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The Mystery of God (Sample + DVD Giveaway!)

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Atheism is on the rise. Skeptical thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris vigorously attack belief in God as irrational or, even worse, dangerous. The so-called New Atheism has attracted millions of young people thanks to bestselling books such as The God Delusion and God Is Not Great.

In The Mystery of God, a new six-part film series and study program, Strange Notions contributor Bishop Robert Barron responds to this trend by teaching into the rich intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church. Using the insights of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI, and more, he uncovers a clear yet sophisticated understanding of what Catholics mean by “God".

Who is God? And why does he matter? Watch this series and find out.
 

 
The six lessons in the film series cover:

  • Lesson 1 - Atheism and What We Mean by "God"
  • Lesson 2 - St. Thomas Aquinas and the Paths to God
  • Lesson 3 - The Divine Attributes
  • Lesson 4 - Providence and the Problem of Evil
  • Lesson 5 - Exploring the Trinity
  • Lesson 6 - The God Who Is Love

Click below to watch a sample of the entire Lesson 1 on "Atheism and What We Mean by 'God'":
 

 
The DVD/Blu-ray series also features an accompanying study guide by another Strange Notions contributor, Trent Horn, staff apologist at Catholic Answers. Click below to download a sample from the study guide:

MOG-DownloadSampleStudy

Thanks to the good folks at Bishop Barron's Word on Fire ministry, today we're giving away 5 sets of the Mystery of God Leader's Kit. Each Leaders Kit comes with the Mystery of God DVD set, the Leaders Guide, and the Pocket Guide to Answering Atheists.
 


Whether you win or not, learn more about the series and pick up your copy at MysteryOfGod.com.

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

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  • David Nickol

    There was little or nothing in the video that came from what Jesus had to say about God. What if Jesus had preached this kind of thing to his apostles?

    • Rob Abney
    • Mike

      the bible is full of what he said to his apostles.

  • Rob Abney

    The apostles were devout Jews and didn't need to be taught the mystery of God. They needed to know that God could elevate humanity through his incarnation.

    • David Nickol

      I dare say that the apostles, as devout Jews of the first century, would have been absolutely bewildered by the debates of the Council of Chalcedon, and if the works of Thomas Aquinas could have been translated into Aramaic and made available (by time machine) to the apostles, they would not have known what to make of them. The "real" God that Bishop Barron talks about is conceptualized in Greek philosophy, a system of thought that would have been foreign to the apostles.

      Jesus spoke of God as a loving father, not as "ipsum esse."

      • Rob Abney

        The apostles would need 1200 years of accumulated thought about Jesus to need to understand ipsum esse, that was what Aquinas had to work with.
        I would liken your concern for the apostles' bewilderment to saying that a medieval artist wouldn't know what to make of the latest techniques in digital photography. The medieval artist and the apostles were working with the fundamentals, Aquinas and the digital photographer are working with those fundamentals as the foundation of what they know.

        • David Nickol

          The apostles would need 1200 years of accumulated thought about Jesus to need to understand ipsum esse . . . .

          Digital photography is a matter of science and technology. You are right that the apostles would need centuries of accumulated though to understand Aquinas, but centuries of accumulated thought doesn't necessarily amount to accumulated knowledge.

          Assuming the God is a person and that Jesus was God incarnate, who would know God better, those with two thousand years of accumulated thought, or those who lived with him on a daily basis for a year (or two, or three)? This is an especially penetrating question, it seems to me, in light of the fact that the Catholic Church claims all public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.

          I acknowledge that Aquinas was a brilliant philosopher. But he was only a philosopher. Why should we assume he knew any more about God than any other philosopher? He was not divinely inspired. He could not produce any new knowledge about God.

          As I am typing this, I am thinking about how fascinating it is that two great branches of Christianity could split after a thousand years largely over one word: filoque.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm still wondering if you've ever read Aquinas. I understand that you could surely google his writings but he's not like wikipedia, you have to spend a lot of time to understand him.

            I agree that the Orthodox church probably split off due to one word but the word was: authority.

          • Robert Macri

            I acknowledge that Aquinas was a brilliant philosopher. But he was only a philosopher

            Aquinas was hardly only a philosopher. There is a reason that the Church declares him both a saint and a doctor of the church.

            Why should we assume he knew any more about God than any other philosopher? He was not divinely inspired. He could not produce any new knowledge about God.

            He did not produce any new truth, only greater understanding... just as a scientist does not produce any new physical law when discovering a deeper truth of nature. Nature does not change merely because a scientist understands it better.

            Such it is with the faith. The church does indeed hold that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle (private revelation is another matter), but that does not mean that the disciples of the apostles understood the deposit of faith in all its fullness (which would be impossible for anyone, even the apostles themselves), or that God would not grant great wisdom to comprehend that faith to peoples of a later age. We are, after all, speaking of knowledge of the infinite God, "that than which nothing greater can be thought", and that which the whole world cannot contain.

            An acorn holds the complete blueprint of the tree within its DNA... there is nothing lacking in the genetic code which must be added later. Nevertheless, more and more of that blueprint is revealed to us as it grows first into a sapling, then a mighty oak. Has it evolved? Yes. Is it the same? Yes!

