There are some hypotheticals contained in this
response that I think will clarify some of the
confusion you seem to be having about what I am trying
--- Glenn Morton <email@example.com> wrote:
> Hi Blake, I will respond to the parts in which you
> are replying to me,
> rather than to Burgy.
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: Dr. Blake Nelson
> >Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2002 7:44 PM
> Sigh, It is interesting how you seem to want to use
> extreme language,
> something Burgy chides me for doing also. Can you
> show me where I have
> ever, ever said that Christianity is "a completely
> rational religion"? When
> you find that statement, then we will discuss your
> mischaracterization of my views.
I am not trying to mischaracerize your views. My
point is that concordism, per se, is not a ground for
faith because, inter alia, people may disagree as to
the necessary amount of concordism to prove the
validity of the Bible. Asimov, for example, would not
buy a single of your concordist arguments because of
the views he held regarding what the Bible is.
> FYI at one time I regularly attended a charismatic
> church. I thoroughly
> enjoyed the worship. And one thing one can say
> about a charismatic form of
> worship--it ain't completely rational. So get your
> facts right, Blake. At
> least try to understand where I am coming from
> rather than constantly doing
I am not doing caricatures. In two decades of
teaching I have carefully listened to arguments, no
matter how inane, in order to understand from where
someone was approaching an issue or a problem. I am
always able to be enlightened. Unlike your
supposition regarding my views, I do not presume to
> What was it about Molech that made the Phoenicians
> think he was true? Their
> parents taught them that he was true. And they lived
> what they had learned.
This is a non-sensical statement. There is a genesis
for all beliefs.
> You have a bit of trouble with hypotheticals don't
Actually, having had the opportunity to teach in law
schools, I am quite capable of dealing with
hypotheticals. They are the bread and butter of the
Socratic method as utilized in law school curricula.
> As I said to Burgy, one reason we talk past each
> other is that you seem to
> limit your responses to those coming from within the
> Christian tradition and
> seem to lack an ability to rise above and see the
> broader theological world
> which is out there. And if you can't think of a
> religious tradition which
> emphasizes the sacrifice of humans to please God,
> for that is what
> apeasement is, then look at the Palestinian suicide
You missed my point here. I can think of lots of
traditions that sacrifice people from the Aztecs to
modern Islam groups. None of those traditions, as far
as I am aware, are mystical traditions. I know that
the militant Islam group you are talking about is not
a mystical tradition and no evidence suggests that the
Aztecs were. Of course, this gets into nomenclature,
and there are not hard and fast definitions of these
things. Having had comparative religion as a hobby
for three decades, I am well aware of the difficulties
in categorization. But, in the traditions where such
sacrifices are made it is the slot machine God that
needs to be appeased. This falls into the "magical"
category of religious practice, where rituals are used
to invoke benefit and ward off evil. I realize that
those religious views exist. But as you are well
aware, they are easily demonstrable as false, since
they do make claims which are easily subject to
empirical verification. Does a rain dance correlate
with rain? If you stop human sacrifices, will the sun
god not return tomorrow? All these claims are
empirically testable. Therefore, if you see people
prosper who did not sacrifice their sons, then Molech,
as conceived by the Phoenicians either doesn't care
about child sacrifice, as the Phoenicians thought, or
does not exist. One of the two. They got part of him
wrong or entirely wrong. Your Molech example does not
carry water for the Judeo-Christian conception of God.
You are comparing apples and oranges for reasons I
have tried unsuccessfully to explain.
THey think they
> are doing God's work! So did Bin Laden. But all you
> can think of is what
> the Christian traditions limites your thinking to.
Not accurate, in the least.
> I don't think you actually read what I write. Try
> again when you actually
> read a bit.
I do read every word. To trot out someone that you
have mentioned to try to make my point clearer, do you
believe if Isaac Asimov were still alive and read your
work that he would convert to Christianity? If so,
why? If not, why not? Please help me understand the
effectiveness of your Concordism with this
> I think all such
> >systems are flawed for reasons I have discussed
> >before. I do not believe that God is subject to
> >propositional logic in such a way that we can
> >circumscribe God's attributes.
> As I said to Burgy, but you haven't read, is that it
> is not the apprehending
> of God that I am doing.
I read every word you write.
> It is the apprehending of
> the book which purports to
> be a message inspired by Him.
Here is where you do not read what I write. The book
purports nothing of the sort. The Church, through its
ecumenical councils, has determined that the documents
that comprise the Bible bear indicia of inspiration
based on numerous criteria. We can have a tutorial on
the various criteria that the councils used to
determine whether books were canonical. In regard to
the Old Testament, they pretty much accepted the
Septuagint for good or bad.
Do you understand, hypothetically, that if a book is
in the bible that is completely hogwash, that doesn't
mean the other books are hogwash or that God does not
inspire, it only means the ecumenical councils got it
wrong? That is one of my many points that you either
ignore or refuse to address. If one book or part of a
book is demonstrably wrong it has NO EFFECT on any
other books in the Bible. The Bible is not a single
book and does not purport, in and of itself, to be
anything. The Church has assembled the literature as
canonical that IT (the Church) believes to be
> Warm feelings may not bring one to knowledge of the
> truth. Whirling
> dervishes of Turkish islamic tradition feel really
> good. So to the shamans
> of the Sonoran desert when in a trance. They all
> can't be true at the same
> time, or if they are, then the message is so plastic
> as to be meaningless.
> And don't interpret this from your parochial limited
> Christian perspective.
