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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Arguing for the Christian God

Another reader has stated interest in taking up my request for Christians to convince me. The reader had some questions as to why I have these guidelines for submissions. My comment to him was becoming too long and, besides, it goes to a topic I have meant to post on for a while. I think atheists in general will find this interesting as it goes to a topic I rarely see discussed: arguments for a religion always seem to devolve to arguments for a god.

The prompt:
What reason is there to believe in the authenticity of the Bible, its message, and/or Christianity? You can submit any claim that you like; whatever you find convincing.
If you recall my request, I had some submission guidelines to weed out submissions that would completely miss the prompt (such as arguing for a creator-god or against atheism):
1. It cannot be an argument "against atheism" as that bears no weight on the validity of Christianity.
2. Arguments that go simply to the existence of a deistic God. (fine-tuning, first cause, etc)
3. Arguments to "open my heart" or "Jesus saves." These are arguments from the Bible, not for the Bible.
Additionally, I had the concluding thought:
Keep in mind that I will consider how your reasons and evidence apply to both Christianity and other religions. I want to be convinced of Christianity, not of Deism or evidence that can be used for any religion.
The reader:

And this is beside the point but hy no arguments for god. Are you going to grant that some god might exist for the sake of argument?

I am not granting that a god or gods may exist for the sake of argument; I'm granting it for the sake of reality. I've never actually met an atheist who has said that gods definitely don't exist. This is because all the atheists I've ever known are agnostics.

The reason I'm not accepting general arguments for a god, specifically a creator-god like the deistic God, is because I'm offering this challenge for Christianity, not of gods in general. I'm an atheist because I disbelieve that gods exist; I also disbelieve that gods do not exist; I have no belief. Of course, a god may exist -- the truth value of that claim, though, cannot be assessed. As such, I am, personally, wholly unconcerned with conjectures on it. I'm an apatheist in this regard. I'm offering this challenge because every debate I have ever seen devolves into general arguments about a deistic god with no discussion of the person's actual religion (see Ray's Atheist Test). Often the argument goes that they attempt to prove a god exists and then conclude that that god is necessarily their god with no supporting argument.

I've written a blog entry before (I can't find it with a cursory search) that it doesn't matter if a god exists. If a god exists, why should I care? It doesn't affect me in any way. Christianity and many religions, though, make claims that it does. That's what I'm interested in.

It's unfair to chalk up all those aspects of god to deism.they could fit the Christian god just as well( if not more).

That's the point, though. Yes, they could fit the Christian God. They could also fit almost any god, which is the point. Those aren't arguments for the Christian God; they are arguments for a god or, in some cases, gods in general. Allow me to make an analogy to arguments regarding aliens.

There are numerous claims about aliens. Some aliens abduct people (abductionism). Some aliens impersonate people (impersonationism). Some aliens live among people (assimilationism). All of these claims share a common premise: aliens exist (alienism).

Now, let's say I've encountered someone who believes that aliens abduct people -- an abductionist. I'm very interested as to why he believes aliens are abducting people and why I should care. He engages me and he spends the entire debate arguing for the general existence for aliens.

He argues that there are many billions of planets.
He argues that life is likely to have evolved on some of these planets.
He argues that it requires intelligent beings to form the constellations we see in the sky.

He continues in this manner throughout the debate. In the end he concludes: aliens exists, therefore they abduct people. The conclusion is a non-sequitir.

At no point did he argue as to why they would abduct people. He did not present any evidence for abductions. He did not address the problems with accounts of abductions. He simply argued for alienism, not abductionism.

This is what I am pre-empting in the Christianity request. I am wholly unconcerned if aliens exist or not. That truth value cannot be assessed. And so what if they do or do not? Why should I care? The same can be said for the general existence of a god.

Now, if aliens are abducting people, I want to know about that and I'd like to hear arguments and evidence for it. Abductionism is to alienism what Christianity is to theism. He argued for alienism, but that applies to impersonationism, assimilationism, and bare alienism (the deism equivalent). He gave no argument for abductionism.

If your argument is for the general existence of a god or even a creator-god, you have not given any argument for Christianity. The request is for arguments for Christianity.

Why not take arguments against atheism? I know it doesn't prove Christianity but are you just afraid your worldview can't stand up to criticism?

