CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In recent months, Christian apologists have been forced to respond to claims that because Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 91 people in Norway last month, claimed to be a Christian on his facebook page that he somehow represented some seedy underbelly of the Christian belief. It was nonsense, of course, since it is apparent to anyone with even the most sketchy knowledge of Christianity that Jesus did not teach his followers to kill their enemies as Anders Behring Breivik did. He taught Christians to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. (Matt. 5:44)

Of course, it is hard to see in any way how the children and teenagers he murdered in cold blood could in any way be seen as Breivik's enemies, so his actions seem even less sane. But regardless of how Breivik designated these children as his enemies (or, at least, a tool to bring about some change that would help in the fight against his enemies), it is apparent that someone would have to debase the teachings of Jesus to think that it would be within the pale of Christianity for someone following the Lordship of Jesus should act in this way.

Incidentally, I think that the argument that Breivik is a Christian was put to death by (of all places) the Washington Post in an article entitled Anders Behring Breivik: Christian terrorist? Right-wing extremist? Madman? by Matthew N. Schmalz. Mr. Schmalz points out:

Amid summaries of the 1500 page manifesto, Breivik’s religious beliefs are set in the context of an explicitly political agenda: his vision of a Christian Europe is predicated on the expulsion of Muslims to stem the tide of “Islamization” and “multiculturalism.” When it comes to Muslims themselves, Breivik portrays them as cunning enemies by selectively, and superficially, referencing Islamic discussions of naskh (abrogation), taqiyya (dissimulation), and jihad (exertion). As many commentators have already pointed out, the real template for the manifesto seems to be the writings of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski. The religious content of the manifesto, especially its references to Christianity, is a hodge-podge, a series of bizarre after-thoughts buttressing Breivik’s xenophobic and paranoid worldview.

Breivik calls himself a “cultural Christian.” Religious Christians, he observes, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which he himself does not have. For Breivik, “Christendom” is a vehicle for preserving European self-identity and is not necessarily opposed to elements of “paganism” such as Breivik’s own “Odnistic/Norse” heritage, even though the cross, he argues, has a greater symbolic power than Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. In spite of this, the initiation ceremony Breivik envisages for “Knights Templar” has no cross, only a candle, sword, skull.

The Christian history that Breivik seeks to reenact is not the passion of Jesus Christ, but the narrative of the Crusades. Breivik rhapsodizes about battles and lists the indulgences promises to Crusaders by Popes Urban II and Innocent III. ***


Breivik’s vision is a Christianity without Christ. In the manifesto, Jesus is mentioned only as a foil against Islam or referenced in a contradictory way such as when Breivik attributes the survival of Egypt’s Coptic Christians to their acceptance of Jesus’s teaching to “put your sword in its place.”

This is almost always the case when it comes to violence done in the name of Christianity. In fact, the exceptions are so rare that they are hardly worth mentioning so I won't. Needless to say, murdering others in cold blood is not why Jesus, the One who sacrificed Himself to save all of mankind, came.

But not every religion is as peaceful.

Take Wicca, for example. Wicca, we are told, is a peaceful religion. According to the The Celtic Connection, "A magical home for all Wiccans, Witches and Pagans":

Contrary to what those who choose to persecute or lie about us wish to believe, Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life which promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists.

And, as one writer notes:

What comes to mind when you think of witches? Scary, ugly, old women dressed in black and riding a broomstick. Maybe she has a black cat in her arms or a cauldron on her front porch. Maybe she will kill your dog or put a "hex" on you, leaving you paralyzed! These are some of the myths about witches and witchcraft. However, they are very far from the truth. True Wicca is a peaceful religion dealing with nature. It believes in the preservation of our earth. If you use something from nature, replace it. It believes in using natural remedies for such things as minor ailments, shampoos, and soaps. As for animal or human sacrifices, the Wiccan Creed says it all. It reads "And it harm none, do as you will."

But if this is true, how do followers of Wicca respond to the news found in the Albuquerque Journal entitled Witch Pleads to Murder?

A self-proclaimed witch who had programmed the number of her victim in her cellphone under “Sacrifice” pleaded no contest Friday – albeit haltingly – to the second-degree murder of the man she stabbed to death in the Sandia foothills with a dagger.

The case made headlines because of the bizarre nature of the crime – Angela Sanford had met the victim at a casino less than a week earlier and asked him to meet her in the Sandias for a “Wiccan rite of spring.”

There, she stabbed him more than a dozen times with a dagger used in Wiccan rituals called an athame.

* * *

Wiccans have disavowed Sanford’s actions and said adherents of the religion do not practice blood sacrifice. The athame is not used in any type of sacrifice, but as a consecrated item in their rituals.

Now, I perfectly understand the desire to avoid connecting this athame with sacrifice, and as shown by the problem experienced by Christians trying to respond to Breivik's bastardization of the Christian faith, I can certainly accept the possibility that Angela Sanford was bastardizing the true teachings of Wicca. The problem is that there is little doubt that Wicca arose from pre-Christian pagan religions that did engage in sacrifice and undoubtedly used an early version of an athame in those rituals.

And this is the difference between Sanford's ritualistic murder and Breivik's massacre: Breivik's actions are divorced from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the historic teachings of the faith while Sanford's actions may be contrary to the recent teachings of Wicca she was acting consistently with the history of Wiccan practices.

I am glad that the followers of Wicca have now embraced peace. But it must deal with its religious foundations which Sanford could point to as her style of Wicca. Historically, she may be right.

Carl Sagan

I have a page dealing with this concept on Doxa, but it's not very good. This is a better version. I will combine the two eventually. The New Version is on my New Sight: The Religious A priori

Carl Sagan made this statement popular in its current form, it was originally used by Hume, Laplace and other early theorists, but atheists have sense taken it as a major slogan for their decision-making paradigm.

Marcelo Truzzi tells us:

In his famous 1748 essay Of Miracles, the great skeptic David Hume asserted that "A wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence,"and he said of testimony for extraordinary claims that "the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more unusual." A similar statement was made by Laplace, and many other later writers. I turned it into the now popular phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (which Carl Sagan popularized into what is almost the war cry of some scoffers).

This slogan allows them to raise the bar for any Christian claim, while lowering it for their own purposes. Ed J. Gracely explains the basic logic of the bromide.

