Monday, June 14, 2010

Further Comments on "The God of Atheists and Theists"

I don't usually do this, but my most recent comment on the last thread so ridiculously exceeded the character restrictions that I'm carrying it into a post of its own. If anyone wants to pick up the back-story, give the last post a read and check Trev's (and tonytanti's) comments.

Incidentally, I tend to enjoy "hiding" some of my more off-the-cuff remarks in the comments rather than publishing them outright, but heck, I'll put this comment on here as is and see if this thread has any more life in it or not. No requirements in that regard though, Trev. And I sincerely hope you don't mind me dragging your comments out into broad daylight a little further here. (If you do mind, just say so and it will be deleted). Okay, so here you go:


To my question about God revealing Godself to us beyond our five senses, Trev said: "I don't know what "beyond the five senses" would look like! Nobody does (to the best of my knowledge).... Jesus was a man, encountered by other men and everything he said/did could've been empirically demonstrated/replicated.... Wouldn't pointing to a physical, tangible human being and calling him god prove that he ISN'T god?? Isn't that what Barth is saying?"

In a way I think that is what Barth is saying, yes, but with emphasis on the "calling him" part, and perhaps light on the "prove" part. I think what we're doing when we (meaning theologians like Barth and wannabes like me) talk like this is taking seriously Jesus claims about himself [things he said and did and connected himself to and commissioned and promised] and we're asking ourselves what it might tell us about God, rather than measuring everything by some idea of what God is; or would or would not, could or could not, should or should not, do. So, you're exactly right. Who could come in with an idea of God and then based on sensual experiences say for sure they'd found something that fit the bill? On the other hand, if someone came along and did and said and perpetuated the things the Jesus said/did/perpetuated, could we take seriously that particular claim about God and its ramifications for our very view of God to begin with? [And wouldn't one of those ramifications be to say the very things I'm saying about knowledge of God?]

Thus, to your question: "So who is (and why are they) calling him god?", I guess my answer is: People who believe that He is. Because of the compelling nature of His presentation of Himself as such.

You said: "everything he said/did could've been empirically demonstrated/replicated". Really? I can see how they might be explained maybe (i.e., the resurrection could be chalked up to some kind of mistake or trick or something, albeit against the flow of existing evidence), but replicated and demonstrated? How exactly would you (to choose one example) bring a 4 days dead Lazarus out of a tomb before the eyes of his hostile mourners ? Again, I think you could explain the existence of that story, but demonstrate and replicate it?

I feel bad that I'm being confusing. Let me address some of the things I think you are hearing me imply, that I'm not sure I want to say. You talked about what seems like an injustice, that "a lucky few who were on this earth in the right place at the right time 2000 years ago." I agree that they were lucky, in a certain "wow-it-would-have-been-awesome-to-have-been-them" kind of way, but I don't think they had any advantage over us in terms of being convinced empirically that Jesus was God. Thomas put his hands in the nail-holes and was still called to believe. Granted, it would be different for those who hadn't even seen it for themselves, but Thomas had to have faith as well. [And in Jesus' mind it seems that the difference would be that those who believed but hadn't seen would be "blessed"!] I think it is arguable that we have the advantage of years of reflection, whereas Thomas could easily have doubted every day whether he was getting it right, whether he was caught up in something unreasonable or temporary, or whatever. In fact, many saw and did not believe.

But you are right, it can't be explained empirically now any more than it could then. All that is left for you is to doubt or believe. You can't prove or disprove a resurrection like that. [Mind you, had it not happened, you likely could have proved that.]

Your comment continued: "And my only shot at knowing if god is communicating with me is by not really knowing, because knowing means proving, and proving means it's not god". And to that I ask: Why does knowing = proving? If that's the case you never know anything. All proofs, even modernity's five-sense empirical ones, come on the backs of some kind of theory or premise. Go back far enough and you'll find it. Descartes' "I think therefore I am" is not a proof, it is a statement; a starting point; (dare I say it?) a belief. I'm don't think I'm being facetious either.

