• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Proofs for the Existence of God (#AMA with Dr. Edward Feser)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Edward Feser just released a new book, titled Five Proofs of the Existence of God (Ignatius Press, 2017). You probably know Dr. Feser from his sharply reasoned posts here at Strange Notions, or from his popular blog, which mainly focuses on the philosophy of religion.

Dr. Feser has written several other excellent books, including:

He is a Thomistic philosopher, meaning he specializes in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, and has written extensively on Aquinas' Five Ways (or five proofs) to God. But in his new book, he examines not just the Thomistic arguments for God, but several more. Here's a brief summary:

Five Proofs of the Existence of God provides a detailed, updated exposition and defense of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God's existence: the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof.
 
This book also offers a detailed treatment of each of the key divine attributes—unity, simplicity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, and so forth—showing that they must be possessed by the God whose existence is demonstrated by the proofs. Finally, it answers at length all of the objections that have been leveled against these proofs.
 
This book offers as ambitious and complete a defense of traditional natural theology as is currently in print. Its aim is to vindicate the view of the greatest philosophers of the past—thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, and many others—that the existence of God can be established with certainty by way of purely rational arguments. It thereby serves as a refutation both of atheism and of the fideism which gives aid and comfort to atheism.

We recently invited Dr. Feser to do an #AMA (Ask Me Anything) here at Strange Notions, and after he accepted, the questions poured in from all of our commenters, both believer and skeptic alike

We chose several of the most popular questions to ask Dr. Feser below. Enjoy!


 

QUESTION (Jonathan): I read once on a blog post that the proofs for God were not intended as rhetorical or polemical proofs, in the sense of being intended to persuade unbelievers. They were more like edifying exercises for the faithful, but medieval theologians would not say that such philosophical arguments were sufficient to instill faith. Is this true?


DR. FESER: 
That is not true, and I suspect that the writers you read who said this misunderstand what “faith” means for a medieval theologian like Aquinas.  The proofs were indeed meant to be completely rationally convincing even to someone who is initially coming to the question as an atheist.  No faith is required at all.

The reason is that faith, as a thinker like Aquinas understands it, is a matter of believing something because it has been revealed by God.  But before you can do that, you first have to establish that God really does exist in the first place and that he really has revealed something.  And that requires evidence and argumentation. 

Showing that God really does exist is where the proofs come in.  So far, faith doesn’t enter the picture.  Then we need to establish that God really has revealed something, and that involves showing that some purported divine revelation was associated with a miracle, because only a miracle – understood as a suspension of the natural order that only God could possibly bring about – could justify the claim that a revelation has really occurred.  That requires a mixture of philosophical and historical argumentation.  The traditional label in Catholic theology for these sorts of arguments for the authenticity of a revelation are “motives of credibility.” 

In traditional Catholic apologetics, it is only after all this argumentation is set out that one can know that something really has been revealed, and so it is only then that the question of faith really arises.  And when it does, what it means, again, is believing something because you have rationally come to know that God really did reveal it.  It is not a matter of believing something just because you want to, or working yourself up into an emotional state, or taking an irrational leap beyond the evidence, or anything like that.

It is true that faith is said to be a gift of God, but in no way does that entail any sort of irrational “will to believe” or any of the other caricatures or distortions of the concept of faith.  If someone says that his eyes are a gift from God, he isn’t saying that he is relying for his vision on a will to believe, or on an irrational leap beyond the visual evidence, or the like.  Similarly, to say that faith is a gift of God in no way implies that it is contrary to reason or involves an irrational leap beyond the evidence.

QUESTION (Bradley Robert Schneider): To what extent are the arguments in your book just different versions of, or different ways of looking at, the same (cosmological) argument? That is, can you rationally reject one of the proofs but accept another? Also, what are some of the other arguments you consider persuasive but did not include among these five?


DR. FESER: 
Of the five, only four of them – the Aristotelian proof, the Neo-Platonic proof, the Thomistic proof, and the rationalist proof – might be considered variations on the cosmological argument.  However, the expression “cosmological argument” might be a little misleading, because it makes it sound as if the arguments start from some claim about the cosmos or universe as a whole.  And that is not the case.  As I argue in the book, one could in each case start with something much less grand than that.  For example, in the Thomistic proof, you could start with the fact that some particular stone exists here and now, and proceed from that to show that there must be a single eternal, immaterial, immutable, necessary, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good uncaused cause of its existing here and now.  No fancy claim about the universe as a whole is needed as a premise.

The fifth argument, the Augustinian proof, is very different.  It is not a causal argument from the existence of some thing in the world to God as its cause, but rather an argument from mathematical and other necessary truths to an infinite divine intellect.

One could accept one of the proofs while rejecting one or more of the others.  For example, a reader might find the Aristotelian proof compelling but not be persuade by the Neo-Platonic proof, or might find the Augustinian proof powerful but not any of the causal proofs, or vice versa.

There are several other arguments I think are compelling but which I did not put into the book, because I judged that they required just too much in the way of controversial background metaphysical argumentation to be useful for the particular purposes of this book.  For example, I think that all of Aquinas’s Five Ways are sound arguments, and I have defended them all in various other writings.  But to defend the Fourth Way (for example) requires first defending so much in the way of background metaphysical theses well beyond what I already cover in the book that it just isn’t a suitable argument for the kind of audience I intend to address in the book.  In the Further Reading section of the book I direct readers to sources that defend the other arguments that I think are persuasive.

QUESTION (Doug Shaver): Regardless of one's worldview, any proof must, by logical necessity, rest on one or more assumptions, which are premises that are stipulated to be unprovable. Can Dr. Feser list some of the assumptions on which at least one of his proofs of God's existence depends?


DR. FESER:
Depending on what you mean by “unprovable,” I don’t necessarily agree with the premise behind your question.  Take, for example, the principle of sufficient reason, which the rationalist proof appeals to as a premise.  Is it “unprovable”?  That depends on what you mean.  If by “provable” you mean “derivable by deductive inference from premises that are more certain or fundamental,” then no, it is not provable.  But if by “provable” you mean “defensible by arguments which any rational person ought to find compelling,” then I would say yes, it is provable.

The reason is this.  The principle of sufficient reason, correctly understood – and as I argue in the book, lots of people don’t understand it correctly – is a “first principle.”  What that means is that it is more clearly correct than anything that could be said either for it or against it.  When we reach claims like this, we’ve hit bedrock.  They are so basic to rationality that they are presupposed by other arguments, but don’t in turn presuppose anything deeper than they are themselves.  Hence we can’t defend them by the same kind of reasoning by which we defend less fundamental claims.

But that does not by any means entail that we cannot say anything in defense of them, or that they rest on faith, or an act of will, or anything like that.  We can rationally defend them in an indirect way.  We can show, for example, that objections to them are mistaken in various ways.  More importantly, we can defend them by the method of retorsion, which involves showing that one cannot deny them on pain of self-contradiction or incoherence.

This method is sometimes misunderstood.  Some people think it merely involves showing that we can’t help thinking a certain way, but where this leaves it open that this way of thinking might nevertheless not correspond to reality. In other words, they think that retorsion arguments are essentially about human psychology.  That is not at all the case.  Rightly understood, such arguments are a species of reductio ad absurdum argument.  They involve defending a claim by showing that the denial of the claim entails a contradiction, and thus cannot as a matter of objective fact (and not merely as a contingent matter of human psychology) be correct. 

QUESTION (Surroundx): When you speak about proofs of God, what epistemic status do you ascribe to the conclusion of each? Are they epistemically infallible, ontically infallible, or something else?


DR. FESER: 
The word “proof” has, historically, been used in different senses.  Naturally, I don’t mean that the arguments are proofs in exactly the same sense in which a mathematical proof is a “proof.”  They are mostly not a priori arguments, for one thing.  But I used the word deliberately, and I certainly claim a high degree of certainty for the claim that God exists.  For example, I would claim that it is as certain that God exists as it is that the world external to our minds is real and not an illusion foisted upon us by a Cartesian demon or the Matrix.

How can I say that?  Well, the point of the book to show this.  The arguments are “proofs” in that, first of all, the conclusion is claimed to follow deductively from the premises.  They are not mere probabilistic inferences, arguments to the best explanation, or “God of the gaps” arguments.  (I hate “God of the gaps” arguments.)  The claim is that the arguments show, not merely that God is the most likely explanation of the facts asserted in the premises of the arguments, but rather that God is the only possible explanation in principle of those facts. 

Second, the premises are knowable with certainty.  The premises include both empirical premises (for example, the premise that change occurs) and philosophical premises (for example, the premise that everything has an explanation or is intelligible).  The premises in turn can be defended in various ways that show them to be beyond reasonable doubt.  For example, some of them can be defended via retorsion arguments (which, again, are a species of reductio ad absurdum argument).  That is to say, such arguments try to show that anyone who denies such-and-such a claim is implicitly contradicting himself.

So in arguments of the sort I am defending, the conclusion is claimed to follow necessarily from the premises, and the premises are claimed to be knowable beyond any reasonable doubt.  That sort of argument fits one traditional use of the word “proof.”

Naturally, I am aware that some people will nevertheless challenge the arguments or remain doubtful about one or more of them.  But that’s true of every single argument one could give for any conclusion, even mathematical proofs.  A determined and clever enough skeptic will always be able to come up with some grounds for doubt, even if the grounds are bizarre or far-fetched.  That doesn’t mean that the grounds are, all things considered, going to be reasonable ones. 

Anyway, my calling something a “proof” doesn’t entail that I think every reader, even every fair-minded reader, is immediately going to be convinced.  What it is meant to indicate is the nature of the connection between the facts described in the premises and the fact described in the conclusion.  It is a metaphysical claim, not a sociological claim.  Too many people mix these things up. They think that as long as a significant number of people are likely not to agree with some argument, you can’t call it a “proof.”  That just misunderstands the way the term is being used.

QUESTION (Ryan Beren): Is God definable at all? If he is, is the definition one that can be known by humans, or only by God himself? If he is not, then how else can the truth (or falsehood) of the statement "God exists" be guaranteed?


DR. FESER: 
It depends on what you mean.  For Thomists (i.e. thinkers in the school of thought originating with Thomas Aquinas) to define something, in the strict sense of the term “define,” is always to locate it in a species of thing.  That in turn requires identifying the genus the species falls under and what differentiates it from other species in the same genus.  (Here I am using the terms “species” and “genus” in the broad sense in which they are historically used in logic, not the narrower sense that they later came to have in biology.)

So, take human beings, for example.  The traditional Aristotelian definition of human beings is that they are rational animals.  “Human being” is the species of thing we are defining, “animal” is the genus or more general class to which this species belongs, and “rationality” is what distinguishes them from other species in the same genus.  (Whether this definition is correct, and what exactly it is claiming, are irrelevant to the present point.  It’s just an illustration.  Pick a different example if you like.)

Now, to define something in this way entails attributing metaphysical parts to it.  For example, in defining human beings as rational animals, we are attributing both animality and rationality to human beings.  But anything with parts requires some cause or explanation outside itself to account for why it exists.  With human beings, there needs to be some explanation of how rationality and animality get together so that you have human beings.  These things are not of their nature necessarily co-occurring, after all.

Now, according to arguments of the sort I am defending, God is not like that.  He cannot have any parts at all, but must be simple or non-composite – that is to say, not composed of anything.  For if he were, then he would require a cause just like everything else does, in which case he would not be the primary or ultimate cause of things.

For that reason, there cannot be any distinction in God between some genus he belongs to and some differentiating feature that distinguishes him from other things in that genus.  Again, if there were, then God would have parts and thus require a cause of his own.  Hence, strictly speaking, God is not part of a species of things, he is not in a genus, and thus in the strict sense of the term he is not definable.  That is why the human mind inevitably finds God difficult to grasp.  Our normal mode of understanding things is to define them in terms of the genus they fall under and what differentiates them from other things in that genus, and this method cannot apply to God.

However, that does not mean that we cannot use the term “God” intelligibly, and it does not mean we cannot know anything about God.  We can say, for example, that by “God” we mean the primary or fundamental cause of there being anything at all; that when we analyze what something would have to be like in order to play such a role, it would have to have such-and-such attributes; we can note that those are precisely the sorts of attributes traditionally attributed to God; and so forth.

In short, if you mean “Can we use language about God intelligibly, so that we can discuss the question whether God exists, what he would be like if he exists, etc.?” the answer is Yes.  If you mean “Can we have the kind of penetrating knowledge of God’s nature that we have when we are able to identify the genus a thing falls under and what differentiates it from other species in that genus?” then the answer is No.  Again, it depends on how you define “define.”

QUESTION (Alexander): Is it conceivable that God does not exist?


DR. FESER: 
It depends on what you mean.  If you mean “Can we coherently form the thought that there is no God?” then yes, we can do that.  To be sure, if we had a complete and penetrating grasp of God’s nature, we would understand that, given that nature, it is metaphysically impossible that he not exist.   In that case we would be contradicting ourselves if we said he did not exist.  We would see that it is inconceivable that he not exist.  However, we mere human beings do not in fact have such a complete and penetrating grasp of the divine nature.  Hence we are unable directly and immediately to see the inconceivability of God’s non-existence and thus cannot deduce God’s existence via an ontological argument.  We have to arrive at knowledge of God in another way.

Now, when we reason to the existence of an uncaused cause of things as we do in arguments like the kind I defend in the book (the Aristotelian proof, the Thomistic proof, and so forth), and then we analyze what something would have to be like in order to play that role, we find that it must be something that of its nature exists in an absolutely necessary way.  We can then deduce that it must be the kind of thing which, if we had a complete grasp of its nature, we would see directly that it could not possibly not exist.  But we had to get there by reasoning from the existence of things in the world to God as their cause.  We can’t skip this procedure and just cut to the chase via an ontological argument, as Anselm tries to do.

So, if you mean “Is God the sort of thing that exists of absolute necessity, so that it is metaphysically impossible that he not exist?” then the answer is Yes.  But if you mean “Can we reason to God’s existence just by carefully unpacking the content of the concept of God, as in Anselm’s ontological argument?” then the answer is No.

QUESTION (Steven Dillon): Monotheism asserts the proposition that "Only one God exists." In quantifying the amount of Gods that exist, this proposition treats of a plurality of "Gods." In denying existence of all but one in this plurality, monotheism separates Gods from "existence", and thus treats of a plurality of abstractions, or "essences" as Thomists may say. It would seem, therefore, that monotheism is committed to a view on which a God's essence is separable from his "existence." But, for Aquinas, the essence of God just is his existence. Was Aquinas thus not a monotheist? If not, what was he?


DR. FESER: 
Aquinas is a monotheist, and he argues – correctly in my view, as I argue in the book – that there could not even in principle be more than one God.  One of the reasons for this is indicated in the answer I gave above to the questioner who asked about whether we can define God.  As I noted there, given that God is absolutely simple or non-composite, he cannot be defined in terms of a genus and some differentiating feature that sets him apart from other species in the genus.  Now, whenever there is more than one instance of a kind of thing, there is some genus to which it belongs, and something that differentiates it from other things in that genus.  Since these notions don’t apply to God, it follows that there is no way for him to be merely one instance of a kind of thing.  There is no genus or general class to which he belongs.  He is of his nature unique.  We get the same result when we analyze the implications of something’s being purely actual, or its having an essence that is identical to its existence, as I show in the book.

Your question seems to suppose that because we can stick an “s” at the end of the word “God,” that suffices to show that there is a general class of things we call “Gods,” and then we can ask how many things are in that class.  But that is a fallacy.  Essentially, it confuses grammar with metaphysics.  To borrow an example from Chomsky, I can form the sentence “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”  But though the sentence is perfectly well-formed, it is still nonsense.  Ideas aren’t green or any other color, if they were then they wouldn’t be colorless, they don’t sleep, and it makes no sense to speak of sleep as something one could do furiously.  Mere grammatical possibilities don’t by themselves entail anything about reality.

Similarly, we can stick an “s” on the end of the word “God” and then go on to ask questions like “How many Gods are there?”  But that doesn’t entail that it really makes sense to think of “Gods” as a class of things that might in theory have more than one member.  Again, in fact that makes no sense when we unpack the implications of what it is to be absolutely simple or non-composite, to be purely actual, and to have an essence identical to one’s existence.  It seems otherwise only if we confuse grammar with reality.

QUESTION (Paul Brandon Rimmer): There has been a new movement in Christian apologetics arguing for idealism, the idea that all of reality is made of minds, and that ultimately there is no such thing as matter. Is this consistent with Thomism? Is this consistent with Catholic doctrine? In each case, if not, what would have to be changed about Thomism/Catholic doctrine, in order to make room for idealism?


DR. FESER: 
It is not consistent with Thomism.  One reason is Thomism’s Aristotelian conception of matter as what limits form to a particular individual time and place and thus individuates instances of a species of thing.  If you have two or more stones, for example, then you need, in addition to what they have in common – the form of being stone – something to differentiate them, and that’s what matter does.  Different bits of matter instantiate the same form.  For the Thomist, then, it makes no sense to say “There are two stones, and neither one is material.”  Berkeley can say that (given his different conception of matter), but Aquinas cannot.

Furthermore, to get rid of matter you’d really be reducing all of reality to a collection of angelic minds – that is to say, minds which are of their very essence divorced from matter.  That would mean identifying human minds with angelic minds of a sort.  You’d be saying that we are essentially really minds without matter, and what seems to be the material world is really just a collection of our perceptions.  But for the Thomist, that cannot be right, because our minds are simply not like angelic intellects, as Aquinas understands them.  For example, angelic intellects don’t have a stream of sensory experiences, as we do.  Sensation is, for the Thomist, essentially bodily, so that what lacks a body lacks sensation.  For that reason, angels don’t acquire knowledge the way we do, by learning things from a series of sensory perceptions.  Their knowledge is “built in.” 

Neither is idealism compatible with Catholicism, for reasons that might be evident from what has been said already, because Catholic doctrine is deeply committed to the reality of the material world.  That is, for example, what the doctrine of the Incarnation is all about.  The Second Person of the Trinity became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, and if you say that the flesh was really just a collection of perceptions, it is hard to see how that avoids collapsing into Docetism. 

There is also the fact that modern idealism stems from general metaphysical and epistemological premises that Thomists regard as deeply mistaken.  Berkeley’s idealism is a byproduct of the modern empiricist reduction of concepts to mental images.  Leibniz’s idealism is a byproduct of his working within the Cartesian dichotomy of res cogitans and res extensa.  But for the Thomist, these are just bad starting points, and in particular they get badly wrong both the nature of substance and the nature of our knowledge.

This is a large topic, and much more could be said.  Suffice it to say that the divergence between the views is so deep that there is no way to reconcile them, and for the Thomist there is no good reason to want to reconcile them, since idealism is (the Thomist would argue) riddled with philosophical and theological errors.

QUESTION (Camainc): How do you square divine simplicity with the personal God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures? Are the scriptural references to God changing his mind, getting angry, etc., just anthropomorphic?


DR. FESER: 
It depends on what you mean.  Take anger, for example.  If by anger you have in mind the way that we human beings go from a state of tranquility to a state of emotional agitation, then no, there is nothing like that in God.  The reason is that, for one thing, emotional states are bodily and God is immaterial.  For another thing, emotional fluctuations entail going from potential to actual, and there is no potentiality in God.  However, by anger you could mean the will to inflict a punishment on an evildoer.  And there is something like that in God. 

Here it is crucial to understand the differences between the univocal, metaphorical, and analogical uses of language, which I discuss in the book.  When we use terms univocally, we are using them in the same sense.  For Thomists and many other classical theists, theological language is not to be understood univocally.  Hence, when we say that Bob is angry and God is angry, we are not to be understood as attributing to God the exact same thing that Bob has. 

