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Where is God? The Problem of Divine Hiddenness

SpaceLooking

If God exists, where is he?

Moreover if God is all-loving and all-powerful why hasn’t he shown himself to the world? He’s all loving: why would he leave any room for doubt? He’s all-powerful: why not reveal himself in the most spectacular of ways that would make unbelief impossible?

I’ll start by admitting that the argument from the hiddenness of God is a reasonable objection; and I’ll also admit that there are days when I wonder to myself in exasperation, “God where are you?” I think it’s a fair question; but just because a question is fair does not mean it’s irrefutable. Good questions often have good answers; and I think this particular question of God’s hiddenness has, in return, some reasonable answers.

This is really an objection regarding an absence of evidence for God. Surely you’ve heard it said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; but this isn’t always true. Absence of evidence can be good evidence of absence if:

1. We should expect more evidence than we find (Should there be more evidence?).

2. We exhaust all possible ways of investigation for evidence (Have we done enough looking around?).

But my contention is that (1) God has provided sufficient evidence for reasonable belief (2) thorough investigation reveals good evidence for God’s existence. In other words, the obscurity of God’s presence in the world is not sufficient evidence to prove that God does not exist.

Here are a few points to consider:

First, God is not entirely hidden. He just doesn’t appear today in a way directly accessible to the physical senses, as your friends, spouse or boss do. But discovery by bodily experience is only one way to learn truths. We can also learn things by logic and reason.

At the end of the day, something is convincing people today of God’s existence, and has for the last twenty centuries. Growth in education and scientific advancement has not put a damper on the life of the Church (on the contrary, growth in education and science can historically be attributed largely to the Church). Christians, by and large, don’t just put blind trust in the notion that God exists; they are convinced. This conviction is what drives evangelization (inviting non-believers into the fold), debate, radical life changes at times of conversion, and most impressively, martyrdom. The religious conviction of Christians does not happen coincidentally; reasons drive conversion and belief.

Second, God is all-knowing and we are not. We can think like God, but not as God. Consider the following argument:

1. If God exists, then he would do X, Y, and Z.

2. But he doesn’t do X, Y, and Z.

3. Therefore God does not exist.

The problem with the major premise is that it assumes we can know exactly what it’s like to be God; and more specifically what it’s like to reason as God. But to think with omniscience and act with omnipotence as the eternal Creator is outside of our limited human experience (imagine an ant trying to understand quantum mechanics). We cannot fill God’s shoes. Nor can his “brain” fill our heads. As G. K. Chesterton remarks in Orthodoxy:

“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”

God may have good reasons for his “hiddenness” that we just don’t see. But this doesn’t mean we can’t make logical inferences and get part way to a good explanation. We just can’t arrive at a full explanation apart from God’s direct revelation.

Third, God desires man to seek him. We know this because he said it:

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7-8)

This is not a direct promise from God that he will grant everything at our immediate request, like a genie in a bottle. But God promises providence to all who acknowledge him with trust – like a father to his child – that he will give us what we ask for (provided that we ask for what is good for us).

A 12 year old atheist might pray a desperate prayer to God in hopes that God will reveal himself – but in the end may not “find” God until he is 86 years old and minutes away from physical death. Another 12 year old atheist may pray the same prayer and be knocked onto his knees at the moment he says “Amen”. Why God seems to answer some prayers immediately, and not others, is a mystery. Likely it is often ourselves – and not God – who stand in the way of God’s immediate “delivery of the goods”. Or it may be that God desires for us to struggle for a while – perhaps for a long while – that we might grow or be improved in some way.

God is not interested in numbing us from all pain and suffering in this life. Christianity is not a get-out-of-suffering-free card. God is interested in granting us eternity, free of all suffering and pain and illuminated by unimaginable joy, in the next life: in life after death in heaven, andlife after life after death at our bodily resurrection.

The more we seek God, the more he’s likely to reveal himself. The more he reveals himself, the more we’ll come to know him. Remember Aslan’s words to Lucy in Prince Caspian,

“Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Fourth, it may be that God desires only those who seek him to see him. This was Blaise Pascal’s best guess. God has revealed himself in such a way, posits Pascal, that those who seek him sincerely will indeed find him, but those who do not seek him will not. He writes:

“It was not, then, right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him.

He has willed to make himself….appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not.” (Pensee 430)

Fifth, there are sufficient reasons to believe in God despite his “hiddenness”. There are good reasons to believe in God and these reasons drive our hope. God is hidden now; but not forever, provided we persevere in faith and love to the end (see Mat 10:22, Matt 15:4-7; Rom 11:22).

St. Paul writes that “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Vatican I confirmed that we can know God exists through reason alone. And the point is this: we cannot see God directly in nature – but we can see his footprints, as it were. St. Thomas Aquinas developed this idea and demonstrated the truth of St. Paul’s claim in the 13th century, particularly in his Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles building upon the intellectual foundation of pagan philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.

If the universe had a beginning (as many scientists, both atheist and believer, are willing to grant), there are good explanations for it. The kalam cosmological argument and the Leibniz’ argument from contingency give air-tight philosophical explanations (using science to support their premises) for how the universe must have a cause that is eternal, spiritual, all-powerful and intentional. Furthermore, logical incoherencies of an actual infinity of past events make an eternal universe improbable. But even if the world was eternal, according to Aquinas’ arguments the world still needs and explanation outside of itself – an explanation that points to a being who looks very much like God.

Thus the origin of the universe (and the vastly improbable life-permitting universe we find ourselves in) give us good reasons to believe in an all-powerful Creator; and the argument from objective morality suggest that God is, in fact, all-good and the standard of all goodness.

God has given us good reasons to believe in an intelligent Creator; and indeed these reasons have convinced most through the ages. We might thus ask the atheist: On what basis should we expect more evidence from him?

Sixth, God may not want to “scare” us into belief. Perhaps God has given us just enough evidence of himself to keep us interested in him, that we might continually seek him. A direct revelation of God hat cannot be denied my just scare people into obedience. But God wants obedience from his children out of love, not out of fear. Seeing God is not have faith in him:

Remember the words of St. James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (Jas 2:19)

Seventh, God’s hiddenness allows us to help one another to believe. This explanation has been proposed by philosopher Richard Swinburne. God has revealed himself enough so that many people have come to believe – the Church has not tired. But many people are tired because they do not have hope.

God’s hiddenness gives believers an opportunity to have compassion, and to grow in virtue, particularly towards unbelievers. It provides an opportunity to evangelize, to grow in patience, gentleness and reverence, and to grow in faith ourselves by responding to tough skeptical objections. If God’s existence was obvious to the whole world, apologetics and evangelization might look a lot different than it does.

Eighth, the testimony of miracles are temporary events where God does in fact reveal himself in a more accessible way. There are many miracles described in the Bible. But miracles – events in nature that require a supernatural explanation – are not a thing of the past.

David Hume believed that miracles were not part of human experience; but scholar Craig Keener begs to differ. Keener has assembled a massive two-volume work demonstrating that, in fact, millions of people even today claim to have experienced a miracle through belief in God (perhaps through prayer or some other religious means).

Of course, testimony itself doesn’t prove the validity of the claim, but based on the numbers it very well could be that at least one of these is a true miracle (indeed there are many accounts of atheist investigators, medical specialists for example, who are hired to investigate and become believers as a result of their findings).

It only takes one miracle to show God’s existence. And as long as God’s existence remains possible, miracles remain possible. I think there are good reason to believe God has revealed himself, time and time again through the ages, by miraculous intervention.

Ninth, an apparently supreme and undeniable manifestation of God’s existence may not guarantee “God did it”. A “sign in the sky”, for example, could be aliens playing a prank on us. Sounds silly. How would you know for certain it wasn’t?

A much more convincing manifestation of divine existence would be God actually dwelling among us in the flesh; but would this guarantee faith in those who encounter him?

Tenth, God has revealed himself to us directly. He did so in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born of a virgin, possessed inexplicable wisdom (even as a child) that shocked the “educated”, turned water into wine, multiplied loaves and fishes, prophecied and fulfilled prophecies, calmed storms, performed exorcisms, restored the dead to life, triggered radical conversions, performed countless physical healings, loved like only God could love, died a terrible death on the cross after being scourged half to death, and finally – rose from the dead in a glorified body that could pass through walls yet still eat broiled fish.

Jesus claimed to be the one God of the Israel – the one God of the universe – and gave the people he encountered every reason to believe it. Yet people still disbelieved firmly; even firmly enough to execute him in the end.

Maybe God knows that a more obvious – even blatant – presence in the world right now wouldn’t be the “Ah ha!” moment many skeptics believe it would be.

Maybe God’s hiddenness is an act of mercy.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

Matt Nelson

Written by

Matt holds a B.Ed from the University of Regina and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Canada. After several years of skepticism, he returned to the Catholic Church in 2010. Now alongside his chiropractic practice, Matt is a speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries and Religious Education Coordinator at Christ the King Parish. He currently resides in Shaunavon, SK, with his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Anna. Follow Matt through his blog at ReasonableCatholic.com.

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  • Philip Cary has a very interesting article, "On Behalf of Classical Trinitarian Theology", in which he points out that the reason we cannot see God is not because God is somehow distant from us, and must find some way of "closing the gap" (for example, by appearing in physical form). Rather, if God subsistent being, and is therefore omnipresent, the reason God doesn't appear before us is that there is no distance to be crossed. We don't see our act of seeing, for instance, because it is too close to us.

    Often, when people wonder why God doesn't just appear before us, the question arises from a presumption that God is the kind of thing that could appear, like an alien spacecraft, if it wanted to. But those who belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition don't believe that God is a thing under, within, or above the world.

    Christians believe we know God in this live only in mediated fashion, through his effects, or when the Word took on a non-divine nature. But in each case, our knowledge takes as an object a finite thing--which God is not.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      the reason God doesn't appear before us is that there is no distance to be crossed

      I think it could be misleading to suggest there is no distance to be crossed, as that seems to void out the idea that we are on a journey of becoming, in statu viae. Nonetheless, I like and agree with the idea that God is "too close to see". Very David Foster Wallace This Is Water -esque.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Often, when people wonder why God doesn't just appear before us, the
      question arises from a presumption that God is the kind of thing that
      could appear, like an alien spacecraft, if it wanted to. But those who
      belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition don't believe that God is a
      thing under, within, or above the world.

      1) So, all locutions, apparitions, visions, and burning bushes cannot happen?

      2) Being itself could not become man. (Yes I see your 3rd paragraph. I'll get to that.)

      3) Being itself could not have postmortem appearances after resurrecting (another thing being itself cannot do).

      4) Being itself could not preserve corpses, miraculously heal, or really interact with the world at all.

      5) So are the Gospels allegory? Did God really appear as a burning bush? Being Itself doesnt become man and Being Itself doesnt appear as a flaming bush.

      Christians believe we know God in this live only in mediated fashion,
      through his effects, or when the Word took on a non-divine nature. But
      in each case, our knowledge takes as an object a finite thing--which God
      is not.

      If we only know Being Itself through his effects we are left with a very limited idea of Being Itself and are certainly not able to ascribe to Being itself the many things that traditionally theists ascribe to Being Itself. You cannot say, for instance that Being Itself is goodness.

      You next clause "or when the Word took on non-divine nature" is a special pleading clause. You are initially claiming in paragraph two that the existence of Being Itself cannot be justified in any of the ways atheists expect Being Itself to be justified. Furthermore, you claim that atheists cannot gain knowledge of Being Itself in the way atheists would expect to gain knowledge of Being Itself. Then you carve out an exception clause for yourself: There are certain times when Being Itself acts in ways that would confirm his existence (appears, lives in the world, communicates with mankind), but it has only happened in ways that confirm Christianity. Once you allow that Being Itself would appear once, you have no grounds to argue that Being Itself wouldn't appear twice. Rampant special pleading for Christian truth claims. Being Itself is not reconcilable to Christianity without special pleading.

      It is also disingenuous to claim that Being Itself is a Judeo-Christian thing, when it is actually a Greeco-Christian thing.

      Finally, you don't actually have justification for the existence of Being Itself as you describe Being Itself. Even if I grant the first cause arguments, you cannot go from there to Being Itself, you can't even prove the first cause is unique or simple.

      • Rob Abney

        Your questions are answered by another Thomas, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/
        The first 5 articles discuss Being and how it is convertible with Goodness.
        You've probably looked at it before but you seem to have more receptivity recently.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          You've probably looked at it before but you seem to have more receptivity recently.

          Curious, why do you say that?

          • Rob Abney

            I thought I recalled you writing that you are reading several books about Jesus.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am. It is a pretty good mixture of scholars though. Jews, liberal Christians, conservative Christians, and agonstics.

          • Rob Abney

            Half believers, half skeptics?
            Which title are you enjoying the most?

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        These would be my answers to your questions:

        1. Legitimate locutions, apparitions, visions, and burning bushes, and the like (which are undoubtedly mixed in with the fabrications of hucksters and the self-induced frenzies of the overly pious), are responses to, or descriptions of, mystical experiences, wherein one encounters the "is-ness" of reality in a way that transcends our normal sense perception. I don't think there is any reason to think that these experiences are accessible to our senses in the way that a spaceship would be accessible to our senses.

        2. In trinitarian theology, things are not exactly phrased in the way that you layed out. As you know, we don't say that God the Father became God the Son. We say instead that God the Father was completely revealed through God the Son. The contention is therefore that the logic of pure being was completely revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of a finite man. As a rough analogy, you might think of the way that a fractal-generating algorithm, though finite in its algorithmic specification, gives rise to an infinitely complex fractal. Depending on what you mean by "is", you can sensibly say that the algorithmic specification is the fractal, or you can say that the algorithmic specification completely reveals the logic of the fractal.

        3. Being itself can do whatever it wants to do. Whatever is, is.

        4. Same response as for 3.

        5. From everything we can gather, no, the gospels were not intended as allegory. They were "theologized history", recollections of the experiences of a community, but related in what we would consider to be a very free and poetic way, with the intent of provoking a correct existential response to what had actually happened, rather than with the intent of allowing some value-free reconstruction of "what objectively happened".

        • Ignatius Reilly

          1) So Moses finds a bush on fire and a voice talks to him. He sees a burning bush and hears a voice. How is this not like seeing a spaceship? He uses his sense to see and hear God. Unless you are saying that God is tricking his senses. Although this all assumes that Moses was a historical figure, which he is not.
          2) I wasn't talking about Trinitarian concerns. I was talking about the Christian claim that Jesus (Being Itself) was born of a perpetual virgin, lived in Palestine, preached, healed with spit, cast out demons, gathered followers, suffered, died, rose from the dead, appeared to his disciples, ascended to Heaven, and occasionally appears to mystics and visionaries in the following centuries. This is not Being Itself territory anymore. This is spaceship territory. This is why I make a distinction between Catholic God and Being Itself.

          3) Being Itself cannot do whatever he wants. Being Itself cannot not be. Being Itself cannot make married bachelors. Now, according to Thomas, until he special pleads, Being Itself doesn't make appearances in the world. Another one of the things Being Itself can't do. Just like he can't make a world with significant free will, but without the Aids virus.

          4) What the gospels are and were intended as is another long conversation. My point was that if you want to say that Being Itself does not appear in the world than you are forced to say that the Gospels are allegory about Being Itself and not actually true, because Being Itself would not appear to us like a spaceship.
          I'm going to add a 5:

          5) The problem I have with Being Itself and most Catholic talk about God is that it is either semantically meaningless, obscure, or something that I think is false. For instance, I might listen to Catholic radio and hear a host say how wonderful it was for God to cure a teenager from cancer. Meanwhile, as I'm driving down the road I see three crosses on a corner commemorating some teens who died in a accident. If we are going to give responsibility to God for the people he saves than we also must give him responsibility for the people he doesn't save. His goodness is on trial. He could have easily saved the parents of those children tons of grief and allowed those children to flourish. Instead he let them die.

          And this is a relatively minor example of God's hiddenness. A student gives credit to God for her admission to a prestigious university, while in another part of the world 4,000 children die of starvation. The problem isn't that God is hidden. The problem is the Christian belief that God actually helps them. If it is true than God is capricious, which contradicts other Christian thoughts on the subject. A personal God who answers prayers and intervenes is not compatible with this world, yet that is the God Christians believe in.

          Of course someone will probably flippantly comment that us finite beings cannot know the workings of God's infinite plan. While this perhaps allows the twisting branches of Christian thought to remain consistent it does not justify it. We know (according to Christians) what God is trying to accomplish by creating the world. We can also observe that the lack of action by God is not helping achieve this end. We can also observe the situations in which God does not intervene and find plenty of rational reasons for why he should have intervened. Leaving us mortals to draw the conclusion, using the rational powers that we have that either no God exists, a capricious God exists, or some other non-Christian God exists. We cannot hold that God is good and rational and working towards some rational ends, because we do not with our own mind see those ends. We are lacking epistemic justification to believe in such a God.

          Besides the more down to Earth personal God, we have the Being Itself and Trinitarian notions. I deny that saying that "God is Being" is a semantically meaningful sentence. Same with sentences like "God is goodness" of "God is love". I don't allow such construction in my metaphysics, but even if I did, I would argue that you do not have grounds to claim it. (None of the budding Thomists can prove that the first cause is unique or that it is simple. Period.)

          What you have created is a concept of God that is so ephemeral that we can say nothing about it one way or another. You certainly can't tell me that he wants me to go to Church on Sunday or that he's going to get angry when I eat a massive steak for dinner tonight. I can't tell you anything about him either. He has become to far removed from us. We are using sentences that don't have meaning.

          Related to this is Trinitarian concepts. I don't understand it and am content to relegate it to a mystery, but the sentences used to describe the Trinity are only at best analogously meaningful. Some of them make sense. For instance, I know what the sentence all three persons of the Trinity have the same will. That is a meaningful sentence.
          On one hand you have created an opaque conception of God - Being Itself - that is falsifiable and difficult to meaningfully come to an understanding of, because the language that we use to describe Being Itself is insufficient. We don't really have much grounds for saying much of anything about such a being (I'm very much an agnostic atheist on such a being), but then Christians say a ton of things about Being Itself. God is hidden except for Christians is the message.

          Anyway this already to long (and I've just gotten started), so I'll stop here.

          edit: spacing

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            1. I'm obviously not in a position to say what Moses actually experienced, or if he is even based on a real person. However, if encouraged to speculate, I could easily imagine that, upon experiencing a bush that was, say, gloriously back-lit by the sun, or something like that, a person might enter into a transcendent state that can only be described as "hearing the voice of God". That doesn't mean that God was an object in the world, in the bush. A spaceship, I suppose, might instantiate the same experience, but again, this would not mean that God was in the world as a spaceship, or even that God was in the world in the same way that a spaceship might be.

            2. The fact that you are not thinking about trinitarian concerns is precisely the problem: you are misreading the trinitarian claim that Jesus "is" God. Jesus "is" God "only" in the sense that Jesus completely revealed the logic of God, a.k.a. the logic of pure being.

            3. I agree that Being itself cannot do the logically impossible, and am happy to amend my claim accordingly. However, resurrections from the dead are not logically impossible.

            4. This conversation is a bit complicated because I think you are attributing to me a position that I don't want to defend, namely that God is only hidden, i.e. completely hidden. Actually, I don't think the OP author or anyone else here wants to defend that assertion either, but everyone has to speak for himself. The God of the Bible is both hidden and (partially) revealed. Revelation makes no sense in the absence of veiling anyway. You can't unwrap a present that hasn't been wrapped.

            5. There is a lot in your point 5. A lot of it is POE, and I don't have anything better than the standard answers really. Briefly, I would agree that many people "over-interpret" what God is doing, perhaps especially when God appears to be good to them. We should all be cautious in our interpretations. Maybe I will try to say more later, but let me leave it at that for now.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) I'm confused. Are you saying the burning bus was merely a mirage or a hallucination? God had nothing to do with it beyond sustaining it.

            2) Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. I could find that in an primer on Catholicism. From the CCC:

            The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

            Could you perhaps explain how this is reconcilable with when you say, "Jesus "is" God "only" in the sense that Jesus completely revealed the logic of God, a.k.a. the logic of pure being."

            3) However, those who are arguing against Divine Hiddenness argument are placing more restrictions on Being Itself than just being unable to do the logically impossible. That was my point.

            4) If Being Itself drastically unhides himself by becoming man, it begs the question, why doesn't Being Itself unhide himself more often. If Being Itself choses to remain hidden, it seems unlikely that Being Itself would chose an institution like the Catholic Church as a mediator. Being Itself is perfectly rational, yet he safeguards his message with a group of men who have often been very poor guardians. The problem is that Being Itself does not act rationally. He does not do what we would expect a rational being to do. He definitely does not do what we would expect rationality itself to do.

            5) I would say that the Church is largely composed of people who over-interpret.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            1. Let me start by re-stating the obvious caveat that this is just my own speculation about what may have happened if the story is indeed rooted in history in some way. With that understood, my answer is: no I am not saying it was a hallucination or a mirage. Bushes and sunlight are not hallucinations. They are real things. God speaks to us through bushes, trees, sunlight, rivers, wind, the stuff that is all around us all the time. However, I would not say God is "just sustaining" all this stuff. He modulates his voice. There are lulls and crescendos. "The glory of Him, who moves all things, penetrates the universe, and glows in one region more, in another less." The "burning bush" was, I imagine, one of those breath-taking moments in nature when the glory of God was glowing "more than normal".

            2. Your quote of the CCC refers specifically to the incarnation of the Son of God, a.k.a. the Word of God, a.k.a. the Logic of God. It is not the incarnation of God the Father, who is the "being-ness" or the "is-ness" of things, it is, again, the enfleshment, or the revelation of the logic of that beingness. Also, the CCC is just the "cliff notes". One way to get a fuller sense of what the cliff notes are referring to is to look at the prologue of the Gospel of John.

            3. I'm probably just tired, but I'm not following you here.

            4. I think the inner being-ness of things is revealing itself "all the time", but again with understanding that it does so "in one region more, in another less". As for why "the song is not just on full blast the whole time", I would just say that maybe songs don't work well when written in that way. We could analyze some Zep tunes to illustrate this, if you want ;-)

            5. Maybe, I don't know. We are all fallible, that's for sure. I do my best to stay focused on my own shortcomings and leave it at that.

          • Will

            I've always found the idea of the Logos interesting. Of course it came completely from Greek thought. It's one reason why almost no well educated scholar believes a Jewish peasant from Israel wrote the Gospel of John.

