The First

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The First

Postby convoco » Sun Apr 23, 2006 11:07 pm

I guess this is a place for intellectual discussion.. In light of this, I'm going to attempt to prove that the existence of God cannot be definately proved by rationale... It gives us greater fuel for faith, right?

Please note, this is a copy and paste article I wrote on my blog. Enjoy!

The discussion in class today was over the modern Divine Command Theory first introduced in Plato's Euthyphro. It asks whether an action is pious because God commands it, or if God commands an action becuase it is pious. In other words, the initial problem is whether or not piety is an entity seperate from God. Now, necessarily Plato is going to admit that piety is a Form, so it obviously must exist as an entity seperate from the gods. However, the first horn of the problem (perhaps I've stated it backwards) is whether what God commands becomes morally good simply because He commands it. God can command no evil, thus we must accept that whatever God commands is just and good. In this theory, it only makes sense to view morality in this way, that what we call right means that God has commanded it, what we call wrong means that God has forbidden it, what we call good means that God approves of it and what we call bad means God disapproves of it.
In light of this, a glaring problem of symantics arises. If this is true, calling God good renders an empty tautology. By saying "God is good", all we are saying is "God approves of God". This is ostensibly a roadblock, but I think I can work my way around it, as I tried to do in class today.
I said that it could possibly be rectified by using "like" words. In other words, instead of saying "God is good", it makes more sense to say, "God is like good". In the idea of God's nature, we have a concept of His transcendance built in. Thus, while God could dictate the descriptive terms we use for Him, He's not bound by the same terms or rules.
Now comes the part where I look for feedback. If this is all meaningless banter, then I'd really love to know. (And no, I'm not attempting to utilize Socratic flattery.) Does this solution have any gaping holes? Does this argument first presented have any gaping holes?
That's enough for this evening.
Last edited by convoco on Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
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Postby Marmie » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:36 am

It's definitely important to be definite about how to definitely spell words such as "definitely". Are you definitely sure you spelled it definitely right in your definitive post about how we can definitely not prove the definite existence of God by mere definite rationale alone. But...who's spell-checking anyway? Not me! So I won't even mention "because" and "separate", because, after all, who's checking??? :shock:

As far as the article goes, I haven't time to pick it apart right now, but you may generally be barking up the wrong church tree. We're all Baptists here, remember, and brain-stretching hurts most of us in ways too painful to explain. Lewis? Who was he? Schaeffer? Please. Chesterton, Sayers, Charles Williams? Oh my. Please keep it simple and we'll be able to follow along.... Of course I'm being facetious. Let the theology roll, bro! 8)
Marmie agrees that: ~The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ~ Ps. 84:11
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Postby convoco » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:57 am

ha ha, seeing as how this post was written near 2 A.M (when posted on my blog), I didn't have the energy to spell-check.

Lewis is wonderful and I adore Chesterton, but I've never been so sure about Sayers. I'm currently reading The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards and would recommend it for anyone that needs a little conviction in their life. :)

Also, if you have the chance to just sit down for awhile to read Pascal, don't miss the opportunity!
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
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Dorothy Sayers as apologist, theologian, mystery writer

Postby Marmie » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:17 am

Sayers was brilliant. Of course, we could debate some practical life issues/thought patterns which she allowed, and which I disavow. But all in all, as far as Biblical perspective from a female (though not necessarily feminine) viewpoint is concerned, she really produced some good stuff. Case in point: her book about human creativity, The Mind of the Maker, is absolutely awesome. You might also enjoy Creed without Chaos, subtitled: Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Or, Why It Really Does Matter What You Believe), her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, the small book called Are Women Human? (one of my favorites, a little treatise on the "usefulness" of women in God's dominion), several plays, and a slew of mystery stories.