Are we speaking metaphorically or non-literally, then?  That depends.  If when saying “God is angry,” you mean that God feels highly agitated, then this cannot literally be true, and so at best could be a metaphor.

But if instead you mean “God intends to punish evildoers,” then this is not metaphorical, but literally true.  However, not all literal language is univocal.  Some of it is analogical.  For example, when I say that the cheeseburger I am eating is good and that the book I am reading is good, I am not using “good” in exactly the same sense – the goodness of a book and the goodness of food are very different – but I am not speaking metaphorically or non-literally either.  Rather, I am speaking analogically.  There is something in the goodness of a book that is analogous to the goodness of food, even if it is not the same thing.

Now, that, for the Thomist, is how to understand a claim like “God intends to punish evildoers.”  There is something in God that is analogous to what we call an intention to punish evildoers, even though in God it doesn’t involve the kind of thing that goes on when we have this intention.  (For example, we have fluctuating emotional states, we weigh various considerations when deciding whether to punish – which involves going from one thought to another, and thus actualizing potentialities – and so on, and none of that exists in God.)

So, some of the anthropomorphic attributes that scripture attributes to God are to be understood metaphorically, but by no means all of them are.  Some of them are to be understood in an analogical sense, which is a kind of literal sense.  The rule of thumb would be: If scripture attributes some bodily characteristic or emotional state to God, that is to be understood merely metaphorically or non-literally.  But if scripture attributes to God something having to do with intellect or will, then that is to be understood literally, though in an analogical sense (which is one kind of literal sense) rather than in a univocal sense.

QUESTION (Brian Seets): I am an atheist. I choose to do what I see as good. That is, I do nothing that could have a negative impact on others. I do this because I want to live in a world where that is the standard behavior and so that (I hope) others will choose to not negatively impact my life. What makes my choice less worthy than a Christian's? Doesn't living well without hope of reward or fear of punishment make God irrelevant?


DR. FESER: 
Unlike some other theists, I don’t myself think it is quite correct to say that morality could have no foundation on an atheistic conception of reality.  It’s a little more complicated than that.  What I would say is that the possibility of morality presupposes the reality of what Aristotelians call formal and final causes.  We have to be able to say that there is, as a matter of objective fact, such a thing as the nature or essence of a human being, and also that there is, as a matter of objective fact, such a thing as a set of final causes or ends or goals inherent in human nature, the realization of which defines what is good for us.

Now, in theory someone could accept this much while at the same time denying the existence of God.  For example, Thomas Nagel at least flirts with something like this metaphysical position in his book Mind and Cosmos.  For the Aristotelian and the Thomist, morality is grounded in human nature, and human nature would still be what it is, and still be knowable, even if per impossibile there were no God.  Hence, just as you can do chemistry and thereby discover the facts about the causal properties of sulfur, phosphorus, etc. whether or not you affirm the existence of a divine first cause, so too can you, at least to a large extent, know what is good or bad for human beings just by studying human nature.  For morality is not about arbitrary divine commands, but is, again, grounded in human nature.

However, it is also true that this is an unstable position.  Just as, for the Thomist, causality is only ultimately intelligible if there is a divine uncaused cause (for reasons I set out in Five Proofs), so too, final causality ultimately makes sense only if there is a divine intellect which directs things toward their natural ends or goals (for reasons set out in Aquinas’s Fifth Way, which I have defended at length in a couple of places, though it’s not an argument that is covered in Five Proofs).  Still, the issues can be distinguished.  The question “Is there final causality in nature?” is one thing, and the question “Does all final causality presuppose the existence of God?” is another.  If you could defend a Yes answer to the first question while at the same time defending a No answer to the second – and some people have, historically, tried to do this (even if, in my view, such a project at the end of the day won’t work) – then you could have a foundation for morality while avoiding theism.

But very few atheists are willing to do this.  Most of them reject the whole idea of formal and final causality, along with theism.  That is part of the general package of modern philosophical naturalism, even if in theory one could adopt some alternative atheist metaphysics.  And if you reject the whole idea of final causality or teleology, then I think you will not be able to give any rational foundation for morality.  This isn’t a topic I get into in Five Proofs, though I have addressed it elsewhere.  (See my book Neo-Scholastic Essays for treatment of some of the issues I’ve been referring to, such as the foundations of morality and Aquinas’s Fifth Way.)

Now, does that mean that someone who is both an atheist and rejects the whole idea of final causes or purposes in human nature will in fact be without any moral virtue?  Of course not.  Many atheists have many admirable character traits.  But that is not the point.  The question is not whether atheists will in fact sometimes do the right thing – of course they will – but rather whether they can give a rational philosophical justification of morality in the context of a naturalistic metaphysics.  And that, I would argue, is not possible.

 

Dr. Edward Feser

Written by

Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Rob Abney

    So in arguments of the sort I am defending, the conclusion is claimed to follow necessarily from the premises, and the premises are claimed to be knowable beyond any reasonable doubt. That sort of argument fits one traditional use of the word “proof.”

    I'm reading Dr. Feser's book now, this is a great description of how he has layed out the format of each chapter. He also divides each chapter into a formal argument and an informal argument, a long list of premises that lead to a conclusion (at least 20 premises), and a reply to strong objections.

  • Steven Dillon

    I'm glad Feser responded to my question! Unfortunately, it is only some of what he says at greater length in his most recent book, which has no awareness of henadology, henadicity, polycentricity etc. So, it's fundamentally question-begging. I'll have to address it at greater length in a blog post.

    • Phil

      Hi Steven,

      Do you mind giving a short overview what what henadology, henadicity, and polycentricity is? I have not studied these and would be curious to learn more.

      Thanks!

      • Steven Dillon

        Hi Phil,

        Essentially what I am talking about is the religious system of thought used by ancient Platonists -- such as Plotinus, Iamblichus, Syrianus, Proclus, Damascius etc. etc.

        For these thinkers, the first principle is not "being" -- as it was for Aquinas -- but "unity." As they conceived it, to be "one" is not to lack division, but to be individual, or peculiar.

        Most things are individual, or peculiiar in a derivative manner. But, the Platonists conceived of a one who is *utterly* peculiar, such that all that is in her just is her: she instantiates nothing -- be it properties, natures, forms, whatever. Such a one is called a "henad."

        The study of henads is called "henadology", the individuality of henads is called "henadicity", and the sort of plurality they form is called "polycentricity."

        It is a rich and robust polytheistic system of thought, and underwent refinement for hundreds of years until the closing of The Academy.

        If you are curious, the go-to scholar on this is Dr. Edward Butler, many of whose works on the subject can be accessed in the philosophy tab at his website: henadology.wordpress.com

        • Rick Norris

          One of the more curious things I've seen from monotheists is the insistence that the Gods would be somehow less than the monotheistic One, and it makes me slap my knee and chuckle when the monotheistic One is only ever an ontological being, while the Gods as henads are above even ontology.

          • Steven Dillon

            Monotheism is a severely confused position. There's only open ontology (polytheism) or closed ontology (atheism).

        • But, the Platonists conceived of a one who is *utterly* peculiar, such that all that is in her just is her: she instantiates nothing -- be it properties, natures, forms, whatever. Such a one is called a "henad."

          It sounds like very little could be said about henads. One of the key aspects of the OT is that YHWH wishes to be known. But stable knowledge seems to presuppose something like properties/​natures/​forms/​whatever.

          • Steven Dillon

            To be knowable is to be intelligible, and to be intelligible is to be finite. The henads are beyond being and so are neither intelligible or sensible: they are ineffable. But, that doesn't mean we cannot have any relationship with them, it just means the relationships we have with the henads are beyond intellect, will and appetetite: they are unitive, from one individual to another, without mediation.

          • So what is there to actually talk about wrt henads? What it's like to have a 100% ineffable relationship?

          • Steven Dillon

            The Gods are ineffable because all there is to them is who they are: there is no 'what' about them. You can never, even in principle, exhaust who they are: you'll always grow deeper and deeper in union with them. On that level, there's nothing to *say* about them, because the experience is beyond intelligibility.

            But, each God gives unity to all things in each their own way, and so all things reflect who each God is. As Aquinas would look to effects to learn about the cause, all things reveal who the Gods are.

            Polytheistic traditions enact the unity of their Gods, through their myths & religious cultures, and constitute the best sources.

          • I don't understand; on the one hand one cannot say anything about the gods, but on the other you can learn about them by looking at things. That seems flatly contradictory.

          • Steven Dillon

            To say who one is is not to say anything about them. The Gods have no predicates to be described by. That doesn't mean there's no subject to acquaint with. Monotheism reduces the divine to the ontological level, which partly explains the widespread expectation that the divine can be intellectualized.

          • David Richardson

            Your remarks seem curious, Steven. Ontology is the study of being. Of course, Plotinus believed that the One is primary and its emmanations created progressively less perfect realities. What we have here is a hierarchy of "ontologies." To place the One above being is to place the One above existence. That requires an Eastern turn of thinking that most Western philosophers would say is beside the point. It is curious to argue that the primary element of ones philosophy technically has no being.

            If subjects have no predicates, then it would seem to follow that these subjects would have no logical operators. I should think the interactions necessary to produce lower-level realities would be somewhat constrained. Moreover, the subject could not be known. (By the way, don't you think that "unknowability" is a predicate. To know that about a subject requires a significant degree of knowledge. Just saying.)

            If you claim that monotheism is a confused position, which it might be, the claim that your position is clear actually seems laughable. Wittgenstein once said, "Whatever can be said, can be said clearly. What cannot be said clearly must be passed over in silence." There is much in what you say that should fall under this dictum.

            You claim that the gods have no predicates; nonetheless, there is something there with which to be acquainted. I don't even know what you mean when you say this. Apparently, if we acquaint ourselves with this subject, we still cannot say what that actually is. That requires a predicate. So how do we know that we are acquainted?

            Does that transcendent Unity ever reflect on itself? What might its internal communications be like? Does the Unity actually know itself? Would the Unity call itself good or rational? Oops, there are some predicates. Sorry!

            When I hear such things, I long for the simplicity of Heidegger and the clarity of Hegel. I am amazed that you say that monotheism's problem is that it reduces the divine to the ontological. What you seem to be saying is that the claim that God actually exists partly explains why people believe that the divine can be intellectualized. Really? Well, I am at least glad that you find propositional explanations useful for something. It is a pity that you cannot use them to actually explain your position.

          • Steven Dillon

            There's a lot to address here, David. From your vocabulary, references, and impressions, I don't think you are familiar enough with the relevant background metaphysics to debate with. This is the same complaint Thomist philosophers such as Edward Feser make against atheists, but it's only all the more true with monotheists in relation to polytheism. I've addressed many of your concerns at length in the following links:

            http://paganbloggers.com/thearmchair/blog/2017/07/01/stay-in-your-own-lane-monotheism/

            http://paganbloggers.com/thearmchair/blog/2017/08/01/some-thoughts-on-ineffability-and-henosis/

            http://paganbloggers.com/thearmchair/blog/2017/08/19/on-the-disenchantment-of-the-world/

            Suffice it to say that propositions are composed of subject and predicate, and the subject qua subject *just is* predicateless: it is literally indescribable (or ineffable). To assume without argument that this would mean subjects qua subjects are contentless, or inaccessible is not only question begging, but unphilosophical.

            I think you'll find the same treasure many of us have found in Platonism if only you dig.

            I'd start with the links I provided, but I cannot stress enough reading Edward Butler's material -- which is much more advanced than my own.

            If after familiarizing yourself with this material you still feel your objections make sense, or hold water, I'd be more than willing to engage you on the subject.

          • I found this bit from one of your linked blog posts interesting:

            Monotheism initiated the decline from ineffability by positing as the foundation of all reality that which is intrinsically intelligible – even if not to us. Sacrificing ineffability on the altar of reason, the focus shifted from approaching all things in a God-centered way to approaching all things in a World-centered way. That is, we ended up turning our eyes from the ineffable to the intelligible and sensible. But, the more one focuses on the world, the less she will focus on the Gods, and so this re-prioritization carried with it a tendency toward religious indifference, agnosticism and outright atheism – a tendency that is today being realized in ever clearer terms. Moreover, the farther one recedes from the ineffable, the closer one approaches the sensible. And so this tendency continues to march right on through the intelligible and into the territory of materialism, scienticism and hedonism. (On The Disenchantment of the World)

            In a curious way, it makes sense of YHWH's lament over the Israelites abandoning him when other nations don't abandon their gods:

            Has a nation changed its gods,
                even though they are no gods?
            But my people have changed their glory
                for that which does not profit.
            (Jeremiah 2:11)

            It is as if there is a tension, between yielding to that which is not known (may be ineffable, may not yet be effed) and thinking one understands everything, at least in principle (e.g. the mechanical philosophy). The one thing we don't seem to want to believe—and I mean really, really, really don't want to believe—is that God is infinite and intelligible, such that he wants to shower us with more gifts and enjoy a richer relationship, if only we won't become proud and seal ourselves off from any more (like e.g. the prince of Tyre).

            I don't see why reality has to become disenchanted unless the more that there is to explore gets divorced from relationship.

          • Brendan

            David 1. Steven 0.

          • Steven Dillon

            I can't find your latest reply here, but it only illustrates my point.

            2 second apologetics:

            'To transcend being is to be nothing at all'.

            Only if to transcend being is to lack unity.

          • Martyn Cornell

            As fine an example of waffling nonsense as I have seen for ages. Does it not embarrass you to spout this evidence-free rubbish?

          • Steven Dillon

            Sounds like this stuff is over your head. I'd stick to your sandbox.

          • Martyn Cornell

            Sounds like you're unable to explain why it's NOT waffling nonsense.

        • Phil

          Thanks Steven for taking the time to do this!

          A quick question, here you state that the Platonists conceived of the "henad" as having no properties:

          Most things are individual, or peculiiar in a derivative manner. But, the Platonists conceived of a one who is *utterly* peculiar, such that all that is in her just is her: she instantiates nothing -- be it properties, natures, forms, whatever. Such a one is called a "henad."

          But then seems like you say that Platonists said it showed forth "unity":

          For these thinkers, the first principle is not "being" -- as it was for Aquinas -- but "unity." As they conceived it, to be "one" is not to lack division, but to be individual, or peculiar.

          Unity would seem to be a property, or am I misunderstanding what they thought?

          Thanks!

          • Brendan

            Bingo.

  • Ben

    It’s all interesting stuff, but regrettable how scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than helping to discern God’s revelation for the modern world. It’d be like continuously debating my own existence as opposed to discerning the best way to live. If you're not careful, the intellect can be paralyzed by wrapping your head around a metaphysical axel. No wonder the end of the bible pushes for a decision.
    “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)

    • If anybody had ever demonstrated that any god exists, or that any god in particular exists, or that your God had revealed anything at all, I'd be more inclined to agree with you. Unfortunately, nobody has done that, and nobody has come anywhere close to doing that.

      Now, we can have some pretty good confidence that you exist as a human. There are certainly other explanations, but that you exist, and are human, is certainly a reasonable proposition to accept.

      As for discerning the best way to live, if the purported revelations of your particular god could be shown to be anything other than the words of long dead men, who lived in primitive societies, I might listen to what was being said, and try to determine if there was good reason to accept it. Even if it was written by a god, it wouldn't necessarily be the best way for us to live.

      Anybody who wants to use their god, or the revelations of their god, as
      a premise towards how we should live our lives has exactly zero
      credibility with me. I determine the best way to live by looking at my actions and trying to see how those actions affect the well being of others. What your hypothetical god believes, or has "revealed" is irrelevant to me.

      • Rob Abney

        I determine the best way to live by looking at my actions and trying to see how those actions affect the well being of others

        What if you are unaware of ways you can affect the well being of others because you have rejected being able to learn from others?

        Luke 16:19–31, New International Version:
        “ 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
        22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
        25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
        27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
        29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
        30“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
        31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

        • What if you are unaware of ways you can affect the well being of others because you have rejected being able to learn from others?

          First, wow exactly did you determine that I reject learning from others?

          Second, let's suppose that I am ignorant of how my actions are affecting the well being of others. How does accepting the Bible as the revelations of some god help? It doesn't make the ignorance contained within it any more useful. It's certainly not true that everything in the Bible is good for human well being.

          Taken at face value the Bible suggests that slavery is not evil, and is acceptable with certain rules. Jesus had several opportunities to tell everyone how evil slavery was, yet it appears to have been accepted fact of life to him. Even Paul suggests that slaves should obey their masters. We know slavery causes real, demonstrable, harm to those who are enslaved. Therefore we cannot trust that the Bible contains ideal ways to live. Therefore, any claim based on "revelation" must be demonstrated to be true, and should not be accepted on the basis of revelation alone.

          In other words, if you want me to change my behaviors, demonstrate harm caused and forget about God. I could also decry many of the moral claims of the Catholic church, but that is largely outside the initial scope of this conversation.

          • Rob Abney

            Taken at face value

            Try to go a little deeper.
            But I wasn't recommending the bible to you anyway, I'm saying that you may be unaware of ways you can affect the well being of others. The bible story was just an example.
            It doesn't seem that you would accept theology because you reject the existence of God anyway. Have you considered reading the book that is being promoted here?

          • Have you considered reading the book that is being promoted here?

            Honestly, no. As far as I can tell it's mostly a rehashing of existing arguments, but nothing new in terms epistemology. Until we can actually examine the supernatural, I treat all supernatural claims as false. Reading one more apologists book isn't going to change that.

          • Rob Abney

            Since you have the supernatural ability to know what a book contains without reading the book then I think you might have success examining the supernatural.

          • I'm saying that you may be unaware of ways you can affect the well being of others.

            If I am considering taking a certain action, then I am responsible for making a good-faith effort to learn all the facts relevant to assessing the foreseeable consequences of that action on other people. We can never know with perfect certainty what all of those consequences might be. A rational ethical code cannot demand that we base our actions on knowledge that we cannot obtain with reasonable effort, and I see no reason to adopt any irrational ethical code.

        • Richard Morley

          Umm.. I think anyone other than a Christian would see that bible story as an excellent example of how the Bible is not a good moral authority.

          • Rob Abney

            You'll have to explain your judgement.

          • Richard Morley

            Where do you see morality in that, as opposed to some rather unpleasant amoral revenge fantasy?

            The rich man is being punished just for being rich while Lazarus was poor. At most you can say that he could have helped Lazarus more, although the story doesn't even say that he knew Lazarus was at his gates. If anything, if Lazarus was at his gates it would presumably have been because he did occasionally get leftovers from the rich man's table. How rich are you compared to the refugees starving to death right this second? You clearly have a PC. Is that a crime worthy of eternal torment?

            If not helping others is immoral, what happens in the story in the afterlife? Abraham and Lazarus not only do not help the rich man, they taunt him with that fact and tell him that he deserves it for having been lucky in life. When the rich man quite rightly points out that he did not know that this would happen and begs that his family be given actual good reason to believe that the unsupported assertions of 'Moses and the Prophets' are actually true, Abraham refuses. One must apparently accept the word of the prophets on faith or be tormented eternally for injustice that is not your fault, but the nature of the world that God created. This is the nastiest version of religion envisioned by Christopher Hitchens.

            The fact that I even have to explain that torturing people is immoral, especially when there is no hope of that torture leading to rehabilitation, especially when that person was given no sound reason to believe that his actions would be punished like this, especially when you yourself are engaging in a worse version of the behavior allegedly justifying the torture, and especially when the 'crime' is just being rich in an unjust world created by the one torturing you, is really strong evidence supporting the corrosive moral influence of the Bible, taken literally.

            I won't even get into the excuse "we can't help you because someone put a big chasm in the way." He may as well have told him that he just had to fill in a form that can only be obtained or submitted in Heaven and woops you can't get there.

