Does God Exist?

Idly today, sitting on the loo, I picked up my late wife’s King James’ bible. When I first met her she was moving from the C of E, in the direction of Rome. Of course the translation is wonderful — it may not be as accurate as the modern versions, but it’s a great deal more beautiful. Years ago, I even wrote a little verse about it:

I doubt if King James wrote it,
But the one who did
Knew the force of short, brute words;
And did not, if there were no clear need,
Write polysyllabically.

And I was reading the first few chapters of Genesis. We all know the story of Creation and Adam and Eve, followed of course by the Fall of Man — into which we were born, and cannot be saved without Baptism. How odd of God, we may think: if he creates a human race damaged by nature to fail.

But such creation myths are common in ancient religions. They give a basis for sanctity, for understanding, for objectives, for rules. We may think it odd that the Church, and, I presume, Judaism blesses and guarantees the account. But we have no reason to believe that Adam, and  Eve ever existed. Nor, indeed, the Garden of Eden and its baleful tree. It’s a story, not a history.

In fact, the experts have followed the development of our ancestors over thousands of years and in many places. We must presume that the gradual development of the brain enabled a better facility of genetic success, and so we find ourselves as the ultimate example.

Nevertheless, its fundamental message is clear, We, at least, have developed morality: the capacity to make moral choices. (We may not in fact, be the first to be so: for instance there are pre homo sapiens as far back as 300,000 years, who  honoured their dead* — thus suggesting a recognition of human sacredness or at least immortality. Are these ancestors in Heaven, or in some kind of Limbo?)

But others might argue that what we call spirituality is simply an outcome of genetics. Those ancient humans who happened to have good relations with their fellows, and benefited from developing their own skills, would be likely to have passed on the characteristics of loving self and loving neighbours to a larger number of similarly successful offspring.

And, as I feel sceptical today, there are problems with the question of God. Of course we are sure that he created the Universe, someone must have done so. But when? Difficult to answer because time didn’t exist before he created it. So when did he do it? Nobel Prize for the right answer. How do we answer those who claim that the concept of God is merely a human rationalisation? Of course there are different rational claims to explain the existence of God, but no one of them actually works. We simply choose to believe in God.

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78 Responses to Does God Exist?

  1. milliganp says:

    I’ve often pondered the “when did God create the universe” question. My solution – Given that God is infinitely wise and infinitely powerful, God could not have taken time to consider the decision or time to execute it; thus the universe must ultimately be eternal – like God. I suspect I might have invented a novel heresy.

    • pnyikos says:

      The theory that our universe is eternal was atheistic dogma for centuries. I was dealt a near-fatal blow by the triumph of the Big Bang theory. When the theory was first proposed by the Belgian Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, it elicited highly emotional opposition by some of the atheists of the time. For a long time Fred Hoyle was able to support his Steady-State theory, which does posit an eternal universe, scientifically. The COBE experiment pretty well put paid to that.

      Current theory, well supported by various independent pieces of evidence, is that our universe is on the order of 15 thousand million (what we Yanks call 15 billion) years old.

      The infinitely wise and infinitely powerful God is by and large the invention of (mostly medieval) theologians, and has little support in the Bible. I am content with the unimaginably grand wisdom and power that is commensurate with the creation and design of our amazing universe.

      • ignatius says:

        Pnyikos writes:
        // The infinitely wise and infinitely powerful God is by and large the invention of (mostly medieval) theologians, and has little support in the Bible. I am content with the unimaginably grand wisdom and power that is commensurate with the creation and design of our amazing universe.//

        I really like this. Its a kind of reversed microscope theory…If I get you right the proposition being that nature reveals God to us through the lens of science. This process is, more and more as our understanding increases, possibly of greater contemporary relevance than the traditional theological vision. Is this an accurate interpretation of your post please?

      • FZM says:

        The infinitely wise and infinitely powerful God is by and large the invention of (mostly medieval) theologians, and has little support in the Bible. I am content with the unimaginably grand wisdom and power that is commensurate with the creation and design of our amazing universe.

        The idea of an omnipotent God goes back to Plato at least, the big question must be whether this is a discovery or an invention. I tend to think it was a discovery. The issue was gradually refined in debates over centuries with polytheists, pantheists, dualists and so on over the centuries (this is where having a god of finite powers becomes an issue).

        Lately New Atheists were also quite publicly successful at pointing out a lot of the problems with the probabilistic empiricist account of god.

        In relation to Biblical support for the idea of an omnipotent and omniscient God; I don’t know the relevant passages well enough to have come to a personal conclusion about how true this is, but I would be surprised that so many church fathers and councils have been deceived on this point, and for so long.

      • galerimo says:

        In St Thomas’ proof from Necessity – the third of his five proofs for the existence of God (ST 1 q 20 a 3), he makes his famous comment that “nothing can come from nothing”

        Therefore if God creates out of nothing some “thing” must pre-exist for him to do so, if Thomas is correct. And that clearly points to the possibility of an eternal universe.

