Can Christianity be argued by Reason?


#1

I have always thought that Christianity was special among religions, as it seems most in tune with “Natural Law,” the clear Truths of nature discoverable to us by our own observations and deductions. Christianity, to me, could always be argued by reason, up to the point where the Christian Mysteries defy our understanding, and the “Leap of Faith” must be made.

Recently, I read Pierre Bayle’s “Pyrrho” in which he completely rips apart any attempt to support Christian Faith through Reason, arguing from the point of view of the ancient skeptics, who suspended all judgement, and believed that nothing could be known for certain–that the Truth lies wholly hidden from us. Bayle argues that reason is useless, and mentions that Christian revelation proves this. For example, the basic axiom that if A is like B, and B is like C, than A is like C and A=B=C. Nowhere in reality are Personality, Nature, and Individual separate. Yet the mystery of the Trinity completely defies this. One God, one Nature, but three Persons!!! If this basic, “self-evident” Truth is not in fact True (as the Trinity reveals), how can we understand anything?

Secondly, Bayle holds up Transubstantiation as a Truth-defying revelation. If the substance of the bread is changed into Christ, with the accident remaining, how do we know that a substance is truly a substance of anything, and not just its accident? How do we know Peter is really Peter, and not just the likeness of Peter? If Christ is fully present in the bread, that means that matter is penetrable, (refuting another “self-evident truth” that it is not penetrable to an indivisible point) and therefore erasing the definition of matter entirely, and all substance–spirit or matter–contain merely accidental qualities. When Christ physically becomes the bread He is condensing His body, something which matter–physical reality–can nowhere do. This destroys the distinction between spirit and matter.

Locke (who was in fact a proponent of reason to support faith) argued that Transubstantiation is impossible because it defies one of the most self-evident Truths of reality: that a body cannot be in two places at once. Yet if Christ can do this (as is revealed in the Eucharist), than God is revealing to us something which destroys all our understanding and renders our intellect null and void.

Basically, Bayle argued that we must forget reason and accept Christianity based on Faith. Ok, good. BUT, as Locke argued, this means that there is no way to argue against any other religion, and if reason is useless, than we have no right to claim that we hold the Truth, and other extravagant religions–no matter how apparently superstitious–do not. Since everything can be said to be “a matter of Faith” in which our natural reason is useless.

If anyone is still with me here, I’m basically asking this: How do we defend Christianity with reasonable arguments, when the fundamentals of our religion destroy our reasoning? Is there a good apologetic to both of Locke and Bayle’s viewpoints?

Thanks and God Bless!


#2

Metaphysics (which is the study of existence and essences per se) has been under attack ever since the time of William of Ockham but especially with the scepticism of Hume and the transcendentalism of Kant. The best reply is Norris Clarke’s “The One and the Many”.

Also, the later writings of Jacques Maritain (The Degrees of Knowledge, Preface to Metaphysics and Approaches to God) deal with this issue of the defense of knowledge.

Etienne Gilson addresses the issue throughout “The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy” and particularly in “Christianity and Philosophy” (or is it “Philosophy and Christianity”?). Gilson’s reply is to avoid much of the modern criticism as having ‘missed the point’ while Maritain takes a more active approach, borrowing from Bergson and simultaneously belittling Bergson in a way that would cause Gilson to forever distrust Maritain. Norris Clarke attempts to deal head on with the Kantian criticism of the distinction between the noumena and phenomena.

And of course, the writings of Bernard Lonergan deal extensively with the epistemological problems of modern philosophy. However, his writings are not readily accessable.

That and Frederick Copleston is always an important read; having debated Bertrand Russell and A.J. Ayer both. Unfortunately his dealings with this problem are scattered throughout his 9 volume History of Philosophy and his other writings. However, his books “Aquinas” and the introduction to “Medieval Philosophy” deal fairly extensively with the problem.

All these books can be found at www.alibris.com or www.abebooks.com

For fun, Desiderious Erasmus plays with the problem of the absurdity of faith in his “Praise of Folly”, especially in the later chapters and in his letter to Martin Dorp.

Soren Kierkegaard also deals with it in “Fear and Trembling” though he comes to some conclusions very much contrary to the spirit and the letter of Thomism. I cannot but disagree with anyone who thinks that, had Kierkegaard lived longer, he would have entered the Catholic Church.

Enjoy the reading!

Adam


#3

I’ve been studying his Insight for about two years. Father Lonergan [a Canadian gentleman by the way] insists that the reader must personally identify with the account of knowing given in the first part of the study. I took that very seriously, which is why I think the book had such an impact on me. I also used the excellent commentary by Terry Tekippe as a study aid.

Philosophy is needed more than ever, not necessarily because it leads one directly to Christ, but because it can clear away many obstacles that the modern world throws in our way and prevents us from being open to Revelation, or from deepening our faith and trust.