          • Rob Abney

            Consider the story more like this; if the rich man ignores his role in the reality of the created world then reality will be a torturous place for him. Sort of like a world where we ignore the care of the environment and the environment becomes unlivable.
            I've understood the bible in this manner only after I was convinced that God exists (followed by a few other steps), Feser's new book deserves a fair reading by those of us, like you and me, who like to have proof.

          • Richard Morley

            But the rich man didn't know he was failing to fulfil a role. Abraham knew perfectly well how he could help the rich man or his still living family, and chose instead to taunt the rich man. Apparently for no reason beyond lulz, as it was too late for the rich man to change his ways.

            Not the best moral story.

          • Rob Abney

            But the rich man didn't know he was failing to fulfil a role

            He did know, he had Moses and the Prophets just as his brothers did. We've had Moses and the Prophets as well as Jesus, and we have scholastics and metaphysicians too, and we can ignore all of them.

          • Richard Morley

            He did know, he had Moses and the Prophets just as his brothers did.

            Can you point to the detailed well reasoned proofs of God in 'Moses and the Prophets'?

            For that matter, how familiar are you with the writings of Islam, Scientology, Hinduism and so on?

            Assertions with no evidence will quite naturally not convince rational people. The rich man's request on behalf of his brothers was perfectly reasonable.

          • Craig Roberts

            The rich man's request on behalf of his brothers was perfectly reasonable.

            The parable is a actually just an exercise in reverse psychology. In reality, Jesus actually does come back from the dead and fulfill the imaginary rich man's request. And of course, some people (just like he said they would) still don't believe it.

          • Richard Morley

            Ah, but again, how many people to whom he actually came after death refused to believe, even in the face of evidence? Being told that X happened is not the same as seeing proof that it happened.

          • Craig Roberts

            Oh but it gets worse! Not only does he not appear to you and me, but all of the people that he appeared to died thousands of years ago. And after 2000 years of passing along the information and trying to sort out the implications we're left with what? A Church so silly and full of obvious contradictions that you would have to have a screw loose to believe it. Superstition, crushing guilt, bad philosophy, and promises of pie in the sky after you die, do NOT make for compelling reasons to believe.

            So what are we left with? Despite Dr. Feser's noble attempts to explain the unexplainable to people way too smart to be conned with philosophy, we are left with some people that have faith (despite the ridiculous arguments, not because of them) and some that don't.

            Just like the prophets told us it would be!

          • Rob Abney

            Too many uncontrolled variables! Some of the most basic being level of understanding, content that's been provided, degree of charity toward the subject, .....
            I like your perspectives Craig.

          • Craig Roberts

            Why thank you Rob. :) Without taking on other perspectives our faith just becomes a paint by numbers snooze fest. No wonder most Catholics leave the Church. Hopefully after they have had a chance to get a different perspective on life they will come back with a greater appreciation for it's majesty and hidden mystery.

            It's also nice to hear one of my co-religionists actually admit that there is a bit of mystery involved with the supernatural. Most apologists get so invested in their identity as Catholics (or Protestants, etc.) that they end up throwing common sense out the window. They parrot their favorite philosopher and think that it settles the matter for good. In reality it just takes some of the fun out of exploring and examining the wild weird world of Christianity.

          • Craig Roberts

            Mr. Morley, I must say that, judging by your clear eyed perspective, seeming lack of animus, and cool headed demeanor you seem like a righteous dude. Thank you for providing a little common sense and tact to a conversation that always seems to be on the edge of devolving into an ego driven flame fest.

            Ironically, if I try to talk for very long with my co-religionists I tend to either get bored to death or kicked off the forum for not properly echoing the echoes in their little echo chambers.

            God bless wouldn't be appropriate for an atheist so "live long and prosper" instead.

          • Richard Morley

            Mr. Morley, I must say that, judging by your clear eyed perspective, seeming lack of animus, and cool headed demeanor you seem like a righteous dude.

            Why, thank you kind sir! (Coquettish flutter of eyelashes) I shall have to add 'righteous dude' to my business cards, in between 'false prophet' and 'for a good time, call...'

            I have also enjoyed the discussion. Certainly noone can accuse you of being an echo. Since you have nicked Spock already, I shall say 'Iechyd da'.

          • He did know

            Just because somebody told him so?

          • Rob Abney

            That's one way to know and he had that. But I was also referring to something that should be self-evident, "if the rich man ignores his role in the reality of the created world then reality will be a torturous place for him. Sort of like a world where we ignore the care of the environment and the environment becomes unlivable."

          • He did know

            Just because somebody told him so?

            That's one way to know

            It couldn't have been sufficient. I could tell you that I was the rightful heir to the crown of England, but I doubt that your reponse would be, "Oh, I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me."

          • Rob Abney

            That's a lame comparison though. But you ignored the self-evidential aspect which is multi-faceted though not fool-proof.

          • That's a lame comparison though. But you ignored the self-evidential aspect which is multi-faceted though not fool-proof.

            I'm trying to address the particular assertion, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." The reference obviously is to certain documents that members of a certain religious sect affirm to be divinely inspired and, for that reason, at least as reliably true as the evidence of one's own senses. There is nothing self-evident about that affirmation, and I don't see how the assertion "You should believe whatever Moses and the prophets say" is any less lame, in terms of logical rigor, than "You should believe whatever I say."

          • Rob Abney

            It was self-evident because it was multifaceted and ingrained in the culture. Even then the texts were never intended to be the only source of the knowledge provided by Moses and the Prophets. It was believed because it was truths known within the family for many generations. The only way to ignore the truth was to pursue something else as more important. The rich man's downfall was not his money but his love of money above his love of neighbor.

          • It was self-evident because it was multifaceted and ingrained in the culture.

            I cannot infer that something is self-evident just because it is widely believed among the people of a certain culture.

            The rich man's downfall was not his money but his love of money above his love of neighbor.

            I'm not disputing that. I'm disputing the claim, asserted by the author of Luke's gospel, that "Moses and the prophets" were sufficient reason for him to know that such prioritizing would cause him to suffer for an eternity.

          • Rob Abney

            Please explain how that Moses and the Prophets could be insufficient to provide the knowledge of how he should conduct his life.

          • Please explain how that Moses and the Prophets could be insufficient to provide the knowledge of how he should conduct his life.

            The only thing that anyone in the first century could have known about Moses and the prophets was that certain documents existed that many people claimed had been written by them under divine inspiration. Unless one knows that that particular claim is true, one does not know that one should live their life according to instructions given by Moses and the prophets.

          • Rob Abney

            The only thing that anyone in the first century could have known about Moses and the prophets was that certain documents existed

            I don't think that thought is even remotely accurate, but it is a good example of extreme eliminativism in order to ignore any other ways of knowing.

          • I don't think that thought is even remotely accurate, but it is a good example of extreme eliminativism in order to ignore any other ways of knowing.

            Fine. You have your epistemology, and I have mine.

          • Richard Morley

            The same way that L Ron Hubbard and his prophets are insufficient for you today.

          • Rob Abney

            Then why do I know so much more about Moses and the Prophets?

          • Richard Morley

            You should know better than I, but the most likely explanation is that you were raised in a Judeochristian environment, not a Scientologist one. That is also the most likely explanation for why you might accept bald assertions from Moses & co, but not from Hubbard et al. That is not, however, a good process for identifying which of two viewpoints is most correct.

          • Rob Abney

            That's my point, the rich man was raised in a jewish environment.

          • Richard Morley

            That seems to be an evasion, not a response. As far as I am aware, no one has suggested that the Rich Man or his brothers didn't know (or couldn't find out) what Moses and The Prophets were claimed to have claimed, rather they were not convinced.

            After all, the Rich Man begged Abraham (in vain) to send his brothers evidence that the claims were true, not a free copy of the Torah.

            Likewise, in this Information Age, you either know or can trivially easily find out what a vast number of religions claim for their prophets. Even the secretive (unless you pay $$$) Scientologists have had their teachings revealed by various disgruntled ex-members.

            So the question is why are you not taking their claims at face value, yet expect the Rich Man (and myself and others, I assume) to take the claims of Moses and The Prophets at face value? Just because you were raised Christian?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, I was raised Catholic but then as an adult I had to verify that what I was taught was true. The parable implies that the rich man was raised in a religious environment, probably very religious. You have said that that you've always been atheist, and have apparently verified that as true. So, neither of us is like the rich man who rejected what he was taught.

          • Richard Morley

            Atheism (in the modern sense) isn't something you can verify as true, just fail to falsify, and it was not something I was taught - my parents were both lower-case 'c' christian. Naturalism and rationalism I have investigated stress tested quite extensively.

            How and in what sense do you claim to have verified that Catholicism is true? Why is this method not spelled out in Moses and The Prophets?

          • Rob Abney

            It is and was spelled out, as simply as the 10 commandments.
            You say your parents were Christians, but were you?

          • Richard Morley

            It is and was spelled out, as simply as the 10 commandments.

            No evidence and arguments there, just assertions and a threat. Why should I heed that any more than the Scientologists telling me that I can live a trillion years in light and bliss with them or a trillion years in darkness and suffering otherwise (including presumably with you)?

            More to the point, why do you do so, other than having grown up with the one tradition being drilled into you and not the other?

            Personally I choose to give both blunt assertions the Spock eyebrow and go on judging by the evidence and arguments that more thoughtful philosophers provide.

          • Rob Abney

            My response contained two lines of thought.
            The first was an answer to your question about how the truth of Catholicism was spelled out by Moses.
            Then I asked you about your own religious history.

          • Richard Morley

            The first was an answer to your question ...

            It was not. It was a response, but pointing to the original list of assertions when asked how you 'verified' that they were true is blatantly not an answer. The same goes for your "who ees thees 'Bob' of whom you speak?" and many more examples.

            Now, if you don't wish to answer, fine. But then you cannot then demand answers to all your questions. Dialogue has to go two ways. I don't particularly care about revealing my religious history, but I do care about being treated equitably.

          • Rob Abney

            We don't seem to be understanding each other's comments lately. Maybe we will again at another thread.

          • Richard Morley

            We don't seem to be understanding each other's comments lately.

            So you're saying you don't understand how pointing at the ten commandments does not verify that they are true? Even with the example of you (presumably) not accepting the assertions of other religions? Or there is some way of 'understanding' the ten commandments that makes them a logical derivation of their own truth?

            Maybe we will again at another thread.

            Again, no one is going to try to force you to continue the discussion. But we are going to draw our own conclusions, especially as claiming to have proof of one's religion and then grabbing the first chance to bail out of giving it is something of a pattern, when one would assume that theists would leap at the chance of proving their religion to be the right one if they had solid proof.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            As in "We hold these truths to be self evident..." to paraphrase another widely read and respected document? I am too young to have ever met any of the founding fathers, but many Americans still seem to enjoy the advice.

          • many Americans still seem to enjoy the advice.

            They enjoy it because they agree with it. Nothing is true just because lots of people agree with it.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            The reverse is also true. Disbelief does not cause anything to cease. Truth does not need your belief, nor mine to be True. The combined lore of the culture, through Moses and the Prophets,should have been enough to warn the rich man of his fate. Clearly, it wasn't or Jesus would not have caused Himself to become Incarnate, to teach us again.

          • The combined lore of the culture, through Moses and the Prophets,should have been enough to warn the rich man of his fate.

            Why?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            May I presume that the answer, "Because Jesus said so!" would not be sufficient for you?

            Because whether you consider the advice "lore" or "fact" it still outlines the common belief of the culture. When one disagrees with the culture, one moves out of the mainstream and into the fringes, creating extremes in the culture, risking rifts or destruction. These beliefs do not generate themselves in a vacuum, they develop from something relevant, specific and necessary. And when those relevant, specific and necessary events are lost in the obscurity of ages or obscured in the wit of new ages it may relegate the lessons learned to obsolescence, until the culture needs the lesson again.

            Do you know, for example, the origin of the saying, "A watched pot never boils"?
            It is relevant, specific and necessary. Whether you realize it or not.

          • May I presume that the answer, "Because Jesus said so!" would not be sufficient for you?

            You presume correctly.

            When one disagrees with the culture, one moves out of the mainstream and into the fringes

            Is that not where Christianity began? Was it not a fringe religion, far out of the mainstream of its culture?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Not really. The Christ/Messiah/Saviour was seen variously as an earthly ruler who would throw off the Roman yoke, or as a great prophet who would bring the message of YHWH to His People, or as a folk tale full of illusions and allusions. Very, very few people, Jew or Gentile, were prepared to accept Jesus exactly as He was foretold by the Prophets, Judges and Kings who formed the foundation of the first monotheistic culture. Jesus is absolutely true to the core tenets of the Mosaic Covenant and as such serves as the focal point to draw the disparate POV back to the central position of the Covenant.

            If Christianity appeared to be a fringe element, it was only because humankind had drifted so far away from the essence of being the People of God.

          • Jesus is absolutely true to the core tenets of the Mosaic Covenant and as such serves as the focal point to draw the disparate POV back to the central position of the Covenant.

            That is what Christians were saying about him. The fact that almost nobody believed it put them way out of the mainstream and into the fringes of their culture, and that has nothing to do with the truth of what they said. "The mainstream" is not defined as "that which is true." It is defined as "that which almost everybody believes." If what almost everybody believes is false, then you're out of the mainstream if you say it is false.

            If Christianity appeared to be a fringe element, it was only because humankind had drifted so far away from the essence of being the People of God.

            Calling any idea mainstream or fringe is all about appearances. It has nothing to do with whether the idea is true.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Exactly.
            Calling any idea mainstream or fringe is all about appearances. It has nothing to do with whether the idea is true.
            The Truth and the Reality of Jesus is the inverse of what is supposed by those who chose not to believe.

            The parallels in nature are simple and profound. Imagine a single drop of rain falling into a pond: The raindrop is pure, condensed from water vapor around a single nucleus. And the pond into which it falls is also composed of water, but it holds many other compounds and chemicals in solution. That single raindrop causes ripples in the whole pond and though it mixes into the rest of the pond, the water remains water.

            Of course, one can always contaminate the pond analogy as easily as one can contaminate the pond itself. But the raindrop in this analogy represents the Truth of Jesus. The ripples in the pond, be they water or muck, are the fringes of the influence of the raindrop, no matter where in the pond it may land. Its location doesn't change the fact of its purity. If sentient, the ripples might consider themselves to be the 'purest part' of the pond, and reject the raindrop as an intruder into their world, though it brings purity. The water will remain true to its nature, supporting and being supported by the rest of the muck in the pond.

            IDK if this makes sense to you, but it does to me.

          • IDK if this makes sense to you

            It gives me a hint of why you believe. It tells me nothing about why I should also believe.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            For a while, Doug, I did not believe, either. My experiences and my intellect convinced me that Faith is both a gift and a choice. Once I chose to accept that gift, I found myself also living that gift. The Gift of Faith is open for you to accept it, when you so choose it. It will not expire, or decay, or fade away. If you don't perceive it, it is because you choose not to see it any longer.

            I have a brother who is colour blind, and has perfect eidetic pitch. I accept that there are hues he will never perceive, just as I, lacking eidetic pitch, will never be able to understand about acoustics. I will pray for you, Doug, as I pray for him, because he has not yet accepted his Gift of Faith:

            ‘My God, I believe in Thee, I adore Thee, I hope in Thee and I love Thee. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe in Thee, do not adore Thee, do not hope in Thee and do not love Thee.’

          • If you don't perceive it, it is because you choose not to see it any longer.

            One thing I can perceive very clearly is how very convenient it must be to assume that whoever doesn't agree with you just doesn't want to agree.

            If I could make any sense of believing whatever I wanted to believe, I would most likely become a universalist.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            That, my lad, is the essence of Free Will. You have been given the freedom to choose Whom to love, or what. That is the Gift of Faith, and it is real, whether you choose to acknowledge it as such or not. God is not diminished because you do not believe, nor is God enhanced because I do believe. God Is.

          • You have been given the freedom to choose Whom to love, or what.

            Really? Are we all like Vulcans, that we can control our emotions that way?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Speculative fiction as a reflection of potential reality. Interesting choice, Doug, to select an extreme example such as Vulcans. Don't forget their distant cousins, the Romulans who have so little control of their emotions.

            Sarek and Amanda, or Perrin.
            Or perhaps Sarek and Picard.
            Or Spock and T'Pring.
            Matthew 5:4.
            If one does not love, one cannot mourn. If one chooses not to love, one cannot miss what one cannot understand, or has never had? Perhaps you would enjoy "The Beast in the Jungle" by Henry James.

          • Speculative fiction as a reflection of potential reality.

            My point was to emphasize an inconsistency between reality and your assertion about how much control we have over our emotions.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            The ability to control one's emotions varies greatly among the human population. Toddlers, Bridezillas and Addicts are among the most notable for having little control of their emotions. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder do have normal emotions, but their control is too rigid. Psychopaths and sociopaths have very little awareness of their emotions and the emotions of others. But all can learn to manage, if not the emotions themselves, at least the expression of these emotions. "Fake it till you make it" is a variant of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

            North American culture greatly admires the physical self-control needed to be an athletic or thespian superstar. Nearly neglected among the genius of these stars is the superb emotional control the best have developed. Consider the differences between Shirley Temple Black and a contemporary of hers, Judy Garland. Or Natalie Portman and Britney Spears. Emotional self-control is as critical for success in any endeavour as the specific skills, talents and gifts.

            We can have very great control over our emotions. Few so choose.

          • But all can learn to manage, if not the emotions themselves, at least the expression of these emotions.

            Yes, within some limits. Among those limits is that we cannot love another person merely by an act of will.

            "Fake it till you make it" is a variant of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

            It can work sometimes, but it's never guaranteed to work. We can control the faking behavior, and we can control how long we will persist in it. We cannot control the emotional outcome. I used to have a drinking problem, and after deciding to do something about it, I faked believing in the spiritual program of Alcoholics Anonymous for 10 years. I gave up because I could no longer stand the feelings of hypocrisy that I was experiencing. That was 18 years ago, and fortunately (but not surprisingly to me), I have remained sober anyway.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Congratulations on your continued sobriety! I respect the determination it takes to face any addiction. My parents succeeded in gaining and maintaining sobriety, while my ex-husband has not.

            Consider this variation: What if Faith in God (or any deity, FTM) is an as-yet-undiscovered genetic constellation? (Constellation: a pattern of genetic combinations rather than a single or specific genetic anomaly. Tendencies toward certain behaviours as compared to a known abnormality; Addiction vs. Down Syndrome, or Artistic Genius vs Color Blindness.)

            Actually, I believe that one can develop Love as an Act of Will. It isn't easy, nor is it often reciprocated, but I believe that it does happen. Science has uncovered some of the neurochemicals which precipitate good feelings. Gains are being made in figuring out the combinations to distinguish 'like' from 'love' from 'lust' in the endocrine system. Marvelously creative!

            "It gives me a hint of why you believe. It tells me nothing about why I should also believe." Do you want to believe?
            (Please, no X-Files references are needed!)

          • Do you want to believe?

            What I want is conditional. I want to believe if it's true. If it isn't, I don't.

            But we can rephrase the question a bit: Do I want it to be true? If we're talking about orthodox Christianity, then no, I don't. There are some unorthodox variations of Christianity that I'd be OK with, though. An example would be some form of universalism.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            If so, you could be seated beside Chairman Mao or Genghis Khan as easily as Jesus or the apostle John. Are you really that generous with Mercy, that there would be no Justice? Your Standard Basic Universalism still accepts Jesus as the Son of God, and all of God's punishments for sin are corrective and remedial.

          • I have not studied universalism at all. I'm not the one trying to figure out a way to make sense of what the New Testament says. You asked what I want to be true. I want it to be true that no human being suffers eternal punishment for finite offenses. I would have no problem with the likes of Mao or Stalin paying some price in the afterlife for what they did in this life, but I don't want anybody to burn in hell forever, even figuratively.