First, it is important to understand that the strength of a conclusion is a function both of the quality of the evidence provided in its support and the a priori probability of the claim being supported. Thus there can never be a single standard of "acceptable evidence" that will suffice to render every claim equally plausible. Suppose, for example, that a reasonably reliable source tells me (a) that President Clinton has vetoed legislation that places restrictions on trade with China and (b) that Newt Gingrich has switched to the Democratic party. Most people would be much more confident of the truth of the first report than of the second, even though the source is identical. The difference lies in the a priori plausibility of the claims.

A more precise formulation requires us to cast the a priori probability of a claim into the form of "odds" in its favor. A proposition with 90% probability of being true has 90 chances of being true for every 10 of being false. Thus the odds are 90 to 10, which reduces to 9 to 1. A proposition with 20% probability of being true has 20 chances of being true for 80 of being false. The odds (in its favor) are 20 to 80 or 0.25 to 1. It is more natural to translate the latter case into odds of 4 to 1 against the proposition, but the calculations require us to work with odds "in favor of" a proposition, even if they are fractional. Pieces of evidence alter the odds in favor of a proposition by a multiplicative factor in proportion to the quality of the evidence.

While it is clear that not all evidence weighs the same, some evidence is better than other evidence, nothing in this explanation indicates why evidence must be stronger for “extraordinary claims” than for “normal claims.” Assuming we can even indicate what “extraordinary evidence” is, what makes it more proven than “ordinary” evidence? The statement above merely indicates that probability is higher for a proposition backed by more direct evidence, nothing more. The rationale says that the least likely proposition is less probable, then the assertion that the evidence must be more “extraordinary” (whatever that means) rather than just accurate or valid or to the point is not demonstrated. Most assumptions about what makes evidence “extraordinary” or “ordinary,” or a proposition likely or unlikely is going to be largely a matter of prejudice. Consider the following statement, also by Gracely:
The principle is clear; the difficulty lies in the application. How likely, for example, is it that homeopathy or therapeutic touch really work? Proponents argue that we need to open our minds to new possibilities and grant these systems a fairly high a priori probability (say, 50-50 odds). Then, even modest-quality evidence would make the claims quite probably true. Skeptics argue that these systems violate known laws of physics and their validity should therefore be considered remotely improbable.

Who decides how likely it is that homeopathy is valid or invalid medicine? One would need a statically average for cure rates to compare with controlled group using orthodox practices to see this. He admits that “modest quality” evidence would be proof if it is granted a high probability. Without the proper studies why not so grant? What if one has found such treatments effective already in one’s own life? This is nothing more than prejudice to judge something improbable on the basis of guesswork and matters of taste. Why shouldn’t a standard of evidence adequate for proof of the issue under consideration, be the issue? I have so far been unable to find an atheist who can tell me what extraordinary God evidence is. I’ve seen attempts on message boards, where they argue absurdities like “why can’t God make all the stars spell out the phrase “burn pain is the worst pain, Jesus is Lord, convert now.” Or God could appear at the UN and hold a press conference. I have yet to see an atheist give me a valid option for “extraordinary evidence.” More importantly, we are talking about God, not about finding Bigfoot. God is off scale for empirical investigation. How can the basis of reality be studied as though just another “thing” in creation? What could be used as a basis of comparison? How could one ever establish a base line comparison to determine probability of God? Dawkns tries it but he merely assumes God would be on a par with any other physical object. What basis is used to establish the probability of something that is said to be beyond our understanding?

Gracely argues:

An alternative I have heard suggested is to drop the extraordinary proof argument and instead to hold paranormal and alternative medicine claims strictly to the ordinary requirements of replicability and good research. This approach sounds sensible but it has a serious flaw. Skeptics are not willing to accept the plausibility of most paranormal claims unless the evidence is extremely strong. We risk being perceived (correctly) as disingenuous if we call for solid quality research, then revert to the extraordinary claims argument should it in fact appear.(Ibid)

This standard is the one I have been proposing for years. The term he doesn’t use, the proper term for “ordinary” level of proof would be a “prima facie case.” He may have a point if we are talking about acupuncture or UFOs but the flaw he sees in it is attitudinal, not logical or methodological. The attitude of skeptics is out of line anyway. Atheists are not willing to accept any level of evidence. The experience studies are fine studies, they are scientific and a huge body of work backs them up. For all practical purposes, they are “extraordinary evidence.” Let us not forget there is no set standard any skeptic can offer to define that term. Skeptics are quick to brush aside the experience studies as “subjective” without reading the studies or thinking about the arguments. They never define what “extraordinary” evidence would be. Gracely observes that skeptical attitudes are similar even in other areas:

In some areas of paranormal investigation, such as extrasensory perception (ESP), the research is already often better done than much orthodox scientific research, with controls and double-checks most scientists would regard as overkill. Skeptics mostly still feel that the intrinsic implausibility is so great that nothing short of airtight and well-repeated research would be sufficient to support ESP. Little or none of the existing research rises to that level, so we remain skeptical. (Some recent work has been of high quality, see Ray Hyman's article, "The Evidence for Psychic Functioning: Claims vs. Reality", in the March/April 1996 Skeptical Inquirer, pp 24-26.) Had skeptics said some 40 years ago that all we wanted was reasonable quality replicated research, we might now be having to eat our words.

Skeptics are never satisfied. I have seen this problem over and over again. When their demands for evidence are met, they just raise the bar again and again. The tyranny of “extraordinary evidence” so long as one never defines it, allows for this sort of abuse all t he time. More importantly, why should God be subjected to the same standards of proof as empirical objects? Here the skeptic is just in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.” Truzzi documents the “catch 22” designed into the extraordinary proof standard:

But it is important to remember that the proponent of the paranormal has an uphill battle from the start. The chips are stacked against him, so his assault is not so threatening to the fabric of science as scoffers often characterize it. In a sense, conservative science has "the law" on its side.
In law, we find three varieties in the weight of burden of proof:
1. proof by preponderance of evidence,
2. clear and convincing proof, and, in criminal law,
3. proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In conventional science, we usually use (1), but when dealing with extraordinary claims, critics often seem to demand (3) since they demand all alternative explanations must be eliminated before the maverick claim is acceptable. This demand sometimes becomes unreasonable and may even make the scoffer's position unfalsifiable. Since the anomaly proponent is already saddled with a presumption of "guilt," it would seem to me that (2), clear and convincing proof, might be the best standard, though proponents may reasonably wonder why standard (1) should always be denied them.(Ibid)

