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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Invisible Gardener

Under this post, an atheist writes,

I suspect that any entity capable of creating universes is pretty much unknowable and incomprehensible. I'm certainly not going to say that such an entity can't or doesn't exist, but as to the details, to steal a line from Darwin, a dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.

I was reminded of a parable Anthony Flew liked to cite during his atheist days (who died renouncing his atheism, btw) about the invisible gardener.

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.' So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.' At last the Skeptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?'

That led me to an essay by John Frame on God and Biblical Language and his comments therein upon the concept of falsification. I appreciate his masterful parable in response,

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertilizer, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries. The other ignored the gardener and turned away: “There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said; “this must be some trick. Someone is trying to discredit our previous findings.” They pitch camp. Every day the gardener arrives, tends the plot. Soon the plot is bursting with perfectly arranged blooms. “He's only doing it because we're here-to fool us into thinking this is a royal garden.” The gardener takes them to a royal palace, introduces the explorers to a score of officials who verify the gardener's status. Then the sceptic tries a last resort: “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It's still a hoax!” Finally the believer despairs: “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage, as you call it, differ from a real gardener?”

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58 Comments:

Blogger Bernd said...

You have a parable. Well, I guess that answers the questions.

6:42 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Glad you stick around to check what I post.

It's not meant to answer questions. It's meant to expose the folly in your overall reasoning.

BTW, have you taken the proof of God's existence test, yet.

http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

6:46 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger The Squirrel said...

Isn't the unknowable-ness of God one of the main tenants of Divine Revelation? Other than His existence and His great power, which is evident to all from the world around us (Romans 1:20 ff)we can only know what He reveals to us about Himself.

Squirrel

7:07 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

That is what I tried to explain in the original comments. Certainly God is unknowable and incomprehensible, UNLESS He intentionally reveals Himself. Which He so clearly has, but is ignored and denied by the atheist.

7:15 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"Isn't the unknowable-ness of God one of the main tenants of Divine Revelation?"

Well, there you go then. We're in agreement.

7:43 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Bernd,
I see that you avoided my last questions to you on the previous post. The questions about 'I don't know', 'I haven't a clue', and whether a lifelong commitment to this worldview, this philosophy of life, can make sense of your experience. I know that God is working on you Bernd, He's close, real close. You are internally conflicted and seeking answers (your willingness to hang around here on a Christian blog and dialog about these things tells me this is not a mere intellectual exercise for you), to life's big questions. I think you realize that the 'I don't know', 'I haven't a clue' philosophy is insufficient, extremely lacking, missing on so many cylinders so to speak, and you are seeking something more. You realize you are finite, yet personal, with aspirations and hopes that your life has significance, has purpose. That when you tell someone you love them, it really means something, in a transcendental, cosmic way, not mere empty words, and bears true significance to that other person because of your own identity as a person with significance yourself.

I think you realize that this life is not all there is, that there's got to be something more. That the 'I don't know', 'It doesn't matter', 'I haven't a clue' leaves you wanting in a real, tangible way. That there's still a hole somewhere, a void, a piece of your life missing. I pray (yes, there is a God who hears my prayer) that you keep seeking to find that missing piece, keep knocking for answers to the big questions, keep asking for God to reveal Himself to you. He's close, Bernd, real close.

7:49 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

What I don't get is why it is either all or nothing for so many people. For them, either God is so great that we can't know or understand His works and His ways or if He lets us in on some of His work, that we have to know everything about how He did/does/will do it.

In reality, it is amazing that God chooses to let us know more about Him than what is evident from the world around us. And we should treasure every little bit that He lets us know about Himself.

8:21 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Well, there you go then. We're in agreement.

We're in agreement how exactly? Are you now acknowledging that God can and does reveal Himself?

8:43 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Fred,

"We're in agreement how exactly? Are you now acknowledging that God can and does reveal Himself?"

We're in agreement about the unknowable-ness of God. Further, if God is unknowable, then you can't know if God can reveal herself. Maybe yes, maybe no, who knows? If God is unknowable, then you can't know the answer to the revelation question. You can't know if God possesses a specific and defined trait, such as the ability to reveal herself to humans. Could be revelation is possible, but maybe not.