            It would make perfect sense to me to think that if there is a God, then in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (a) he had a plan to save the entire world from the consequences of Original Sin and (b) the plan actually worked as he intended.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            He does, and the Plan works.

            If I offered you the car or home of your dreams, but never gave you the keys, you would be pretty angry, and I think, rightly so. If I gave you the keys, but you were responsible for its use, care and maintenance, would you think yourself ill-used? Not at all. If it were important enough you would find ways to use and keep that gift. The promise of Eternal Life is that gift.

            You get one life in which to Love and be Loved, not in the sexual sense but in the unconditional sense of a parent-child relationship. A responsible parent knows when to apply consequences to unwanted behaviour, or to encourage wanted behaviour. Anthropomorphic, yes, but we expect the same of the deity represented by Jesus. That's what is outlined in the New Testament. The Old Testament is the back-story, or the prequel, to help you make sense of the New Testament.

            Too many people get hung up on either the prequel or the various interpretations of learned (or selfish) men and women through the ages. We can look for the deification of humanity, or the anthropomorphism of God, but we still cannot fathom infinity.

          • He does, and the Plan works.

            I didn't mean the plan as you have understood it.

            If it were important enough you would find ways to use and keep that gift.

            I can use a real gift. I can't do anything with a promise of a gift, particularly when the person making the promise is not the person in a position to deliver the gift and can give me no good reason to believe the gift-giver even exists.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Are you not willing to take the risk? What would you lose if I'm right, and everlasting love is the benefit of faith? I would lose nothing if you are right, and nothing exists beyond death. It comes down to a willingness to believe in something immeasurable, and to act on that belief.

            I am reminded of Kermit's song in the first Muppet Movie; "I hope that something better comes along." .

          • David Nickol

            Are you not willing to take the risk? What would you lose if I'm right, and everlasting love is the benefit of faith?

            How do you have faith if you don't have faith? It seems the most that can be expected of anyone is to make the most honest effort possible to have an open mind. Even if there is a God (or even if Catholicism is completely true), do you claim that everyone who makes the most honest effort possible to look for God (or to explore Catholicism) will come to share your faith?

            You are just giving us Pascal's Wager. What are those who honestly don't believe supposed to do in response? Go through the motions of being a believer?

            Are we to be critical of C. S. Lewis or N. T. Wright for not seeing the truth of Catholicism and converting?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            As I said near the beginning of this discussion, Faith is both a gift and a choice. You can choose to believe, just as you can choose not to believe. If one insists on physical proof of the existence of God, you may as well return to the intellect of a toddler, without the concept of Object Permanence or Imaginative Play. because you will never be able to experience everything, across all time and space, without trusting the word of another person. I Trust in Jesus, Who is the Word.

            I accept the reports of the beauty of FujiYama, and the harrowing, mysterious depths of the Marianas Trench, though I will never experience them for myself. I also accept the Mercy and Judgment of Jesus at my last hour, as I accept that God knows better what people think and feel than I ever can: the mind of C. S. Lewis has beauty and depths that I cannot know, . I trust that God does.

            Faith is about trusting what you cannot see, too.

          • David Nickol

            You can choose to believe, just as you can choose not to believe.

            This isn't how I experience belief and disbelief either in an everyday sense or in a religious sense.

            Can you give me an example of something you have chosen to believe that you can now choose not to believe? Can you believe six impossible things before breakfast? I find the idea of choosing to believe incomprehensible.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Once I believed that my husband not only loved me, but would love me until death. I changed my mind on both counts.

            Have you ever been to McMurdo Sound? Peggy's Cove? What about atoms? Electricity? Insulin? Do you choose to believe in these things which you have not seen, just because somebody told you about them? We know how to handle electricity, but science still does not really understand it. Yet, every time we flick a switch, or tap a key, we effectively choose to believe the incomprehensible.

          • David Nickol

            You have not actually answered my question: Can you give me an example of something you have chosen to believe that you can now choose not to believe? How does one turn belief off or on?

            I can understand responding to Pascal's Wager by living as if one believed in Christianity. But that is different from actually believing.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            The verb "to believe" has two definitions. One is: accept (something) as true, while the next is: hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose. One can accept something as true, or hold an opinion. At one time I accepted as true that my husband would always love me, now I am of the opinion that he does not. Both ideas fulfill the definitions of "believe".
            In this respect, belief is still a conscious, cognitive choice, whether you are discussing believing in either fact or theory. If you choose not to believe, if you choose not to have faith, you are responsible for those choices. That is the essence of Free Will.
            When does the idea of living "as if" drop the conditional "if" and become living "as" a Christian? Is that a passive event that happens to you, or is it an active event of cognition? And was it Voltaire who advised a follower to break all of the commandments and he, too, would come to hate God? When do immigrants finally feel as if they finally belong in their new land?

          • Are you not willing to take the risk?

            You mean Pascal's wager? No. It's a sucker bet.

          • If Christianity appeared to be a fringe element, it was only because humankind had drifted so far away from the essence of being the People of God.

            Jesus was a Jew who saw his mission as calling "fallen-away" Jews back to Judaism. In Matthew 15:24 he says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." In Matthew 9:10-12 we have the following:

            While he was at table in his house,* many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher* eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

            You seem to be suggesting that Jews and Judaism in the first century were somehow corrupt, and Jesus came along to reform Judaism and make it into Christianity. That is certainly not how Peter and the Apostles saw it. They did not abandon Judaism after the death of Jesus. They remained Jews and continued to worship at the Temple. Jesus did not invent Christianity. He seemed to have a unique message, but certainly during his lifetime he neither rejected Judaism (or the Law) and did not advocate jettisoning Judaism and forming a new religion without Mosaic Law.

            In fact, after the death of Jesus, there was quite a battle between the original followers of Jesus (Peter and the Apostles) and those who wanted to make Gentile coverts to the Jesus movement. The original followers of Jesus wanted converts to be circumcised and follow Jewish Law. In other words, those who followed Jesus when he was alive wanted converts to the Jesus movement to convert to Judaism.

            A few years ago in a Catholic forum I quoted from my old Baltimore Catechism as follows: "The ceremonial laws ceased to exist when the Jewish religion ceased to be the true religion; that is, when Christ established the Christian religion, of which the Jewish religion was only a figure or promise." They were appalled. That was from the 1950s, and the thinking has changed quite dramatically. Catholics no longer believe Judaism was or is a "false" religion.

          • Rob Abney

            I look forward to Marie’s response but I’ve been following the thread and you seem to have misread her. She said humankind had drifted away not Judaism.
            What point are you trying to make though, that Catholics should continue observing the ceremonial laws?

          • She said humankind had drifted away not Judaism.

            I hope I have not misinterpreted what she meant, but what she said was not clear. It was the following:

            If Christianity appeared to be a fringe element, it was only because humankind had drifted so far away from the essence of being the People of God.

            The problem is that the "People of God" were the Jews, aka the "Chosen People." What would it mean to say that humankind had drifted away from the essence of being the Jews? I interpreted her to be saying that the Jews had drifted away from their role as the Chosen People.

            I don't think anyone denies that Christianity had its origin within Judaism, with Jesus and his followers during his lifetime, and then with Paul some time later. Judaism was by no means a "mainstream" movement within the whole of humankind, so in a numerical sense, at least, Christianity did begin as a "fringe" movement (i.e., a Jewish sect). Roman-occupied Palestine was far from the center of the Roman world. The area looms very large in the Old and New Testaments, but by the time of occupation, it was pretty much a backwater of the Roman Empire.

          • What point are you trying to make though, that Catholics should continue observing the ceremonial laws?

            The point I am making is that Jesus himself never said his followers were exempt from the Law. Jesus expected his followers to be Jews, and there was no question, even in the early Church, that Jewish followers of Jesus were to follow the law. Peter, for example, continues to be an observant Jew.

            Years ago I read an interesting column in America Magazine, which you can find here. I think a good case could be made from scripture that Christians are obliged to follow Noahide law. But somehow, even with the authority of scripture behind it, Noahide law is almost totally ignored within Christianity.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the article link. But why do you assert that Christianity almost totally ignores the Noahide law?

          • Did you not read or understand the article? Most of Noahide law is what would be expected of any community. The only part of it that is unique is the prohibition against eating blood. This would require Christians to eat meat that is "partially kosher" in that the slaughtered animal must be killed in a certain way and then the blood must be eliminated from the meat. This requires not merely draining the slaughtered animal of blood, but salting and soaking the meat to get the remaining blood out of it. The article makes reference to Augustine's comments on the matter in the late fourth or early fifth century:

            On the other hand, St. Augustine in Contra Faustum 32.13 states “now that the Church has become so entirely Gentile that none who are outwardly Israelites are to be found in it, no Christian feels bound to abstain from thrushes or small birds because their blood has not been poured out, or from hares because they are killed by a stroke on the neck without shedding their blood.” According to Augustine, the decree, at least concerning food, is no longer in force. Who made the decision? Is Augustine referring simply to common practice and reality? Can change in the teaching of the Church "just happen"? Can Augustine just say it is so?

          • Rob Abney

            I did read the article and I understood it, what is not clear was your interpretation which was based on the author’s confusing conclusions.
            I’ll provide a link to a better explanation which explains the Church’s position much better. The blood is symbolic of life and the blood was an important part of ritual sacrifice, but the ritual sacrifice is no longer needed after the sacrifice of the Son. http://m.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/are-christians-forbidden-to-consume-blood#.WncLtnBOn7o

          • The blood is symbolic of life and the blood was an important part of ritual sacrifice, but the ritual sacrifice is no longer needed after the sacrifice of the Son.

            The question, then, is why Peter and James the Brother of Jesus still imposed the prohibition on Gentile converts, and why Jewish followers of Jesus still observed not only that, but all provisions of the Law. And given that this was a restriction placed on Gentile converts by one of the Apostles (Peter), and is in divinely inspired scripture, when and how did the restriction get lifted?

            I am not arguing that the Church currently imposes the restriction on consuming blood, or that it is mistaken not to. The question is how things changed. Related to that question is how and when the Jesus movement made a clean break with Judaism and came to be completely independent rather than a movement composed of Jews in a position of authority accepting Gentiles into their Jewish-Christian sect. It is not a question for apologists. It's about history and the development of doctrine.

          • Rob Abney

            It's about history and the development of doctrine

            That's a big subject, too big for this thread, in my opinion. But did you disagree with any points that Akin made in that article?

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Jesus was a Jew who saw his mission as calling "fallen-away" Jews back to Judaism.

            To be more precise, I'd say instead that Christ called on his fellow members of the house of Israel to become Messianists and join the Jesus Movement. He was certainly establishing a sect/denomination distinct from and in opposition to the other sects/denominations within the larger Judean religion.

            You seem to be suggesting that Jews and Judaism in the first century were somehow corrupt, and Jesus came along to reform Judaism and make it into Christianity. That is certainly not how Peter and the Apostles saw it. They remained Jews and continued to worship at the Temple.

            Peter and the Apostles saw that Jesus came along to replace the temple cult, upend social purity laws, etc. It's already obvious and explicit in Mark, the earliest gospel, that Jesus saw corruption in the Temple Cult.

            According to Acts, Peter and the Apostles went to the temple to preach. That's why they were arrested there.

            Jesus did not invent Christianity. He seemed to have a unique message, but certainly during his lifetime he neither rejected Judaism (or the Law) and did not advocate jettisoning Judaism and forming a new religion without Mosaic Law.

            I somewhat agree with you. It is anachronistic to refer to either the Jesus Movement during Christ's lifetime or the post-resurrection Jesus-groups as "Christianity."

            Jesus advocated jettisoning all sorts of things, such as the temple cult, social purity laws, etc. There were various sects within the Judean religion, but it seems obvious that the Jesus Movement was intended to replace all of them rather than sit alongside them.

            The original followers of Jesus wanted converts to be circumcised and follow Jewish Law. In other words, those who followed Jesus when he was alive wanted converts to the Jesus movement to convert to Judaism.

            To be precise again, the original Apostles wanted Gentiles to convert to a specific, unique sect of Messianists within the larger Judean religion.

          • Peter and the Apostles saw that Jesus came along to replace the temple cult, upend social purity laws, etc. It's already obvious and explicit in Mark, the earliest gospel, that Jesus saw corruption in the Temple Cult.

            I disagree here. I am relying heavily on James D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity. Here is a very brief excerpt (very much abridged) from the pertinent section (pp. 115ff):

            The first believers evidently regarded themselves as the climax of Judaism, as the renewed or eschatological Judaism for which the prophets had looked. . . .

            Our records indicate that the first group of believers in Jerusalem continued to observe the Torah, apparently without question. Particularly significant is Peter's own testimony given in Acts 10.14 and 11.8, that he had never eaten anything common or unclean; as also the reaction of 'the brothers in Judea'—'Why did you go to men who were uncircumcised and eat with them?' (Acts 11.3) Implicit in both cases s a still well established covenantal onomastic mindset—a still unquestioned assumption of the rightness or necessity of operating fully within the boundaries makes out by the Torah. Such testimony as to the earliest community's continuing faithfulness on the matter of food laws and table-fellowship provides one of the strongest reasons for questioning whether Jesus was so clearly as radical on the subject of food laws as Mark 7.25 and 19 indicate.

            As we have already seen, the first Nazarenes seem to have remained firmly attached to the temple.

            They also seem to have made very little, if any, attempt to stir from Jerusalem. There is no evidence on their part of any sense of mission to the Gentiles. . . .

            In short, the new movement of Jesus' followers saw itself as part of second Temple Judaism and remained very much within its matrix.

            The NAB note to Mark 7:19 (Jesus declares all foods unclean) says, "[I]f this bold declaration goes back to Jesus, its force was not realized among Jewish Christians in the early church; cf. Acts 10:1–11:18." If Jesus had in any way questioned circumcision, dietary laws, or table-fellowship rules, why was the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) necessary and why was there such a clash between Peter and Paul on these issues?

            Something that I think is fascinating is John P. Meier's statement that “the historical Jesus is the halakic Jesus." The question that I ask myself is—if Christianity was to abolish the Jewish Law soon after the lifetime of Jesus—why did Jesus spend time staking out positions on the Law? For example, if Jesus had some plan for his followers to cease observing the Sabbath, why did he teach what he did about Sabbath observance?

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I did not mention the consumption of unclean foods, the practice of circumcision, or table-fellowship with Gentiles when I wrote about what Jesus reformed. Paul is clear in his epistles about his clash with Peter and James over those issues, so we know that the Pauline position on those issues was in opposition to the view of the original followers of Jesus.

            In the gospels, Jesus and his disciples observe the Torah in a unique way that differs from the way of their opponents. Here is a short summary of the differences. In other words, I agree that they were Torah observant, but what that means in the case of the Jesus Movement needs to be defined.

            What does Dunn mean by "firmly attached to the temple?" In Acts, the Messianists go to the temple to preach. If Dunn is referring to a firm attachment to the temple cult, then I have no idea where he is getting that from.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Something that I think is fascinating is John P. Meier's statement that “the historical Jesus is the halakic Jesus." The question that I ask myself is—if Christianity was to abolish the Jewish Law soon after the lifetime of Jesus—why did Jesus spend time staking out positions on the Law? For example, if Jesus had some plan for his followers to cease observing the Sabbath, why did he teach what he did about Sabbath observance?

            Fr. Meier distinguishes between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. In keeping with that distinction, we can safely conclude that the historical Jesus did not preach a law free gospel. Biblical scholars acting as historians cannot establish that the resurrected Christ called Paul to be his apostle, and that he then revealed a law free gospel to Paul as a post-resurrection development of doctrine. Those are faith claims. Without faith all we can say is that Paul's law free gospel was an innovation and was not preached by the historical Jesus.

            In The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community, David C. Sim persuasively argues that the Matthean Jesus group was opposed to the Pauline Jesus groups. It should tell us something that even many decades after the death of Jesus (Sim dates Matthew late) one of the only four Jesus groups to produce a surviving gospel remained unconvinced that Jesus's replacement of the temple cult meant a thorough nullifcation of the Mosaic Law, as Paul had argued. But that's a purely historical exegesis. A hermeneutic of faith will probably try to read Matthew through Paul, not in opposition to him.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Consider Vatican II as revisionist history. Jesus Himself claimed that He came not to overturn the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it. Perhaps you need to review the origin and history of the Pharisaic movement in the first centuries before and after Jesus. Then start actually reading some of the actual Vatican II documents. Much of what is "reported" as V-II is neither Catholic nor does it originate from V-II.

            Stating that Christianity is the "true" religion does not necessarily make Judaism "false". That simply reflects a two point dichotomy in your own perception. Consider, instead that the Chosen People are a continuum which is taking millenia to develop; the Prophets were navigators trying to make course corrections, and Jesus as Captain, Navigator and Quartermaster for the same continuum. Jesus comes to "True up" the purpose of the journey. He is the Way, the Truth and the Light.

          • BCE

            Perhaps you can not appreciate the Semitic style of writing?

            The rich man never expresses any concern for Lazarus: he lets Lazarus starve, to the point where he can't even move away from dogs that are licking at his stinking rotting flesh.
            The illusion, to the rich mans cloths and splendid feasts to impress us with just how wealthy he was. " at his gate" that there was no way he didn't know Lazarus was starving. The dogs, that they were fed better and regarded more.

            Do we turn a blind eye to suffering?

            Now Lazarus is dead and being comforted by Abraham. But the rich man doesn't care, he doesn't ask about Lazarus or express remorse for how he treated him, instead he intrudes and asks Abraham to send(order) Lazarus to give him water
            He had treated Lazarus as less than a dog, and now
            the rich man (who can no longer abuse Lazarus himself) wants to get Abraham to stop comforting him, treat him again like a slave
            and make him do what the rich man wants.

            Do we think we can avoid being responsible by getting others(especial with authority) to further victimize the poor?

            When Abraham explains he can't send Lazarus to hell(with water) the rich man asks Abraham to send the dead Lazarus to his father's house.
            Why, so they can comfort and love Lazarus?

            There already existed good authority, but the rich man doesn't care,
            he only wants to spare his brothers from hell, not teach them love.
            He presumes Lazarus will "scare the hell" out of them; he doesn't
            bother to ask Abraham " what would God have me do to help save my brothers"

            Do we really care about others if we can't humble ourselves to learn what is best for them?
            Do we force the meek and poor to carry an unfair burden?

            There are other parables about forgiveness and mercy.
            This story is a warning about ignoring the suffering of others.
            About indifference and imposing your responsibility on others.
            About running out of time.

            If you don't like the story then maybe you just dislike this type of ancient writing. With many on SN mocking it, I presume some are
            just into doing that.

          • Perhaps you can not appreciate the Semitic style of writing?

            The story was written in Greek, which is not a Semitic language. Anyway, the linguistic style in which something is written tells me nothing about why I should believe its message.

            This story is a warning about ignoring the suffering of others.

            I agree that it is morally wrong to ignore the suffering of others, but the reason I agree has nothing to do with what the story says about why I should believe it.

          • BCE

            You are right.
            I presume too much (that the Parable itself came from Jesus)
            and was taught while on route to Jerusalem in Judea ( maybe near Samaria ) and Lazarus is a Hellenize translation.
            Of course that doesn't mean you need to believe it was ever told by Jesus, or written by Mark or Luke. You are correct, I was referring to the use of parable credited to Jesus.
            There is the illusion, the rich man(sees) recognized Abraham.How?
            (Though separated by generations ) and knows his Authority)
            which means he was very well schooled. These illusions are
            a literary devise.
            But my point is Greek, Hebrew, what ever, the atheists do
            not seem to like the parable style.
            As if I read the The Three pigs
            and needed to point out pigs don't talk and modern home building.
            Not a critic over true authorship, origin,translation etc. but that pig's don't talk or since "I don't think pigs build houses " therefore I don't think what it says about wolves is true

          • But my point is Greek, Hebrew, what ever, the atheists do not seem to like the parable style.