            The full deposit of faith was "planted" through the apostles, but our understanding of it has naturally grown through the centuries, though it remains the same faith, without contradiction. All the Church's many councils and deliberations have been aimed at understanding and faithfully delving into the faith which Christ gave his apostles. (Usually they did this to correct some current misunderstanding, not just for the fun of theorizing.)

            Furthermore, we hold that Christ did not just leave us a book (scriptures) from which we derive a simple and static theology, but rather a tradition (scriptural AND non-scriptural) as well as the authority to interpret and teach the faith (this authority we call the magisterium of the church) which Jesus himself gave to Peter the first pope in communion with the bishops (apostles).

            "There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written." (Jn 21:25)

            "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)

            As I am typing this, I am thinking about how fascinating it is that two great branches of Christianity could split after a thousand years largely over one word: filoque.

            The schism between east and west over the word filioque illustrates the sacred duty of the magisterium quite well: The church took its mandate to faithfully proclaim the apostolic teaching so seriously that not even one word of that truth could be allowed to be removed, even if doing so would have prevented a schism. So convinced was the church that the creed (with the filioque intact) faithfully represented the apostolic faith that she could not for any reason proclaim anything else. Her solemn charge is to proclaim the truth, not equivocate or placate.

            The schism remains a sad reality (and I do not know what kind of diplomacy might have prevented it), but it cannot be healed by a deviation from truth revealed by Christ through the apostles and safeguarded by the teaching authority of the church.

          • Mike

            "An acorn holds the complete blueprint of the tree within its DNA... there is nothing lacking in the genetic code which must be added later. Nevertheless, more and more of that blueprint is revealed to us as it grows first into a sapling, then a mighty oak. Has it evolved? Yes. Is it the same? Yes!"

            Very nice.

          • Robert Macri

            Thanks, though it's not original to me. I can't remember where I heard this or something similar before (possibly from Bishop Barron's Catholicism series), so I didn't attempt a reference.

      • Mike

        sometimes you folks really flatter the greeks.

  • Doug Shaver

    Skeptical thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris vigorously attack belief in God as irrational or, even worse, dangerous.

    So, the apologist says, "Many of us Christians are not guilty of the crimes for which they indict Christianity." Very well. Many of us atheists are not guilty of the intellectual crimes for which apologists indict Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

    • Peter

      Although you may not vigorously attack it, you also consider belief in God to be irrational, otherwise you would be a believer yourself.

      • Doug Shaver

        Although you may not vigorously attack it, you also consider belief in God to be irrational

        We all hold some irrational beliefs. It's part of the human condition. I do not regard theists collectively as more irrational than atheists collectively. I also do not regard theism per se as the worst kind of irrationality to which human beings have ever succumbed.

  • David Hardy

    I will focus my comment on the video, rather than the post.

    I will grant that some atheists misunderstand religions that they may discuss, but will add that the same is true of theists misunderstanding other religions as well as atheistic positions.

    On the non-competition of God. I have no objection to the concept of God presented. However, while some atheists may object to God as an idea as a competitor we have created, this is not a good reason to be an atheist. To be an atheist is to believe that God does not exist, not that it may not be desirable that God exists. However, many atheists using these examples are providing a reason to try and convert people to an atheistic position, not prove the atheistic position itself. The position being discussed is that the idea of God has a negative effect, so it should be removed. It is not a position all atheists share (myself included).

    On the "yeti theory of God". It is fine to use this by saying you can't find God as a thing in the universe. The problem arises because many atheists ask for evidence that supports the idea that there is a God. The general position of atheists I have known (and my own), is that the universe does not appear to indicate that God exists. If you say that you cannot look to the universe to find support for or challenges to the idea that God exists, I would say that you are holding to your belief, whether theistic or atheistic, without regard to evidence.

    Perhaps the best example of this in the video is the statement about God being nowhere in the universe and everywhere in the universe. Once you form a paradox such as this, anything can be presented as God acting in the world, and anything can be dismissed as God not acting in the world. For example, good things can be presented as God acting with cooperation from the person, while bad things can be presented as a privation of the good and people not cooperating with God. Where we see things that support God existing, it is showing God is there since he is everywhere. Where we see things that run contrary to God's purported qualities, it is showing God is not there (that is to say, others are not cooperating with God and there is a privation from the good/God). Another example would be the idea that the world is formed and sustained according to a sentient and sapient divine Will, while also being able to grant the most of the known universe shows none of the characteristics of observable sentient and sapient creatures. This sort of thinking becomes immune to challenge.

    • Mike

      "the universe does not appear to indicate that God exists"

      could you name 2-3 things that if they were found in the universe would appear to indicate that God DOES exist?

      • 1. A lack of any apparent gratuitous suffering
        2. A god that is not hidden to non-resistant unbelievers
        3. A healing of amputees by visiting holy healers or sites
        4. A statistically significant result in the effectiveness of prayer
        5. A bible that doesn't portray god as commanding genocide and stoning children to death

        • Mike

          1. would mean we were way more evolved and therefore much more adapted to feeling pain/suffering.

          2. would result in God being integrated into naturalism.