You know, it seems to me that there are a lot of folks claiming to have "revelations" from various gods, and lots of these revelations are in conflict with each other. So, I'm not finding much to convince me that we're getting any actual revelations from any actual gods. Can't completely rule out the possibility, but I'm not seeing it.


Steve,

I appreciate your thoughtful questions and comments. I suppose I hang out at blogs such as these for various reasons, but I think the main reason is that it’s much more interesting to discuss things with people with different views as opposed to just hanging out in echo chambers.

Now, as to the other questions, of course we all hope that life has some meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, our desire that life be something with meaning and purpose doesn’t make it so. It could, however, lead us to invent a meaning when that particular meaning doesn’t really exist. For example, if there are no revelations from gods, then there are no revelations from gods. If it happens that there are no revelations, then our desire for revelation doesn’t change reality, but it could lead us to imagine that revelations occur.

If “I haven’t a clue” is insufficient, well then, so be it. It could be that when I tell someone I love them, I’ll just have to settle for what it means here on earth during my lifetime. Maybe that’s just reality. That’s ok. It’s been my experience that such love is still pretty darn good and “transcendent”. May not be “cosmic”, but certainly not without meaning.

By the way, I assume that most of the visitors here are Calvinists. Well, given that, my fate is already sealed, right? If God wants to do the revelation thing, it’ll happen. If not, I can’t change that. So, while I appreciate the sentiment behind any prayers aimed in my direction, they seem pointless to me.

10:04 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Bernd,
Do you even understand how ridiculous your objection is?

Let me ask you this. Do you know me? Am I unknowable or knowable as a person? How could you prove I existed if you have never known me?

Did you go to that link and take that Proof of God's existence test? That may help you get a handle on your on worldview you advocate.

10:12 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"Do you even understand how ridiculous your objection is? Let me ask you this. Do you know me? Am I unknowable or knowable as a person?"

I think that you are confusing knowledge with certainty.

10:16 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sloan said...

I've read through Frame's parable several times, and I still don't get it. Is he arguing that the existence of God is as real, tangible, and easy to discern as finding a gardener in a jungle? Because if that's the case, well...that's a head-scratcher, for sure.

My work filters won't allow me to get to the website and see the quote in context (apparently it's streaming audio or something like that, which is verboten here at work). So maybe I'm missing something.

10:19 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sloan said...

Well, *I* took the test. I clicked the button that said "I don't know if absolute truth exists." Then I answered "Absolutely True" to the question "I don't know if absolute truth exists." It is absolutely true that I don't know if absolute truth exists; my personal knowledge is limited on the subject of whether or not absolute truth exists, and I admit that fully and completely...one might even say "absolutely."

So what happens next? The site shunts me back to the first question.

There's nothing wrong with the way I'm answering these questions. I'm pretty sure this is not what Dr. MacArthur would consider good apologetical reasoning.

10:39 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I think that you are confusing knowledge with certainty

Really? You distinguish the two?
So you basically believe a person can *know* something is true without being certain about it? Which I guess would mean you are certain you know I probably don't exist?

10:48 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sloan said...

HAH!! And now I find out that if you select "I don't know if absolute truth exists," BOTH of the answers to the follow-up question send you back to the beginning. Nice.

So, basically, this site has no reply for the agnostic. The one who admits his own ignorance on matters metaphysical gets an endless loop. What a great approach to evangelizing the masses!

Hey Bernd, don't waste your time, buddy.

I checked out the other options, and I get it; they're making the moral argument. I happen to think there's some merit to the moral argument, but it's not an unassailable approach that is going to drive people to the Gospel, or even necessarily to theism.

10:50 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

There's nothing wrong with the way I'm answering these questions. I'm pretty sure this is not what Dr. MacArthur would consider good apologetical reasoning.

The test is designed to press your convictions that are born from your worldview. Most atheists believe there is no absolute truth, ala Bernd, or they cherry pick what they want to believe is absolute truth and what is not. On the contrary, knowing John like I do, he would disagree with your assessment.

I've passed you opinion on to the webmaster. He's an acquaintance. I asked him to drop by and comment, perhaps he will.

Is he arguing that the existence of God is as real, tangible, and easy to discern as finding a gardener in a jungle?