Father Lonergan has taught me in the most brilliant way how tangled up our view of knowledge and understanding has become since the beginning of the ironically-titled “Enlightenment”, with the unfortunate result that the common man lazily considers that seeing something is all there is to knowing something. Worse, the modern age is cursed by the confusion between being and having-a-body.

I think Lonergan’s account of knowing is the most powerful and life-changing refutation of modern relativism and skepticism in print. It is through knocking down walls that he gives us back the freedom to enter into rooms that have perhaps been locked for centuries. Some have ranked his work at the level of Aristotle and Kant - and I can’t say I disagree. Definitely one of the most important philosophers of the last century.


#4

Neithan,

We cannot prove dogmas from reason. We can defend them by showing how they don’t contradict reason though. You said:

“Nowhere in reality are Personality, Nature, and Individual separate. Yet the mystery of the Trinity completely defies this. One God, one Nature, but three Persons!!! If this basic, “self-evident” Truth is not in fact True (as the Trinity reveals), how can we understand anything?”

The problem is, we don’t hold the Personalities and nature of God as separate. One nature and three distinct persons, just as the human person is one with two distinct (incomplete) substances, body and soul. You said:

“If the substance of the bread is changed into Christ, with the accident remaining, how do we know that a substance is truly a substance of anything, and not just its accident? How do we know Peter is really Peter, and not just the likeness of Peter?”

Good question. That’s not a question for just Catholics though. That’s a whole epistemological question that is difficult to answer. But notice how the question is not about metaphysics itself, but epistemological. The Eucharist is a metaphysical reality. One can have epistemological problems with is, just as the problem of identity in itself is an epistemological problem, but there is nothing logically contradictory about it.

Then you said:

“Locke (who was in fact a proponent of reason to support faith) argued that Transubstantiation is impossible because it defies one of the most self-evident Truths of reality: that a body cannot be in two places at once.”

Yes, a body cannot be in two places at once, but that’s only natural bodies. How does Locke know what a glorified body can do? Jesus’ body is a glorified Risen body and no one should say what it cannot do. Jesus walked through doors, which a normal human body can’t. So there are things a Glorified Body can do that a normal human body can’t. Plus, God is omnipotent and there is nothing logically contradictory about that!

“If anyone is still with me here, I’m basically asking this: How do we defend Christianity with reasonable arguments, when the fundamentals of our religion destroy our reasoning? Is there a good apologetic to both of Locke and Bayle’s viewpoints?”

I think I sufficiently defeated (undercutting) the arguments. All you have to do is show how it is reason does not contradict our faith.


#5

[quote=Apolonio]Neithan,

“If anyone is still with me here, I’m basically asking this: How do we defend Christianity with reasonable arguments, when the fundamentals of our religion destroy our reasoning? Is there a good apologetic to both of Locke and Bayle’s viewpoints?”

I think I sufficiently defeated (undercutting) the arguments. All you have to do is show how it is reason does not contradict our faith.
[/quote]

We do not defend God or Christianity,we celebrate our faith in God in and as Christ.

The prescient William Blake recognised a few centuries ago the wasteland that natural religion ( man’s trust in secular law and reason) would create.To be pragmatic,anyone care to look at how secular law allied with the phychobabble industry has attempted to replace Christianity in Western civilisation and while paying lip service to Christ and Christianity it has wrought great damage to the family unit among other things.

Deists were steeped in the ideals of Locke and Hume and we inherit the worse part of natural religion today.

TO THE DEISTS

[right]The Spiritual States of[/right]
the Soul are all Eternal.
*Distinguish between the *
Man and his present State.

He never can be a friend to the Human Race who is the preacher of Natural Morality or Natural Religion; he is a flatterer who means to betray, to perpetuate tyrant Pride and the Laws of that Babylon which, he foresees, shall shortly be destroyed with the Spiritual and not the Natural Sword. He is in the State named Rahab; which State must be put off before he can be the Friend of Man.

You, O Deists! profess yourselves the enemies of Christianity, and you are so: you are also the enemies of the Human Race and of Universal Nature. Man is born a Spectre, or Satan, and is altogether an Evil, and requires a new Selfhood continually, and must continually be changed into his direct Contrary. But your Greek Philosophy, which is a remnant of Druidism, teaches that Man is righteous in his Vegetated Spectre – an opinion of fatal and accursed consequence to Man, as the Ancients saw plainly by Revelation, to the entire abrogation of Experimental Theory; and many believed what they saw, and prophesied of Jesus.

Man must and will have some religion; if he has not the religion of Jesus, he will have the religion of Satan, and will erect the synagogue of Satan, calling the Prince of this World God', and destroying all who do not worship Satan under the name of God. Will any one say:Where are those who worship Satan under the name of God?’ Where are they? Listen! Every religion that preaches Vengeance for Sin is the religion of the Enemy and Avenger, and not of the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, named by the Divine Name. Your Religion, O Deists! Deism is the worship of the God of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or Self-Righteousness, the selfish virtues of the Natural Heart. This was the religion of the Pharisees who murdered Jesus. Deism is the same, and ends in the same.