When science explains how the neurons and synapses fire and respond to stimuli to create the feeling of "love" it has not told us what love is or what it means or what its about. It has just given further refinement to our understanding of the physical processes involved in this crazy complex thing called "love" that we're trying to understand. Scientific study of such things is awesome, but you are importing belief in the modern standards of "knowledge" if you think that once these chemical brain functions have been described, we've figured it out and should go no further.

The last thing you asked had to do with wanting God's self-revelation to be to just you. You obviously don't mean that in an exclusive or selfish way, but are in fact implying that God should self-reveal to everyone personally and privately and directly. Fair enough. I think that is a good desire. I share that desire. I'd almost call it an angst, actually. However, I don't think we can rule out from the get go the possibility that God intends such a longing to be met in the future, and has some other mode of self-revelation (and plan) leading toward that.

You asked: "How did he reveal himself to the whole of mankind? Did he visit every continent and every person in 33 years?" Well, if we take Jesus' claim seriously that He would be present by His Spirit where the testimony about Him was read and where two or three were gathered, then I'd say that maybe not in 33 years but by now He has been revealed on every continent. But it would seem not to every person. Not by a long stretch actually. Not yet anyway.

This is problematic, though, isn't it? Especially (and perhaps only) if we believe that God is loving and just! The question is: Why should I have heard and not others? That bothers me a lot, to be honest. We could talk about that for a long time. But I can probably address that briefly by clarifying that as a Christian I've come to understand and accept that if Jesus is God, then God wishes to self-reveal in space and time by involving people not only as recipients but as vehicles and participants in that self-revelation.

Further, I should mention that I, too, have questions about how that interacts with what Jesus seemed to say about such finalities as hell and justice and election, but I have come more and more to trust Jesus to be just, in the end -- and this more than I trust the renditions of hell and justice and predestination that have so coloured our feeling and thinking on such matters. (Here is where my comment to tonytanti comes into play as well).

Now, having said that, I must say that I do see a certain value in going forward with the traditional views on those doctrines -- weighing them carefully against Scripture and our nagging questions -- but I certainly am not so attached to the evangelical versions of those doctrines within which I was brought up that I would sooner reject belief in Jesus as God than investigate them further from within the Christian faith. That's the place I've come to with that. I'd love to share that place together. I'm still thinking about those ones and should probably open that horizon up on the blog someday.

As for whether there are other "Messiahs" besides this particular one: No I don't think so. But the reason I don't think so is because I take it from what Jesus said and did that He is not simply a vehicle of God's self-revelation but is the very bridge between God and humanity. God becomes an actual human being, with a human history like everyone else. And yet unlike -- because in the unfolding of this God-man's history all humanity finds its reconciliation with God (both already and yet to be fully known).

Thus while I resonate with the desire to have God's revelation be more "universal" than "particular", I have come to understand and appreciate why it is so.

So I'm not with you in "assuming God must have an alternate, personal-revelation plan for those that won't hear about him through the christian pipeline", although I'm not sure I can say what the Christian pipeline is exactly. I'm not sure it is as narrow as we think. Nor do I think God is a prisoner of it. What I do have is a call from God to participate in His ongoing work of self-revelation, and to do so with special attention to the provisions of Scripture and Church.

Frankly, however, I do tend to get bogged down by the enormity of that responsibility and the nagging questions of God's justice for a world insufficiently served (it would seem) by the church in this regard. But lately I've been intrigued by reasons to hope that God is the One who graciously bears the brunt of that, and not us.


I'm trying to give honest answers here. Thanks for the opportunity to try to articulate some of these things. I certainly don't mean to make an example of your questions. I might as well be posting them as my own, I've asked them myself in more or less the same words myself, many times. Some of the ways I've come to understand these things are pretty new (and liberating) for me, and it is good to have to try to share them and "test" them.

16 comments:

Trev said...

Thanks Jon,

I'm totally cool with this discourse, you need not delete anything ;)

I've only just had the time to read over this once, and am very intrigued. However, I'll have to chew on this stuff a little longer (throughout my work day) and come back to this later.

Jon Coutts said...

no hurry, I have lots of other reading and writing (and world cup watching) to do . . .

Trev said...

Jon said: "I guess my answer is: People who believe that He is. Because of the compelling nature of His presentation of Himself as such."

I like how you elaborated on what Barth may have meant (prior to this quote); that sort of cleared things up for me. Thank you.