But we must also keep in mind that God is not “paranormal.” Truzzi and Gracely are speaking in general of any sort of “paranormal” claim, including the claims of alternative medicine. God is not paranormal, but is status quo, normative for human belief. Nor is God a scientific question. It is absurd to expect us to limit evidence to only the scientific when the question about belief is epistemological. More on this aspect of belief and it is import for evidential standards below. But this does raise a further question about the extraordinary evidential standard:
In addition to defining the term “extraordinary evidence” there is also a need to define the term “extraordinary claim.” Why is God an extraordinary claim? Here the atheist is truly in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.” Atheists make up 3% of the world’s population at best. The overwhelming majorities of people alive today, or who have ever lived, believe in some form of God. Our brains are hard wired to have thoughts of God. Our physical and mental health work better when we believe in God (as will be seen in latter chapters). Obviously we are fit for belief, why would belief be extraordinary? Why should we allow the minor little 3% minority to define what is normative for humanity? Belief in God is is far more than just the average belief; it is normative as a standard of human understanding. It forms the basis of our psyches, it forms the basis of our legal system; it is the chief metaphor regulating meaning and morality. Belief in God illustrates all the aspects of a prima facie case. This is at least so for RE. Marcelo Truzzi makes the same point:

The central problem however lies in the fact that "extraordinary" must be relative to some things "ordinary." and as our theories change, what was once extraordinary may become ordinary (best seen in now accepted quantum effects that earlier were viewed as "impossible"). Many now extraordinary claims may become more acceptable not when they are replicated but when theoretical contexts change to make them more welcome.(Ibid)

Skeptics have argued that religious experience is not regular or consistent because such experiences are all different. Not only do you have so many different religions, but also even from mystic to mystic things differ. Over the years as one develops a disciplined life of prayer, one does encounter growing diversity and newness, but a certain sense of the familiar as well. Experiences become regular and consistent in that the presence of God is usually found in prayer, the sense of the presence is always the of the same quality (although varying intensity) and the sense of God can become familiar enough that it is always recognized as the same, This sense of the familiar is communicable and can be recognized form one believer to another. The mystical and devotional literature presents a kind of ordered sameness. One can read accounts as different form one experiencer to another as those between St. Augustine and A.W. Tozer and still find passages that seem to be talking about the same things. This is amplified times millions of believers in the history of the church who have experienced the same things. Even though there is diversification and difference there is still sameness. This is not even confined to mystics. The same can be said of conversion accounts that the same aspects keep popping up. Once can recognize the work of God from one person to another, form one time to the next, from one culture to all cultures. But, the skeptic will ask, what about the vast array of different religions? These differences are due to cultural constructs. One experiences God beyond words, and when one tries to speak of such experiences one must encode them in a symbolic universe, that is to say, in culture. These differences in symbolic universes over time have spelled out the differences in the many religions. But there is a cretin unity even between all the differences in religion. The data presented long term effects of religious experience (see articles on RE in this blog) represents typologies, which can be used to compare "peak experience" with that of other phenomena. The Peak experiencers can be grouped together into a collection of those who have experiences X. They are not isolated assortments of differing phenomena. These studies do represent differing cultures and times. Thus, religious experience has a consistency to it even between cultures.

Archetypal symbology universal.

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences. Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

"...Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspects simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms of the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.

Archetypal Symbology linked to Peak experience.

The link from Archetypes to religious experience is supplied by Maslow as well, in a quotation already sited in Religious Experience Arguments. He argues that the ability to relate "B knowlege" to "C knowlege" where the female (Or the male) is blanced in the perception of the other between goddess and whore, and the proper ego relation is sorted out, is the managing of the sacred and profane. He points out that anyone can learn to see in this manner and that it is indicative of permeative people in their religious experiences as they explained the world through the sense of the numenous.
d) Anyone can have peack expirence --universal to humanity

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix D. What is the Validity of Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?
"To summarize, the major changes in the status of the problem of the validity of B-knowledge, or illumination-knowledge, are: (A) shifting it away from the question of the reality of angels, etc., i.e., naturalizing the question; (B) affirming experientially valid knowledge, the intrinsic validity of the enlarging of consciousness, i.e., of a wider range of experiencing; (C) realizing that the knowledge revealed was there all the time, ready to be perceived, if only the perceiver were "up to it," ready for it. This is a change in perspicuity, in the efficiency of the perceiver, in his spectacles, so to speak, not a change in the nature of reality or the invention of a new piece of reality which wasn't there before. The word "psychedelic" (consciousness-expanding) may be used here. Finally, (D) this kind of knowledge can be achieved in other ways; we need not rely solely on peak-experiences or peak-producing drugs for its attainment. There are more sober and laborious—and perhaps, therefore, better in some ways in the long run—avenues to achieving transcendent knowledge (B-knowledge). That is, I think we shall handle the problem better if we stress ontology and epistemology rather than the triggers and the stimuli."

2) Why Does God seem Hidden to SO many people?
a) God is not strictly speaking "invisable."

According to Hartshorne, "[o]nly God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or unreflective fashion)." Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.

It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. In previous postings I explained that there a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy. That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory nonconscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.

I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating of sense impressions to awareness). Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our own body and the nonsensory perception of one's past.
b). Atheists basically deny the validity of religious experience because they assume that all perception is sense perception.

Or, they deny sense perception to theists when they actually presuppose it themselves (Hume is a case in point).
c) All people experience the reality of God or the "Holy" all the time.

But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does not have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

The upshot of all of this is religious belief is normative for human behavior. It is not merely "normal" but "normative" meaning it sets the standard. Belief is basic to human psyche, to our understanding of the good, of meaning in life, the ultiamte limits of reality, the grounding of nature and being itself, there is no way belie in God can be thought of as an extraordinary claim! We might think of it as extraordinary in the the sense of being unique, like no other claim, but in that case it makes no sense to subject it to the regular canons of science as though God's presence is given in daily empirical data. Obviously the more intelligent evidential standard is that the evidence has to be fit for the claim. Fit, not dazzling, not impossible, not amazing, no beyond our ability to produce, but it has to fit the case. It has to be rational, and able to stand a prima facie burden, and it has to fit the proof attempted.