        Maybe not such an atheistic dogma after all!

    • Alasdair says:

      pnyikos: I don’t see a clear distinction between “The infinitely wise and infinitely powerful God you say was invented by mostly medieval theologians, and is little supported in the Bible” and the “unimaginably grand wisdom and power that is commensurate with the creation and design of our amazing universe” which you are comfortable with. Are these not just the same thing described differently?

      • pnyikos says:

        Perhaps I was misled by the use of “infinitely” as a synonym for “omni” as in the favorite attack point of atheists: a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Their attack consists of looking at all the evil and misery in the world and saying that this makes the combination of the three features self-contradictory.

        Not to mention Mark Twain’s favorite argument: how can such a God sentence anyone to eternal torment? The reference to the Christian God is unmistakable.

        The formulation with which I am content makes the first of these arguments a lot less devastating, and is still compatible with the God of the Bible. As for the last, eternal torment is not the only way to interpret Jesus’s words about the Last Judgment.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/ ) :

    // How do we answer those who claim that the concept of God is merely a human rationalisation? Of course there are different rational claims to explain the existence of God, but no one of them actually works. We simply choose to believe in God. //

    How do we answer those who claim that truth can be discovered by observation and reason alone? That, too, is faith, though, oddly, many or most seem to think it’s not.

    • milliganp says:

      I understand that a standard part of any Psychology 101 course is the “brain in a jar” paradox – how do I know there is any external reality or is everything a dream / hallucination or artificial stimulus. The first thing I have to believe is that I am alive and sane – at that point my search for reason and purpose starts.

    • Alasdair says:

      “Truth discovered by observation and reason alone” has resulted in some of the greatest errors and wrongs in human history. Moreover, those who believe themselves to operate only by that type of truth are deluded.

  3. pnyikos says:

    It is the claim that God is a human invention that is a pure act of faith, and ideology.

    Science on the other hand keeps showing us new reasons for believing in a creator, or at least designer, of our universe. The physical constants that make life possible have very little tolerance for change; and the tolerance becomes much more minuscule when we have to account for the presence of a highly intelligent life form like ourselves: it took gigayears to evolve us.

    Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of England, wrote a demanding but still quite readable book, Just Six Numbers, in which he quantifies these low tolerances. They make untenable the naive atheistic assumption that our observable universe is all there is or was or will be. The only plausible alternative to an intelligent designer of our universe is a multiverse of an unimaginably large (perhaps infinite) number of universes as vast as ours.

    Rees embraces the latter alternative, willingly paying the price of almost all the other universes being pure garbage, so that our universe will not be the staggeringly huge statistical anomaly that it would be otherwise.

  4. ignatius says:

    FMZ writes:
    //In relation to Biblical support for the idea of an omnipotent and omniscient God; I don’t know the relevant passages well enough to have come to a personal conclusion about how true this is, but I would be surprised that so many church fathers and councils have been deceived on this point, and for so long//

    OMNISCIENCE
    Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.”
    Jeremiah 23:24: “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
    OMNISCIENCE
    Psalm 147:5 “Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”
    Psalm 139:1-6 “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”
    1 Jn.3:18-20 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.”
    OMNIPOTENCE
    Is.40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.”

    Rev.19:6 “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.’”

    Job 9:4-10 “He is wise in heart and mighty in strength, who has defied Him without harm? It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how, when He overturns them in His anger; who shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble; who commands the sun not to shine, and sets a seal upon the stars; who alone stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea; who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; who does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works without number.”
    Eph.3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us”

    We could go on for quite a long time with these lists .

    • FZM says:

      Thanks for those quotes Ignatius. I knew pretty much all the fathers and a number of councils had recognised those key divine attributes, there are also indications in the Creed, so I thought there must be a strong Biblical basis for it.

    • pnyikos says:

      Except perhaps for omniscience, none of these is the absolute “omni” concept that atheists love to attack a trio of as being inconsistent. As for omniscience, “knows all things” [1 John] could be construed as “knows all things in the enormous yet finite universe that He created.”

      • ignatius says:

        //Except perhaps for omniscience, none of these is the absolute “omni” concept that atheists love to attack a trio of as being inconsistent. As for omniscience, “knows all things” [1 John] could be construed as “knows all things in the enormous yet finite universe that He created.”/

        Of course. Anyone can set up a linguistic man of straw Isn’t that what the tower of babel was? Easy enough to create your own God then kick him down with pride because he doesn’t satisfy.

      • Alan says:

        “… could be construed as “knows all things in the enormous yet finite universe that He created.”

        I’m trying my best not to create my own idea of what this means but this still seems inconsistent to me. God knowing all things in this finite universe sounds to me as if he knows my future. I have heard one or two solutions offered to this apparent problem but, as satisfying as they seem to the people who have presented them (well known apologists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door alike), they still make no sense to me.

