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How can we know there is a God?

Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby postodave » 17 Feb 2009, 23:15

My students argued that zero, like all numbers, was an idea, not a thing, and a perfectly valid answer to certain sorts of questions. "How many elephants are in my room, right now?" Zero

I asked my 10 year old. She said, 'well you can ask how many guinea pigs there are in the cage and say 1. If you took it away there'd be none but you would still have a cage". Which I take to mean that questions about number always have a context. Though in these days of ecological crisis the question how many elephants are there has become depressingly global.
I found a link to the Coppleston v. Russell debate: http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p20.htm Atheists used to be such clever chaps.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby mitchellmckain » 18 Feb 2009, 01:41

postodave wrote:That's very clearly put Mitch and on the whole I agree. It's just that I have not found any of the arguments for God's necessary existence persuasive and neither have the majority of atheists. Take a look at the famous dialogue on proofs for God's existence between Russell and Coppleston for example.


Me neither. I in fact consider it a duty to shoot down any proposed argument for the existence of God, all the while explaining that I believe in God anyway. Saying that God necessarily exists is not the same as proving that God necessarily exists or that God exists or that someone must necessarily believe that God exists, necessarily or not.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby AllanS » 18 Feb 2009, 07:06

mitchellmckain wrote: I in fact consider it a duty to shoot down any proposed argument for the existence of God, all the while explaining that I believe in God anyway.


Me too. It's my view that God ensures his existence is ambiguous in order to give freedom room to choose.

I love the bit in Job where Satan challenges God's judgment. ie. Satan doesn't believe God is God. Not even the angels, who see God face to face, have unambiguous, nail it to the floor, proof of his existence.
“And turn their grief into song?" he replied. "That would be a gracious act and a good beginning."

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby AllanS » 18 Feb 2009, 07:09

postodave wrote:the question how many elephants are there has become depressingly global.


Were there an elephant in my room, it' s very likely I would be the one being depressed. :toothy-grin:
“And turn their grief into song?" he replied. "That would be a gracious act and a good beginning."

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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby postodave » 18 Feb 2009, 15:50

Me neither. I in fact consider it a duty to shoot down any proposed argument for the existence of God, all the while explaining that I believe in God anyway.

This is one of the points we agree on I think. But I would not go as far as Allen:
Me too. It's my view that God ensures his existence is ambiguous in order to give freedom room to choose.

I don't think knowing there is a God is a matter of choice and although I could perhaps be persuaded out of my belief I don't think I could chose not to believe any more than I could chose to stop believing 1+1=2.
Saying that God necessarily exists is not the same as proving that God necessarily exists or that God exists or that someone must necessarily believe that God exists, necessarily or not.

I'm just not sure the concept of absolute necessary existence is a coherent one. I can see that a particular state of affairs may be necessary because of some other state of affairs e.g. in order for me to leave my house it may be necessary for me to go through the door. I can see there are necessary propositions and that the states of affairs that correspond to necessary propositions must also be necessary e.g. that it must be necessary that either I am sitting in my living room or I am not but I find the concept of a necessary being hard to grasp. I keep wanting to ask what makes it necessary and like Russell I find the answer that it makes itself necessary rather unsatisfying. It's not that I think God is contingent and might not have existed it's just that I think God transcends all the creational distinctions between necessity and contingency.
Were there an elephant in my room, it' s very likely I would be the one being depressed.

That's sheer elephantism!
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby mitchellmckain » 18 Feb 2009, 23:33

postodave wrote:
Me neither. I in fact consider it a duty to shoot down any proposed argument for the existence of God, all the while explaining that I believe in God anyway.

This is one of the points we agree on I think. But I would not go as far as Allen:
Me too. It's my view that God ensures his existence is ambiguous in order to give freedom room to choose.

Well I think you may be misreading Allen a bit. I certainly don't think that Allen is saying that God is making any effort to deceive us. Nevertheless I think it is obvious that God is quite capable of making His existence far far more obvious to people than it is and that God does not do so can only mean that He has good reason (and I will suggest several in a moment). But I don't think Allen is even going that far, for His example of the angels to whom God's existence should be that obvious, He simply seems to be suggesting that absolute proof isn't possible. Although I don't agree with his example since I don't believe the angels have such free will, I do agree that absolute proof isn't possible and it is obvious to me that human beings are quite capable of believing whatever they want regardless of the evidence, but I don't think that changes the fact that God COULD make his existence more obvious to human beings if He chose to.