            Stoic philosophy began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BC, in which the logos was the active reason pervading and animating the universe. It was conceived of as material, and is usually identified with God or Nature. The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos ("logos spermatikos"), or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos.[29]

            The Stoics took all activity to imply a Logos, or spiritual principle. As the operative principle of the world, the Logos was anima mundi to them, a concept which later influenced Philo of Alexandria, although he derived the contents of the term from Plato.[30]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos#Stoics

            Part of the divine logos (reason) being in humans was also the beginning of the idea of the rational soul that Catholics use to this day. Christianity would be more impressive if more of these ideas had come from Jesus. I consider brilliant ideas more a sign of divinity than stories of miracles. Miracle stories are easy to make up, brilliant ideas are made up, but that's part of it. God would know brilliant ideas go much farther than stories of miracles. One reason to think Isaac Newton and Einstein were more divine than Yeshua of Nazareth or any Pope..;.they are using their divine power of reason better. Jesus taught that we should be nice to each other, a great idea, but not exactly original or brilliant (small children get it just fine, they don't get relativity).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No question, the author of the Gospel of John was a very sophisticated and adept writer. And yes, no question (in my mind, at least) that he was working off of syntheses that others, such as Philo, had developed.

            I think it is a vast oversimplification to say that the Greek logos was "the beginning of the idea of the rational soul that Catholics use to this day". Greek ideas certainly gave coloration to the way we understand these things today, but the ideas are also rooted in Hebrew concepts such as ruach.

            In the Catholic imagination, Jesus did not come into the world to give us a bunch of good ideas, nor did he come into the world to show off a bunch of supernatural pyrotechnics. Jesus came into the world to bridge the gap between heaven and earth. If you want to think of the evolution of humanity as a curve approaching an asymptote, the claim is that, with the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the curve finally hit the asymptote. No more separation. Jesus wasn't here to teach us about the Logos in a conceptual way. He was here to be the enfleshed Logos - no longer just an idea in our minds, but something we can fully live and participate in.

          • Will

            We could debate the origin of the soul, and the first concept of an immortal soul probably comes from Hinduism via reincarnation (even early Christian teachings were more like Egyptian beliefs that the afterlife required a physical resurrection of the body). The Hebrews also weren't very concerned with reason or rationality, and Plato was probably theorizing about his 3 part soul shortly after the Torah was written (plato 400 B.C., Torah 600). The concept of the soul/spirit also appeared in ancient Sumerian religion, which predates even Babylon (3000 B.C. plus).

            He was here to be the enfleshed Logos - no longer just an idea in our minds, but something we can fully live and participate in.

            He sure didn't stay long. Any idea why he hasn't come back to set up the kingdom of God like he promised? According to the Gospels, (and Paul) he promised to come back in the lifetime of the of the Apostles.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Google: N.T. Wright delay of the parousia

          • Will

            Sure, they started changing their story once the generation that lived a the time of Christ died off, and the prophecy failed. The prophecy is well documented in all gospels, Paul's letters, add this from 1 John 2 (not to be confused with the Gospel of John)

            Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

            We have plenty of examples from today what people do when their prophecies fail. The just reinterpret them. Harold Camping is a good example. In science, we declare your theory false.

            I found this from N.T. Wright:

            The problem of the delay of the parousia is a modern myth. The problem is caused by liberal Christianity’s no longer believing in the resurrection, which means that the weight of God’s activity is pushed forward in time. There’s not much evidence that the early church was anxious about this. First-century Christianity didn’t see itself so much as living in the last days, waiting for the parousia, as living in the first days of God’s new world.

            http://www.thesacredpage.com/2006/06/n-t-wright-on-delay-of-parousia.html

            So Wright understands this better than the actual righting of Paul, and the Gospel writers (not to mention other writers of the first century, no time to quote). Yes, it's all the liberals fault, lol. At least C.S. Lewis had the decency to admit this was the most embarrassing part of the Bible:

            “Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

            It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. That they stood thus in the mouth of Jesus himself, and were not merely placed thus by the reporter, we surely need not doubt. Unless the reporter were perfectly honest he would never have recorded the confession of ignorance at all; he could have had no motive for doing so except a desire to tell the whole truth. And unless later copyists were equally honest they would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about “this generation” after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable. The evangelists have the first great characteristic of honest witnesses: they mention facts which are, at first sight, damaging to their main contention.

            C.S. Lewis, "The World's Last Night" (1960)

            Lewis is right, it's blatantly clear what they expected and it's in all kinds of texts. Christians just ignore it or blow it off like N.T. Wright did in the one text I found (top search). Perhaps you have a better link than this one

            http://www.thesacredpage.com/2006/06/n-t-wright-on-delay-of-parousia.html

            It attempts to link to the full article, but the link is broken.

          • Lazarus

            It's a bit of a long explanation, but I still think Wright does a good job of explaining the actual expectations in the cited work. That does not mean that Wright knows better than Paul & Co.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Neil Godfrey summarizes Wright's view pretty well here:

            The Bishop of Durham has broached the idea before but Hurtado’s criticism his directed towards the relatively recent (2013) Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Wright contends that Paul’s teaching that God’s Spirit dwelt in the Church as his Temple could only mean one thing among Jews of Second Temple days: God had returned to dwell on earth with his people. God’s Temple was once again filled with the Glory of God. God, YHWH, had returned to his people in Jesus who was vindicated after the resurrection and that same YHWH now shed his glory on earth in the lives of the saints. Christ is the first to be resurrected and the rest of his brethren will be raised at his final appearance from heaven (the parousia). The (extended) day of that resurrection is now, but God’s promise to return to his people and dwell among them was fulfilled when he came in Jesus and continues now that he lives in his earthly temple, the church. This final event is merely seen as the completion of the renewal that has begun with Christ’s resurrection. Thus there is no “second” coming: God has fulfilled his promise to come to live with his people now.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No, N.T. Wright does not claim to understand things better than Paul. He claims to understand what Paul meant, and Wright's claim in that regard is more credible than that of most other living people. Whatever you may think of Wright, the point is that you need someone well-versed in the cultures of first century Palestine, someone who is not going to naively read the texts according to a 21st century hermeneutic.

            To get a sense of the difficulties in interpreting "the end times", consider the variety of possible translations of Mark 1:15, which I am taking from biblehub.com :

            "The time has been fulfilled."
            "The time is fulfilled."
            "The time is now!"
            "Time is coming to an end."

            etc.

            In light of such difficulties, I am amazed at how confident you are that you know precisely how 1 John 2:18 would have been interpreted by the audience he was addressing.

            The way the Catholic Church has read it is (to my understanding) to say that we are indeed living in "the end times", in the sense that we are living after the climactic battle of creation. The "last hour" may go on for billions more years, but we need to respond decisively "now" to the outcome of that climactic battle. I respect people who want to make informed arguments to the contrary, but it is not at all obvious to me that this is out of step with what the Biblical authors were trying to get across.

          • Will

            That's fine. My source is Bart Ehman who is just as qualified on the topic as Wright, though he obviously has a very different perspective (Ehrman was actually on the board that created the NRSV with his mentor Bruce Metzger who is widely considered the most influential New Testament scholar of the 20th century). We are not "naive", and Mark 9:1, Mark 13, ect. are quite specific in saying that "this generation will not pass", Mark 9:1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
            Here, you have to end up with an alternate definition of the "kingdom of God", to get out of the failed prophesy. Certainly the gospel writers could have made these things up, but where does that put you? I'll give it a rest for now though. How does Wright explain away these words of Paul, 1 Thess 4

            14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

            That is pretty darn specific. We who are still alive, according to the Lord's word, will still be alive, and "we", including Paul, will be caught up together with them in the clouds (just like what Mark 13, Matthew 24, ect prophesy). I still don't see how anything you've said touches these verse.

          • Lazarus

            I'm going to vote with Jim on this one. Wright, in his "Who was Jesus" does a very fine job of destroying, to my mind, the "failed apocalyptic preacher" and imminent return criticisms.

          • Will

            Out of curiosity, what does he do with 1 Thess 4 and Paul's clear expectation of being alive when Jesus returns and the dead are resurrected? This fits perfectly with Mark 13, Matthew 24, and the similar section from Luke. There are also indications in 1 Cor 15 (already quoted). Hopefully he doesn't use later works attributed to Paul that probably were not written by Paul. Ehrman makes a pretty damn solid case here, but I'm open to a decent online paper (not reading a whole book on the subject).

            As far as Wright goes, I really question the objectivity of someone who would say this

            "he irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between."

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7310496.stm

          • Lazarus

            Of course Wright is biased. Just like Ehrman.

            Your questions are good ones, but for now I need to sleep. I will see what I can get on Wright's answers to those questions and let you know.

          • Will

            I found this:

            http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm

            He doesn't touch on the fact that Paul expected this "change" (even if Wright is correct about the metaphor about the clouds that's just like what's in the gospels...funny everyone was using the same metaphor) in his lifetime. I think his interpretation of Mark 13 is less tenable than Bart Ehrmans, but I'd agree that we are back to seeing faces in a cloud. I see Ehrman's and the protestant "face" (perhaps due to biases from my upbringing, but it's still what I see), Catholics/Anglicans see a different face, and reinterpret a variety of texts due to the way one is interpreted. The fact that he doesn't touch on Paul's expectation of seeing this in his life is pretty noticeable, but perhaps you can find something better :) It's is fascinating that two brilliant Bible scholars (tons of protestants share Ehrman's interpretation) can have such a radically different view and there is no objective way to resolve the dispute. Reminds me of that fact that there are now 44,0000 denominations of Christianity. Get some sleep :)

          • Arthur Jeffries

            I see Ehrman's and the protestant "face" (perhaps due to biases from my upbringing, but it's still what I see), Catholics/Anglicans see a different face

            Wright is very much a Protestant.

          • Will

            That's why it said Catholics/Anglican (Wright is Anglican). I should have specified "Protestants on this side of the Pond" as Wright, himself, put it in the article I linked. I don't think his explanation here is very good at all compared to what I've seen from other scholars, but that's just me ;) Some of his other work isn't bad, and I completely agree about the physical resurrection. The side of the pond could matter when so much of this seems to be riddled with pareidolia.

            And once the Virgin's face or George Washington's profile are spotted, it's virtually impossible to unsee them, says Bruce Hood, author of The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity.

          • Rob Abney

            It's is fascinating that two brilliant Bible scholars (tons of protestants share Ehrman's interpretation) can have such a radically different view and there is no objective way to resolve the dispute.

            The exegetical results flowing from the supposed clearness of the Bible may be inferred from the fact that one century after the rise of the Reformation Bossuet could give to the world two volumes entitled, "A History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches".
            A Protestant theologian, S. Werenfels, sets forth the same truth in a telling epigram:

            Men open this book, their favourite creed in mind;

            Each seeks his own, and each his own doth find.
            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05692b.htm

          • Will

            It is funny that it's clear to everyone but they disagree. Ehrman's view on the apocalyptic prophesies seem clear to me, and consistent with multiple books. Apparently a very different view seems clear to Wright, Laz, and Jim (though Catholic Meier is on Ehrman's side of the disagreement, to a certain extent). Even though it's clear to all of us, some or all of us are clearly wrong about something, lol.
            I still don't see anyone having a good explanation for some of these verses without an apocalyptic view, and the last hour meaning something other than an hour seems like excuse/special pleading, but of course it would appear that way to me. I'm sure Jim doesn't think that's what he's doing. The bain of subjectivity....measurement is the only objective solution, and there is nothing to mathematically measure here (that I'm aware of).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "the last hour meaning something other than an hour seems like excuse/special pleading"

            !!!

            Are you proposing that what they actually meant was: "the world will end in 60 minutes" ???

          • Will

            1 John 2

            18Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

            The antichrist is to come at the last our, and antiChrists have already appeared. A billion years? Seriously? Yes, definitely excuse making and special pleading, some of the worst I've seen. I realize you'll take this offensively, but I felt like that insulted my intelligence, sorry. Oh, and I've heard the exact same lame excuses from fundamentalist protestants my whole life, it's absolutely nothing new to me.
            I like you Jim, so I am sorry about being offensive, but I figure I should be honest.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sorry, I was giving in to some bad impulses there and writing in a condescending way. I am responsible for my own behavior, but for context please remember that you led off with, "hint, they were making it up as they went along". When you lead off that way (and go on to suggest that I haven't thoughtfully considered all sorts of foundational Christian texts and ideas), well ... I'm no saint, as you know. Like you, I feel like being condescended to is "nothing new", but obviously it does get under my skin after a while. If you could help me out a bit in feeding the better angels of my nature, I'd be very grateful, and I'll do my best to do the same for you in return. Let's try again another time.

          • Will

            I apologize for the "they were making it up" comment. Let me explain that a bit more, before we walk away for a bit (again sorry for the tone). 2 Peter 3

            8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you,[b] not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.[c]

            Who wrote 2 Peter? It almost certainly wasn't Peter according to most Bible scholars (according to Wiki the vast majority of Bible scholars are confident it wasn't Peter). I've seen the reasons and I'm obviously convinced. Yes, look at the intro:

            Simeon[a] Peter, a servant[b] and apostle of Jesus Christ,

            To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:[c]

            2 May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

            If we are right, this guy is a liar! Look at the excuse he is making for the fact that Jesus hasn't kept his promise yet. It was the same one I've seen over and over, and this is one of the sources, someone I believe to be a deceiver...
            I know it doesn't excuse my "hint" way of putting it, but maybe that helps you understand my severe negative reaction to that "defense". Here is backup from a Catholic Scholar on 2 Peter

            Most scholars agree that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphic, written long after Peter's death, but still drawing upon his authority.

            Much of 2 Peter quotes from the Letter of Jude, thus it must be written later than Jude.

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Epistles-Peter.htm

            If they were drawing on Peter's "authority" they should have said that, not lied and said they were Peter. Ehrman, in his book "Forged", makes a powerful case that lying about the authorship of a letter was never acceptable except in the apocalyptic genre (like the Revelation of John).

            Edit to add: It would be fascinating to see Ehrman debate Wright on this topic. Wright also needs to explain why this excuse appears in 2 Peter if the early Church did not expect Jesus to return in their lifetime. Why make an excuse for something if it wasn't an issue? There is more to this than I have even gone into, I'm not a scholar like Ehrman of course.

          • Lazarus

            Wright reminds us that :

            "The great achievement of Marcus Borg, in my judgment, is to have demonstrated that the severe warnings which the gospels attribute to Jesus have little or nothing to do with either hell-­fire after death or with the end of the world, in the sense of the end of the space-­time universe. Instead, the warnings are to be read as typical pieces of Jewish ‘apocalyptic’ language, as prophecies about a this-­worldly judgment which is to be interpreted as the judgment of Israel’s God."

            I'm not sure that Wright feels the need to address Paul's views. I would think that it would fall under his quote as above. Wright spends quite a bit of time in the book in explaining how he gets to this point of view, but yes, to expect you to read the (very brief) book is a bit much.

          • Will

            As I mentioned to Jim, 2 Peter chapter 3 addresses the failed expectation of the Lords return. He even talks about Ehrman and I (I'm not concerned because he claimed to be Peter without actually being Peter, making him a forger)

            3 First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died,[a] all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!”

            8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you,[b] not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
            10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

            I.e. The promise to return in the generation of the apostles wasn't fulfilled because God is giving the wicked time to repent. It's been 2000 years now, of course so that excuse could only work for a while (2 Peter was written after the death of the disciples). This same "metaphor" shows up in so many early texts, and it seemed the author of 2 Peter misinterpreted everything too, lol.
            There is a TON of evidence from all kinds of early texts that they really expected Jesus to return extremely soon and set up his kingdom on Earth. The urgency helped sell the message.
            Again my interest is in what Jesus and disciples actually taught. If he was God, focusing on his actual teaching seems critical, and it's very hard to get at them with all the garble, including forged books like 2 Peter. I say this from a historical perspective, that just happens to map up to protestant views (though I'm fine with sourcing extra-Biblical texts as evidence). Again the theory needs to match the textual evidence (and I don't think Wright's theory does, nor do many scholars). Unless I'm still misunderstanding Wright, of course. I do agree that the coming kingdom of God was standard apocalyptic teaching, but it seems the early Christians took it quite literally, by their own words.

          • Lazarus

            Wright (in the cited book) does not deal with 2 Peter 3. I think your argument is a very good one, and it follows that Jesus and the apostles getting this wrong would be problematic, to put it mildly. When I was reading Wright I did not even consider that passage. I have quite a few books by Wright, I will have a look and see if he gets around to 2P3, as one expects him to do.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Wright discusses that passage here.

          • Will

            Peter didn't write the book of 2 Peter, that fact ruins Wright's entire argument. We have someone claiming to be Peter putting words in Peters mouth. We are past consensus that 2 Peter was forged.

          • Rob Abney
          • David Nickol

            I don't think referring to a hundred-year-old Catholic encyclopedia tells us anything about what the consensus is in 2016. The NAB gives both sides of the debate (and more), but eventually says:

            Yet it is unlikely that Peter addressed a letter to the Gentile churches of Asia Minor while Paul was still alive. This suggests a period after the death of the two apostles, perhaps A.D. 70–90. . . .

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            For the curious, The New Oxford Annotated Bible (which aspires -- successfully, it seems to me -- to provide commentary consistent with "mainline" scholarly consensus), comes out fairly strongly against Petrine authorship:

            "The tradition that this letter is the work of the apostle Peter was questioned in early times, and internal indications are almost decisive against it. It is dependent upon the Letter of Jude (compare 2.1-8 with Jude 4-16), and the author refers to all the letters of Paul (3.15) in a way that presupposes not only that they had been collected into a corpus, but that they were regarded as equal to "the other scriptures" -- conditions which did not exist in the lifetime of Peter. Most scholars therefore regard the letter as the work of one who was deeply indebted to Peter and who published it under his master's name early in the second century. In this connection the following considerations should be borne in mind. (1) In antiquity pseudonymous authorship was a widely accepted literary convention. Therefore the use of an apostle's name in reasserting his teaching was not regarded as dishonest but merely a way of reminding the church of what it had received from God through that apostle. (2) The authority of the New Testament books is dependent, not upon their human authorship, but upon their intrinsic significance, which the church, under the guidance of the Spirit, has recognized as the authentic voice of apostolic teaching. For this reason therefore, what is traditionally known as the Second Letter of Peter was included in the canon of Scripture (on the canon, see p. 1170)."

          • David Nickol

            One of the points I try to make, and I seem not to be able to say it very well, is that conservative scholars and apologists like Brant Pitre are not in disagreement with Bart Ehrman. They are in disagreement with practically everybody. So although Dr. Pitre cited Ehrman's work dozens of times, he could just as easily have used the New American Bible or The New Oxford Annotated Bible, or any other work that attempts to present the scholarly consensus. So it's not enough to try to discredit what Bart Ehrman says. The conservatives have to argue against all mainstream scholars.

            (Yes, there may be some difficulty in defining "mainstream" and "conservative," but not enough to invalidate my point. And yes, there is no guarantee the "mainstream" is correct. Still.)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree, though I would add -- as you have pointed out elsewhere -- that this cuts both ways. I am periodically thrown off balance when someone puts forward one of Ehrman's claims as if it is scandalous and "hot off the presses" when I can remember learning the very same thing a quarter century ago at a Catholic college. It sometimes seems to me as if both sides live within some weird time warp.

          • Will

            First, your article doesn't list an author, I would like to know who wrote it. It also does not mention the word scholar, or consensus at all.

            Most scholars agree that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphic, written long after Peter's death, but still drawing upon his authority.

            Much of 2 Peter quotes from the Letter of Jude, thus it must be written later than Jude.

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Epistles-Peter.htm

            http://catholic-resources.org/

            Why would Felix Just lie about this, that's what you are accusing him of...he claims to be Catholic

            There has been much debate over the authorship of 2 Peter. Most conservative evangelicals hold to the traditional view that Peter was the author, but historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded that to be impossible. For example: Ksemann states that 2 Peter is “perhaps the most dubious writing” in the New Testament.1 Harris says, “virtually none believe that 2 Peter was written by Jesus’ chief disciple.”2 And Brevard S. Childs, an excellent rhetorical critic, shows his assumption when he says, “even among scholars who recognize the non-Petrine authorship there remains the sharpest possible disagreement on a theological assessment.”3

            The result of this debate is that 2 Peter is concluded by most critical scholars to be pseudepigraphal literature. But the evangelical world rejects the critics’ claims. Conservatives say this has serious ramifications for the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. The critics, on the other hand, claim this was standard procedure and therefore not dishonest.4

            https://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter

            Only the evangelical scholars take your position, this is a significant minority. Is Dan Wallace lying too?

            he Second Epistle of Peter, often referred to as Second Peter and written 2 Peter or in Roman numerals II Peter (especially in older references), is a book of the New Testament of the Bible, written in the name of Saint Peter, although the vast majority of modern scholars regard it as pseudepigraphical.[1]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Epistle_of_Peter

            From one perspective, this short epistle is the most disputed book in the NT canon as to authenticity. From another, the issue of authorship is already settled, at least negatively: the apostle Peter did not write this letter. The vast bulk of NT scholars adopts this second perspective without much discussion. In my perspective, though 2 Peter is extremely problematic, it should not rank as the most doubtful book of the canon: that ‘honor’ belongs to the pastoral epistles.

            https://bible.org/seriespage/second-peter-introduction-argument-and-outline

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_B._Wallace

            That last was written by Dan Wallace who is a major critic of Bart Ehrman (who is obviously confident 2 Peter is forged). Scholar consensus that 2 Peter is forged is a fact. Denying it is either misinformation, or outright dishonesty. New Advent insinuates otherwise though it doesn't outright say it, do the direct damage of it's credibility. You can tell I'm sensitive about being lied to...how Christian of me.
            If you interested in another one of Ehrman's books, you should read "Forged" :) As far as I can research, everything he says in that book is quite accurate, and he would know.

            When I was still a graduate student in the PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, Metzger invited me to serve as a secretary for the committee that was producing the new revision of the Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible.

            http://ehrmanblog.org/autobiographical-metzger-and-me-the-nrsv-bible-translation-committee-for-members/

            Not every author can claim to have been the secretary for the committee that released a major Bible translation. I hope you are familiar with Bruce Metzger:

            Bruce Manning Metzger (February 9, 1914 – February 13, 2007) was an American biblical scholar and textual critic who was a longtime professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies. He was a scholar of Greek, New Testament, and New Testament textual criticism, and wrote prolifically on these subjects. Metzger is widely considered one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_M._Metzger

            I'm guessing you're already familiar with Ehrman's awards and credentials...he's at the very top of his field. He can make mistakes but he takes honesty very seriously.

