Non-Catholic Christians and philosophical proofs for the existence of God

Just curious, I was wondering if it was common for non-Catholic Christians to automatically reject philosophical proofs for the existence of God, for example the Kalam argument or the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas? And if this is so, why is it so? What is the basic reason for such an attitude?

Linus2nd

As someone who has had such arguments tossed my way more times than I can count, usually by Protestants, it doesn’t appear to be very common at all. However, you do run into people who put no stock whatsoever in philosophical arguments, but I see that on the agnostic/atheistic side of the debate as well as the theist/deist side (although typically for very different reasons).

On the non-believing side it’s typically people who are hard-core empiricists who distrust the idea that we can figure things out purely through intellectual means without having any concrete evidence to support it.

On the believing side it’s usually people who think that these philosophical matters are unnecessary (or in some cases dangerous) and that all we need is faith and the Bible.

Have you met any Sola Scriptura Christians who were also empiricists and who rejected philosophical proofs?

Linus2nd.

No, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Sola Scriptura Christian who could accurately be called an empiricist. The ones I’ve met who rejected philosophical proofs did so for different reasons.

Present.
I am not sure I would say I am a strict empiricist but reject logic based proofs. These proofs such as Kalam’s fall apart for reasons other than logic. For example the fourth premise in K-theory is that if the universe is caused then that cause is God. Most people who are agnostic/ ±atheist will reject this notion. I guess I would say that I reject proofs as proofs I like them as defeating +atheism or strengthening faith but beyond. If proofs existed that were cogent there would be no agnostics. I think getting rid of skepticism is pretty impossible for man. There is so much that could be said here. On a personally note I am more of a mix between imagism and Kantean idealism with a slice of mind body dualism. Where I lean depends on who I am talking to or what I am trying to defend or attack.

Can you recall what those reasons may have been?

Linus2nd

Oh, stuff like “arguments don’t matter because it’s the Holy Spirit that truly convinces people,” concerns that getting bogged down in philosophical matters is akin to “leaning on our own understanding” rather than simply trusting in the Bible, that sort of thing. And some have a quasi-self-depreciating approach, like “oh, I’m not smart enough to understand all those big words, but that’s okay because I have faith in Jesus.”

If people are academically oriented and intellectually inclined, they are usually interested in ‘proofs’ (and other favorable considerations). These subjects are always included somewhere in Protestant and Orthodox seminary courses, and always findable somewhere in Protestant and Orthodox theological library collections.

I’m a protestant. I’m also an instructor teaching these philosophical arguments at the college level. Not promoting them, just teaching them. :wink: What I have found is that these arguments are useful in some cases, and not so much in others. I would never reject them outright.

Some arguments that I find to be the weakest can be the strongest to someone else, so as a Christian apologist, I tend to discuss them all when I feel they would fit the conversation, or the person.

I highly recommend you listen to William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias or C.S Lewis. Nabeel Qureshi is an up and comer who will be amazing in the future using history and philosophy to prove Christ. We also have textual critics like Daniel B Wallace and I could probably make a pretty long list. Nabeel is mostly a historian and Wallace is a textual genius, but regardless we don’t just rely on blind faith and feelings at all.

Apologetics are becoming huge in Evangelism. Check out, “Cold Case Christianity” where detectives who are Christian use detective skills to prove Christ. Also, check out, “one minute apologist” on YouTube; quick answers to tough questions.

O.K., so the fact that I have encoundered one such person should be attributed to a personal idocracy?

Linus2nd

I’m not at all sure what you mean by “idocracy.” If you mean idiocy, I wouldn’t even go that far without knowing the specific reasons for rejecting the arguments.

It’s also possible (but less common in my experience) for a believer to reject arguments for the existence of God because the think that there are flaws in the argument or simply don’t find it convincing. I certainly wouldn’t think someone is an idiot for rejecting those arguments on those grounds since I’m like that myself.

In any case, while it isn’t necessarily uncommon to find Protestants who reject philosophical arguments for whatever reason, I wouldn’t consider it the norm and I wouldn’t make any judgments about such a person without knowing the details of their rejection.

idiocracy

Id`ioc"racy, n.; pl. Idiocrasies. [Idio- + Gr. ? a mixture, fr. ? to mix: cf. F. idiocrasie.] Peculiarity of constitution; that temperament, or state of constitution, which is peculiar to a person; idios ( from Dictionary.com ).

My spelling is pretty bad but so don’t throw rocks in the road :).

I’ll take your word on the question. I think I just got hold of a very strange personality. Thanks.