            Atheists have no likes or dislikes in common. Other than "They don't believe in any god," there is nothing you can say that is true of all of them. Some things are true of most atheists, but in no important case will the exceptions be too few to matter.

          • BCE

            Well I want to get to the article, you contributed a thoughtful question.
            But can you clarify for me.
            Are you saying no premise is ever a proof?
            Such that as a modal...the premise is conditional because it
            is a "if" "if A is true...."

          • Whether any premise is a proof depends on its logical relationship with the conclusion. Merely saying "If A then B" doesn't prove anything. Now let's add two stipulations: (1) A is true as a matter of fact, and (2) if you deny B while affirming A, you contradict yourself. In that case, and only in that case, you have proved B.

          • BCE

            Yes, correct
            I was not sure what you meant by "proofs must... rest...on assumptions...stipulated to be unprovable
            instead of a proof must stipulate the assumption(premise) is provable

          • As I said, "If A then B" doesn't prove B unless A is actually true. But how do we know whether A is true? We try to prove it, because if you can't prove A, then you can't prove B. But then what about proving whatever we think proves A?

            This can't go on forever. Eventually we get to some statement that looks like it just be unreasonable to deny even though we can't think of any way to prove it. A statement like that is what we call an assumption.

          • BCE

            So (proof of God) if we bypass any axioms or premises involving the Bible, morals, and miracles....in fact let's go way back...
            If as a priori
            There are four forces(gravity, electo magnetic, strong, weak)
            if (A) all particles, all energy, all motion, all events, all planetary bodies, can only come to be by the laws of physics. Then (B) all that exists comes to exist by the laws of physics.
            So from where do the laws come from ?

          • So from where do the laws come from ?

            They come from our minds. Natural laws are concepts we formulate in order to make sense of what we observe when we observe nature.

          • BCE

            I apologize
            I did a poor job of expressing myself
            I know Lemaitre objected to "The God Particle"
            but weren't some scientist not satisfied with thinking the "forces" were just descriptive "concepts" of the mind and are themselves things
            like bosons, gluons...maybe gravitons .
            I am sincerely not trying to catch ya.
            When we speak of proof I mean "a proof" like an axiom
            If even gravity is gravitons then from where do gravitons arrive there being?
            So they alone don't need anything "to be"
            or (just as Higgs did) keep searching...
            and do we hit a wall?

          • I know Lemaitre objected to "The God Particle"
            but weren't some scientist not satisfied with thinking the "forces" were just descriptive "concepts" of the mind and are themselves things like bosons, gluons...maybe gravitons .

            I have not pursued the scientific discussion to that depth, but I know that the scientific community is not all of one philosophical mind. The ontological status of the fundamental particles could well be disputed by some scientists, for all I know.

            If even gravity is gravitons then from where do gravitons arrive there being? So they alone don't need anything "to be" or (just as Higgs did) keep searching... and do we hit a wall?

            As long as we have questions, we will keep searching for answers, and we will always have questions.

          • Craig Roberts

            You have to admit that it works as a "moral story" as long as you are telling it to simpletons. "Don't ignore poor people. Got it Boss!"

            There is actually a whole 'nother dimension to consider. "Lazarus" is the only person in all of Jesus' parables that is actually given a name. And it just happens to be the same name as a man he would later raise from the dead. Coincidence? Of course not.

            So the story (in addition to being a moral story for dummies) is actually a hint of future events. A prophecy of his raising the real "Lazarus" and his own resurrection. In this interpretation the moral implications of the story can safely be ignored and we can consider what Jesus is trying to convey on a deeper level.

          • Richard Morley

            You have to admit that it works as a "moral story" as long as you are telling it to simpletons.

            Unfortunately simpletons (and, more worryingly, children) are very good at spotting the simple.

          • Craig Roberts

            Sure...ok. But if the story is actually meant to be a prophecy it is uncanny. The story ends with, "But Abraham said, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead.'"

            He's not only foretelling of the miracle of Lazarus and his own death and resurrection, but that there will be people that still won't believe.

            In short, he's prophesying atheism.

          • Richard Morley

            Heh, I 'prophesy' that if I pop down to the pub and tell the locals that Richard Feynman rose from the dead and spoke to me, that they will not believe me. Do I get an official 'Prophet' T-shirt? ;P

            Of course, if I turned up with a palpable Richard Feynman in tow, that would be a different matter. How many people are said to have disbelieved Jesus even after seeing him risen from the dead and put their fingers in his wounds and so on?

            Again, Luke was writing after the alleged resurrection, so resentment at people not accepting the assertion of resurrection was hardly prophesy. As I said at the start, true believers may read this story differently, but to non believers it looks quite different.

          • Craig Roberts

            "As I said at the start, true believers may read this story differently, but to non believers it looks quite different."

            This sorry state of affairs is necessary for faith to exist at all. If we could not distinguish between believers and non-believers we would not be aware of something called faith.

            God (apparently, according to the Bible) does this on purpose. In a famous passage from the OT God tells the prophet Isaiah, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving." Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed."

            Doesn't seem very nice, but there it is. Jesus himself quotes this passage when asked why he speaks in parables. Whatever you think of so called "prophecy" you'll have to confess that there are a lot of people that, no matter how hard they try, just don't get the gospel message. Just as prophesized.

          • Richard Morley

            If we could not distinguish between believers and non-believers we would not be aware of something called faith.

            Surely that is true of any category? If I claim that some plants are A-plants and others are B-plants but there is (even in principle) absolutely no way to distinguish one from another, not even an arbitrary list drawn up by me, what does that actually mean?

            (emphasis mine):

            God (apparently, according to the Bible) does this on purpose..
            ..Whatever you think of so called "prophecy" you'll have to confess that there are a lot of people that, no matter how hard they try, just don't get the gospel message. Just as prophesized.

            Again, if that counts as 'prophecy' then I wants my official 'Prophet' T-shirt. Maybe just a badge?

          • Craig Roberts

            Sure, why not. Just remember, real prophets (at least in the Bible) tend to get killed. False prophets are fine though. So just keep it fake and you should be fine.

          • Richard Morley

            Well, play to your strengths I say, and 'false prophet' has me written all over it.

            Although I would point out that at least some theists believe Elijah is still physically alive, which would give prophets of his era a significantly higher survival rate than the non-prophets of his time.

          • Craig Roberts

            Elijah is alive??? That's just nuts! Everybody knows that Elijah rode up to heaven in a whirlwind riding a chariot of fire with horses of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Nothing weird about that I suppose. It's right there in the Bible so it can't be nuts.

          • It really does confound me how a supposedly all powerful, all knowing, god would have a message of salvation that isn't absolutely crystal clear to every single person, especially in light of the Christian idea of an eternal hell.

          • Craig Roberts

            Excellent observation. The Catholic Church teaches that in order to commit a sin worthy of hell (mortal sin) you have to do it with full knowledge that you are really going to piss God off. Well if you don't believe in God it's pretty much impossible to do something that you know will make God angry. How could you? You have to believe before you can commit sin like that.

            So hell is full of Catholics who knew God's will and (somehow) chose to ignore it and everybody else gets a free pass. You can't be blamed for annoying somebody (God) that you don't even know is there.

          • Martyn Cornell

            Even if your claim about the name Lazarus in the Dives and Lazarus story being linked to Lazarus of Bethany – and there are at least seven other people in the bible called Eleazar (the origin of Lazarus), so it was clearly not an uncommon name - is true, the whole narrative was written down decades later, and thus cannot be used to claim any kind of prophecy.

          • Craig Roberts

            So don't listen. That's what he said you would do. Christians think Jesus was all about proving to everybody how great he was. He actually appears quite content to speak in riddles to the masses and reveal himself to only a select few.

          • Richard Morley

            He actually appears quite content to speak in riddles to the masses and reveal himself to only a select few.

            ...and then punish everyone else... for ETERNITY!!

            BWAHAHAHAHA!!

          • Craig Roberts

            Actually, I think you got it backwards. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke (12:48) "But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

            Catch that? Those who have been given "much" (could this be the gift of faith?) will be held MORE responsible. Given that you don't seem to have a religious bone in your body, your impending punishment will have to be remitted according to our saviors own words.

            Now the pope on the other hand might have some 'splaining to do...

          • Richard Morley

            Given that you don't seem to have a religious bone in your body, your impending punishment will have to be remitted according to our saviors own words.

            True dat (about my religious bonelessness) but that doesn't give me an excuse for maniacal laughter, therefore hush.

          • Rob Abney

            An epigraph from a favorite movie of mine, Calvary: “Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved.” The first line certainly sounds comforting, but the second part is much more ominous. “Do not presume,” it continues, “one of the thieves was damned.” Attributed to St. Augustine.

          • neil_pogi

            the story of the rich man and lazarus is just a parable, nothing literal exists there! if that is a true and literal story, then heaven and hell would be just a meter away from each other, and that only a drop of water could easily give relief to a person who is tortured by the flame of hell! and that the citizens of heaven could easily see those sufferings in hell because the distance is only a meter away from each other

          • Daniel G. Fink

            If I were to draw the conclusion that anthropic coincidences seal the case for design, without consulting the scientific community's explanations, I might be hasty in my declaration. It seems to me that the same applies to the surface reading of, in this case, Christian scripture. There are a number of New Testament commentaries, e.g., which would resolve many of the objections you raise. To be specific, the Catholic Catechism cites the parable as a call to responsibility regarding human solidarity with reference to hunger.

            While granting that that recognition is not dependent on who the Christian labels "God", it's difficult to see how the "justice" in the parable is recognized by the secular in a mechanistic universe that attributes reality only to the quantifiable.

          • Richard Morley

            To be specific, the Catholic Catechism cites the parable as a call to
            responsibility regarding human solidarity with reference to hunger.

            As Abraham does in the parable.

          • Craig Roberts

            Oh but actually it gets worse! Suppose the rich man wakes up and discovers it was all a bad dream? What now? If he goes and apologizes to Lazarus and invites him into his home and gives him half of his wealth he's actually endangering Lazarus' soul. If Lazarus is really on his way to heaven the last thing you want to do is change his course.

            If the rich man is able to trade places with Lazarus, what becomes of Lazarus? The rich man's only real option is to lie down in the gutter and emulate Lazarus. This does not help Lazarus one bit because Lazarus is not the one in the story that needs help!

          • Rob Abney

            If Lazarus is really on his way to heaven the last thing you want to do is change his course.

            Unfortunately, nearly all of us have to overcome course changes nearly every day; fortunately, we can get on the right course even at the last hour; unfortunately, we usually don't know when that last hour is!

          • Richard Morley

            If he goes and apologizes to Lazarus and invites him into his home and gives him half of his wealth he's actually endangering Lazarus' soul.

            Which, according to the 'moral' of the story (taken literally) is what you should do. Then you and your pal Abraham can taunt Lazarus instead. For ever.

            An appropriate story for Halloween.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not sure what to make of this, moral indignation about a biblical story from non-believers who take no authority from the bible. If I hadn't encountered intelligent conversations with you before I would decide that you are just too simple to understand the story but I know that you could understand it if you tried to. No one who reads the bible interprets the story in a manner to promote bullying and taunting. Lets get back to discussing the metaphysics that lead to the understanding of God's existence.

          • Richard Morley

            I'm not sure what to make of this, moral indignation about a biblical story from non-believers who take no authority from the bible.

            Ah, it's called "answering a direct question". If you read back you will see one 'Rob Abney' asking me to explain my judgement. A bit earlier he presented the alleged moral story in the first place.

            It's not as though Christians are loath to criticize moral arguments or stories with which they disagree. There is also the question of desensitization - stories like this do seem to desensitize people to things like punishing others for contravening religious laws which they do not share and which have no objective basis and more than a whiff of hypocrisy, witness the fact that you needed me to explain what might be immoral about that story. And they do crop up both in political debate and in the schoolroom.

          • Rob Abney

            You're right, basically I asked for your opinion, and should have expected such a response.

      • Ben

        "...nobody has done that, and nobody has come anywhere close to doing that." Absolute nonsense.
        We can have some pretty good confidence that God exist. There are certainly other explanations, but that God exist, is certainly a reasonable proposition to accept.

      • Ben Champagne

        And how can you rely on your own definition of well being? You spit out a diatribe that clearly demonstrates you have never wrestled with the positions proposed by Feser and simply tossed them haphazardly in your metaphysical rubbish bin, and then in the next breath pull out the singular scrap of chicken scratch to ascribe the totality of morality to.

        People that take the bait of the veil or golden rule often presuppose what is not in evidence, that being both the meaning of well being and the justification to enact it even if such meaning could be objectively discerned.

        • Because "how we should live" is subjective! I have a number of things that I value, and I generally hold that making people healthier, happier is a good way to live. If you disagree, fine. Nobody is saying you have to agree with me.

          Well being, or at least many aspects of it, are objective and measurable. It's far more useful than any claims of an objective morality, or an objectively true way to live.

          • Ben Champagne

            Well being is purely subjective. Put down the kool-aid. I could more successfully argue that, barring God from the conversation, the best state of being for a human is death (Where have I heard that play out before?). You have zero objective or measurable aspects of well being without an extrinsic definition.

          • Well being is purely subjective.

            If you honestly believe that, let me stab you a few times with a long, dull, rusty, knife. Do you think you'll be well being will be better the more times I stab you, or the less times I stab you? QED.

            I could more successfully argue that, barring God from the conversation, the best state of being for a human is death

            I doubt that. My axioms for morality is that life is generally preferable to death, and that people don't want to be dead. I could also argue that as a Christian you should be begging for death. After all, death is the only thing keeping you away from an eternity of bliss with Jesus.

          • Ben Champagne

            My axiom for morality is that the totality of suffering should be as limited as possible, therefore, death is the most preferable natural state for humanity. Prove me wrong.

            Well being is just another way of saying the same thing, it also only distracts from the point that you need to clarify 'my' because there is no objective base for you to rest and instead rely on feelings personally held. Oh my favorite part though is there is absolutely no societal standard to hold the well being of others with any regard, beyond 'muh feels'.

            Still waiting on those objective and measurable aspects...

          • Fine. Then go kill yourself and watch me care!

            Morality, and how we should live our lives, is ultimately subjective. The fact that most of us want to live, and want to healthy and happy, is the basis for how we decide to live.

            If you claim there is an objective morality, and objective way to live, I invite you to prove it, otherwise you're pretty much wasting my time.

          • Ben Champagne

            ... You miss the essence of the argument. Your repeated reductive attempts at refutation are merely a distraction. You would care if I actually felt that way about humanity, and had proximity and opportunity to enact such an ideal. The logical conclusion would be that I should be the last to die to ensure said ideal, and that it is incumbent on me to be an arbiter of death for humanity. (Just in case you want to continue to be reductive, I don't actually believe this...)

            Morality itself is arguably objective or subjective (though the stronger case rests on the former). Our perception of morality is a more concrete ground to make such an argument about the subjectivity of morality.

            If morality is truly subjective, then there is no reason you should have any expectation of others holding any regard for your well being, excepting you have the power to prohibit every element of humanity from doing anything about your subjective position (Hint: you don't).

            "The fact that most of us want to live, and want to healthy and happy, is the basis for how we decide to live." Is happiness objective in this statement? What if my happiness is reliant on the unhappiness of others? If you think people don't actually feel and live this way, I would call you naive.

            "My axioms for morality" is just another example of you choosing what beliefs suit you, and has nothing to do with reality. Wrestle more with metaphysics, less with random people on the internet by rehashing weak arguments that rely on reductive absurdity (and amusingly, a refusal to be consistent with the use of statements like this: "but that you exist, and are human, is certainly a reasonable proposition to accept.").

            The irreverence of your position is also laid bare by a statement such as this: "What your hypothetical god believes, or has "revealed" is irrelevant to me." Such a statement would (and does) mark you for death among many cultures with god beliefs. That doesn't exactly strike me as irrelevant if they come knocking on your door. Thankfully for you, Christian ideals are still the pervasive cultural influence in the first world.

          • Morality itself is arguably objective or subjective (though the stronger case rests on the former)

            Based on what exactly?

            If morality is truly subjective, then there is no reason you should have any expectation of others holding any regard for your well being,

            Bullshit! We're a social species, and we depend on each other for survival. If you want my help to survive there are some basic rules that I'm laying down that you have to agree to. Similarly you have some rules that you'd like me to obey. Just because morality is subjective doesn't mean it's completely arbitrary

            Could you please go read a little bit about secular morality. it would save me the frustration of typing pages of text to try and explain what literally thousands of others have already explained.

            Is happiness objective in this statement?

            Actions have consequences, and consequences are objective. We can determine if our actions make people happier or not. If I stab you, you're not going to be happy about it. You're going to be objectively less healthier than you were before. If I steal your property you're very likely going to be less happy than you would be if I didn't take your property. These things are objective, and very clear. Not every aspect is perfectly clear, or perfectly objective.

            "My axioms for morality" is just another example of you choosing what beliefs suit you, and has nothing to do with reality

            Is it really arbitrary that I don't want to be dead? That I enjoy living, and the alternative doesn't appeal to me? I outright assert that, in general, I prefer to be alive. I prefer pleasure over pain. You keep seeming to believe that subjective means arbitrary, when it's not.

            Such a statement would (and does) mark you for death among many cultures with god beliefs.

            As does your belief in a god that other cultures don't accept. Being an outside is generally not a good thing to be if you want to survive., and depending on how hostile they are towards other god ideas, you may also be marked for death. Fortunately, our society has moved past such primitive notions.

            Thankfully for you, Christian ideals are still the pervasive
            cultural influence in the first world.

            Oh yes, the ever tolerant Christians. Please spare me your nonsense, and false attributions. The reasons Christians accept other ideas is because they've grown up, and become more secular. Not because of their god.

    • Daniel G. Fink

      The trajectory of "the modern world" is to view nature as mechanistic, and the only reality as that which is quantifiable, inheriting the philosophy from early moderns such as Bacon ("The goal of the sciences is none other than this:that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers, so that man may endeavor to establish and extend the power of the human race itself over the universe in an empire of man over things", and Descartes...The goal is "to make ourselves...masters and possessors of nature").

      Philosophers such as Dr. Feser are attempting to rescue scholastic metaphysics for the modern world, against the philosophical hand wave given to metaphysics by the early moderns.

      • Do you mean … that in order to solve the problems we currently face, more power over nature and humankind might not be the answer?!

    • Scalia

      Scholars like Feser serve a vital purpose. We live in an increasingly skeptical world, and there have been and are cogent replies to the objections of skeptics and atheists. Apologetic arguments are a tool of evangelism, and I think Feser does a great job articulating theism to students and skeptics.

      • Michael Murray

        Do you really think apologetic arguments are there to convert people ? I would have thought they just prop up the faith of existing religious people or at least give them something they can refer to in their discussion with skeptics and atheists. I don't want to be rude but most of us skeptics and atheists find them laughable.

        • Phil Tanny

          Both theist and atheist communities (especially online) are typically mutual validation societies where people of like mind come together to endlessly tell each other how right they are, how superior they are etc.

          I like this site in that it seems to be at least some limited attempt to put all these folks in the same room.

          • Michael Murray

            Very limited given it's record of locking so many of one group out of the room :-)

          • Phil Tanny

            What do you mean exactly? Have lots of atheists here been banned? Is that your point?

            Not sure how much time you've spent on other Catholic sites, but my impression is that this one is very open minded compared to the norm.

            A month or two ago I took a break from StrangeNoggins to explore a traditional Catholic forum. Didn't get banned as I expected, but wow, I'm pretty sure the members (with one exception) would have burned me at the stake if only they could have gotten their angry hands around my throat so as to drag me to the pyre.