        And so it is with a whole raft of ideas that I hear about God. “Guided evolution” was mentioned recently. This says as much to me about creation and the natural world as if someone were to suggest “guided gravity”. It certainly seems possible, but it also seems redundant and I don’t see what it adds. Regardless of how the rules came to be I am inclined to assume that the apple would fall without further intervention. And so it is with evolution. It seems to be a creative process in its own right. Complex in its details and outcomes but relatively simple in essence and origin. “Fine tuning” – That brain in a jar could also be a soul not in a jar. What physical conditions are there that an immaterial existence couldn’t tolerate? The argument sounds too much to me like standing on spot where the arrows fell, without any ability to see beyond, drawing a circle around our feet and declaring it to be the gold. How can we imagine that all the very small tolerances can be so precisely hit without them having been aimed at by a highly skilled and perfectly accurate archer? Well, for one, we could blanket bomb the whole range. We couldn’t fail to hit all the targets and we aren’t in a position to spot any of the misses.

        Maybe this is only the idea of God that I’m creating for myself so as to be deliberately confused by it. But it is the only one I’ve found so far.

  5. ignatius says:

    Whoops..the first heading above should be OMNIPRESENCE not OMNISCIENCE…mea culpa!

  6. Alasdair says:

    FZM: “Lately New Atheists were also quite publicly successful at pointing out a lot of the problems with the probabilistic empiricist account of god”.
    I do remember them getting themselves tied in knots trying to point that out by making maximum use of circular arguments and category errors etc. But that wasn’t lately. It seems to me that the New Atheist movement had pretty much died out by the end of the “noughties”. What have they said or done lately?

    • FZM says:

      Yes, it was in the 2000s and early 2010s, but I meant lately compared to those other debates about the nature of God I referenced, which went on some centuries ago.

      I think the New Atheist attacks on the Paleyan ‘watch maker’ design arguments were the strongest part of their position. They were also able to use the problem of evil quite effectively against this idea of God. The weakness came in the rest of their arguments, because most philosophers of religion are rationalists and not empiricists, and most arguments for the existence of God have a basis outside of philosophical empiricism.

      Looking back, the surprising thing about that period was what New Atheist rhetorical tactics did to the quality of the debate. Dawkins God Delusion came out in 2007 or 2006, the same year Anthony Kenny published his 4 part ‘New History of Western Philosophy’ in a single volume. Kenny is an agnostic and former Catholic priest, that volume covers the scope and importance of the different debates about the existence and nature of God across the history of Western philosophy well. The treatment of the subject was significantly different in quality and understanding to anything the New Atheists were producing.

      • Alasdair says:

        FZM: I hadn’t heard of Kenny so thanks for that. Yes the quality of the argument employed by the New Atheists was very poor which enabled them to be surgically dissected by the likes of Alister McGrath and John Lennox, both scientists-turned-theologians. I’m perhaps more familiar with these because of our shared evangelical christianity. And also perhaps because their books are more for a popular, rather than academic audience.
        More of a challenge, if you will, are the best-selling books, Sapiens (2015) and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. Unlike the New Atheists, Yuval doesn’t push an agenda like an opinionated 6th former, using all means fair or foul. He simply outlines a view of human history, including why religions, “world-views”, and received wisdom came about. This can make you uncomfortable and question everything you hold dear including, for example, your belief if you have one, about the righteousness of your own nation or country.

  7. galerimo says:

    Amazing! What a fundamental experience sitting on the loo can be!

    Martin Luther, often suffered bouts of constipation. Many believe that this esteemed catholic priest, Augustinian monk and university professor might well have composed his famous 95 Theses while on “das klo”.

    It seems that archaeologists have discovered the place itself after stumbling across the remains of an annex of his home in Wittenberg.

    Amazing to find what lies behind some texts!

    Stranger still is the fact that Henry VIII who in 1536 arranged for the execution of William Tyndale, ended up adopting William’s own translation of the bible which had been the martyr’s, life’s work.

    And it became the ancestor to the King James Version of 1611.

    Tyndale’s translation together with its subsequent versions was something very special indeed.

    This Oxford scholar from Gloucestershire not only brought his evangelical fervor to bear on his translation but also an exceptional skill in Greek and Hebrew.

    Conjecture too has it that spending his childhood in English western borderlands, the lilting sound of Wales could also been a contribution to the lyrical genius of his Biblical legacies.

    And King James VI (of Scotland!), becoming King James I of England must have had a “toilet” moment or two of his own!

    He opened into a much broader view of Protestant Church. And it was not as dissimilar to the Catholic church, at least in its observances, as the stricter Scottish version to which he had previously become accustomed.

    His “Authorised Version” and great achievement did take account of both Tyndale and the Roman Catholic “Douai” version – something those conservative Christians who espoused their “King James” bible may not wish to hear.

    So! Who would have imagined how your darling wife would one day give you with the wherewithal for a multi-layered experience in the very place of many an upheaval and an occasional historical moment?