Voltaire, Rousseau, Gibbon, Hume charge the spiritually Religious with hypocrisy; but how a Monk, or a Methodist either, can be a hypocrite, I cannot conceive. We are Men of like passions with others, and pretend not to be holier than others; therefore, when a Religious Man falls into sin, he ought not to be call’d a hypocrite: this title is more properly to be given to a player who falls into sin, whose profession is virtue and morality, and the making men self-righteous. Foote, in calling Whitefield hypocrite, was himself one; for Whitefield pretended not to be holier than others, but confessed his sins before all the world. Voltaire! Rousseau! you cannot escape my charge that you are Pharisees and hypocrites; for you are constantly talking of the virtues of the human heart, and particularly of your own; that you may accuse others, and especially the Religious, whose errors you, by this display of pretended virtue, chiefly design to expose. Rousseau thought Men good by nature: he found them evil, and found no friend. Friendship cannot exist without Forgiveness of Sins continually. The book written by Rousseau, call’d his Confessions, is an apology and cloak for his sin, and not a confession.

But you also charge the poor Monks and Religious with being the causes of war, while you acquit and flatter the Alexanders and Caesars, the Louises and Fredericks, who alone are its causes and its actors. But the Religion of Jesus, Forgiveness of Sin, can never be the cause of a war, nor of a single martyrdom.

Those who martyr others, or who cause war, are Deists, but never can be Forgivers of Sin. The glory of Christianity is to conquer by Forgiveness. All the destruction, therefore, in Christian Europe has arisen from Deism, which is Natural Religion."

William Blake


#6

**amarischuk: **thanks for the recommendations! I have heard great things about Maritain, and I will definitely be looking into some of those authors/books soon.

Originally posted by Apolonio:
We cannot prove dogmas from reason. We can defend them by showing how they don’t contradict reason though.

I have always held to this Neo-Scholastic pillar, however, there are many strong arguments against it that are often troubling.

Bayle was of the opinion that philosophy runs in never-ending circles, and it is only good for attack, never defense. If anything can be refuted by Reason, then it’s almost not worth bothering to use it as a tool to defend one’s Faith.

The problem is, we don’t hold the Personalities and nature of God as separate. One nature and three distinct persons, just as the human person is one with two distinct (incomplete) substances, body and soul.

Our body and soul is still a part of our Person. In fact, together they constitute a person who is (according to Catholic doctrine) not complete without this union.Yes, the Trinity reveals distinct Persons. This is exactly what Bayle is citing as refutation for a self-evident Truth:

***Bayle ***Pyrrho ‘B’:
(2) It is evident that there is no difference between an individual, a nature, and a person. However, this same mystery [of the Trinity] has convinced us that persons can be multiplied without the individuals and the natures ceasing to be unique.

Interestingly, Bayle’s very next point (3) is that the mystery of the Incarnation proves that personality is merely accidental to the union of body and rational soul.

Originally posted by Apolonio:
That’s not a question for just Catholics though. That’s a whole epistemological question that is difficult to answer. But notice how the question is not about metaphysics itself, but epistemological. The Eucharist is a metaphysical reality. One can have epistemological problems with is, just as the problem of identity in itself is an epistemological problem, but there is nothing logically contradictory about it.

Yes, I can see how this may extend to outside the Church, but do we really have any reason to question the validity of a substance as a substance if we don’t believe in the mystery of the Eucharist?

Yes, a body cannot be in two places at once, but that’s only natural bodies. How does Locke know what a glorified body can do? Jesus’ body is a glorified Risen body and no one should say what it cannot do. Jesus walked through doors, which a normal human body can’t. So there are things a Glorified Body can do that a normal human body can’t.

I like this point, but again, it is a matter of Faith. Not only that, but it is an improbable matter of Faith. It’s enough to satisfy us Christians, but it will not satisfy anyone who doesn’t believe in traditional revelation. I think it is enough to defeat Locke on this point, though, as he believed revelation should demand assent even if improbable (but not directly contradictory) to Reason.

oriel36: I respect your view that our Faith should be “celebrated” rather than “defended,” however, didn’t God give us reasoning and intellect for a purpose? Would he ever reveal to us a Truth that destroys our understanding, an understanding that He has furnished us with?

William Blake’s Protestant viewpoint tends toward “Blind Faith,” whereas I prefer the Aquinian notion that Faith and Reason must be in harmony. The problem with Deists is not that their “Natural Religion” is destructive in itself, but that it is incomplete. One can live perfectly well on this Earth with a Deistic viewpoint, the government of the USA is a good testament to this fact (many Founding Fathers were Deists). Deism, however, suspends judgement on any revelation, and nothing that is not arrived at by clear Reason can be accepted as Truth. This is extremely shortsighted, and leaves too many unanswerable questions. Deism’s lack of any true direction leads to atheism, pluralism and moral relativism, which is where much of Western society is today.

