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February 04, 2016

Comments

Some thoughts on Matthew's, Jeremiah's, and Zechariah's 30 pieces of silver.

Zechariah 11:12–13
Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.

Matthew 27:9–10
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

It is easy to assume Matthew confused Jeremiah with Zechariah. But since he is not precisely quoting Zechariah, other possibilities exist. The most anyone can assert is that he is loosely paraphrasing Zechariah and got the author's name wrong. But it is easier to believe he is not borrowing from Zechariah at all. But is going by something Jeremiah actually said.

The following excerpts show similarities however the one is not a direct quote of the other.

Jeremiah; "they took the thirty pieces of silver"

Zechariah; "So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver"

Jeremiah; "whom they of the children of Israel priced"

Zechariah; "that princely price they set on me"

Jeremiah; "and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Zechariah; "So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter."

etc., etc.

Since both are prophetic passages they would have the same source and not necessarily borrow one from the other.

I would have to see what the arguments are for earlier dating, but one powerful argument is that the apostle Paul, writing to Christian churches as early as 55 AD, never mentions the existence of the written gospel accounts. This silence I find compelling and is one reason why very few people believe the canonical gospels were written and/or circulated before 55 AD.
This assumes (A) that you accurately dated the Pauline writings. (B) That Paul would have mentioned the written Gospels.

Do you have other examples of writers mentioning other NT writings?

Yes, Paul sometimes mentions earlier letters he sent to a church. But does he ever mention something from James? Some of his writings are typically dated after Mark. Does he ever mention Mark in those writings? I don't think Paul's silence on these matters is very probative. Luke mentions the existence of other writings, but it's not quite clear what he has in mind...it's probably Matthew and Mark, but it could be something else.

It seems to me that there's little reason to think that Paul's silence about the existence of written gospels is a good reason to think that there were no written gospels. Whatever there was wasn't widely read and known the way the OT was. Quotes from the OT make sense. From other NT writers? Not as much.

It seems that you could very roughly date the manuscripts by comparison of handwriting styles...That might get you within a few decades. It is this very method that some of the minority scholars have used to date some of the fragments earlier.

Many of these estimates are probably wrong. I doubt that all of them are wrong.

None of that tells you when the original was written though. It could be a day before, or decades before.

Dave,

Very helpful. Thank you for those juxtapositions!!

I'm sure many more people read these comments compared to those who actually post. For those of you who are dedicated Christians, I invite you to look at the exchange between me and scbrownlhrm.

I don't assume what he or she believes; I showed scbrownlhrm courtesy to define his/her own beliefs and why he/she believes they are true.

In response scbrownlhrm declines to do so and then proceeds to make all kinds of assumptions about what I believe (most of them incorrect) and make all kinds of insults.

I mean seriously, go back and re-read our exchange. All I asked was:

1. What do you believe?
2. Do you believe it is objectively true?
3. Why?

Do I ever get a straight answer? Again, I appeal to the readers to re-read our exchange and judge for yourselves.

I come on to a Christian apologetics website and cannot get a straight answer to the most simple of questions regarding why someone believes a particular religion is true. Which is also what the whole point of the original article writer was discussing.

What does that mean regarding the strength of that conviction? If you are indeed a Christian who believes strongly in your views, what does this say about your fellow Christians and their ability to defend their faith in a rational way?

I'm sure scbrownlhrm will respond with a volley of vitriol and personal attacks as a result of this post.

Again, I appeal to the reasonableness of the readers of this blog and comments section. Is asking for what someone believes and why deserving of ad-hominem attacks? Is that not a reasonable thing to ask someone who takes the initiative to defend Chrisitianity on an apoologetics website?

I submit the readers to be the judge.

scbrownlhrm, if you want to engage with me I am more than happy. But if you want to continue to dodge the topic and start a fight I won't waste my time anymore. However, if you are willing to answer the following questions I am more than happy to engage in a conversation with you.


1. What do you believe?
2. Do you believe it is objectively true?
3. Why?

The choice is yours!

A.J.,

And I am addressing the OP's topic of conjecture via some imaginary dividing line between religious and non-religious claims.

The is no such thing.

Do you agree or disagree?

There are claims. Period.

Do you agree or disagree?

I want to know how you approach knowledge.

So far, the mere presence of "disagreement" seems to trouble you.

That's concerning.

If you agree that there IS a dividing line between religious and non-religious claims AND you take a Positivist's tendency towards knowledge, then there's no hope.


A.J.,

In short, I've wasted tons of time with seemingly sincere questioners before only to get led off into positivism followed by nihilistic dances of equivocation hiding behind a false "epistemic humility".

Terms and presuppositions matter.

I've learned the hard way.

I'm not interested in repeats.

A.J.,

Hence the questions about approaches to knowledge and data points.....

A.J.,

On objective knowledge:

"X brought Y back to life."

The syntax is coherent with observational reality and with the physical sciences. Physicians don't do "violence" to "nature" by manipulating molecules and energy and..... and so on.

The definition of "death" is contingent not on the body proper, but upon the sorts of persons surrounding said body.

Seconds morph to minutes morph to hours morph to..... it's merely a matter of science.

