Discussion with a Calvinist

Considerations of religious issues in general

Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Caleb » 30 Apr 2013, 02:07

Joe wrote:Yes Caleb I mean you and apologise to both you and Gavin.

Let me see if I can recount accurately what you have submitted. Please correct me when I err.

In the beginning you confess to not know quite alot, particularly about science.


Because who actually does know a lot about science? Religious texts could be read in a few days. It must be nice to have such a neat package. Even a world expert on a particular field of microbiology doesn't know other microbiological fields in excruciating detail, let alone other fields of biology, let alone chemistry, physics, etc. This is because the total amount of knowledge in science would fill millions of pages and would be more than any single person could read in a lifetime. It doesn't fit neatly into one little book that anyone can just pick up, read, and even memorised word for word.

You do know however that you can't harmonize creation ex nihilo with the laws of physics as known today.


Because any system we use ultimately runs into the problem of origins. If God created everything where did he come from? This is not just a problem with science.

Yet you also know that these same laws preclude what we would call the miracles of the bible even though there have been human witnesses to those events.


I think what you're missing here is that I'm not so concerned with origins. It actually doesn't matter to me whether there was an invisible watchmaker or not. It's the same kind of question as asking who a particular ancestor of mine was three hundred generations ago or what the name is of the sister in law of the guy who made the shoes I'm wearing right now. I probably won't ever be able to know, and it probably bears little to no relevance to my life. What is wrong with actually admitting that we have absolutely no idea what happened at some distant moment in the past so long as the stories that follow from any origin story conform to the laws of physics, what we know about geology, biology, archaeology, etc.? I really don't care about the origin story itself. The Book of Genesis does not conform to what we know about looking at the geological record, archaeological record, etc. As I pointed out, the Noah's Ark story is absurd from an enormous list of logistical problems. Do you really take that story at face value?

I have yet to hear of any sane man admit to seeing something made from nothing.


Yet you believe in miracles, such as the loaves and fishes story, presumably.

You know that swans are both black and white, that there are no polar bears or kangaroos in the middle east and that God cannot make a rock too heavy for Him to move. Let the record show that He also cannot make a square circle or a triangle with four sides.


Fine, but you haven't actually addressed these points.

You confess that creation ex nihilo is as fantastical as the existence of hobbitts. You describe one who believes in hobbits mad. Would that same descriptor apply to those who believe in creation ex nihilo?


No, because as I wrote above, any metaphysical system, including science, must ultimately get back to this point, which is why I don't consider metaphysics to be a particularly worthwhile pursuit.

That's not the point regarding hobbits though. The point is whether a number of independent observers can observe hobbits. Just because your book has "observers" what does that mean? So does every other belief system. People claim to have seen all sorts of things all the time. Do we believe in UFOs, ghosts or mermen caught in fishermen's nets in the Philippines? People witnessed them, and such events were recorded in newspapers or magazines. I'm sure you know where you can find such newspapers or magazines.

Without being asked you have furnished for us the ingredients of the "primordial soup' out of which you believe life to have spontaneously sprung. Can you tell me the origin of those ingredients?


No, as I have already stated several times (and stated when I wrote that I don't know how hydrogen came into existence). Can you tell me the origin of God? Again, I'm not interested in metaphysics. It's a big game of "Gotcha! Your belief system is just as absurd as mine and you can't say anything about the present because you don't know who your great grandfather's uncle's barber was!" From there it's an argument that science is a religion, and from there, it's an inferior religion because it doesn't have all the answers.

You affirm that Dostoevsky's quote "if there is no God, everything is permitted" to be both true and false.


Because I think that in theory, people should be able to exercise self constraint. Interestingly, current scientific research (again, I can only point to this through a friend who is studying cognitive neuroscience, though we could look this up if we chose) is eroding the notion of free will. Anyway, in theory, people should be able to do a lot of things, including exercise moral restraint. However, I acknowledged that in practice, that doesn't happen (enough) without an external authority. Is this admission of mine such a great revelation?

You affirm (and I concur) that nature knows no morality but you seem to be unsure about man.


Because there's still a lot we don't know about man. However, something we do know about man is that, as with other animals, there is a part of his brain that will initiate all sorts of behaviours (often known as fight or flight) out of his conscious control. An admission that these things occur puts free will and morality on shaky ground. I like to think that we're a cut above animals, but that could just be wishful thinking.

You allow (and I concur) that men do combine into groups for self preservation and that they establish normative systems and that these systems are subjective, some being better than others and some better than none - sometimes but all subject to amendment. As Tower of Power says; "what is hip today may become passe."