I had forgotten the name of her book of essays, which is equally brilliant to anything else she's written, so went to Amazon and looked it up. It's called The Whimsical Chrisitian. Someone had reviewed the book, and the review was so eloquent that I had to cut and paste it here. I couldn't have said it better. "With the exception of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers is the wittiest and most logically satisfying Christian apologist of the 20th Century. I would be hard pressed to say which is the better writer, but both stand at the absolute apex of modern English exposition. It is a shame that those who enjoy Dorothy Sayers' charming Peter Wimsey mysteries often do not delve further into her writings on theology, dogma, and ethics, which are equally charming and more consequential. Like Lewis, Sayers has that uncanny ability to make complex theological arguments both accessible and reasonable. "The Whimsical Christian" is a collection of some of Sayers' best essays on religious themes, including the creative mind of God, the necessity of the incarnation, and why personal morality matters. I urge those of you who love Dorothy Sayers the mystery writer to try Dorothy Sayers the essayist. I promise that you will enjoy it and that you will see a new side to a special author."

I notice she has a book called Christian letters to a post-Christian world;: A selection of essays, which I'm not familiar with. Would love to read it however. I have a suspicion that it would be as relevant today as it was when she first wrote it.

Some argue that Sayers was a feminist. I disagree. She did tackle gender issues and often came out on the side of addressing male and female as basically human instead of gender-specific, which can be debated as to Biblical accuracy. But before we pass a scathing judgment on her in this area, remember the verse that says we are "neither male nor female", essentially stressing our humanity in God's sight as being THE primary consideration in how He sees us and how we serve.

A small intro to Sayers. She MUST be included in any serious discussion of theology, Christian apologetics, etc. Hope you have time to read her.

~Marmie
Marmie agrees that: ~The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ~ Ps. 84:11
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Postby convoco » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:25 am

Thanks for this tidbit. I will check her out when I have some time on my hands. I'm currently caught in the middle of several books, including some Berkeley, Lewis and Chesterton. However, when those are all finished, I will certainly give Sayers a try.
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
George Berkeley
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Postby Aaron » Sun Apr 30, 2006 11:57 pm

Lewis is great and Chesterton is pretty sweet too. To add to the original discussion, I would respond that whatever is good is what matches God's character. Good is and flows from what God is. (This has application for aesthetics too, but I shan't get off track.) Gen. 1:31...was Creation good because God made it or because God decreed/stated that it was good? I would like to argue that the actual answer to both this passage and the overall question is: yes. Goodness truly comes from God, but we base our knowledge and perception of goodness on what God has decreed is good.
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Postby Aaron » Sun Apr 30, 2006 11:59 pm

Forgive me, but are we going to respect anonymity or give names? I know the actual identity of only 50% of the previous contibutors.
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Postby convoco » Mon May 01, 2006 1:45 am

Aaron wrote:Lewis is great and Chesterton is pretty sweet too. To add to the original discussion, I would respond that whatever is good is what matches God's character. Good is and flows from what God is. (This has application for aesthetics too, but I shan't get off track.) Gen. 1:31...was Creation good because God made it or because God decreed/stated that it was good? I would like to argue that the actual answer to both this passage and the overall question is: yes. Goodness truly comes from God, but we base our knowledge and perception of goodness on what God has decreed is good.


This is speaking from a purely philsophical standpoint, so please don't think I support this theologically.. The problem with saying the above is that the word "good" itself becomes completely arbitrary in a moral sense. If God so chooses to declare that which we consider good, evil, then it is necessarily good. The term itself loses all meaning, again rendering only an empty tautology.
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
George Berkeley
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Postby convoco » Mon May 01, 2006 1:50 am

was Creation good because God made it or because God decreed/stated that it was good? I would like to argue that the actual answer to both this passage and the overall question is: yes.

You also practically repeated yourself in this manner. The competing questions would rather be: Is Creation good because God made it, or did God make it because it is good?

Divine Command (as, hopefully, would most Christians) would hold that the first is the answer.
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
George Berkeley
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Postby Marmie » Mon May 01, 2006 11:12 am

Unfortunately, we haven't all had the opportunity and chosen the path to a proficiency in philosophy, though if we were living 100 years previously, it would be a given. But then again, if that were the case, we wouldn't be "emailing" our thoughts to one another, and the "Internet" would be some sort of new fishing device.