Our Faith must not contradict our reasoning, but be upheld by it. If Reason is useless because Faith proves it as such, there is a serious problem, and we lose our grip on reality. I don’t believe God would furnish his greatest creation with such powerful intellect, only to destroy it by his Revelation. Yes, we must be humble and accept certain Mysteries which are above Reason, but can we ever really believe something that directly contradicts Reason? If so, then there is no way to know the Truth, and we’re all groping about in the dark. Can philosophy help us resolve this dispute? It has strong arguments on all sides!

Anyway, I have a lot more reading to do…


#7

[quote=Neithan]I have always thought that Christianity was special among religions, as it seems most in tune with “Natural Law,” the clear Truths of nature discoverable to us by our own observations and deductions. Christianity, to me, could always be argued by reason, up to the point where the Christian Mysteries defy our understanding, and the “Leap of Faith” must be made.
[/quote]

i think you’re right.

Recently, I read Pierre Bayle’s “Pyrrho” in which he completely rips apart any attempt to support Christian Faith through Reason, arguing from the point of view of the ancient skeptics, who suspended all judgement, and believed that nothing could be known for certain–that the Truth lies wholly hidden from us. Bayle argues that reason is useless, and mentions that Christian revelation proves this. For example, the basic axiom that if A is like B, and B is like C, than A is like C and A=B=C. Nowhere in reality are Personality, Nature, and Individual separate. Yet the mystery of the Trinity completely defies this. One God, one Nature, but three Persons!!! If this basic, “self-evident” Truth is not in fact True (as the Trinity reveals), how can we understand anything?

and here’s the key to all of these supposedly “rational” refutations: assumptions.

for instance, what exactly does bayle think constitutes “Personality”? howabout “Nature”? and “Individual”? i’ll bet my bottom dollar that he either tacitly assumes these things to be unexcetionable “basics” of his own philosophical framework, or he adopts definitions that are, in fact, highly controversial.

i mean, just in your summary of his position i can see that he makes an enormous error: if god is triune, then it’s false that “nowhere in reality are Personality, Nature, and Individual separate”, since they’re )allegedly) separate in god. of course, what he probably means is that they’re inseparable in the physical world. fair enough. but what’s that got to do with the price of tea in china or the possibility of a non-physical triune god?

Secondly, Bayle holds up Transubstantiation as a Truth-defying revelation. If the substance of the bread is changed into Christ, with the accident remaining, how do we know that a substance is truly a substance of anything, and not just its accident?

is this a serious objection? in order to motivate his point, he would have to, arguendo, accept the substance/accident distinction and the other background theology, in which case the answer is obvious: we know that substances correspond with the accidents inhering in them because ***that’s the way the world works UNLESS GOD TELLS US IT DOESN’T. ***where’s the problem?

look, there’s so much bad philosophy going on in bayle’s thought, that it’s difficult to know where to begin or where to stop…

i mean, at the most general level, he’s asking how we can know anything if we believe that we can sometimes be mistaken. ok, fair enough. but how does the doctrine of transubstantiation put catholics in a more precarious epistemological position than the possibility of error puts mathematicians and physicists and everyone else?

continued…


#8

How do we know Peter is really Peter, and not just the likeness of Peter? If Christ is fully present in the bread, that means that matter is penetrable, (refuting another “self-evident truth” that it is not penetrable to an indivisible point) and therefore erasing the definition of matter entirely, and all substance–spirit or matter–contain merely accidental qualities. When Christ physically becomes the bread He is condensing His body, something which matter–physical reality–can nowhere do. This destroys the distinction between spirit and matter.

i don’t understand what he’s getting at here. he sounds enormously confused.

Locke (who was in fact a proponent of reason to support faith) argued that Transubstantiation is impossible because it defies one of the most self-evident Truths of reality: that a body cannot be in two places at once. Yet if Christ can do this (as is revealed in the Eucharist), than God is revealing to us something which destroys all our understanding and renders our intellect null and void.

(A) i don’t think “self-evident” means what he thinks it means; for instance, when pressed, i don’t know of a philosopher (or anyone else) who can even give an uncontroversial definition of “place”, or its metaphysical root, “space”.

(B) again, if you accept that god can be in two places at the same time, then, a fortiori, being in two places at once is possible.