That's valid and justifiably fuels research in medicine over in those arenas.

Yet Non-Theists foist the unscientific assertion that the Ressurrection is, well, unscientific.

But that assertion can *only* be based on an a priori of No-God for it in fact contradicts many, many data points. In fact, it's expressly *un*scientific.

Now that's a simple, easy, and obvious example where data points need to be free of our emotional commitments to our own a priori stopping points.

Earlier, the process of allowing all data points to inform all other data points was raised.

Well that's it.

Then, one just moves forward and repeats the same process with all data points.

The "summation" births one's T.O.E. over time.

There is no magical method here.

*Yet* you kept asking me about which method to use given "religious disagreement".

That's a very concerning question as it first seems to miss the obvious and second seems to belive in that imaginary wall between types of claims.

The "summation" within the "T.O.E." may be what you ought to focus on, as in assimilating new information, allowing reason and logic to reject reductio ad absurdums (that one is particularly problematic for many Non-Theists), embracing the plausible, placing demands on the implausible, and allowing all data points to inform all other data points.

Your requests for a "method" by which to find objective knowledge seems unaware of all of that.

On absurdities, given Non-Theism's proclivity to attract such things, such as the annihilation of the Mind, well, not all roads in Non-Theism need go there. But most certainly do. "Abstraction" amid perception/mind confronts us all and here too there is no magical approach. One just repeats all of the above.

But that seems obvious.

Hence your request for a method was (is) puzzling.

one powerful argument is that the apostle Paul, writing to Christian churches as early as 55 AD, never mentions the existence of the written gospel accounts

Paul quotes Luke as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18. From Michael Kruger:

Another example of this phenomenon is found in 1 Tim 5:18 which says: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain’ and ‘the laborer deserves his wages.’” While the first quote comes from Deut 25:4, the latter quote is an exact match with Luke 10:7. Although one might suggest that Paul is citing oral Jesus tradition, that option is precluded by the fact that he introduces the saying with “the Scripture says.”

From wikipedia...

The dating of 1 Timothy depends very much on the question of authorship. Those who accept the epistle's authenticity believe it was most likely written toward the end of Paul's ministry, c.62–67 CE. Other historians generally place its composition some time in the late 1st century or first half of the 2nd century CE, with a wide margin of uncertainty. The text seems to be contending against nascent Gnosticism (1 Tim 1:4, 1 Tim 4:3)[12] (see Encratism), which would suggest a later date due to Gnosticism developing primarily in the latter 1st century. The term Gnosis ("knowledge") itself occurs in 1 Timothy 6:20.[13] If the parallels between 1 Timothy and Polycarp's epistle are understood as a literary dependence by the latter on the former, as is generally accepted,[4] this would constitute a terminus ante quem of 130–155 CE. However, Irenaeus (writing c. 180 CE) is the earliest author to clearly and unequivocally describe the Pastorals.

Good thing for eyewitnesses.

That first 100 years was certainly busy.

WL: And in all events, my main point stands...the accounts of the New Testament cannot be problematized by Islamic suggestions dating from the 7th century.

AJ: Why not? If it is true that Muhammad was a prophet and received his revelation from God it wouldn't matter what earlier texts said.

Well, if you're going to take that tack (assuming what you're trying to prove), the reason it can't problematize the NT account is that the NT account is the revealed Word of God.

On the other hand, if you want an argument that does not assume what it's trying to prove (the inspiration of the text), then I should think it is obvious why the account in the Quran is not a problem for the account in the NT.

The OP (opening piece) seems to have hit a nerve.

Non-Theists seem to be barking commands all the while unwilling to place their own presuppositional cards on the table.

When the Christian demands evidence for an imaginary dividing line between religious and non-religious claims, we discover a sudden disinterest on the part of the Non-Theist.

Given that medical research in the arena of morphing the contours and reach of syntax of the form “X brought Y back to life” is scientifically justified, a little further on pulling in from all data points vis-à-vis Bayes, and, perhaps, a little further on balancing out our meta-tool-box, so to speak.

I find it so absolutely fascinating how completely different the Christians I know in the real word talk about their faith and how the people who hang out in apologetics communities (groups, mostly online that talk about how their religious beliefs are backed up by reason and evidence) answer questions about their religious beliefs.

1. What do you believe?
2. How do you know whether or not those beliefs are really true?

When I walk into a Church or talk to religious friends from my hometown, I almost never run into someone can't or won't answer question 1. Which makes total sense because most people in general have an opinion and enjoy sharing it with others who are willing to listen. Most of these people also take it as a sign of courtesy that when a person asks them what they believe first rather than make lots of assumptions depending on stereotypes or particular labels (fundamentalist, Christian, Catholic, etc.)

It's question 2 that seems to give these people I speak to some trouble. The vast majority of the time they simply repeat the answer to question 1 and restate what they believe. Common answers are "because the Bible is the word of God and what it says about God and Jesus is true". When I point out that, yes, I understand that is WHAT they believe but what I want to know is WHY they believe those things to be true. Commonly this becomes a repeat of "because the word of God says so" etc. When pressed for a reason why they except the bible as the word of God they either can't answer, make an appeal to faith, or talk about how they "feel it in their hearts to be true".