You seem to imply that I have an atheist worldview -- I do not know what that is. Is it the same as my worldview that is without the belief in Bigfoot? An atheist worldview would be one, I assume, that is simply without the belief in a god. I don't think my lack of belief in a god alters my worldview any more than my lack of belief in Bigfoot or astrology alters my worldview.

If I learn that Bigfoot exists? It doesn't alter my worldview in any way. It doesn't affect how I see the world. And if a god exists? It doesn't alter my worldview, per se. It's impossible for me to know anything about the god, so it necessarily won't alter my worldview. If the Christian God exists, though, and Christianity is true? That would fundamentally alter my worldview, so I'm interested in arguments for that.

I'm not accepting arguments "against atheism" because it does not contribute any support to Christianity.

I also am not sure I know what an argument against atheism would entail. Unless it is an argument against the lack of belief in a god (wherein you would have to be arguing for the existence of a god), all I can imagine is one, long fallacy. If it is the former, then it violates the guideline of arguments for a deistic god.

For the sake of argument, you may assume that a god exists. If I were arguing with an abductionist, I would allow him to assume that aliens exist for the sake of argument.


MrFreeThinker said...

You seem to imply that I have an atheist worldview -- I do not know what that is. Is it the same as my worldview that is without the belief in Bigfoot?
An atheist worldview would be one, I assume, that is simply without the belief in a god
And a theistic one is one without belief in metaphysical naturalism.I don't see your point.
And your worldview will affect how you answer questions about stuff like the origin of the universe and existence of the order and complexity it exemplifies.
I also am not sure I know what an argument against atheism would entail.
there are a couple ways to argue against atheism. i guess you cold point out weaknesses of the worldview and what it cannot account for.
You could also point out that atheistic claims are self-refuting.
If you want to see an argument against atheism you could check out Alvin Plantinga's argument called "The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism"
(the working definition of naturalism he uses is effectively the same for atheism)

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Hello again MrFreeThinker,

Again, none of these go towards Christianity. I am asking for proofs of Christianity, not gods in general. Surely there should be solid arguments for Christianity/the Bible? But to address a few of your points:

And your worldview will affect how you answer questions about stuff like the origin of the universe and existence of the order and complexity it exemplifies.

No. This is incorrect. My worldview doesn't pretend to answer questions about the origin of the universe or anything else. There is no way to correctly answer such questions; all one can do is make answers up. It would be like people speculating on what is holding the Earth up -- turtles -- and then saying turtle-holder disbelievers have a worldview because their disbelief will affect how they answer questions about how the Earth is held up.

I don't pretend to have answers I can't possibly have. I don't pretend to address knowledge I can't possibly know. What preceded the big bang? God? Aliens? A void? A prior universe? Nothing? I take no part in these speculations.

And there's also no such thing as a theist worldview, either. What would that be? A worldview where there would simply be a belief in a god?

You seem to be confusing theism with religion (and, by consequence, atheism). You can check out my Testament of Elyksha, for example. Belief in that would not affect any answers regarding origin, order, or complexity. Or, what if I believed in a god who exists apart from this universe entirely? Or what about a god who is semi-powerful who just happened to create the conditions of the big bang and nothing else?

There is no atheist worldview. There is no theist worldview.

there are a couple ways to argue against atheism.

Materialism is not the same as atheism, so I don't see any point to delve into that "argument."

But even if it is an argument against atheism, it's really just an argument for a deity. Since it's an argument for a deity, it is not an argument for Christianity. Even if you convince me of the supernatural or of gods, it's still a major leap to Christianity. In fact, The Atheist Experience broke down the number of leaps of faith for Christianity into thirty statements. That's what I'm concerned with.

MrFreeThinker said...

But if someone asked you about that stuff- wouldn't an atheist say that all that stuff came about by naturalistic processes?
And the working definition of naturalism Platinga uses is
"the view that there is no god or anything like him"
I'm sure you would agree with that as an atheist, no?
And I posted the response to the challenge in the comments today.
I'll be glad to see your response.

DisComforting Ignorance said...

wouldn't an atheist say that all that stuff came about by naturalistic processes?