Yes. Invariably, they all claim objectivity for their own cultural practices. In theory, I would be a cultural relativist because I am agnostic on these issues. I am not even really sure how we would define or measure these issues in an objective way other than an appeal to survival, but it's extremely difficult to isolate and measure cultural variables. In practice, I subscribe to a particular set of moral values because I have to subscribe to something. I can either spend every moment of every day chasing my own solipsistic tail philosophically or I can act in the world. The system I follow seems to align closer with reality and seems to be verified by many others also.

Again, if you want to say that Christian morality is correct, I more or less agree with you. The problem arises, that as I admit, once you remove an external authority (e.g. as occurs in secular humanism), morality starts to crumble, as this forum seems to exist to discuss and document. However, in order to subscribe to that external authority, there's a whole lot of scientific baggage that comes with it. I don't know if you've ever read Greek philosophy, but one major problem is that it's difficult to take certain moral ideas seriously when they're based upon scientific explanations that are comical in light of what we know today. The bad science taints the moral message, yet the bad science exists because such moral messages are codified in a particular time and place with incomplete scientific knowledge.

You allow that man is egocentric believing himself to be "better" than the animals. Do you believe that?


Certainly, but with qualification. I believe humans are moral agents, though as I explained above, there is a lot of our behaviour that is not driven by conscious control. Also, based upon my observations at large (and other people here would seem to concur), but also working within the education system, I have grave doubts that everyone actually does become a full moral agent. I know a lot of people who seemingly apply little more (moral) thought to how they live their lives than my two dogs. My wife often remarks that our dogs look (like they know they are) guilty. (I think she means remorseful.) No, they just don't want to get in trouble based upon observations of my body language or tone of voice. There's a difference. Plenty of people around me behave in certain ways only so they won't get in trouble from authority figures. When they know those authority figures are not looking, they act completely differently. So, sure, people think they're better than animals. As to whether they are or not, I really don't know.

I confess to not understanding anything at all about your paragraph beginning with; "Well I don't think we can. . .


Explanations for the existence, and relevance, of art, music, etc. often relate to the divine. Philosophy that does not allow for the divine has a great problem with explaining the existence of art and culture, and it has an even greater problem with distinguishing between high and low art and culture. Inevitably, arguments get made that high art and culture serve a greater overarching purpose via myth making and so on that unites people by directing everyone together for a common purpose, though this inevitably requires personal restraint. In subsuming themselves to a collective identity, they actually further their individual survival. The argument would go that hip hop and its thuggish culture of promiscuity and so on would lead to greater survival for an individual's genes in the short term, but in aggregate and in the long term, it would lead to a society that was less able to organise itself against external threats (other societies, the environment). There probably is a lot of merit in this argument, but I believe it's pseudoscientific at best, and I'm not 100% convinced.

When I note an example of a man being raised from the dead that was observed by many persons you suggest the observers to be deficient in some way. When I ask why it is more fantastical to believe in life after death than in life before existence you do not answer but seem to suggest that one believing in the resurrection is as mad as Napoleon's erstwhile companion.

You mention several times that "we operate on weight of numbers". I assume this is the same as "preponderance of evidence". Let me ask one more question. On the weight of what numbers do we conclude that one who believes in events observed but not proven is mad and one who believes that all things that exist came from nothing is wise?


I believe I addressed this above. The question is that if you believe you are sane for believing in the Bible, why do you not take seriously a whole lot of other beliefs by people? Buddha had his witnesses. Mohammed too. Even those people you periodically read about who saw the Virgin Mary's image in a water stain on a wall had their witnesses. You can go online and find huge numbers of people who have examined video footage (or were even there) who believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories.

As to how many people are required, I obviously can't answer that question. It's a trick question. Are fifteen people enough, but fourteen too few? Again, it misses the point. It's whether it can be falsified and it's whether it seems to conform to what we know about the world at large in terms of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc. The weight of numbers comes into play in the sense that if something that exists outside our understanding of science occurs, we can then take it and parade it around for people to see if they want to see it. Or, they can follow the experimental conditions and recreate the results themselves. This isn't the case with miracles or the supernatural in general.

