhist. I really don't know a great deal about it. I understand it is possible to be a Buddhist while believing in no gods at all. If I have been told correctly, Buddha himself believed in gods, but despised them. He thought of them as reincarnated beings come back into a life of such ease and luxury that they inevitably fell into debauchery. But I can't back that up."

How do you feel about Psychics? Or those who claim to channel the dead?

MSpeir said...

"And in that day, I will also declare that I may not be female as my senses may have deceived me all this time. For I will awaken and realize my body was something I dreamed up as God was something I dreamed up."

And, again, I suspect I was every bit as sure of my beliefs at one time as you are now. You might be surprised to find out how your opinions can change. If anyone had told me ten years ago that I would be taking this side of the debate now, I would have vehemently denied that it was even possible.

But, if it's any consolation, most believers stay believers. The likelihood is that you will, too.

"Apparently, yours weren't reliable at all."

And I don't see any reason to believe anybody's are.

"I will concede this point. Honestly, I find it annoying when unbelievers declare there is no evidence for God then speak of Him as though he were real. But again, you don't have to repeat over and over again that the Biblical God does not exist. Your position is clear."

I don't speak of him as though he were real. Exactly how would you expect me to reference him? Think through the exact words I should use. What do you come up with?

"I suspect that you are a difficult person to get along with."

Maybe. But you may think otherwise if you knew me in some other context. I'm denying things here that lie at the core of your being (Although, whether you'll accept it or not, I don't do it maliciously.) Naturally, you're going to find that aggravating. Sadly, there's no way around that if I'm going to be honest about my opinions.

"One thing you need to understand is that your views are not the standard for all. Focusing on the positive was no way for YOU to deal with it."

I was responding to your comment, not making a reference to how I approached Hell. You were the one who said, "I don't focus on hell or anything negative." But it's still part of your belief system, whether you focus on it or not.

"Reading your posts, it appears that hell was your main focus day in and day out. If one thinks hell, hell, hell, I am sure they too would deconvert. I believe there is a hell. However, I have taken stock of my life. I asked myself "if there was no hell, would you still be a christian?" I realized that I actually enjoy being a christian...so the answer is yes. That may be hard for you to believe, but hey...what I feel is what I feel. Besides, there are groups who believe I am going to hell. Do I care? No."

I do spend a lot of time talking about Hell during debates. The reason is simple. It's one of the more absurd tenets of the Christian faith. It's also a patently unjust penalty for simply not agreeing to a particular religious opinion. And yet, it's so central to historic Christianity that if it is absurd and unjust, the whole system of beliefs likely is.

"No compelling evidence to you. Are you willing to let others decide what compelling evidence is?"

Of course it's not compelling to me. Who else would I be speaking for? And, no, I'm not willing to let others decide what I should find compelling. Do you?

"How do you feel about Psychics? Or those who claim to channel the dead?"

Hocus pocus. Foolishness, pure and simple.

LorMar said...

Maybe. But you may think otherwise if you knew me in some other context. I'm denying things here that lie at the core of your being (Although, whether you'll accept it or not, I don't do it maliciously.) Naturally, you're going to find that aggravating. Sadly, there's no way around that if I'm going to be honest about my opinions.

Mspeir,

In your next reply, feel free to state that God, the Bible, and everything associated is a hoax. That does not affect me in the least. The problem I have with you is your arrogance which is probably evident in all aspects of your personality. If we start talking about music, you'd probably be arrogant there as well.

"No compelling evidence to you. Are you willing to let others decide what compelling evidence is?"

"And, no, I'm not willing to let others decide what I should find compelling. Do you?"

My apologies. I meant to type "decide for themselves." At first I thought you would have picked up on that. But then again, arrogant people usually respond the way you do.

MSpeir said...

"The problem I have with you is your arrogance which is probably evident in all aspects of your personality."

Sorry you feel that way. Arrogance, like a lot of things, is often in the eye of the beholder.

But this discussion isn't about my arrogance or lack thereof. Do you have any more questions?

Merle Hertzler said...

Brian,

"Come on Merle, such fine tuning like this, mathematical precision like this does not come about by mere chance or accident!"

But suppose there is a new universe every trillion years or so. After many universes, will not one like ours eventually be created?

We don't know what happened before the first split-second of the big bang. There are possible naturalistic explanations for the big bang. But nobody really knows. So why do you insist that you know it could not happen any way other than the way you suggest?

I admit that the universe is very complex and unlikely. But God is even more complex and unlikely. So if complex, unlikely things require a creator, than does God require a creator? And if you say God can be self-existant, why cannot the universe itself be self existant?