  8. Quentin says:

    Given the day.,, my ‘darling wife’ preferred not to make love on a Good Friday. My reponse was St Augustine’s:. ‘Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, Sed noli modo,’ Didn’t work…

  9. Hock says:

    Not many references in this topic to the Son of God, ( just the one in fact , name only.)
    Was there a voice from heaven? “This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
    Belief in God is illogical yet it persists. The question of ‘Who made all of this?” ( as per the Universe and all its stars,) will remain forever unanswered and perhaps the fact that there is no answer means there isn’t one without a creator.
    This unfathomable God , should such a spirit force exist, aware of human weakness gave us a son to believe in.

  10. ignatius says:

    Hock writes:
    //Not many references in this topic to the Son of God, ( just the one in fact , name only.)//

    This is a good point. I didn’t focus too much on Dawkins et al mainly because the God Delusion was such a risible piece of work. Even the very generous Rowan Williams suggested that Dawkins would be better off on concentrating on the birds he studied for his Phd !
    But nonetheless it is much easier for armchair philosophers to take aim at ‘God’ as it were, as an abstract principle, than to deal with the physicality of Christ and his Body, both physical and mystical.

    • Alasdair says:

      Richard Dawkins made an interesting statement around the time of the Brexit vote. It was to the effect that he expected our elected representatives to make these sort of judgements for us, as we (including him) are simply not intelligent enough to balance the pros and cons of such an important and complex issue.
      This suggests to me that by 2016 Dawkins had realised his limitations outside his own narrow scientific field. Logically this must have also made him doubt the validity of his own poorly researched and expressed arguments in The Root of All Evil? and the God Delusion.

      • Alan says:

        And if Dawkins should have such reservations, then someone like Lennox might similarly doubt his criticism of those who specialise in areas such as evolutionary biology or physics. He laughs off Hawking’s ideas about the early universe, not ostensibly because of the lack of any belief in or reference to God, but because he points out the simple mistake of the claim that something can come from nothing or create itself – ‘Oh my, what a silly thing for Hawking to say’. Or does Lennox perhaps not criticise the actual point being made? It is very clear that Kraus isn’t talking about nothing in the same sense that Lennox is. I suspect Hawking wasn’t either.

      • FZM says:

        Some months ago I read a book by the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson called ‘Darwin’s Cathedral’, a sustained argument that theistic religions with a divine moral law are a kind of evolutionary adaptation. This was originally published in 2002. It was controversial with human evolutionary biology, but Sloan Wlison had his supporters, and they have been growing in number since.

        His theory that in humans natural selection operates on a group as well as individual and kin level has a lot of explanatory power, especially in respect of human societies which are strongly monotheistic and where things like cousin marriage are endemic. However. when Dawkins published God Delusion (partly on the back of the public concern over 9/11 and the Iraq War) I don’t remembering him addressing this issue, which involved an academic in his own field providing evolutionary explanations for things like suicide bombings and the sad failure of the attempt to important US style democracy into Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Alan says:

      ignatius – “it is much easier for armchair philosophers to take aim at ‘God’ as it were, as an abstract principle, than to deal with the physicality of Christ and his Body, both physical and mystical.”

      Do you mean the claims about him if one accepts that they are true or do you mean the history/scripture and whether it is true? Or something else entirely?

      • ignatius says:

        Alan,
        In a sense both. For example I have a lawyer friend who works for the CPS He finds it easy to arraign and prosecute a God with whom he has no dealings and can therefore manufacture according to his own image. Thus he makes a case against God based on God’s seeming unkindness in the face of world events. But when we begin with the historical fact of the passion of Christ, he has much less to say.

      • Alan says:

        ignatius – “Thus he makes a case against God based on God’s seeming unkindness in the face of world events. But when we begin with the historical fact of the passion of Christ, he has much less to say.”

        I think you are right that this would be an interesting subject to hear more about. I’ve a Christian friend who is a historian. His expertise isn’t ancient history but I’m still very curious how he feels about the Bible and its accuracy. It would make for a dinner party that only I wanted to be at though, so I don’t ask.

        The problems of evil or morality or free will seem more open to consideration without specific knowledge than does the fact of the passion of Christ however. Apart from overlapping areas with such a god in general, I don’t know who to trust with respect to the claims. As I’ve mentioned before, many ideas about god make no sense to me. Claims about Jesus mostly don’t fall into that category (the “married bachelor” type). Instead they are claims that I simply don’t know whether they happened or not. I have listened to people discussing such things between themselves. All seem to be very well informed (but what would I know?!). Agreement amongst them isn’t easy to spot.