          • Will

            Thanks for the Marcus Borg tip. I found this:

            http://www.1journey.net/stdavids/SD/BookStudy/1/7_InGlory/Borg_Summary_ch13.htm

            It seems that he, and other scholars, reject Mark 13 and such as actually being the words of Jesus...I suppose it was an invention of Paul and other early Christians? It would be interesting to see on what grounds this is rejected but the resurrection and other things in the gospels are accepted. How could they possibly know? I've already quoted texted that show Paul clearly believed Jesus said these words, again 1 Thess 4:

            15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.[j]

            So, if Borg and other scholars are right, then Paul is either a liar, or he is believing someone else who is telling him untruths. How can we trust the other things Paul says without arbitrarily picking and choosing? Surely if we can wipe out Mark 13, then the virgin births are gone too (I think Borg accepts this) It seems their view damages the credibility of the NT more than mine...guess I'm done debating this, lol! Thanks for the tip (and I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir, what a mess)!

          • Lazarus

            I started defending Wright, who would pretty much get my vote for the best apologist around, but your 2 Peter argument creates some difficulties for that effort. I've never really read much Borg, he always seemed to me to be so flexible as to be meaningless, but as you say, his contribution here hardly helps.

            Oh dear.

          • Will

            I got all this from old Bart Ehrman (even though I'd seen elements of this from my sola scriptura protestant upbringing), it's no surprised to me that apologists are "obsessed" (as David Nickol says) with him. He makes some serious arguments and is a good debater (he was on the debate team in college/high school). Bart also took his faith very seriously until it fell apart on him due to the problem of evil. I disagree with him on a number of things, but I learned a lot from reading his books (a while back so I'm rusty) and taking his TTC courses. His course on the great controversies of early Christianity was really interesting..."How Jesus became God" is a lot more speculative than much of his other work. Ehrman has more where this came from, he always does a great job of backing up his claims with textual evidence (was his job for a while). I suppose it's no surprise I was taught that the most evil people are "apostates" like Ehrman...I'm glad that's not still a popular view within Christianity, but it's still around my nick of the woods.

          • Will

            Not to pile on, but I found of list of scholars who support the Apocalyptic prophet version of the historical Jesus

            Albert Schweitzer emphasized that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, preparing his fellow Jews for the imminent end of the world. Many historians concur that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, most notably Paula Fredriksen, Bart Ehrman, and John P. Meier. E. P. Sanders portrays Jesus as expecting to assume the "viceroy" position in God's kingdom, above the Apostles, who would judge the twelve tribes, but below God.[4] He concludes, however, that Jesus seems to have rejected the title Messiah, and he contends that the evidence is uncertain to whether Jesus meant himself when he referred to the Son of Man coming on the clouds as a divine judge (see also Daniel's Vision of Chapter 7), and further states that biblical references to the Son of Man as a suffering figure are not genuine.[4]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypticism

            I remember you bringing up Meier before. I know Ehrman makes a compelling case, and Jewish Apocalypticism was a big thing during the time of Jesus, so it certainly fits the context of 1st century Judaism. I realize this is way off topic, but the history of the 1st century is pretty interesting to me, though I probably know more about Greece and Rome at the time than Judaism (the transition of Rome from a Republic to having a an emperor has always been fascinating to me, including all of the intrigue around Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Gaius Octavius or Augustus, ect.)

          • Will

            Wanted to add this from Iraneous:

            Here are the words of Irenaeus of the mid-second century (Against Heresies, Bk. 5): "Some who are reckoned among the orthodox go beyond the prearranged plan for the exaltation of the just, and are ignorant of the methods by which they are disciplined beforehand for incorruption. They thus entertain heretical opinions. For the heretics, not admitting the salvation of their flesh, affirm that immediately upon their death they shall pass above the heavens. [Note that it is the "heretics" who teach that the soul goes immediately to heaven at death. Today, according to present orthodoxy, it is the heretics who teach that souls do not go immediately to heaven or hell. This makes Irenaeus as well as John Wesley a heretic— see quotation above!] Those persons, therefore, who reject a resurrection affecting the whole man, and do their best to remove it from the Christian scheme, know nothing as to the plan of resurrection. For they do not choose to understand that, if these things are as they say, the Lord Himself, in Whom they profess to believe, did not rise again on the third day, but immediately upon his expiring departed on high, leaving His body in the earth. But the facts are that for three days, the Lord dwelt in the place where the dead were, as Jonas remained three days and three nights in the whale’s belly (Matt. 12:40) . . . David says, when prophesying of Him: ‘Thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell (grave).’ And on rising the third day, He said to Mary, ‘Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father’ (John 20:17). . . . How then must not these men be put to confusion, who allege . . . that their inner man [soul], leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? [Irenaeus thus reckons today’s teaching as shameful!] For as the Lord ‘went away in the midst of the shadow of death’ (Ps. 86: 23), where the souls of the dead were, and afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up into heaven, it is obvious that the souls of His disciples also . . . shall go away into the invisible place [Hades]. . . and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event. Then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, bodily, just as the Lord rose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. As our Master did not at once take flight to heaven, but awaited the time of His resurrection . . . , so we ought also to await the time of our resurrection.

            http://www.mindspring.com/~anthonybuzzard/souls.htm

            From Paul, 1 Cor 15

            2 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

            Jesus's physical resurrection was critical in early Christianity because Christ was the first fruits of the general resurrection which Paul expected in his lifetime. There was no immaterial slow floating off to heaven...that was considered pagan heresy by Irenaeus. Now all Christians believe the pagan heresy. Christianity simply did not come up with the rational soul, again they called it heresy. Paul did think that the dead would be lifted in to the clouds (remember they thought heaven was physically above the earth), 1 Thess 4

            13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[g] about those who have died,[h] so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.[i] 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.[j] 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

            Paul clearly thought he and those with him would never die, Jesus was about to return. Mark 9:1 promises it, so does Mark 13:30, Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32. Bart Ehrman goes into the fact that it's all in other early Christian sources too. The Christian afterlife was to be a physical resurrection, just like Jesus, soon after the the death of Jesus. Not only did Jesus not add any impressive knowledge, he and his disciples got major predictions dead wrong, and Christians don't even believe what Jesus and Paul believed. If Jesus was God, why would I believe the Catholic Church who bases it's afterlife on Aristotle and Greek philosophy instead of Jewish Christian teachings? Quite a riddle eh? (hint, they were making up as they went along).

            Edit to add 1 Cor 15:20-21 because they were relevant.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Umm ... the Christians I know do believe in physical resurrection, not in ethereal floating around on clouds with harps ??? We agree with Irenaeus, and with Paul. Christian Eschatology 101 affirms the vision of Revelation 21:1-2, as encapsulated in the Lord's Prayer, "... on earth as it is in heaven". The catechism defines heaven as "life in Christ", and Christ is understood to be physically present both on earth (as things are) and in heaven (as things should be). There is already a bridge (Christ) between the way things are and the way things should be, and the final glory will come when everything passes freely back and forth across that bridge. It's just a slow infusion rate, is all. If you think you are attacking Christianity as most people I know understand it, you are not.

            I also have no clue why your riddle is even a riddle. Your background assumptions seem to be very different from my own, to the point where I really don't even know where to begin.

          • Will

            From the catechism on heaven:

            1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification594 or immediately,595 -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.596

            If you don't see how this is directly heresy according to Irenaeus, there's nothing I can do. What you just said (the whole bridge thing) was made up after the fact, there is no evidence Jesus or the disciples taught any such thing, unless you have evidence. Revelation was one of many apocalyptic books and almost didn't make it into the canon. The views of the author are noticeably different, in many ways than that of Paul and the Gospel writers. I'm focusing on what Jesus himself taught, and Paul's letters are closest to the source (the ones he actually wrote, not the pseudo's, of course).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, I don't see how that CCC teaching is a heresy according to Irenaeus, so I guess there is nothing you can do :-) .. other than perhaps:

            1. Ask me how I reconcile these ideas in my mind, or (more profitably, I suspect),

            2. Examine the extensive history of interpretation associated with these ideas. It's not like those who subsequently articulated Church doctrine were unaware of what Paul, or Irenaeus wrote, and it's not like they could just slip their own de novo ideas past others who weren't aware of those writings. They had to make arguments - they had to think through and provide reasons, and argue about, the ways in which new articulations could be set in relation with Church tradition. In the fancy way of saying it, they had to work within a "hermeneutic of continuity".

            What is at stake in Irenaeus's writing is not whether someone uses the word "heaven", nor even whether someone phrases things in terms of "souls going to heaven". The issue is in how we conceive of heaven, what we think that language refers to. What seems clear to me is that Ireneaus is objecting to a vision of "heaven" that "does not admit the salvation of the flesh".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) Did he in anyway act to make the Bush light up beyond his role of sustainer? Did he speak to Moses? Are these lulls and crescendos built into the universe, so they will happen without any special intervention from Being Itself, or does Being Itself act to make them happen?

            2) I understand that Jesus is not the incarnation of God the Father. I understand that the CCC is the cliff-notes, and I've read John many many times. Neither explains to me what it means for Jesus to be the logic of Being Itself. I'm not trying to be a pain, but I genuinely don't understand what you mean by the "Logic of God."

            Plantinga once remarked concerning speaking of God analogously and classical theism that it reduced us to agnosticism and incoherence. This is how I feel about he matter whenever Being Itself rears its ugly head on these forums, and some amusement at some of the accompanying smugness. (You are never smug.)

            3) Let me use a PoE example. To my mind it is not logically impossible to have a world with significant free will and no natural evil. Yet that is the world we have. A theists may say that this is the most good world God could make. This to my mind is creating other restriction in what Being Itself can and cannot do.

            My point is that we really cannot say what God can and cannot do. The theist has already hidden him under a cloak of invisibility. The theists gambit of hiding God has made it so we can know nothing about him. We are left with agnosticism. You cannot say Being Itself can resurrect or that he would resurrect. The worlds religions are left without justification and are best understood as humans trying to understand why the universe is both beautiful and chaotic - near and distant.

            4) So Being Itself is an artist as well as a mathematician. Now if he could just write a little less tragedy and a little more comedy. I'm not in principle opposed to the idea that Being Itself would reveal himself sometimes more and sometimes less. I'm not opposed to the idea that Being Itself is largely and even deliberately hidden, but I think that hiddenness should tell us something. It should tell us that Being Itself is largely leaving us on our own. I will note, in keeping with your analogy, that Being Itself almost never goes full on "Immigrant Song."

            Lately, I've been listening to Doomsword. They have nice peaks and valleys. You may enjoy them. I love 'em. Here's a link (click it and let me know what you think):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewkz0bl5nVA
            5) I wasn't trying to make an attack on anyone. What I was trying to get at is that I think over interpreting is necessary to keep people in the pews.
            As always, it is a pleasure to have these conversations with you.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            1. I don't believe anything is "built into the universe" in the sense that would imply a mechanistically deterministic outcome. I understand that there are exquisite "rules" that the universe follows, but I believe these rules underdetermine what happens, in the same way that the meter and rhyming scheme of a poem underdetermine what the poet will accomplish in that poem. The machine metaphor is a useful approximation in some contexts, but it doesn't accurately reflect the free-ness, the open-ness, the alive-ness of the universe that I think we all experience when we take the time to be attuned to it. As to distinctions of primary versus secondary causality: while these are presumably distinctions that the ancients wouldn't have made, it is interesting that Exodus 3 actually suggests an event that was mediated by secondary causality: "There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire." Angels, to my understanding, represent the created free-ness of the universe. And so here (as I read it) we see God working through, and speaking through, that created free-ness, rather than "intervening" directly.

            2. I should be very hesitant to summarize the life of any person, let alone the life of Jesus, in bumper sticker format. However, if forced to do so, I might express my understanding of the "Logic of Being" like this :

            Freely from nothing: something.
            And from something, surprise: life.
            Freely from life: death.
            And from death, surprise: new life.

            [Quite a longer bumper sticker. Probably won't sell many of those.]

            I think we can see this pattern, approximately, all over the place. In the life cycle of plants, for example, we can watch composting dead plants nourish the soil to support new life (I say this only "approximates" the Logos, because as far as we can tell, plants do not "freely" take part in this pattern). Taking a larger view -- though I know very little about this stuff -- some see something very like this pattern in the continual creation of the universe, in what Brian Swimme (taking a lead from Sufi poets) likes to call "the all-nourishing void" of quantum fluctuations. I think the "freeness" or the "aliveness" of this pattern builds through evolution, with the capacity for charity reaching a crescendo with the advent of humans, and finally a climax -- the actuality of full charity -- with Jesus of Nazareth. I think our greatest happiness is found when we figure out how to fully participate in this pattern.

            The pleasure of the conversation is mutual, but I gotta get working. Maybe will follow up on other stuff later.

          • Lazarus

            A "burning bus"?
            Man, these new translations are difficult to keep up with ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I adapted the text based on my very careful study. Now you know that the Abrahamic religions got their start from a few irresponsible time travelers driving a bus with flame decals

          • Lazarus

            And a careful transposition of the Aramaic word for "bush" with a proper reading of the Greek word for "bus".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The Who wrote a great song about that.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That they did.

      • It's quite odd to assume that something cannot make an appearance in a lower thing. I appear in things I have written, for instance, but I enjoy being to a greater degree than any of my comments. So too there's nothing to prevent God from being manifest in a burning bush. No-one ever thought that God simply is the burning bush.

        Your other comments are likewise mistaken. If God is subsistent being in the sense theists understand God to be, then God possesses all perfections of being, either eminently or virtually. As intelligence and will are perfections, they would be attributes of subsistent being--though obviously in a higher mode. It would follow from the notion of subsistent being that subsistent being (if it exists) would be intelligent and possess will in a super-eminent fashion.

        You might reject the existence of subsistent being as classically expounded, but if you think that the notion of subsistent being excludes intelligence, volition or action, you just haven't taken the time to understand it.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          There are so many false assumptions here, I don't know where to begin. It's quite odd to assume that something cannot make an appearance in a lower thing.

          My assumptions come from your words:

          Often, when people wonder why God doesn't just appear before us, the question arises from a presumption that God is the kind of thing that could appear, like an alien spacecraft, if it wanted to. But those who belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition don't believe that God is a thing under, within, or above the world.

          Apparently God could appear though just not fully, which isn't required anyway:

          I appear in things I have written, for instance, but I enjoy being to a greater degree than any of my comments. So too there's nothing to prevent God from being manifest in a burning bush. No-one ever thought that God simply is the burning bush.

          You are no longer making an argument for Divine Hiddenness. If God can appear as a burning bush, a human being, or a talking spacecraft, then hiddenness is a valid objection. We all know that the bush, the human, or the spacecraft wouldn't be God, but the would be enough to make him much less hidden to us. There was never any requirement that God appeared as Being Itself.

          Your other comments are likewise mistaken. If God is subsistent being in the sense theists understand God to be, then God possesses all perfections of being, either eminently or virtually. As intelligence and will are perfections, they would be attributes of subsistent being--though obviously in a higher mode. It would follow from the notion of subsistent being that subsistent being (if it exists) would be intelligent and possess will in a super-eminent fashion.

          You might reject the existence of subsistent being as classically expounded, but if you think that the notion of subsistent being excludes intelligence, volition or action, you just haven't taken the time to understand it.

          You have misunderstood my comment. I haven't said anything about what Being Itself excludes. What I have said is that when we talk about Being Itself and first causes, theists are not justified in believing that Being Itself is goodness or has volition. I'm not saying that you are necessarily inconsistent. I am saying that you are not providing valid justifications for things like Being Itself is good or simple.

          • Rob Abney

            not providing valid justifications for things like Being Itself is good or simple.

            God is the most perfect being in the sense of being the first efficient cause of the being of all things and therefore the most actual of all things. Perfection in creatures may be thought of as actualized potentiality; similarly, it may be thought of as fullness of their being.
            God, because He is the first efficient cause of all created things, contains all the perfections of all these things within Himself.
            As effects resemble causes, so God’s creatures resemble Him. But this is a remote resemblance founded on the fact that creatures participate in the being of God. There is a profound asymmetry in the resemblance: creatures resemble God in this way, but God does not resemble creatures.

            http://readingthesumma.blogspot.com/2009/12/question-4-gods-perfection.html

            What have you studied to learn about being and goodness?

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    #8 (Miracles reveal God) and #9 (Manifestations wouldn't guarantee God) seem in opposition to each other. Which is it? Do miracles provide reasons for belief in God or would performing them be pointless because we could always write them off as aliens?

    And you must realize that #2 (God is all knowing and we're not) is not at all convincing and just sounds like excuse making. There is supposedly some super secret reason why God remains invisible, why he permits evil, etc. "God totally has a great reason! We have no idea what it could even be, but trust me, He does!" Accepting this requires that we trust that God has such a reason, but an atheist would not do so since you'd have to first believe in God in order to trust Him.

    • ClayJames

      And you must realize that #2 (God is all knowing and we're not) is not at all convincing and just sounds like excuse making. There is supposedly some super secret reason why God remains invisible, why he permits evil, etc. "God totally has a great reason! We have no idea what it could even be, but trust me, He does!" Accepting this requires that we trust that God has such a reason, but an atheist would not do so since you'd have to first believe in God in order to trust Him.

      The burden of proof is on the atheist to show that God does not have a reason for remaining hidden. In order to do this (similar to the problem of evil) the atheist must show how a their limited human mind can understand the intentions of an omniscient mind. The theist can point to several reasons based on other things that we know about God but these are not necessary to show that hiddenness arguments are invalid.

      Why does a theist need to make an excuse for a problem that the atheist cannot even show to exist?

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Oh, I agree that it is entirely possible that there is such a reason. The logical problem of evil and the problem of hiddeness are not iron-clad defeaters for god.

        But it seems that the conversation is summarized like this:
        - God exists
        - Ok.. show me that he exists
        - Well... God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't.

        I don't see how anyone could be convinced by that since it looks so much like excuse making on the theist's part. So, yea... there might be some incomprehensible reason... or maybe there's just no god.

        I'll also note that saying that an omniscient god has mysterious reasons borders on unfalsifiability. Any objection against the existence or behaviour of a god can be written off by referencing his "mysterious ways."

        • ClayJames

          Well... God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't.

          Who is making the argument that God exists without being able to show that he does?

          Your summary of the convesation is wrong. The conversation regarding the problem of evil and divine hiddenness actually goes like this:

          1. God exists and has traits X, Y and Z

          2. Ok.. show me that he exists and that he has those traits

          3. He exists for reasons A, B and C and he has those traits because of D, E and F.

          4. That God cannot exist because of divine hiddenness and the problem of evil

          5. Ok.. show me that divine hiddenness and the problem of evil are inconsistent with this God

          6. (where we are now)

          Just because there is an extra step which we will call 4b. that involves the theist offering possible reasons for god being hidden or evil existing, does not in any way shift the burder of proof and it is irrelevant to trying to show from these arguments that this God does not exist.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Well, I suppose different people have different conversations...

            I agree that divine hiddenness is not inconsistent with God, as defined. What I'm saying is that it seems mighty convenient that God has the attributes that let him be largely undetectable.

            If I told you that I had an invisible dragon in my backyard and then explained all the reasons why the dragon might be invisible, (and also added that the dragon probably has perfectly fantastic, yet unknowable reasons for being invisible) then true, the dragon's invisibility is not inconsistent. But I suspect that most people would suspect that the reason the dragon is invisible is because its not there.

          • Mike

            Well of course some ppl claim that that hidden God did finally one day become visible and touchable and did a bunch of wacky things, died and apparently rose from the dead and ascended into the sky.

            BTW i don't think that even in heaven ppl will be able to point to someone and say aha there he is that's God.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Wouldn't that be strange? I thought the how point of heaven was the Beatific Vision

          • Mike

            well yes but i don't think there'll be like a stage where God will walk around or whatever. JC will be there but apparently he's only 1 of the persons of the trinity.

          • ClayJames

            I agree that divine hiddenness is not inconsistent with God, as defined. What I'm saying is that it seems mighty convenient that God has the attributes that let him be largely undetectable.

            God´s attribute are supported by logical arguments and are not determined arbitrary so that he can be ¨largely undetectable¨. I also reject that God is largely undetectable, at the most he is not detectable in the way that you would want him to be but in order for this to be an argument against God, you must show that if he did exist, there should be evidence for his existence that is not present and you have done no such thing.

            If I told you that I had an invisible dragon in my backyard and then explained all the reasons why the dragon might be invisible, (and also added that the dragon probably has perfectly fantastic, yet unknowable reasons for being invisible) then true, the dragon's invisibility is not inconsistent.

            If you said this, then I would ask about properties of this invisible dragon and attempt to show that some of those properties are inconsistent or that if it did exist, we should expect to see other evidence. If I can´t do this, I cannot claim that he doesn´t exist even though I am under no obligation to believe that he does (unless you can show that). I cannot override the burden of proof simply because I don´t like it.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            ... but in order for this to be an argument against God, you must show that...

            You keep wanting me to defend the argument from divine hiddenness and I keep telling you that I do not think that the argument is iron-clad. If you want to discuss the argument of divine hiddenness, you should find someone who who is interested in defending it.

            If I can´t do this, I cannot claim that he doesn´t exist even though I am under no obligation to believe that he does (unless you can show that).

            Yes, I agree! There may very well be an invisible dragon/hidden god. We can't disprove them, but we have no obligation to believe either.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1. God exists and has traits X, Y and Z

            2. Ok.. show me that he exists and that he has those traits

            3. He exists for reasons A, B and C and he has those traits because of D, E and F.

            So what are those traits X, Y, and Z. And what are those reasons A,B,C,D, E, and F?

            I've been on this site for 18 months and I'm still waiting for adequate justification of a deity or Being Itself. Nobody has come within a mile of justifying Catholic God.

            5. Ok.. show me that divine hiddenness and the problem of evil are inconsistent with this God

            If we are talking about Catholic God than I can think of quite a few inconsistencies. If we are going to talk about Being Itself divorced from Catholic God than we have different issues, but we still have issues.

          • "I've been on this site for 18 months and I'm still waiting for adequate justification of a deity or Being Itself. Nobody has come within a mile of justifying Catholic God."

            It has been done several times, in several posts. That you disagree with them is expected seeing how committed you are to your atheism. Yet, as far as I have seen, every objection you have posed to these arguments has been exposed as either fallacious or based on fundamental misunderstandings.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It has been done several times, in several posts.

            The God worshiped by Catholics (became man, rose from the dead, loves us, wants us to be in heaven with him, etc) is not the same God as Being Itself. What posts do you think have justified belief in Catholic God? Specifically posts that are justifying something more than a ground of all being or a first cause.

            Probably my favorite series of articles on SN was the 6-parter by Karlo Broussard on going form first cause to classical theism. At the same time I do not agree with the arguments for uniqueness or simplicity.