I remember one of my former pastors said the following to me about the Bible when I asked him how do we know if everything it says is really true? He replied:

"I just believe what the Bible says and don't question or think about it more than that. I'm just a simple guy who has a simple faith."

Of course, this makes perfect sense to me because I grew up in a very religious environment and we were never taught in Church how the Bible was put together or why the canon of scripture should be considered the word of God. It was just assumed and we were encouraged to believe it and not question it.

But what I have found really interesting in the past few months discussing with people involved in Christian apologetics circles is this hardened resistance to even state WHAT they believe.

At first I was totally puzzled by this; I mean, I thought the whole point of Christian apologetics was to help spread the faith by showing why or how Christianity can be known to be true. I also enjoyed watching a lot of debates on youtube where Christians argue for the existence of God against atheist debaters. But again, in the majority of these debates there was no defense of Christianity or the doctrine of the Bible being the word of God. The arguments for God's existence could just as easily be used to argue for deism, Islam or many other divergent Christian of sects (Jehovah's witnesses,Mormon/LDS, etc.)

But I think I understand why there is this hesitancy. Vague definitions of God are easier to defend, and all religious people who watch such debates can apply the arguments to their own unique views, even if they are contradictory to what the speaker actually believes or what his/her church has listed as an official statement of faith.

And when specifics begin to be discussed it causes all sorts of problems and often brings up inter-sect infighting.

If an apologetics website or community knows it has many Catholic followers it will be hesitant to talk about the 66 books of the protestant bible being the only authoritative word of God, as the Catholic bible contains 73 books. Young Earth creationism versus Old Earth creationism is also a similar issue. It makes sense that educated apologist debaters and theologians who understand that the world is 4.5 billion years will be hesitant to say so in public due to the risk of alienating a large group of Christians in the US who believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

But of all these controversies I think the belief in Biblical Inerrancy is the biggest elephant in the room. This is a super common clause in the statement of faith for evangelical Churches and seminaries but apologists do not want to even try to defend it. This also makes total sense because it is indefensible position; all the opponent has to do is find one single error and this it not difficult to do.

The name of the original article is "Is It Wrong to Claim a Religion Is True?"

1. What do you believe?
2. How do you know whether or not those beliefs are really true?
3. Are the standards of evidence in 2 high enough to disqualify other faith traditions?

If you can answer the questions above in a satisfying manner you win the prize; you are now completely justified in your claims as to why some religions are true and others are false.

But an inability to state an answer to question 1 means your finished before any kind of discussion can even begin.

scbrownlhrm,


You stated:

"There are claims. Period. Do you agree or disagree?"

I agree with that, and I don't think religious claims should be given any greater scrutiny than non-religious claims.

If you can show it and prove it than your are justified in believing it. In fact, I find the opposite to be true in that standards required for religious belief are often much LOWER than more mundane claims. This is what I have a problem with.

I have absolutely no problem with equal standards of evidence.

Thinking more about scbrownlhrm's point, I think there is profound misunderstanding of the original objection in the OP.

It is not distinguishing differences between "religious" versus "non-religious" claims per se. It is making a distinction between claims with a high level of evidence backing them up and claims that are highly speculative.

The objection is that it is inappropriate to declare right or wrong, true or false with confidence for highly speculative claims.

I invite you to consider the following two claims, neither which are religious in nature.

1. The speed at which objects fall towards the Earth

2. President Obama's true motivations for supporting higher gun-control laws

The first claim is very easy to verify and the answer can be known with an extremely high level of certainty.

The second claim is a claim about the reasons, thoughts and motivations of a particular person. President Obama has stated that he supports greater firearm regulations in order to reduce gun violence. However, some people on the right claim he is lying and his "true intentions" are to disarm the American people in order to create an dystopian police state.

Because only the individual himself can directly access his own thoughts and beliefs (at least with our current level of technology) there is absolutely no way to objectively verify if his stated reasons are his real reasons.

What evidence could one possibly bring to the table that could prove that Obama is lying about what his own beliefs are? This is why I would consider it inappropriate for someone to say with great certainty that President Obama is lying about this particular issue. Without some kind of mind reading power this an un-provable claim.

Both claims have answers that are objectively true. However, the ability to know whether the answers are true are not are extremely different, with one being empirically testable and the other being highly speculative.

I hope this clears things up a bit.

A.J.,

Low standards certainly are a problem, non-religious or otherwise. It's a good observation on human nature. Non-Theists rejecting syntax of the form "X brought Y back to life" on mere a priori is a good example of rejecting hard science for said commitment.

Human nature interfacing with observational reality is certainly fascinating.

When I hear "X brought Y back to life", knowing what I know I can't really make any decision based on that limited information. All sorts of background data will have to be pulled upon to move forward.

It's a fun process overall and the nice part is that we need never jump ahead of rationally reasoned context.

Eons ago today's manipulation of death would have found the ancient savage freaking out and thinking we are gods.

Science has a way of changing standards and thresholds and "definitions".

Today's Skeptic often reasons much like those Ancient Savages.

We see it a lot.

So what is an appropriate standard to apply to a religious claim? What level of skepticism is justified?