  11. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63162 ) :

    // it is much easier for armchair philosophers to take aim at ‘God’ as it were, as an abstract principle, than to deal with the physicality of Christ and his Body, both physical and mystical //

    Something I heard the other day from a Catholic friend who’s at least a little conversant with trending Catholic theology may be of interest. As he described it, it sounded to me – I may have this wrong, of course – as though the Atonement Theory (and maybe “theory” is the wrong word – it’s Atonement *something*) that’s apparently in some Vogue states that Christ’s death had nothing to do with our sins but was simply a consequence of Christ’s being true to his convictions as a man. He did nothing to avoid his crucifixion because if he had done, he’d not have been being true to who he felt himself to be, and in this, he was modeling for us the way we should live. This sounded to me close to denying that Jesus was God, but when I asked about that, my friend assured me that, no, he was God, but maybe he didn’t know it.

    Anyone know what this is about?

  12. David Smith says:

    Before I posted https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63163 , I should have done a little research. Here’s one possibly useful explanation:

    https://www.gotquestions.org/atonement-theories.html

    There are evidently many swarms of theories about the Christian god out there. I’ve lived a sheltered life. Too much information. Time for a nap.

  13. ignatius says:

    David writes: //There are evidently many swarms of theories about the Christian god out there. I’ve lived a sheltered life. Too much information. Time for a nap.//
    I have been for some time trying to better understand Karl Rahners theory of Jesus and atonement
    “Others have doubted whether Rahner thinks Jesus “causes” salvation at all. Even Rahner’s advocates style his Jesus as a kind of sign, albeit an effective one, the primal Sacrament. But another major and yet underappreciated dimension to Rahner’s christology is his identification of Jesus as Representative—both our representative before God and God’s before us. As such a Representative, Jesus is not a redemptive agent who accomplishes human salvation simply through an act, and even less is he a mere exemplar or notification. This Jesus does not only “do” our salvation—rather, he is the locus of salvation itself. He not only “opens” heaven’s gates, but he creates heaven with his own resurrection.”

    Here is a link about contemporary thinking on Jesus and the atonement. Its a little densebut very well written. I would greatly welcome some discussion around the issues raised. I am principally interested in Balthasar, Rahner and Molttman, the first three theologians discussed in the article

    Click to access 28Murphy.pdf

    You may have to post the link into your browser.

    • FZM says:

      Thanks for posting that article Ignatius, it is an interesting read.

      Rahner’s views on atonement remind me a lot of the Orthodox tradition, where by assuming human nature Christ deifies and elevates it c.f. St. Athanasius’ famous quote: ‘God became man so that man could become God’. Here the incarnation itself is more central, and because the Greek fathers tended to have a more Platonic cast of mind, God becoming human meant God assuming the form humanity, the regeneration and elevation of human nature via the incarnation spread to all mankind.

      I wondered where and how the cross fitted in with this, but Rahner seems to develop a line of thought that is also in Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria, that what is not assumed cannot be saved and regenerated, so to fully deify humanity Christ had to take on the whole of human experience, including death. I am now quite interested in reading more Rahner, and also Balthasar. I have heard good things about them both but they sounded relatively intimidating.

      • ignatius says:

        FMZ writes:
        ” I am now quite interested in reading more Rahner, and also Balthasar. I have heard good things about them both but they sounded relatively intimidating.”
        I find Balthasar rich and theologically poetic Rather like a walk in the highlands. Rahner is somewhat like an ascent of a rock face…more demanding but also extremely exhilarating. Rahner requires some familiarity with philosophical thought but I really like and admire his refusal to hide behind any archaic theological ramblings. Both writers are excellent.

  14. ignatius says:

    Quentin,
    Sorry about the above. I was trying to post just the link but thats not the way it came out when I pressed ‘enter’…!

    Mike

  15. Hock says:

    Today, Easter Sunday, for those of us at Mass we repeated our baptismal promises.
    “Do you believe in God, creator of heaven and earth?” To which we reply ‘”I do.”
    Was this a real act of faith or merely a convenience?
    Kind of disturbing if we willingly chose to lie or, at best, ‘edge our bets.’

    • galerimo says:

      Scientists!!! Does proof ever bear fruit in faith?

      Faith is not confined to intellectual assent. It forms a living dynamic engagement with God on a personal level.

      I think for most Christians throughout history it never involved much intellectual assent either! Literacy and universal education continue to be late arrivals in history, for many.

      Perhaps before the days of Isaac Newton, proofs like those advanced by Anselm and Aquinas had a role in conversation around whether there was a god or not.

      Even right up to the first stirrings of Enlightenment there was a case still to be made for Anselm’s ontological argument as Leibnitz refined Descartes version of the same “proof”.

      You have to wonder how many of their contemporaries were sufficiently well read or educated to be ever moved by such proofs.

      In our post -Enlightenment age, a more fruitful search for the truth of God’s existence begins with the humanity of Christ. As Hock has suggested with that elusive term “Son of Man”.

      A good start would be a few non-Christian writers, from the late first century or early second century.

      At least these did not set out to prove anything of faith. They were either indifferent or hostile to Christianity.

      Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius and the Jewish Talmud – each gives evidence, at least that Jesus existed in history.

      Moving on from them we have the “records” of all that was said about Him.