No, not necessarily. Atheism is simply the lack of belief that a god exists; nothing more. There are atheists who still believe in the supernatural/paranormal. There are even many atheistic religions.

If someone's point is to argue against naturalism, that person should argue against naturalism and not atheism.

"the view that there is no god or anything like him"
I'm sure you would agree with that as an atheist, no?

I would not agree with that. I am an atheist because I have no belief that any god exists.

* I do not believe that a god exists.
* I do not believe that no gods exist.
* I have no belief.

I reject the claim "no god exists" just as I reject the claim "a god exists."

These claims are pointless because their truth values cannot be assessed due to the very nature of what they are claiming.

Again, if I said that life, the universe, and everything came into existence five minutes ago, how could I possibly discern that? There is no way to address the truth value of that claim because of the nature of the claim. As such, the positions of (a) "that occurred" and (b) "that did not occur" are both untenable, unjustified, and unjustifiable.

And I posted the response to the challenge in the comments today.
I'll be glad to see your response.

Thanks. I took a cursory glance at it and noticed the length. Do not expect too prompt a reply as, I said, have become very busy. I do like the topic you chose though and will devote the research into it that respects a reply of such length.

I may issue a preliminary response soon, though, on what I think about it.

Anonymous said...

The true doctrine of Christianity does not originate from man, but from God. So, it is nearly impossible to defend Christianity without bringing up God.

"For the sake of argument, you may assume that a god exists."

It would be much appreciated if you could specify which God you are assuming to exist "for the sake of this argument".

searching_agnostic said...

hi - I'd love to read a good justification for Christainity also, as far as I can tell, from what most historians believe Paul wrote ~50's AD, we can be moderately confident that Paul, Peter, John and James believed Jesus was God and was ressurrected. This to me gives only three possibilities, 1) they were claiming the truth, and He was God
2) Peter, John and James were lying for reasons unknown. - why tho? no satisfactory answer found.
3) Peter, John and James where fooled, Paul was lying, or nuts.
help required to work out the likelihoods of each.
as an asside I'd feel much more comfortable with my Agnostic beliefs if the big bang was false.

Heres_an_answer said...

@ searching --- Let's look at what Peter, Paul, James, and John had to gain by "creating" a new religion and let's equate this to modern day American society just to simplify.

So the boys spend time with a truly advanced thinker who has taken an old book, Talmud, and wrapped his own spin on it that made him very charismatic and gained a following of disenfranchised members from his former congregation. Unfortunately, this speaker whom we shall name "Jesus" got himself in trouble with the local law men and headed off to jail. In the slammer our Jesus ended up getting owned and shanked. The end of Jesus.

Peter and gang still have the old congregation milling about. They offer food, lodging and cash to continue hearing the "visions" of Jesus. One snag: Jesus bit the dust. These men, some who could be motivated by "saving" people and spreading Jesus' ideas decide to write up his sayings.

The thing is that they know if they write up something too soon, some of the long time members of the congregation could disagree.

Peter sensing that the time is right to get out of Dodge hits the road and heads to less strict area - a large urban center where some of the radicalness of Jesus' teachings will be over looked because his stuff is different from the State (government's) religion. He holds his rallies in tents, fields, basements, and such - where ever he can set up his soap box and money collection cap he is there. People come and pay for a good story and perhaps a show: "Let-ah god-ah into your heart and be Healed-ah!!"

Now Peter can start setting up his own little congregation, which if you read the handbook he wrote 10% of yearly earns of the parishioners should go to church AKA Peter. Jesus himself was more of a peace/love hippie type but it don't buy them loaves and fishies.

Peter is aging. He knows he needs to pass down these teaching, these "visions" of Jesus so that his congregation isn't left in the "darkness" of satan alone.

Now as to the virgin birth and miracles, please remember that in this new urban setting the bulk of the population love their multiple gods and goddess, stories of lust, stories of horny gods getting it on with maidens and of course super-human feats.

Please take into account that many different men contributed to the "New Testament" and that within 300 years of the first documents they were translated into other languages and further edited, by more men.

What is there to gain by writing up an account of a man after his death? How many best selling tell-all books come out after a person dies? See: Michael Jackson. There is profit and there is no greater motivator on this earth for man then an empty belly that needs filling.