God's ways are mysterious -- but I repeat myself! (A semi-review of Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer)

WolfgangSenff
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God's ways are mysterious -- but I repeat myself! (A semi-review of Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer)

No one responded to my last post, so hopefully this one makes a little bit bigger of a splash. Unfortunately, this one probably isn't as funny as a lot of my other posts. Furthermore, I'm super-angry at Christian "logic" right now, so this is kind of a therapy for me. Smiling Also, I suppose anyone who doesn't want to know about the book mentioned in the title, by Todd Allen Gates, should probably not read this post.

I've been thinking about the "Problem of Pain", as C.S. Lewis states it. I have not read his book, but my Christian friend keeps telling me about it. My understanding of it is basically taken from Lee Strobel in various of his Case for Shite books.

Problem of Pain: Since pain (and suffering, etc) exist, God must not be omnibenevolent or not omniscient or not omnipotent. Either He is not omnibenevolent and hence may not want to stop suffering. Or he is not omniscient and can't think how to stop the suffering. Or he is not able to stop the suffering because he isn't quite omnipotent enough.

 

The following is actually taken from Todd Allen Gates' Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer, but only what Kreeft says. In The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, Peter Kreeft, a famous modern-day Catholic philosopher, says:

"How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom would not tolerate certain short-range evils in order for more long-range goods that we couldn't foresee?

Look at it this way...the difference between us and God is greater than the difference between us and, say, a bear...Okay, then, imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear's confidence, but he can't do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn't realize that this is being done out of compassion. Then, in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be even more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he's not a human being...how can anyone be certain that's not an analogy between us and God? I believe God does the same to us sometimes, and we can't comprehend why he does it any more than the bear can understand the motivations of the hunter. As the bear could have trusted the hunter, so we can trust God....when he sends us the sunrises, we thank him for the sunrises; when he sends us sunsets and deaths and sufferings and crosses, we thank him for that...

In heaven, we will do exactly that [Thank God for giving us bad things]. We will say to God, "Thank you so much for this little pain I didn't understand at the time, and that little pain I didn't understand at the time; these I now see were the most precious things in my life."

 

Gates' attack on this is, as usual for him in this book, quite accurate and painful for the Christian: If we accept the above logic, then all other religions can be read the same way. He had previously made use of the same argument when the Christian in the book (named Chris) referred to various parts of the Bible as metaphor; that, if we accept that as true, then why can't all other religions be true in the same parabolic (parable-ish?) way? They can be, so we've opened the door too wide. The atheist in the book says, "Duh, this points to Christianity being man-made, just like we decided for the other non-Christian religions." The Christian struggles with it through some painful logic; in any case, I'll get to my point.

While Gates' argument is valid, powerful, and funny, it strikes me as less direct, or at least not the most powerful argument that can be made against the Kreeft-spew.

I could be wrong, though, because it's hard to judge just how powerful arguments are (for me to do that, I mean). My argument against it would be this: If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, then how is it that he can't explain his reasoning to us? The bear analogy is FALSE. We are not like bears in any sense, because we are rational. Bears are not (as far as we know). We have the ability to think, to weigh outcomes, to decide, to make value judgements, whereas (again, as far as we know) bears cannot. And anyway, if God is so omniscient and omnipotent, then he not only CAN explain it to us if he so chose, he would have the power to make us understand. Further, he would be able to do it without removing our free-will, which is an argument for another post. I'll be making that post in the Kill 'em with Kindness forum shortly.

My question to Christians (and other theists) is this: Why is it that when we have used reason to come to a conclusion that God must not exist, suddenly God is mysterious and therefore not subject to reason? My Christian friend is guilty of contradicting himself when it comes to a question like this: He says that we HAVE to use reason to understand things and choose between them, including God. But we just can't understand God. If he expects me to believe in God (and he does), how can he expect me to use reason to come to a positive conclusion about God's existence as true, when fundamentally reason cannot be used to understand God?

Another thing that has been bothering the crap out of me is the thesis that Christians have that positive outcomes can come from negative events. This is basically the, "We can't know that your spouse (or whatever) dying in that car accident didn't have a positive outcome for you. You can overcome it and become a better person for it, stronger emotionally, spiritually, and closer to God."

Two words: BULL FLOP. This comes back to my previous argument that God COULD explain these things to us if he's really omniscient and omnipotent. Furthermore, the answer, of course, presupposes God's existence. This argument is most often used in an attempt to disprove God's omnibenevolence (that is, the argument from pain/suffering). You cannot answer it by saying it brings you closer to God. If we conveniently leave that part out, then it makes more sense. That would, according to my Christian friend's belief in God, disprove God's existence.