          3. would mean there were natural laws that we hadn't figured out yet.

          4. would mean that there was a natural connection between mental thoughts and outcomes in the physical world

          5. "god as commanding stoning children to death" YIKES! Even for an atheist that's a good one! but a bible like that would still be just a book written by some old dude.

          • None of these would be absolute proof of a god, but they are what we would expect to see on some versions of Christianity.

          • Mike

            "None of these would be absolute proof of a god"

            they are pretty weak compared to the 5 ways as yours rely on statistics and probabilities.
            .
            "what we would expect to see on some versions of Christianity"

            well that's opinion again as apparently lots of ppl see these kinds of indicators and others.

          • The 5 ways depend on accepting premises that are unjustified. We haven't seen any of these presented on SN for I think over a year. They generally argue from ignorance or are circular.

          • Mike

            "that are unjustified"

            well back to the beginning we come: of course you think they are bc you only accept empiricism to be true but that's just begging the question.

            anyway your exs of what would make God more likely show that you have a straw man God in your sights but i know you disagree.

          • "you only accept empiricism to be true" this not the case. Who is straw manning now? But the existence of a God is, I put it to you, an empirical question. It is not an exercise in abstract logic.

            I am happy to discuss any definition of God you have and what basis you have for thinking it exists. The last thing I would want to do is attack a straw man.

          • Mike

            ok well if not empiricism then what? materialism? but that just means matter and so unless you can touch Gods little finger tips and verify they are indeed God's you'll dismiss them.

            God has to exist, bc ultimate reality un derived reality must exist; it's a matter of simple logic, the chain has to end at some point and we know that this reality is Contingent therefore something must be not contingent but existence itself.

          • I don't know what question you are asking? I would identify my epistemology as one of skeptical empiricism. Meaning I believe things if there is empirical evidence (including indirect evidence) for them that passes through some critical thinking reality checks. I am also a materialist in the sense that my epistemology has led me to believe that material is fundamental, and I have no reason to believe that there is anything other than material. "Material" being: all matter/energy, including space/time. This does not mean I do not accept truth values of abstract logical concepts. But rather, I do not believe concepts of abstraction relate to anything that exists in any sense.

            I certainly do not need to touch something or even sense it to believe it exists, or existed. There are any number of ways to reasonably believe in the existence of something through indirect means.

            "we know that this reality is Contingent" I dispute this claim. I do not think we have any basis to assert that premise. How do you justify it? How do you tell the difference between this reality being contingent and necessary? I can't think of how to distinguish between these.

          • Mike

            "I ... accept truth values of abstract logical concepts...I do not believe they relate to anything that exists in any sense."

            you accept the truths YET you do not believe they relate to ANYTHING that exists in ANY sense.

            i am sorry brian but you contradict yourself.

            WHY should you accept things if they relate to nothing?

            if i were an atheist i would be an honest one and say nothing has any intrinsic value at all bc there is nothing but matter and random meaningless variations there of.

          • I don't think it is a contradiction. Some concepts do relate to things that actually exist, others relate to imaginary or fantastic imagery. Others still are pure abstraction. I think what you are getting at is that mental activity must always be related to something that is not material. I don't see how that follows. You'll have to help me see a contradiction.

            I mean, maybe you're right, these abstractions generally do relate to material things in some sense. Like the number two, it relates to material things that I assign the of unit to. What I'm saying is that I don't accept an ontological existence of "two" itself. Not the platonic sense.

            I would ask you to refrain from calling me dishonest. I don't think I have been. I think I have been frank and honest.

            Now you move on to questions of value. You had not raised this before. I don't think ever said things have intrinsic value. What do you mean by "intrinsic"? I do not think anything has an ultimately objective value. But I'm not sure theists do either. Rather they say they do, but they mean things have value relative to a god. I do hold many things of great value however. And these values are virtually universally shared.

            I have to say, I'm not hearing any argument from you rather statements that I am being dishonest and incoherent. It no demonstration that I am. You are welcome to disengage if you don't find this interesting.

          • Mike

            "I do not think anything has an ultimately objective value"

            ok from this i believe follows simply that morality is a useful fiction but you disagree and that i think is incoherent but you disagree.

            ok thx for engaging. i don't think youre dishonest with me i think you're dishonest with yourself!

          • No I do not think morality is a fiction. Though I do think it is useful. Call me mistaken, but I do take serious issue with you calling me dishonest.

            first of all you raised the issue of "intrinsic value" above, not "morality". These are not the same thing. You and I likely are referring to different things when we speak of morality.

            What I mean, when I say morality, is conduct that should be undertaken with respect to values that are nearly universally shared by humans, namely well being and human autonomy. We can be pretty objective about our conduct with respect to these values. It is not something I can say is not relative both to an individual's own values, but more importantly to how one assesses these values. I think these are difficulties both under my system and under a theistic morality that accepts intrinsic value exists and there is an absolute objective moral standard.