            That you disagree with them is expected seeing how committed you are to your atheism.

            This is an odd way to cast your interlocutor, as if somehow I have prior commitments that cause me to reject sound arguments. There was a time that I was angry with Catholicism, although for the most part that has passed. At this point, I just really don't think much of it. I see it as a myth that some people believe is actually true, but I'm not very committed to thinking it is false. I do think it is obviously false. By obvious, I'm talking personally. I wouldn't say I'm committed to atheism, but rather that I believe rather strongly that it it impossible to be true. If I woke up in the morning and listed things I knew I might say, "there are infinitely many primes, Obama is president of the US, and Christianity is false." I'm being a little facetious here, but I hope you understand where I am coming from.

            Catholicism is a mess. I'm not committed to atheism, but I don't think Catholicism can be honestly reconciled with itself or the world we observe.

            On the other hand, I have been wrong about things I thought were obvious before and could be wrong about this one, but you are mischaracterizing my commitments.

            Yet, as far as I have seen, every objection you have posed to these arguments has been exposed as either fallacious or based on fundamental misunderstandings.

            Perhaps. Is it possible though that you are the one who is misunderstanding? I could be making a correct objection, but your misunderstandings are causing you to miss the correctness of said objection.

            Is there a particular objection or two of mine you have in mind? Or do I have a long and terrible history of objections based on fallacies and fundamental misunderstandings? ;-)

          • ClayJames

            I've been on this site for 18 months and I'm still waiting for adequate justification of a deity or Being Itself. Nobody has come within a mile of justifying Catholic God.

            I have responded to many of your objections and argument against God and have also found them without proper justification or to be complete red herrings, which is exactly what this is. Even if there is no justification for A through F, this in now way shows that OverlappingMagisteria´s formulation of question was wrong or that he does not have the burden of proof. Even if you are right, this would simply leave us with agnosticism, not atheism.

            If we are talking about Catholic God than I can think of quite a few inconsistencies.

            Great, this is where the conversation should take place. My summary of the problem is completely consistent with your claim that there are inconsistencies. It is up to you to show these inconsistencies are present and I have yet to see you do that. Once again, I fail to see what these comments have anything to do with what you are responding to.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So, you have an adequate justification for Being Itself and the Catholic God?

          • ClayJames

            So, you have an adequate justification for Being Itself and the Catholic God?

            I think there is more than enough justification here: http://www.strangenotions.com

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps you could link to the best one or three articles that justify Being Itself and than a few articles which justify the Catholic God..

            All I see are an article about Divine Hiddenness, two articles on the Prot-Enlight (sic), an article about a mistake Erhman made (which wasn't really a mistake), a three parter on the history of philosophy in the Church, an article about Fargo, an article on whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and finally an article seeking questions from atheists on the Bible.

            Zero justification here. I don't really come here for the articles. Sometimes I skip straight to the comments.

          • ClayJames

            This is extremely disingenuous on your part. You have been visiting and responding to countless posts on this site for the past 18 months and your response to the claim that what you are looking for has been covered here is to point out that none of the posts currently on the main page accomplish that goal. You are purposefully ignoring prior posts answering your very objections and everything in the archives.

            I while ago you were up in arms regarding some criticisms I made regarding Richard Dawkin's God Delusion only to later admit you have not even read the book. I am starting to think you have no interest in having an objective dialogue and instead are married to your atheistic position regardless of the arguments.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is extremely disingenuous on your part. You have been visiting and responding to countless posts on this site for the past 18 months and your response to the claim that what you are looking for has been covered here is to point out that none of the posts currently on the main page accomplish that goal. You are purposefully ignoring prior posts answering your very objections and everything in the archives.

            Wow. Disingenuous? Purposefully ignoring? I asked for something simple - justification of belief in Being Itself and justification of belief in Catholic God. You responded by linking to Strange Notions. And I'm the one being disingenuous? It is really quite simple. All you have to do is link to the best couple of articles justifying belief in Catholic God. I could certainly find a couple of articles which purport to justify the Catholic God, but in my estimation they fail to do so. Rather than construct straw men, I thought I would let you pick the justification.

            I while ago you were up in arms regarding some criticisms I made regarding Richard Dawkin's God Delusion only to later admit you have not even read the book. I am starting to think you have no interest in having an objective dialogue and instead are married to your atheistic position regardless of the arguments.

            No, I wasn't up in arms about anything. I was simply pointing out that your comment was rude and not in the spirit of the website. It wasn't about the book. I think many theists have found that I am interested in dialogue. Such theists are usually polite, make substantive comments, avoid linking me to entire sites, and also avoid making accusations of disingenuousness or marriage to positions. In general, dialogue on God, to my mind, is not the most interesting or important conversation. Other things like art, music, literature, science, booze, and the shared human experience are more interesting to me. I'm an agnostic atheist on most conception of God, and I think religion is silly.

            In order to have an interesting conversation on God/religion, it would be best to steer away from these hollow accusations and stick with, well, something interesting, like justification for belief in Catholic God.

        • "But it seems that the conversation is summarized like this:

          - God exists

          - Ok.. show me that he exists

          - Well... God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't."

          That's an unfair strawman, and I'm sure you know it. Nobody here at Strange Notions has ever made that argument and I've never heard it made by any Christian I know.

          Do you have any interest in accurately representing people you disagree with or do you just enjoy beating on low-hanging caricatures?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I'm not sure what you object to since you did not give any detail, but just assumed dishonesty on my part.* The last line in my conversation is more or less what point #2 in the OP says: God has unknown reasons for remaining hidden.

            I assume that you might object, as ClayJames did, that the theist may bring up some reasons for belief such as the cosmological argument, historical evidence, etc. This is true, that many theists will bring these things up, but in context of our conversation, I was addressing point #2 of the OP. My aim in writing that summarized conversation was to show how unconvincing it is to say that God has mysterious reasons for remaining hidden. If you like, I can insert the following two lines to make it more complete, but they don't really change my point:

            - God exists
            - Ok..show me
            -Here's reason A, B, C
            - Hmm... I find those unconvincing

            - Well.. God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond our comprehension

            ----
            *One of the things that I have always liked about Strange Notions is that it does a great job at fostering good and respectful discussions. However, it is hard to have those types of discussions if we are to dismiss each others ideas as simply dishonest or due to an assumed commitment to a worldview, rather than engaging them. If I have misrepresented the argument, then I would love to hear how so that I may correct my thinking.

          • ClayJames

            If you like, I can insert the following two lines to make it more complete, but they don't really change my point:

            - God exists

            - Ok..show me

            -Here's reason A, B, C

            - Hmm... I find those unconvincing

            - Well.. God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond our comprehension

            It doesn´t change your point because you are still making the same mistake.

            What refutation for a positive argument for theism (A, B or C above) are theists countering by saying that God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond our comprehension?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            None. I never said that God's hiddeness counters other arguments for his existence. My point is that only that saying "God is hidden for mysterious reasons" sounds an awful lot like excuse making. I never claimed that it was an iron-clad defeater for the existence of God or that it breaks down other arguments for God.

            You seem to be trying to put me into a hard-atheist position as if I am asserting the non-existence of God. That has not been my intent on this thread.

          • ClayJames

            None. I never said that God's hiddeness counters other arguments for his existence.

            Reading it again, it seems like you are saying that God´s hiddenness counters refutations for A,B and C in the summary which you stated doesn´t really change your point. Thank you for clearing that up.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I think we're talking past each other unfortunately....
            I'm saying that reasons A, B , and C are entirely separate from the whole hiddenness thing. That's why it doesn't matter to me whether I include the two bolded lines in the conversation or not. A theist brings up reasons A, B, C. The non-theist finds them unconvincing. The topic moves on to hiddenness.

          • "I'm not sure what you object to since you did not give any detail, but just assumed dishonesty on my part."

            I noted exactly what I disagreed with and why: "That's an unfair strawman (i.e., your argument is not representative of any Christian I've ever encountered)...Nobody here at Strange Notions has ever made that argument and I've never heard it made by any Christian I know."

            Notably, despite my challenge, you failed to provide a single example of anyone posing the argument, as you summarized it. To me, that reinforces my conviction that it's merely a strawman.

            "The last line in my conversation is more or less what point #2 in the OP says: God has unknown reasons for remaining hidden."

            That's a bit misleading. The last line of your argument said, "God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension," which is true. But it's the last three words that make your argument a strawman: "...so I can't." Can't do what? Can't, according to the second part of your fictitious argument, show that God exists.

            So in essence, your fictitious argument dealt with a Christian who claims to be unable to defend God's existence simply because he can't fully comprehend, or explain, God's self-disclosure.

            But again, no Christian I know of would respond, or has responded, in this way. Most Christians have independent warrants for believing in God which have nothing to do with divine hiddenness. In light of that, your suggestion that defending God's existence rises or falls on whether someone can explain divine hiddenness is therefore just bizarre and, I maintain, a caricature.

            "My aim in writing that summarized conversation was to show how unconvincing it is to say that God has mysterious reasons for remaining hidden."

            But again, this is a completely different question that the question of God's existence, with which your fictitious argument concerned itself. To say, "I'm not convinced by your explanation of divine hiddenness" is to say nothing about whether God exists or not. Those are independent issues that your fictitious argument blurred together.

            "If you like, I can insert the following two lines to make it more complete, but they don't really change my point:

            - God exists
            - Ok..show me
            -Here's reason A, B, C
            - Hmm... I find those unconvincing
            - Well.. God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond our comprehension"

            Ha! Far from not really changing the point, this is a completely different argument! In the original argument, your fictitious Christian appeared to be unable to defend God's existence simply because he was unable to explain divine hiddenness. But this argument (rightly) separates the issue of God's existence from the issue of divine hiddenness. It affirms that 1) explanations of divine hiddenness may be unconvincing (to theists and atheists alike yet 2) that says nothing about whether God exists.

            Hopefully you can see the difference between your original (strawman) argument and this adjusted new argument which is a much fairer representation of what Christians actually maintain.

            "One of the things that I have always liked about Strange Notions is that it does a great job at fostering good and respectful discussions. However, it is hard to have those types of discussions if we are to dismiss each others ideas as simply dishonest or due to an assumed commitment to a worldview, rather than engaging them. If I have misrepresented the argument, then I would love to hear how so that I may correct my thinking."

            I wholly agree. I just don't think it's good or respectful to fabricate an obviously silly argument and then assign it to your opponents as a "summary" of their position. It's unfair and insulting.

            If you disagree, and you're convinced that your original argument was in fact representative of what Christians actually believe, all you have to do is show where serious-minded Christians use that argument. If it really was a "summary" of the way Christians argue, as you suggested, this should be relatively easy.

          • Darren

            If you disagree, and you're convinced that your original argument was in fact representative of what Christians actually believe, all you have to do is show where serious-minded Christians use that argument. If it really was a "summary" of the way Christians argue, as you suggested, this should be relatively easy.

            Kierkegaard.

            ~fin~

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Again, my intent was to only to demonstrate how "God has mysterious reasons" is unconvincing. I can see how my original conversation could be read as if I were trying to present a full conversation. My point may not have been as clear as I thought it was.

          • Darren

            Brandon Vogt wrote,

            That's an unfair strawman, and I'm sure you know it. Nobody here at Strange Notions has ever made that argument and I've never heard it made by any Christian I know.

            Do you have any interest in accurately representing people you disagree with or do you just enjoy beating on low-hanging caricatures?

            Brandon Vogt also wrote,

            If atheists think
            "divine hiddenness" is a problem for theism, as many do, then theists don't need to explain it away with certainty. On theism, this would be unexpected and impossible anyways since a finite mind can't comprehend the plans of an infinite God. Theists just need to put forward some
            plausible reasons why God may reveal himself partially. That's enough to show how divine hiddenness and the existence of God are not logically incompatible.

            (emphasis added)

            Brandon, it looks rather like you have just made the argument that you so acrimoniously denounced as a strawman caricature.

            Perhaps I am mistaken. Would you clarify how your statement, “On theism, this would be unexpected and impossible anyways since a finite mind can't comprehend the plans of an infinite God.” is different from “God remains
            largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't.”?

          • "Perhaps I am mistaken. Would you clarify how your statement, “On theism, this would be unexpected and impossible anyways since a finite mind can't comprehend the plans of an infinite God” is different from “God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't.”?"

            Sure. Those two statements you quoted concern two different things. The first statement (which came from me) claims that God is incomprehensible. This doesn't mean his existence is unknowable, or even that he himself is unknowable. It simply means we can't comprehend him. This would appear obvious since, as I noted, finite minds simply cannot wrap themselves around an infinite God.

            To use an analogy, an ant simply cannot wrap its mind around a human mind--to the ant, the human would be incomprehensible. This doesn't mean the ant is completely ignorant, however. The ant would still know the human exists, and perhaps know many things about the human (e.g., he is much larger than me, he is near me, etc.) even if he can't fully comprehend the human. Similarly, though not identically, we cannot comprehend God even though we can know many things about him (including the fact of his existence.)

            Do you see now why the first statement (which came from me) and the second statement (the straw man proposed by OverlappingMagisteria) are not identical?

            OverlappingMagisteria suggested that Christians cannot defend God's existence ("show me God exists...I can't.") But defending God's existence is distinct from comprehending God.

            All Christians know God exists, and many of them can demonstrate that fact. None of them comprehend God.

          • Darren

            Brandon wrote,

            Sure. Those two statements
            you quoted concern two different things. The first statement (which came from me) claims that God is incomprehensible. This doesn't mean his existence is
            unknowable, or even that he himself is unknowable. It simply means we can't comprehend him. This would appear obvious since, as I noted, finite minds simply cannot wrap themselves around an infinite God.

            That is a nice answer, but with a few problems.

            Looking at Overlapping’s hypothetical claim:

            “God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension, so I can't.”

            This breaks into three parts: God remains largely hidden and undetectable; for reasons beyond any of our comprehension; and so I can’t (show that God exists).

            You are disputing, then, that “god remains largely hidden”?

            Divine hiddenness is the foundation of all theism. Where God not “…largely hidden and undetectable…”, we would have no religions. We would have only a universal knowing. The Catholic Church would have no purpose, no reason to exist. Each would simply know God, and know what God expected, and that would be the end of it.

            There would be no Muslims, or Buddhists, or Baptists, or
            Hindus (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Catholic God was the hypothetical not-hidden God). No one could be mistaken about God, any more than we could be mistaken about gravity (one need not fully comprehend gravity to be universally and unmistakably aware of it). There could be no atheists. One might, with Free Will, spurn the known God, but one could hardly believe he did not exist.

            That the Catholic Church exists, that the church seeks to
            spread its message, is an acknowledgement that God is largely hidden. Otherwise why bother? Fire up the pot-lucks and kick-back, comfortable in the knowledge
            that everyone knows the truth, and those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it, well, they’ll get theirs and no need for you to fret about it. Conquest, perhaps, but proselytizing? Pointless.

            Not just the Church, though. Every apologetic, every proof of God’s existence also acknowledges that God is largely hidden. Aquinas’ five ways, Craig’s Kalam, they only make sense in a world in which God is not readily apparent and knowable.

            Moving on to the second part of Overlapping’s claim -

            I will point out that your claim was not that we could not comprehend God, but that we could not comprehend God’s _plan_. God may be infinite, but the cosmos is not. Granted that the infinite cannot be fully comprehended by
            the finite, but any plans God has for the finite cosmos must be finite themselves, thus in principle comprehensible. Furthermore, in the vast cosmos,
            humanity occupies an infinitesimal both of duration and extension. While the cosmos may be vast, the human light-cone is vastly less. Whatever God’s vast,
            though non-infinite, plans for the cosmos, God’s plans for humanity must be an infinitesimal subset. Further, in all the vast tapestry of human endeavor and understanding,
            the single aspect of whether or not God is largely hidden and unknowable or largely visible and knowable is a yet smaller slice.

            So, as I read it, your statement that God’s plans (for remaining largely hidden) are incomprehensible and Overlappings hypothetical “God remains largely hidden and undetectable for reasons beyond any of our comprehension” reduce down to the same statement.

      • David Nickol

        The burden of proof is on the atheist to show that God does not have a reason for remaining hidden.

        Didn't someone here recently debunk the "burden of proof" nonsense in arguments such as this? There should be a filter that automatically deletes posts with the words "burden of proof" in them.

        There is no burden of proof on them to explain God's reasons. For atheists, God can't have reasons, because God doesn't exist.

        • ClayJames

          Didn't someone here recently debunk the "burden of proof" nonsense in arguments such as this.

          Can you offer a link?.

          For atheists, God can't have reasons, because God doesn't exist.

          This misses the point. The same can be said about the argument from evil, God can´t allow gratuitous evil if he doesn´t exist.

          The mistake is in not realizing that these arguments refer to internal inconsistencies between God´s traits and other observations (evil and hiddenness).

          So these arguments look like this.

          1. Assume God has traits X and Y.

          2. I observe Z

          3. Z is incompatible with X and/or Y.

          Therefore, a God with traits X and Y cannot exist.

          • David Nickol

            I agree the task of the skeptic or atheist who chooses to argue with believers is to point out that all the qualities of the invented God theists are proposing cannot logically coexist in one being. However, since the theist invented (and continues to invent) God, theists can erect any roadblocks to logical arguments they so choose, the all-encompassing one being, "How can humans, with their limited intelligence, ever hope to understand the reasons of an omniscient, omnipotent being?"

            I remain, by the way, outside the atheist camp. But that does not keep me from seeing that theists can pretty much make up anything they want. And they can make purely speculative arguments such as, "God may not want to 'scare" us into belief," while rarely being taken to task for pure, unfounded speculation (which a lot of the OP is).

          • "However, since the theist invented (and continues to invent) God..."

            This is a textbook example of begging the question. Of course everything else you write veers off course when you presume, without any support, that theists invent the idea of God.

            "But that does not keep me from seeing that theists can pretty much make up anything they want. And they can make purely speculative arguments such as, "God may not want to 'scare" us into belief," while rarely being taken to task for pure, unfounded speculation (which a lot of the OP is)."

            If atheists think "divine hiddenness" is a problem for theism, as many do, then theists don't need to explain it away with certainty. On theism, this would be unexpected and impossible anyways since a finite mind can't comprehend the plans of an infinite God. Theists just need to put forward some plausible reasons why God may reveal himself partially. That's enough to show how divine hiddenness and the existence of God are not logically incompatible.

          • David Nickol

            Of course everything else you write veers off course

            when you presume, without any support, that theists invent the idea of God.

            Not claiming to be an atheist, I do not make a flat-out assertion that theists invented God, but that would certainly be the atheists assumption. What I would say from my own point of view is that theists are the "caretakers" of the idea of God, and I would say about theology what Mark Twain said about science: "There is something fascinating about science theology. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

            Theists just need to put forward some plausible reasons why God may reveal himself partially. That's enough to show how divine hiddenness and the existence of God are not logically incompatible.

            Theists may be able to argue persuasively that God's hiddenness does not logically disprove his existence. But that might only mean the concept of God has been made invulnerable to logical disproof.

            Also, it seems to me that Christians don't really agree on God's hiddenness. One need only watch television interviews after some disaster to discover people who see God's hand in every swerve of a hurricane's path or every crash of an airplane.

          • ClayJames

            Not claiming to be an atheist, I do not make a flat-out assertion that theists invented God, but that would certainly be the atheists assumption.

            But even this is a false dichotomy and an intelligent atheists should not say this. Even if god doesn´t exist, it doesn´t follow from this that theists ¨invented¨ God. You might be wrong about the reality of the external world, but it doesn´t mean you invented this reality. You are warranted in believing in certain things, based on logic, evidence and experience and therefore it does not follow that you invented these things, even if you are wrong about them.

          • David Nickol

            Even if god doesn´t exist, it doesn´t follow from this that theists ¨invented¨ God.

            I don't follow your reasoning. If there is no God, then God is purely a human concept created by humans.

            You are warranted in believing in certain things, based on logic,
            evidence and experience and therefore it does not follow that you
            invented these things, even if you are wrong about them.

            There were many good reasons to believe in the luminiferous aether. However, it didn't exist even when virtually all scientists believed in it. It was a human invention.

            Would you say the competing gods in the Old Testament such as
            Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech weren't human inventions? That the didn't exist, never existed, and yet they weren't human inventions?

          • ClayJames

            Would you say the competing gods in the Old Testament such as Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech weren't human inventions? That the didn't exist, never existed, and yet they weren't human inventions?

            I think the difference here is semantics. Invention, as it is properly defined and as it would apply to what you are saying would be used to mean something fabricated or made up. It is a false dichotomy to say that something either exists, or it is made up. One can believe in something with proper justification (ie. without making it up) and that thing still not exist.

          • ClayJames

            "How can humans, with their limited intelligence, ever hope to understand the reasons of an omniscient, omnipotent being?"

            Do you deny that humans have limited intelligence or that the arguments for God´s omniscience are invalid? If not, how can a limited mind understand the intentions (at the very least probably intentions) of an omniscient mind? A theist has an answer for this question and I am curious what your answer would be. If there is no disagreement with the first question and you cannot answer the second, then this follows logically and inescapably whether you like it or not or whether you think its fair or not.

            And they can make purely speculative arguments such as, "God may not want to 'scare" us into belief," while rarely being taken to task for pure, unfounded speculation (which a lot of the OP is).

            You do realize that even if those speculations are not true, this does not leave us with atheism or even necessarily agnosticism. In other words, even if you were right regarding divine hiddenness (which I don´t concede), you have not given reasons why the argument is true (confirm atheism) or even successfully debunked positive arguments for god (which confirm theism). Even if you are right, we are still somewhere between theism and agnosticism.

          • David Nickol

            I am saying that the argument that human intelligence is very limited (which I accept as a fact) cuts both ways. It does not benefit theists any more than atheists. Both the assertions of theists and the assertions of atheists can (and should) be challenged by saying, "What makes you so sure?" None of these arguments can be settled by logical proofs

          • ClayJames

            I am saying that the argument that human intelligence is very limited (which I accept as a fact) cuts both ways. It does not benefit theists any more than atheists. Both the assertions of theists and the assertions of atheists can (and should) be challenged by saying, "What makes you so sure?"

            What is your point? How is the theist trying to benefit from this?We are talking about the argument from hiddenness which is an atheistic argument. If a theist is trying to make an argument while ignoring the difference between God´s omniscience and our limited capacity, then yes, the same criticism would apply.

          • David Nickol

            We are talking about the argument from hiddenness which is an atheistic argument.

            The hiddenness of God is not an invention of atheists. It has been a problem since the dawn of belief. Check the Psalms (Psalm 44 in particular.) And doesn't the following sound familiar?