Linus2nd

My experience has been that these sorts of conversations are limited to the context of a cultural experience that relates to one belief structure among one species (what are currently modern humans) in the last two thousand years or so. The problem with this is that as a species, we are part of a much bigger story than that. In our current permutation as modern humans, we have been around for some 200,000 years, so this point of view always points to a belief that God waited 194,000 years for the development of Judaism to occur before having some level of meaningful contact or relationships with humans. It is likely that early human cultures had a variety of relationships with God that resonated in accordance with their ability to relate to the world around them. What happened in Palestine 2,000 years ago is likely just one of these, and of course it has resonated for a brief time thus far in comparison with other such relationships such as Animists, Hindus and the like, which persist even today.

In the long-term, it is of course possible that our species will continue to exist for many thousands of years still, and in the process, we will continue to evolve if we don’t destroy ourselves. And it is possible that our rate of evolution is about to change dramatically through genetic engineering, bionics and other technologies that will likely place us in a category of being something on the order of “post-human” as a species within the next 70 years or so, if not sooner. Even if unaided by technology assisted self-evolutionary efforts that are currently underway, natural processes on their own will change us dramatically within the next 60,000 years or so. This is a seemingly untenable problem when seeking a transcendent and unchanging truth as applied to our relationship with God, because the conduit we currently use as our link with God will at that point be from an earlier species. It is fairly certain that our view of who and what we worship will have to change as well, although it’s possible that it will just become a component of a larger story much in the way that Lord Hanuman (A Neanderthal from the Hindu classic The Ramayana) is still worshipped by may today as part of the larger Hindu corpus of relationships and experiences of God.

I’m offering the idea that maintaining one static and everlasting concept of a God who emanates from the experience of one culture during the iron age within an ever changing species among countless others is already becoming a rather limited enterprise, and the product of a rather myopic view that is becoming for me at least, increasingly difficult to maintain. My ability to reason allows for the Judeo-Christian experience to be part of the story from which the whole might be observed, but certainly not in and of itself the whole story and consequently not the whole truth. Whether our connection with God is through plants, animals, Jesus or whatever might be the case, these are in fact connections that are very deeply a part of our personal felt experience, and therefore I have never felt that it is necessary for me to prove Christ to anyone. As a Catholic, Christ is my shamanic connection to the underlying and pervasive essence of the source of conscious awareness, no more or less than someone who might have an experience of the same through certain types of mushrooms, plants, chemical compounds, belief systems or simply through day to day life.

Just my point of view.

The issue is that Holy Scripture presupposes the existence of God. “In the beginning, God…” and so on it goes. There’s no attempt to prove that God exists. Even the name of God in the Old Testament, “I Am That I Am”, would seem to exclude that philosophic systems designed by men could approach God in that way. What we have in the Bible is revelation - God has revealed himself to us. We should acknowledge God’s revelation of himself, which is contained in the pages of the Bible, and not try to reveal him in other ways which he does not sanction.

Good Evening Indifferently: I understand your belief that God is revealed in scripture, and I agree with that. However, I think that God is revealed in al things, especially in individual felt experience. I’m suggesting that the very purpose of our existence is experience with all of its diversity. Love, anger, union with God, separation from God, health or the lack thereof, a day at the park, a day at the job, anything that has meaning, such as the love of the people around us - all of these things are experience. Experience is the essence of life, and therefore in my opinion, the purpose if life. While scripture is a good cultural reference, I think that it is our purpose as the human component of the greater whole to focus on our own experience, especially in our own experience of God, and everything everywhere is an expression God, who is the source from which all things come. While the stories in scripture are good references from which to learn and understand the context of our cultural background, the imperative is to make our own stories and get our own shows on the road. Our lives and the experiences we create are what is needed from us, and in turn how we fulfill our purpose. I think it is far greater to study the many contexts of our own lives than to spend too much time studying the lives the people in scripture. We write our own stories of humanity’s relationship to God every day, and it is of little use if the stars of the show are busy reading someone else’s parts. God is revealed in you and in me as much as in any scripture, so I think we should get to know ourselves and make our own stories the best we can imagine.

Have you read any Thomistic philosophy? Are you familiar with the Five Ways by which he attempts to demonstrate the existence of God? Have you been taught in your Church that it is wrong to attempt such demonstrations? Or is your current opinion just something you have come up with on your own? The reason I ask is that there was a time, as late as the 17 hundreds, when all university students in England and in Europe did study philosophy, and many of them studied Thomistic philosophy and most of them would have been familiar with his Five Ways. But that is no longer true today.

Linus2nd

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