Marcelo Truzzi “on some unfair practices toward claims of the Paranormal.” This article was published in slightly edited form in:Edward Binkowski, editor, Oxymoron: Annual Thematic Anthology of the Arts and Sciences, Vol.2: The Fringe, New York: Oxymoron Media, Inc., 1998. It is also found on the website Skeptical Investigations: visited 7/7/08

Ed J. Gracely ”Why Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof. This article first appeared in the December 1998 issue of Phactum, the newsletter of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT). Dr. Gracely is Associate Professor of Community and Preventive Medicine at the MCP*Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia. This article was posted on July 24, 2003. It is now found on:Quackwatch

Abraham MaslowReligious Values and peak Experience,
text online:

url for my RE argument:


Realization of God and The Depth of Being

My approach now days is not to prove the existence of God, and to be continent with merely a rational warrant for belief, but go around the problem of proof and demonstrate a way that the inquirer after truth can become a believer by tapping into our place in being as humans. If we learn how to make the link between God and being we can realize that God is being itself and our place in being is as contingent creatures of God. Making this realization will be true heart felt belief. To get we have to clear away the clutter and part of that clutter is created by materialism, reductionism, scinentism and atheism. Clearing all of this away is a matter of understanding the nature of Being. Those aforementioned minions of doubt view being as surface only, it's just empirical and it's just a matter of the surface fact of existence. This is why the atheists clamour for empircal proof and harp on their mantra "there's not a shred of proof for
God." Of course when you tell them you have to look at things in a deeper way, no no I'm only interested in the surface if you can't give that then forget it. that's just the atheist template. the ideology of atheism gives them a template to hold up to the world that screens out depth.

Tillich says that if We know being has depth we can't be atheists:

"The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."

--Paul Tillich, The Shaking of The Foundations

What this means this depth of being is that there's more to being than just the fact of things existing. Part of that is modes of existing, such as necessity and contingent, part of it is the existential dimension and the phenomenological dimension. One such aspect is transcendent truth. IF we could know there is a transcendent truth we could know there's depth tha would give us a handle on the kind of depth that is a clue toward realization of the divine. Tillich did not make a formal argument stating "here is my ontological argument." Many see implicit in Tillich's work a new approach to the ontological.

Tillich’s implied OA

What follows are examples of my own attempts and the attempts of others at making God arguments based upon Tillich’s ideas and implicit arguments. The first one is based upon Duane Olson’s idea of Tilich’s implied ontological argument. The second and third arguments are based upon my own first understanding of what Tillich was saying about God and being itself. This is the crude understanding I had leavening seminary. These are supposed to examples of “talking points” not “proofs” of God’s existence. They are demonstrations of aspects of the depth of being, indications that being has depth. We can use this concept, indications that being has depth, as the orientation for God arguments, rather than “proofs” of “God’s existence.” Tillich never put these ideas together in this way to call them “arguments” but these are ideas I take from Tillich, although without being put over as “arguments.” In fact here they are not so much arguments as “points of embarkation” to move into the realization process. That is the process that leads to “realizing God.”

Several authors have tired to demonstrate that Tillich’s understanding implies a ready made ontological argument:

Paul Tillich’s name is not ordinarily included in a list of thinkers who have made a significant contribution to the ontological argument. Those who find affinity with Tillich’s thought have tended to overlook what he says about the arguments for God’s existence, influenced perhaps by Tillich’s sometime statements about the improper nature of such arguments.[i] Those who work with the arguments for God’s existence have tended to avoid Tillich’s ideas, perhaps for the same reason, or perhaps because his critique of the “existence of God” seems to belie a connection with arguments attempting to prove God’s existence. Despite this overlooking, I contend that Tillich made a significant contribution to the ontological argument and that it is important to examine this contribution for several reasons. 1) Tillich sought to reconceive the argument from its traditional interpretation in which the argument is understood as attempting to prove the existence of a theistic deity on the basis of an idea of this deity. [ii]

In addition to Olson’s version there Is also John M. Russell at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.[iii] I am only able to obtain the Olson article so that’s the one I’ll deal with. Olson argues that Tillich works with the classical correspondence theory of epistemology. Truth is correspondence between subject and object. “The focus of Tillich’s main argument is not on concrete judgments, or any truths in any field of knowledge, but on the fact that the subject has the capacity to make judgments about reality. This capacity involves applying a correspondence-norm, or a norm of truth, to a concrete subject-object interaction.”[iv]

The indubitability of the norm of truth is shown by a reductio argument regarding the process of knowing. In different places and in different ways Tillich points out that denial and doubt in knowing presuppose the norm of truth.[xvii] I want to systematize Tillich’s reductio argument at this point to show that all major theoretical postures presuppose this norm.

We can imagine four major postures taken by a subject to any theoretical judgment. One could affirm the judgment, claiming it corresponds with reality; one could deny the judgment, claiming it does not correspond; one could doubt, question, and debate the judgment; or one could claim a decision cannot be made about the judgment. All of the options presuppose the subject’s ability to apply a correspondence-norm, or norm of truth. Certainly one must apply a norm to affirm a judgment. One must also apply a norm, however, to deny a judgment. Any negative judgment presupposes and lives from the positive bearing of a norm of truth by the subject. One cannot deny that a judgment corresponds to reality without presupposing the subject’s ability to make judgments about reality. Doubting, questioning, or debating a judgment presuppose a norm of truth as well. One could not debate the veracity of a judgment without presupposing the capacity in the debaters to determine that veracity. Doubting or questioning a judgment is only meaningful under the presupposition of a norm that gives validity to that questioning and doubting. Finally, the claim that one cannot know whether a judgment is true presupposes the bearing of a norm to determine how or why a decision cannot be made.

It is important to note that the argument for a correspondence-norm, or norm of truth, is on a different level than arguments about the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object. The correspondence itself may be conceived in terms of naïve realism, idealism, or a multitude of positions in between. Every theory about the nature of the correspondence, however, relies on the presupposition of a correspondence-norm that would make it possible to formulate, and affirm, deny, debate, or declare uncertain that theory. Put differently, the theory of the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object is another field of knowledge that is subject to the ultimate criterion of knowledge, which is what is disclosed in the idea of a correspondence-norm.