© this guy needs to do more epistemology; when confronted with two contradictory propositions, one merely sacrifices the less certain proposition. so. if you believe that it’s impossible for something to occupy two places simultaneously, and you also come to believe that god occupies two places at the same time, your intellect is hardly thereby rebdered “null and void” - just give up the proposition you believe less.

for me, it’s either “something cannot be in two places at the same time”, or my (tenuous) understanding of the ontology of “location”…

Basically, Bayle argued that we must forget reason and accept Christianity based on Faith. Ok, good. BUT, as Locke argued, this means that there is no way to argue against any other religion, and if reason is useless, than we have no right to claim that we hold the Truth, and other extravagant religions–no matter how apparently superstitious–do not. Since everything can be said to be “a matter of Faith” in which our natural reason is useless.

wrong wrong wrong.

can you demonstrate to me with deductive (i.e. cartesian) certainty that our senses are reliable? can you definitively prove that the world didn’t just pop into existence 5 minutes ago, complete with our memories and history books and old mountains, and such? can you provide indubitable proof that you are not being systematically deceived by an evil demon, or that you are not a brain in a vat in an alien lab, and that the world is just a hallucination?

no. of course not. but so what? does that mean that we are unable to know when there’s a bus coming toward us as we cross the street? or that the woman in bed next us is the one we married 5 years ago? again, no: deductive provability isn’t a necessary condition for knowledge. which means, of course, that it need be no more of a handicap for religious knowledge.

ne is still with me here, I’m basically asking this: How do we defend Christianity with reasonable arguments, when the fundamentals of our religion destroy our reasoning?

but they’re not destroyed. not even close.

Is there a good apologetic to both of Locke and Bayle’s viewpoints?

yes.


#9

[quote=Neithan]I have always thought that Christianity was special among religions, as it seems most in tune with “Natural Law,” the clear Truths of nature discoverable to us by our own observations and deductions. Christianity, to me, could always be argued by reason, up to the point where the Christian Mysteries defy our understanding, and the “Leap of Faith” must be made.
[/quote]

Excellent question, and well-worded.

If I may add one more apologetic school into the mix, I would propose the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God, or TAG for short, is IMHO the best weapon in the apologists arsenal for reasoning with atheists and agnostics.

The basic premises are simple, but a little difficult to grasp at first. But see if you can follow.

  1. The atheist and agnostic is essentially a materialist–they can only believe in material things. If they believe in immaterial things, like laws of logic they must give an account for why they accept them…i.e. prove they exist.

  2. The Christian Worldview allows for the material and the immaterial. We know nature is uniform because God created it that way and it reflects his unchanging character. We know there are moral absolutes (murder is wrong, etc.) because God has revealed His moral laws in Scripture. We know there are laws of science and logic, because God created the universe to yield to these laws and we can trust them to be reliable.

The atheist or agnostic is in a quandry. How can the atheist use laws of logic (which are immaterial–cannot be extended in space), if their own worldview cannot account for them? How can the atheist know that the sun will rise tomorrow? Because it rose yesterday? Well, that just proves that the sun rose every day up until yesterday…it doesn’t prove it will rise tomorrow. The atheist is trying to prove the sun will rise tomorrow using probability. The atheist cannot assume uniformity of nature like the Christian, because this is an immaterial law that cannot be extended in space.

Without laws of logic and uniformity of nature, the inductive principle is completely unreliable and useless. Science relies heavily on the inductive principle, so this makes Science useless. The atheist could not prove anything without these, so therefore, the atheist cannot actually know (with absolute certainty) anything. Knowledge is not possible outside of the Christian worldview which can account for Laws of Logic, Uniformity of Nature, and the Inductive Principle. The atheist’s worldview contradicts our every human experience–because we all know laws of logic are reliable and that nature is uniform…but the atheist, if he is honest, must say that they are not.

The Christian Theistic Worldview is the only worldview I have ever found that supplies all the preconditions for knowledge. It gives us those things that the atheist worldview cannot. Therefore, by arguing a disjunctive syllogism, the Christian Theistic Worldview must be true.

And remember, whenever an atheist relies on laws of logic to try to debate this…they are borrowing from the Christian Theistic Worldview to even use laws of logic. His worldview contradicts immaterial absolutes, so he is contradicting himself and proving the Christian Worldview to be true. The atheist becomes his own refutation.

If you’d like to hear an excellent (free) online debate that demonstrates this school of apologetics (presuppositionalism), check out the famous Greg Bahnsen vs. Gordon Stein debate at:

straitgate.com/gbgs.ram


#10

Bayle was of the opinion that philosophy runs in never-ending circles, and it is only good for attack, never defense. If anything can be refuted by Reason, then it’s almost not worth bothering to use it as a tool to defend one’s Faith.

Response:
I disagree. Yes, there is a limit to philosophy, and that is why you need revelation (of which you can know by faith). But I would submit that the Catholic faith cannot be refuted by reason. You said:

“Our body and soul is still a part of our Person. In fact, together they constitute a person who is (according to Catholic doctrine) not complete without this union.Yes, the Trinity reveals distinct Persons.”

Response:
Yes, but I used the analogy of body and soul since the union of the Persons is also one nature. I also don’t see anything contradictory of having one nature and three persons. I just can see the contradiction. Now, you can try to refute it by saying that such a thing never happens in the world, but we are talking about God, who is above man. This is a different degree of reality. If it is not logicall contradictory, then I don’t see why it is unreasonable to hold it.