So...convoco, please give us bite-sized pieces of your brain at one time, give us time to process them, then let us hash and rehash those clearly presented theses. Though many of us have read Lewis, Schaeffer, etc., we haven't prioritized the philosophical processes it takes to cogently discuss them. We can analyze bits and pieces of what you're saying, but then need you to be sure to clarify (demystify?) your comments.

For instance, in the future you might want to spell out the meaning of words such as "tautology" (even in parenthesis), for the sake of clarity. Remember that the thing that made Lewis such a likable, effective, apologist, was his ability to speak to the "common man". He had an unparalleled knack for taking complex thoughts and breaking them down into yummy, chewy, digestable pieces that sat well on the mental and spiritual stomach.

If I understand what you're saying, "God is like good" would infer, in my opinion, that we can rationalize the existence of God by comparing Him to what we know is good in this life. Unfortunately, some know so little of what is truly "good", that it may render them rationale-impotent. In this case, it's my firm belief that these people (which may include most of unconverted humanity) will have to see this form of true goodness in true believers. When they see this and experience this goodness in the form of kindness, love, and acceptance, they can begin to grasp the possible reality of a God. They can, essentially, begin to "rationalize" a Divine Being. Is this where you're coming from? I realize you're approaching it from the purely philosophical angle, but in my attempt to apply this practically, am I hitting your target?

Good stuff discussions.
Marmie agrees that: ~The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ~ Ps. 84:11
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Postby convoco » Mon May 01, 2006 5:36 pm

I will reply to this later on in a more general sense, but let me first make a brief reply to what was later stated.
I think it's quite dangerous for us to rationalize God in any way. Philosophy and Theology have proven that the rationalization of God's existence and of His nature are impossible. The reason I call it dangerous is that the rational faculty is something that belongs only to humans in order that we might dissect the world appropriately. God Himself, on the other hand, transcends our understanding. If God were able to be rationalized, it would be, in my opinion, a direct contradiction of His deity. I can expound upon this later, if necessary.
Secondly, what is it we call "good" and why do we call things by that name? To understand this, we must know first what "good" is. Goodness, in the opinion of many, is what flows from God. Yet, this is only a description of goodness and its origin. I still have failed to define goodness. Is goodness a Form?
Uh oh, Christianity could look alot like a Platonic form of thought. I guess this is why Justin Martyr (good Early-Church-Father reading, by the way) considered Plato himself to be a Christian. His philosophy was so amazing.
And noting that I've found myself way off topic, I will leave it at that.
"We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see."
George Berkeley
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Postby Aaron » Mon May 01, 2006 11:24 pm

Part of the problem in defining goodness is that it is by nature abstract. Define love. I can give you a host of verses telling us what love looks like and what love does. But a definition of love? The dictionary will give you several definitions all having to to with actions or feelings. Similarly, goodness cannot be defined completely in relation to itself. The definition of goodness, inasmuch as pertains to so much of life and philosophy, must include its Source and its output (what it does.) What we define as good must match up with what God calls good. We must have as our cornerstone God's definition. What is God's definition? I don't know of one specific passage that totally defines goodness but Galations 5:19-23 will give a good start. Most of the book of Proverbs will probably be of help. And the descriptions of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2 and descriptions of the Kingdom of God in Revelation 21 and 22. Not saying that any of you don't know what good is, but if you want to define it (especially Biblically), look in those passages.

(by the way, thanks for having these discussions. sometimes i may be way off the wall, but it's cool to talk about these things. and i just like the thrill of a good debate.)
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Postby Marmie » Wed May 03, 2006 11:24 am

convoco said, "I think it's quite dangerous for us to rationalize God in any way. Philosophy and Theology have proven that the rationalization of God's existence and of His nature are impossible. The reason I call it dangerous is that the rational faculty is something that belongs only to humans in order that we might dissect the world appropriately. God Himself, on the other hand, transcends our understanding. If God were able to be rationalized, it would be, in my opinion, a direct contradiction of His deity."