Many religions, including STR's version of Christianity, believes that spirituality is a "high stakes" game. Meaning that if you choose wrong your risk your eternity.

One obvious and common reaction is to see this kind of claim as a tactic designed to use fear as a means of conversion. If a religious movement or church wants to grow it needs not only new converts but also to try to retain as many current believers for as long as possible.

The threat of some of kind of eternal damnation works well for both; it creates a sense of urgency in pressuring the conversion of new believers as well as scares current believers from questioning their faith or exploring other kinds of beliefs.

If the creator of the universe is indeed the one true God but is more of a deist type God (does not really intervene in human affairs and more or less remains hidden from humanity) the lack of evidence for individual religious traditions really isn't such a big deal. I mean, if the creator of the Universe doesn't want to be known by humans, there isn't anything particularly illogical or unreasonable about that.


However, many religions that pursue aggressive evangelism (US Evangelical Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnessess and many smaller cults) use a similar carrot and stick approach. They promise untold bliss in an afterlife or future world and intense punishment or calamity for rejection of their message, whether in this life or the one to come.

Don't such religions have a burden of proof? Don't they need to show some kind of reason why their threats of punishment or offer of reward are credible and should be believed?

I am addicted to drama in politics, especially the recent primaries and often read articles on Politico. In the comments sections there are always a few posts that talk about how they claim to make $1,000 to $2,000 a week working from home online without any special skills or experience. I dismiss these claims out of hand and don't even bother to investigate them. Why? Because I know there are many scammers out there who try to take advantage of gullible and/or desperate people.

Is it POSSIBLE that the person indeed makes $8,000/month from home working 4 hours/day? Yes, I suppose it is possible. Do I think it's likely? No. Because I know people who work longer and harder hours at jobs that pay significantly less, so it I find it absurd that such higher paying easy jobs can exist in such a labor market.

But the biggest reason I doubt such claims is how the claim itself is sold. If I was an employer who is looking for someone to do easy work from home for 4 hours a day and am willing to pay over $8,000/month I could hire someone who I know and trust in my circle of connections so ridiculously easy. It is makes no sense that I would try to recruit someone via an anonymous posting in the comments section on Politico. And if I had any brain cells I would realize that such a posting would compete with all kinds of well known frauds.

Why then, if I was offering something legitimate, would I purposefully try to package and sell it in a way that makes it look identical to well-known scams? It would mean I was either incompetent or someone who wants to intentionally deceive people to make a legitimate opportunity appear more dodgy than it really is.

To be honest, I look at religions in much the same way. Both Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons sometimes come to my apartment in an attempt to evangelize me. Both claim to possess the word of God and both promise me rewards for joining their religions. Both talk about their "personal experiences of God" and the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit".

Both also have no way to show any kind of credible basis for their claims. Spending 1 hour on google gives ample evidence showing that their claims indeed are full of crap. The book of Mormon has so many historical problems it is laughable. The fact that the supposed "prophet" who founded Jehovah's Witnesses failed in his prophesy of predicting Jesus's return in 1914 should be an embarrassment to them.

The funny thing is, both Mormon and Jehovah's Witnesses have apologists who try to make excuses for these problems.

I have 3 options:

1. God is indeed backing one of these religions but chose to package it in a way to make it look like both had failed prophesies of it's primary leader and/or historical inaccuracies in their holy book.

2. God is not backing neither of these religions.

If option 1 is correct, then it means God is either a deceiver or purposefully withholding information that would make his true religion credible.

If I had to make a bet, I would bet on option 2.


If you think my process of skepticism is wrong or misguided I would love to hear why you think so.

A.J.,

Agree. "Carrot and Stick" isn't a rational approach nor is the violation of reason.

Fortunately, neither of those are part of any coherent approach to interpreting reality and building one's T.O.E.

See.

No magic.

Just data points (plural), the PSR, avoiding reductio ad absurdums, and satisfying logic's relentless demands for lucidity through and through.

scbrownlhrm,

"Agree. "Carrot and Stick" isn't a rational approach nor is the violation of reason."

As far as I can tell, STR believes that not believing in classical Christianity means suffering for all eternity.

Do you agree? Do you believe all those who end up choosing false religious beliefs (or hold no religion at all) are destined for eternal torment?

A.J.,


Since "Carrot and Stick" has no role in decision making, it's irrelevant.

Correct?

Try to stay on point.

scbrownlhrm,

"Since "Carrot and Stick" has no role in decision making, it's irrelevant.

Correct?

Try to stay on point."

If you don't believe in hell, that's cool and I'm totally ready to move on. I just want to confirm that's what you believe.

A.J.,

I have no idea on hell's if/what.

Now, since that has no role in decision making, it's irrelevant.

Correct?

Try to stay on point.

This isn't complicated.

A.J.,

Is there a part of the "process" of building one's T.O.E. and interfacing with data points that you disagree with?

Does it appear "spooky" to you? Or "magical"?

It all simply lands in data points (plural), the PSR, avoiding reductio ad absurdums, and satisfying logic's relentless demands for lucidity through and through.


scbrownlhrm,

Would you please stop linking my blog, Theologiansm Inc, in your posts?