            The only real difference is that I act as if things have intrinsic value, human beings, human autonomy. And I act as if I can be objective about them. But I recognize that I would not be warranted in claiming these are intrinsically valuable or being sure if my behaviour is objective. I recognize I am not a perfect being and can be mistaken about these things. I would prefer if things did have intrinsic value and that there was an absolutely objective moral standard about which I could be absolutely sure. But my preferring that state of affairs does not mean that this IS the state of affairs. Great harm has occured from people believing there was such a state of affairs and letting this drive their behaviour.

            At the end of the day, I cannot demonstrate absolutely to myself that intrinsic value is true or what an absolutely perfect moral standard is. Neither has anyone done this for me. So I don't claim that these things are true and I admit what my values are based on. For me, ultimately they are intuitive. I have a strong strong feeling that humans have intrinsic value and that their well being and respect for their autonomy are of paramount importance. But intuition and feelings are not a reliable basis to claim something is absolutely true or objective. Quite the opposite! So I don't appeal to absolute standards, I appeal to other humans sharing these values, and fortunately the overwhelming majority of people do share these values. So our moral debates are not about what is valuable, but in balancing these values. How bad does a parent need to be before we take her child away from her? These questions turn on their facts and the answers are not always clear.

            I don't see any fiction or dishonesty in this.

          • Mike

            "ultimately they are intuitive."

            the problem here is only with the word 'ultimately'

            again how can you judge me if my intuitions are different? i mean you can put me in jail or kill me but ultimately you can't judge me by my actions bc they are "ultimately" as you say based on mere intuitions.

            different strokes for diff folks works very well if you're in the in crowd in the powerful group.

            i was just being "effervescent" when i said you were dishonest with yourself.

            look you believe that there's a way out of this conundrum without conceding that morality must be objective or it is no morality at all but ppl have thought that for thousands of years and have gone to EXTREME lengths to prove it to THEMSELVES! but there is no way out imho.

          • By ultimate, I just mean this is as far as I can go in justifying the values that I hold. Can you go further? What are your values based on?

            Do you have a way out? Is there a way to tell if there is a perfect and objective moral standard? If there is how do we know what it is? If we disagree on a moral principle how do we tell which is correct?

          • Mike

            the natural law is a good place to start. how do we know what a "good" squirrel is? what does it mean to be a "good" cactus or a "good" cow? we are animals with immanent natures per AT philosophy. we thrive in certain situations but not in others. what does a human being naturally tend towards?

            there is no doubt if you are a naturalist that we are 100% part of nature and as nature ordains what this bird does and what this worm does and what makes it successful so too does it include us...we should investigate what it is that makes us flourish.

            and here we begin thousands of years of western civilization's development of theories and notions of virtues, vices, sin, morality, ethics, human rights and on and on and on.

            btw it is a very difficult task obviously but then again look most ppl used to not believe in the intrinsic value of human beings no matter their race or social standing and yet today these beliefs are acknowledge almost universally...the muslim world is a notable exception.

          • With respect to the questions in the first paragraph, I am equally at a loss to say what a good squirrel is or what humans tend towards. By what standard am I to assess the goodness in squirrels? How to I assure myself that this standard is objective?

            You seem to be suggesting that we observe animals and cultures and look for patterns, that we use our intuition to assess these things morally. This is indeed the basis of the morality I identify above. But I must keep in mind that the standard for assessment here is intuitive. And intuition seems to be the opposite of an objective basis for something. Much less a route to a perfect and absolute objectivity.

          • Mike

            ok i don't want to debate natural law theory but i think it is at least grounded in physical reality.

            anyway brian thx for engaging...i really enjoyed it.

          • Fine if you don't want to debate, but I do take this as a concession that you too do not have a way of justifying your moral decisions on any ultimately objective standard.

            We do not know if there is a perfectly moral standard, but if there is one, we cannot know what it is, because we are not perfect. So we can never know if our actions are moral on an absolutely objective standard - theist or atheist. Additionally, since we cannot confirm the existence of a perfectly moral standard, we cannot proclaim its existence as evidence of the existence of any gods, even if one could only exist by way of a god.

          • Mike

            no of course i don't concede that for a minute...anyway thx again!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Fallacy of the converse. A --> B does not mean that B-->A.

            Brian says that if God exists then we would see 1,2,3,4, and 5.

            If this is true, we are not required to accept that the presence of 1,2,3,4, and 5 --> God. Your objection does not work.

          • Mike

            "Brian says that if God exists then we would see 1,2,3,4, and 5"

            he's beg the q. my point was to expose the straw man that he has in mind.

      • David Hardy

        I will aim for things that would be the strongest responses, and assume we are talking about the Christian God. Some of these are stronger than others, but any would give me serious pause to my position as an atheist.

        1) Consistent mundane or miraculous intervention in response to evil that requires either knowledge or power beyond what the humans involved possessed, either to prevent it or protect the innocent.

        2) Consistent direct, intelligible messages to prayer that even an unbeliever was able to recognize as divine in its source, especially in response to doubts about the existence of God.

        3) The discovery of clear signs of sapience in the basic structural components of matter, such as reorganizing to communicate messages. For that matter, widespread signs of sapience in objects that have no recognizable structure to support sapience.

        4) Inconsistencies in how the universe operates that indicate discernment and decision-making, and thus adaptation, are occurring in how the universe operates.