It strikes me as curious that aliens, ghosts, women giving birth to fish boys, religious miracles, or anything else are always "observed" by ignorant people in ignorant places, often in ignorant times. These things never seem to manifest themselves in Trafalgar Square in the twenty first century in broad daylight, for instance.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 30 Apr 2013, 03:36

Caleb
Thanks again, I learn something with every post. I respect greatly your position that origins don't concern you because basically they cannot be empirically known.. What I don't accept is that you seem to have enough knowledge of the unknown that you can say religion is "a lot of nonsense". By your own admission you cannot know whether it is a lot of nonsense or not. You don't accept the Bible for instance a text studied upside down, inside out ,over and around since the dawn of time and with considerable eyewitness testimony yet you will not acknowledge that it may be true. I seek only academic consistency from you. If you don't know you don't know. As I said previously that is a very admirable concession. I cannot and will not criticize you for holding it.

You ask me frequently in your most recentl post what came before God. I am surprised that you being a philosophy student have such disdain for metaphysics. However you must recall some things from your university years. I like to believe logic to be the "referee" of knowledge, the organon that takes information and manufactures knowledge from it. I am sure also that you have been well versed in St. Thomas Aquinas and his five proofs for the existence of God. I will answer your question with only one of the five; The

Argument from Efficient Causes as follows:

1. We perceive a series of efficient causes in the existing world.
2. Nothing exists prior to itself. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship.
3.Therefore nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
4. If a prior efficient cause does not exist neither does the thing that results.
5. Thus if the first thing in the series doesn't exist nothing in the series exists.
6. The series cannot be an infinite regress for then there would be no things existing now.
7. There must exist then an eternal being or cause that obtains of the power of creation. That being is God.

Before you say it, yes I have reviewed the text of Doctor Angelicus work.

In shorthand, if anything at all exists then God must exist. Now that we have got past that hurdle I will go forth and try to answer your remaining objections.

As to the first ; if I consider myself sane (I'm not so sure I do having become at one time intimate with psychosis) and believe the Bible why don't I take seriously other belief systems? Well I use your method, the preponderance of evidence (the weight of numbers if you will). I am a Christian. Christianity is exclusive. If Christianity is true these other belief systems must be untrue. I also consider the belief systems responsiveness to the questions I have about life. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? I believe Christianity offers the best answers to those questions. I cannot logically hold to two or three belief systems that conflict with one another. I choose Christianity.

You are correct. The physical world cannot recreate the metaphysical. We do know however that the metaphysical exists for whatever belief one has about our origins it was most certainly a supernatural (by your own admission) event.

Well Caleb at the last you seem to have fallen into a sort of petulant sophistry. I will state this plainly as I see that subtlety has failed. Neither women giving birth to fishes; aliens; ghosts; Marian images; or other things ignorant people observe from time to time is as utterly stupid as believing that something created itself or that time plus chance resulted in life climbing out of an unknown mixture of inert chemicals. As for your last comment: I suspect seriously that if Jesus returned in the sky tomorrow in Trafalgar Square and called you by name you would find some way to deny the person and the event..
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 30 Apr 2013, 04:07

Grant;
Thank you for you kind words. Actually I think you are right I suspect God would judge the wrong doing of men more severely than men do. In fact He already has, condemning to death for the least transgression of His law. He will in the future call us all to account for the manner in which we lived the life He gave us. Well we don't know that God has not intervened to stop some truly heinous behavior. We cannot deny however that He has certainly permitted unimaginable human cruelty. As for your question of the flood, I must defer to God's own judgement.

The evangelical world's attempt to dress God up so that He is compatible with the spirit of the age has in my opinion done great damage to a great many people. Yes God is loving; in fact God is love. However God is also righteous and jealous of His glory and honor. A dear friend of mine will say "God is not one to be trifled with". Be it very unpleasant and harsh news, sin and hell do exist. If you want to really get "fundamental" try "Sinners in the Hands of an angry God" an 18th century sermon by Jonathon Edwards.

You are again correct to notice a distinct difference in tone from the Old Testament to the New. The difference results from a covenant change between God and man from a covenant of laws to a covenant of grace. There are books and books of theology about that topic and I have already said more than I am capable of succinctly explaining. If you really want to know more may I suggest "The Theology of B. B. Warfield" by Fred Z. Jaspel. You can find it on amazon.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Caleb » 01 May 2013, 01:41

Joe: At this point, we're probably just going around in circles. Metaphysics is not very satisfying for me because it is a topic that goes around in circles. Metaphysics seems to be the study of going around in circles. Physics (and geology, biology, etc.) is a different matter though. I think I've already made those points though.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 01 May 2013, 01:59

Caleb
Probably right. Thanks it's been fun!
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Jonathan » 01 May 2013, 07:38

Hello Joe, and welcome to the forum.