          • Michael Murray

            It is different here to a traditional Catholic site in that the purpose, as spelt out in the sites About pages still, was to engage atheists not just discuss Catholicism. So you would hope it didn't ban atheists. In January 2014 though there was a ban of 30 of the most prolific of the atheist posters and a mass deletion of their posts. Me and Mike (Sample) and a few others here are but the sad remnants of a once great atheist horde :-)

        • Scalia

          Hi, Michael. No offense taken here. I know of quite a few people who've converted to theism due to apologetic arguments, so yes, they are an effective tool for some people. Now, since you don't accept those arguments, you would probably consider said converts to be naive or gullible, and perhaps some of them are. I nonetheless think there are good apologetic arguments, so we'll have to disagree there.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks for that. I'm probably over extrapolating from the people I move amongst. It's certainly not how I'd try to convince myself to believe in God.

          • Phil Tanny

            It's certainly not how I'd try to convince myself to believe in God.

            We might assume for the moment that there is no method which would lead to your belief in God. If so, ok, no problem, we could cross God belief off the list of possibilities and move on to something else more productive.

            For many people this might lead to an end of any interest in religion. But for you, here you are regularly on a religion website, so if you're going to invest time in that manner it would seem rational to try to harvest something of practical benefit to you.

            I don't know what that might be for you, but religion is about more than just ideological beliefs, so perhaps there is something within religion you would find of value.

            As one example, religion is also about community, and here you are accessing that feature already on this website. Sure, you're not Catholic, but the same is true of many other posters, myself included, and all of us, Catholic or not, are part of this community.

            Many atheists online (not sure how this applies to you) are all wrapped up in rebelling against God belief. Why bother? If God belief isn't working, the rational act would seem to be to put it down, walk away, and pick up something else.

          • Michael Murray

            The practical benefit is this is one of a circuit of places I browse while I'm having breakfast. There are one or two posters who I like to read. I've mostly given up engaging here in long conversations. Partly because I know where they end up going and partly because "Disqus".

      • Rob Abney

        I agree that philosophical demonstrations of the existence of God are essential. Too many Christians are convinced of His existence based only upon His effects in our world but then easily lose their faith when when skeptics challenge their presuppositions, since many Christians rely only on the Bible which presupposes God's existence.

  • Berkeley’s idealism is a byproduct of the modern empiricist reduction of concepts to mental images.

    That's a very interesting claim. Feser elaborates on the idea in his 2009 blog post Empiricism versus Aristotelianism. But I'd like to learn more about the idea championed by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume—that concepts reduce to images. How does that [allegedly] bad idea screw up our thinking, today?

    • Daniel G. Fink

      If I understand correctly, one example of a "bad idea" comes from the concept of matter. Descartes abstracted only the quantitative, relocating the qualitative aspects of matter to the mind. Matter has come to be understood as only that which is described in physics textbooks, paving the way for the elimination of teleology and final causes in nature.

      Your link to Feser compares the schools, but another of his posts details the problem...
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/concretizing-abstract.html

      The intellect captures universal concepts and the immaterial, while the imagination deals with bodily, singular aspects of the particular and individual.

      • Thanks; the homo economicus example really drove it home for me. We have no 'clear and distinct ideas' about human nature and thus we can't do math with human nature. But we can do a bunch of abstraction and then the math becomes tractable. We then build economic systems on those abstractions and end up press-fitting reality into those abstractions. Of course the fit isn't perfect, but excuses are made and promissory notes offered that future revisions will take care of things.

        It seems harder for me to work with the elimination of teleology and final causes in nature, because I'm not aware of any compelling examples of where they are present and bearing good fruit. I'm convinced that you cannot have a robust society without them, but it's hard for me to find robust societies except those which are kinda turned in on themselves and not overflowing in the kind of abundance which scripture seems to say goes along with trusting and following God. I sense something profound which is missing and makes it really hard to make a solid case to atheists—as well as hard to figure out how to move forward.

  • VicqRuiz

    Hence, when we say that Bob is angry and God is angry, we are not to be
    understood as attributing to God the exact same thing that Bob has.

    Yes, of course. A God who was simply a human ego with omni-powers would certainly not be worthy of worship.

    But the problem that creates for Christians is that it's no step at all from that sentence to

    "Hence, when we say that God is good and Bob is good, we are not to be
    understood as attributing to God the exact same trait that Bob possesses".

    Therefore God can do something which we would not characterize as good when Bob does it, yet the Christian must interpret it as good because......well, because it's God.

    Paging Mr. Euthyphro!!

    • Rob Abney

      Hey Vic, It seems to me that your concern is answered by Feser in the same response that you are referring to.

      There is something in the goodness of a book that is analogous to the goodness of food, even if it is not the same thing.
      Now, that, for the Thomist, is how to understand a claim like “God intends to punish evildoers.” There is something in God that is analogous to what we call an intention to punish evildoers, even though in God it doesn’t involve the kind of thing that goes on when we have this intention.

      Is it just because it's God? Well, yes, if we understand that God is goodness rather than that God does good actions. Even if everything Bob does is good he is not goodness himself.

      • VicqRuiz

        I don't see "things are good because they are part of God's nature" as being distinct enough from Plato's "what is virtuous is virtuous because it is loved by the gods", as to make any difference from our human perspective.

        C.S. Lewis touches on the heart of the manner in The Problem of Pain when he suggests that we should not use the same word "good" to refer to God's actions as we do to men's actions. Unfortunately he does not deal with this idea in the depth it deserves.

        • Rob Abney

          Vic, here's a complicated concept from Aquinas to define Good which is God as opposed to Good which is decreed by God. "I answer that, God alone is good essentially. For everything is called good according to its perfection. Now perfection of a thing is threefold: first, according to the constitution of its own being; secondly, in respect of any accidents being added as necessary for its perfect operation; thirdly, perfection consists in the attaining to something else as the end. Thus, for instance, the first perfection of fire consists in its existence, which it has through its own substantial form; its secondary perfection consists in heat, lightness and dryness, and the like; its third perfection is to rest in its own place. This triple perfection belongs to no creature by its own essence; it belongs to God only, in Whom alone essence is existence; in Whom there are no accidents; since whatever belongs to others accidentally belongs to Him essentially; as, to be powerful, wise and the like, as appears from what is stated above (I:3:6); and He is not directed to anything else as to an end, but is Himself the last end of all things. Hence it is manifest that God alone has every kind of perfection by His own essence; therefore He Himself alone is good essentially."

          • Richard Morley

            But 'perfection' is not a standalone predicate. X cannot just be perfect, it has to be a perfect something or perfect by some standard.

            So a figure is a more or less perfect circle depending on how closely it corresponds to the definition of 'circle', an antique is more or less perfect depending on how closely it corresponds to what you would want to see in an antique of that type (provenance, no wear or inscriptions and so on).

          • Rob Abney

            You'll have to read the Aquinas answer again, perfection is standalone prior to it being used as a predicate. You've just replaced good with perfect, we are discussing that God is goodness, He is also perfection in the same sense. It's an subtle but essential distinction, Aquinas felt the need to define it very early in the Summa Theologica, it's the answer to question 6.
            You may be interested in more context, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1006.htm

          • Richard Morley

            You've just replaced good with perfect..

            Umm.. that's what you did.

            But even more so than good, 'perfect' only makes sense against an ideal that is being used to judge. Just as 'close' or 'distant' mean nothing without stating what one is close to or distant from. Waving me at Aquinas again is more than a little dismissive: I have read it, even read some of him in the original Latin way back - if you think you understand it better than I do, please put it in your own words.

            'Perfect' cannot be an ideal in itself, as 'perfect' can mean diametrically opposite qualities depending on the ideal. A perfect herbicide is the most imperfect fertilizer possible. A perfect square is a very imperfect circle. Just try to define perfection without referring to what the subject is supposed to be, the ideal to which it aspires.

          • Rob Abney

            I would put it in my own words but if you won't accept it from Aquinas then you surely won't accept it from me.

          • Richard Morley

            See, now I don't know if that was deliberate irony or just deeply depressing.

            Lacking clarification, I naturally stick with my view that 'perfection' is meaningless except in reference to an ideal. Even when we don't qualify it explicitly the ideal is implicit, such as saying 'that is perfect' of a sponge cake means that it is close to your ideal of a sponge cake, such as being light fluffy and melting easily in the mouth. Where exactly the same qualities in a ship's anchor would make it far from 'perfect'.

          • Rob Abney

            I thought the irony of the parallel of this conversation with our other conversation was obviously, at least a to a small degree, humorous.

          • Richard Morley

            I don't know if you are familiar with the classic British comedy TV show "Yes, Minister" (later "Yes, Prime Minister"). Set in the bureaucracy of British Parliament.

            Hilariously funny until you get acquainted with actual British high level bureaucrats, at which point it is a little too close to home. Anecdotally the scriptwriters occasionally had to explain to authority that they had not 'found out about' some event represented in the programme, but had made it up as a joke. Because "that would never happen in real life, would it? Would it? Where are you going?"

            I note that you never answer how 'perfect' means anything except in reference to an ideal.

          • Rob Abney

            I note that you never answer how 'perfect' means anything except in reference to an ideal.

            Perfect is universal and God is the only particular instance of that universal. God is goodness and God is perfection and God is the ideal are all the same concept ; any measurement is against God/goodness/perfection as the standard, we don't measure the standard by a lesser quality/quantity. This is how I understand Aquinas' description.

          • Richard Morley

            But that is, or appears to be, meaningless superficially impressive mumbo jumbo. Since an anchor and a victoria spongecake can be very perfect or very imperfect with the exact same qualities, you cannot be using God (or any one thing) as the standard in both cases.

          • Rob Abney

            You can use perfect as the standard for a spongecake or an anchor. But the perfect anchor refers to the perfect form of an anchor and can never be achieved. Form refers to a universal that applies to all anchors but not to any particular anchor. But God is the universal as well as the particular instance of perfection; He must be both because it won't make sense for Him to be lacking any degree of actuality (or any degree of mumbo).

          • Richard Morley

            But you cannot use the same standard for a perfect anchor or a perfect spongecake, since (some of) their perfect qualities are diametrically opposite. Likewise for a perfect herbicide or fertiliser. Just as 'close' is not even a vague specification of location, without saying what it is close to.

            If your definition of 'God' is intrinsically contradictory, it cannot be actual.

          • Rob Abney

            I'll revise my interpretation. Perfection refers to being. An anchor is perfect if it has the form of an anchor, and a spongecake is perfect if it has the form of a spongecake. Both have perfection of being by existing. Both can be distinguished by their material substance.

          • Richard Morley

            I'll revise my interpretation.

            It is not generally a good sign if someone completely revises their argument without (presumably?) changing their conclusion, if that is what you mean. I'm not quite clear if that is what you mean.

            Perfection refers to being.

            Perfection can apply to things which are not existent objects. Indeed most 'perfect things' such as a perfect circle or a perfect anchor are abstract concepts, not existent things.

            An anchor is perfect if it has the form of an anchor, and a spongecake is perfect if it has the form of a spongecake.

            An anchor is an anchor if it has the form of an anchor, but it is not thereby 'perfect', and in general the perfect ideal of a thing is an unattainable goal. A perfect anchor, for example, might be said to be completely immovable once set, something that is not physically possible (even setting aside the question of frames of reference).

            Both have perfection of being by existing.

            As above, neither is likely to be perfect exemplars of their type. Existence is a binary absolute, you either exist or you do not, there are no degrees of existence, so anything that exists exists 'perfectly' if that is what you mean, but I don't see how that is relevant.

            Both can be distinguished by their material substance.

            No, cakes are distinguished from anchors by their form. Something like molecular nanotechnology could reshape the material substance of a (very large) victoria sponge into a (very small) diamondoid anchor.

            Or did you mean that one anchor is distinguished from other anchors by its material substance?

            How is any of this relevant?

          • Rob Abney

            It is not generally a good sign if someone completely revises their argument without (presumably?) changing their conclusion

            Read it as a sign that I am continuing to dialogue with you, sometimes we have to say things in a variety of ways in order to communicate effectively.
            Here's another definition from Aquinas. He uses two different definitions, simple perfection (which is closer to what I'm saying)and relative perfection (which is closer to what you are saying).
            "A man may be said to be perfect in two ways. First, simply: and this perfection regards that which belongs to a thing's nature, for instance an animal may be said to be perfect when it lacks nothing in the disposition of its members and in such things as are necessary for an animal's life. Secondly, a thing is said to be perfect relatively: and this perfection regards something connected with the thing externally, such as whiteness or blackness or something of the kind."

          • Richard Morley

            Read it as a sign that I am continuing to dialogue with you, sometimes we have to say things in a variety of ways in order to communicate effectively.

            True and fair enough, we seem to have been reading 'interpretation in diametrically opposite meanings.

            Here's another definition from Aquinas. He uses two different definitions, simple perfection (which is closer to what I'm saying)and relative perfection (which is closer to what you are saying).
            "A man may be said to be perfect in two ways. First, simply: and this perfection regards that which belongs to a thing's nature, for instance an animal may be said to be perfect when it lacks nothing in the disposition of its members and in such things as are necessary for an animal's life. Secondly, a thing is said to be perfect relatively: and this perfection regards something connected with the thing externally, such as whiteness or blackness or something of the kind."

            Both of those seem to me to support my interpretation and not yours.

            An animal is 'simply', i.e. without qualification, perfect in comparison with the 'ideal' of the definition of that kind of animal. So a sheep with one leg missing is imperfect, as it departs from the ideal conception of 'a sheep'. A perfectly black sheep however is perfect in comparison with an ideal ('black') that has nothing per se to do with the definition of 'sheep' and so has to be specified separately.

            Neither meaning allows 'perfect' to mean anything without reference to an ideal.

            Aside: A sheep with six legs, however, may be even more perfect (to the shepherd) than a normal sheep if mutton legs are the most profitable cut at market, especially if he can make millions by breeding a strain of six legged sheep from the one animal. A sheep that produces beer rather than milk may be more perfect to the shepherd, but less perfect to the shepherd's wife. So perfection means nothing by itself.

          • VicqRuiz

            Rob, I'm going right back to my original comment upthread.

            Therefore God can do something which we would not characterize as good when Bob does it, yet the Christian must interpret it as good because......well, because it's God.

            As I see it, Aquinas not only does not refute this statement, he reinforces it.

          • Rob Abney

            We're at an impasse, I'll try one more and if it doesn't provide any distinction then I'll wait for another opportunity.
            Try replacing the word God with the word Good in your statement about Bob. That's how I read it.

          • VicqRuiz

            I don't think its at odds with what you or Aquinas are saying to state

            "The actions of God are good because of God's nature. Nevertheless, we would not characterize some of those actions as 'good' if done by Bob".

            Do you agree?

          • Rob Abney

            What actions are you referring to that God and Bob could both do?

    • Except we don’t shower God with affection for performing His duty. Really He is to be adored for His moral identity as He is fundamentally loving, just, kind, and so on. It is simply because God is that way that all these traits count as virtues to start with.

      In effect, God Almighty is good the very same way rain is wet, diamond gemstones are hard, photons tear across space at luminous speeds or cerulean suns blaze.

      Therefore if we envision God’s goodness in terms of His possessing definite virtues as opposed to fulfilling selected duties, we get an infinitely more exalted and correct notion of God. https://goo.gl/BaaxGt

      • VicqRuiz

        Isaiah 45:7
        I form the light and create darkness,
        I bring prosperity and create disaster;
        I, the Lord, do all these things.

        Zephaniah 1:3b
        When I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth, declares the Lord,

        • For all ungodly ones, being justly immured, amerced or even executed for their evil is an evil.

          "‘“As I am alive,” is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from YOUR bad ways, for why is it that YOU should die?" -Ezekiel 33:18

          "If YOU keep walking in opposition to me [Jehovah God] and not wishing to listen to me, I shall then have to inflict seven times more blows upon YOU according to YOUR sins." -Leviticus 26:21 (Bracket mine.)

          "For the wages sin pays is death." -Romans 6:23
          "The soul that is sinning—it itself will die." -Ezekiel 18:4

          In summary, Jehovah "bring[s] to ruin those ruining the earth" with their evils. -Revelation 11:18 (Bracket mine.) For the godly, however, "it will go well for them; They will be rewarded for what they do." - Isaiah 3:10

  • For another thing, emotional fluctuations entail going from potential to actual, and there is no potentiality in God.

    So how does god become a physical Jesus if god has no potential?

    • Jesus was a man, never God. Try again. (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:45)

      • Oh wow, you just proved Catholicism and Protestantism false using 2 uninterpreted Bible verses. I guess they've all been wrong for nearly 2000 years! Glad you came along and found the truth!

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/01db3ae497619aad967a3d9f67ae994347fbcba12bbd9064abdfb63fcc4bf570.jpg

        • I didn't write those self-explanatory verses thousands of years ago ... try again ...

          • Then it looks like billions of Christians have really been bad at critical thinking and reading. Or maybe your book isn't consistent.

          • You overlook that, for hundreds of years, the Catholic Church forbade reading the Bible under penalty of death as well as the fact that far too many pseudo-Christians these days have not ever read the Bible in its entirety.

          • Most people couldn't read for hundreds of years.

    • Rob Abney

      It was difficult to find because it is unusual to daily language, but Aquinas has answered your objection.

      Reply to Objection 1. To be made man is to be made simply, in all those in whom human nature begins to be in a newly created suppositum. But God is said to have been made man, inasmuch as the human nature began to be in an eternally pre-existing suppositum of the Divine Nature. And hence for God to be made man does not mean that God was made simply.

      Reply to Objection 2. As stated above, to be made implies that something is newly predicated of another. Hence, whenever anything is predicated of another, and there is a change in that of which it is predicated, then to be made is to be changed; and this takes place in whatever is predicated absolutely, for whiteness or greatness cannot newly affect anything, unless it be newly changed to whiteness or greatness. But whatever is predicated relatively can be newly predicated of anything without its change, as a man may be made to be on the right side without being changed and merely by the change of him on whose left side he was. Hence in such cases, not all that is said to be made is changed, since it may happen by the change of something else. And it is thus we say of God: "Lord, Thou art made [Douay: 'hast been'] our refuge" (Psalm 89:1). Now to be man belongs to God by reason of the union, which is a relation. And hence to be man is newly predicated of God without any change in Him, by a change in the human nature, which is assumed to a Divine Person. And hence, when it is said, "God was made man," we understand no change on the part of God, but only on the part of the human nature.

      • Sorry, but I don't see an actual answer there. He seems to be saying god doesn't change into man, but man changes into god. God still has to do something to make this happen, and doing requires change, even if mental.

        And according to Maxxmiliann, "Jesus was a man, never God. Try again. (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:45)"

        So apparently all of Catholicism is false.

        • Rob Abney

          God still has to do something to make this happen, and doing requires change

          not necessarily

          as a man may be made to be on the right side without being changed and merely by the change of him on whose left side he was. Hence in such cases, not all that is said to be made is changed, since it may happen by the change of something else

          I'm not defending Maxxmiliann's position.

          • not necessarily

            Is it logically possible to do something without doing something?

            as a man may be made to be on the right side without being changed and merely by the change of him on whose left side he was. Hence in such cases, not all that is said to be made is changed, since it may happen by the change of something else

            This doesn't address the problem.

            I'm not defending Maxxmiliann's position.

            He is, and he says Catholicism is false.

          • Rob Abney

            is it logically possible to do something without doing something?

            no, that would violate the principle of non-contradiction.
            The excerpt does address the problem, if you read it closer.

          • no, that would violate the principle of non-contradiction.

            Does doing something require change? Mental or physical?

          • Rob Abney

            Does doing something require change? Mental or physical?

            In general, yes.

            ...man changes into god. God still has to do something to make this happen, and doing requires change, even if mental.