        5) Miraculous events recorded and repeated in controlled conditions with no discernible natural cause, including a clear message within the events that they are created by God to demonstrate His existence.

        • "I will aim for things that would be the strongest responses, and assume we are talking about the Christian God. Some of these are stronger than others, but any would give me serious pause to my position as an atheist."

          Thanks for sharing these, David. They're really interesting. Since I assume you posted them in order of *strongest* expectation, I'll only tackle the first:

          "1) Consistent mundane or miraculous intervention in response to evil that requires either knowledge or power beyond what the humans involved possessed, either to prevent it or protect the innocent."

          A number of things in this response leave me curious:

          1. Why would you expect that if the Christian God exists, "consistent mundane or miraculous intervention" would necessarily follow? This doesn't seem at all obvious or expected, and in fact I don't know any Christians who think God's existence necessarily entails this sort of involvement.

          2. How exactly would you define "consistent"? Would God intervening in 10 miracle cases worldwide, per year, be enough? 100? 500?

          3. How would you know whether a particular intervention occurred if, in fact, it did? For example, suppose God has miraculously prevented several tsunamis from destroying innocent villages. How would you know they have been prevented?

          I guess I see no reason at all to hold this expectation, if God existed, but even if you did hold it, there would be no way to concretely affirm it. So I struggle to see how it would be among "the strongest responses," in your mind.

          • David Nickol

            How about Mark 16:15-18:

            He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

            Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

            Why don't bishops have these same powers today? Most biblical scholars say Mark was not the author, but the Catholic Church nevertheless accepts this part of the ending of Mark's Gospel to be canonical.

            According to the Gospels, Jesus worked miracles constantly. He gave the power to his apostles to do the same thing. Where, along the way, was that power lost, and why? When was the last time a bishop or pope did something miraculous?

          • Rob Abney

            The question is, why don't you believe them when they do occur? Such as these attributed to St. Pope John Paul II.
            http://abcnews.go.com/International/miracles-put-pope-john-paul-ii-fast-track/story?id=23467594

            Or the many attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes?
            http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/lourdes/miracles1.html

          • David Nickol

            An entirely different issue. My question was why bishops do not have the powers granted to the apostles by Jesus. Pope John Paul II and the Virgin Mary are not even alive.

            The few alleged miracles I have delved into (for example, the case of Monica Besra and the tumor she claims was cured by Mother Teresa) have been very dubious. As for the two alleged miracles attributed to Pope John Paul II, there have been cases of spontaneous remission of Parkinson's disease and spontaneous healing of cerebral aneurisms. As has been discussed on Strange Notions many times, all we see are "possible" miracles in these cases, but "impossible" miracles (e.g., the regrowth of an amputated limb) never happen. Why?

            I am not saying miracles don't happen. I am open to the possibility. But I have never seen rock solid evidence of one.

          • Mike

            "seen rock solid evidence of one."

            do you believe in them in principle?

          • David Hardy

            Since I assume you posted them in order of *strongest* expectation, I'll only tackle the first:

            Actually, I posted them as they came to me. Since the problem of evil has been a topic on this site recently, I suspect this is why it was first. I would actually rate the second or the fifth as the strongest. However, the first would be strong enough to make me seriously reconsider my atheistic position.

            1. Why would you expect that if the Christian God exists, "consistent mundane or miraculous intervention" would necessarily follow?

            I would expect it as evidence of a benevolent God, acting on the ethical duty or at least the ethical virtue that a father should or desires to protect his children when they are in danger.

            2. How exactly would you define "consistent"?

            Intervening as often as would a concerned human father who knew his children were in danger and had the power to intervene.

            3. How would you know whether a particular intervention occurred if, in fact, it did? For example, suppose God has miraculously prevented several tsunamis from destroying innocent villages.

            A fair point, but one that does not change the fact that many evil events are not prevented. It would also be possible for God to intervene in a way that made clear evil could have occurred or was occurring and He was intervening to stop it (relates to my 5th reason). I would also say that this sort of clear intervention was quite common in the bible - God would either directly declare or, more often, declare by prophet that he would intervene in a certain way, and then he did.

            I guess I see no reason at all to hold this expectation, if God existed, but even if you did hold it, there would be no way to concretely affirm it.

            My point with this, and with other points, is that they would involve God affirming His existence. Look to the bible, and you see miraculous events, accurate prophecy, and an incarnate figure working miracles. Religious people point to these things to support their faith. For example, Jesus working miracles is pointed to, both by Jesus in the stories and people since, as proof that he is divine. I am saying that, if God exists, He could continue to do these things to convince non-believers, as he did in the bible, and these would not be observable only as things that happened in stories purported to be true.

        • Peter

          What you are advocating is a universe of utter and total chaos. Our world is far from being heaven, but you would turn it into hell.

          You want to take away the universal and unchanging laws of nature and replace them with a chaotic scenario where they only intermittently and sporadically apply, where they are superceded arbitrarily and randomly by ad hoc supernatural events.

          Life would be meaningless since no would trust any outcome of their actions, either in the short run or long run. There would be no cause and effect, no rational sequence of events, no logic, no progress, only chaos.