I hope to come back with another post on here and continue reviewing more and more of the book. I highly suggest it to everyone. Todd Allen Gates does a superior job of cutting Christianity to gibbons -- that is, he makes them look like stupid, small apes. However, I fear I may not do it justice, for it is that good. Thanks for listening, or not.

"Jesus -- the other white Moses" - Me.


wavefreak
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Well, omniscience and

Well, omniscience and omnipotent are slippery ideas. As soon as they are invoked, just about any claim makes sense. Or not.

 

God may be able to explain himself, but may have decided not to. Is god compelled to explain himself?


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WolfgangSenff

WolfgangSenff wrote:

Gates' attack on this is, as usual for him in this book, quite accurate and painful for the Christian: If we accept the above logic, then all other religions can be read the same way. He had previously made use of the same argument when the Christian in the book (named Chris) referred to various parts of the Bible as metaphor; that, if we accept that as true, then why can't all other religions be true in the same parabolic (parable-ish?) way? They can be, so we've opened the door too wide. The atheist in the book says, "Duh, this points to Christianity being man-made, just like we decided for the other non-Christian religions." The Christian struggles with it through some painful logic; in any case, I'll get to my point.

 

While Gates' argument is valid, powerful, and funny, it strikes me as less direct, or at least not the most powerful argument that can be made against the Kreeft-spew.

I could be wrong, though, because it's hard to judge just how powerful arguments are (for me to do that, I mean). My argument against it would be this: If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, then how is it that he can't explain his reasoning to us? The bear analogy is FALSE. We are not like bears in any sense, because we are rational. Bears are not (as far as we know). We have the ability to think, to weigh outcomes, to decide, to make value judgements, whereas (again, as far as we know) bears cannot. And anyway, if God is so omniscient and omnipotent, then he not only CAN explain it to us if he so chose, he would have the power to make us understand. Further, he would be able to do it without removing our free-will, which is an argument for another post.

. . . .

I hope to come back with another post on here and continue reviewing more and more of the book. I highly suggest it to everyone. Todd Allen Gates does a superior job of cutting Christianity to gibbons -- that is, he makes them look like stupid, small apes. However, I fear I may not do it justice, for it is that good. Thanks for listening, or not.

 

Hi, WolfgangSenff:

 

Gates actually does make the same point you made about the idiocy of the Christian's stance that an omnipotent god can't explain his reasoning to us. It's just in the "Faith" section rather than the "Scriptures" section. Here's that section, pages 221-222 ("Chris Proselman" is the Christian proselytizer and "Scott Crates" is the skeptic):

 

SCOTT: Now, you claim that your approach is rational, but you also acknowledge that its rationality rests on the premise that God really is the Bible’s author … and you know that God is the Bible’s author because your Faith tells you so. So the “rationality” relies on having that gift of Faith—because without that gift, a study of the world’s facts is not something that generally leads people to believe that the Bible is God’s Word. Staying with our previous example of the Psalms 93:1 and 104:5 passages about the earth not moving, any reader who doesn’t have that “guidance of the Holy Spirit” will conclude that whoever authorized the Psalms texts was not Someone All-Knowing.

Why do you think God arranged things so that one needs this “Holy Spirit,” this “gift of Faith,” to recognize the Bible’s truths? After all, we don’t need any mysterious intuitive gift to recognize so many other truths: a brief glance at the evidence alone will tell us who the current U.S. president is, or what movies are playing locally, or how to get to the nearest shopping mall. Why isn’t God similarly straightforward?

 

CHRIS: . . . . Human senses are fine for interpreting simple material matters such as road maps and movie timetables, but when we move into the spiritual world, human logic and language fall short. Our rational powers may get us part of the way there, but not the whole way. The spiritual world is too immense and awesome: our finite minds cannot grasp the unfathomable depths of the Infinite. If God revealed Himself directly it would be like a human trying to explain science to a gnat. This is why we can approach the Infinite only through metaphors, symbols, analogies, and parables—all brought to clarity through the gift of Faith.

SCOTT: But why wouldn’t an All-powerful Creator be able to exchange straightforward communication with lesser beings? For if our initial premise—that the Universe’s awesome design must have been the work of an Awesome Architect—is correct, then this is a Creator who could do anything. This is a Creator who single-handedly controls the orbit of solar systems while simultaneously programming web-spinning know-how into baby spiders. With such mind-boggling power, I would think the ability to communicate clearly about any topic would be no problem, human limitations notwithstanding. Why not communicate in any of the ways I brought up when first discussing the Scriptures: announce His Truths loudly from the heavens in a universally understood language, or emblazon His Word across the sky? Such methods would communicate with far greater clarity than ancient parables from a human-printed holy book.