Those are selections from a larger article to which I linked. Frame expands on the concept of language in his book on The Knowledge of God. It would be worth your time wrestling through it.

But to your larger point, the parable exposes the denial of a skeptic, who insists certain things cannot possibly exist, in this case, a gardener maintaining a royal garden. SO when he is faced with the truth of such a gardener, he makes up excuses to explain away what is so obviously clear. God has clearly revealed Himself in both nature and scripture, and like the skeptic in the parable, the atheist makes excuses to explain away such clarity.

10:56 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sye TenB said...

”I asked him to drop by and comment, perhaps he will.”

He will! Thanks for the invite Brother! :-)

”It is absolutely true that I don't know if absolute truth exists”

You don’t see the problem there?

”So, basically, this site has no reply for the agnostic.”

There are no agnostics (or atheists), merely those who either profess or suppress the truth. The site is designed to expose the suppression of truth.

11:14 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"So you basically believe a person can *know* something is true without being certain about it?"

Now you're confusing truth with knowledge.


"The parable exposes the denial of a skeptic, who insists certain things cannot possibly exist."

Ah, so it's not relevant to what I've been saying. No wonder it doesn't make sense.


"God has clearly revealed Himself in both nature and scripture."

You sure? Well, seems like a matter of opinion to me.

11:17 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sloan,
Here's your opportunity for direct questions. Sye's pretty good about taking and fielding objections.

11:17 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Now you're confusing truth with knowledge

How can you *know* something is truth without having *knowledge* about it? You seem to think knowledge and truth are in separate categories.

11:20 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sye TenB said...

"I happen to think there's some merit to the moral argument, but it's not an unassailable approach that is going to drive people to the Gospel, or even necessarily to theism."

Problem is, you can't get to the moral argument without affirming absolute truth, so discussing morality before we clear up your objection there is pointless.

11:23 AM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

Bernd,

You are confusing thinking or having an opinion with knowing. If you really know something, then it has to be true. However, one can think something that is not true or have an opinion that is not true. There is a big difference between knowing and thinking something. For example, you think that God does not reveal Himself in the Bible. You can think that, but it is not true.

12:00 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"You seem to think knowledge and truth are in separate categories."

Well, I should be more specific. It depends on how you define truth.


"If you really know something, then it has to be true."

So, what does "really know something" really mean?


"For example, you think that God does not reveal Himself in the Bible. You can think that, but it is not true."

Or we could say that you think that God reveals Himself in the Bible. You can think that, but it's probably not accurate.

12:33 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

I clicked the button that said "I don't know if absolute truth exists." Then I answered "Absolutely True" to the question..."

Seriously??? After stating that you don’t know if absolute truth exist you then answered something to be absolutely true and you don’t see the problem????? You honestly don’t see the contradiction in what you’re saying?

I think we’re being punked gang. Either that or we are seeing one of the clearest examples of “willful ignorance” I’ve ever seen.

12:40 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sloan said...

Actually, I think *I* am the one being punked. I'm wondering if y'all are just playing semantic games with me.

So, before we go any further, would you do me a favor? Please define for me the terms "absolute" and "absolute truth," and what it means to know something "absolutely." Because I think we may be using different definitions.

1:10 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I am just operating by the standard definition of absolute and truth. I just searched both terms and found them at both dictionary.com and the Merriam-Webster dictionary site.

What's your definition? How could it possibly be different? You do believe 2+2 = 4? You do believe in laws of logic, right? Sye's test went on to address those as well. Did you give up before you got there?

1:22 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Bernd, you said:
'Now, as to the other questions, of course we all hope that life has some meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, our desire that life be something with meaning and purpose doesn’t make it so. It could, however, lead us to invent a meaning when that particular meaning doesn’t really exist.'

We're not talking about desire, Bernd. I'm asking you to evaluate your own experience in living 'this' life, 'your' life, to see if it makes sense experientially with an 'I don't know', 'I haven't a clue', 'It doesn't matter' philosophy. To honestly answer the questions of existence and purpose from within your own philosophy.

4:31 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"I'm asking you to evaluate your own experience in living 'this' life, 'your' life, to see if it makes sense experientially with an 'I don't know', 'I haven't a clue', 'It doesn't matter' philosophy."