I have been following your exchange with Caleb with some interest, though not, perhaps, with perfect attention to all its details. I did not wish to step in while it seemed that I might cause more confusion than benefit.

I have never studied Theology, but I thought I might learn something from someone who evidently has. I hope you will permit me to extract one passage from one of your posts, and examine it under a magnifying glass. I do not pretend that this is a particularly significant point, or that somehow disproving it will disprove anything else that you have stated. Not in the least - I merely hope you will indulge my interest.

Joe wrote:The Argument from Efficient Causes as follows:

1. We perceive a series of efficient causes in the existing world.
2. Nothing exists prior to itself. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship.
3.Therefore nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
4. If a prior efficient cause does not exist neither does the thing that results.
5. Thus if the first thing in the series doesn't exist nothing in the series exists.
6. The series cannot be an infinite regress for then there would be no things existing now.
7. There must exist then an eternal being or cause that obtains of the power of creation. That being is God.


I think I have an intuitive understanding of what is meant by 'Efficient Cause', so I will not ask for a formal definition. I am also willing to accept points 1 through 6 (though I think a very imaginitive argument can be made against 5 & 6).

Having accepted 1-6 for the sake of argument, I find myself with the following conclusion:
7*) There must have existed at the moment of creation a being that obtains of the power of creation.

There are three parts of your conclusion which are missing from mine:
7a) The being is eternal in the sense of having existed infinitely far back in time until the moment of creation.
7b) The being is eternal in the sense of existing from the moment of creation infinitely forward into the future.
7c) That being is God.

Points 7a and 7b require first a clarification whether time is considered to extend infinitely into the past, or to have started at the moment of creation, or at some point before the moment of creation.

In Point 7c, I assume you mean to say that the 'being that obtains the power of creation' is that being whose act of creation is described in the Book of Genesis, and whose various aspects are revealed elsewhere.

I should like to ask you a finely-focused question: Do you believe that conclusions 7a, 7b and 7c are logically inferrable from points 1 - 6, without relying on external data? I am not attempting to disprove them now (though I reserve the right to try later!), merely attempting to discern whether you think they follow logically from 1-6 or whether they rely on other unstated assumptions.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 02 May 2013, 01:46

Thank you Jonathon, I am enjoying the forum very much but am very frustrated at the moment. My computer has failed in two previous attempts to post a response to your query.

I believe the creator being at issue here to be the God of Genesis. However there are a number of steps indicating personhood, teleology, will and recorded evidence among others that must be taken before we can get there.

I have just in the past few weeks finished a book by theologian and philosopher William Lane Craig titled "Time and Eternity" concerning the relationship of God with time. After laborious analysis of numerous theories and proofs, Craig concludes that God is eternal; timeless before creation and temporal after. I am not qualified to critique his work. I commend it to your attention

Not only do 7(a-c) follow logically from premises they are logically necessary The clarity (to me) of this proof and your questions leave me a little restless thinking I may have overlooked something. I am also interested in your "imaginative" attack on 5 and 6.

I look forward to your reply.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Jonathan » 06 May 2013, 12:24

Hi Joe,

Sorry to hear about the lost posts. My advice is to always type out replies in a separate text editor, saving them occasionally if they become very long. This lesson was learned the hard way.

I will try to sketch out possible counter-examples to points 7b and 7c (my attempts on point 7a have produced more confusion than clarity). I am not suggesting that this will suffice to disprove any of the aforemention points, especially since I will have to use analogies, which are inherently flawed; But I do think this will be enough to suggest that the burden of proof lies on the other side.

Permit me to start from the arguments I found easiest to make.


7b) The being is eternal in the sense of existing from the moment of creation infinitely forward into the future.


Consider the possibility that (7b1) the "being that obtains of the power of creation" expires upon the act of creation. Now there may be good theological reasons for dismissing such an idea, but I don't think they are to be found in arguments 1-6, which merely require that there be an act of creation to serve as a starting-point for the chain of Efficient Causes.


7c) That being is God.


I will mention two alternatives here which, I think, are not contradicted by 1-6.

7c1) The "being that obtains of the power of creation" created the universe, and also created God, to tend the universe he created. This would be analogous to God creating the Garden of Eden, and also creating Adam to tend it. Both the ignorant weed uprooted by his hands, and the germinated seeds he planted, alike find Adam omnipotent, and are unable to conceive of limits to his power.


7c2) There are actually two "beings that obtain of the power of creation". Points 1-6 require that there be such a being; they do not require that there be precisely one such being. I may postulate that there a eight such beings;

Both 7c1 and 7c2 may be dismissed as contradicting common sense, divine scripture, and the Word of God himself. But can they be found to contradict points 1-6?