Thanks

Whitefrozen certainly. Thank you for the always-helpful material.

A.J.,

Earlier you asked about life after death.

Obvously the unavoidable absurdities which naturalism forces us into compel reason to (rationally) reject "it". The metaphysical baggage of physical systems vis-à-vis causation amid mind and intentionality rapidly pile up...... high.

From Feb 6th:

Once one has a summary of remaining plausible T.O.E.'s, one then continues employing the sane (same) methodological approach.

Plausible Q&A's narrow fairly rapidly.

Then, on ultimate ends of life after death, or whatever, we repeat the process.

We reach our horizon at some seam somewhere.

Which is predicted, expected.

It fits.

Horizons necessarily fail to be *problematic*, so long as one's methodological approach up to said horizon has been faithful.

Running the race, and running it faithfully, is the sum and substance of the Christian's methodological approach.

Objective truths about God?

A primary objection here seems to be either that there are no objective truths about God or else, perhaps, it is the case that language and objective truth are somehow incompatible in any arena outside of a strict positivism/empiricism. Both of those end up inside of deflationary truth values and that becomes obvious as we look at propositional truth and the truth predicate relative to semantic ascent.

On the question of whether or not there are objective truths about God, the first link opens with this:

“That being so, however, it remains the case that there is no peculiarly Christian theory of truth. This is just as it should be, for if Christianity presented a distinctive definition and standards of truth, then its claim to be true would be circular or system-dependent and therefore trivial. But the Christian faith means to commend itself in the marketplace of ideas. The Christian faith claims to be true in the common, ordinary sense of that word and leaves the enunciation of a more careful definition to the philosophers. Thus, when philosophers formulate various theories of truth, such as the Correspondence Theory of Truth, the Coherence Theory of Truth, or the Existence Theory of Truth, none of these can be christened as *the* Christian Theory of Truth, and there have been Christian philosophers among the adherents of each one.

For my part, I find some minimalist version of the Correspondence Theory to be most satisfactory…….”

It concludes with the following:

“In summary, it seems to me that while Christian theology does not propound a particular theory of truth, it is wholly compatible with the traditional notion of truth as correspondence. The Christian world view purports to describe reality as it is and therefore to be true. The challenges posed to theological truth by Verificationism, Mystical Anti-Realism, and Radical Pluralism are all ultimately self-defeating and incoherent……”

Another odd but interesting and (somewhat) related issue has to do with necessary but dependent beings and the semantics involved there.

Ambivalence regarding Christian doctrines (such as, say, hell and/or the afterlife) may on occasion raise the eyebrow of the Non-Theist or perhaps of the Christian as such may seem, on some level, to somehow count against the fact that (as per earlier comments) we can in fact discover and know objective truths about God given the tools we have. Whitefrozen’s response may (or may not) be indicative of such, and, fearing such, I commented on that blog (and now here) to hopefully absolve them of any ill will do to my own ambivalence about the doctrine of hell:


I am wondering why you had made your request. Based on my discussion with another Christian who is much more senior than I am and his reaction to my comments about hell in other threads, I think I know why. My ambivalence about the three (perhaps 4) views on Scripture’s conclusion on the topic of hell are described in several threads. And, to be honest, I don’t know which of the three (or 4) is the full truth of it. While often taking some heat for that uncertainty, both from Non-Christians and Christians, I feel it is important to settle it in my own mind and heart before injecting a truth claim on that topic into any conversation, especially a public one. Reasoning it through and allowing the conclusion to be shaped by the full body of my own Christian awareness has not come to a conclusive end as of yet. I can understand that being perceived as a failure to defend our faith, and I can only say that, if one reads other threads where that same ambivalence is unpacked further, you may appreciate that such is not a betrayal of our faith but rather a pause — waiting for the picture to come into better focus. For any potential readers, my own linking to your blog should not be referenced as any level of association between [a] that ambivalence on my part and [b] you or your blog. Yours is a fruitful work and you do a wonderful job of not only defending both the Christian Faith and the use of reason but also of aiding the intellect, the heart, and the soul in finding good reasons to turn their gaze upward.


My own ambivalence is unpacked a bit in a thread here at STR. In fact, within the (singular) Christian camp, there may be up to four thought-out views on Hell. The book Four Views Of Hell – Counterpoints is helpful although there is a much newer version, Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) which may be of more help. A book from 1897 affirming conditional immortality (which is one of the four views) titled, Conditional Immortality – A Help To Skeptics may (or may not) be helpful to those who wrestle with the concept of Cosmic Fairness (on the one hand) and Eternal Conscious Torment which is also called “ECT” (on the other hand).


Throughout any process wherein we encounter those “horizons” of sight where we find within Christianity various interpretations the process never changes. As noted elsewhere the goal is simply to “.…bring into harmony the greatest number of ascertained facts….. [and] …. disposes of the greatest number of difficulties with the least amount of strain…..” and wherever that lands us just is where that lands us.


The problem for those who seek to foist that “discussions within the Christian camp” somehow count against knowing objective truths about God are several:


[1] Such never can free the Non-Theist of his paradigm’s wide array of reductio ad absurdums.