          • David Hardy

            What you are advocating is a universe of utter and total chaos. Our
            world is far from being heaven, but you would turn it into hell.

            I am advocating for none of the points I offered. I am pointing to what would indicate the existence of God.

            You want to take away the universal and unchanging laws of nature and
            replace them with a chaotic scenario where they only intermittently and
            sporadically apply, where they are superceded arbitrarily and randomly
            by ad hoc supernatural events.

            None of my points require this. Consistent intervention to evil, consistent response to prayer, consistent communication, consistent or rare but clear signs of sapience in the universe, consistent messages in controlled conditions. The key is that all of the things I offered, except the fourth, could be provided with the same consistency as any other natural event. The fourth could occur rarely, as is purported to happen in the bible when miraculous events occur.

            The rest of your position appears to be unwarranted, since, as I said, none of these proofs would require overturning the laws of reality in any widespread or continuous way. Most would not require overturning any laws of reality at all, and any would be a strong form of evidence.

          • Peter

            Just for starters, what would you class as evil or prayer to warrant intervention? Where would you draw the line?

          • David Hardy

            The line may be blurry at times, so I will instead veer far past it to hopefully avoid argument over whether this crosses the line -- The torture and murder of children warrants intervention.

          • Peter

            Yes, but evil is not only action but inaction. If you stand by instead of helping someone in need, is that not evil even though you have harmed no-one? Would that not also warrant intervention? If so, what chaos would befall the world!

          • David Hardy

            Yes, but evil is not only action but inaction. If you stand by instead
            of helping someone in need, is that not evil even though you have
            harmed no-one?

            I agree. Therefore, God's inaction, should He exist, is evil. More on this below.

            Would that not also warrant intervention? If so, what chaos would befall the world!

            The intervention would be towards the evil act. Inaction is only evil if no one acts. If people watch a crime, but see trained police officers intervening to prevent it, their inaction is not evil. Moral responsibility to intervene falls most heavily on those most equipped to intervene with knowledge of the situation.

        • Mike

          thx but i'll confess my only point was to expose the straw man god that you have in mind. and so like brain you also have a god in mind that is more familiar to dawkins et al than to classical theism. let me quickly show you what i think is the prob with all your examples.

          btw i wouldn't believe in christianity if this was the god it worshipped.

          1. if it was consistent you'd conclude a natural law at work plus if God only stopped what He considered evil you'd still be left wondering why here and not there.

          2.this would only mean more work for neuroscience and psychology and again natural law that we didn't know about or the existence of aliens.

          3. i don't understand this one.

          4. wouldn't evolution and life be enough actually? i mean you had zero life 1 bill year ago and then now you have you and me! i think this one is a not bad one and actually does point to something beyond.

          5. ed feser had a good post on this but i can't remember what it was called or i'd link to it. but you know that that would just mean an alien or someone playing tricks on us, maybe some crazy russian billionaire who's screwing with us.

          take a look at the 5 ways that aquinas came up with 1,000 years ago and see how they all differ in that, no matter what happened "inside" the universe, it would, given the underlying structure, REQUIRE not just increase the probability of be REQUIRE God to exist.

          now don't confuse this God with Christ as this only proves theism but Christianity makes a further claim: that this God actually entered his creation.

          any way thx for indulging me and answering my question.

          • David Hardy

            i'll confess my only point was to expose the straw man god that you have in mind.

            I appreciate the admission of your motives, and the effort to seriously engage my position, I will go through your responses one by one.

            God only stopped what He considered evil you'd still be left wondering why here and not there.

            To wonder why he intervened, I would have to believe he existed to intervene. Your problem does not challenge the fact this would support his existence.

            this would only mean more work for neuroscience and psychology and again
            natural law that we didn't know about or the existence of aliens.

            These would not apply. Neuroscience can describe a mental phenomenon in terms of brain activity. It would do nothing to indicate that the prayer response was not coming from an objective source. Widespread, consistent and direct response would support an objective source. I do not know why aliens are relevant.

            4. wouldn't evolution and life be enough actually?

            No, evolution and life only show sapience through neural systems. God is proposed as a mind that extends beyond these. Therefore, the behaviors associated with sapience would need to be found beyond the very limited area where we observe sapience.

            5. ed feser had a good post on this but i can't remember what it was called or i'd link to it. but you know that that would just mean an alien or someone playing tricks on us, maybe some crazy russian billionaire who's screwing with us.

            We can always find reasons to doubt. Those reasons become progressively less meaningful with repeating, reliable evidence.

            take a look at the 5 ways that aquinas came up with 1,000 years ago and see how they all differ in that, no matter what happened "inside" the universe, it would, given the underlying structure, REQUIRE not just increase the probability of be REQUIRE God to exist.

            Aquinas' five ways fail because none of the things he points to actually require all of the qualities he infers. For example, the "uncaused cause" points to the valid point that there appears to be a causal chain, raising the question of how it began. I have also heard the addition that things exist in a contingent fashion in other ways, raising the question of what supports this. However, from these perfectly valid questions, Aquinas and those who follow him infer a sapience, personal, all powerful, all knowing, morally just, single God that transcends the universe while also being fundamental to its existence and functioning, and who incarnated as a human because sin required this happen to overcome it. None of these things follow from the questions. Aquinas uses apparent paradoxes, to which we do not know for certain what the answers are, and uses them to prove Christianity is the answer.