With respect to which version of "God" is correct (if any), then I would say that the experiences of my life and the observations that I have made have led me to the conclusion of "I don't know, I haven't a clue". With respect to this particular question, the older I get, the less I know. Certianly, the older I get, based on my experiences, the less the various Christian versions of God make sense. Please note these phrases are being specifically applied to the specific question of which human-described versions of universe-creating entities are accurate.

Now, I never said "it doesn't matter". So, I'm not sure what this phrases refers to or what to say about it.

5:34 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

Ron:

I think atheists really come around to provide us with entertainment. How else can they justify the time they waste evangelizing?

Sye:

Thanks for stopping by! I love it that you have time to talk with us!

9:11 PM, December 07, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Sloan said: “I think *I* am the one being punked. I'm wondering if y'all are just playing semantic games with me.”

A few years ago I went to a book signing by Greg Koukl for the book “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air”. Before he started to speak about the book he told the audience that it never failed that even after he explained how relativism was self-contradictory someone would still speak up and argue that it wasn’t and in so doing prove that it was. I remember thinking that it sure wouldn’t happen now that he had warned us.

After he spoke for about 20-30 minutes he opened up for Q&A and a few hands went up, but no hand went up faster than the guy to my left, “Frank”, I will never forget his name. He stood up and proceeded to tell Greg that, in his opinion, no opinion was any better than other opinion, including Gregs, and no one should think that they know the truth. The only thing that kept me from falling out of my chair was my jaw bracing me by hitting the floor first. Giggles went through the audience and Greg just smiled and then calmly asked “Frank” if he thought that his (Franks) opinion was true, and he, with all the confidence in the world, said yes.

They went back and forth for a few minutes with Frank digging a deeper and deeper hole as Greg kept showing him that his statements were self-contradictory, and therefore false by definition, but Frank just kept on going. Finally Frank just looked at Greg and said, “you’re just playing word games” and sat down. We all chuckled and Greg went on to someone else.

I always wondered about Frank and now I don’t need to wonder anymore. Apparently he changed his name to Sloan and is alive and well.

1:31 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

Bernd,

Why does God not make sense to you? And don't talk about which god you like best, I'm talking about the one, true God. Do you think that man actually came up with the Bible all by himself? It seems to be rather embarassing if that is the case. In the Bible, man can't do anything right on his own...God is always at work to make things work out right. Sometimes that involves man submitting to God's will and sometimes it involves miraculous actions where God acts directly. But there is no case where man can work things out on his own and the Bible is clear that there is no such thing as a person who does good and is seeking for God on his own. Just read the following verses and tell me how comforting this is and why man would invent this on his own:

"For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (the real meaning of the word is menstual cloth); And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

"As it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one.' 'Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,' 'The poison of asps is under their lips'; 'Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness'; 'their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of GOD before their eyes.'" (Romans 3:10-18)

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishe to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24-25)

I could add many, many more, but I think that you get the idea. I don't seehow any of this is comforting at all and how you think that somebody just invented this. Throw in the fact that there are so many different authors of the different books from various times throughout history, and the totality of the accuracy of prophecies of foretelling that have been fulfilled, and I just don't see how one can make an argument against Christianity and the Bible. One can deny it, but just as Romans 1 says, such a person is only denying and supressing the truth, as well as exchanging the truth for a lie.

Scripture is also clear that God is patient and longsuffering, but that He will judge those who die in their sins and cast them into the lake of fire. Please take this time to humble yourself and read the Word of God for yourself. Forget any misconceptions you may have been taught or that you have on your own. Start with John...learn about Jesus as the Bible defines Him.

5:16 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger The Squirrel said...

Sloan said...
'Please define for me the terms "absolute" and "absolute truth," and what it means to know something "absolutely."'

"Absolute truth" is 100% true 100% of the time. If anything is 100% true 100% of the time, then "absolute truth" exists. If nothing is ever 100% true 100% of the time, then "absolute truth" does not exist.

Hope that helps...

Squirrel

6:17 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Bernd,
You're equivocating. On the one hand you say you're not an atheist (previous post on the other thread), yet on the other hand above you say you don't know which version of "God" is correct (if any). How can we have a serious discussion when you are talking out of both sides of the mouth?