[2] Such are, simply, no more than this: discussions within the singularity of the Christian camp proper.

[3] Such discussions are, being found distal, of no consequence to all that is found proximal, which includes all those pesky Christian truth predicates whereby Non-Theism’s many problematic “reductios” are surpassed by Christianity’s robust correspondence to the real world.

[4] Given the metaphysical baggage of Materialism and its failure (Etc.) we find this: when it comes to the afterlife it turns out that, actually, there are very few plausible terrains on very few plausible maps, as we’ll see shortly.


As noted earlier, the methodology is always the same: Once one has a summary of remaining plausible T.O.E.'s, one then continues employing the sane (same) methodological approach. Plausible Q&A's narrow fairly rapidly. At some point the many parts and fragments begin to converge and gel with enough explanatory powerfully that one finds oneself exiting the arena of T.O.E.’s and entering the arena of confidence, even of certainty. Then, on ultimate ends of life after death, or whatever, we simply repeat the sane (same) process. We reach our “horizon” of sight at some “ontic-seam” somewhere, and, of course, that is predicted. Horizons necessarily fail to be *problematic*, so long as one's methodological approach up to said horizon has been faithful to both reason and data. Scripture is of course a tested and proven map of “data”. Running the race, and running it faithfully, is the sum and substance of the Christian's methodological approach.


A Comment On Hell and Cosmic Fairness:


Hell of the eternal conscious torment (“ect”) form, or, Annihilationism, or, Universalism, or, Hinduism, or whatever, fail to change the necessary moral landscape of non-fictitious, irreducible Good, the sort which obligates reason as truth-finder to chase love's categorical means and ends. In short, love *is* the highest ethic.


Removing eternal conscious torment from the Christian's metaphysical landscape (which some within the singular Christian camp obviously do) won't change the Non-Theist's painfully obvious problem of fictitiousness in all fronts dealing with love and ought-love and….. wait for it…. cosmic fairness. Normative approval, the Non-Theist's hard stop, finds Roman Blood Sports the high-society thing to do on one's lunch break. And so on. And – similarly painful – Non-Theism ipso facto rejects all possibility of “ultimate or cosmic justice/fairness” given his paradigm of full and final indifference.


It has to be fair: That claim is (metaphysically) true if our discussion here means anything at all, just as, Non-Theism’s Hedges, conflations, and equivocations which come up short of immutable love need not bother wasting our time.


IF / THEN:


*If* the Non-Theist actually believed what he is saying about cosmic fairness, good, evil, justice, and injustice *then* he’d be intellectually committed as [1] a Christian Universalist, or [2] a Hindu, or in [3] the Christian's Conditional Immortality arena. But instead he inexplicably believes “in” and “by” and “of” normative ethics when such affirms the goodness of Roman Blood Sports, *and* he rejects any reality of cosmic fairness. Therefore, trying to take him seriously, without laughing, is indeed difficult.


A word of advice for the Non-Theist who wrestles with the concepts of Hell and Cosmic Fairness: He will have to be intellectually honest if he means to be taken seriously on his complaint, and, he need not waste our time telling us that mutable taste buds can get logic where he needs it to be when immutable love is the only end that *can* actually do the necessary *work* here.


One can find some intellectual respect for Hindus or Universalists (Christian) or the Conditional Immortality folks (Christian) who approach hell from *that* direction of the “complaint upon cosmic fairness regarding eternal conscious torment”. However, when Non-Theists attempt this move as non-theists with hell and cosmic fairness it only reveals a gross unawareness that they are in fact praising Roman Blood Sports within their own mutable and shifting normative ethics and hence cannot possibly believe in cosmic fairness, nor injustice, nor justice, nor right. And, again, to be clear: one cannot possibly believe that *and* in metaphysical (actual) cosmic fairness. Ultimate fairness and justice inside of Non-Theism paradigm of “ultimate indifference” is, to put it gently, an intellectual absurdity.


On (actual, metaphysical) cosmic fairness, on justice, on injustice, there are very important difference of course, but, the only players with any possible claim to rational (metaphysical) cosmic resolutions of evil, of injustice, and of unfairness, are:


[1] Christian A – Volitional Hell and ECT

[2] Christian B – Conditional Immortality (Annihilationism)

[3] Christian C – Universalism

[4] Hindu (said Pantheism is radically different than Spinoza’s brand of pantheism)


The intellectual failure of Non-Theism when it tries to get into this arena is not only blindingly obvious, but what the Non-Theist actually ends up conceding and embracing is just embarrassing. We offer this to our Non-Theist friends: Feel free to pick 2 or 3 or 4 and leave Non-Theism and ECT behind. Why? Because….. cosmic fairness! We come to another “If/Then” here: *IF* one believes in cosmic fairness, *THEN* one believes that fairness is a valid truth-referent. Therefore one will opt for 2, 3, or 4 (we're leaving 1 aside as it's the supposed point of contention).


If one does *not* believe that cosmic fairness is a valid truth-referent, then one need not pick 2 or 3 or 4 and in fact one doesn’t believe in cosmic fairness (as a valid truth referent). In which case one certainly undergoes a radical divergence from the Christian in what they believe given that the Christian absolutely believes in cosmic fairness (as a valid truth referent).