My reply is that humankind naturally rationalizes any and everything, a God-Being included. We WILL rationalize God, no matter how dangerous the process. When I said, "'God is like good" would infer, in my opinion, that we can rationalize the existence of God by comparing Him to what we know is good in this life," I was speaking of the natural processes that go on in humankind's mind on a regular basis. I'm not speaking specifically of Christian thought and what we know to be true, but this truth can apply to us, too. We use apologetics to rationalize what we believe, whether we think of it that way or not. Humankind will rationalize, and they just may rationalize the existence of a greater Being, a Being of goodness (i.e. a Divine Being, God), based on the goodness they see around them, or lack of it. It may be dangerous to base our greatest life decisions on our own rationale about God, but nevertheless it happens anyway. Thus my thesis that the goodness of believers as they honestly display that goodness to one another and to those who don't know (but may occasionally or regularly rationalize) this Supreme Being, will make a difference in nudging others to seek Him.

You said, "Secondly, what is it we call "good" and why do we call things by that name?" Let me respond. Consider a stone age tribe that has just gotten their first missionary influence. The missionary is translating the language, a series of "words", clicks, noises, and inflections. He's starting from ground up. He notes that when someone does something favorable for someone else, a certain word of approval is used. He sees a pattern of favorable or kind or gentle or sacrificial activities that are referred to by the same noise with a "click" of the tongue at the end. He finally interprets this word to be consistent with what we call "good". He then does his stuff to translate the Bible into this tribe's language, and whenever the concept of "good" in addressed in the Bible, he uses the word the tribe uses for those favorable and kind and gentle and sacrificial activities. He has defined "good" for this stone age tribe, a definition based on what they can see, feel, experience, and act out. I think the same is true for us. We equate certain actions or feelings with a word that we have historically (though we may not know how it came about) tied to those actions or feelings.

The same thing with love. We tie the word to what we know experientially about this abstract (yet very real) word called "love". Maybe Lewis was compelled to write about "The Four Loves" because he had the same questions and wanted to provide at least a semblance of some answers. Love is a word that can mean numerous things, and cannot mean others. It's a word that can be interpreted various ways by various people. It can mean one thing to me and another to you, but by true definition may elude both our conjectures. But the encouraging thing is that we don't have to remain in the dark, though we love to discuss what love really means. We DO, as Aaron said, have the rulebook on love. We have it defined, demonstrated, and detailed in God's Word. We have it displayed in His character, and we find that character delineated (as much as we mortals can grasp, anyway) there, too.




Explain "Platonic form of thought". It will help us see where you're going with this.
Marmie agrees that: ~The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ~ Ps. 84:11
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Postby Marmie » Thu May 04, 2006 9:18 pm

Why does "philosophy" generally carry a negative connotation within Baptist circles? Your thoughts?
Marmie agrees that: ~The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ~ Ps. 84:11
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Postby Aaron » Thu May 04, 2006 10:27 pm

Answer #1: There is this idea that Theology is the only worthy pursuit for a man/woman of God. Any other sources of knowledge aren't worth the time or effort. No other education is needed except a solid Bible degree. Now I agree that a pastor should have a solid Bible education (probably even a seminary degree or two) under his belt. But we live in a pagan culture! Even the great pharisee Paul had a trade and a reasonable knowledge of philosophy. Our message is offensive enough, we need a way to relate to those around us. We accept that we can't rationalize people into heaven, but that hardly means that we can't use their philosophical systems to show them their own errors.
Answer #2: A large percentage of Baptists don't have the mental muscle for it. There are two generations of ministers behind us that have been taught to believe what they believe because it is what is taught or it is right. This is why we have so many troubles with "preferences" or "standards." So many people don't know how to think on their own. They don't distinguish between Bible truth and man's interpretation. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that every controversial issue is a preference. And just because a view is traditional doesn't mean it needs to be rejects. But our generation needs men and woman who can defend their beliefs from the Bible, not some professor or pastor. Now this viewpoint comes largely from being in the Bible College sphere. I'm interested to hear an answer from the "real world."
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