Even if you prove that a creator started the universe, that in no way proves that this creator wrote your book, or that you can know that creator by any other method. That is the problem. If a creator exists, we have no reliable means of knowing what he wants.

Merle Hertzler said...

Lormar,

"As many times as I've read it [Psalm 137] , I've never heard of the connection you are making until I read your site...When I read it, I see that someone was so worked up about the attrocity committed against his people that he wanted the same horrible things to happen to them? Nothing more nothing less."

The passage in question says:

" 8 How blessed will be the one who repays you With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock."

Now those verses say that it is blessed to dash babies against rocks. Do you or do you not agree with Psalm 137 that it is blessed to dash babies against rocks? As for me, I think it is not blessed to dash babies against rocks. What do you think?

You seem to be suggesting that the author is expressing his own feelings, that he is only saying that he feels that it would be blessed for a baby to be dashed against the rocks. You got it! That's it! The writer is expressing his feelings. The writer is expressing his view. And his view is wrong. The author is expressing an erroneous view.

If Psalm 137:9 represents the personal feeling of the author, and does not represent absolute truth, could it be that John 3:16 also expresses the personal feelings of the author, and does not express absolute truth?

You seem to agree that in some verses the Bible is expressing the evil feeling of an author, not the absolute truth of God.

"I know that there are instances where babies were killed in the Bible. But to anyone who complains about that, I wonder if they are against elective abortions from about the 6th month on? "

Ah, sure why don't we throw abortion into this thread yet?

You mention those who complain about babies being killed in the Bible. How about you? Do you complain about babies that are killed in the Bible? Or do you agree with the slaughter of innocent babies?

By the way, I understand that there are very few people that favor elective abortions after the 6th month unless the life of both the baby and the mother are at stake.

"What if a woman needed an abortion to save her life at the 8th or 9th month? I guess no one who complains about the biblical passages would favor the legalization of partial birth abortion. "

Do you care to weigh in with your opinion on this? If the doctors conclude that both the baby and mother will die, that the baby cannot be saved, but that the mother could be saved if the baby is aborted, what would you do? Please answer. Would you prefer to have both the baby and mother die? Or would you allow the mother an act of self-defense?

"Whether dashed against stones or late term abortion to save the life of the mother, the baby is still dead."

You are kidding, right? Do you really mean to tell us that you see no difference between a last minute act of defence of a mother's life with the deliberate act of killing a living, breathing child as an act of revenge against a parent? Surely you must see that there is a moral difference between the two acts.

LorMar said...

Lormar,

"As many times as I've read it [Psalm 137] , I've never heard of the connection you are making until I read your site...When I read it, I see that someone was so worked up about the attrocity committed against his people that he wanted the same horrible things to happen to them? Nothing more nothing less."

The passage in question says:

" 8 How blessed will be the one who repays you With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock."

"Now those verses say that it is blessed to dash babies against rocks. Do you or do you not agree with Psalm 137 that it is blessed to dash babies against rocks? As for me, I think it is not blessed to dash babies against rocks. What do you think?"

Do you or do you not agree that late term abortion (to save the mother's life) leads to the death of the baby? (guess what Merle, I happen to be pro-choice on that matter). Although I would like to save the life of the mother, I can admit that the baby is still dead. Can you?

"You seem to be suggesting that the author is expressing his own feelings, that he is only saying that he feels that it would be blessed for a baby to be dashed against the rocks. You got it! That's it! The writer is expressing his feelings. The writer is expressing his view. And his view is wrong. The author is expressing an erroneous view."

Yippee! I got it. Nothing in the passage indicates that God intended for us to take it as anything but. Did you ever read a passage where it states that it is how I should feel? I feel fine with how I look at it. Why does it bother you?

"If Psalm 137:9 represents the personal feeling of the author, and does not represent absolute truth, could it be that John 3:16 also expresses the personal feelings of the author, and does not express absolute truth?"

Nope. John 3:16 talks about God's plan for humanity. It specifically addresses those it intended to. Psalm 137 references someone with a specific experience. If you read verse 8 it says:

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Now if I take on your way of looking at it, should I also believe that I was a victim of the daughters of Babylon? Therefore, it was part of someone else's experience and thoughts. When I read it, it shows me that I am not alone in wanting revenge (I am still wrong, but not alone). Look at verse 1. Should I take it to mean that I also sat and wept by the rivers of Babylon? Maybe I should believe I was there. After all, my senses could be deceiving me, right?. Can I go back in time and dash those babies against stones? No. Again where in the passage does it state anything you claim it does? (hint, you won't find anything).