            My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
            Why so far from my call for help,
            from my cries of anguish?

            My God, I call by day, but you do not answer;
            by night, but I have no relief.

            The hiddenness of God assumes there is a God. Atheists don't argue that God is hidden. They argue that he doesn't exist. They may, of course, argue that theists are fooling themselves by inventing explanations for why God is hidden, when in reality there simply is no God, but the hiddenness of God is a religious concept, not an atheistic one.

          • Randy Carson

            | 3. Z is incompatible with X and/or Y.

            The burden of proof is on the skeptic to show this is true.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Didn't someone here recently debunk the "burden of proof" nonsense in arguments such as this?

          It is only bad when atheists do it.

          • ClayJames

            It is only bad when atheists do it.

            It is bad when anyone does it. You and David Nickol both said that there was something wrong with how I answered the burden of proof question and I am still waiting for a response as to why this is the case.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because it is silly to suggest that a good objection doesn't meet the burden of proof, because theists can think of a way to special plead out of it and keep their construct consistent.

            Anyway, you are the one who claims that God created the world, created man, punished man for his sin, decided to redeem man by sacrificing himself to himself, which included picking a backward tribe to be his chosen people, helping them wipe out competing tribes, punishing them when they disobeyed, being born of a perpetual virgin, preaching, casting out demons, suffering, dying, rising, appearing to followers after death, and starting a large world religion with untold wealth that advocates for the poor by denying them contraceptives.

            Maybe it is time for Christians to justify their claims. Hiddenness is a natural response to your claims. These burden of proof conversations and atheists cannot prove conversations are just a distraction from the fact that your claims are unjustified.

          • ClayJames

            Because it is silly to suggest that a good objection doesn't meet the burden of proof, because theists can think of a way to special plead out of it and keep their construct consistent.

            Like I said to David, we have reason to believe that we are limited and that God is omniscient. The atheist must show that these two qualifiers are not true or that even if they are true, how they are able to determine the intentions of an omniscient mind. If they can´t do this (and no one here has been able to) it directly follows that these objection (divine hiddenness) is not a goo objection. You don´t have to like it, you can think its unfair but it is not special pleading. And if it is special pleading, I would need you to explain why.

            Maybe it is time for Christians to justify their claims.

            Christians do justify their claims and this site is full of those justifications. You have said you find them invalid, without offering valid reasons why this is so. I also find it quiet ironic that you say burden of proof conversations are distractions but have no problem in claiming, in the very same post, that the Christian should justify their claims. I agree, Christians should justify their claims because they have the burden of proof when showing that God exists and this also applies to atheists when showing the God does not exist.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The point isn't whether or not atheists can prove that God does not exist. The point is whether or not atheists are justified in believing that God does not exist. Divine Hiddeness is one such justification. I'm asking you to do what atheists have already done. Provide justification. Got any?

        • "There is no burden of proof on them to explain God's reasons. For atheists, God can't have reasons, because God doesn't exist."

          The problem is that, in my experience, most atheists think divine hiddenness is an argument against God's existence. For example, see Bertrand Russell's famous "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence." That's another way to say, "Why did you remain so hidden??"

          I don't hear many atheists saying, "God can't have reasons [for remaining hidden], because God doesn't exist."

          Instead, they say, "God can't exist because, if he did, he would have no good reasons for hiding himself from me."

          • George

            "The problem is that, in my experience, most atheists think divine hiddenness is an argument against God's existence."

            You should engage with the strongest form of the hiddeness argument then. And it's not that god does not exist, but that skeptics are justified in not believing the claims of the theist.

          • David Nickol

            The problem is that, in my experience, most atheists think divine hiddenness is an argument against God's existence.

            It is! It may not be a conclusive argument, but it is a powerful argument, especially for those with no faith or those who have lost their faith, believing first that they have been abandoned by God, and then after a time, that there simply is no God. It is far more comforting, in my opinion, to believe that there is no God than to believe there is a God who would not lift a finger to help you in times of terrible distress and would not flinch at roasting you or your loved ones for all eternity.

            It is probably a rare individual indeed who is significantly influenced by intellectual arguments justifying God's hiddenness or his permission of evil in the world. These aren't intellectual things. They are gut feelings. It's nice to read books about why bad things happen to good people, but in actual practice, probably the worst thing you can do for a good person to whom something bad has happened is make intellectual arguments to them about why they have to suffer or grieve.

        • Will

          The burden of proof is on you to show that my invisible magic dragon in my garage has reasons to stay invisible. It is an invisible magic dragon after all, suppose it's supposed to have reasons to remain invisible...and it totally exists. Same applies to aliens, Big foot, and the resurrected Elvis.

      • George

        Have you tried stating those reasons yahweh might have, and observed those reasons being picked apart or standing strong under scrutiny?

        • ClayJames

          Have you tried stating those reasons yahweh might have, and observed those reasons being picked apart or standing strong under scrutiny?

          Those reasons have been stated and I have yet to see anyone here really attempt to tear them apart. For the most part, atheists here are simply stating confused opinions regarding the burden of proof. Care to tare them apart George?

    • Mike

      i think it depends on what kind of miracles. So turning the Eiffel tower into blue cheese would be suspect compared to say a person claiming to be a prophet of God healing a blind person's vision with his hands or whatever. Also there are some miracles which couldn't i've read even in principle have been done by something like an alien. Things like fire which doesn't burn would require either an illusion of fire which wouldn't count or real fire but that doesn't burn for which miracle something or one would need access to the very fundamentals of nature which would preclude an alien.

      • David Nickol

        Fire which does not burn simply would not be fire. Fire is "combustion or burning, in which substances combine chemically with
        oxygen from the air and typically give out bright light, heat, and
        smoke." If that doesn't take place, then you have something other than fire.

        How could you verify that a given phenomenon that looked like fire was "fire that doesn't burn"? If something is not combining with oxygen and giving out light, heat, or smoke, there is no justification for calling what is happening fire.

        Now, since God can do anything, he can certainly make a bush appear to be on fire without it actually burning. But it is not a miracle to make fire that is not fire. It is a logical impossibility.

        • Mike

          well i think that if you had access to the fundamental properties of nature you could have real fire but temporarily stop/BLOCK one of its effects namely the heat from burning a particular person or bush.

          i brought it up bc i saw it in a video lecture that i think a dominican priest gave on this subject. i also think that ed feser has either written on this or he is also in the lecture but i can't access youtube now so can't find it.

        • Mike
  • Where's the 'fallen angel' argument? I guess such an 'absence' really is my 'cue' to leave!!!! Shall we meet again in heaven or hell!!!!? (I won-der!)

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Agreed! If God seems far from us, that fallen angel guy should be at the top of the list of likely culprits!

      • :)

      • Gee! Generations!!! (pun?) really make a difference. There at least was 'some?' beauty in what Thomism I was taught during the 40's. And before Aquinas I expect there was even more 'poetry'. This 'evangelization' blog, isn't even 'Catholicsm' to me, as I now realize. Another -end of philosophy. I'm going to have 'some fun'! trying to put all of this experience together. With all of the definitions I have learned through the ages from Aquinas to Sartre, about just what 'heaven and hell' - really is. I posted on this a while back, in any case. I mean, you guys have got to appreciate the song: "You're so vain" - are the atheists 'truer' in providing images of these matters than the Catholics!!!????
        (Edit: made the last sentence a question just to avoid possible heresy, excommunication, or yes,even damnation????) Hopefully!!!!!

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Since you like to explore ideas through music Loreen (and since I think you need an updated music library :-), I'll answer your question this way. I think the difference between atheists and Catholics is small when you consider how much we all need to "go down to the river".

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC5Lisj1hGI

          • Thanks. Interestingly during my youth I wasn't that heavily into the pop scene, performed some jazz and my favorite Joan Baez, but most of my life I've been classical!! all the way. Then they all started dying off, and have been making some time to 'relive' my youth!!!! Thanks. I'm trying to get into the 'mood' - this is all just 'play-acting' here....I'd probably be singing with these guys in some after life, before I could ever become another Dan Brown!!!!!

          • That was beautiful. Of course what is missing from all of this 'evangelization' is any appreciation of the importance of 'wisdom' - that is the living of one's life: As with Heidegger, after Nietzsche and Kierkegaard- Back to Being, Ontology, etc. Enough of this epistemology. It can take some lessons in life to learn or appreciate the possibility that he's talking perhaps about the 'river of life' and that it's 'all about surrender'!!!!! And for those who object to 'metaphor' - well if you study a bit, you will find out that metaphor is basically 'what language IS'. They get old and tired perhaps as we get used to them, and can't recognize the origin of the analogies.....- after all, it's math that is the the-o????? Right?????? I'm not being very humble. here boasting about my 'knowledge'!!!-- perhaps I should get me to the bun-nary- and treat myself to some Islamic - whatever they are called. Thanks. I will write tomorrow. I will begin tomorrow. I will. I will. I will!!!!! It's been great talking to you!!! Thanks for the music...

          • Just read the Chabad, for the day. Seems like this post is in need of a Mitzvah: So:
            Abandonment (translated as 'hiddenness'?)
            (My addition: What would be needed then is -faith!!! ???)
            From the Rabbi- these talks on Chabad are great- no 'argument' and actually positive -i.e. they are Mitzvahs. I wonder how many of these words I'll learn! I 'like' Judaism or Israel- meaning towards God....
            "Even when it looks like G-d has abandoned you, (Edit: Hidden Himself?) He is really right beside you, ready to catch you if you fall."
            Now I could find such encouragement even with some modern poetry. Not at the moment though. The 'connections' are not quite -there at the moment. But yes both Science and Poetry, even the poetry of religion i.e. 'revelation' can be regarded, for want of a better word - as empirical!!! (If you know/understand what I 'mean'!!!!)

          • Unbelievable: Look what was just 'waiting for me'!!! https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/science-and-wisdom/

            Edit: Yeah. have now read it. Wisdom and science are related in so far as they both deal with 'realities' as in 'You need a reality check'....But I don't want to get back to the deprecating argument that used schizophrenia as a foil, for when I checked at the cafe a friend confirmed that yes, it is slowly being recognized as a means to gain 'insight' but in often the extreme cases of memory loss, when such can be due to the trauma etc. within all those 'games of life'. But as my friend agreed, sometimes you have to go through the chaos to get to the 'beauty'. Linear thinking can work in 'harmony' perhaps with the 'divergent' mind!! Can't remember Nietzsche's saying on this but he too was 'right on'....Yes, and 'realities' within 'realities' can be a 'reality'!!!! That's what narrative can be all about. I'm 'almost there'!!!!

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Likely it is often ourselves – and not God – who stand in the way of God’s immediate “delivery of the goods”.

    Why is this likely?

    Since we "know" that diligent effort is not sufficient to establish communion with God (to deny this would be to affirm the heresy of Pelagianism), we should then be very hesitant to infer that a person who feels no sense of God's presence is at fault.

  • Just thinking. The narrative is going to have to have a 'devil's advocate'.. Such assessment by 'hiddeness itself'??? is actually a part of the procedure for sainthood....right? But am I arguing for the devil's case, or for the devil? !!!! Anyway, I'm going to post this video again, just to get the picture with the hope that it will provoke a discussion, (well if you can't help me out here, at least it gives me a beginning to think about! for a story). But I wonder whether or not this could 'stand in the way' of any possible 'revelation' of what constitutes 'hiddenness'. (A Private, miracle/revelation, and not necessarily worthy of belief, of course). Perhaps there is 'hiddenness'/'revelation' even within.....But was the fallen angel a Cherubim or a Seraphim? Perhaps the woman's persona could be considered vengeful, even? No that won't help the plot. she's not claiming to be a 'saint'!!! Like she's singing about the.... But -maybe it's true- who is to judge? But as a repetition of my past post- and for your, or rather our benefit, (entertainment?) may we possibly consider if there are any implications of an absence of 'good'??? 'love', 'knowledge', 'argument' -within this song--- yes that it! It's really what it is all about; the narrative really is just another argument. That's the 'idea' behind this song....??? Who's being the Devil's advocate? What a role to play! What an advantage in the argument over hiddeness! Yes, I have never had an opportunity to be within a puzzle which has offered such an exciting part for me to play before....Who shall I advocate for? The drama begins...lights, action, camera!!! Write on....
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g

  • George

    Matt Dillahunty on divine hiddeness.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRB0TDq8tWE

    • Sounds like if you are looking for what someone else says is 'God', that this external knowledge, can get in the way, and can even be what could 'cause' a hiddenness within one's self!?? Yes. You see: Here's the story: Believe it or not !!! I'm a schizophrenic, and have had to learn to 'listen to my voices'. Even perhaps when they are scary. I once called them my 'demons'!!! It happened after listening to a lot of people tell me things during childhood even, that I found difficult to believe. That, and relating some of the stories I heard to my own experience. Like God is great, and omniscient, and things like that which could be very difficult, especially as there were seemingly omniscient people around me who presented for me difficult situations in which I had no 'authority'. Learning to understand these voices, and how they might relate to a personal experience, or what they can mean to you, can take a long time, and a lot of work, but even the 'difficult' voices within our minds, I have learned, can be tamed, and when truth is found, you can at last say: I have found God, even though you may not agree with the original 'voices' or their 'authority'. Yes. and even though you no longer quite understand what is meant by all the various interpretations of the word 'God'.....
      I shall tell you more about what I have learned. You see, if you 'listen TOO closely' to some internal 'voices' regarding the meaning of God, there can even be the danger that they could take you away for being a megalomaniac. So it can be very dangerous, for some people, at some times, to identify some voices you hear within yourself! as being the 'voice of God'. You must understand that there can be different explanations for why and even how those voices can appear to others, or what it means to hear the voice of 'someone else' - an 'other' -as is the case when the psychiatrist is told that the 'voices' are telling you what to do, and she stares at you intensely and doubles the 'dosage', because they said you deserved a better room. You even have the thought that it is a bit 'ironic, that when such voices are understood to be an imperative, within the forum of psychiatry, rather than the tradition of Christian faith, they are not always received as a 'just' command of god, and consequently, you learn that to insist on such truth, too much can be too dangerous. Some one deemed to be insane is not considered to be 'holy', but more often, as in the video, 'arrogant'!!! Within different contexts, you may find that you need to learn in life, especially if you are without 'power', religious or secular, to play the game. (When does this 'game of life' become 'an impossible game?)

      But still, you may eventually, over many many years, begin to wonder if it really is possible that getting to know God, is indeed related to 'getting to know your self'!!!! And in this way you, as an individual can begin to grow, as a 'person', for you discover, even in a way that religion talks about growing in faith, or in 'knowledge of God' that, in listening to those 'internal voices', with perhaps a more critical and even sympathetic understanding, that you can indeed feel much less anxious and confused. The 'tone' of the voices begins to change. You just don't talk about the intimacy in your relationship with a superior intelligence in situations where you might be considered 'crazy'!!! You must regard the voices merely as 'clear and distinct ideas', although you must admit that you have no absolute 'certainty' whether indeed they are so. What is understood as 'scientific discovery' can perhaps follow a different criteria from that which identifies as an absolute authority what is understood to be God. But in either case, you find that you have a need to ask: How does one understand the meaning of 'transcendence'. Is there not a 'transcendence', 'a higher intelligence' within the compass of my thought process, even though the thoughts themselves do not really reveal much about the world to me?

      Thus truly, you find that the psychiatrist will let you out of the nut house, once you convince him that you don't think you're 'really' God, or were having a 'real' conversation with a 'real' Being of such omniscience or power. That's an hallucination, she will tell you, even if you still have some strange remembrance of some kind of past experience, or something that you cannot yet relate to that inner voice, but which certainly 'seemed' to have the power of a god. Has the truth at last been revealed? Indeed, when you get home, you realize that this could mean there is still some hiddeness within your life, there is still more to learn, so you begin once again to take your medicine, both the pills and the lessons from the pitfalls of life, and growing a little stronger even within each failure, continue along the river of life, a journey, taken with greater confidence now, to understand yourself, others and the world. Indeed even as you walk around a chair to see it's 'other side, you appreciate, as you sit down for coffee that you can perhaps find a balance within the dichotomies you find between hiddenness and revelation. You have a much better idea of the whole chair, actually, when you are sitting on it. But, the thought crosses your mind whether even this 'fact' would be enough to 'prove', through words alone, that the whole chair 'exists'.

      And with this ever new understanding you are also learning all the time, that you never were as crazy as they said you were, or that what they said has now convinced you that you were. For now you have faith, not only as a release from external mandates of authority, but because you have surely obtained some wisdom through the 'overcoming', and you even have your own ideas about these ideas about these ideas.... Indeed you realize how the realities of any psychosis, political or philosophical, secular or religious, whether a product of excessive love or hate, can be related one to another and to a 'reality' in a cognizant way.

      There is no longer anything hidden in your life that you feel is 'dangerous' to you, at least from your perspective. You have indeed remembered all that was important to vanquish the traumas that were relevant to your life experience. You are learning when to listen, and when not to. All that is important are facts, and facts are real, even those 'facts' of conscience that may not be believable to others. You can at least believe in yourself at last - that you are at least capable of seeing the world as it 'is', at least from your perspective, and with the help of those voices, those conversations within your mind you can even develop a better understanding of your 'self' in relation to 'others' !!!! the 'problem' of 'divine' hiddeness is no longer thought to be either 'disproportionate' nor 'illogical'. You have placed it within a 'context'.... and you have accepted the hiddenness even within the narrative of your life experience.

      Yes. You as an individual are between somehow the world of the external, and the world of your self, between the world of the naturalist and the religious. It is your judgment that can choose whether or not to unite them in any specific instance. It is your judgment that constitutes your proof of 'reality'. It is your judgment than can render you both sane and/or rational within your personal experience. But the question perhaps will always remain. How can you contribute to the conversation? Should you choose to be silent or to speak within any discussion? What is more important, the logic or the narrative?
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/myjourneyofconscience/2015/08/02/the-nature-of-the-zen-god/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=myjourneyofconscience_021916UTC030248_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=50736817&spUserID=NjM1MDAxMjE3ODES1&spJobID=862411378&spReportId=ODYyNDExMzc4S0&repeat=w3tc
      (Just hoping that this can be a little more 'realistic' portrayal for some people than the finding of the bears in the 'bible story!!!) (And, edit, Except, it is perhaps important to note that the above is a purposefully 'made-up' story, and thus does not claim to have the transcendental inerrancy, that is attributed to the Bible, as being The 'necessary'!!!?? word of 'God' or an account of what 'really happened'! from a 'transcendental' perspective. I have no further judgment to make about the 'reality' of such transcendentals within this context. That, is precisely, perhaps my difficulty with the problematic on these sites. I am neither saint, scholar, nor scientist. I simply have not had such a 'religious' experience that would allow me to speak of the 'hiddenness' of God outside of my acknowledgement that I have neither absolute power, nor authority in such matters.

    • Just work up this morning, and find the delightful comment by bdlaacmm and some others, especially that above from JH, that remind me again of my own 'hiddeness'. I also enjoyed some comments on EN, but yes, perhaps it's best not to 'add to that argument'... I did find: "Why belief in God is more rational than atheism"-Peter Kreeft. And thus I ask: Is there a possibility that there could be too much 'rationalism'!! I appreciate the relationship, which I hope to explore further as the subject of 'Portals', between rationality and insanity. Indeed, have I not often heard during my 'journey' that madness itself can be considered a condition of having 'too much' reason'?

      Indeed, I believe that even Eastern Religions, (I'm thinking of Gandhi, specifically, --who apparently referred to: 'what? Western Civilization? or perhaps he said Western monotheism? not sure...or perhaps he 'merely was questioning Christianity'... ) have commented on the excessive rationality within Western civilization. Thus again I get another perspective on what I am examining within the Portals. I might expect Gandhi would ask- where is the compassion? which by contrast, he would be referring to, or even assuming, to be the primary emphasis within Eastern traditions. I find it interesting specifically, that it is this hiddenness 'argument' that makes the importance of such structures clear, at least to me, as the suppositions which 'contain' the argument, etc. with respect to the tradition as it is possibly interpreted 'today'!

      Edit: 2-21-16: At 10:37 a.m.
      Rudy R 3 hours ago
      How do you differentiate between a hidden god and no god? To which I found the response: The Way is not in the Sky, but in the Heart: The Buddha on Love.

      I understand better now, for instance my 'aversion' to the 'structure' of these on-going arguments, etc. etc. etc. although in Buddhism one must 'overcome' both aversion and 'attraction'. And yes, maybe I should acknowledge that I'm 'not always very good at argument' - a plea for 'excuses'!!! - (Yes, what I found difficult within the Analytic Philosophers, (the positivists!!) as well as Scholasticism is perhaps the emphasis on argument, and because of this I could indeed possibly benefit from such 'excuse' (Searle) or 'justification'???) Yes, despite such a possibility, I would even 'argue' that I am capable of coming up with my own 'premises', and see no 'reason' for not upholding such in certain instances, whether or not this is regarded as mere illogical 'circularity' or 'begging the question', particularly when the 'belief' is related to the 'personal', or when, as in Kant, such premises, principles, prototypes, proverbs, poetry, precepts, platitudes... have the characteristic of 'antinomies'. But, yes, we can learn much from discussion, and exchange of ideas. So one should be open to 'the idea of argument', or better said perhaps: 'the other's point of view'...But why 'argument' is 'necessary' as a means to 'convince' or 'prove' such ideas or problems is something that is beyond my understanding; although I wonder whether this is because it is for me a kind of 'rhetorical' question!!!! :) especially when the premises would primarily be 'questions' of 'faith' rather than 'reason'.

      For instance, when it comes to certain instances of requiring proof!! well: I repeat: I can see the 'validity' of argument, per se. But, within the context of story for instance, even an argument that appears not to be sound, that of insisting that yes the author had been 'violated', is considered logically as 'begging this question', and consequently is received as an indication of 'insanity'....in other words, even a 'rape' may not be 'believed', when the premise itself could be considered 'necessary'!! to reveal, at least by the protagonist/antagonist, (depending on the 'judgment' of the courts!!) even without proof that it IS True. Perhaps in such cases, one should 'pray' not to God, but God-el!!! ("There may indeed be a truth outside of a closed 'system' of argumentation"). And thus, again, there is the relevance of examining perhaps the 'structure' within which an argument is placed!!!!

      Sometimes one 'must be a beggar' even when it goes against the 'hiddeness' with social norms and procedures of 'justice' and even the limitations of arguments- themselves!!!! After, all when there is a 'God' who is all powerful, omniscient, etc. etc. is it not at least possible that there will be some 'hiddenness' in our knowledge of such divinity? - I mean for 'argument's sake' at least!!! (The fault dear Brutus is not within ourselves but in the stars (and our god) that we are underlings!!)