To claim that the capacity to apply a norm is indubitable is the same thing as saying the subject bears an indubitable awareness of truth. In other words, when one analyzes the major postures toward judgments and shows how a norm of truth is presupposed as something borne by the subject in every posture, one is pointing out an awareness of truth the subject has, though it is something the subject may overlook, especially in doubting or denying particular truths. Through the reductio argument, one focuses attention on the fact that the subject bears a norm of truth, thus raising it to conscious awareness. I speak more below about the character of this awareness, but for now I simply affirm something Tillich presupposes, which is the identity between the affirmation that the subject bears a norm of truth and the subject’s awareness of this norm.[v]

The awareness of the norm of truth is the awareness of something transcendent and unconditioned, beyond the dichotomy of subject/object. This transcendent unconditioned is beyond both subjectivity and objectivity. But subject and object participate in the unconditioned, and it is a transcendent unity that makes possible all concrete affirmation, denial, down and uncertainty in the process of knowing. It is being itself appearing in the theoretical function as that which transcends subject and object. The norm of truth is not limited to subjectivity because it is used to judge the correspondence with objects. Since the subject bears it, it is not merely objective. It is not an object at all in the sense of being anything with which the subject can have a synthesis.

The subject cannot condition the norm of truth, but is conditioned by it. The subject can deny or debate or doubt any particular truth but cannot deny either her own capacity to apply a norm of truth itself. Nor can the subject down the concept of truth. The certainty about the norm of truth is different from any other contents of knowledge. The norm is grounded in necessary truth. One could not challenge the concept of truth except in terms of the untruth of truth, which implies a truth; the notion of truth, to be meaningful, but also contain the assumption that it’s opposite is untrue, and vice versa.[vi]

As supplementary arguments Tillich asserts that the quest to know drives the seeker on toward an end goal of total knowing. The unconditioned nature of the norm of truth is implicit in all knowing and in the desire to know.

Let’s try to summarize what this argument is really saying by isolating and enumerating it’s most basic and necessary points. This is not an attempt at a formal presentation of logic, but merely a way of summarizing, a thumbnail sketch.

Remember from chapter 4 that Tillich identified God with truth based upon God’s eternally necessary nature and the eternal and transcendent nature of the Platonic forms and God’s self revelation in Exodus 3:

(1) Tillich understand’s God to be the unconditioned, eternal, transcendent, ground of all being;

(2) Truth is an unconditioned norm based upon the correspondence theory; truth is correspondence between subject and object.

(3) The norm of truth is self verifying sense; truth as a concept cannot be untrue unless the concept of truth is affirmed in contrast to the possibility of untruth. Any particular truth can be doubted but not the concept of truth itself.

(4) Due to this unconditioned, necessary, and indubitable nature the norm of truth is understood to be transcendent of subject and object, and transcendent of any particulars of nature.

(5) The transcendent unconditioned is equated with God in Tilich’s understanding of being itself (from 1); the existence of such a norm is demonstrated in the nature of the norm of truth.

(6) Therefore, we have a rational warrant for understanding the ground of being as synonymous with Tillich’s understanding of “the divine.”

Tillich basically makes the argument himself, in Theology of Culture where he talks about God construed as truth (see chapter 4, Augustine on Being itself). Then he says:

Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient skepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in ever philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. God is the presupposition of the question of God. This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis.[vii]

This is the part not quoted in previous chapter:

The Truth which is presupposed in every question and in every doubt precedes the cleavage into subject and object. Neither of them Is an ultimate power, but they participate in the ultimate power above them, in Being itself, in primum esse. “Being is what first appears in the intellect…” this being (which is not a being) is pure actuality and therefore Divine. We always see it but we do not always notice it; as we see everything in the light without always noticing the light as such.

According to Augustine and his followers the verum ipsum is also the bonum ipsum because nothing which is less than the ultimate power of being can be the ultimate power of good.[viii]

Tillich never calls this “my ontological argument.” He may or may not hint that it is somewhere but I have not see that. He does not, to my knowledge, put this over as a version of the OA. Yet I feel that it is and it’s essentially what Olson is talking about.

[ii] Duane Olson, “Pual Tiillich and the Ontological Argument,” Quodlibet Journal vol. 6, no 3, July-sep 2004, online journal, URL: visited 8/4/10

Olson has two foot notes in this quotation which are important to examine:

1) “In one of the more significant recent monographs on Tillich’s thought, Langdon Gilkey flatly states “[Tillich] denied that an argument for the transcendent power and ground of being was possible” (Gilkey on Tillich (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 105). Gilkey never discusses Tillich’s use of the traditional arguments.” (2) “In his detailed and extensive volume on the ontological argument, Graham Oppy mentions Tillich’s name only once in the literature review, and he never analyzes any of Tillich’s statements (Ontological Arguments and Belief in God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 275). To Oppy’s credit, he discusses a type of argument to which Tillich’s is related. I comment on Oppy’s analysis of this argument in the final section of this paper.”

[iii] John M. Russell, “Tillich’s Implicit Ontological Argument” Sophia, Netherlands: Springer. Vol.2 No. July 1993, 1-16. Online: URL

visited 8/4/10

[iv] Olson, Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid, Olsen foot notes two sources at this point, in thinking of the indubitable nature of the norm. He sites Tillich’s Theology of Culture, 23, and the same source page 13, for the latter: This explains Tillich’s somewhat obscure statements that “God is the presupposition of the question of God,” and “God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis (Theology of Culture, 13).”

[vii] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, 12-13

[viii] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, op cit, 14


This is a controversial ploy. It's really baiting the atheists on CARM into showing their true attitudes toward their own sense of privileged position and their bigotry against religious people. I am playing the peranoid here. I am talking them litterally when I know they probalby wouldn't really mean what it sounds like they are saying. I don't seriously think any of them are Nazis or sympathize with Nazis or that they planing any kind violence. I think the fact that they wont come out and say "we don't accept hurting people" is important. They clearly have no sense of protecting the rights of others, and no understanding of that means for their own rights.

I think this speaks volumes about where we are in our society today. I would be scared to death to try this egging fundies on to saying things. If you think this is all Total BS and I'm just more harm then good then I'll take it down. I think it shows something important about the bigotry involved in the atheist movement.

I also want to point out that I don't believe that all atheists think this way. I am disturbed that one's that formerly respected are saying things I am worried about.

posted by me to atheists on carm

this is a very very serious post I wish you would address it that way.

when I was a kid I used to be very moved by stories about the holocaust. My mother once showed me a news paper clipping she saved from the war, it was an interview with someone who worked in a concentration camp and talked about sorting the clothing of the victims, and how they had children's clothes and crippled people's crutches.

I used to hear about ideas like "they came for the Jews I didn't say anything, they came after the poles an didn't say anything and they came after me and there was no one left to say anything." I would be greatly moved and think "this is the worst evil there is. anyone who would destroy a group of people just because they don't like that group for who they are is the worst form of scum."