Now for reasons why God does not do so: The problem with some phsyical manifestation is that it would be a lie, for God is spirit and man has shown an historical tendency to replace God with some physical entity and worship that in place of God. We call that idolatry, I think you know. It is clear that God want us to understand that He is spirit and infinite. But I think that even with that limitation God could still make his existence more obvious and I think that He does not do so for very good reasons. I see some rather clearly when I consider the problems that are lible to be a part of a relationship with an all knowing and all powerful being - I see such problems quite enough in human relationships: the tendency to excessive dependence (which as it is the religious already often mistakenly think that is what this relationship with God is all about) and the abdication of responsibility to blame everything on the "one with the power". But God's primary interest is in helping us to GROW UP and so He has no wish to encourage such a childish relationship with Him. Yes He would have us trust in Him, but so that we would learn what He has to teach, NOT so that we would just leave EVERTHING to Him (it is only those things we have no power over that He would have us leave to Him). Yes He would have us be a child, but only because learning and growing up is the essence of childhood, for the FACT is that we ARE children and it is the PRETENSE that we are ADULT and no longer have to learn and grow that God would have us STOP.


postodave wrote:I don't think knowing there is a God is a matter of choice and although I could perhaps be persuaded out of my belief I don't think I could chose not to believe any more than I could chose to stop believing 1+1=2.

I think your contrast here is unreasonable. I don't think anyone imagines that having a choice means being able to choose to be other than who we are, which is what your interpretation is sounding like here. In fact, I believe a rational examination of the question would reveal that would actually be a trivialization of choice. What meaning can choice have if our choices have no consequences and what substance could any consequences have if they can always be erased by choice? No! Free will is the freedom to make choices NOT a freedom from the consequences of those choices we have made, and the most fundamental consequence of our choices is that they make us what we are and from that what we have made of ourselves, we can never escape.


postodave wrote:It's not that I think God is contingent and might not have existed it's just that I think God transcends all the creational distinctions between necessity and contingency.

But isn't that exactly what it means to neccessarily exist? This is precisely why we give God such an attribute because we believe that He transcends contingency. We don't believe that it makes sense to ask questions like, "where did God come from?" or "why does God exist?" for we do not believe that His existence is contingent upon anything. Either you have and never ending chain of causality or you do not. Those who believe in God believe that you do not, for causality begins with God. And for this belief we give such names as "first cause", "self-existent" or "neccessarily existing" to the attribute of God that makes this the case.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby cyranorox » 19 Feb 2009, 17:02

Perhaps we can prove or intuit that a god exists, and many have. That our God exists, ie, the Holy Trinity, the God of Love, no, I don't think we can get there without revelation. And, the god of 'Do you believe in God?' is no one in particular - you might say, does not exist at all, since God is a definite being with definite descriptors and intentions.

The other great basis for knowledge is deceptively simple: the reliable[or not] witness. This is not only the face to face encounter, or the text, or the chain of custody of the evidence, but even the reliance on the self: all my memories are but the testimony of witness, my self. in fact most problems of epistemology reduce to a question of the reliability of the witness.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby postodave » 19 Feb 2009, 18:02

I was really seeing revelation and intuition as two sides of the same coin. If God reveals himself it is by intuition that we recognise that revelation as revelation. The only alternative I see to that is to make revelation the subject of a hypothesis. And I was not seeing intuition as something limited to what we can intuit through creation. It is our experience given through the Church or the scripture or the tradition or the liturgy that most often triggers the intuition. We say God is trinity because that is the God we experience.

If I am not making this clear I will not be understood.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby mitchellmckain » 20 Feb 2009, 08:38

I can add that God certainly has made His existence obvious to some people in history. But I think those who are particularly significant are the first people in history, Adam and Eve. And I think it is what happened in their case that has everything to do with why God has been reluntant to make His existence so obvious to the rest of us.