          • Mike

            ok thanks for engaging.

            Hold on: "the behaviors associated with sapience would need to be found beyond the very limited area where we observe sapience."

            do you think that "sapience" would have to be found in inorganic matter?

          • David Hardy

            No, I think that if a sapient God is everywhere, revealing his sapience in a place our current understanding indicates it should not exist, especially a common sapience in several places together, would be strong evidence. Even more so if the sapience revealed involved communication consistent with a particular religion's conception of God.

          • Mike

            Do you mean like if God were to be found on another planet?

            or do you mean that maybe somewhere in deep deep outer space if we found there some "communication channel" to God?

          • David Hardy

            Neither is needed. In the bible, a burning bush proclaimed messages to Moses. Both bush and flame lack sapience. God appeared out of the whirlwind to Job, and whirlwinds are also not sapient. If these sorts of things consistently happened to those seeking contact with God, there would be little doubt as to God's existence.

          • Mike

            oh i see.

            ok so the only problem with that is the word CONSISTENTLY..but i would and do agree that if it happened IN consistently then it would be great evidence and indeed it is evidence as you cite from the bible.

            if it happened too often or whenever someone prayer then i think it would mean that someone was playing a grand hoax on us or that aliens were or that this was simple a natural process or law that meant that we need to explore it and figure out how mental thoughts can cause this delusion or how they are connected to something in the universe.

            this a good reason IF you already subscribe to a Christian God but not if you are asking about whether God exist in the first place.

          • David Hardy

            if it happened too often or whenever someone prayer then i think it would mean that someone was playing a grand hoax on us

            An interesting position. If God exists and was consistent in responding to us, it would be more likely that this was a hoax than God. What, specifically, makes a consistent response inconsistent with the idea of God?

          • Mike

            consistent Nature is proof of God certainly but not God acting in the world directly via miracles etc.

            If his interaction were consistent then it would mean he was a part of nature and we would look for a law of nature to explain it. but how consistent is consistent enough for you? like brandon pointed out that's a subjective question. if you mean really totally consistent then that would be proof of a law of nature or a hoaxter alien or whatever.

            but this talk of "consistency" really PRESUPPOSES God already. whether he exists or not is prior to these questions about whether he interacts enough.

            also the monotheism conception is that god is NOT a law of nature but LIKE an agent like us, the church says he is LIKE a person.

          • David Hardy

            consistent Nature is proof of God certainly but not God acting in the world directly via miracles etc.

            I am confused. Are you saying miracles would not be proof of God?

            If his interaction were consistent then it would mean he was a part of
            nature and we would look for a law of nature to explain it.

            If his interaction were in a form that was clearly sapient (involved clear ideas being communicated or enforced), then we could say that sapience was a law of nature. As a law, this would be a strong proof for God.

            but this talk of "consistency" really PRESUPPOSES God already. whether
            he exists or not is prior to these questions about whether he interacts
            enough.

            Nothing about consistency implies or requires sapience. If anything, sapience involves a degree of inconsistency, and so absolute consistency implies a lack of sapience. However, I will say that all of my proposed evidences are indeed granting, for the sake of argument, that God exists, and providing exactly the sort of evidence that would confirm this fact.

            also the monotheism conception is that god is NOT a law of nature but
            LIKE an agent like us, the church says he is LIKE a person.

            I agree, and my suggested proofs are all things to indicate that, underneath the laws of nature is a being that is like a person/agent.

          • Mike

            1. sorry i meant if the miracles were 'consistently happening in response to certain conditions' but yes obviously miracles are very good confirmation of God..a religion w/o miracles is not worth believing in.

            2. sapience was a law of nature. As a law, this would be a strong proof for God.

            i am not sure what you mean by this? like if there were lots of burning bushes? if so we would look for the cord in the back.

            3. However, I will say that all of my proposed evidences are indeed granting, for the sake of argument, that God exists, and providing exactly the sort of evidence that would confirm this fact.

            i think you are right except for the consistent, regular idea. God if he acted like that would be nature and he isn't nature; what you're saying is there's not enough stuff like that for you which is another topic but i know what you mean.

            many atheists say there's no enough miracles for them bc they want direct knowledge but that's again subjective and as someone once said if the Eiffel tower were turned to blue goo after a bishop said it would most ppl would assume there was a trick involved or a mad russian billionaire staged the thing but not God.

            of course there is the idea that God could simply enter this world and do funky stuff and i don't know raise himself from the dead to make the point? ;) nah that's too hollywood.

            anyway thx for engaging!

          • David Hardy

            a religion w/o miracles is not worth believing in.

            Do you know of any miracles within any religion witnessed and confirmed by non-believers in records created by those non-believers? Or miracles caught on any recording device that have withstood evaluation to test for alterations?

            i am not sure what you mean by this? like if there were lots of burning bushes? if so we would look for the cord in the back.

            Yes we would, because this sort of direct proof of God is inconsistent with the universe we actually observe.

            what you're saying is there's not enough stuff like that for you which is another topic but i know what you mean.