I grew up in the south. My father told me about how he saw lynchings of blacks and some of them were led by his uncle. He was deeply ashamed that someone in our family did this. He was totally pro civil rights. he taught me that blacks had been persecuted and mistreated. This again gave me the notion that the worst kind of scum is anyone who would persecute a whole group just becasue they don't like how they are or what they believe or something about them.

Now I see the troubling signs that in the new atheism they don't understand the dangers of venting hatred for a whole group based upon their beliefs. I know you think that's nuts, and Hermit gets mad at me for saying this. Every time I expect atheist to contradict that idea I see them supporting it.

I put up a post saying Is it right to reject people's ideas without considering them just becuase of who those people are. to my horror a bunch of you agreed it is.

what is the difference in saying "we must persecute the Jews" and saying we must persecute the fundamentalists? the Jews had the OT. they have the vengeful Y God you hate so deeply. Are you then anti-emetic?

A well known atheist here made this following statement and I see in this a frank admission that it would not bother him to persecute people for their religious beliefs.

here's the statement, I will embolden the things that really bother me.:

This is one issue I take with "new atheism." I get where people like Sam Harris is coming from- liberal forms of religion tend to lend credence to religious belief. When intellectuals provide a seemingly reasonable face for belief in gods, it gives god-belief of all sorts an undeserved air of respectability. But this is a flawed view, IMO. The fact that irrational, mean people benefit from an idea doesn't invalidate the idea. It's the same error, it seems, as trying to discredit evolution because eugenicists benefit on a superficial level from Darwin's theory. The only thing I'd say is that it is important for a liberal to distance him/herself from the mean, irrational theists- just as evolutionists have unfortunately had to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the flaws of eugenics.

So, while I do think it's a noble goal to try to stamp out religious belief,

to me that's like saying it's a noble goal to kill people. People who resisting having their beliefs stamper out have been killed time and time again. If they wont willingly give them up, they never do, then you have to kill them or at least re arrange their lives. what right do you have to dot that?

I do NOT think one is justified in doing so "by any means necessary."

that's like saying "I don't think it's right to murder them outright, we can just take their jobs away and let them starve slowly."

The fundies should be mocked and ridiculed- not as a tactic to try to brow-beat them into submission, but because their beliefs are ridiculous and dangerous.

to me that's like saying I have the right to dictate that you die because I don't like the color or your clothes. what right do you have to determine that you are certain your views are right that you get to say what views are stupid? What if you are basing it on just not being very well read? what if all the illiterate people got together and deiced that reading is stupid? can't you see how you are taking on a privilege you have not right to assume?

who the hell are you to say that?

This is not the case with liberals. Liberals have beliefs which resemble, in certain ways, the ridiculous, irrational beliefs of fundies. But there are important and fundamental differences in the way that liberals think that sets them apart from the fundies. And it is the way in which one comes to a belief that is important, not the belief itself.

thanks, great. sot he all knowing one says I don't have to die, thanks.

Now, some beliefs are simply too ridiculous to plausibly allow for the possibility that they were rationally derived. That's where the fundies come in- if someone believes that the earth is 6,000 years old, or that the Genesis flood actually occurred sometime within the last 6,000 years, I needn't examine how they arrived at the conclusion. They are being irrational- that's the end of it. But it's a mistake to equate belief in some kind of deity with these types of beliefs.

To me this is saying that I have the right to determine who lives or who dies.

Some people resound to my horror by saying 'you are making so much out of this so what big deal" I don't' know if it's because they think "I would never say they should die." Or is it really because they are thinking "of course they should die."

If you think you have the right to destroy people's lives because their beliefs are so stupid what's the difference in you and a Nazis? Is the only differences that the Nazi's didn't hate the right stupid group and you do?

don't do the mocking thing just explain it to me.

while you are at it kindly explain how it is that mocking people becuase their beliefs are stupid is good, but when I think your beliefs are stupid I can't mock you?

If I think your beliefs are stupid and dangerous don't I have the same right to mock you that you do to mock me? If I do you go "you are so insulting!" what right do you have to complain about that? I'm only doing what you tell is fair and right and should be done!

If you think religious views are so evil and dangerous why don't you believe that religious people should be killed in concentration camps?

is that what atheist movement is really leading to?

the first answer:

Brain w:

Ridiculing beliefs ≠ persecution or advocation of genocide.

The only reason you see the dismissal and ridicule of superstition as such a heinous attack is because you have allowed these things to wrap themselves up so deeply in your personality that they now define you. That's not the problem of those who attack god belief. It's your fault for letting god belief take over your entire persona.
he doesn't even make a pretense of saying "O we wouldn't do that." Mikey has a slightly better response.

This is just an internet forum, it isn't real life. Atheists don't burn down churches in the real world, they usually don't even talk to Christians. How are you going to persecute someone if you don't even talk to them. Christians on the other hand are always talking to Atheists trying to convert them. Maybe Christians should leave people alone and Atheists won't need to come to internet forums to vent their frustration.
I think it's dangerous to just dismiss it as "o it's just the net," but makes me feel ok that at least he didn't embrace it like the other guy.

Hsmithson quotes me:

meta:Now I see the Nazis re-born in the new atheism. I know you think that's nuts
then says:

Yep, that's nuts.
Those who would kill for atheism are not nuts but I'm nuts for protesting it?

Validmir says I such at illiciting clearly and need to be very clear about what people are saying.
that would imply i that he understands them to actually not be supporting persecution.

I think they are being willfully unclear because they should understand clearly from the OP that I need to know unambiguously that they don't agree with persecuting people. I find the fact that they hold back on spelling this out to be significant.

Originally Posted by troxel View Post
Did this fellow say anything about concentration camps?
But yes saying the "unbeliever is a sick soul" is reasonably equivalent to mocking and ridicule. You even go way out of your way in an attempt to justify you derision by appealing to authority and completely misrepresenting your source.

No it' not because it doesn't mean they are stupid or bad. It was also said by a psychiatrist it was a Junian term referring to a clinical idea.

You want to mock and ridicule religious people because you hate them then you pawn it off some noble goal like stropping dangerous ideas.You have no right to object to being mocked as long you advocate using mocking to brown people into giving their beliefs.

Actually your quote is worse than mocking as it is an attempt by you to villainize a segment of the population.

"villianize" talk about illiteracy.

which is just what you are doing. you want to put children in gas hate Christians so deeply you are ready to murder them.