It is a rather ubiquitous human tendency, starting with Adam and Eve, to blame God for our woes even when they are obviously our own mistakes and discussions with atheists have made it quite clear to me that they are ironically the most ready to blame God for everything. The more power one has in our life the easier it is to put the blame on them and so an alpowerful God makes a perfect scape-goat.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby postodave » 20 Feb 2009, 11:49

I can add that God certainly has made His existence obvious to some people in history. But I think those who are particularly significant are the first people in history, Adam and Eve. And I think it is what happened in their case that has everything to do with why God has been reluctant to make His existence so obvious to the rest of us.

It's an interesting theory and almost the mirror image of the traditional understanding of the fall which says that the fall changed Adam and his posterity in ways that prevent us as seeing God as obvious and that the process of redemption involves God as Allan says restoring sight to our blind eyes. But perhaps the two understandings are complimentary.
There's also the fact that when people do experience God the experience itself is often a devastating one inspiring fear feelings of being small and sinful. As Eliot says humankind cannot bear very much reality.
I think some of the things you have said in the last couple of posts Mitch fit very well with the quote from Macdonald that came way back.
"But if you want me to know you again, ma'am, for certain sure,'
said Curdie, 'could you not give me some sign, or tell me something
about you that never changes - or some other way to know you, or
thing to know you by?

No, Curdie; that would be to keep you from knowing me. You must
know me in quite another way from that. It would not be the least
use to you or me either if I were to make you know me in that way.
It would be but to know the sign of Me - not to know me myself. it
would be no better than if I were to take this emerald out of my
crown and give it to you to take home with you, and you were to
call it me, and talk to it as if it heard and saw and loved you.
Much good that would do you, Curdie! No; you must do what you can
to know me, and if you do, you will."


Though I think faith in the sense of the walk of faith is not to do with knowing that God exists but living as if God exists and relating to the God who is there. And right now I have other duties and must go about them much as I would like to continue this.
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But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby postodave » 20 Feb 2009, 23:26

Here's the Buber quote I promised.
"God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.

I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me with this especially agingjb who quoted McDonald.I hope I'll be able to make use of the insight that gave me - I'll certainly be quoting Buber who you reminded me of.
Right now I'm feeling terrified about this whole thing and if there is anyone out there who would offer up a prayer that even if they don't agree with my arguments God would make use of me and maybe stir a thought in someone I would appreciate that.
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Re: How can we know there is a God?

Postby Coyote Goodfellow » 21 Feb 2009, 16:45

Good Luck Postodave, I hope your presentation is well received by all regardless of their attitude toward God and religion.

Mitch,
I just wanted to comment on something you wrote earlier.
Now for reasons why God does not do so: The problem with some phsyical manifestation is that it would be a lie, for God is spirit and man has shown an historical tendency to replace God with some physical entity and worship that in place of God. We call that idolatry, I think you know. It is clear that God want us to understand that He is spirit and infinite. But I think that even with that limitation God could still make his existence more obvious and I think that He does not do so for very good reasons. I see some rather clearly when I consider the problems that are lible to be a part of a relationship with an all knowing and all powerful being - I see such problems quite enough in human relationships: the tendency to excessive dependence (which as it is the religious already often mistakenly think that is what this relationship with God is all about) and the abdication of responsibility to blame everything on the "one with the power". But God's primary interest is in helping us to GROW UP and so He has no wish to encourage such a childish relationship with Him. Yes He would have us trust in Him, but so that we would learn what He has to teach, NOT so that we would just leave EVERTHING to Him (it is only those things we have no power over that He would have us leave to Him). Yes He would have us be a child, but only because learning and growing up is the essence of childhood, for the FACT is that we ARE children and it is the PRETENSE that we are ADULT and no longer have to learn and grow that God would have us STOP.

I'd just like to add as a sort of side not to this, that, if you read between the lines of the book of Exodus, is that direct demonstration of Divine power doesn't accomplish very much. The Israelites lived through miraculous demonstrations of Gods power: the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, Manna from heaven. And yet they still bowed down before the Golden Calf. Just like I sometimes receive what I feel is a series of signs, and very quickly find myself backsliding. What is actually most interesting about the Miracle stories in both the Old and New Testament--is that they never seem to leave much of an impression on people--everybody just keeps on arguing amongst themselves. The Biblical narrative seems to be that changing the human heart is a much more difficult process than sending plagues, redeeming a nation, parting the Red Sea, etc--and it sometimes seems like the flashy miracles get in the way of the more important little ones.
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"Hush, hush" said the other animals.
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