      Argument and controversy raged for hundreds of years after this historical starting point.

      Hope was, that the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon would put an end to all this grappling with the meaning of God and Jesus, but of course they didn’t. Understanding rages ever since!

      Then for over a thousand years people made their choices – far less on proof but more on this, largely unexamined, received understanding.

      Much has changed and our learning has advanced with the quest for the historical Jesus and developments in thought, in Reformation, in Aggiornamento and within different religious traditions.

      But in the end, not even those who saw him face to face and heard from his own lips had any greater advantage over the ones who have pondered the existence of God based on the evidence of Jesus since his own time.

      And as you say, each one must simply choose to believe, always with just enough light to see and just enough darkness to doubt.

      Still. Hats off to the Scientists. They have saved us from a lot of superstition, error and sanctimonious claptrap.

      It’s just, when it comes to realising a fully human life that finds itself addressed directly by God incarnate, they can be a bit of a pain in the as…trazeneca!

      • Alasdair says:

        Most “I-live-my-life-by-evidence-not-by-blind-faith” self-styled scientists I know are deluded. At least to the extent that they have total faith in the authors of the science text books and in their science teachers. They did not gather the scientific evidence themselves. They’ve only been told about it by people in whom they have faith. It turns out that much of their faith was unfounded as some of the evidence-based theorems they were taught and believed in so vehemently are now discredited.

      • Alasdair says:

        On the issue of faith in science, as it is taught. I used to teach Engineering Science at senior secondary school level. When teaching the topic of Energy there was something I was obliged to teach which was totally false and could easily be shown to be so using simple maths. The Physics teachers were also obliged to teach the same. This nonsense is still being taught. Years later I had a chance meeting with a university professor of engineering while admiring a hydro electric plant in France. He laughingly accused me of being personally responsible for something all his students had to be disabused of early in their undergraduate studies.

      • FZM says:

        On the topic of advances in learning…

        …the concluding paragraph of Anthony Kenny’s New History of Western Philosophy I mentioned in an earlier post is this:

        Bertrand Russell, in his history of Western Philosophy, maintained that there were instances where philosophy had reached definitive answers to central questions. He gave as one example the ontological argument. ‘This we have seen was invented by Anselm, rejected by Aquinas, accepted by Descartes, refuted by Kant and reinstated by Hegel. I think it may be said quite decisively that as a result of analysis of the concept ‘existence’ modern logic has proved this argument invalid’. Plantinga’s reinstatement of of the argument, using logical techniques more modern than any available to Russell, serves as a salutary warning of the danger that awaits any historian of logic who declares a philosophical issue definitively closed.

        We can see that lately, once again the ontological argument has capable defenders:

    • galerimo says:

      A real act of faith!

  16. David Smith says:

    Hock writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63175 ) :

    // Today, Easter Sunday, for those of us at Mass we repeated our baptismal promises.

    “Do you believe in God, creator of heaven and earth?” To which we reply ‘”I do.”

    Was this a real act of faith or merely a convenience?

    Kind of disturbing if we willingly chose to lie or, at best, ‘edge our bets.’ //

    The Nicene and Apostles’ creeds are short, simple, clear lists of beliefs. Yet from what I’ve read and heard, very large numbers of self-styled Catholics are lying when they recite one or the other. I wonder how long it will be before the institutional Church abolishes or neutralizes its creeds. How long will it continue turning a blind eye to the effective apostasy of millions of its members?

  17. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63176 ) :

    // Hats off to the Scientists. They have saved us from a lot of superstition, error and sanctimonious claptrap. //

    Such as?

      • David Smith says:

        I was fishing for examples of “superstition, error and sanctimonious claptrap” coming from religion that scientists have saved us from.

      • Alasdair says:

        It seems to me that there are errors and distortions in the High School / popular version of Galileo’s story. And these seem to exist for the purposes of promoting the myth that GG and other scientists were and are being prevented from saving us from “the superstition, error and sanctimonious claptrap” championed by the Church. For example GG didn’t come up with the heliocentric model, he merely presented observations to confirm the already generally accepted (even by the Church) ideas from a century before. So the idea that he was “imprisoned” for saying that the earth went round the sun (High School / popular version) is ridiculous. Also he didn’t “invent” the telescope. This had been long since been in wide use by Dutch navigators.

    • FZM says:

      Heliocentrism is an error, but doesn’t seem to be either superstition or sanctimonious claptrap. Are there other examples?

      • Alasdair says:

        “superstition, error and sanctimonious claptrap” are among the labels that science-trumps-religion zealots use to rubbish anyone with faith and their ideas. The scientists have not saved us from these, but the myth that they have is part of their creed.

  18. galerimo says:

    Watching “the Pharaohs Golden Parade” on TV on Holy Saturday, made your words about the ancients honouring their dead resonate again.

    At around 1,500 years old these Kings and Queens probably don’t fit as well into your category, “homo sapiens of 300,000 years ago”. But it was very evocative.