Clarification:


Everybody understands (hopefully) that the Hindu and Christianity’s three interior discussions have important differences. It's not the point here, however. Rather, the point is on two claims:


[1] "I believe in cosmic fairness and cannot believe in any unfair cosmic ultimate actuality. “God” or “No-God” being, of course, ultimate actuality."

[2] "Because I believe in cosmic fairness, cosmic fairness is *therefore* (since we are not speaking of the fictitious here) *necessarily* a valid truth-referent such that whatever paradigm truth testifies of will find that valid truth referent (cosmic fairness) remaining intact – ad infinitum.”


The options are, truly, limited. Finer nuances can be worked out later, once we are well within the walls of what we know houses cosmic fairness. For now the point is simply to test the intellectual honesty of our premises and to get ourselves into something which approximates truth where cosmic fairness is concerned, and, thereby, to test the premise of our own (Christian/Hindu) claim that we affirm cosmic metaphysical fairness as a valid truth referent.

After having just skimmed (perhaps unfairly) the comments here, I have a few of my own, in regards to the original question.

Science? The scientific method is merely an error minimization procedure. While reigning scientific paradigms can still endure, accurate or not. Yet this process, it seems to me, is authorized, or at least can be inferred from: "Look to the stars, night after night they pour forth speech." "..,being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." This "general revelation" is intuitive, logical, and Biblical. If "Truth is what is" then the space time continuum itself is not a liar. I suggest that after Einstein, Cobe, and "dark energy," the Hindu reincarnating universe constitutes an "irrational" view.
Since "proof" is not strictly obtainable ("scientifically"), and none of us has time for anything but trying to ascertain what is "rational" in our "Pascal's Wager" investigations we can only see, not what can be proven scientifically, but what rationally remains in play. Like: "In the beginning..," Hinduism, therefore is certainly rationally suspect, scientifically.

(So is Islam, Mormonism, Jainism, Buddhism, Scientology, etc., etc., etc., in my own humble scientific opinion, while Christianity, i.e. the Judeo/Christian documents remain very much in play, scientifically. That is, there is no (I submit) scientific (current paradigms) problem that remains after examining legitimate translational alternatives from the original languages. But, that is another subject)

Another necessity in determining "truth" is internal consistency. A document may be internally consistent and still be untrue, but no true document will be internally inconsistent with no possible alternative translations/interpretations.

A Christian must also acknowledge that "No one comes lest the Spirit draws them." So, even if one deduces, scientifically, that only Christianity remains in play, as I have to my own satisfaction, this itself is not of our (my) own doing even though, if the documents are true, they will necessarily correspond "truthfully" to what exists.

A final question might be whether semantics are adequate. But a Christian will acknowledge that God has communicated to us in a book, and therefor Christianity is an intellectual endeavor as well as a "faith" result. Whether or not "faith" is any kind of a personal accomplishment. I believe that last has yet to be completely resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

JCG, I think you brought up some interesting points and I would like to discuss them with you in more depth if you are interested.

You stated:

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Since "proof" is not strictly obtainable ("scientifically"), and none of us has time for anything but trying to ascertain what is "rational" in our "Pascal's Wager" investigations we can only see, not what can be proven scientifically, but what rationally remains in play. Like: "In the beginning..," Hinduism, therefore is certainly rationally suspect, scientifically.
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Correct me if I misunderstood you, but I would summarize your point as follows:

1. Regarding the truth about religions we don't have objective evidence that we can verify scientifically so we need to "place our bets" on which religion we find the most rational or compelling.

2. Certain religions can be eliminated or disqualified due to logical inconsistencies or other failures/errors.

3. Christianity has least (or maybe you consider none?) problems or inconsistencies like many other popular world religions so it is the "best bet"

If the above 3 points are not what you were trying to say please clarify for me.


I guess my first issue with this kind of reasoning is that it appears to assume that one of the currently popular world religions is the correct one. In my mind one very real possibility is that none of the religions currently popular are accurate in their representation of God or greater divine reality. Another very real possibility is that the most correct religion is an older extinct religion or a very minor one. The true religion could be potentially impossible to discover (for instance God may have decided to remain hidden) or will one day be discovered in the future.

You also mentioned Pascal's Wager. How do you determine which religion is the "safest bet"? Even within Christianity there are many different models of salvation depending on the sect, which complicates things further.


Another point I would like to dig into is what kind of inconsistency or inaccuracy should be considered reasonable grounds for disqualifying a religion.

You state:

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A document may be internally consistent and still be untrue, but no true document will be internally inconsistent with no possible alternative translations/interpretations.
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A question I have with this standard is that there is always a "possible alternative" translation or interpretation that can be made available by defenders of a particular faith. If all that is required is an alternative explanation or excuse then nearly any religion can be protected from such disqualification.

Of all the religions you mentioned, perhaps with the exception of Jainism, a brief internet search can allow one to find educated apologists who can provide rationalizations of why common problems or inconsistencies in their theology or holy texts can be explained away. To be honest, I see their rationalizations as no more or less compelling than the ones commonly used to defend Christianity.