You then said:

“I like this point, but again, it is a matter of Faith. Not only that, but it is an improbable matter of Faith. It’s enough to satisfy us Christians, but it will not satisfy anyone who doesn’t believe in traditional revelation. I think it is enough to defeat Locke on this point, though, as he believed revelation should demand assent even if improbable (but not directly contradictory) to Reason.”

Response:
I agree that it is a matter of faith. It may not satisfy non-Christians, but as long as it is sufficient to defeat potential defeaters, then we are warranted to hold such beliefs.

“Yes, I can see how this may extend to outside the Church, but do we really have any reason to question the validity of a substance as a substance if we don’t believe in the mystery of the Eucharist?”

Response:
If we do not have any reason to question the validity of a substance as substance, then I don’t see why I, as a Catholic, have the reason to question the validity of God making His substance present through the accidents of bread and wine. As long as there is no metaphysical contradiction, then I believe that I am warranted to hold such beliefs.


#11

Coach,

I have been attracted by the TAG. I have some questions about it.

  1. Is it a proof for God’s existence or a reason why I person may believe in God? For example, you said:

“If they believe in immaterial things, like laws of logic they must give an account for why they accept them…i.e. prove they exist.”

I believe that if the atheist must give an account of why they accept them, then the theist too must give an account of why they accept them. The problem is this. If the Christian says, “I believe in the laws of logic.” Why? “Because God exists.” But then, how do you know God exists? “Because of the laws of logic.” Isn’t that a little circular?

I think a better way to put it is how Plantinga put it. A person can be justified in the laws of logic, induction, moral values, etc because God gave him the cognitive faculties to hold such beliefs. How do we know God exists? The belief is that of a basic belief. Do you hold to the Plantingian view that the belief on God’s existence is a properly basic belief? If so, then I would agree with you. The thing is, isn’t there a difference between Plantinga and the presuppostionalist position?


#12

[quote=Apolonio]1) Is it a proof for God’s existence or a reason why I person may believe in God?
[/quote]

Greetings Apolonio, always a pleasure. TAG is actually a proof for God’s existence. It is reduced to:

The Christian Theistic Worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Without it, knowledge would be impossible, and we couldn’t know anything. This contradicts all human reason and experience.

I believe that if the atheist must give an account of why they accept them, then the theist too must give an account of why they accept them. The problem is this. If the Christian says, “I believe in the laws of logic.” Why? “Because God exists.” But then, how do you know God exists? “Because of the laws of logic.” Isn’t that a little circular?

This is where the argument is often misunderstood. The Presuppositionalist states at the beginning of the debate that the exisitence of God isn’t a simple factual question, like “is there a box of crackers in the pantry?”

Rather, it is a debate of worldviews. The atheist has completely different presuppositions than the Christian. For example, the Christian’s presuppositions allow for miracles and other supernatural explanations to problems. The atheist’s does not. When Johnny Atheist reads about Jesus turning the water into wine, he must reject the statement right out, even though he wasn’t there to witness it. The Christian’s worldview accepts and rejoices over Jesus’ miracle.

Herein lies the problem. Our worldviews consist of all our presuppositions. Because the atheist and the Christian are arguing from different frameworks, we must first debate our worldviews before we move on to the empirical reasons for God’s existence. We must be philosophically tough-minded and get to the root of our differences.

Now, circularity is unavoidable when arguing worldviews. Our presuppositions are our most basic, core, beliefs that are taken to be self-evident. One cannot prove their presuppositions without engaging in circular reasoning. However not all circles are valid or intelligible.

You see, laws of logic (being abstract, universal, and invariant) make sense in the Christian Theistic Worldview. But in the atheist world laws of logic must be chemical processes that happen in the brain. But my brain is different than your brain, so this sort of explanation for laws of logic dilutes them and they lose their law-like qualities (universal abstract invariants). Laws of logic make no sense in the atheistic universe.

I think a better way to put it is how Plantinga put it. A person can be justified in the laws of logic, induction, moral values, etc because God gave him the cognitive faculties to hold such beliefs. How do we know God exists? The belief is that of a basic belief. Do you hold to the Plantingian view that the belief on God’s existence is a properly basic belief? If so, then I would agree with you. The thing is, isn’t there a difference between Plantinga and the presuppostionalist position?

I haven’t read much of Platinga’s work with the Problem of Knowledge, but it looks like a watered down version of the TAG argument. From what I understand Platinga does not assert that he’s proving God’s existence, but the Presuppositionalist (or most of them) would say he is. Platinga does seem to hint that God is a precondition for knowledge, but I don’t see him latching on to that truth. Again, I’m ignorant here, but I hope I’ve cleared it up a little bit.