I suppose this is where I differ from some. I find Jesus' presentation of himself (what he said/did/perpetuated) to be intriguing, but not compelling. Therefore, I suppose, I do not believe.

Jon said: "How exactly would you... bring a 4 days dead Lazarus out of a tomb before the eyes of his hostile mourners?"

You're right, I was being much to general (unfair of me). Such a thing could certainly not be demonstrated. In fact, I would go as far to say as it wasn't demonstrated in the first place. After all, why would Jesus weap for a dead friend when he knows he could bring him back? I think (again occam's razor - used very loosely) Jesus wept because he was gone for good.

Jon said: "I agree that they were lucky, in a certain "wow-it-would-have-been-awesome-to-have-been-them" kind of way, but I don't think they had any advantage over us in terms of being convinced empirically that Jesus was God."

I would have to strongly disagree with you here Jon; first-hand accounts are the best accounts, especially in an age before audio/video technology. You went on to talk about the requirement of faith/belief despite his physical presence among the people. Why would this be? If a 4-day-no pulse-dead guy is raised back to life at command would there really be any room for doubt? I'm a huge skeptic Jon, but if I witnessed such an event in that day and age, I would fall to my knees and believe. I think there was so much room for doubt because talk is cheap and most of what people experienced of Jesus while he was on earth as a man was rumour and heresay. And who could blame them for doubting even then? Heck even peter addressed the many names people were giving Jesus while he was still alive! Fantastical rumours have always been/will always be a by-product of primitive and uneducated societies.

Jon said: "And to that I ask: Why does knowing = proving? If that's the case you never know anything. All proofs, even modernity's five-sense empirical ones, come on the backs of some kind of theory or premise.."

I don't know Jon, this is a HUGE bunny trail that I don't think either of us have the time to go down. In the only physical realm I know - the one you and I share - "knowing" and "proof" walk hand-in-hand. And yes, in this realm, we as human beings know a lot, because we have proof, evidence, factual information - whatever you'd like to call it. Philosophically we could take this to extremes such as "I may not actually be sitting in this chair right now, I could just be plugged into the matrix and being fed a logical projection of self". But if that's the case, there's nothing I can do about it, I can only work with the tools I have. Mankind has used knowledge to advance in leaps over the last 100,000 years or so, so having a logical premise based on what we know seems to be the reason we're still here. At least it's the only reason we KNOW of ;) See what I did there?

Trev said...

part 2...I went over the character limit :(

cont/d:

Jon said: "When science explains how the neurons and synapses fire and respond to stimuli to create the feeling of "love" it has not told us what love is or what it means or what its about."

This is working under the assumption that "love" is something that exists outside of neural activity? If so, I would have to disagree. I think the concept of "love" like "god" is something we've created to try and describe a feeling we're having, or help explain why things are the way they are.

Jon said: "The question is: Why should I have heard and not others? That bothers me a lot, to be honest. We could talk about that for a long time. But I can probably address that briefly by clarifying that as a Christian I've come to understand and accept that if Jesus is God, then God wishes to self-reveal in space and time by involving people not only as recipients but as vehicles and participants in that self-revelation."

I love your honesty Jon, much appreciated. Isn't being a "vehicle" kind of an unfairly tall order to bestow upon someone? What if you're in a spiritual slump and you miss the memo? Is someone's blood now on your hands? I know that question is opening up a can of predestinational worms, so don't feel the need to bite on that one.

Thanks again for entertaining my thoughts Jon.

Jon Coutts said...

Okay Trev, thanks. I'm going to go long here, and maybe still not be clear, but its either tonight or who knows when. You're in italics:

"Such a thing [as Lazarus' resurrection] could certainly not be demonstrated. In fact, I would go as far to say as it wasn't demonstrated in the first place."

This is an alternate explanation, then. That's stating the obvious, I know, but it bears stating, and I assume there is some basis for that alternate explanation? We don't have to go there, but the premises on which that alternate explanation was constructed would give insight into your alternate beliefs about reality and knowledge, etc.

"After all, why would Jesus weep for a dead friend when he knows he could bring him back? I think ... Jesus wept because he was gone for good."