    22 Royal mummified bodies, 18 kings and 4 queens, moving with great pomp and ceremony through the streets of Cairo to their new resting place.

    Both the ancient technologies together with the most modern technologies were on display as ways of honouring the defining moment of death and how it opens up new meaning for understanding life.

    The question “Where are they?” has to be part of the search into an answer to the greater question – Does God Exist?

    Young Jesus seems to have little to give to the oldies of our own time, facing their end of life stages and death.

    But I suppose, humanity is humanity and he has every right to his oversights too.

    I sometimes wonder if it was His preoccupation with the immanent arrival of the Kingdom that led his followers to believe it would all be over by Christmas! Big mistake.

    For Catholics, “where are they?” is a big question. He has left us with many questions.

    If we have a particular judgement once we die, why is it necessary to have a general judgement at the end of time? Will something change in between?

    And given that scripture tells us “… Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Pet 3:18), why do we need to have purgatory or limbo?

    A lot of this is late theology that had to be developed when the Kingdom failed to arrive as soon as Young Jesus obviously expected it would and we had to cobble together some form of self-organising (Church) to keep our faith alive.

  19. galerimo says:

    These really are great stories contained in the first chapters of Genesis.

    Remarkable too, is how you are able to bring that deeper insight into their truths; something that has taken so long for our sciences to uncover for us.

    (Remember the sanctimonious claptrap of current Young Earth Creationism and the Biblical devotions of Archbishop James Ussher giving us nightfall 22nd October 4004 BCE, as the time of creation. Or the Cambridge academic, John Lightfoot’s similar “findings”).

    It was my great honour to read from the Book of Genesis at the Liturgy of the Word during our Easter vigil this year.

    The love of God for “all” God has created, the dignity of nature and humanity’s given place within it, God’s gifts of diversity, order and harmony,

    -divine trust and companionship, just some of truths I was blessed to announce (as opposed to the literalism and history, so called!)

    And the sheer beauty of poetic form, so rich now in the various translations, including the KJV.

    To read a story, listened to for thousands of years, in both heaven and earth, was the achievement of my lifetime.

    I am very grateful too for our turn towards the “sola scriptura” of Reformer days but it also represented something of a downplay for Natural Theology.

    That topic has come to be understood as restricted to proofs for the existence of God, when it is so much more than that.

    At a time when there are multiple movements that champion our ecologies, our diverse natural environments even our new cosmologies, Natural Theology can still hold its head up as a magnificent lens, among others, with which to view the world.

    Q. “How do we answer those who claim that the concept of God is merely a human rationalisation?”

    A. Probably, a human rationalisation is as good as any “concept” of God will ever Get – when it is based on our observations of our own world and our place in it, it can give us a very fruitful theology indeed!

    • ignatius says:

      Galerimo writes:
      //Q. “How do we answer those who claim that the concept of God is merely a human rationalisation?”
      A. Probably, a human rationalisation is as good as any “concept” of God will ever Get – when it is based on our observations of our own world and our place in it, it can give us a very fruitful theology indeed! // So can it be legitimately said that Jesus Christ is ‘merely a human rationalisation’ ?

  20. David Smith says:

    Ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63241 ) :

    // So can it be legitimately said that Jesus Christ is ‘merely a human rationalisation’ ? //

    That seems to be the modern world’s inescapable conclusion, doesn’t it? Nothing exists outside ourselves. And we’re just accidental machines. Pretty awful.

    • Alan says:

      I don’t feel that I know nearly enough about accidental machines to judge their potential or limitations. It seems like it would be a fascinating circumstance to find ourselves in if true. As curious and inexplicable as the alternative.

      Awful? Preferable? Should I think that matters to the inescapable (it usually feels more tentative to me when I hear it expressed seriously) conclusion?

    • FZM says:

      This kind of mechanistic reductionism and eliminative materialism was supposed to be the modern Western world’s inescapable conclusion until around 5 minutes ago. Then it became Woke.

      Now ‘lived experience’ as interpreted through the correct Critical Theory is the only thing that is real. We have awakened to the fact that the mechanistic reductionist view is something mainly created by white Northern European males to extend their social power.

      There is some kind of ‘Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia’ feel about this.

  21. ignatius says:

    FMZ : //There is some kind of ‘Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia’ feel about this.//
    Funnily enough I’m just reading 1984. But could you please just elaborate a little on your post above, Particularly this:
    “Now ‘lived experience’ as interpreted through the correct Critical Theory is the only thing that is real…”
    I am fascinated by what is mean’t here but I need just a bit of a push to get my brain out of the ditch to fully comprehend your meaning.

    • FZM says:

      Ignatius, I will give it a try.

      As far as I understand it after the earlier (mainly French) postmodernists were satisfied that they had deconstructed and undermined all knowledge claims coming from within the authoritative meta-narratives of power within society (science, philosophy, the humanities, religion, even Marxism), they had a problem as to what could legitimately count as a source of knowledge and had to fall back on an individual’s own ‘lived experience’, with any cultural or social influence as far as possible removed.