This “spiritual matters cannot be spoken of plainly” argument is even contrary to the Bible itself, which states that God says His directions are easy to understand:

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand or perform. It is not up in heaven, so distant that you must ask, “Who will go to heaven and bring it down so we can hear and obey it?” … The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Deuteronomy 30:11–12, 14, NLT

 

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV

 

Much of the Bible, moreover, is easy to understand. In Genesis, God sets up rules for His first two human creations, they break the rules, and God punishes them. God later sets up rules and tests for Israel (a.k.a. Jacob), Israel proves himself worthy, and God rewards Israel by making his descendants the Chosen Ones. In Exodus, God protects these Chosen Ones and delivers them from slavery, they disobey His Rules by worshipping golden calves and whatnot, and God once again punishes. The “explaining science to a gnat” analogy doesn’t hold up throughout any of this. The Bible only gets difficult and “mysterious” when one tries to reconcile passages about the earth not moving with the fact that the earth does move, or its polytheistic passages with its monotheistic, or the passages about loving your neighbor with those about bashing the brains of your neighbor’s toddlers, and so on. (END OF EXCERPT)

 

I look forward to more of your posts on Gates' Dialogue! I agree with what you said about it being hard to do justice for a book "that good." I had a hard time knowing where to start and stop the above excerpt!!

 

Linda


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Welcome, LindaT. We'd like

Welcome, LindaT.

We'd like to get to know you a little better.  When you get a moment, we'd love it if you'd hop over to the General Conversation, Introductions and Humor forum and introduce yourself.

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I've experienced a lot of

I've experienced a lot of pain in my life.  More than my fair share, by my estimation.  This has been instrumental in my inching further and further towards deism over the years.  And I don't think I even have to say what deism is the gateway drug to...

 

... 


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Quote: I've experienced a

Quote:
I've experienced a lot of pain in my life.  More than my fair share, by my estimation.  This has been instrumental in my inching further and further towards deism over the years.  And I don't think I even have to say what deism is the gateway drug to...

You know we're all rooting for you, jmm.

Sorry if sometimes we are a bit harsh.  We really are trying to help, and most of us have also experienced a lot of pain, so we're not uncaring.  

Take the drug, jmm.  You'll like it.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Susan wrote: Welcome,

Susan wrote:

Welcome, LindaT.

We'd like to get to know you a little better. When you get a moment, we'd love it if you'd hop over to the General Conversation, Introductions and Humor forum and introduce yourself.

 

Thanks for the welcome, Susan! I just posted in the General Conversation, Introductions and Humor forum under the subject of Introduction.

Linda


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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
I've experienced a lot of pain in my life. More than my fair share, by my estimation. This has been instrumental in my inching further and further towards deism over the years. And I don't think I even have to say what deism is the gateway drug to...

You know we're all rooting for you, jmm.

Sorry if sometimes we are a bit harsh. We really are trying to help, and most of us have also experienced a lot of pain, so we're not uncaring.

Take the drug, jmm. You'll like it.

 

Hey, it's okay.  And I know that you're rooting for me.  

I've been on a lot of wacky medication the past few weeks (for an infection), so I've been acting a little loopy.  Hopefully I'll be back in true form once I get this poison out of my system.  

At least I'll try and blame it on the medicine, haha.   


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This is a big topic,

This is a big topic, and my brain is admittedly too small, but I'll happy to try. And in advance, I think that the "good things come from bad," is a pretty shitty answer too, especially when viewed in light of the haulocaust. Although, on a brief side note, ya'll atheists had to slightly reconsider the whole "progression of humanity into a golden age" bit as well, what with Stalin and all.

Anyhoo, a couple things to ponder. First is God's eternal suffering beside us. Because God the Father is outside of time, and so experiences time as a whole continuously, he is permanently experiencing his Son's death on the cross, not only that raw pain of being crucified, the nails and the collapsing lungs and the spear to the side, the flogging, the beating, all of it, but also that agongy of watching your son, sent as a gift of love to a world in need, executed by those he was sent to save. While that is the most grandoise example, it is also true for all the suffering everyone has ever gone through ever, something that should not at all be ignored. That means atheists too, whether you want him or not. I find that amazing personally, and it gives a huge insight into the God I love.

The second element, in my estimation, has to be redemption. Through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, my lord and savior, pain/suffering doesn't have to be the end. I know that the prospect of eternal life must be a pretty overused arguement on this forum, but being in the presence of true love for eternity, it's not modernisitic materialism, but it handles pain/suffering much better than some atheistic proposition of attempting to rid the world of it through capitalistic/social endeavors. I believe, and I understand that here I have a break with some members of the Christian faith, that after death God is revealed to us, his love is revealed to us, and we either say yes or no. Heaven or hell. Our choice. And frankly, I think the ones who have suffered the most are the ones most likely to say yes. As Matthew says, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Just some thoughts, and I'm tired as I'm typing this, so sorry if it's bollocks. Peace.