That God came all the way into humanity, such that He experienced suffering, would be the reason for the weeping. I guess you are assuming he wouldn't weep if he knew he was going to raise Lazarus. But that isn't necessarily so. I find it pretty interesting to think that in his indignance at the scene Jesus the man, and the Son of God, wept at the face of death. Not only death, which is so contrary to God, but the lack of faith, which presents him with the equally disturbing picture of humankind at its disconnect from its Maker. Your assumption is that God would not suffer or feel sadness.

This is a pretty good example of what Barth doesn't want us to do: Construct an idea of what God is and then see what fits. In Christian theology we are hearing from and about Jesus and in belief that He is the "I am" he claimed to be, we let that construct our understanding of God.

"I would have to strongly disagree with you here Jon ... You went on to talk about the requirement of faith/belief despite his physical presence among the people. Why would this be?"

Because we're not talking about having to believe that a guy rose from the dead or did something unexplainable. This is about having to believe that Jesus, this man from Nazareth, this guy they'd eaten with and washed in the river with and slept near and seen sweat, and so on -- was God; the God of Israel no less. That is the thing. Jesus is God. Thomas might have had a harder time believing this than you or I in some ways. Really. That's debatable I guess. Point is, it is still faith for Thomas.

But Jesus says "blessed are they who have not seen ad yet believe". I really wonder if that's because the new community seeking after God is considered by Jesus to be something ultimately better than one guy on his own with a private opportunity to touch risen flesh.

Jon Coutts said...

"If a 4-day-no pulse-dead guy is raised back to life at command would there really be any room for doubt? I'm a huge skeptic Jon, but if I witnessed such an event in that day and age, I would fall to my knees and believe."

Maybe you would. I'm not sure I would have, I'm afraid. Remember that the struggle for these guys was that this God-man, even though he was in such continuity with the prophecies of Israel, went against so much of what they felt God ought to do. Kind of like us.

"In the only physical realm I know - the one you and I share - "knowing" and "proof" walk hand-in-hand. And yes, in this realm, we as human beings know a lot, because we have proof, evidence, factual information - whatever you'd like to call it."

I don't think this is true. This is a modern reductionism of knowledge to sensual description. And even if we could so reduce knowledge, we would be faced with a great relativity of our "proofs" according to the theories and hypotheses that govern the tests by which we arrive at them.

"Philosophically we could take this to extremes such as "I may not actually be sitting in this chair right now, I could just be plugged into the matrix and being fed a logical projection of self". But if that's the case, there's nothing I can do about it, I can only work with the tools I have."

I don't think that's true either. The matrix illustration is fantastic, but it is just an illustration. The point is that for us to go forward with this presumption of yours we have to believe that what is is, and that our brain functions and the realities that they observe actually have commonality and mutual consistency. Philosophy is important. It recognizes that scientific study tells us a lot about our world, but mostly about the world's building blocks. We still need to think about what everything is for, or whether it can be said to be for anything at all.

"Mankind has used knowledge to advance in leaps over the last 100,000 years or so, so having a logical premise based on what we know seems to be the reason we're still here."

This is a faith statement. I don't think it is self-evident that humankind has advanced. In some ways it has, but who is to say what "advance" is? Was the industrial revolution and advance? In some ways I guess, but in many ways not. How does one speak of advance, exactly? It would be just as easy, if not easier, to argue that humanity, for all its "advancements", has actually regressed. I tend to think it has stayed remarkably consistent in its ability to take 2 steps forward and 2 steps back. I don't see a lot of reason to trust in human progress. I think it is a myth. A faith. And a fairly unreasonable one at that. It also presupposes some way of evaluating good/better and bad/worse.

Jon Coutts said...

"[Is this] working under the assumption that "love" is something that exists outside of neural activity? If so, I would have to disagree. I think the concept of "love" like "god" is something we've created to try and describe a feeling we're having, or help explain why things are the way they are."

Maybe so, but you think that. The science of neural activity does't prove that. Is there no such thing as relationship? People are just reacting to each other based on sensual interactions and brain stimuli? You really think that? I think love is way more than that, even while being no more than that physically. I honestly find it hard to believe that you think this. It is like a geologist saying that there is no need for geography, since we can describe the stones and the earth. Or a geographer saying there is no need for political science. Maybe I'm missing your point.