6:28 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"Why does God not make sense to you?"

I'm afraid that it would days to provide a full answer.


"I'm talking about the one, true God."

You are talking about your version of God.


"Do you think that man actually came up with the Bible all by himself?"

Do you think other people of other faiths came up with their sacred texts all by themselves?


"I don't seehow any of this is comforting at all and how you think that somebody just invented this."

We don't want to die. It's quite tempting to invent a philosophy or theology that offers eternal life. Throw in threaths of eternal toture if you reject the theology, and you have a winner.


"You're equivocating. On the one hand you say you're not an atheist (previous post on the other thread), yet on the other hand above you say you don't know which version of "God" is correct (if any)."

Perhaps the problem here is that we differ with respect to the definition of "atheist". I don't call it "atheism" if I conclude that there could be some type of universe-creating entity, but at the same time, the human versions or descriptions of that entity are almost certainly inaccurate. If you would call this atheism, then I guess by your definition, I would fit the bill.

Maybe I'm wrong about how the term is defined, but I think of an atheist as someone who says "I know there is no God". So, if we can work about the semantic issues, then I think that should solve the "both sides of the mouth" problem.

7:13 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

Bernd,

We don't want to die. It's quite tempting to invent a philosophy or theology that offers eternal life. Throw in threaths of eternal toture if you reject the theology, and you have a winner.

You totally ignored everything that went along with the question you were answering. You should engage and address the Scripture that is quoted and the implications of what is indicated there and show how that is comforting in order to make sense of what you're claiming.

8:10 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Bernd,
Okay, concluding that there 'could be' a universe-creating entity, how do you define it? Or are you still saying 'I don't know', 'I haven't a clue', and we're sorta right back where we started having come full circle. Do you see how someone could conclude that you're not thinking deeply enough here? That you can't go through life punting the ball of your mind with 'I don't know' across the playing field of the big philosophical questions? That to do so is irrational?

Can you not come to some conclusions about something from a philosophical standpoint and the big questions and state those conclusions definitively?

8:15 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Robert,

"You totally ignored everything that went along with the question you were answering. You should engage and address the Scripture that is quoted and the implications of what is indicated there and show how that is comforting in order to make sense of what you're claiming."

Well, I think that I did engage the scripture. The scripture says that humans are scum, but that's ok, because you'll get eternal life if you believe certain things. The scriptures also tell us that there is something beyond ourselfs that's watching over us, and is in charge, and is giving us meaning beyond our immediated existence, So, ultimately, this is all very comforting.

Could you be more specific about what you are looking for here?


Steve,

"Okay, concluding that there 'could be' a universe-creating entity, how do you define it?"

I define the entity as an entity capable of creating universes. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I'm not sure what else you're lookikng for here. I guess we could say that I'm saying that I know something about the entity, because I'm saying that there could be an entity capable of creating universes, but that's really not saying that I know very much about such entities.

8:47 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I've never heard of Frame's Gardener parable until reading this post.

It's quite a good reply to Flew's parable.

Thanks for sharing it!

11:30 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Bernd,
'I define the entity as an entity capable of creating universes.'

Isn't that a tautology? Is 'He/She' personal, or is 'it' impersonal? You're not seriously engaging the philosophical question Bernd. I think, my friend, that I'm not going to spend/waste anymore time with you on this. You're playing a game with yourself, avoiding at all costs any substantive conclusions staring you squarely in the face. I'll give you the last word, but this is as far as my comments to you on this thread will go.

11:41 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

Bernd,

I'm talking about how Scripture describes man and His state. It isn't exactly hopeful and pleasant at all.

12:44 PM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Steve,

"Isn't that a tautology?"

As I understand it, theology and philosophy are full of tautologies, and apparently, it's not a problem.


"Is 'He/She' personal, or is 'it' impersonal?"

Hard to imagine the entity with genitalia, so "it" would be my preference. I like to make it her/she sometimes, just to draw the contrast with the Abrahamic he/him god. We're so used to using he/him in conjunction with "God", and I think it's useful and interesting to consider the alternatives. But in the end, it's difficult to see how the entity in question could have a gender.


"You're not seriously engaging the philosophical question Bernd. I think, my friend, that I'm not going to spend/waste anymore time with you on this. You're playing a game with yourself."