God bless,
c0ach


#13

The Christian Theistic Worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Without it, knowledge would be impossible, and we couldn’t know anything. This contradicts all human reason and experience.

Response:
What do you mean by Christian Theistic Worldview? Does that mean that one has to presuppose the Trinity in order for there to be knowledge, I’m not sure with that.

As far as presuppositions go, I think that one can only engage is circularity (if I may use the term) if we ware talking about self-evident such as principles of knowledge. Also, is there a limit to the presuppostionalist position? For example, the Jewish worldview may well agree with our basic presuppositions, but they do not believe in the Trinity.

Finally, with Plantinga, he is more concerned with warranted knowledge. For him, it is rational to believe in God because his cognitive faculties is made in such a way to discover Him (using Calvin’s sensus divinitatis).


#14

[quote=Apolonio]What do you mean by Christian Theistic Worldview? Does that mean that one has to presuppose the Trinity in order for there to be knowledge, I’m not sure with that.
[/quote]

What is meant by that is there are three worldviews that could possibly provide the necessary preconditions for knowledge (because they can account for uniformity of nature, laws of logic, moral absolutes, and the inductive principle). These are Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

I could not rationally defend any the other “gods” proffered by other religions. Each of them is either internally inconsistent or undermine human reason and experience. For example, the god of Hinduism, named Bhrahman, is defined as the universal soul of which all things are part. Hinduism teaches that all thinking (maya) is an illusion because it presupposes distinctions between different objects in the universe. Therefore, Hinduism destroys any system of rationality. Other religions such as Daoism and Shintoism speak of impersonal forces ruling the universe without volition or intelligence-these forces are less than humans. Buddhism stresses meditation to empty one’s mind of all content in order to drift away from consciousness of this world. Buddha taught that it is meaningless to look for an answer to God’s existence. Instead one should follow the “Noble Eight-fold Path” (a strict ethical system) to escape the world and the cycle of reincarnation. When this occurs, one achieves “nirvana.” Where does one go when one achieves nirvana? No answer is given-but the classical Buddhist will say the person ceases to exist. No rational answers are given for morals and laws of logic by the Buddhist.

Judaism and one offshoot, Islam, come closest to accounting for the inductive principle and use of laws of logic. However, both are internally inconsistent. For example, the Old Testament speaks of the need for blood atonement for the forgiveness of sins. Jews and Muslims of today no longer sacrifice animals for their forgiveness. It’s true that Christians do not either, however we have an answer for that: Jesus Christ is our blood atonement and His sacrifice was complete for us so that we no longer need to offer sacrifices for our sins.

As far as presuppositions go, I think that one can only engage is circularity (if I may use the term) if we ware talking about self-evident such as principles of knowledge.

I believe circularity is unavoidable when debating your presuppositions. Ask the Christian to prove one of his presuppositions: God created the earth and made it behave in a uniform fashion. It’s a presupposition, it can’t be proved. Ask the atheist to prove that laws of logic are universal and invariant. He can’t without circularity.

That’s why we move the debate to the worldviews themselves. We must test each worldview for internal consistency and test that each provides the necessary preconditions for knowledge. Only one worldview that I have found passes the test. That being the Christian Theistic Worldview.

Also, is there a limit to the presuppostionalist position? For example, the Jewish worldview may well agree with our basic presuppositions, but they do not believe in the Trinity.

Yes, but the Jewish worldview fails internally because it is no longer consistent with itself. When arguing with a Jew using TAG, one must revert to Christian apologetics. You must shape your argument based on whom you are reasoning with.

Finally, with Plantinga, he is more concerned with warranted knowledge. For him, it is rational to believe in God because his cognitive faculties is made in such a way to discover Him (using Calvin’s sensus divinitatis).

Yes, it’s rational, but why stop there? Why not move on to attack the atheist’s ability to know anything if she cannot rely on laws of logic, uniformity of nature, and the inductive principle. Remember Hume’s Problem of Induction? We must then point out that when the atheist uses laws of logic he is borrowing from our worldview. When he returns to his own he has no rational reason to warrant using abstract universal absolutes. How does he know they exist? He just assumes them within a framework that denies their very existence. :slight_smile:

God bless,
c0ach


#15

Hi,

Just a quick question to this excellent thread. Why is the use of Philosophy emphasized over the use of Theology to answer if Christianity can be argued by Reason? Thanks!


#16

john doran: you raise some excellent points. On closer examination, one can see that there are gaping holes in both Locke and Bayle’s logic. A major one that I find, is that both of them refuse to make exceptions for God, and leave out the possibility of miracles, as supernatural events which suspend Natural Law but do not violate its regular operation nor our understanding of it. As long as miracles remain strictly part of Revelation, either directly by God or passed down from tradition, we do not need to make concessions for their supernatural character.

