There have always been attempts to rationally defend Christianity, through the means of philosophies, logical arguments, and proofs. I wonder if the mantra should be “Saved by Faith, Justified by Philosophy.” (And yes, that is a play on the word “justified.”) As if philosophical arguments take precedence over the religion itself.
I see more outrage over a logical fallacy than a verse taken out of context. Cries of “strawmen” without quiet explanation. I am reading another blog about Paul’s contempt for the “wisdom of this world,” yet the comments are replete with use of exactly that wisdom today to support Christianity.
It is a dilemma for the theist. Without the ability to empirically observe the supernatural, we are solely left with devising what the supernatural consists of by our observations and extrapolations of the natural world. But the question continually arises—how do we verify that what is natural is at all reflective of supernatural?
For example, we have the concept of “time.” The reason we understand that time has happened is by measuring the amount of change. We can observe it, derive concepts from it, test it and work within its parameters. Having seen it here, does that mean the supernatural has “time”? Must the supernatural have everything the natural does? And if it does, can it be something different than what we observe? Can they reverse change and call it “time”? Can they stop time? Or is “time” such a foreign concept, that we are simplistically explaining a deeply complex phenomenon?
I continually see leaps of, “We have it here, so they must have it there.” O.K., but we all realize immediately that would make supernatural just part of natural. So the theist must modify it to some degree, and what that degree is, or why, or how all remains a complete mystery.
And we talk of morality. I learn that God has morality, but it doesn’t look like our morality. We know He has it, because the natural has it. We know it is different in the supernatural because……well…….because the theist doesn’t want God to have immorality. Therefore, it must be different. We talk of love. I learn that God has love, but it doesn’t look like our love. We know He has it because the natural has it. We know it is different because……well…..because loving God should communicate continually with people and He doesn’t.
Here in the natural world we treat sentient beings with respect. Apparently in the supernatural world, God’s sovereignty does not require it. We hold people responsible for their own actions. Apparently in the supernatural world, one doesn’t. Time and time again, I am informed that supernaturally, “things are different.”
Which is it? Am I to derive concepts from the natural world that lead me to believe in a supernatural world or not? Where does the theist obtain the information to pick and choose which bits stay and which bits go?
Another example, I am informed that by observation of a creation in the natural realm, there must be a creator in the supernatural realm. Fair enough. I also observe morality and immorality in the natural realm. Whoops! Brakes on! All of a sudden I am informed that the supernatural has a different sense of morality/immorality. I observe death in the natural realm. Whoops! Brakes on! I am informed that souls are immortal. I observe the passage of time…..On and on, things I observe here, I am, on occasion, to use to derive the supernatural, and on occasion, to not. Who gets to pick?
Despite all these differences and varieties, the one thing that apparently crosses over is logic—the method by which we attempt to derive what God must be like. It is this logic that the Christian uses to rationalize their belief. And it is good they do so. If we cannot discuss theism in a logical fashion, then all our conversations would degrade into the appearance of a drug-induced psychotic state.
But since we cannot empirically verify anything in the supernatural world, and I am informed that numerous, if not countless, ideas and concepts in the natural world are not the same in the supernatural world, how is it that logic must be the same? Could logic be different in the supernatural world?
And once we say that, then really there is nothing to say about the supernatural world, except we have no way of knowing anything about it, even if it exists. How to get around that? Simple—by definitional fiat. As long as we retain the power to define what the supernatural world must look like, all logical problems can cease to exist.
One of the most basic concepts of logic is that: “A cannot equal Not-A.” Something can’t be and not be at the same time. Is this true in the supernatural world? Let’s see:
1. God = Not (tempted)
2. Jesus = tempted.
3. Therefore, Jesus cannot equal God.
Ah, there is a logical problem. How to get around? Simple—place Jesus, by definition as 100% God and 100% Man, and all logical problems go away. Need Him tempted? Point out He is 100% Man. Need Him to be the atonement? Point out He is 100% God. Dying? Man. Raising Himself up? God.
We have the logical problem of 3=1. What to do? Define it as a trinity, and all logical problems go away. Muck it up with long-winded apologetics, and somewhere within hope that people do not realize you are simply defining what you are attempting to prove.
Elsewhere, I have pointed out how genocide is immoral. What to do, to get around the logical problem of God being moral and ordering genocide? Simply, merely change the definition of genocide from “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group” to “the systematic killing of a whole national or ethnic group, unless God orders it, because He is sovereign and gets to do what He wants.” See how easy that is?
Watch the leap from using logic to derive concepts to actually defining those concepts to avoid the logical problem.
A real world example that is often provided is the property of light. It acts as a particle and as a wave which should be mutually exclusive. Logically, a conundrum that is resolved by defining light as having the properties of both.
“A-ha,” the theist may say, “you are guilty of committing the same infraction. Avoiding a logical problem by definition.” But there is one immense, insurmountable difference—we can observe light. Whether we observe in space, underwater, over Europe, or underground. And, regardless of who observes it, it demonstrates both properties.
Remember why we are even using logic to determine supernatural—because it is empirically UNobservable. Light we can verify—gods we cannot.
Further, we can observe other items in nature (electrons) that have the properties of a wave and a particle. We can compare it to light, and see if these concepts that demonstrate duality, demonstrate similar duality. What God can we compare God to?
I see theists break this conversation down in very small pieces, so that the circular argument cannot be observed:
1. Since we cannot observe (and therefore define) supernatural beings, we must use logic to determine what they look like.
2. Use the logic of the natural world to put forth premises of the supernatural world.
3. If a logical contradiction occurs, re-define the supernatural being to conform to logic.
See how each of these three steps, individually, makes sense, but as a whole demonstrate that theists define that which they attempt to prove?
The multiverse theory looks about our natural universe and surmises that if this universe exists, it is possible that other universes exist. Many theists scoff at this. They inform me that, looking about this natural universe, a “supernatural” universe must exist. One that may, or may not, look like this natural universe, and may or may not, have some of the same concepts of this natural universe. The only thing we know about the “supernatural” universe is that it is bound by logic. Unless defined that it is not.
Rather than philosophically attempt to bolster one’s belief, better to stick with faith.
I once sat through a session with a church leader, answering questions on Christian concepts.
Q: What about the Problem of evil?
A: We think God holds Free will as more important but we don’t know.
Q: What does Heaven look like, and will there be pets?
A: We don’t really know.
Q: How can Jesus be 100% God and 100% Man?
A. We know that He was, we just don’t know how.
Q: How can God be three persons, yet one?
A. We can define the trinity, we just don’t understand it.
(It was, of course, much more theological and descriptive. But in a nutshell, that was the answer.) The final question, though, amused me:
Q: Is it arrogant to say the Christianity is the only way to get to Heaven?
A: Truth, by its nature, is restrictive. It is not arrogant; it is recognition of what is real.
We may not know one single thing about the supernatural, but we can be assured that what a theist says about it must be true.