It is worth remembering that some of these suggestions - not to mention more extravagant ones - were taken seriously by many people in the past, and sometimes fervently believed. The ancient Babylonians believed the world was carved from the corpse of a god (Tiamat); The Manichaean heresy had two dieties; the Greek myths attributed the act of creation to older gods, while actual worship focused on on younger ones. We must not allow the modern prejudice in favor of monotheism to color our logical reasoning.


I am also interested in your "imaginative" attack on 5 and 6.

5. Thus if the first thing in the series doesn't exist nothing in the series exists.

6. The series cannot be an infinite regress for then there would be no things existing now.


These points caught my attention as an amateur mathematician and skier. Consider the infinite series 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and so on. Which is the smallest number? It can be proven that there is no smallest number, yet it does not follow from this that nothing in the series exists. The same is true for the negative integers (-1, -2, -3, etc).

Of course it is necessary to build an analogous example in the real world. Can this be done? I will try to create a limited example: An infinite series of decisions with no first decision.


Consider a man in his first skiing lesson. The first thing he is taught is how to stop, and he is advised that by the time he thinks he's going too fast, it's already too late. Now he climbs up a small hill and begins his descent, marking his initial position at point 0 (zero). During each moment of his descent, he asks himself "Am I going too fast???". If so, he tries to stop; if not, he continues. As chance would have it, after a descent of precisely 1 meter he decides he is going to fast, and starts to brake. His eventual collision with a parked car need not concern us.

Now his two friends - a Mathematician and a Theologician - have an argument while they wait for the paramedics to arrive. They agree that:

1) At position zero, his velocity was zero; therefore, he was not concerned with trying to stop; Therefore he was not deciding not to stop. This is trivial.
2) Only at position 1 did he decide to stop.
3) At all of the points in the infinite series (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc) he decided not to stop.

Therefore, we have an infinite series of things with no first thing in the series. ("thing" being defined as "Jonathan decides not to stop"). According to the precise phrasing in point (5), the conclusion must be that nothing in the series exists. This provides no comfort on the way to the hospital.


I am not attempting to extrapolate a more generalized disproof from this example (I promised an imaginative attack, not a formal proof).But it illustrates the traps which infinite series lay to the unwary. Only a strict adherence to mathematical definitions can avoid them. This requires careful definitions of 'Effective Cause', and points (5) and (6) to avoid contradictions. I do not know whether this is possible, or whether a contradiction must ensue; but I cannot expect an ancient philosopher to have used good definitions - by modern standards, of course.


Infinity is a very difficult concept, and an infinitely old universe is even worse. I am therefore quite happy that there are many scientific observations which seem to disprove this possibility. But I do not see a way to replace these observations with logical arguments. Many people have attempted to do so, but I suspect that some have been happy to find questionable arguments convincing simply because the mind skits away from the concept like water on a hot griddle.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 06 May 2013, 19:50

Jonathan,

Don’t underestimate the ancient scholars, being unburdened by too much information, they may have been able to think more clearly than we..

7b - In that creation was created; is created and is being created the creator God must be eternal.
7c1 - This conclusion contains another infinite regress. Who created the God that created the God, that created the God… ad infinitum?
7c2 – God by definition is the ONE Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe. Categorically therefore, there can be but one God.

Re: Premises 5 and 6

5. Thus if the first thing in the series doesn’t exist neither does the thing that results.
6. The series cannot be an infinite regress for then there would be no things existing now.

Numbers are not things but descriptors of things. In the skiing example you state that “only at position 1 did he decide to stop”. Position 1 is also where the regress of the decision ends. At 1 he decided not to “not stop” but rather decided to stop. The thing is the decision not the type of the decision. To stop or not to stop only describes the decision. Of course infinity does not exist (see your numerical regress above) and since it does not exist the only observation about it would be that it does not exist. Eternity is entirely different. As in the Argument from Efficient Causes; if no thing ever existed, there could be no thing existing now. As we know that things exist now we therefore know that some thing has existed beyond space and time – eternity. In the proof that thing is God.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Jonathan » 07 May 2013, 06:51

Joe wrote:7b - In that creation was created; is created and is being created the creator God must be eternal.


In contesting my hypothetical alternatives to assertion 7b you have not made reference to any of points 1-6. This is precisely the argument I was trying to make - that assertion 7b relies on additional theorems. I am not contesting these theorems - merely noting that they are external to points 1-6.