Well, I'm answering the questions to the best of my ability as a flawed human with a limited capacity to understand the universe. It's not my intent to leave the impression that I'm playing a game. If I don't know something, I say that I don't know. As I said, I think that sometimes "I don't know" is the most accurate answer.


Robert,

"I'm talking about how Scripture describes man and His state. It isn't exactly hopeful and pleasant at all."

I'm confused. Are you saying that the Bible does not offer you hope and comfort?

I often been told that one should not look at verses in isolation. Context matters, right? Well, the context here is that humans are scum (the point of of the verses you cited), BUT here's how to acheive eternal bliss. Oh, and also, those who disagree with you will be tortured forever. What's not to like?

Now, if the Bible said that all humans are scum AND all humans will be tortured for all eternity AND there's nothing you can do about it, then that would be example of a sacred text that offers no hope or comfort. On the other hand, I don't know how successful that theology would be in the marketplace of ideas.

1:48 PM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Mike Westfall said...

"If nothing is ever 100% true 100% of the time, then "absolute truth" does not exist."

Absolutely, Squirrel.

8:59 PM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

”As I understand it, theology and philosophy are full of tautologies, and apparently, it's not a problem.”

Did you catch that Steve? The needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word is not a problem as far as Bernd is concerned. In fact, it’s the only reason he’s here.

2:08 AM, December 09, 2011  
Blogger Robert said...

Bernd,

The thing is that Biblical Christianity says that you actually can not do anything to save yourself. God has to do eht work. Not only in coming down and living as a human without sin, then dying on the cross and taking the wrath that we deserve, then rising from the grave to conquer death...but then on top of that, He has to change our hearts so that we can have faith in Him and receive the forgiveness and redemption that He offers. Everything that the christian does in response to his/her salvation is all because God provided the faith and changed the heart of the christian. And the good works that we do after salvation are only evidence that we are saved and are also done out of love for our Lord and Savior, not because we have to do them to be saved.

And that is the difference between Biblical Christianity and every other religion/belief that is out there. God saves and we offer nothing unto the work of salvation. We can not earn it and we don't deserve anything but death and hell.

5:52 AM, December 09, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"The needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word is not a problem as far as Bernd is concerned. In fact, it’s the only reason he’s here."

I'm sorry, but I've seen many exchanges in which Christians admit that they are using tautologies, but that's ok, because somehow putting the word "God" in the equation makes it all better. I'm not making this up. I've been told by my Christians that tautologies are not a problem. So, ok, tautologies are not a problem.

"The thing is that Biblical Christianity says that you actually can not do anything to save yourself."

Well, then I guess I'll just sit back and see what happens.

10:56 AM, December 10, 2011  
Blogger Steve Drake said...

Hi Ron,

No specifics. No substantive conclusions. No philosophical insight or original idea. Nothing but shallow rhetoric instead of reasoned argument. Deceiving oneself and one's mind, so that one never has to give answers for the big questions. Yeah, it came through loud and clear.

6:11 AM, December 11, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer."

"We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don't know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know."

-Richard Feynman

7:40 AM, December 12, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Well, then I guess I'll just sit back and see what happens.

Not if you purposely have your eyes closed.

7:46 AM, December 12, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"Not if you purposely have your eyes closed."

What difference does it make if it's purposeful or not? There's nothing that I can do. Only God can open eyes, so it's up to God, right? You are a Calvinist, aren't you?

7:14 AM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Sye TenB said...

"I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing.”

Do you know and are you certain that you can with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing?

”I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

But you might be wrong about that.

” I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things,”

How certain are you of that?

” but I’m not absolutely sure of anything,”

Are you absolutely sure of THAT?

” and in many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer."

Do you know that you don’t have to know the answer?

"We absolutely must leave room for doubt”

Absolutely? Seriously? Don’t you mean “I believe that we might have to leave room for doubt?”

” or there is no progress and no learning.”

Erm, or there might be no progress, and no learning right?

”There is no learning without having to pose a question.”

You mean that you think that there might not be learning without having to pose a question don’t you?

”And a question requires doubt.”

Aren’t you supposed to doubt that a question requires doubt?