            The point I see Aquinas explaining is that a change is not required because the Son is incarnate for all of eternity.

          • In general, yes.

            So since god doesn't change according to you, god can't do anything. If you say no, then you'd be going back against what you already agreed to: you cannot do something, without doing something, and doing something requires change.

            The point I see Aquinas explaining is that a change is not required because the Son is incarnate for all of eternity.

            But the son becomes physical, and the son is god, so god becomes physical. That's logically impossible if god has no potential. God also has to do something in order to become physical. We agreed that you cannot do something, without doing something, and doing something requires change.

          • Rob Abney

            God is pure actuality which means that He has aleady "done" everything from all eternity, so what He "does" is not a change. He also was fully man so His human nature had to "do" things and He was in time which entails change. His divine nature never changed, it did not become physical, His human nature did or else He could not be fully human.

          • Jesus was divine. So since god had already done everything, god already became a physical man before Jesus was born?

          • Rob Abney

            God governs the universe through His Divine Intelligence and Will which is the evolution of all things temporal as conceived and brought to unity. From all time He preordained to be a physical man. Is that a change, He knew it, He willed it, and it happened in time when it was supposed to. It was like a book that was already written though we don't know what happens until we read it.

          • Sounds like eternalism. Does your view commit you to eternalism?

          • Rob Abney

            No. The future has not occurred. But an all-knowing intellect can know what will happen. The book analogy failed because the unread pages where already written. A better analogy might be the way I can know my dog will chase a ball if I throw it, I am the one causing him to chase it. But the all-knowing intellect will be able to cause all things even knowing that humans have free will.

          • So on your view, only the present moment exists? So that means at one moment god was entirely immaterial, but with the potential to be partially physical, and then at another later moment god actualized a partially physical nature, right?

            I don't get the free will thing. If god causes all things, we have no free will. If I caused all your actions, would you have free will?

          • Rob Abney

            My explanation is based upon my understanding that in reality an unactualized actualizer is required, that unactualized actualizer must be purely actual without potentiality and so be immutable; so the divine nature of God Incarnate has to have existed from all eternity. His physical nature which made Him fully man was part of His plan from all eternity. I do want to be careful as I try to explain that because I don't want to give erroneous information, the concept of the Trinity is difficult to explain even for great thinkers such as Augustine.
            I understand free will to be part of God's plan because we have been created with a telos or purpose and that purpose is to ultimately return to God. We are not "fully programmed" but we will be "attracted" to the higher powers of the good, the true, and the beautiful, in many different ways.
            You have "caused" me to reply even though I have free will, your "causing" the reply is because I am ultimately attracted to the truth, so you are actually an intermediary cause being used by God despite your free will.

          • I understand you believe god to be fully actual, I'm saying given presentism, and the fact that on your version of Christian theism god becomes a physical man, your god cannot logically be fully actual, since at one point it had the potential to become a physical man. In 1000 BCE, your god had the potential to be a physical man. Thus it can't be fully actual.

            Free will can't exist if god causes everything because if that's true everything I do and say and you do and say is caused by god. It seems your worldview has some major inconsistences you haven't thought out yet.

          • Rob Abney

            I agree that if the divine nature of Jesus Christ did not always exist but then at one point it came into existence, that this would defeat the idea of God being fully actual. But His divine nature has always existed so potency is not present in that example.
            His human nature does change, if not it wouldn't truly be human nature, but that doesn't entail potency in God.
            That God is fully actual is an a-priori demonstration, that Jesus Christ is God is an a-posteriori demonstration that was only truly discerned after He resurrected from the dead thus elevating His human nature.

            For you to argue against this you need to demonstrate that an unactualized actualizer is not required, or that Jesus Christ isn't God. You'll have a lot of arguing to do because both positions have a huge amount of support.

            Free will can't exist if god causes everything because if that's true everything I do and say and you do and say is caused by god

            I agree, but being the first cause and the final cause doesn't mean He is the efficient cause of everything.

          • I agree that if the divine nature of Jesus Christ did not always exist but then at one point it came into existence, that this would defeat the idea of God being fully actual. But His divine nature has always existed so potency is not present in that example.

            No, the issue is Jesus's physical nature. Jesus is god, Jesus becomes physical, regardless of whether he preexisted. That means god becomes physical. That means god at one point had the potential to become physical. That means god can't be fully actual.

            In other words at one point in time god is fully immaterial. At another point in time god is immaterial and material. You would have to show Jesus isn't god to refute this.

            That God is fully actual is an a-priori demonstration, that Jesus Christ is God is an a-posteriori demonstration that was only truly discerned after He resurrected from the dead thus elevating His human nature.

            The thing is, since Jesus is god and Jesus becomes physical, your a priori claim that god is fully actual fails. Also, there is no a priori argument that god has to be a trinity, and as such, claiming that Jesus always existed, and is god, forces you into a brute fact because you cannot justify Jesus's eternal existence with a logically necessary claim.

            For you to argue against this you need to demonstrate that an unactualized actualizer is not required, or that Jesus Christ isn't God. You'll have a lot of arguing to do because both positions have a huge amount of support.

            I need not argue any such thing, and no, these things do not have any good support. All I need to do is show how your own views lead to inconsistencies, and that's what I've done. That itself demonstrates that there is no actualized actualizer.

            I agree, but being the first cause and the final cause doesn't mean He is the efficient cause of everything.

            That's not needed for me to make my point that your metaphysics negates libertarian free will.

          • Rob Abney

            Here is how Catholics understand this issue, as detailed by Ludwig Ott: In regard to the unique quality of the assuming Divine Person (ex parte assumentis), it is objected that the Hypostatic Union contradicts the immutability of God. The rejoinder to this is that the act of becoming man, as an operation of God ad extra, has no more induced a change in the Divine Essence than did the creation of the world, as it is only the execution in time of an eternal unchangeable resolve of will. Neither did the event of the Incarnation result in a change of the Divine Essence; for, after the assumption of a body the Logos was no more perfect and no less perfect than before. No change for the worse took place, because the Logos remains what It was; and no change for the better, because It already possessed in sublime manner all perfections of the human nature from all eternity. The Word becoming man means no more an intensification of the Divine perfection than does God’s Creation of the world. The change lay on the side of the human nature only, which was elevated to participation in the Personal Subsistence of the Logos.

          • Thanks for responding.

            The rejoinder to this is that the act of becoming man, as an operation of God ad extra, has no more induced a change in the Divine Essence than did the creation of the world, as it is only the execution in time of an eternal unchangeable resolve of will.

            This makes no sense. God is his will, and so god's will being eternal and unchangeable negates his ability to do anything. It's like saying something that can't change, exerts change in time. That's logically impossible.

            Neither did the event of the Incarnation result in a change of the Divine Essence; for, after the assumption of a body the Logos was no more perfect and no less perfect than before.

            This is false. The Logos went from being immaterial to being material. What matters is not whether it was more or less perfect (that's a side issue), what matters is whether it was physical or non-physical. And clearly there was a time when god was 100% non-physical, and then there was a time when god wasn't. That is a change, and a potential.

          • Rob Abney

            Have you ever learned a new skill by reading a book? If you did, as all of us have, then you were changed but the author who willed the book was not changed.

            God didn't become material, He elevated a particular human nature to a divine nature. For a more thorough explanation see: HUMAN NATURE, POTENCY AND THE INCARNATION by Alfred J. Freddoso

            https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/humnat.htm

          • Sorry that's not true. God and Jesus are one and Jesus became material. Therefore god became material too. Jesus was born divine according to the dogma. He wasn't a normal human "elevated" to divine status.

          • Rob Abney

            Did you read the article?

          • No sorry, didn't have time, and in the past everything you've linked me to failed to prove your point. If your link says the same basic thing you've already said, then it's false because it's logical nonsense. If it says something different then you could just say what it says.

          • Rob Abney

            You will never be able to determine the truth of reality if you don't become more familiar with what is actually being said about actuality and potentiality and immutability and the Incarnation.
            That article is very rigorous, I'll try to find an easier one for you. In the meantime consider this shorter excerpt from the Freddosso article:

            We can, I take it, get a handle on the notion of a natural inclination by the use of counterfactual conditionals. For instance, suppose that I was correct in suggesting that each of us is necessarily such as to be offered a share in divine life. In that case presumably (a) it is true that if I existed but God did not by a special act offer me a share in divine life, then I would not have an opportunity to share in that life, and (b) it is false that if I existed but God did not by a special act offer me a share in divine life, then I would still have the opportunity to share in that life nonetheless. And I take the conjunction of (a) and (b) to entail that I lack a natural inclination toward having an opportunity to share in divine life and, indeed, that I have a strong natural inclination toward not having such an opportunity. Likewise, the proposition that Christ' s assumed nature lacks a natural inclination toward union with a divine person (and, indeed, has a strong natural inclination toward being a human person) is presumably entailed by the conjunctive claim that

            (4) If Christ' s individual human nature existed but were not, by a special act of God, sustained by a divine person, then it would not be sustained by a divine person and hence would be a human person

            is true, while

            (5) If Christ' s individual human nature existed but were not, by a special act of God, sustained by a divine person, then it would nonetheless be sustained by a divine person and hence would still not be a human person

            is false.

            If you read it and understand it then you may notice that I misspoke when I said Jesus' human nature became divine, which would definitely be a change in God. I should have referred to the "uniting" of His divine nature with His human nature, which doesn't change God, much like how a candle flame is not changed when another candle is lit from the flame. The potential was not in the first candle but in the material of the second candle.

            Catholics have been discussing the implications of this for a long time, here is an excerpt from a very early explanation by St. Athanasius who died in 373 A.D.

            18. How the Word and Power of God works in His human actions: by casting out devils, by Miracles, by His Birth of the Virgin.

            Accordingly, when inspired writers on this matter speak of Him as eating and being born, understand that the body, as body, was born, and sustained with food corresponding to its nature, while God, the Word Himself, Who was united with the body, while ordering all things, also by the works He did in the body showed Himself to be not man, but God the Word. But these things are said of Him, because the actual body which ate, was born, and suffered, belonged to none other but to the Lord: and because, having become man, it was proper for these things to be predicated of Him as man, to show Him to have a body in truth, and not in seeming. 2. But just as from these things He was known to be bodily present, so from the works He did in the body He made Himself known to be Son of God. Whence also He cried to the unbelieving Jews; If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do them, though you believe not Me, believe My works; that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. 3. For just as, though invisible, He is known through the works of creation; so, having become man, and being in the body unseen, it may be known from His works that He Who can do these is not man, but the Power and Word of God.

          • I appreciate your efforts to attempt to square this logically.

            If you read it and understand it then you may notice that I misspoke when I said Jesus' human nature became divine, which would definitely be a change in God. I should have referred to the "uniting" of His divine nature with His human nature, which doesn't change God, much like how a candle flame is not changed when another candle is lit from the flame. The potential was not in the first candle but in the material of the second candle.

            Not so. The first candle has to potential to light other candles. It has the potential to start fires, and materially change other things. Jesus was also divine from the get-go on Catholicism, he never became divine. Also, none of what you say touches up on the crucial point, which is that god becomes partly physical once he takes on the body of Jesus.

            The point you're ignoring is that god cannot logically be purely actual, if god has the potential to become partly physical. The only way to avoid this is to say that Jesus wasn't god and negate the trinity. So long as Jesus is god, and Jesus becomes physical, god has a potential to become physical. Can you not see the special pleading on your part in a vain attempt to ignore this reality?

          • Rob Abney

            The first candle has to potential to light other candles. It has the potential to start fires, and materially change other things

            You are using the term potential in a different manner than I am. Here's how I use it: 1.Only an actuality can convert a potentiality into an actuality.
            2. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).
            So, the first candle flame is actual, the second candle has the potential to burn and to then be an actual flame also.
            If the potential was in the first candle then anything that it came into contact with would also catch fire, but if the second material doesn't have the potential to catch fire then it won't become an actual flame (like a rock or anything else that is non-flammable).
            If we use potential in the manner you suggest then we end up with God not only as the first mover but as the only mover.

            I appreciate your efforts to attempt to square this logically.

            You're welcome unfortunately I think that you are near my limit on being able to explain immutability and the Incarnation!

          • You are using the term potential in a different manner than I am. Here's how I use it: 1.Only an actuality can convert a potentiality into an actuality.

            Am I an actuality if I convert a potentiality into an actuality?

            2. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).
            So, the first candle flame is actual, the second candle has the potential to burn and to then be an actual flame also.
            If the potential was in the first candle then anything that it came into contact with would also catch fire, but if the second material doesn't have the potential to catch fire then it won't become an actual flame (like a rock or anything else that is non-flammable).

            The first candle has the potential to burn the second one. Does it not? It is a potential firestarter. The act of lighting something else requires time of course.

            If we use potential in the manner you suggest then we end up with God not only as the first mover but as the only mover.

            God is the only mover on Thomism. He isn't the first mover, he's the prime mover; all motion is due to god.

            You're welcome unfortunately I think that you are near my limit on being able to explain immutability and the Incarnation!

            I think at heart there are many problems.

            1. That "God" is necessarily immaterial, yet Jesus is god and Jesus is material (or becomes material at some point in time.)
            2. Since it is claimed god necessarily exists, and god is eternally a trinity, it must be the case that a trinitarian god necessarily exists (i.e., Jesus must exist eternally too), and there is no possibly logical argument that can demonstrate that Jesus must necessarily exist, or that god must be triune.

            The problems your view faces are astounding.

          • Rob Abney

            Am I an actuality if I convert a potentiality into an actuality?

            Yes, just as I explained in 2.

            The first candle has the potential to burn the second one. Does it not? It is a potential firestarter. The act of lighting something else requires time of course.

            Either you didn't read what I wrote or you don't understand it, you don't address it.

            God is the only mover on Thomism. He isn't the first mover, he's the prime mover; all motion is due to god.

            How does prime indicate "only" rather than "first"?
            Ultimately though, I keep offering you ways to engage this subject and try to understand it and you simply refute the ideas. I'll stop now and let you have the last word to refute what I've said but I do recommend that you study the classical understanding of God with more interest in understanding the terms rather than just rejecting wrong interpretations.

          • Either you didn't read what I wrote or you don't understand it, you don't address it.

            I think I did. Candles here are not a good analogy, since they are in constant motion and change. A frozen candle of course would have no potential.

            How does prime indicate "only" rather than "first"?

            Because on Thomism god is keeping every atom in existence at all times. He doesn't just start the universe and sit back. He keeps it in existence like how a musician keeps their music in existence. Once the musician stops, the music stops. It's an essentially ordered series.

            Ultimately though, I keep offering you ways to engage this subject and try to understand it and you simply refute the ideas. I'll stop now and let you have the last word to refute what I've said but I do recommend that you study the classical understanding of God with more interest in understanding the terms rather than just rejecting wrong interpretations.

            I'm concerned with getting to a conclusion on the subject matter. I so far have not seen a good defense from you on the inconsistencies with the Thomist conception of metaphysics with Christianity. These are the reasons why I always thought Thomism was incoherent. Seems like you want to have your cake and eat to too.

  • Peter

    "Showing that God really does exist is where the proofs come in. So far, faith doesn't enter the picture."

    I'm unsure about this. The pre-existence of faith is necessary to enlighten the mind and make it more open and amenable to reason. Only in this way can the mind understand and accept both the arguments for God from philosophy and the signs of God revealed in nature..

    All that is required is a belief, a faith, that God may or could exist. Without that belief, no arguments for God whether philosophical or scientific would suffice. A lack of belief in the likelihood of God is a dead end. It closes the mind to any serious consideration of his existence.

    • Craig Roberts

      I totally agree. Theology without faith is a nonstarter. First you get knocked off your horse, then you start preaching. If we could come to the conclusion that God exists before having faith we really wouldn't need a savior. Or even "faith" for that matter. All that would be required is philosophical genius. Take that St. Thomas Aquinas.

      • Peter

        There's nothing wrong with St Thomas' arguments. They are perfectly valid. It's just that they are more suited to agnostics rather than atheists.

        An agnostic lacks belief in the certainty of God but not in the likelihood of God, whereas an atheist lacks belief even in the likelihood of God. An agnostic mind is open to the possibility of God and is therefore receptive to the arguments for his existence.

        • Craig Roberts

          But faith in what? It's a long road from the "unmoved mover" to Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way they are going to have make a leap of faith because, at the end of the day, Plato and Aristotle are nothing but super smart pagans.

          • Peter

            Scholastic philosophy offers proofs for an unmoved mover, but it is modern science and the natural world that provide converging arguments for an intelligent mind behind the workings and existence of the cosmos. Taken together, philosophy with science, what we have is a strong rational case for an uncreated intelligence which created the universe.

            If through reason we establish that the creator is a person instead of some abstract prime mover, the distance between such a creator and the God of Revelation becomes much shorter. It is not irrational or contradictory that an intelligent personal creator would wish to and be able to communicate with his creatures.

            It is thanks to philosophy and science that even the Revelation of God can be seen as a rational act, but again only by those who are open to the likelihood of God in the first place.

          • Craig Roberts

            I can't and (and don't) disagree. I've heard enough testimony that this approach can (and does) work. I just don't find it very helpful personally.

            It's like if somebody said they came to faith because they saw their guardian angel save them from a near death experience. Good for them but I'm not going to base my faith on that.

            If we start from the premise that faith is a gift from God, there is something unnatural about trying to argue our way into it. Faith is like (how do the philosophers put it?) a priori or axiomatic. As such, it is (at least sometimes) impossible to explain.

            Thanks for the reply. Any further thoughts would be most welcome.

      • VicqRuiz

        Theology without faith is a nonstarter.

        I agree. After years of listening to and reading apologetic discourse I am as much an agnostic as I ever was. If I were to become a Christian it could only be through a Damascus road experience.

        • Craig Roberts

          Sometimes apologists are so eager to share their "faith" they have no clue about what brainwashed drones they sound like. Because the Bible told me so becomes the end game.

          "We know this from Leviticus so and so."

          But Leviticus says all kinds of crazy things and you don't believe any of that stuff.

          "That weird stuff doesn't apply to people today."

          Then how can you quote Leviticus as an authority on anything???

          "You just have to have faith."

          (facepalm)

          I think Aquinas uses philosophy to avoid this sort of appeal to authority reasoning but the results can be just as frustrating. Ok, so I believe that there is an 'unmoved mover'...now what? "Now you just have to have faith in the Bible!" Grrr...

  • nbtac42

    atheists always say that a creator or a maker is not needed in order to create a living being because they say that: elements/ chemicals tend to 'self -0rganised'' themselves and therefore because of continually self-organizing, for example, a living organism is created. but i dare these atheists on why steel, gravel and sands, and other construction materials never self-organised themselves and created itself even a one storey building? a master builder is needed in order to create a purposeful thing! atheists also say with confidence that the universe created itself! but failed to explain how?

    • atheists also say with confidence that the universe created itself! but failed to explain how?

      I'm an atheist, and I've never said anything like that.

      • Richard Morley

        I'm an atheist, and I've never said anything like that.

        The World Atheist Conspiracy Organisation will expect the return of your membership card and clubhouse keys within ten working days.

        • neil_pogi

          Doug shaver always make a fool of me!

      • neil_pogi

        those were the general statements of atheists. maybe you are not updated, or trying to ignore that wishful thinking!

        • those were the general statements of atheists.

          If that were true, then you could easily find at least one quotation by an atheist making that statement. But you can't do that, can you?

      • nbtac42

        then will you tell me the origin of the universe by purely materialistic explanations?

        • then will you tell me the origin of the universe by purely materialistic explanations?

          No, because I'm not claiming to know anything about the origin of the universe.

          But neither do I claim that if I cannot explain how something happened, then it could not have happened.