"Isn't being a "vehicle" [of God's self-revelation] kind of an unfairly tall order to bestow upon someone? What if you're in a spiritual slump and you miss the memo? Is someone's blood now on your hands? I know that question is opening up a can of predestinational worms, so don't feel the need to bite on that one."

Well, yes and no. It is an important responsibility and a calling not to be shrugged. It is an honour and a privilege too. If God chooses to involve humanity with Himself to such a degree, to involve humanity within His very movement to it and within it, then to not partake in this would be to not partake of God. That said, the key word here is that we are participating in God's self-revelation. He is still the agent of His own work. The very way that people participate is by allowing the Spirit of Christ to inhabit them and lead them. This is theology, not apologetics here, but hopefully by presenting how it thinks about itself, the faith can at least make some internal kind of sense to the one weighing it out honestly.

I suppose this opens up a "can of predestinational worms", but is it not possible for God to be the agent of human action while still leaving room for humans to obey or resist His prodding?

I have tried to get directly at the questions above. I hope the frankness of some of the answers doesn't come off as brashness. I appreciate the back and forth.

Trev said...

You said: "Maybe you would. I'm not sure I would have, I'm afraid."

Fair enough. It's beyond me how one could in any way be skeptical or doubtful in such a situation. You can't fake being dead for four days, surrounded by loved ones.

You said: "I don't think this is true. This is a modern reductionism of knowledge to sensual description. And even if we could so reduce knowledge, we would be faced with a great relativity of our "proofs" according to the theories and hypotheses that govern the tests by which we arrive at them."

Correct. It is a modern reductionism, a great one in my opinion. I see no need to go beyond sensual description at this point since it's all I appear to have. I could choose to believe there's more, but I see no logical grounds nor feel an emotional need to do so.

You said: "The point is that for us to go forward with this presumption of yours we have to believe that what is is, and that our brain functions and the realities that they observe actually have commonality and mutual consistency."

It's a logical assumption to make Jon. In fact, it's an assumption that we base our lives on/around. Every time we make a simple purchase, brush our teeth, go to sleep, interact with others, put gas in our tank, we are assuming that what is is.

This assumption is a rational one because it brings me benefits (some instant, some long term). Opposed to the assumption that what is, is not.

You said: "Philosophy is important. It recognizes that scientific study tells us a lot about our world, but mostly about the world's building blocks. We still need to think about what everything is for, or whether it can be said to be for anything at all."

Philosophy certainly helps us to deal with ourselves as an intellectualized species, to help create purpose for ourselves...purposes that perhaps we would've never considered thousands of years ago. But there are various branches of science that also teach us all about the purposes of endless forms of natural phenomena.

You said: "This is a faith statement. I don't think it is self-evident that humankind has advanced"

You're right. I agree with you, mankind hasn't neccassarily "advanced". What I should've said is mankind has endured, overcome and evolved in the midst of great hardships, natural barriers and Earth's harsh climate.

However, technilogically, we HAVE advanced.

Trev said...

You said: "Maybe so, but you think that. The science of neural activity does't prove that. Is there no such thing as relationship? People are just reacting to each other based on sensual interactions and brain stimuli? You really think that? I think love is way more than that, even while being no more than that physically. I honestly find it hard to believe that you think this. It is like a geologist saying that there is no need for geography, since we can describe the stones and the earth. Or a geographer saying there is no need for political science. Maybe I'm missing your point."

Jon, I'm sorry, I don't get how you're geologist/geographer analogy applies. It sounds like you're talking about one proffession saying "this is what it is" and another saying "this is what you do with it", with the latter being rejected by the former...do I got it?

I would never say this about a geographer, because geography is a practical study with practical uses. There is very little practicality with the philosphy of "love" (a powerfully over-used and overrated word).

So yes, against your hopes, I do think that love is merely a word that we've used to describe a neural sensation/trigger. Of course, we use the word for so many damn things in today's society that we could go on quite the "love" tangent.