"You seem to agree that in some verses the Bible is expressing the evil feeling of an author, not the absolute truth of God."

Do you also believe that since David killed the husband of Bathsheba that I should take it as the absolute truth of God? Honestly, you needn't include terms such as AT with me. I realize its the topic of this thread, but the words don't impress me. I believe the Bible teaches us lessons through the books included within it.


"I know that there are instances where babies were killed in the Bible. But to anyone who complains about that, I wonder if they are against elective abortions from about the 6th month on? "

"Ah, sure why don't we throw abortion into this thread yet?

You mention those who complain about babies being killed in the Bible. How about you? Do you complain about babies that are killed in the Bible? Or do you agree with the slaughter of innocent babies?"

What would have happened if Hitler were killed as a child? What about Osama? Pol Pot? Would your opinion change if the Bible declared that all of those babies were slaughtered through abortion? You said innocent babies. Are you implying that babies sometimes guilty? Perhaps those are the ones who are aborted, huh? Do I complain about babies killed in the Bible? Believe it or not, No. If I am pro-choice on late term abortionss (to save the life of the mother), I see no reason to complain about the Bible. How about you?

By the way, I understand that there are very few people that favor elective abortions after the 6th month unless the life of both the baby and the mother are at stake.

"What if a woman needed an abortion to save her life at the 8th or 9th month? I guess no one who complains about the biblical passages would favor the legalization of partial birth abortion. "

"Do you care to weigh in with your opinion on this? If the doctors conclude that both the baby and mother will die, that the baby cannot be saved, but that the mother could be saved if the baby is aborted, what would you do? Please answer. Would you prefer to have both the baby and mother die? Or would you allow the mother an act of self-defense?"

As I mentioned before, I am pro-choice on this issue? I can admit that the baby is still dead, dashed against the stones or aborted. What about you?

"Whether dashed against stones or late term abortion to save the life of the mother, the baby is still dead."

"You are kidding, right? Do you really mean to tell us that you see no difference between a last minute act of defence of a mother's life with the deliberate act of killing a living, breathing child as an act of revenge against a parent? Surely you must see that there is a moral difference between the two acts."

You are kidding right? You had a picture of a baby (one of your pages) as an example of your disgust at certain Biblical passages. Do you mean to tell me that you would see it as morally right to have that baby aborted (assuming he/she is still in the mother's womb at the 8th or 9th month) and morally wrong if the baby were dashed against a stone? Surely, you must see that there would be no difference since that baby would be dead either way. You seem to believe that we should not kill babies unless we "kill them nicely" (via abortion).

Since you love to debate, allow me to give you a tip for future reference: Be sure to get that person's stance on an issue before proceeding with a debate)...again, I am pro-choice when it comes to saving the mother's life. The difference with me is, I can admit that the baby is still put to death. Can you? BTW, you didn't answer my question. I was a victim of serious crime. I wished horrible things on those who hurt me. Do you see me as bloodthirsty and hateful?

LorMar said...

*FOR THE RECORD*

Just in case the baby in the pic is your child, I meant no harm.

Merle Hertzler said...

Lormar,

I have responded to your post at http://mindsetfree.blogspot.com/2006/07/abortions-and-atrocities.html.

Merle Hertzler said...

Hello Brian?

Where are you?

We know you didn't get cold feet, because you have told us that you would tell us if you get cold feet and abandoned the debate. When are you coming back?

Anonymous said...

Hi Merle
My apologies for not keeping in touch. Unfortunately I no longer have the time to continue this debate. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts about Absolute Truth. I just want to sign off with the following which I think is a powerful statement that the source of AT is God. Take care
Brian (blh)

"Upon all created things is seen the impress of the Deity. Nature testifies of God. The susceptible mind, brought in contact with the miracle and mystery of the universe, cannot but recognize the working of infinite power. Not by its own inherent energy does the earth produce its bounties, and year by year continue its motion around the sun. An unseen hand guides the planets in their circuit of the heavens. A mysterious life pervades all nature--a life that sustains the unnumbered worlds throughout immensity, that lives in the insect atom which floats in the summer breeze, that wings the flight of the swallow and feeds the young ravens which cry, that brings the bud to blossom and the flower to fruit.
The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great laws that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The laws that govern the heart's action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the laws of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the soul. From Him all life proceeds. Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action. For all the objects of His creation the condition is the same--a life sustained by receiving the life of God, a life exercised in harmony with the Creator's
will. To transgress His law, physical, mental, or moral, is to place one's self out of harmony with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin. {White:Education p99,100)