”People search for certainty. But there is no certainty.”

Are you certain about that?

”People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all.”

Do you know that?

” You only think you know, as a matter of fact.”

Fact eh? How can you have a fact with doubt?

”And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don't know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things.”

How can you know that we don’t know what it’s all about with “incomplete knowledge?”

” It is possible to live and not know."

Do you know this?

Is it any wonder why Scripture calls those who deny God “fools?”

7:22 AM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Sye,

To summarize your response, you've confused knowledge and absolute certainty.


Feyman writes, ”People are terrified — how can you live and not know?"

Sye's replies, "Do you know that?"

If you are asking how I know that people are terrified of not knowing, I would say that this conclusion is based on observation of the behavior of believers. In this context, we're talking about Christian believers, but it's an observation that applies to other believers as well.

It's fear that prompts believers to provide answers such as "Is it any wonder why Scripture calls those who deny God “fools?” It's fear that leads believers to smash down doubt and attack those who question. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of eternal torture, fear and more fear.

I'm old enough to have been wrong about thousands of things. This is led me to conclude that Feynman has a point when he says that it's "more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong."

In the end, it's ok to say "I don't know". I don't think that this mean that we can't know anything at all. However, I think it might be a good idea to avoid filling in an answer simply because we are afraid of not knowing. I have found that when a response is motivated by fear, the the response or answer produced is likely to be wrong.

You know, Sye, you could be wrong, too. If it happens that you are wrong, how could you tell?

8:02 AM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Just to make it clear, both of the two paragraphs posted with the 7:40am time stamp are quotes from Richard Feynman. I put quotes around both paragraphs, but didn't put Feynman's name after each of the paragraphs. Both paragraphs should be credited to Feynman.

8:08 AM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Sye TenB said...

”To summarize your response, you've confused knowledge and absolute certainty.”

Are you certain of that? If so, how are you certain of that? If you know it, how do you know it if you could be wrong?

”If you are asking how I know that people are terrified of not knowing, I would say that this conclusion is based on observation of the behavior of believers. In this context, we're talking about Christian believers, but it's an observation that applies to other believers as well.”

The point, of course, is that Richard (yes I knew you were quoting him) is making a knowledge claim about not knowing. And here, you are making a knowledge claim based on observations, but the question that obviously follows is: “How do you know that your senses, memory and reasoning are giving you valid information regarding those observations?

”It's fear that prompts believers to provide answers such as "Is it any wonder why Scripture calls those who deny God “fools?”

Do you know this Bernd? If so, how do you know this? (and you also contradict the quote).

”It's fear that leads believers to smash down doubt and attack those who question. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of eternal torture, fear and more fear.”

Again, do you know this? If so, you refute yourself.

”I'm old enough to have been wrong about thousands of things.”

Can you be wrong about THAT?

”This is led me to conclude that Feynman has a point when he says that it's "more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong."

Which, as I pointed out, is self-refuting as it is KNOWLEDGE CLAIM.

”In the end, it's ok to say "I don't know".

Do you know this? If so, how?

”I don't think that this mean that we can't know anything at all.”

Perhaps this would be a good point to tell us what you DO know and how you are able to know it?

”However, I think it might be a good idea to avoid filling in an answer simply because we are afraid of not knowing. I have found that when a response is motivated by fear, the the response or answer produced is likely to be wrong.”

But again, this is something that according to the quote, you cannot know, and you refute yourself.

”You know, Sye, you could be wrong, too. If it happens that you are wrong, how could you tell?”

Do you know that I could be wrong Bernd? If so, how do you know this? Surely you are not suggesting that God could not reveal some things to us such that we can be certain of them? If so, how are you certain of that?

8:46 AM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

Short answer to your questions:

You continue to confuse or conflate absolute certainty with knowledge.

I know the same way that my dog knows. I know by observation via our senses, by reasoning, by memory, by building models of the world, by hypothesis testing, etc. Can't say it's guaranteed to be valid, and as Feynman says, the easiest person to fool is oneself. However, it's what we have to work with, and most of the time, it seems to work out reasonably well. At least, it works a lot better than metaphysical sophistry. You crave absolutes, and fear their absence, but I don't.