I did not say that did I? In fact I didn't even see concentration camps mention in your referenced quote - par for the course.

well what are you going to do when the 90% who believe in God decide they want be forced the the 3% illiterates to give up the most important thing in their lives? you would have to resort to something pretty harsh. where do you draw the line?

comparing sick soul (which a psychiatrist was saying) to real mocking is just whining to justify your hate.

Originally Posted by souper genyus View Post
I can't seriously respond to a Godwin, Meta. You're *******g ridiculous, claiming the free speech of the new atheists is even remotely analogous to the Nazis murdering millions of people is insulting to every atheist alive and, especially, to those murdered or tortured by the Nazis. It's just wrong, Meta, both factually and morally wrong.
I don't know who Godwin is.

I know they are not a par with Nazis but the Nazis started with just mocking Jews. they didn't' start with concentration camps.

you are defending persecuting people for their beliefs? are you not? you don't understand why that's evil?

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
but it's not nuts to say we should mock and ridicule people for believing things we think are stupid?

No, it's really not. That's expressing your free speech. It's using your words and your wit as a tool for social change, which is perfectly acceptable. In fact, I think it should be encouraged. It's much better to address a position you disagree with with your mind and your words as opposed to using force.

Its' not nuts to put people in concentration camps and kill them for being religious?
Yes, that's most definitely nuts. What are you thinking to even ask such a question? No one that is labeled with the "New Atheist" label that I know of is advocating an ethnic cleansing, so I don't know what the hell you are even talking about.
then what right do you have to complain if I say you are the sick soul?

Meta I need clealrity here. what is nuts?

The fact that you liken the free expression of opinion to mass murder. That's nuts.

ok, idiot.

Originally Posted by mikey_101 View Post
It hurts people to tell them that they'll go to hell (or whatever negative consequence) if they aren't Christians.
that's why I don't tell them that.

Just believing that garbage hurts the person who believes it because it makes them less human. I think all the mocking and anger towards Christianity has to do with the religious-elitist attitude being so prevalent and being around for so long. It's offensive, and when people are offended they stick up for themselves. In a forum you can say what you can't in real life.

but it seems you want the privilege o revenge without the consequence of more revenge taken back on you. You want me to respect you but you don't want to respect me.

Just believing that garbage hurts the person who believes it because it makes them less human.
aren't you stripping the humanity of fundamentalists?

Originally Posted by mikey_101 View Post
I hate to say it, but Christians kind of started this whole thing by their elitist attitude I was talking about. I think you should realize that and take some responsibility before crying 'persecution' too much. When two are angry at each other about something, the whole thing can usually be resolved by the one who starting it apologizing first, then the other person apologizes. I'm not saying you started it personally of course, the type of Christian fundies we have today have been around for, I don't know, about 300 years or so. The anti-Christian fundies are just now reacting.

Less than human is a figure of speech, not literal.
O good, that makes me so relieved. That's such a judicious figure of speech too. I really trust someone who is cleaver to describe his opponents as less then human then deny that he meant it. so you are actually admitting that you want to persecute and trying to blame the victim. The Nazis said the Jews brought it on themselves. that's what you are arguing.

Originally Posted by Asimov View Post
Why are you conflating the drive to remove intolerance, prejudice, and anti-intellectualism with killing people?


from what I see so far you plan to do that by destroying people's egos, refusing to listen to their side of any argument, refusing to consider anything that would count against your view. unfairly and unjustly slandering believers, which what atheists are doing every day on the net.

Let's just take that to the logical absurdity, what's to stop you from taking it into violence? you believe Christian are inhuman, you have the right to hurt them and force them to give up their beliefs, what's to stop you from going over the line?

You don't bleieve there is such a thing as innate right and wrong. you believe that that's just a matter of social convince and survival. Right?

if one could show the it's beneficial, greatest good for the greatest number to systematically extinguish the lives of all Christians wouldn't accept doing it?

riginally Posted by drugstar View Post
the ramblings of a madman.

that really prove your not unfair, or unjust and that your willing ot listen and your not blaming the victim. It really proves you are not shallow and stupid.

The Christian Naz kicks in
Originally Posted by naz View Post
Meta, although I agree that ridiculing people for their beliefs is repugnant it is certainly not anywhere close to murder.

think about what Jesus said about murder. can't you just hear one of these atheists saying "how is hating someone like murdering them?"

I realize that most of these guys probalby think the idea that there could be persecution of Christians is absurd and that they think they would never take part.I know that I'm kind of skirting the edge of peranoia, at least as far they are concerned. I am playing to the logical absurdity of their values. But look at the facts:

Not one of them on the whole thread says "O of course we are agaisnt hurting people we would never persecute anyone. they can't bring themselves to make a flat out denial. The fact is they clearly do not bleieve in free speech, they want to control the thinking of others. they want the power to condemn and ridicule ideas that they disagree with and I can't help but wonder if the circumstances were right how many of them would cooperate wit murdering Christians on a grand scale.

They are clearly willing to remove the cloak of protection from the minority and then still expect that protection to be extended to them.


Yesterday I had a discussion with atheist on theodicy problem. That's the problem of pain and evil. Why does God allow it. There are two questions there but I think the answers to both are related. My classic answer is my own version of the "Free Will defense." The thing that makes my version different is the twist I put on internalizing the values of the good. This my version from Doxa and here's how it plays out. I call it "Soteriological Drama." Soteriology means the study of salvation. I am saying there's a drama, not entertainment but the kind of real drama one finds in life, concerning the pursuit of salvation. God has designed a serach into the process because it is only by searching that we learn to internalize the values of the good.

Basic assumptions

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so oblivious, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The Actual Argument:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.

On Doxa I designed into the presentation an answer to the issue of babies dying:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internalizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the final tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why must that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of consequentialist ethics. If one uses a deontological standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates because it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.
The connection of the two issues:

The two issues are of course, evil and disaster, or pain not connected to decision making. We can't call disease or weather or problems of accident "evil" because they are not tied ot anyone's personal choice. Moral valuations such as "good" and "evil" only apply where a choice can be made. One could try to charge God with evil in saying that it's his choice to allow it. This is would be foolish since there is no standard of Good if the creator is evil. Then evil would be the original concept, and good would be the fall from evil. That's can't be because evil is not constructive. Evil doesn't build but tears down; evil is rebellion against a standard not the establishment of a standard. Yes it does bother me as an old "red" from the 60s to support "establishment." I tell myself the establishment of this world is the rebellion against the establishment of life.