7c1 - This conclusion contains another infinite regress. Who created the God that created the God, that created the God… ad infinitum?


Not at all. If the being with the power of creation can create a whole universe ex nihilo, he can also beget another divinity to maintain his creation. We puny mortals only have contact with this begotten divinity, and through our imperfect understanding attribute to it also the power of creation, which it does not possess. There is no infinite regress here.

I am sure many convincing arguments can be made against this hypothetical assertion. The question is, can one be made solely by relying on points 1-6?

7c2 – God by definition is the ONE Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe. Categorically therefore, there can be but one God.


Again, you have made an argument by relying on external assertions other than points 1-6: That God exists, that his characteristics are well-defined: He is the creator, the ruler, and therefore unique. These may be true, but the whole point of the argument from efficient causes is to prove the existence of God without a priori assuming the existence of God.

Re: Premises 5 and 6


I don't think I have understood your reply to me, and I suspect I did not succeed in making myself understood. In any case, the point was merely to illustrate a possible approach to disputing points 5 and 6; to continue pursuing it might risk suggesting that I consider my idea to be sounder than it is.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 08 May 2013, 00:45

Jonathan,
I am confident that 7 follows logically from 1-6 and I am very interested in finding what other evidence may be wanting. Obviously I have missed something or misstated something. Please enlighten me. My first priority is to be correct.

I believe that since numbers are not things but descriptors and I have asserted that it is things that require an antecedent cause that this analogy is meaningless in this context.

As for the skier, am I to understand that:
At 0 the skier makes a decision and that at 1 he decides to stop.
Again I must be missing something for I do not see the infinite regress.

Please correct me or fill in the gaps.
Thanks
Joe
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Michael » 08 May 2013, 14:01

Joe,

Thank you for joining our forum. Some months ago we had been discussing that while we enjoy our discussions there is limited variety - so far we have not been able to encourage any liberal-progressives to join, and strong religious faith has been unrepresented as well; mostly we have had discussions between agnostics and atheists.

I am curious whether you are familiar with the work of the philosopher of religion Edward Feser. A few years back he wrote an excellent treatise called The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism. It is a book in two parts: first, a detailed exposition of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics with an argument that they are the best explanation of changes and transformation in our world (primarily through negative exposition: all the other metaphysical theories we have come up with shortly lead to absurdities). This concludes with an exposition of Aquinas' Five Ways, showing just how powerful these arguments are when their terminology and background are rightly understood. Along the way he shows that no empirical scientific evidence can refute metaphysical premises - only logical argument can do so.

Second, it provides a superb short intellectual history of the West from the High Middle Ages (13-14th century) down to the present, showing the rise of the new tradition starting with Francis Bacon and Descartes who redirected the focus of philosophy from metaphysics to epistemology, and the loss of shared vocabulary amongst philosophers which makes understanding the vocabulary of Aquinas and the earlier metaphysics very difficult, requiring time and attention most philosophers and thinkers prefer not to give it*. As a philosopher I am also partial to Feser's argument that much of our cultural degeneration is related to a forgetting of metaphysics, and the substitution of shallower, partial theories for the fuller Aristotelian-Thomistic picture.

*Indeed, Feser regularly on his blog shows that atheist and materialist philosophers are, despite their pretensions to be 'lovers of wisdom', do not want to understand Aquinas' arguments. In fact, many of them seem to share Thomas Nagel's active desire that theism not be true.
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Re: Discussion with a Calvinist

Postby Joe » 09 May 2013, 03:05

Thank you Michael. I have not read the book you mentioned but I will certainly order it up and read it. I have about 75 pages left in the book I am reading now and if it is offered in Nook (I once had by local standards a fairly significant library that had to be sacrificed to "downsizing" so now I collect my electronic books.) I will read it next.

My limited experience is that agnostics and atheists pursue their agendas with what might be called religious zeal. I am a simple man and simple ideas appeal to me. The "Cosmological Argument" seems to me rather rock solid metaphysically. I find it very difficult to deny the logical rules of knowledge. Of course if one can explain those away then all the doors fly open.

I have a theory that the greater number of academics have not really investigated Theism but have bought into the notion that to believe in God, particularly the christian God, is to admit to being an unsophisticated, and very un-cool, knuckle dragging, provincial mouth breather. As an aside, I find it ironic that sophistry is the root of sophisticated and of course we all recognize sophistry when we see it.
Joe
 
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Joined: 26 Apr 2013, 02:49
Location: Kentucky, USA

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