So, again, Sye, you could be wrong, too. If it happens that you are wrong, how could you tell? Say, for example, you are wrong when you say that Item X is revelation of or from God. How would you know? Say that there was no global flood. What evidence would you accept as disproving the flood hypothesis?

12:48 PM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

”What difference does it make if it's purposeful or not? There's nothing that I can do. Only God can open eyes, so it's up to God, right?”

It’s up to God to open your eyes Bernd but I’m not sure that he doesn’t allow you the free will to prevent them from completely opening right now. IOW, I don’t know how old you are Bernd, but let’s say for argument sake, that you’re 30, and that you are going to live to be 80. I have no doubt that if you are one of the Elect that you will be saved before you take your last breath at 80, but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be allowed to spend the next 50 years rebelling against God in the meantime. What difference does this make since you will still get to heaven? Well, for starters, you will have missed out on a life of glorifying God by enjoying a relationship with him. Plus, the bible does talk about rewards in heaven, and your rebellion will limit those rewards. Others may want to add to this.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice this comment in your response to Sye:

You crave absolutes, and fear their absence, but I don't.

Does it even dawn on you that just within those 10 words, where you are apparently trying to show how much absolutes don’t matter to you, you make three absolute statements?

Kind of self-refuting, wouldn’t you say?

10:00 PM, December 13, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

"It’s up to God to open your eyes Bernd....I have no doubt that if you are one of the Elect that you will be saved before you take your last breath at 80"

Well, there you go then. No reason why I shouldn't just sit back and wait. It's out of my hands.


"For starters, you will have missed out on a life of glorifying God by enjoying a relationship with him."

I'll have missed out on 50 years out of an eternity? That would seem to me to be a very trivial loss.


"Plus, the bible does talk about rewards in heaven, and your rebellion will limit those rewards. Others may want to add to this."

"Limits" in heaven? Can you describe the various levels of heaven or explain the reward system? Isn't heaven simply heavenly? You know, it's always struck me as odd that there are so few details about heaven in the Bible. It's almost as if it didn't actually exist, except in the vague imaginings of humans.

Does it make sense that the thoughts that occur to flawed and limited humans out during an infinitesimally short period of time would affect what is to happen to us for an eternity?


"Does it even dawn on you that just within those 10 words, where you are apparently trying to show how much absolutes don’t matter to you, you make three absolute statements? Kind of self-refuting, wouldn’t you say?

Ok, if you prefer, I'll put it this way...

“You seem to crave absolutes, and appear to fear their absence, but I don't think that I have similar needs. Of course, I could be wrong."

Better? Works just as well for me either way.

6:49 AM, December 14, 2011  
Blogger Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

"No reason why I shouldn't just sit back and wait"

Yeah, that’s pretty much covered in Romans 1 and it’s summed up with, “they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

Limits" in heaven? Can you describe the various levels of heaven or explain..."

I mentioned rewards and you switched to levels, either way, if you are ever really interested in the issue, I’d start with 2 Corinthians 12:2 and Revelation 22:12. IOW, the answers are out there if you really want to find them.

I'll have missed out on 50 years out of an eternity? That would seem to me to be a very trivial loss."

Yeah, why experience the pleasure of an all powerful God now when you can put it off as long as possible. lol

"Does it make sense that the thoughts that occur to flawed and limited humans out during an infinitesimally short period of time would affect what is to happen to us for an eternity?"

Seriously? This is confusing to you? You must be aware that if you don’t pass an Airport inspection, that only last a few minutes, that it will keep you off of a flight that could last for many hours. Is it really that hard to understand how a perfect Being can’t spend eternity with beings full of sin because they missed their chance to get rid of that sin?

These are pretty basic things Bernd, (David, whoever) and the fact that you purposefully make them difficult not only shows that you are not sincerely looking for the truth but are really just here to argue for argument sake… which is exactly what I said many posts ago. I wish for your sake that you hadn't proved me right.

You’ve got the last word.

12:21 PM, December 17, 2011  
Blogger Bernd said...

I wasn't trying to make things "purposefully difficult". I just don't think that Sunday school answers work very well, at least not for me. I understand that they work for you, but I genuinely find them lacking. To each his own.

What if you're wrong? How could you tell?

9:31 AM, December 20, 2011  

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