But, in keeping with the theme of this discussion: Do I think "love" exists outside of our own minds? no. I do not think "it" is "greater" than that. I sincerely think that we can take that emotion/feeling/neurological prompting and do great things with it. But let's remember, all the facets of love (compassion, empathy, romance, relationship, companionship, loyalty) are all found in many other species; not just humans. But we often hesitate to call such "instincts" love because we like to seperate ourselves from other animals.

You said: "He is still the agent of His own work. The very way that people participate is by allowing the Spirit of Christ to inhabit them and lead them."

It sounds passive, but doesn't it still involve a concious human effort....a choice? How much control is a person under in this situation?

I'm not getting how it's God's "self-revelation" and yet done through human effort. It seems like a very impersonal way of making oneself known to another. Wouldn't a phrase like "God's revelation via human ambassadors" be a little more accurate?

Trev said...

Take your time responding Jon (if you so feel inclined), I know you have a busy life :)

Jon Coutts said...

well, we may be at some loggerheads, but I can tell I'm not quite expressing myself properly. I'll reply to a couple things briefly right now but obviously there might be more we could clarify and probably further discuss in person.

Re: the amazement of Lazarus resurrection and the remaining need for faith. I was mixing up stories. I more meant Thomas with the resurrected Jesus still needing faith. But the point remains. While there is little doubt that those who witnessed Lazarus' resurrection would have likely responded as you say you would (as would I), the point remains that time then passed, and doubts about Jesus identity would have crept in, especially as he went on to shrug off opportunities for immediate revolution and power and so on. Faith would still have been necessary in order to believe that this here was God, the Messiah of Israel.

Re: Whether there is "more" beyond the sensual. I really really really don't want you to hear me saying there is the material and then there is the (superior) spiritual realm and casting it in some kind of Platonic, gnostic dualism. What I want to say is more along the lines of "this is "this is what it is" and "this is what you do with it", like you said. Yeah. Not just that, mind you. It is also a matter of saying "this is what it is" and "this is what it is".

For instance, another human being is another human being. Another human being as a creature made in the image of God and a person reached by God along with all humanity in an incarnation event with yet unfolding ramifications for us . . . that is pointing at the same exact is and describing it quite differently.

So, yeah, we logically and importantly and advantageously take it that what is is, but we don't know why, we don't know how, and we don't even know why we should expect it to continue or whether we know it properly. We (well, many) go on faith that this is all we have. That's logical, fine. That's all you have. Fine. It isn't all you have. You have to reject a certain "revelation" of God to maintain it, but that's your faith decision.

I hope that doesn't sound hostile. That's me just trying to name a spade a spade. . .

Jon Coutts said...

I think this love thing is just a side point, an illustration that lost its own steam, so I'm not sure how important it is to track it down further. But, yeah: The emotions of love may be just in our heads. (And lots of stuff passes as love, certainly.) But say a person decides to make a great many sacrifices for someone else over a long period of time, getting some benefit out of it at times but perhaps for long times not seeming to . . . why would they do that? Evolutionary psychology does not give an adequate answer to that. Our brains function certain ways, but we do have a will. Don't we? Do you believe people have a will? Or is it all determined by the complex of brain functions and environmental factors that stand before us?

Finally, you asked regarding my claim that God could still be the agent of human action: "It sounds passive, but doesn't it still involve a concious human effort....a choice? How much control is a person under in this situation?"

I made a totally Barthian move when I suggested that, and I probably wouldn't have done so 2 years ago. I have tended to not be very Calvinist (and still am not). But I'll admit I'm "trying on" some Barthian ways of thinking in some areas and this is one of them.

Theologically speaking, if the God of the Bible exists, Barth wants to say that human freedom is obedience to God. We can maybe best understand this by saying that humans are free when they are obeying their Maker/Redeemer. That makes some sense, until we assert over top of it the Kantian idea of freedom which is that freedom is autonomy. Free will. Not obedience.

But Barth wants to say that free will is contained within this greater freedom. On other words, we can choose to disobey God. To resist. But, Christianly speaking, that isn't to be called freedom in its highest sense. In fact it is an illusory freedom. Unfreedom. It is the free will choice, yes, to do our own autonomous thing, and we are allowed that. But our autonomy is a mirage. When we think ourselves autonomous we are really just making ourselves slaves of other forces (likely many) at work. Even of our own brain functions.