So let's take one of the religions you mentioned, Islam. What problem do you think it has that makes it disqualified to be considered a true religion?

As touched in the earlier links discussing objective truths about God, we find that, as always, the process is the same regardless of the claim. All claims are found under the singular umbrella of knowledge in this or that form. When we say that Gravity is X, we mean various things by that claim as “gravity” and “is” and “X” are all comprised of an epistemic landscape which is itself ultimately tied to an ontological interface somewhere. As the copied “Q & A” below discusses such is a process of fashioning a cumulative case whereby truth as correspondence explains the real world as we actually find it.

Here’s the “Q & A” with W.L. Craig from the link asking if theistic arguments prove God:

Quote:

Question:

“…….What is the relationship between the phenomena to be explained in theistic arguments, and the thing that does the explaining. None of the arguments prove God as such, but all serve to yield a key piece of the puzzle. But how do we know these arguments refer to the same explanation, and how can one offer the nonbeliever a single argument to show God exists, when there is always an ambiguity in what this word entails? What do you mean when you say that a certain argument leads to "God"?”

Reply by Craig:

You’re making a good point about all the theistic arguments….. though I think it shows, not a flaw, but simply the limits of each argument. Just as the moral argument doesn’t prove God to be omnipresent, neither does the cosmological argument show God to be morally good nor the teleological argument God to be omniscient or eternal. The explanatory ultimate in each case does not yield a full-orbed doctrine of God. What the moral argument gives us is a metaphysically necessary, personally embodied Good; that’s a rich enough concept to merit the name “God,” I think, but if you find that concept too thin theologically to be called “God”, then I’ll just stop with a metaphysically necessary, personally embodied Good. Similarly, the kalam cosmological argument gives us an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful, personal Creator of the universe, a conception rich enough, I think, to deserve the label “God.” But if you protest that such a being hasn’t been shown to be good and therefore God, that’s fine—I’ll just content myself with the description of the explanatory ultimate reached by the argument.

As I have said before, it would be a bizarre form of atheism, one not worth the name, which admitted that, say, a metaphysically necessary, personally embodied Good exists or that a transcendent, personal Creator of the universe exists. So in answer to your question, “What do you mean when you say that a certain argument leads to ‘God’?”, I mean that the argument implies the existence of a being that is most plausibly to be identified as God.

What your question underlines is that the theistic arguments constitute a cumulative case, such as a lawyer presents in a court of law, in which independent lines of evidence reinforce one another to support the overall conclusion not implied by any single argument. This raises the question, “how do we know these arguments refer to the same explanation?” Though much could be said about this, I think that the simplest and wholly adequate answer to this question is Ockham’s Razor. We shouldn’t multiply causes beyond necessity. It’s more plausible to think that the Creator of the universe proved by the kalam cosmological argument is also the Designer of the universe proved by the teleological argument than to think that these are two beings. Similarly, it’s more plausible to think that the metaphysically necessary ground of the universe proved by the argument from contingency is also the metaphysically necessary, personally embodied Good proved by the moral argument than to think that these are two realities. One of the impressive virtues of theism is its explanatory scope: it unites so many diverse things under a single explanatory ultimate.

You also ask, “how can one offer the nonbeliever a single argument to show God exists, when there is always an ambiguity in what this word entails?” This was the very question which burdened St. Anselm. He wanted to find a single argument which would prove that God exists in all His greatness. He had just about given up, when he discovered his ontological argument. This argument, if successful, proves the existence of a greatest conceivable being. I think that the ontological argument is a sound argument for God’s existence. But I don’t see it as a stand-alone argument; it, too, is part of the theist’s cumulative case, for the other theistic arguments provide reason to think that it is possible that the greatest conceivable being exists, which is the key premise of the ontological argument.

End quote.

An interesting look at the question of how the new discovery of gravitational waves affects Lorentzian relativity, the Kalaam argument and the A-theory of time.

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Of course he did. There are many modern examples of high level yogis who intentionally died and came back. Take a look at the free book on soul theory at the blog site at wordpress dot com. https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/

Laws of nature are the only truth. All religions describe the same laws of nature and therefore they are all same and are correct. These laws are well documented in Vedas – soul theory, yoga, yoga meditation, yogic power, reincarnation, destiny, eternal recurrence, universal memory, birth-maturity-death process etc. You will find all of them in both Bible and Judaism. This proves that there was a time when Vedas were known all over the world.

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The reason both the A-Theist (No-God) and the Theist (God) must defend their respective view is simply that both the Theist and the Non-Theist have beliefs about Actuality's primordial datum, Actuality's irreducible causation(s) which just are beliefs about either God or else god, about reality's rock-bottom. This has an immediate and direct impact upon the fundamentally different conclusions which we make about Man, Mind, and Reality in *any* setting with respect to *any* path from non-being to being. Both the Theist (God) and the A-Theist (No-God) has his own terminus of explanation -- the Christian his God and the Non-Theist his god. Those who claim to be floating in a kind of thoughtless-space utterly void of thoughts about reality’s causal rock-bottom are simply unwilling to defend their own explanatory termini. As such they provide far more noise and static than reason and sense.

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