Bayle even contradicts himselt at one point, mentioning that
[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial]“the more you elevate the power or right of God not to act according to our ideas, the more you destroy the one means you have left for proving the existence of bodies, namely, that God does not deceive us, and that he would if there were no corporeal world.” In other words, he cites the cartesian principle that God must act in such a way that we can understand, or else He deceives us, and this is unbecoming of a perfectly good God. The glaring contradiction is obvious: since Bayle is convinced that the Mysteries confound our Reason anyway, then he is already demonstrating that God does not always operate on a level which we can understand. [/font][/font]
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[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2]Strong Protestant influence can be seen in both Locke and Bayle, and I think that is the source of Bayle’s confusion and Locke’s heavy reliance on Reason, to the point of contention with established doctrines (transubstantiation).[/font][/size][/font]
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[size=2][font=Arial]i don’t understand what he’s getting at here. he sounds enormously confused.[font=Times New Roman][/font]

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[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2]He probably is confused, but my paraphrasing is bad. Basically he’s arguing that if Christ is changing his whole physical body into a loaf of bread (or chalice of wine), this is proving that matter is penetrable (that an indivisible particle of matter exists, which isn’t true), and that extension, a primary quality of matter, is in fact only an accidental characteristic, like colour. If Christ can transform his physical flesh into a loaf of bread, then matter can be taken apart and rearranged in a wholly different form (extend and unextend itself). If extension is accidental, then there is no real distinction between spirit, which is only unextended reality, and material, which is physically extended reality. [/font][/size][/font]
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*Originally posted by *

Kevin Walker: [/font]
[size=2][font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2]Why is the use of Philosophy emphasized over the use of Theology to answer if Christianity can be argued by Reason?[/size][/font][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2][/font][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2]It’s my understanding that Theology is primarily the study of Faith, whereas Philosophy is the use of Reason. Of course, Religion contains both Theology and Philosophy, or at least the major world religions do. It’s always been the Catholic Church’s conviction that the existence of God can be demonstrated (at least to a point of high probability) from the unaided Reason and that doctrines of Faith are always in harmony with Reason, without violating it. My question in this thread deals primarily with this last issue, whether Christian dogma is effectively argued by Reason (philosophy), which I believe it is, but many famous philosophers down through the ages vehemently disagree! That’s why we need Apologetics, which is mainly philosophical.[/font][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2][/font][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][font=Arial][size=2]I don’t think that a non-Christian militant atheist will be convinced by philosophical arguments for Christianity, but at least they can come to respect the fact that if one believes anything for certain, they have Faith (including atheists), and that Christians are by no means blind followers of imaginary superstition. On the contrary, the Christian Worldview makes the most sense of all (see
c0achmcquirk
’s exemplary post).

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#17

Coach,

Thanks for the exchange.

I agree with you to the extent that we must have a battle of the worldviews. I guess the difference with my approach is that I sometimes lower the standard to “which worldview is more reasonable.”

On the problem of induction, I don’t see why that presuppose God’s existence. My only response to that is that it is more plausible to believe that God exists because of induction than without it. I do not see how I can prove God’s existence through the problem of induction. I can say, “Well, God made our cognitive faculties in such a way that it is justified to beloeve ‘the future will be like the past.’” I don’t, however, see how that necessarily proves God’s existence. On the laws of logic, I think that’s where TAG is most effective. On the abstract universal absolutes, I agree with you there since it seems Augustinian to me. My question is, what is valid circularity and what is invalid? And what classical proof of God’s existence can a presuppostionalist believe to be valid?


#18

Kevin,

I agree with you that philosophy is sometimes over-emphasized. We have to remember that even Aquinas was a theologian before a philosopher. In fact, the best way (and maybe only way) of understanding Aquinas is through his theology. I agree with my Eastern Catholic and Orthodox brothers when they say that the West focuses too much on reason. Don’t get me wrong, I defend scholasticism, but too many times, we get the habit of doing too much. This leads to reductionism, which is basically using too much reason and neglecting mysteries. In other words, it is pride; it is saying, “I can use my own abilities to know truth.”


#19

[quote=c0achmcguirk]Yes, it’s rational, but why stop there? Why not move on to attack the atheist’s ability to know anything if she cannot rely on laws of logic, uniformity of nature, and the inductive principle. Remember Hume’s Problem of Induction? We must then point out that when the atheist uses laws of logic he is borrowing from our worldview. When he returns to his own he has no rational reason to warrant using abstract universal absolutes. How does he know they exist? He just assumes them within a framework that denies their very existence. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

well, that’s actually more or less precisely what plantinga does: begins with the common assumption that it’s possible to have knowledge, and then proceeds to demonstrate that the only way it’s really possible to have that knowledge is if our cognitive faculties are intelligently designed to be capable of it.


#20

It seems as though the movie Mulholland Drive allows us to actually ‘see’ how the sacraments work. Also, related to the sacrament idea, it seems to show us the nature of the freedom we have to philosophize or reason in the first place.


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