Jon Coutts said...

I hope that makes some sense as I've described it. I'm still working that one out for myself. I do raise it to point out that there are other ways of conceiving of this than we often assume according to whatever stream of Christianity we've been most familiar with.

As for human advancement. Yes, we have technologically advanced. We can do more things with things. I am not trying to sound unappreciative of humankind's incredible potential. But whether our advances in some areas are ultimately an advance, or even within their own fields can ever be absolutely identified as advances, is still highly debatable.

Computer recycling for example. Computers live a half dozen years and many of them end up in a landfill in some other country poisoning the water supply. We could say it is just a matter of cleaning up our act. But when will that happen and on what scale and what will be the next act that needs cleaning up? We ought to try, don't get me wrong. But I don't put my faith in humanity. Even in a place of maybe the most obvious advance (technology), we have frequent and obvious signs of our human regressions.

And on that depressing note: Have a marvellous weekend! : )

I might post something new this weekend, but by all means will watch for any comments you have.

Trev said...

Hey Jon,

Yes, in a blogging sense we may be at a close/impasse on a lot of this.

I'll be brief as most of what needs to be said has been said.

RE: Thomas/Lazerus - Thanks for clearing that up. I do see your point about doubts creaping in over time. If I'm to be perfectly honest with myself, I myself would probably begin to have doubts despite witnessing such a miracle.

You said: "For instance, another human being is another human being. Another human being as a creature made in the image of God and a person reached by God along with all humanity in an incarnation event with yet unfolding ramifications for us . . . that is pointing at the same exact is and describing it quite differently."

I agree, however I think it's important to distinguish between a statement of simple observation and a statement of faith. Again, I see no need to go beyond observation. If this inherantly rejects someone else's assumption of what is is, then so be it. I'll stick with what little I can observe.

You said: "That's all you have. Fine. It isn't all you have. You have to reject a certain "revelation" of God to maintain it, but that's your faith decision."

That does sound hostile! ;)

Seriously though....

Many gods have apparantly revealed themselves to humanity over thousands of years (some in more compelling ways than others). "Rejection" sounds like a very crass and harsh action. I will concede, however that I am "not acknowledging" their existence/claim....but rejecting?

But of course, in the case of Christianity, I HAVE rejected it. If this is called faith, then I am a man of faith indeed.

You said: "But say a person decides to make a great many sacrifices for someone else over a long period of time, getting some benefit out of it at times but perhaps for long times not seeming to . . . why would they do that? Evolutionary psychology does not give an adequate answer to that."

We are not the first/only species to do this. Loyalty and sacrifice are prominent aspects of social interaction among many different species. The direct result of this is often "survival". Does evolutionary biology/phsychology have every social apsect mapped out and explained yet? no. Will they someday? Probably.

RE: Defining "freedom". Thanks for elaborating your point Jon. It will be interesting to see how your take on it develops.

Concering my own take on such. I think we have the "freedom" to move "freely" about within our closed system/environment. But we will always be subject to our own physiological limitations/limiting factors. We're all slaves of something - kind of like what you said.

RE: Tech advancement - I agree, there are a lot regressive tendencies that come with our new toys. Our selfishness always seems to precede our empathy.

I too have little "faith" in man. In a "man will overcome moral obstacles and unite" kind of sense.

My faith in man is different. I have faith in man being man. I think we will destroy ourselves or die trying. Our tribalistic instincts are still VERY prominent (and primatively so) and yet our technilogical advancements are developing exponentially. A middle-eastern man who believes in Jihad AND the justified use of nuclear weapons is a HUGE problem.

Now that we've created synthetic life, I think it's only a matter of time before the neo-human becomes reality and we replace ourselves. And, (saying this with some discomfort) if the earth and all other species are better off wihout us here, than so be it.

Jon Coutts said...

I think I'll more or less give you the last word there. If I were to comment further right now, I would probably want to differentiate Christian theism from other theisms and a-theisms in a similar vein as my original post. I think I understand you. I hope I've been somewhat understandable at least. Thanks for interacting seriously with my post.

Trev said...

Agreed Jon, and thank you too for interacting and giving me the opportunity to hash out some of this stuff.

It's been a pleasure.