My perspective is neither limited nor parochial. I
have been a student of comparative religion and
mythology for over thirty years. I am well aware that
lots of things engender good feelings, including
scientific discovery. Folks like CS Lewis and William
James and more recently John Polkinghorne would
classify these experiences of joy as religious
experiences. As would I. I do not think that anyone
is cut off from the God who seeks us and in most
traditions there is a kernel of truth of the
revelation of the one true God, so I do think there is
good reason to believe that certain types of awe and
wonder are universal apprehensions of God. That is
not to say that the edifice built around those
experiences is completely true as I have tried to
enunciate numerous times.
> What you miss is the entire possibility that maybe
> God IS a slot machine.
No, I do not miss it. As discussed above, God as a
slot machine IS an empirically testable proposition.
That proposition seems, generally, to fail such tests.
For all its tendentiousness, that is what Sagan's
Demon Haunted World and many other books like it is
about. I find Sagan's conclusions fundamentally
flawed because he discusses a "magical" view of the
world as religious, when the religious view in at
least the Judeo-Christian tradition is not
particularly "magical". Before I get accused of
knowing even less about comparative religion or
Christianity, one has to distinguish between folk
religion which is still alive and well in all
traditions and religion. As I recall, the Vatican has
only ever officially recognized two Lourdes miracles,
despite the numerous accounts of healings, which may
or may not be true. My point is this is an example
that Sagan uses (without as I recall mentioning that
the Roman Catholic Church only recognizes two such
miracles) in an effort to "debunk" religion. What it
debunks, to the extent that it debunks anything is a
folk religion view of God.
So, God, to all current empirical evidence (prayer and
spirituality studies on health set aside for the time
being), is not a slot machine.
> It just shows
> that you are wanting a
> god of your making. That is fine I will let you make
> God in your image
> anytime you want. But then grant me the freedom to
> make a God for me in the
> image I prefer. And since both are making it all
> up, we can't tell the
> other that he wrong to do it.
This is where you also failed to read my point. The
Crucified God is not a God that I would make. I have
thought quite a lot about this. The God who dies,
apparently impotent and on the cross is not a God that
I would in my wildest fantasies imagine. But, it is
that God, that is the most amazing and wondrously
subtle and loving God. In my youth, Gods like Thor
were much more imagination capturing, or the idea of a
military conquering Messiah of the ancient Jews. Gods
that took names and kicked butt. Today, most of us
want a God that would shower us with money, tell us we
are cool and deserve power and money and fame. Tell
us its fine to drive that SUV and eat $50.00 dinners
while a third of the world starves. That we have a
right to vacations around the world and whatever
pleasures we want. That is the kind of God most
Westerners (or at least Americans) want.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), that is not the God
that revealed Himself on the Cross.
The God that I try to follow is not the God that I, as
a human being, would have chosen to follow without His
grace and love and redemption. It is only within the
tradition and thanks to God's grace that I am able to
apprehend the beauty and majesty of God and the
example of Jesus as God expressed and revealed in
human form. It is only the work of the Holy Spirit
that helps me to not be caught in what I think a God
should be that turns me toward Him and hopefully helps
transform me to be more like Jesus the Christ.
> You really aren't very widely read then. I might
> point out that if God is
> the creation of our minds, then God is created along
> with us who were
> created by with the universe. Thus, one only has to
> include those who
> believe religion was evolved. So, how about Fred
> Hoyle, Stephen Weinberg who
> calls all supernatural beings 'faeries' , Stephen J.
> Gould, Carl Sagan, my my
> friend William Provine, Isaac Asimov, Albert
> Einstein. and many many others
> I could name if I went to a bit of trouble.
I am sure you could, but you did not read my point.
Of the people that you mention (and I have read at
least one book by each of them), only Dawkins insists
that God, to have any meaning, must be a being that is
in the physical universe and being the most
complicated such being would have to take a lot longer
to evolve than we would. So, you did not read my
point. Dawkins is very clear that for god to have any
meaning it must be another thing in the universe.
Einstein, of course, took at least a Spinozian view of
God that it is the universe, which is different from
Dawkins' point. Likewise, Sagan and Gould take very
different agnostic approaches toward the God question.
I can go on to differentiate what I clearly meant.
Not all atheists and/or agnostics find the same
infirmity with a Judeo-Christian conception of God.
Therefore, a laundry list of them is not at all
probative of the point in question.
>ONce again, your logic starts from the Judeo-\
> Christian perspective. The
>issue I was raising with Burgy was questioning the
> idea that 'God naturally
> exists'. Can't you broaden out your thoughts a bit?
Glenn, my thoughts are not limited to the
Judeo-Christian tradition, they are quite broad.
What I was trying to point out is that you have sloppy
definitions of natural. There are four easily
distinguishable options. God exists and created the
world from nothing (traditional theism). God exists
and created (or modified) the world from himself
(panentheism). The physical universe has always
existed and its sum total is God (pantheism). The
universe and God have always existed as separate
entities (a sort of modified dualism). In all of
these situations, God is natural in the sense of part
of all that exists. Traditionally, pantheism is what
you would say if you meant that God is just a
euphemism for all that we can empirically examine.
Depending on which religious tradition one looks at,
all of these options have been used in addition to a
few others to explain or describe the nature of God.
Additionally, another option is only the physical
universe exists. Thus, "God," as part of that,
depending on your atheist or agnostic du jour can be
due to a thousand different interpretations from
Freud's father figure, to Feuerbach's wish
fulfillment, to Marx's political control mechanism, to
a projection of everything that is "good" and
cherished by humans, to Boyer's (or Sagan's) unseen,
postulated causal mechanism, to Wilson's skyhook, to
Flew's self-contradictory definition, to Ayer's
unfalsifiable principle, etc., etc.
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