      Notice, however, that I did not include the all-loving, which of course is/could be a central issue within theodicy, but if you're not loving yourself, and insist instead on an 'argument' that.. - well what can I say...what else can we do but 'blame our! God, for the shortcoming' of feeling/being unloved - Would we have this attitude towards the 'hiddenness' within nature- thought of as an in-itself???? within a purely scientific attitude, of course. I won-der! Or does that 'potentiality' of an attitude of theodicy within 'ourselves'!!! perhaps 'reveal' that it is possible to find 'the hiddenness of the fallen angel' even within a!l!l the 'complementary sights/sites'!! (Edit: I have just come to appreciate for instance, that the concept of 'creation' almost tautologically implies a 'less than perfection' in a state of 'being', and consequently entails a possible premise for those who wish to argue a theodicy). But even without a God, we can always, after all 'blame our neighbor' for any hiddenness!!! We can always blame another for the lack of coherence essentially found within language, the insanity that can be found within the world, for the poverty, the lawlessness, the.....well, I know not where you would 'want to go' with this!!! Don't we all 'choose' our own 'premises'?

      Yes. It really has come to pass that it is time for me to get out of this 'argument'...Yes. Yes. yes. I am still trying to convince myself. Reason vs. Insanity. Yes. I believe I will have much to learn in exploring the 'narrative, (which itself is a form of argument') within this 'story', at least so I believe......Maybe that's why I hesitate to leave. I'm perhaps not 'convinced' I will find 'absolute' answers, but as in another Buddhist perspective on narrative and logic, I posted, http://learn.wisdompubs.org/podcast/c-w-huntington/ this suggests to me, those ancient pre-Socratic philosophers, with their ideas of never stepping in the same river twice. Possibly these then are the earliest versions of seeing the world without 'absolutes'. Thanks to you all, for your 'loving kindness'.

      Edit: And when I go to my "IN-box" I find this: “ Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love. ”
      ~Bernard, St. on Love
      And I guess it's possible to feel that way within the problematic of 'hiddeness' - ........ Hopefully I'm better at narrative than 'argument' Yes, sometimes it might be best to be just - the 'humble beggar'!!!

      No 'question' about it!!! No 'argument'!!!

      .

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    At the risk of sounding completely crazy, I don't think that the way we know God is so wildly different from the way that we know our friends, our boss, our spouse, etc. We don't really know a friend directly through our senses. She has an infinite interior life that is only partly revealed to us through her finite physical body, and through her finite spoken words, and that only if we approach her with "a listening heart". She too is, in large measure, "hidden". We take the physical "signs of her existence" that partially reveal her, apply some (usually subconscious) inferencing to conclude that "it feels like something to be her", and then we use our imaginations (in conjunction with our perceptions and our conceptions) to develop a sense of what it is like to be her. You cannot know a person without this (fallible) inferencing and imagination. Similarly, when presented with the phenomenon of the universe, we apply inferencing and imagination to develop a sense of the infinite "beingness" that is being manifested through the finite physical universe.

  • The direct objects of human knowledge are material entities, none of which is God. However, these entities do not explain their own existence. There must be a being, beyond our experience, which explains its own existence and the existence of the entities whose existence we know directly. St. Thomas presented this argument from five different approaches.

    It is disappointing that erroneous arguments for the existence of God are so often presented. Two of these are the Kalam argument and the argument involving probability.

    The Kalam argument fails because the universe is not an entity, but a conceptual set.

    The argument based on probability proposes that some values of probability can serve as an explanation, while others cannot. This is internally inconsistent, because all values of probability are of equal validity throughout its range of definition.

  • bdlaacmm

    I have never understood this idea of Divine Hiddenness. He's not hidden at all - I see Him everywhere. Believe me, I'm not being flippant here - I see God surrounding me and infusing me at every point. I see Him in every rock, every stone, every cloud, every star, every person I pass on the street, every weed growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. I see Him in my hands, my feet, my diabetes, my bum knee. I see Him in a sunset, in my perfect (of course) grandchildren, and in [someone I know and am close to] agonizing over whether she should leave her unfaithful husband. It mystifies me that not everyone sees this.

    • David Nickol

      What do you think of Mother Teresa's decades of spiritual desolation? If she could have read your comment above in her darkest hours, how do you think she would have felt?

      • Peter

        I fancy that what contributed to Mother Teresa's desolation was her first hand experience of the impossibly rich and powerful and of the utterly poor and destitute. Most of us do not come into contact with these gross extremes of humanity, but she did.

        I wonder how much the question played on her mind of how a God of love could permit a world where some lived as potent gods while so many lived as insignificant dregs.

        I suppose faith is easy when we're not exposed to the obscene realities of the world. To the extent that Mother Teresa was, and very much so, it is not surprising that her faith was shaken at its foundations.

    • Will

      A theistic view of reality is one of many possible perspectives. It baffles you that everyone doesn't share your perspective? Interesting, I'm quite used to everyone seeing the world differently, but I deal with people from varied locations and walks of life on a daily basis.

      • bdlaacmm

        Oh, I'm not mystified by people thinking differently than me. What mystifies me in this specific instance is that God's presence is so in-your-face obvious to me, that I wonder what is blinding others to it. As the novelist Mark Helprin wrote in his wonderful book A Soldier of the Great War (and I'm not quoting here, but citing from memory), "The atheist is like a man standing on the seashore, bracing himself against the wind, lashed by flying sand and buffeted by salt spray, all the while denying the existence of the ocean."

        • David Nickol

          . . . . God's presence is so in-your-face obvious to me, that I wonder what is blinding others to it.

          Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that God is present in the way you claim, and his presence is as obvious to you as you claim. Why don't you assume that your ability to see God's presence is a special gift to you and some others?

          Why do you assume that people like yourself are "normal" and that so many others are "disabled" (blind)? Isn't it rather haughty of you to claim to be one of the few who can see the "in-your-face obvious"? Suppose this ability is real, rare, and a gift from God. Why should you be smug about it?

          • Rob Abney

            That's an interesting reaction, that someone is smug because they "see". It seems to be a problem for Christians that many skeptics are somehow bothered by the Christian's confidence.

          • David Nickol

            That's an interesting reaction, that someone is smug because they "see".

            What is smug is not claiming to see. What is smug is taking one's own experience to be the standard by which to measure others, and considering oneself to be able to see the obvious while considering others to be defective (blind) because they cannot see what you see. It is kind of like Einstein being amazed that everyone else was so stupid for not understanding relativity. If you have a gift from God, like spiritual insight or a great understanding of physical law, you have no right to feel superior to others. You should feel fortunate.

            Remember Jesus said (Matthew 16:17), “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." Blessed is an interesting word in the Bible. I think we tend to interpret it as "holy and good," but (as an amateur exegete), I think it means something much more like fortunate or enviable. Peter has no right to say at this juncture, "Why are others so blind as not to see what I see?" He has been given a gift. God has been gratuitously generous to him. He should consider himself lucky.

            Do you see my point?

          • Rob Abney

            I agree with you, I was reacting to the description as smug which seems negative.
            But your description of a gift is very positive.

          • GuineaPigDan .

            Basically it's what Thomas Paine argued in the Age of Reason. To paraphrase, revelation by definition is only a revelation to those who receive it. Telling others about your revelation is merely hearsay and you can't expect others to believe you unless they also share in the same revelation.

          • Rob Abney

            I agree with you on private revelation but publicly verifiable revelation is more than hearsay.

          • Will

            It seems to be a problem for Christians that many skeptics are somehow bothered by the Christian's confidence.

            It often comes off like there is something wrong with one who doesn't see (like a mental disorder or something). I'm in a good mood, so I'm just taking it as enthusiasm for God today. Christians have historically taught that there is something wrong with someone who doesn't believe though, and this is in the catechism:

            2123 "Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time."58

            Atheism must be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time. That's pretty strong wording when we still have disease, possibility of major even nuclear war, economic issuse, ect. Shows someone's (the Catholic Church's) priorities might be in the wrong place, but enough atheism will be the death of the Catholic Church, so it's no surprise that the organization would react strongly when it's long term survival is at risk. Nothing it can do other than focus on Holy Separation to keep all the contrary information out. Increase access to information has been continuously shown to reduce religion, and the internet is rapidly spreading everywhere.

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/526111/how-the-internet-is-taking-away-americas-religion/

            I suppose it is a pity, in some ways when a religion dies, it's like an organism going extinct. It would be interesting to meet some who practiced ancient Egyptian and Greek/Roman religions, but Christianity already made those extinct.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_pagans_in_the_late_Roman_Empire

            Since it, through the might of the Roman empire, killed all of these other cultural artifacts, I'm not going to shed too many tears when Christianity goes the way of the Dodo, though it may take a while. No persecution required of course, just idea selection and better information.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think that I can convince you of this but the Catholic Church exists to spread the gospel not to keep itself intact. Although the Church's existence supports the notion that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
            I read the History of Christendom series by Warren Carroll, its amazing how often the church has dwindled to barely existing only to be salvaged by a Saint or a great Pope.

          • Will

            I don't think that I can convince you of this but the Catholic Church exists to spread the gospel not to keep itself intact.

            I don't doubt that. Think of spreading the gospel as a primary goal, but the Church believes certain interpretations of the entire Canon must be maintained, along with a mechanism for making doctrinal "patches" so to speak, so the survival of the organization is a necessary condition for that end goal. I love a good bit of what's in the actual gospels, so I'm not critical of that mission necessarily, it's just the Church's inclination, historically, to demand a monopoly on beliefs and philosophy that bothers me. What it has, at times, been willing to do to maintain that monopoly bothers me, too, though I know many who did the bad things thought they were doing what was right.

            Although the Church's existence supports the notion that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

            Egyptian religion lasted for at least 3000 years, probably longer. Hinduism is over 7000 years old and is still around, but it seems to have much less dogma is more fluid than Christianity has been (not necessarily western culture as a whole). I would agree that Christianity is a better religion to the Egyptian one, and it's enforcement of monoculture helped connect Europe together in way that would not have happened without it. Even though trends look bad for Christianity in 1st world countries, expansion in 3rd world countries will keep it around for quite a while (even though Islam is expanding faster). The Gates of Hell certainly haven't prevailed against Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism either.

            I read the History of Christendom series by Warren Carroll, its amazing how often the church has dwindled to barely existing only to be salvaged by a Saint or a great Pope.

            I agree that there have been excellent people within the Church...some really bad ones too. If it were not for the great people, I suspect it would have dwindled long ago. Things are tough now for it because the general moral zeitgeist has changed so much.

          • bdlaacmm

            Where in the world did you get the impression that I was being smug? I just re-read my comments, and I find no hint of any such thing.

          • David Nickol

            First, let me apologize for implying something about you rather than simply addressing your remarks. Few if any of us who write messages to each other here actually know each other, and I am certainly aware that some of my own remarks could be easily misinterpreted. For example, believe some of my remarks sound angry when I personally feel no anger.

            However, you said the following:

            What mystifies me in this specific instance is that God's presence is so in-your-face obvious to me, that I wonder what is blinding others to it.

            Does this not imply that there is something seriously wrong not merely with atheists, but with people like Matt Nelson and other believing Christians who feel that God's hiddenness is a real problem to be grappled with? There might be many explanations for your ability (real or not) to see something others don't see. Using the metaphor of yourself being sighted and others being blind is a clear implication that your seeing is not special, and those who don't see have some kind of disability.

            Your alleged quote from Helprin (of which I am able to find no trace and nothing similar using Google) is even more extreme, implying no one can really be an atheist in good faith. Not to believe in God, you seem to be saying, is such a ludicrous and willful denial of reality that it is beyond comprehension.

            It seems to me that your words can do real damage, because God's presence is not obvious to many good Christians, and the hiddenness of God has been taken seriously (and written about) by many religious thinkers. Are they all blind? Should we not read the OP because it was written by a blind person? And for those who doubt the existence of God but who are genuinely open to it, telling them that God is there if they just look may convince them that God is not there because they are looking.

            The flip side of your argument, from the viewpoint of a confirmed atheist, would be that anyone who thinks he or she sees God is in some way delusional, and perhaps not merely delusional, but in some kind of willful denial. If you can argue that God is so visibly present and those who deny it are stubbornly and willfully blind, why is it not fair for atheists to argue that those who think they detect God's presence are fooling themselves just as badly as they claim atheists are fooling themselves about God's absence. Or perhaps they are, in one way or another, hallucinating.

            In my opinion, when it comes to religion, little or nothing is obvious. To claim that something is obvious is to unwittingly help the cause of anti-religion, because people of good faith can say, "If it's obvious, why can't I see it?" And they will dismiss it. Of course, I am not actually 100% sure that would be a bad thing! But I tend to think that believers and nonbelievers should engage with each other, both sides assuming the good faith of the other sides, and not in essence resort to insults, with atheists calling believers delusional and theists calling atheists blind.

        • Will

          I was raised Christian, and it became obvious to me that there was no reason to believe that God intervened in almost any of the cases where Christians thought he did. Everything good that happened was a act of God, everything bad, well, God has his reasons. Almost no one else around me saw what I was seeing, however, group think is strong with most.
          I didn't reject the idea of God entirely, falling back to a more deistic position. I actually enjoy looking at a sunset with the idea that it was made by some higher power (thus I'm enjoying their art), but it's also quite easy to see that we may have evolved to find natural beauty appealing for a variety of reasons (usually more fertile land that is conducive to hunting is more "beautiful" than dead land when tests are performed, suggesting an evolutionary role in forming what landscapes we find beautiful).
          To make a long story short, I know exactly what you are seeing, but that doesn't mean it's out there. The difference between perceiving God in everything, and not at all, is completely in your head...I can see both perspectives just not at the same time.
          You ought to check out the neuroscience on religious belief, this course was pretty good.

          The longer you believe in God or embrace a particular worldview the more your brain wires around the paradigm, and the harder it can be to perceive the world in alternative ways. It's much strong if most of your friends and family perceive things in the same thing, social reinforcement via shared belief is powerful. This assumes that you don't practice taking various points of view, like I do. Neuroplasticity is your friend, especially to prevent mental degeneration as you age (of course there is a lot more you can do besides learning new things and taking new perspectives).

  • VicqRuiz

    But to think with omniscience and act with omnipotence as the eternal Creator is outside of our limited human experience (imagine an ant trying to understand quantum mechanics).

    May I say that as a skeptic I completely agree with this? If there is a conscious mind which created the universe and everything in it, then perhaps the comparison of that mind, to our mind, to an ant's mind is giving the ant the best of it.

    Where we differ is that I would hesitate before making the sort of statements about that mind's motives and emotions which you have made in the article. I would give greater consideration to my limitations.

    Of course, testimony itself doesn’t prove the validity of the claim, but based on the numbers it very well could be that at least one of these is a true miracle (indeed there are many accounts of atheist investigators, medical specialists for example, who are hired to investigate and become believers as a result of their findings).

    I assume you are aware that under Pope John Paul II, the office of Promoter of the Faith (popularly known as "devil's advocate") was significantly weakened. (A thorough analysis is available at http://www.jgray.org/docs/promoterfaith.html).

    So it seems that the Catholic Church has determined that miracles are not to be subject to the same level of scrutiny that they have been in past centuries. (The fact that the rate of canonizations has increased some 1,800 percent as compared to the 19th and early 20th century could of course be coincidence).

    • Rob Abney

      So it seems that the Catholic Church has determined that miracles are not to be subject to the same level of scrutiny that they have been in past centuries. (The fact that the rate of canonizations has increased some 1,800 percent as compared to the 19th and early 20th century could of course be coincidence).

      I couldn't read the document you provided but I wonder if the fact that we live in the "information age" has an effect on the increase, its so much easier to know more.

      • It's all like what they have found in this commentary on the food industry. Please, the following may be considered 'boring' but it ends with a very interesting conclusion, if you are considering such things as Platonic universalism, vs. variability, for instance, whether from a scientific or religious perspective. I do 'believe' it is meant as 'humor'. Yes - if only we could be happy, comfortable with what we have, maybe the problem of hiddenness would not be considered that 'important'. But, is this asking far more than what could be considered possible within the human condition? I would have loved to have posted this on EN as a possible example of The Church of God, vs. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!!!! but 'fear' they might not see the humor, but only my 'incoherence'. Yet, I'll post it here, despite the possibility that it 'could' be dangerous for me to counter 'any' notion another might have with respect to their 'religion' or their 'reason'!!!! especially when I may be unaware of what kind of spaghetti sauce I really like! or may I extend this thesis- to what kind of God! I am really looking for? Oh - the hiddenness! including the already established intuition of that existence of an angel within for whom I continually 'advocate'!!! (After all, the Catholic Church at least respects the argument from analogy!!!!)

        https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html

  • George

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcw1YEtTQCw

    The impossible game, by Theramintrees, who makes very nice videos on his atheism.

    I suggest theists watch it a few times, because it's less than two minutes long.

    The theist claim that god wants us to search for him is one slippery goalpost.

    • Rob Abney

      Just because the odds are low (though not impossible) and the "road is narrow" doesn't justify giving up, many theists will tell you that they have found what they were searching for.

      • George

        The collective theistic assertions make it unclear how wide or narrow the road is supposed to be. Muslims say God can forgive without vicarious sacrifice. Are they right?

        • Rob Abney

          Yes

          • George

            Are Muslims "saved" according to the criteria set out by Catholic dogma?

          • Rob Abney

            They risk not being saved if they reject those dogmas by rejecting Christ as he is the most sure way. But Catholics also believe that God can save souls in ways known only to him.
            EDIT:spelling

  • This seems like it was written for an audience of believers, but I still think it's important to address points one and two from the perspective who isn't already sold on the Christian understanding of god.

    1) "At the end of the day, something is convincing people today of God’s existence, and has for the last twenty centuries." People, in general, believe many things that are untrue. If this argument supports the existence of a christian god, then it also supports the truth of every other god or superstition people have ever believed. By and large, people are christian because other people (typically their parents) taught them to be christian. This is not a reason to conclude that that Christianity has any privileged insight into the nature of reality.

    2) "God is all-knowing and we are not". True, I cannot claim to know, comprehend, or predict how an all-knowing, cosmic consciousness would behave in any given situation. The problem with this objection is that Christians claim to know a lot more about their mysterious, cosmically unintelligible god than is possible. Indeed, most of the points in this article are trying rationalize the actions of god with respect to claimed knowledge about his desires, goals, and interests. If you want your god to be mysterious and incomprehensible, sure enjoy your incomprehensible god. But if you want your god to have human-like emotions (like love), engage in human relationships (Father, King, etc...), and have intelligible motivations (like the "desire for only those who seek him to see him" and "not scare us into belief") then his actions ought to make sense in that context.

    The atheist's counterargument isn't "I know how an all-powerful, cosmic consciousness would run things"; it's "why the hell should we think that an all-powerful cosmic consciousness would run things in the way you claim that he runs things?"

    3) The problem with claiming to know things about god's motivations is that, if true, they don't square well with reality. For example, if I were to claim "god desires pink cactus to spring from people's ears", the fact that this never happens would be would be strong evidence that no such god exists. Likewise, if I claim that god desires that people who seek him to find him, the fact that many people who sincerely seek truth fail to come to Christianity, and instead find comparable happiness in one of the other 20 gazillion religions out there, is strong evidence that no such a god exists.

    • Rob Abney

      1)The numinous per C S Lewis has always led us to seek a transcendental, but more information is needed to come to a knowledge of God.
      2) we do try to understand God but are constrained by our reasoning, revelation is needed
      3) it takes faith and/or reasoning to understand God, but very few will have complete knowledge of Him in this lifetime so the fact that many do not find Him despite sincere efforts doesn't provide evidence against His existence.
      Don't give up.

      • Seeking the transcendental is not the same as seeking god. Basically everybody agrees that there are forces in the universe that operate on a scale beyond the horizon of human understanding and are, in that respect, "greater than us". The question is whether or not it's correct to say that these forces, if wholly understood, would be accurately characterized as person who loves humanity, cares deeply about morality, desires our salvation (whatever that means), commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, and so on...

        If revelation has happened, then in what sense is god hidden? This is ultimately, a significant problem with the OP, which starts as an attempt to explain a loving God's wouldn't offer revelation to everybody, and concludes by asserting that God did reveal himself to everybody (when Jesus walked the earth), but that people didn't (and presumably wouldn't) believe him in any case.

        This is cleanly begging the question.

        I don't know of any epistemic principle that allows you to distinguish a true prophet from a false prophet, or true revelation from false revelation. When you talk about revelation, you're basically saying "My particular knowledge about God is different from all other human human knowledge in a way that exempts it from all of the epistemic challenges that otherwise make it extremely difficult for humans to know things". There can't really be a debate at this point.

        • Rob Abney

          Someone can believe in their own privately received revelation but if we are expected to believe revelations as a group or society then publicly verifiable data is required. The Church does have methodology for examining revelations, you might want to look at that process or even examine some of the miraculous revelations and then decide whether there can be a debate or not.
          I'm reading a book about Fatima written by Fr Jaki who is a well respected scientist. http://www.amazon.com/God-sun-Fatima-Stanley-Jaki/dp/B0006R7UJ6

  • I think I understand. As I state in my profile on line regarding narrative writing, I write in order to understand or to learn what I believe. Thus although writing within a public forum offers the opportunity to become acquainted with different perspectives, the structure that I find difficult is that I interpret what is generally said within both EN and SN to be based on the need to convince others of a particular point of view; to align oneself with one or the other perspective. In this respect, as with the distinction between the external and the internal, this is a problematic within a context which does not assume either position. I have received reports for instance that there is to be published a Marxist report or book on the New Atheism, based on a lack of interest, as perceived by the writer, in social justice. This perhaps counter balances what can be conceived as credible oppositions to religious perspectives and/or practice put forth by that same 'Scientism' with respect to Catholicism. And so it goes...
    In either case, I cannot help but make continual edits and rewrites to what I say within these comments. And that propensity I understand is not within the accepted practice of on-line commentary. I do find this situation to be ironic, especially for someone attempting to be accepted as a 'writer'. http://learn.wisdompubs.org/podcast/c-w-huntington/ I neither however, want to be known as either a 'smart' or a 'mature' being merely because I have abandoned 'the' faith, even though I have very 'difficult' issues with the Catholicism that was my inheritance within this life. It truly is better for me, that I do my rewrites as an aspiring writer, rather than an aspiring evangelist, (of either Catholicism or Scientism!) or simply 'an aspirant'!! This really is not my forum- In any sense, or understanding that might be given to that statement. For me however, it is a 'real' problem of 'hiddenness'. I am however not going to make any further corrections to my comments. You'll have to take them, but perhaps not me, as they are. Crazy or not, but definitely just another 'judgment' that hopefully is non conclusive. The end. Thanks.