            More or less, but substitute "enough" with "any".

            many atheists say there's no enough miracles for them

            I have never witnessed a single miracle, nor seen a reliable recording of one, nor seen any evidence of miracles outside of assertions made in written records by people who I have no way of evaluating in terms of objectivity or honesty, or the inference of miracles in fortuitous but plausible events by people already inclined to infer them.

            of course there is the idea that God could simply enter this world and do funky stuff and i don't know raise himself from the dead to make the point? ;)

            Yes, if only there was a God like that, I am sure some of the ideas I suggested, or others like the one you are suggesting, would be occurring to answer the doubts of those who would believe in him if he did. ;)

          • Mike

            1. the miracle of the sun was witnessed by anti-papists, they came to discredit but ended up writing up what happened in their anti catholic papers; there's alot on miracles to read.

            2. direct proof is not inconsistent with the universe unless it is consistent and regular bc then we get back to the is it God or just nature problem again.

            3. read michael shermers radio tale! just google it. it's very weird and he admits that it even gave him pause for thought.

            4. yes i agree but one has to be first open to it and i mean really honestly open with a sincere heart etc.

            anyway thx for this exchange!

          • David Hardy

            Thank you for the thoughts, I will answer point by point.

            1. Could you please give me the names of one or more of the "anti-papists" you mention who witnessed the event? Bear in mind, from a brief review, these would have to be people who also did not embrace the veneration of Mary.

            2. And again, we get to the point that nature does not resemble God, and so you can make this distinction. Observe the universe, and there is no indication it is, or is controlled by, sapience.

            3. Having heard accounts such as this, I would be willing to grant the possibility of what have traditionally been called supernatural events. However, accounts such as this exist in many cultures, with many different conclusions regarding the religious implications. How does one move from these accounts to a specific religion?

            4. I was raised Christian, and was for years a sincere believer, until I found reasons to doubt and no way to satisfy those doubts. Sincere seeking and honest openness does not necessarily lead to Christianity.

          • Mike

            there's alot of literature on the fatima miracle that i don't want to go over.

            ok take care and thx for the exchange, i really enjoyed it.

          • David Hardy

            I am not asking you to go over it, but to direct me to the best literature provided by skeptics who witnessed it so I can go over it. However, if you wish to end here, thank you for the exchange as well.

          • Mike

            try Yea Olde Stat and he might be able to point you towards something or honestly try Mark Shea.

            anyway DON'T look to miracles for EVIDENCE of God. evidence of God is metaphysical like the 5 ways the fact that nature is consistent the fact that it is intelligible the fact that math works the fact that science is possible the fact that Formal causes exist the fact that Final causality exists and on and on.

            i believe that God exists indeed there is no doubt in my mind that God does but i don't expect to see even 1 miracle in my life. i believe bc it makes logical and 'anthropological' as well as emotional sense to me and so i have faith in what reason has revealed to me. but as for all the details of 2,000 years of christianity i can't possibly verify each and every instance of something happening.

          • David Hardy

            Interesting. Thank you for the suggestions, and for the ideas you have presented.

    • Peter

      "the universe does not appear to indicate that God exists"

      How do you account for the fine tuning of the early universe then?
      Why were those precise parameters selected instead of countless other possibilities?

      • David Hardy

        Why do you assume they were selected? Can you point me to any evidence that other parameters were available, considered and discarded? The fine tuning argument, as I understand it, points to how certain conditions are necessary for life to have been possible. Life exists, therefore those conditions did occur. It does not mean that those conditions occurred for the purpose of life existing. Perhaps it was inevitable that these conditions occur, either always or sometimes, and life can only form to wonder about them in cases that they do occur.

        • Peter

          "Perhaps it was inevitable that these conditions occur, either always or sometimes, and life can only form to wonder about them in cases that they do occur"

          If you are implying multiple universes where is your evidence?

          • David Hardy

            I am not implying multiple universes. I was covering that my position holds true regardless of multiple or a single universe, or a single universe where the the conditions of the fine tuning argument were subject to change across a long enough time period. In any case, living beings could only marvel at the fact that the conditions of the universe support life if they happened to be such that they support life at that time.

          • Peter

            In our single universe, the fine-tuning has not been subject to change but has remained constant since the universe's inception.

          • David Hardy

            I do not see how this relates to me position. I agree with your statement, except to say that they have remained constant since the our best guess of the apparent inception of the universe.

  • Mike

    This should come with a compendium of the Ye Olde Stat comments on various topics and qs raised by inquiring atheists. I think that even atheists on here would agree that his style and breath of knowledge are great contributions to the dialogue.

    EDIT: The Ye Olde Statistician Catechism.

  • Check out my podcast with Matthew Toobee https://soundcloud.com/brian-green-adams

    Always free, available on iTunes.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      I checked out Ep 1 just this week. Not too bad!

      I noticed that on SoundCloud, only the first episode has the download button.. the rest you have to stream. Is this on purpose? I like to download podcasts and listen to them in the car.

      Keep up the good work.

    • Mike

      who's mathew toobee? i can't see the video here.