          • neil_pogi

            the creation of the universe is a one time event that can not be replicated, like the creation of life, so atheists answer is a convenient one, ''they don't know'' if that is so, then why atheists are claiming to know the origin of life but could not replicate it in the lab! so therefore atheists have no business at all to claim that they know every thing.. just like evolution, they unwittingly declare with full of confidence that, for example, a human organism's great-great ancestor was a single cell organism.. but no facts are even presented! we have millions of single cell organisms on this planet, and yet they never evolve into different types of organism. so I declared with confidence that creation is the most valid and truthful explanations for all these!

          • so therefore atheists have no business at all to claim that they know every thing

            That is a totally irrelevant observation. You cannot show me one atheist who has ever said, "We know everything."

          • neil_pogi

            of course every atheist will claim ''I know every thing'' that's why every atheists mock Christians/theists and say ''there is no god, idiot''. I wonder how these atheists know that God doesn't exist and yet claim to not know every thing.. but when atheists don't know the origin of life and the universe, t'we don't know!! we still have to study more, give us millions of years! very convenient and double standard

          • of course every atheist will claim ''I know every thing''

            As usual, you insist that we believe it just on your say-so. But the more you insist on it, the more worthless your say-so becomes, especially when you try to tell us what your adversaries are saying.

          • I wonder how these atheists know that God doesn't exist and yet claim to not know every thing..

            I don't claim to know with certainty that God doesn't exist, but the null hypothesis about God's existence can't be shown to be false, therefore I'm justified to believe that God doesn't exist.

          • atheists answer is a convenient one, ''they don't know''

            The truth doesn't always hurt. Sometimes the truth can be very convenient.

            You believe it's true that Jesus died for your sins. Is that a convenient truth for you, or an inconvenient truth?

          • neil_pogi

            according to the Bible, Jesus died for me. and that's the truth. it's not a convenient truth but a factual truth!

          • it's not a convenient truth but a factual truth!

            Fine. It is not a convenient truth but a factual truth that I don't know how the universe originated.

  • Depending on what you mean by “unprovable,” I don’t necessarily agree with the premise behind your question. Take, for example, the principle of sufficient reason, which the rationalist proof appeals to as a premise. Is it “unprovable”? That depends on what you mean. If by “provable” you mean “derivable by deductive inference from premises that are more certain or fundamental,” then no, it is not provable. But if by “provable” you mean “defensible by arguments which any rational person ought to find compelling,” then I would say yes, it is provable.

    We can define our key terms to suit our rhetorical aims, or to facilitate communication. In this context, what I meant by “provable” was “derivable by deductive inference from premises that are more certain or fundamental.” But any premise, if provable in that sense, is by definition no longer an assumption.

    What you seem to be claiming, if I understand you correctly, is that we can be justified in using some premises that are not provable in that sense. I agree with that claim, though you and I might not agree on what constitutes sufficient justification. In any argument, we are compelled by our epistemic limitations to accept some premises that we cannot noncircularly prove by inference from other premises. We call those premises assumptions (or postulates, or axioms, or presuppositions, or first principles, or something equivalent). And as noted, we cannot avoid using them. The question then becomes: To which particular assumptions are we epistemically entitled, and just how do we get that entitlement?

    It would be far too lengthy a digression for me to attempt to provide and justify my own answers, but I will briefly address the one you mention: the PSR.

    The principle of sufficient reason, correctly understood – and as I argue in the book, lots of people don’t understand it correctly – is a “first principle.” What that means is that it is more clearly correct than anything that could be said either for it or against it.

    You may so judge it. My judgment differs. I’m not interested in attempting to demonstrate that your judgment is in error. I wish only to deny any suggestion that my judgment is irrational or otherwise flawed epistemically. In other words, I wish defend the position that the PSR is a proposition about which reasonable people can disagree as to whether to assume it.

    You say it belongs to a class of propositions “so basic to rationality that they are presupposed by other arguments, but don’t in turn presuppose anything deeper than they are themselves.” I don’t agree that it is presupposed by other arguments, at least not by any argument that I use in defense of my worldview. I have seen you and others in this forum attempt to demonstrate that it is, but I find those demonstrations lacking in logical rigor.

  • Richard Morley

    Hey, I just read them to my nephew! Several times...

    Although, for those interested in the scientific method and the modern rationalist movement, I would again plug Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

    • Rob Abney

      That looks interesting. Here is an excerpt from the chapter renamed Reductionism:
      "Are you really saying we should give up on unraveling the secrets of magic after trying for less than one month? " Harry said, trying to put a note of challenge into his voice. Honestly he was feeling some of the same fatigue as Hermione. None of the good ideas ever worked. He'd made just one discovery worth mentioning, the Mendelian pattern, and he couldn't tell Hermione about it without breaking his promise to Draco.

      "No," Hermione said. Her young face was looking very serious and adult. "I'm saying right now we should be studying all the magic that wizards already know, so we can do this sort of thing after we graduate from Hogwarts."

      • Richard Morley

        I am glad you find it interesting. The Dark Lord will be plea I mean understanding the other side is always good.

        What exactly were you taking from that section?

  • Rob Abney

    I don't know if you've kept up with the whole thread but you're making the same point I am, thanks.

    • Richard Morley

      I think you are missing the implied point behind the obvious one. You are familiar with Harry Potter, but don't accept it as true. Santa Clause is another example. Or ghosts, or those who claim psychic powers but are mysteriously not winning the lottery.

      Why do you not believe them?

  • Rob Abney

    I'm not familiar with the Bob you are referring to.

    • Richard Morley

      Evasion

  • Ben

    Tommy Boy! (funny movie),
    Part of what Catholics call God is demonstrated quite well here:
    http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Metaphysical_Proofs#Metaphysical_Proof_for_the_Existence_of_God

    All 5 steps of the proof are somewhere in this blog I believe if you search or in this book:
    https://www.amazon.com/New-Proofs-Existence-God-Contributions/dp/0802863833/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510415511&sr=8-1&keywords=new+proofs+for+the+existence+of+god

  • Rob Abney

    That's a strange response, but please tell me who is able to kill all of the firstborn Egyptians. I know that God can but am not sure what man can.

    • Richard Morley

      Herod, the Toothbrush Mustached One, and King Arthur all had a pretty good try at similar deeds. This is not relevant to whether or not it would be moral to do so, should one have the power.

      Not answering is best done by not posting a response rather than a clear evasion. In either case, it is answer of sorts anyway.

  • Ben

    You're thinking of God as "one thing among many" like Santa Clause would be. Instead just think of what the proof is showing, which is unconditioned reality itself, which is also unique, absolutely simple, unrestricted and the continuous creator of all else that is. Call it what you want, but what a curious thing that would be, right? As for the book, yes, I read it (twice). If you like reason and dealing with reality, read it yourself and you'll love it.

    • Richard Morley

      You're thinking of God as "one thing among many" like Santa Clause would be.

      There are supposed to be many Santa Clauses? I knew my parents were short changing me somehow..

      As for Spitzer, his arguments against circular or infinite regress of conditioned realities are laughable. None of the three horns of the Agrippan trilemma are very palatable, but one should at least have a level playing field for choosing one over the others.

      • Ben

        You misunderstand completely. An allegory…A fish in the ocean would not demonstrate the existence of water the same way it would the existence of a mermaid, because a mermaid would be “one thing among many” and water is all encompassing. The thinking and demonstration would be completely different. As for Spritzer’s logic on infinite regression… you seem to be making a definitive claim without evidence. Can you demonstrate how his proof is “laughable”? Or perhaps it’s just faith that tells you.

        • Richard Morley

          You misunderstand completely.

          Or you do. Always worth bearing in mind, rather than dogmatically asserting that the other person is mistaken.

          A fish, per se, demonstrates neither the existence of water nor that of mermaids. A fish living happily in liquid methane does not prove water. A fish in water is irrelevant to the proof of the existence of water, the water alone does that. Any particular fish, mermaid or volume of water is one among many. Now, if you are using words to mean other that what every one else thinks they mean, the problem would be with you. Like if your version of God is not an entity, then the word 'God' is misleading.

          Can you demonstrate how his proof is “laughable”?

          I could, and will (tersely) after saying this: you seem to be missing the point. Which was that there are three horns to the trilemma, and none of them are palatable. So pointing out problems with two of them and therefore deciding that the third must be true (without seeing if it has similar issues) is special pleading. See all the discussion on this site of how brute facts (what Spitzer argues for) are unacceptable to many.

          You do not summarise your understanding of his argument, and I don't have his book (skimmed it in a library, and got a frowny face from the librarian for laughing, empirical proof that his argument is laughable) so from the wiki you link to, and concentrating on the infinite regression you seem most interested in, his argument is:

          If there is no “most fundamental condition,” then the number of conditions upon which CR depends is always 1+ more than can ever be achieved, and is therefore unachievable."

          (emphasis added)
          In other words, in an argument intended to show that an infinite number of prior causes is impossible, he assumes that an infinite number of prior causes is impossible. By the same argument, an infinite number of negative integers is impossible.

          Or perhaps it’s just faith that tells you.

          I'm always bemused at how the apparent faith lobby are so quick to use accusations of faith as an apparent insult.

          • Ben

            You also completely misunderstand the fish analogy. I’ll
            dumb it down. Searching for one thing or group of things in existence is not the same as searching for the source of existence or existence itself (I am who am). One would need to think outside the box so-to-speak (different strategy). That's the point. The Catholic view of God is not an entity in terms of one object among many objects. So analogies for God like Santa Clause or Santa Clauses (plural), as you mentioned, are indeed laughable (my laughing is clearly empirical proof that it is laughable, agreed?)

            The Unconditioned Reality proof is not a circular; it’s dealing with a complete disjunction (two circles if you will). Most fundamental condition means “last condition”. One side of the proof assumes there is NO last condition and he goes forward with that premis. The other side assumes there IS a last condition and then he goes forward with that premise. At the end of the proof ask yourself which side of the disjunction is more reasonable.

            BTW, achieving the reality of an infinite number of negative integers IS NOT possible, because it would always depend on one more negative integer.

            Everything people believe in, even science, rests upon base foundations which can’t be proven empirically, including the first 15 words of this sentence. This is how atheists show their “faith”. It’s part of the human condition to go where the logic leads. The Unconditioned Reality proof is not absolute proof (what is absolute proof?), but it is a valid “data point”. To reject a valid data point because one doesn’t like where it leads is not only unreasonable, but also irresponsible.

            A valid data point should lead you to seek more if you are
            one to seek. Read Spitzer’s book yourself or at least the one proof step-by-step and think outside your box (so-to-speak).

          • Richard Morley

            You also completely misunderstand the fish analogy.

            Or, again, you fail to understand my counter. You certainly didn't answer it. And you still seem to be missing the point about the trilemma.

            Searching for one thing or group of things in existence is not the same as searching for the source of existence or existence itself (I am who am).

            Searching for evidence that something exists is searching for evidence that something exists, logical proof is logical proof, ungrammatical assertions for the easily impressed notwithstanding. Unless your God is not something that exists as well as not an entity.

            If your proof of God requires a totally different standard of logic, such as accepting circular arguments, that speaks for itself.

            (my laughing is clearly empirical proof that it is laughable, agreed?)

            You don't give the impression of laughing. To the point that I am debating whether I should continue to engage with you.

            BTW, achieving the reality of an infinite number of negative integers IS NOT possible, because it would always depend on one more negative integer.

            Yet there are an infinite number of negative integers. How many instants are there in a second? How far can you travel in a given direction, or around a circle for that matter?

            Mere assertions are not arguments, and shouting them in ALL CAPS does not help. Assuming that an infinite regress is impossible in an argument to prove that an infinite regress is impossible remains a circular argument.

            The Unconditioned Reality proof is not absolute proof

            We agree. Yet it claims to be one.

            (what is absolute proof?),

            A sound logical argument without assuming its conclusion, for example.

            but it is a valid “data point”.

            Nope. Which is why I disregard it, and would advise people to look at the quality of argument on that wiki page before spending time or cash on that book. Feser's books are at least more solidly reasoned.

          • Ben

            It’s good to stay in the material world…
            “Yet there are an infinite number of negative integers.”...that can never be achieved or actualized in reality, like our existence has been. “How many instants are there in a second?” Modern science speaks of the smallest possible unit of time as “Planck Time”. Maybe because an infinite regression of smaller and smaller time units cannot be achieved in reality??? “How far can you travel in a given direction, or around a circle for that matter?” You’re helping to prove the proof!! No one can say “I’ve completed the circle task” unless there was a beginning point and an ending point. One can actually achieve a beginning point and logically never end, but not logically achieve the end without actually beginning.

            “Mere assertions are not arguments.” Right, that’s why you have a very good logic proof before you to study. Do you know a good logician? Show him or her. (I’m between logicians right now).

            “ALL CAPS” Not Shouting. I don’t know other ways to place emphasis on text in a com-box. I apologize.

            “A sound logical argument without assuming its conclusion, for example.” A two dimensional shape is either a square or it is not, but we need to have a clear definition of a square. Agreed? This does not assume its conclusion. It is how we prove a square is a square. A given reality is either conditional or unconditional and the terms are defined. To refute the proof you would need
            to demonstrate how the definitions are wrong and/or show a third option. You fail to do this.

            I too STRONGLY (not shouting) advise people to look at the quality of argument here again. Go though it carefully, step-by-step, and think about it for the love of..."logic"

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Metaphysical_Proofs#Proof_of_the_Existence_of_at_Least_One_Unconditioned_Reality

          • Michael Murray

            There are a bunch of HTML tags you can use in Disqus to achieve things like emphasis

            https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466253-what-html-tags-are-allowed-within-comments-

          • Ben

            OK.
            Thank you.

          • Richard Morley

            Modern science speaks of the smallest possible unit of time as “Planck Time”

            Planck time is a convenient unit, and is of the order of magnitude around which quantum fluctuations should become dominant and so there is little point in discussing shorter intervals, but that is not the same as saying that time is quantised into units of exactly one Planck time.

            But again, you assume that time cannot be infinitely divisible in order to avoid accepting an actual concept of 'infinite'.

            No one can say “I’ve completed the circle task” unless there was a beginning point and an ending point.

            You are again assuming that there must be a start point in order to prove that there was a start point. Also missing the point about Spitzer's absurd argument against the circular horn of the trilemma.

            A two dimensional shape is either a square or it is not, but we need to have a clear definition of a square. Agreed? This does not assume its conclusion. It is how we prove a square is a square.

            So wrong. The definition is the formal statement of what the concept we call 'a square' actually is. "Square" is just the label we use as shorthand for that definition, another word such as "carré" would do as well. We don't prove "a square is a square" by referring to the definition of square twice, that is just the law of identity. You really need a new logician, or learn to do it yourself at which point you'll see what I mean about Spitzer's argument on that wiki.

            To refute the proof you would need to demonstrate how the definitions are wrong and/or show a third option.

            Or show an invalid logical step in the argument, such as assuming the conclusion you seek to prove, or assuming that the third option of the trilemma is true because the other two seem nonintuitive, ignoring the fact that the third option is just as nonintuitive.

            I too strongly (actually not shouting) advise people to look at the quality of argument here again. Then go spend your time and money on a better pro-theism book. I suggest one of Feser's.

          • Ben

            I did not say we prove "a square is a square" by referring to the definition of square twice. I said we need to have a clear definition of a square. It is how we prove a square is a square. I should have said this is how we begin to prove it. It's not about assuming the conclusion you seek to prove; it's about proving your premise.

            This is a circular argument…
            - Statement:I’m omniscient
            - How do you know?
            - Because I know everything
            - Conclusion: I’m omniscient

            The proof I linked does not do this. It’s like this…
            - Statement: Either 2+2 = 4 or 2+2 ≠4
            - How do you know?
            - Define: logic disjunction, principle of non-contradiction, integer, mathematics, addition, etc.
            - Show all steps
            - Conclusion: 2+2 = 4

            “Or show an invalid logical step in the argument, such as assuming the conclusion you seek to prove, or assuming that the third option of the trilemma is true because the other two seem nonintuitive, ignoring the fact that the third option is just as nonintuitive.”

            Let’s try this more intuitively then. Is the following circular or some kind of hopeless trilemma? You are at a deli counter to buy meat and you are told to first take a number. You are then told that you must take a number in order to take a number and this process of taking numbers to take the next will continue to infinity. Will you ever reach the deli counter? You then notice that others with the same instructions have meat in their cart from the same counter. You conclude that the processes of taking numbers must have ended at some point, at least for those with meat. It logically could not have continued to infinity as evident by the meat existing in the cart.
            Did I just assume the conclusion I seek to prove? Is this a regressive argument? An axiomatic argument? Circular?Which side of the disjunction is more reasonable? Either the meat buying is contingent upon infinite number taking or it is not. If you had to bet your life on it, what would you say? Is there a “last number taking condition” for this deli counter?

            That’s it for me. Good talk. You can have the last word.

          • Richard Morley

            I said we need to have a clear definition of a square. It is how we prove a square is a square.

            And I pointed out that this is not so. Basic basic logic.

            Once we define a 'square' as meaning (blablabla..) we don't need to prove that that is what 'square' means in our argument, that is axiomatic. Nor do we need a definition of X to assert that "X is X", that is the law of identity. Seriously, looking into logic yourself rather than looking down your nose at others would be a much more productive use of your time and energy.

            The proof I linked does not do this.

            Yes it does. In the bit I quoted. It assumes that we cannot have an infinite chain of conditions with no start in order to prove that we cannot have an infinite chain of conditions with no start.

            Much like your 'argument' story about the deli. By imposing a finite number of steps of 'adding one more step' you are assuming a finite chain, just rather clumsily trying to disguise the assumption. Infinity is not a goal you reach by a finite series of adding one more step, like your deli counter, it is if anything the statement that there is no end (or start) and that you go on adding one more. This does not prove that past time cannot be infinite, any more than it proves that there cannot be infinite negative integers.

          • Ben
          • Richard Morley

            Maybe this will explain it better.
            https://strangenotions.com/...

            Nope. It's just a woolier wordy account of much the same argument.

            Even if it had corrected the errors in the wiki, that would not change the fact that the argument in the wiki is deeply flawed. If anything it adds new flaws, but assuming that you are gone for realz this time I will avoid giving yet more counterarguments that might provoke you into returning again. Anyway, Dr Bonnette's latest article looks like it will be a more appropriate place to discuss this.

  • Rob Abney

    No, actually I was asking for an example of an action that both God and Bob could do, because I don't think that Bob can do what God does so there will be no relative comparison.
    No man could actually kill all the first-born Egyptians, and if he could it would not be moral by anyone's standards.
    A man could kill some or even one first-born and the morality could be judged by someone who has the authority to judge him. God ends human lives everyday, who can judge the morality of that?

  • Correct me if I'm wrong but weren't Elizabeth Bathory, Talat Pasha, Margaret Sanger, Josef Mengele, Reinhard Heydrich, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Kim Il Sung, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Emperor Hirohito, Nero, Caligula, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Leopold II of Belgium, Tomas de Torquemada, Mao Zedong, Ivan the Terrible, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vlad Dracula appear to be innocent little angels when they were born?

  • Rob Abney

    Yes

  • Rob Abney

    It appears to be beyond your comprehension level Tommy. If you'll state what you don't understand about it I'll be glad to try and explain.

  • Ben Huerta

    I don't consider myself very religious or Heaven bound or anything like that but I'm always surprised by the perceived notion that there may be no God; that we basically just made ourselves. Who cares what the books say, I simply close my eyes and feel him. I think people need to learn to look within. If you feel your just meat and bones and cant feel anything else within then you probably are. Again, I'm no better than anyone but maybe we don't all have a soul. It would explain a lot.

  • It's not that I disagree with you, I actually largely agree with you, but it got kind of heady toward the end. Don't need to convince me, I'm already Catholic.