  • David Nickol

    Taking Matt Nelson (author of the OP) on the one hand, and bdlaacmm on the other, it is clear that Christians don't even agree on the "hiddenness" of God.

    There is a Recommended Books page on this site, and one of the books I own and hope to get around to reading someday is No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers by Michael Novak. (Of course, if bdlaacmm is right, then Novak is wrong.)

    It's poetry time

    God's Grandeur
    By Gerard Manley Hopkins

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
        It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
        And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
        And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
        World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  • GuineaPigDan .

    Fourth, it may be that God desires only those who seek him to see him. This was Blaise Pascal’s best guess. God has revealed himself in such a way,
    posits Pascal, that those who seek him sincerely will indeed find him, but those who do not seek him will not.

    Am I the only one who read this section about Pascal and thought it came off a bit Calvinistic? I know Pascal wasn't a Calvinist and maybe I'm over-thinking this, but to me arguing God only wants to be known by one group of people (seekers) and not by another (doubters) doesn't sound too different from just saying God wants a certain group of people to be saved and a certain group to be damned (double predestination), a position the Catholic church says is heretical.
    -EDIT- wording.

    • Rob Abney

      I don't know Calvinism very well but the difference that I see is in the action required. Seekers are active and non-seekers are inactive but in Calvin's view the saved and the damned are both inactive.
      Catholic theology prefers cooperation with God.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    A related interview with David Tracy that I have read and enjoyed a few times over the last few years: http://www.crosscurrents.org/Tracyspring2002.htm

    • Thank you for this, Jim. I saw the 'new post alert' as I was making another correction to a previous comment - something I said I was not going to do!! I doubt whether anyone has read the link, in the article where I made another resolve to leave this conversation? and return to the arts?? (I am referring to the cross currents! my satire- yes I liked the idea of 'fun' within that Buddhist perspective I read much later than I posted it. Which is very interesting to me, as I am particularly interested in the possibility of developing awareness of how our thoughts proceed through the 'continuities of mind', even though EN has pointed out the resulting 'incoherence' within some writing done during such 'experiments'. Indeed, this may indicate that such 'experiments' are not the way to go.

      (Edit: 2-212-16: Found an article which gave the order in which to achieve mindfulness: l. body. 2. feelings 3. thoughts. 4. object. So my 'instincts' were OK - I was on the 'right track' - just wasn't prepared, or didn't anticipate the 'noise'.!)

      So can I leave this discussion, my primarily community at the moment? especially after the experience, (another thought experiment) that within the personal sphere of internal 'judgment' -thought, towards expression within words, that community is 'essential'. Should I indeed go back to my (if you can read that Buddhist link in the comment) 'artistic/philosophical narrative search' for "meaning", - words are never adequate? But what ever results from this inquiry, into self-or other, however you interpret, what ever you would advise is OK with me. Perhaps I do understand that there is a hope within the fragmentation that the article speaks of. I am grateful that I did not miss your comment. It is also possible that it is best not to 'decide' where I am going. It's 8:54. Perhaps I should wait and see where the 'continuities?' within mind? take me tomorrow. Thanks again, Jim. (Edit: Jim. I will acknowledge the edit here, because it did clarify that I felt the need to ask for your advice. (I was a little 'shaken' at the comment that writing was not sufficient) But as I stressed, all is OK. When I came to my computer this morning there was a message from someone on the writing site who I feel is an 'exceptional poet'. I will have company. Thanks again.

    • It's OK. Jim. I believe that the first task for me is to read what I have written already. then make a decision. In any case, it is true that it is perhaps best that I work out the problem of the relation of reason to 'in-sanity' apart from this polarized discourse. But thank you for the confirmation, at least within my understanding, that this 'project' is at least not divergent with what is happening within the historical/philosophical perspective as related to my interpretation of that fine article. I only 'wish' I could read more. Again-- Thanks.

  • The first point provides no defence to divine hiddeness, it just states that many are convinced something called god exists anyway.

    The second point, no one is saying we need to know exactly what god is or his nature, but we should have some idea, and indeed Christians beleive the know much about him. Importantly that he wants and can have a direct relationship with him. He does not want us to suffer needlessly. There is no reason why the god Christians accept would want to stay hidden.

    Third, okay the god you describe is playing hide and seek, if we seek we shall find? Well I have honestly sought and found nothing. See the argument from non-resistant unbelievers. We need an explanation for hiddeness, not speculation that there may be reasons for him to hide.

    Sure god could have all kinds of reasons for hiding, or he could just not exist.

    You cannot conclude a god exists by reason alone. You can posit that if there are certain facts about reality they have certain entailments. But you need to actually observe these facts about the cosmos or you are just blindly speculating. In any event, these arguments generally fail as they dont entail a deity.

    No god need not do anything scary, it just needs to be present and express itself as somehow distinct from the natural world.

    I do not know if miracles are possible, on naturalism they are impossible, it is the theists job here to demonstrate that naturalism is wrong. All we have here is a statement that many believe miracles occur. Yes, millions of people believe in things that are mistaken, from astrology, to homeopathy to deity.

    In any event if miracles do occur, god would not be hidden. This point is off topic.

    Hiddeness allows us to help each other believe? You know what would help a lot more? Not being hidden!

    Yes, actual recognizable and strong evidence of the existence might not be convincing to everyone or anyone, but it would be much better than hiding and acting like you don't exist.

    No, god has not revealed himself directly. If he had there would be no point for the first 9 points. Jesus did not reveal himself to me, some say a man who lived 2000 years ago was actually the creator of the universe, with the genius idea of having us torture him to death so that we would not have to pay the price he determined was appropriate for some kind of tendency for misconduct that somehow crept into our nature, even though no one put it there. I don't accept these tales as true. Even if I did, they would be no answer to divine hiddenness, as rye tales themselves are filled with examples of this deity making himself know. Directly to people, even after his "death".

    If god had no problem directly and unmistakenly revealing himself to Saul/Paul, someone who, it would seem was a resistant unbeliever, he should have no reason to deny himself to me, a non-resistant unbeliever who repeatedly asks for such a relationship. This needs to be explained if Christians want atheists to take their claims seriously. This piece has not done so.

    • Rob Abney

      What are the criteria for being a non-resistant unbeliever? Can one be skeptical of every aspect of Christianity and theism and be considered non-resistant. Or is it more of an interior feeling that only the unbeliever can recognize about himself?

      • Being an unresistant non believer means being as open as you can to the claims. In no way resisting belief.

        If you mean by skeptical applying critical thinking to all aspects of Christianity, I see no reason to think this is resisting belief.

        I don't know what interior feeling you might be thinking of. The position is very simply that if god exists, he would not hide from humans but would enter into a meaningful relationship with humans. The retort is that he would be excused from such a relationship for those who did not want such a relationship of resisted such a relationship. Given the maximal abilities of such a deity, this would mean anyone who did not resist such a relationship would have one.

        However, I do not resist such a relationship.

        • Rob Abney

          That is a great foundation, to not resist. But I've never known of anyone who came to faith with that passive effort only, have you known of anyone?
          But you do more than that, you are actively engaged here at SN, what other ways do you actively seek that relationship? I can't recall if you've ever said how you were raised, religion or no religion?

          • David Nickol

            But I've never known of anyone who came to faith with that passive effort only, have you known of anyone?

            Well, there was St. Paul, who was actively opposing Christianity, and then there was St. Augustine, who was resistant—"Lord make me pure, but not yet."

            But you seem to imply that people who do not have religious faith should actively seek to have it. Of course that makes sense from your point of view, since you assume your religious beliefs are true and everyone else should come around to your way of thinking. But suppose a confirmed atheist encouraged a religious person having doubts that he or she should not merely dig deeper for truth, but should seek to become an atheist.

            For those truly undecided between belief and unbelief, why should they be expected to seek belief rather than seek truth and let the chips fall where they may?

            I am reminded of this old joke, although some may not see the connection:

            Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

            A: Only one, but the bulb has got to really want to change.

            If nonbelievers actively want to become believers, they in essence already are believers, because they have committed to the idea that belief is the right choice. But if nonbelievers feel they need to dig deeper and find out truth they may not already know, they will not seek to be either believers or nonbelievers. They will simply seek to know the truth and (again) let the chips fall where they may.

          • Rob Abney

            Wow, good examples. But I would protest a little with St Paul because he was well studied and reasoned to the existence of God. I know many nonbelievers who profess to be open to a St Paul conversion yet they already reject the notion that God exists so it seems much harder to expect them to accept Jesus as God.
            St Augustine's epihany came from active reasoning to the existence of God after he reasoned through a lot of competing schools of thought.
            I've stated previously that it seems a philosophical and/or metaphysical proof of God is needed to be a believer, it seems like both of those men had actively pursued that. It seems like non-believers at SN are also actively pursuing that.

            I do agree that the better way to express it is to say both are seeking the truth. I do think that believers have discovered the truth and I would not consider becoming a non-believer as embracing an opposite truth, maybe a privation of truth. .

          • My goodness, I have a whole podcast devoted to trying to understand the best and strongest versions of these philosophical arguments for the existence of Gods. You can listen to it yourself and judge whether I am being resistant. I actively steel man these arguments to make sure I am getting the best argument. In this podcast we actually attempt to "pray" and ask God if he exists to simply show himself.

            https://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/podcast-a-salmon-of-doubt/

            I host a monthly counter-apologetics dinner at which I generally take the theist point of view and defend the strongest version of these arguments to help my fellow atheists learn how not to straw man these arguments.

            Keep in mind, we know what we are giving up by being resistant, eternal perfection at god's eternal side. Ultimate goodness fulfilment and so on... if it is real. We know what we are left with otherwise, an uncertain and as far as it goes likely oblivion after death. There is no upside in resisting god, if he exists, and an enormous downside.

          • Rob Abney

            What is the upside to resisting God if He doesn't exist? And what is the downside to not resisting Him if He doesn't exist?

          • I can see no downside to resisting, which is why I do not resist.

            There is a downside in spending significant time acting like you believe something that you don't, or trying to convince yourself of something you do not find even gets close to demonstrating it is true, or can even define what it is talking about. The downside is the time it takes from limited and precious life and the concern with basically trying to brainwash oneself.

          • I ask God, if he exists to somehow communicate with me. I do not know about "faith" I am just looking to see if this entity exists in the first place, I can't have a relationship with an entity if I don't even know if it exists.

            Nor is there any need for really any effort. This is not a being that requires me to travel to meet, I do not need to learn a new language or anything.

            If it exists this is a being who knows my own mind. Knows my innermost thoughts and is never any distance from me. This is not a being who needs to check if I am sincere before revealing itself.

            And yet what do I get every time I pray? Exactly what happens when I do not pray.

          • Rob Abney

            There is effort required because we are not just spiritual beings, we are spirit and matter. So our physical efforts and our spiritual efforts cannot be separated. Praying is the most profitable effort you can engage in, I'm glad to hear that you pray. You can't conclude that your prayers haven't been received though, you may see the results later. Have you ever tried to add physical effort to your prayers, such as having your hands in prayer position, being on your knees, making the sign of the cross? Have you ever prayed with other people? And most of all, have you ever tried to pray everyday?
            It may seem like all the initiative is on your side and an omniscient being shouldn't need your input but another way to view it is that he wants your input. He gets your input either way.

          • So, when I met my wife, there was virtually no effort required on my part to confirm her existence. She posted an ad online, I saw it, we communicated electronically, we arranged to meet in person.

            This is all in the case of limited beings with limited, flawed faculties.

            I would expect there would be less effort required for an omnipresent, omniscient entity to confirm its own existence. After all, this entity does not need email, or meetings in person, it actually knows my mind. So I do not see any need to put more effort into this. But I have I repeatedly ask for this god to confirm its existence in some way. I have placed my hands in prayer position and tried to be as honest and open minded as possible.

            But no, I will not pray every day, or with other people. Actually I have done this on a number occasions, but I doubt I will do it again. I will not read the bible everyday and pray near the sacraments. This is a recipe for self indoctrination and a playground of confirmation bias.

            Like Kirk in Star Trek v. What does god need with a starship? Why would god need me to use special hand gestures and group prayer repeatedly to respond? He cannot be testing my sincerity, he already knows if I am sincere. It cannot be that he does not hear or is too busy.

          • Rob Abney

            Did you believe your wife (although not yet your wife) existed after you read the ad? Or after the email? Or did you require physical touching and speech?

          • Yes, I did, but had someone asked me how sure i was I would have said, accepted, that this could be a chatbot. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140609-how-online-bots-are-tricking-you

            But I did have some pretty convincing evidence. The post was written in her name and had a number of photos. What was really convincing was the responses to my emails, text messages and meeting in person. God is capable of this at least and much much more.

            If on the other hand, what I discovered was a post written anonymously by someone who was not my wife, and was written 40 years after the events mentioned in the post and stated that this woman had survived her own death. I would not believe it to be true.

            The difference is, my wife is real, she can speak and act for herself, she wanted a relationship with me and so within a few days we met personally.

          • Rob Abney

            I've been interested in univocity recently. Your interactions with your wife were the right interactions between a man and a woman. But does that mean that those are the same interactions that will attract you and God to each other?

          • Who can say? Do you know what the nature of God is? From everything I have heard, it should be easier, much easier for God to enter into a relationship with me. Or, at the very minimum to confirm he exists so I can decide if I want a relationship. Why hide his very existence.

          • Rob Abney

            We can know a lot about God's nature through reasoning and through faith, that's a big subject. But I would ask, what have you heard that convinces you that a relationship should be easier than you've found it to be?
            As I said previously, we can't apply the same interactions that we use with other humans to God. Of course we are most familiar with those interactions.
            I appreciate the dialogue, even if it seems like its not very productive yet.

          • It should be easier because if god exists he is omnipotent and perfect. Nothing that is possible is in the least bit difficult for him. He is also omnipresent and actually has access to my mind.

            I can not imagine an entity with fewer barriers to demonstrating its existence. Nor can I imagine any reason from refraining. Even if I were resistant to belief, why hide your existence?

          • Rob Abney

            OK, to me it sounds like you are saying that you've heard about a lot of the attributes of God and it seems like those attributes are so incredible that there is nothing that should restrict Him.
            If God were to overwhelm you, would you prefer having unrestricted knowledge of God or just basic knowledge? If the knowledge is coming innately then it seems like we should want unrestricted knowledge. Should everyone have that knowledge or should some people be allowed to reject it? It seems that those who would be allowed to reject it could keep themselves separated from God. So in the end only those who specifically reject having knowledge of God will be allowed to not have knowledge of God. Is that your position?

          • "If God were to overwhelm you, would you prefer having unrestricted knowledge of God or just basic knowledge?"

            I do not know what unrestricted knowledge or basic knowledge means. Are you saying that a reason god may have for hiding is that it would overwhelm me for him to reveal himself? Clearly this cannot be the case, the Bible is replete with God revealing himself in numerous ways, from a voice, to a burning bush, a pillar of fire, to taking human form and talking to people.

            But yes, a deity, such as the one described, has access to my mind and could place such knowledge there. Indeed this is the position of many Christians.

            If I have such knowledge I am unaware of it. It seems an unawareness of knowledge is a conflict in terms.

            My position is that the cosmos I observe, including my own mind, is indistinguishable from one in which no deity exists and for this reason I am unable to believe in such a deity.

          • Rob Abney

            No, I don't mean it will overwhelm you. I was just wondering how much knowledge of God you would want to have if that knowledge came to you without any effort on your part?
            I'm not personally familiar with anyone who believes knowledge of God is placed in one's mind.

          • Sye Ten Bruggencate and most presups believe this.

            I have no problem expending effort, but I am noting that the other side of this, if he exists, can write his name in letters a million miles across the starry sky with no effort.

            My wife is a material being, she had to type in words in texts and emails, take transit to meet me, mover her body to communicate.

            God need do none of these things. He can just appear, right now and say: "I AM".

            I meet many people every week, I do not doubt there existence. This is not hard, this is something a dog can do. Showing his existence should not be a problem.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you have any person in your life that you trust significantly who is a believer?
            EDIT not trying to get personal information just more about your active nonresistance

          • No. I don't think I know anyone close how believes in any Gods.

          • Rob Abney

            Would you seek out someone like that or are you simply non-resistant to such an encounter?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I have a few close friends that believe in Jesus. I have more Christian friends than the non-believing sort. There are also some believers on here that I enjoy conversing with. I understand why believers believe. I just think they are terribly wrong.

            Most atheists on this site were former Catholics. We've experimented with theism. it seems there is this assumption in the minds of believers that if only atheists tried religion they would see it is true. Why don't you try atheism for a year to make sure your belief in God isn't just confirmation bias?

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think BGA is a former catholic, not even a former Christian if I recall correctly. But we're having a useful dialogue, if not for him then at least for me.
            I'm not trying to generalize about all atheists, I know there are too many reasons to be able to do that.
            I have not used religion to get to the truth, for me my understanding of the truth has led me to religion.
            Finally, I'm not sure what your basing your assessment of confirmation bias on, I've often lived as if God didn't exist.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If you try a religion, spend all your time around religions people, go to religious function, etc, it seems to me like you are basically you are creating an environment in which you are more likely to believe in a religion, because you are self-indoctrinating yourself. This is why muslims usually grow up in Islam, Catholics in Catholicism, etc.

            What does living as God does not exist mean to you?

            Usually we try out hobbies, foods, and tv shows - things that are matters of taste. Trying out religion belongs to a different category.

          • Rob Abney

            you are self-indoctrinating yourself
            I agree, BGA says he doesn't know anyone who belives in God.

            What does living as God does not exist mean to you?
            It means living for self, with myself as the center of my universe.

          • What with a person who believes? I have no plans to and see no reason why I should. I do not have any need that I can think of to solicit more close relationships.

            Does God need me to find a Catholic friend in order to establish He exists? What does God need with a starship? (I mean mediator.)

            This is like me responding to my wife's ad and she not replying, rather, no one replies. Then I go on a forum for people who have been ignored and someone says, "oh no, she exists, and she could easily just appear in front of you, as she has with many others, but instead, you need to first build a close relationship with someone else who believes she exists and spend time reading about her from second hand sources, if you do this and keep emailing her, though she will never reply directly, you will eventually come to believe she exists and enter into relationship with her. But even though your belief will be based on a feeling that you are sure she exists after surrounding yourself with believers, this is not deluding yourself."

            This is not how things that really exist are shown to really exist. God is not a special case, God is not dark matter that we need to infer indirectly. God is supposed to be omnipresent, real, ideal at communicating. This round about indirect vague method is exactly what we would expect if the god does not exist, but people train themselves to believe anyway through their own actions or through culture and socialization.

          • Rob Abney

            No, I'm not recommending that God requires any of that. I was curious as to how it would affect your beliefs. Its often quite different to discuss the subject in person rather than online.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My wife is a material being, she had to type in words in texts and emails, take transit to meet me, mover her body to communicate.

            True, but is there not also a deeper reality that is revealed through her material presence? Is there not a hidden interior life that she is able to selectively reveal through those texts, emails, etc?

            Similarly, when you wake up in the morning and find that there is something rather than nothing, you could consider whether that material "something-rather-than-nothingness" also is a revelation of a deeper reality.

          • "...is there not also a deeper reality that is revealed through her material
            presence? Is there not a hidden interior life that she is able to
            selectively reveal through those texts, emails, etc?"

            "Deeper reality"? no, I would not agree with that characterization. "hidden interior life" no, I would not agree with those words either. Her material presence does not indicate any deeper reality to me. Her texts, emails, words she uses indicate aspects of her personality, but all within the same reality.

            But this is besides the point. What her material existence, her communication indicate to me is that there is an entity here of the kind I can communicate with. The content of these allows me to assess whether I want to seek a relationship with this entity.

            What we are discussing here is whether there is such an entity, that is reasonable to label a god, with whom I might have a relationship. I do not have anything here other than third parties telling me this entity exists and that its ability to communicate and engage in a relationship far exceeds that of any human person.

            "you could consider whether that material "something-rather-than-nothingness" also is a revelation of a deeper reality." I could and have done so. I conclude that it is unwise and fallacious to make that inference. I have no way to assess whether the existence of material reality implies the existence of some unobserved other reality, much less a god, even mucher lesser Jesus.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fair enough. Thanks for the response.

            I don't think any of this is beside the point, but if you think this is all an irrelevant tangent, I won't press the issue.

            If you do want to continue, I'm curious whether it's just that my phrasing doesn't resonate with you, or whether you and I actually perceive reality very differently:

            Do you think it feels like something to be her?
            Do you think you, or anyone else, fully knows, or could in principle fully know, what it is like to be her?
            Do you think she is capable of revealing (partially) what it is like to be her?

            If you answered, in order: "yes", "no", "yes", that captures the essence of what I meant in referring to a "hidden interior life" that can be "selectively revealed".

          • I'll continue.

            Do I think it feels like something to be her? I think she has an experience of personality in the same way I do. Yes I think the content of her experience is different in many ways, but the process of experience is more or less the same.

            Do I think I could know what it is like to be her? No. I think to do this I would need to be her and not me. "I" could never know what it is like to be her completely, because it would always be through the filter of me.

            Yes I do think she is capable of revealing partially what it is like to be her.

            Yes I would accept this as explaining those terms. But the question here isn't why does not god reveal all of himself or even a significant part of himself. It is why doesn't he, as he is said to have done countless times to others, reveal any aspect of himself? He knows how to do this. He took human form, he met and spoke with people. Even killing him did not stop him from imposing himself on us, not in vague ways, not by people getting to know believers. He showed up. Nor did he excuse those who actively denied him and persecuted those who did believe. He went to Paul directly. He appeared.

            Of great importance is the story of doubting Thomas. This says something like blessed are you that you have seen and believe, but more blessed are those who have not seen and believe anyway. This is the kind of story con artists tell the gullible. "I have this incredibly improbable and virtually impossible thing I want you to believe. You want proof yes, you can want proof but its better if you believe without proof. We don't provide the proof anymore because it's better if you believe without it." Why!? Why could it possibly be better?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The way I would want to rephrase your question is: "Why does God not offer special revelation of himself more often?"

            I would ask for that rephrasing because I think that God offers general revelation of himself all the time, most fundamentally through the revelation of "something rather than nothing". I view that in itself as a "communication" from God, or a revelation of "who God is". I fully appreciate that this is a philosophically contentious point (one that has been debated here endlessly), but let's just say that it doesn't seem like an absurd stretch to say that there is no logical requirement that anything at all exist (especially since there doesn't appear to be any logical requirement that logic itself exist). That we do have something, when nothing is required, says to me (if I may try to approximate with human language): "gift!".