Thus the connection between evil and disaster is that God can't forestall disasters every time they occur and still expect us to conduct a search. No one searches for what he knows to be the case. The search is the search for truth, the answer to the big question, what are we doing here? what's the point of it all? No one searches if he knows the answers. It would be a dead give away if every time something almost happened some miraculous force stopped it. So there has to be what we might call a "normal world" that runs on its own steam. God can stick his finger in and change things, but there have to certain rules he put in place for doing that, like faith for ex maple, otherwise he's going to have to do it all the time, that would sort negate the need for searching.

This searching aspect is what angered this atheist. He was extremely indignant about it. He accused me of being selfish and self absorbed because I'm letting God off the hook for my desire to learn things and have personal fulfillment. I think what made it so unnerving was the way he spoke as though he knows God is real and just hates him anyway. I am not saying all atheists think that way, just this one guy. It's not that I expect this little answer to really satisfy someone who has lost a child. Of course I do not, and for anyone who has lost a child my deepest sympathy. Had I lost a child myself I would certainly not be content with such answers and I don't blame anyone who is angry at God. That will be a short term anger. One can't let the hurt create a life-long bitterness and negate being able to re-unite if such a thing is possible. Yet I am here to lecture people in what they "should feel."

I find it gulling that this guy tries to abrogate my right to explore life. He wants to control my reactions to pain as though only he has a right to feel and only he knows the right way to feel. I am here in life wondering what it's all about and I have as much of a right to wonder as anyone. I am still doing my own search. I do feel I have the right direction. I have every right to feel that I do since I've been searching all my life. No one has a right to mock or ridicule the answers I"ve found. After all I'm not tryign to impose anything on anyone I'm just offering my little warped ideas and holding up my little end of the conversation.

I don't imagine this answer will make anyone feel good I do think intellectually it's the best answer. Over time when people heal a bit they might be able to see that. The answer is that we have to have a real world. God has to let it go as a real world under its own steam even though that means pain and torment and problems. As Jesus said "in the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." "All things for together for Good for those who love the lord" (Paul said that). In the end it will be worked out. those who seek will find.

If I could think of any more cliches I'd use them.

The Bible is a unique book. In addition to being a spiritual revelation, it is also a book that chronicles the history of a particular people: the Israelites. Thus, unlike some (maybe all) other spiritual books, it invites people to review the history as a means of confirming the truth of the Biblical claims. This, in turn, raises two different types of objections. First, some individuals (including archaeologists) require higher scrutiny of the factual claims of the Bible because the more accurate the Bible is historically the more believable it is spiritually. Second, some archaeologists and Biblical doubters simply deny that the accuracy of history in the Bible in any way reflects the truth of the spiritual claims in the Bible.

Side note: in the comments to the Victor Reppert blog entry linked below, one sloppy-thinking atheist reflected this latter view when he commented, "Roswell, New Mexico, is an actual city too. Is this by itself evidence of the existence of aliens?" The poor atheist is confused. He probably intended to ask whether the existence of Roswell is "by itself proof of the existence of aliens." The answer to the question is of course it is not proof of the existence of aliens, but it is evidence for the existence of aliens. Consider: if the City of Roswell, New Mexico did not exist, that would certainly establish that the claims that aliens crash landed there could not be true, wouldn't it? But Roswell does exist (I was there in February) and so the claims that aliens crashed near Roswell can be seen as possible. Thus, while the existence of Roswell doesn't prove that aliens crashed there, the fact that the city of Roswell exists is evidence that supports that assertion. Of course, there are other differences and this argument can get quite a bit more involved, but the point for purposes of this point is that Bible doubters do make this claim.

The two reactions to the Bible's claim to be historically accurate discussed in the first paragraph leads to a rather interesting inconsistency. As correctly discerned in a post by Victor Reppert entitled Archaeological Support for Jeremiah on his great blog, Dangerous Idea,

When evidence is brought forward that supports the accuracy of the text, we are told that this really doesn't matter, since it doesn't support the supernatural content of the text directly. On the other hand, if there is a lack of archaeological support for what the text says, then we are told that this is good reason to reject the text, and especially, to reject the supernatural content of the text.

So, if the Bible is historically accurate the accuracy is irrelevant, but if the Bible is historically inaccurate the inaccuracy is relevant. Thus, under these views the archaeological record is not important as long as it supports the Bible, but when the archaeological record seems contrary to the Bible, atheists and Bible doubters want to jump all over the archaeological record as critical to the Biblical claims.

No offense, but you cannot have it both ways.

Obviously, most people know that Biblical archaeology matters because most people aren't as blinded by their own illogic as these Bible doubters. Most people instinctively recognize that the Bible is a book that claims to be divinely inspired. To those of us of the conservative bent, that leads to the conclusion that it should be historically accurate. Thus, when archaeology turns up evidence that shows that the Bible is based in history, i.e., its historic accounts have a basis in fact that can be backed up with archaeology, then it does add to the legitimacy of the Biblical claims.

Still, and I know this may surprise some people, there are people who don't want Christianity to be true. There are others who will put their presuppositions ahead of the facts and not follow the facts where they lead. And whether you want to believe it or not, some of these people exist in the field of archaeology.

Let me make one thing clear: I am not doubting the bona fides of many in archaeology who openly disclaim the Bible. I am not saying that they are intentionally suppressing archaeological evidence that supports the Bible. However, I do believe that the reporting of the evidence can be colored by one's preconceived notions, and one very strong preconceived notion among some in the field of Biblical archaeology is that the Bible cannot be archaeologically accurate. Thus, when they make broad pronouncements that the Bible is not supported historically, it isn't because they have conclusive evidence that it is unsupportable. Rather, it is because some archaeologists are incapable of seeing past their preconceptions even when the truth is staring them in the face.

The list of Biblical places and people that were thought to not exist but were later proven to exist by archaeology (such as the Pool of Siloam, King David's palace and Pontius Pilate) is long. No, archaeology has not been so kind with some older events (such as the existence of Joseph or the Exodus), but recent findings that archaeologist presently reject or doubt may ultimately be agreed to constitute evidence for these Old Testament things. Given the record of accuracy of those things archaeologists have confirmed, the negative attitude towards the Bible by many in the archaeological field makes me wonder whether the motive is really factual or unwillingness to follow the evidence.

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