            But anyway, back to the issue of why God wouldn't reveal himself through special revelation more often. Truly not meaning to be a wise guy, but I think the reason we don't have special revelation more often is because then it would not be special. This gets back to the stuff with you and your wife. Other people who know your wife have access to general revelations about her, e.g. her height, her hair color, what her smile looks like, etc. But then there are things about her, I would guess, that she will only reveal to you, because of the special relationship that you and she have. Those are special revelations. That doesn't mean that those revelations are only for you. Whatever light she brings to your life you should go out and share with the world. But it does mean that those revelations of her, and their impact on the world, have to come through you. I would say that is just the inherent dynamics of love. It has to be specific. You can't have the special without the specific, would be one way to say it.

          • The fact of there being something rather than nothing existing is consistent with both naturalism and theism. What you really mean is the fact that the something was created and sustained by a god, which you seem to infer from existence of anything, alone. This is not reasonable.

            I am not looking for a special revelation, I am looking for evidence of existence at all. I did not need any of these intimate details of my wife to know she exists. I guess what I need is what you call general revelation.

            To stretch the analogy further, say we have a click bait ad for a dating site with a woman on it. I say she looks nice, but for all I know she is not real, it is a stock photo or could even be computer generated. In other words, this image is consistent both with her being a real person who wants to meet me, and totally fake. Just like the existence of something is consistent both with naturalism and theism.

            So we click on it. Now there is an intermediate step between this vague first "evidence" and intimate details of a special relationship.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Your click bait analogy is pretty good. Of course, if we are already interpreting the photograph as "click bait", there must be contextual information that suggests that we should doubt her reality. There is something about the photograph itself (too good to be true?), or the way that it is presented (trying to sell me something?), that clues us in to duplicitous activity. When I wake up in the morning and find that there is something rather than nothing, I don't usually have the sense that I am being deceived. But anyway, I'll try to work with this analogy.

            I think the "intermediate steps" all involve some degree of (tentatively, albeit less tentatively as our confidence grows) "living as if" there is a living presence (let's call it CBW, short for Click Bait Woman) that is the source of "something rather than nothing". I should probably turn the question back to you: if you try to forget every preconception that you have about "God" (we are not talking about God here, we are talking about CBW whom we tentatively suppose is the real living source of something rather than nothing), then what would you do next to evaluate whether CBW is "living and active"?

            But, not to be entirely passive about this, I would suggest that the next "intermediate steps" might be to move past the blunt observation that there is something rather than nothing, and to start looking at how richly textured that "something" is. Is the "something" of our experience richly textured enough, surprising enough, as to suggest that CBW is "living and active"? Or is the "something" of our experience so predictable that it seems to be running on autopilot in a mechanistic fashion (thereby suggesting that CBW is not real, or at least is not living and active)?

            I think this is very analogous to what we would do when encountering a putative person online. If the responses of that putative person are too predictable, or are too conformed to our own desires, we should naturally suspect an autobot or something like that. But if the putative person's responses are richly textured, coherent yet sometimes surprising, not overly conformed to who we want that person to be, we can reasonably infer that it is a real person on the other end.

          • There is a nuance here which you fail to appreciate. Yes, let's say, the click bait is suspicious. It looks to good to be true, the woman has extremely nice dimensions, I suspect photoshopped. There is a caption saying "I'm dying to marry a 40 something with a pot belly" though she is 25. I am not suspicious that there is no image there, it certainly exists. What I am suspicious of is the explanation for the image. Is it really a woman who wants to marry me, or click bait? Similarly, when I wake up every morning and witness that I exist and the cosmos seems to too, no I do not think I am being deceived by the existence, but I think the explanation, that this world is here because of a hides. I don't infer that, nor do I infer anything else. In this case the writing on the image is the Christian apologist who tells me something that does indeed sound too good to be true. Not only does this god exist and explain the cosmos, of you just believe in him no matter your sins, you will survive your own death.

            In terms of CBW once in a while I will click on it and see if it leads to something credible, or asks for my credit card. Just like with theism, I honestly "pray", I actively invite God if he exists to respond. I get nothing.

            I don't just stare at the photo to see if it is richly textured as to suggest a real woman is behind it. I can just verify it by clicking on it. What you seem to be suggesting is that when I click on her and it asks for my credit card info to keep going and act as if it was legit.

            I will keep going if I were to get what one expects if it is true. In terms of my wife's ad and profile, it DID seem too good to be true and I was skeptical. But she didn't ask for my credit card or not respond at all, she did what would be expected if she was real and as advertised. She made a few witty responses and asked about me.

            But I never get anywhere near that with God. I get silence, nothing. When I click on "god" nothing happens.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In this case the writing on the image is the Christian apologist who tells me something that does indeed sound too good to be true. Not only does this god exist and explain the cosmos, of you just believe in him no matter your sins, you will survive your own death.

            I'm asking you to leave all of that out of it. Never mind what apologists do or don't say, or the specific claims of Christianity. I am just talking about whether it is reasonable to infer, based on the fact that the universe appears to be "a given", that there is in fact "a giver".

            You say with regard to the click bait, "I can just verify it by clicking on it". What are your envisioning there, and in what sense does this provide verification?

            Let me put it this way. Whether we are talking about a living breathing person before our eyes or some anonymous 2D image on the screen, there is no way to distinguish between a creature that appears to be sentient and a creature that is sentient. One could choose the interpretive stance (though I wouldn't recommend it) that the appearance of sentience in other creatures is just a projection of our own sentient experience. Personally, I would not do this (and I suspect you would not either). That is because I think that appearances (if critically evaluated) are a reasonable (if fallible) guide to what is actually the case. Therefore, I take the (realist) stance that the semblance of a sentient person is actually indicative of sentience (even though I cannot see or in empirically verify sentience itself), and I likewise take the (realist) stance that the universe, which appears to be a free gift, given for no reason at all, is in fact a free gift, given for no reason at all. I then go further and say that the appearance that the universe comes from a continuously creative intelligence is suggestive that it actually does in fact come from a continuously creative intelligence. I don't see how my thought process here is fundamentally any different than inferring sentience in another human being.

          • "whether it is reasonable to infer, based on the fact that the universe appears to be "a given", that there is in fact "a giver""

            I do not agree that the universe appears to be "a given", depending on what you mean by "a given". So, no I do not agree with this statement. It appears to be a tautology.

            "You say with regard to the click bait, "I can just verify it by clicking
            on it". What are your envisioning there, and in what sense does this
            provide verification?"

            It means I have ways to getting more information about this image, to see if it is consistent with an ad, or a con, or an actual person genuinely interested in meeting me.

            "I likewise take the (realist) stance that the universe, which appears
            to be a free gift, given for no reason at all, is in fact a free gift,
            given for no reason at all."

            It does not appear to be a gift at all to me. What makes it appear to be a gift to you? What distinguishes it from a just existing naturally and un-caused?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I should have clarified that I am using the term "gift" in an analogous manner, in this way: to my mind, what makes a gift a gift is that it is not logically, or physically, or commercially (etc.) required. A true gift is "given for no reason" in the sense that it is not just "returning a favor", nor is anything expected in return. Since the universe does not appear to be logically necessary (nor, of course, is it physically necessary, nor is it provided as part of some transactional obligation), I view it as analogous to a gift. (Or, when I am feeling giddy, I view human gifts as analogous to the paradigmatic gift of creation. The closer we get to actually giving ex nihilo, the closer we get to true charity.)

            Now, I can appreciate that, depending on where one finds oneself in the universe, it may not seem like a very desirable gift, but I view that as a separate conversation.

            As for the universe being uncaused, I know that many thinkers, whose abilities exceed my own, have argued that such may be the case. I can only say, with sincere respect to all those great thinkers, that it seems to be an absurd position from my limited perspective. The universe just seems so unnecessary. And, to say that it is not necessary and yet it exists is to imply -- it seems to me -- that some necessary layer lies beneath the contingent layer. Again, I realize I am glossing over and dismissing centuries of learned debate on the topic, but I'm just inclined to go with what appears to me to be common sense unless I see a really compelling counter-argument.

            EDIT. I could better rephrase my point in the third paragraph as:

            To say that the universe is not necessary is to imply a larger context in which the universe can arise as a possibility.

          • I agree that a good definition of "gift" would be a conveyance of property from one person to another with no obligation or expectation of consideration.

            My question is why would you believe there has been a conveyance at all.

            "Since the universe does not appear to be logically necessary (nor, of
            course, is it physically necessary, nor is it provided as part of some
            transactional obligation)"

            I agree that there is no reason to believe the universe is logically necessary in its existence or nature. Neither is there reason to conclude it is physically necessary or the result of a transactional obligation. But neither to I think it is logically contingent, or physically contingent, or a gift. We do not have enough to go on to make an assessment one way or another.

            We are now fully in the argument from contingency or some other cosmological argument, that is fine.

            "To say that the universe is not necessary is to imply a larger context in which the universe can arise as a possibility"

            I agree, if it is contingent, we would mean by this that it depends on some larger context. And this is the problem, with the contingency argument. To reach a conclusion one way or the other we would need some understanding of this larger context and whether or not there is any such larger context.

            Keep in mind you cannot reference God as this greater context, because God as this greater context is what you are trying to prove and this would be circular.

            You think an uncaused or necessary universe is absurd. That is fine, I would agree that it makes my mind hurt too. But no more than if it were contingent on some undetectable entity that uncaused or necessary.

            This is a discussion of ultimate origins. This is a context in which, even on materialism, involves a state of affairs where time and space have no meaning. Even the science of quantum mechanics and relativity and black holes, the early universe physics lead to all kinds of results which feel absurd to us and are yet the case.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree, if it is contingent, we would mean by this that it depends on some larger context. To reach a conclusion one way or the other we would need some understanding of this larger context and whether or not there is any such larger context.

            I agree with the way you are framing it, and I think this is just where we part ways. Even without knowing anything about "the larger context", the contingency of the universe seems clear enough to me that I am willing to take it as a premise, and if I take that as a premise I think you would agree that I can reason from there to the conclusion that there is a larger context. I agree that I can't absolutely know that the universe is contingent. It is more like reaching a fork in a path in unfamiliar woods. I can't stay paused at the fork in the road forever. I have to get on with the business of life, and it matters which path I pick, so I pick the path that seems correct to me. I respect that others feel differently. Maybe that's all that can be said.

            This has all been very enlightening and I thank you for arguing thoughtfully and respectfully. Cheers.

          • "I agree that I can't absolutely know that the universe is
            contingent. It is more like reaching a fork in a path in unfamiliar
            woods. I can't stay paused at the fork in the road forever. I have to
            get on with the business of life, and it matters which path I pick, so I
            pick the path that seems correct to me."

            What this appears to me to say is that "either the universe is contingent or not, I am picking contingent based on my own subjective feeling" - you can certainly do that, but you must recognize that this is an arbitrary choice, or you should be able to explain why it is reasonable.

            But we can leave that for a discussion on the contingency argument. (Which we may have actually had in the past.)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You presumably reject solipsism. Do you reject that for arbitrary reasons, or based on your own subjective feeling?

            I ask because I feel like I know the universe is contingent in the same way that I know that solipsism is wrong.

          • Darren

            Jim wrote,

            I ask because I feel like I know the universe is contingent in the same way that I know that solipsism is wrong.

            _That_ is a statement just dripping with awesome!

            You write well and put thought into your comments, so I would be very interested in hearing how you know that Solipsism is wrong.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, OK, but you first.

            My point is, in a sense, that I don't know (with absolute certainty) that solipsism is wrong, and yet I am pretty sure that I am rejecting it for reasons that are not arbitrary or just based on subjective feeling. I could try to articulate why I do reject it, but I would like you and Brian Green Adams to have a go at it first.

          • Darren

            Well, OK, but you first.

            Ho, ho! I cry foul on you, sir. You issued the challenge, you made the claim, now you back away?

            However, as it happens my part is quickly handled and so I do not mind. For the record I am a Skeptic.

            As far as Solipsism is concerned, I have no knowledge that would dispute it, nor any that would confirm it, so there we are.

            While there appears to be an external world and beings populating said world, this establishes only that there appears to be an external world and beings populating that world. If I admit to a preference for a world in which something other than Over-Darren exists, perhaps that is only what Over-Darren wishes me to wish (tricky bastard).

            While I may live my life, even think my thoughts, as though the world I appear to inhabit is anything other than a phantom of somethings imagination, it is mostly from force of habit and where reason enters the picture it is from the conclusion that according to the “rules” that I think I remember to this reality I think I inhabit, stepping in front of a bus will hurt.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            So in other words, you are, at some level, not intellectually committed to a world where busses are real, but you have nonetheless made a pragmatic decision to live as if busses do in fact have some existence that is independent of you. That's fine. That pragmatic reason is ... reasonable. And so my point is then -- in a similar spirit -- that it is perfectly reasonable, and not entirely arbitrary, for me to live as if the universe is contingent, for pragmatic reasons. If I approach the universe as if it is contingent, I am then inclined to remind myself, again and again, that every moment is a gift. In other words, I become grateful. And I find that when I live gratefully, I live well. It just works. Do you think my pragmatic reason for living in this way is any more arbitrary than your pragmatic reason for living as if busses are real?

            I realize that I am putting forward a tu quoque argument here, but then again my point is not to compel you to view the world as I do, but simply to argue that I am being reasonable.

          • Darren

            Do I find it unreasonable for you to live as though the
            universe is not Necessary?

            No.

            Do I find it unreasonable for you to claim knowledge about what the difference would even be, at your scale, between a Necessary and a Contingent universe?

            Yes, but more or less harmless.

            Do I find it more arbitrary for you and those like you to accrue special privilege within the legal and social fabric of the society in which I appear to live because of your phantasmagorical man behind the curtain than for me to accrue no such special privilege despite having a similarly phantasmagorical me behind the curtain?

            Yes, and not at all harmless.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm sorry ... which special privileges am I claiming, exactly?

          • Will

            Personally I reject solipsism because I don't think it's possible to simulate my wife, children, and other people I know personally without having a similar type of subjective experience that I am currently having. I can be confident that my subjective experience is "real" with Descartes cogito ergo sum.
            I'm slightly less confident, though pretty darn confident, that we aren't all in some kind of simulated universe (which would have some explanatory power WRT quantum weirdness and the fermi paradox), and I see no reason that subjective experience couldn't exist inside such a simulation. In a way, theism proposes that we are in God's simulation, as he is required to sustain it (just like an unimaginably powerful supercomputer would be required to sustain a simulated universe).
            If you've never read it, here is a rigorous version of the simulation argument.
            One's beliefs about the present, given reasonable assumptions, can be used to make arguments about the future. The Doomsday argument is a bit more concerning. The anthropic principle and observation selection effects and their use in modern philosophy is fascinating, though sometimes it makes my head hurt, lol. You might find arguments on fine tuning and a cosmic designer interesting, though I'd start at the beginning of the book for background. Can't beat a free online book, and this one is pretty well recommended.

            Edit to add: Personally I think it would be unethical to run accurate ancestor simulations. Why? The problem of suffering.

          • I do not reject solopsism. I take no position on it. If all of this is illusory I act within the apparent patterns of the illusion. If it is all real I act within the apparent patterns of reality. In either case, my actions would be the same.

            I do not await confirmation on this issue before acting, because to do so would be paralyzing.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Interesting, OK.

            It seems like it would be hard to care deeply about anything if you were constantly and actively maintaining a side hypothesis that nothing exists independently of you. But I assume you don't find that to be the case?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is a great analogy.

          • David Nickol

            I am still agnostic when it comes to God, but I am beginning to be convinced Mrs. Brian Green Adams may actually exist.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm waiting for Brian to box himself into a corner by claiming that she is omni-benevolent, ominiscient, and omnipotent.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Just omniscient.

          • Rob Abney

            John 1:18

            18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

          • 1 Corinthians 15 "he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time"

            So Jesus was not god?

          • Rob Abney

            "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
            From Wikipedia:
            According to Matthew Henry (1662–1714) in his commentary, Jesus is called the "Word" in this opening verse because he was the Son of God sent to earth to reveal his Father's mind to the world. He asserts that a plain reading of the verse written by John the Evangelist should be understood as proof that Jesus is God; that Jesus has the same essence as God and existed with God the Father from the very beginning, the Word was with God, and the Word was God

          • So that entity that appeared "to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than
            five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time" was indeed God.

            Presumably since we are talking about a physical body resurrection, those people actually saw this entity and its body. Not a "word".

            So these people did see God. They did not see something that was not God. So one of these passages is mistaken or using language in such a careless way that we cannot rely on any interpretation as being reasonable.

            Is it reasonable to call the creator of the Universe "the word"? Is it reasonable to infer that the abstract concept of ground of all being is also a person who can be killed. (not part of God, it is all or nothing, I have seen time and again here that God does not have parts, he is simple)

            No, none of this is reasonable. These interpretations are after the fact, an unreasonable stretch at best, completely absurd in my view.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry, I introduced Trinitarianism with those verses, I don't think that will help in this discussion.

        • Rob Abney

          "Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Bob, why are you resisting me?' I said, I'm not resisting you!' He said, 'You gonna follow me?' I said, I've never thought about that before!' He said, 'When you're not following me, you're resisting me."
          With these few words, spoken at a concert in Syracuse, NY, on September 22, 1978, Bob Dylan clearly announced his conversion to Christianity...

          • Good for bob. My problem is that no one is tapping me on the shoulder, certainly no one is talking to me. Rather I am repeatedly saying, please show yourself, please stop hiding, you make it look as if you don't exists. Don't let me start an atheist community and practice counter apologetics if you actually exist.

            The response is, well nothing.

  • Rudy R

    How do you differentiate between a hidden god and no god?

    • Lazarus

      Dying could be a plan.

      • Rudy R

        For the suicidal.

  • Stephen Foord

    About proofs for God I like Luke 7, 35 'Wisdom is vindicated by all her children'. The female gender role points us back to mother Wisdom of Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8, 22 is a female gender equivalent to John 1,1 'In the beginning was the word'. Wisdom appears mother to all sons of God on earth for God the father. If we believe that then Jesus was Mary's mother who became her son so she could become his brother in heaven. Anyway my point is that Luke implies Jesus expects Wisdom's children to prove faith in Him. Faith without works is dead. We cannot prove faith in Him and God without some kind of choice? Why is their a choice?
    As a pioneer in fair theology at http://www.exsilentio.com my answer is that a fair reading of scripture is possible only if a 'fair' God exists and, if God is in a title contest over this world with a god of prejudice and Death aka the devil. (Other scenarios make a mockery of 'fair'.) A title-contest means we have been born free to vote on the nature of 'God' individually and culturally to establish God's title to come in triumph at Psalm 98. Prophesies must be the due process of justice to follow life's wishes on earth. It is our privilege to vote on the nature of 'the Lord' we want and this world is designed so we can vote from an unprejudiced heart if we wish, or, by forms of reason culturally. The pure of heart may easily find God whilst others get intellectual.
    Scriptures and the world analyse for rival voting platforms to 'the Lord'. To see God we must not show partiality to 'God's word' as at James 2, 9-10 or Leviticus 19, 15. If we show partiality then we vote for prejudice yet which might be covered by an atonement for sin, or promise of it, whilst ignorant of the sin. Meanwhile we may be born in the devil's jurisdiction overseen by God for curse-testing, like Job, pending a victory for God and transfer to God's jurisdiction. That is the duel of good and evil on earth.

  • George

    Why, at this moment, am I hearing Mitch Pacwa on EWTN, interviewing an apologist, and the apologist is rambling about how science is proving god exists? they don't sound like they think god is hidden.

    oh, you should hear them right now. Mitch: "the big bang was an explosion of light!"

    apologist: "yep, just like genesis says!"

    and the usual crude misrepresentations about how "explosions" don't create order. what's Mitch's example? fireworks he set off as a kid! sophisticated reasoning for the masses listening in on the radio.

    I don't find it useful to call cosmic expansion an explosion, which, in the apologist's words, "god had to bang it". but Mitch doesn't seem to care about clarity, he's mashing the 747 in a junkyard analogy and his childhood pyromania and contrasting it to shakespeare.

    EDIT: Boy oh boy is it a ramble going on right now. Fine tuned universe, 20 universal constants listed off with no definitions given, earth has a molten core, our atmosphere was made of clear oxygen so humans can see the stars, we were put at this place in the galaxy to see that we are in a galaxy, etc. It's a breathless rush of assertions, relying on sheer numbers to get something to stick in listener's minds. Why can't the guest just slow down and explain what they're talking about? But Pacwa wants to keep whipping up the rhetoric with this guy. Where is the voice saying "excuse me, can you explain what you mean by that?"

  • Michael Murray
  • neil_pogi

    there are plenty of stories in the Bible that deal with the 'hiddeness' of God. for example, the story of Job

    my country is a haven for natural calamities. in 2013, typhoon yolanda almost wiped out the city of tacloban. did that mean that God abandoned them?

  • David Hennessey

    You must start with the fact that every word of the New Testament was either written, edited or approved by the Roman government for the express purpose of uniting the Empire under one official religion acceptable to Christians, Jews, Hindus, "pagans" and "sun-worshippers" which was completely subservient to and supportive of the government.

    Sun-worshipers were the majority and their temples, their priests and their ceremonies were the backbone of the New Imperial Religion, the sun-worshipers never even noticed that the religion had changed, they met on the same day, Sunday, had the same priests perform the same ceremonies in the same robes as before and they chanted "Ie Zeus!" as they had before.

    All the scriptures not approved by the government were destroyed, all priests of Apollo remained in place, the statues of Apollo remained, the altars are still there in every Catholic church, the Christians had to go to a pagan temple and worship with the sun-worshipers, no home churches, synagogues or private churches could meet and Christians who did not submit to the Roman Church were killed or persecuted.

    Knowing who wrote or completely manipulated the documents that you are studying will open up whole new revelations about the confusing or conflicting passages, Christ would return in that generation, coming on a white horse, it would be the Caesar who conquered Jerusalem for God. Josephus attempted to have that Caesar declared the returned Messiah by the Roman Senate. That was the plan and that is the reason a strange dead end theology was left hanging, the Senate balked and the Popes took on the role of Christ on Earth.

    Obedience to authority screams from every page and verse, the author was Rome, interpret it with that understanding, not your illusion that these are the words of Apostles or even the real Jesus. I think the real Jesus, Yahshua, is visible but heavily redrawn.

    The vast majority was chosen or written to serve the purposes of the Roman Empire, just pretend that you believe me and read it with that attitude, you will become enlightened.