      In early postmodernist thinkers this undermined almost all knowledge claims, but when later (mainly US) social justice activists took on these ideas the experience of oppression and systems of power and subordination within society was exempted from deconstruction.

      My thinking was that this is about as far as it is possible to go from the ideas on knowledge that were popular about 10 years ago in the New Atheist era (this was all about science, objectivity, liberalism etc. as providing universally valid truths.)

      • ignatius says:

        Ok so simply put its a kind of’ Emperor without clothes metaphor.’ Modern thought has stripped away all the robes but leaves the sceptre of power as an object intact, seeing it as the permanent existential power struggle and as such beyond deconstruction because it is the bedrock of reality….. something like that anyway? This kind of mechanistic thinking would conclude that ‘Jesus Christ’ is if you like another rationalisation of the ‘Will to power’ ? I like the way you couch your explainations in what might be termed the garments of political sociology by the way. I studied Politics Economics and Philosophy for my first degree some 40 years ago and your posts kind of put me through my paces a little!!

      • FZM says:

        Yes, something like that, I think this is the kind of conclusion about power and reality Foucault ultimately came to. The big difference with the original French postmodernists is that they thought that the way forward was to maintain multiple different narratives or discourses of power within a society simultaneously, while keeping an ironic distance from adopting any single one. (Irony was in the ‘in thing’ in the 90s). The more recent social justice warrior types in the US modified that with more traditional Marxist content, where they would only deconstruct or relativise ‘narratives’ they thought were oppressive.

        I am not surprised it reminds you of PPE from the 80s, I was at university later in the 90s and was studying a lot post-colonial literature from French and Portuguese Africa, Brazil, we had to read a fair amount of this kind of material as background. Then I forgot about it because by the early 2000s the mood started to change (probably due to 9/11 and the War on Terror). Outside of university humanities departments it was all about Science, Secularism, Enlightenment values etc. On and off I thought about the Marxist, postmodern and Existentialist stuff, and wondered if it would ever come back. Now it obviously has, but in the process it makes it hard to know what to think about mainstream modern thinking, given the way it is seeming to flip around so much.

  22. galerimo says:

    With all our deliberations we can’t go much further beyond your conclusion “We simply choose to believe in God”.

    Simply, is a very good description of this act of faith.

    For some, faith appears to be a solution that somehow gives certainty that is unshakeable.

    But I find the certainty of faith not at all like the certainty of reason.

    Faith is very compatible with every kind of not knowing, misgivings, serious doubt, open hostility that is well argued, and even blatant unreasoning refusal.

    Faith need not even be always conscious. No denying that it helps to go through the routines of creeds and baptismal renewals and especially within a community.

    It stands alone and should never be confused with all the wonderful scientific and vast theological views that are at its service.

    But all these are easily forgotten and are eminently dispensable. One well known classic definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding”.

    The point being in that word ‘seeking’. It is as much a force of attraction as it is of investigation.

    Faith is a whole of life response, meaning that it touches on our freedom, our sensate experiences, our desires, dreams and wishes even though we force it hard into rational categories – especially these times.

    As a gift from God, it is one of those gifts, I think, that goes unopened for a long time or is only opened occasionally in fleeting moments of consciousness.

    I think it is the “one thing” that Jesus was talking about when he spoke to Martha – the only one thing that is necessary for us in our lives. Our busy lives.

    And even though “God” is not a particularly Christian concept, “Does God exist?” always means attending to Jesus, for the Christian.

    He has shown himself willing to engage with us as doubters, like He did with Thomas. Who was not without puzzlement and doubt on his continuing faith journey.

    And let’s face it, we believers are always masterful and well accomplished at doubting.

  23. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63255 ) :

    // In early postmodernist thinkers this undermined almost all knowledge claims, but when later (mainly US) social justice activists took on these ideas the experience of oppression and systems of power and subordination within society was exempted from deconstruction. //

    How, please, can this sort of nonsense become the backbone of modern Western thought and political and cultural rule, driving out everything else? That’s very much a serious question. I’m having difficulty these days continuing to convince myself that I am not crazy, when all around me seem to have lost their minds. Surely, they can’t all be wrong, leaving me the only sane person standing? I *must* be the crazy one.

    • milliganp says:

      //How, please, can this sort of nonsense become the backbone of modern Western thought …//
      Has ‘the world’ gone mad, I think very much so. I find myself asking how we evangelize this culture. I seem to remember C S Lewis saying something along the lines of “O that the world were pagan .. we know how to evangelize pagans”.

    • ignatius says:

      David writes:

      // How, please, can this sort of nonsense become the backbone of modern Western thought and political and cultural rule, driving out everything else?//

      It’s not nonsense. Rather a specific language of social science that seeks explainations
      on its own terms. Idolatry, yes of a kind, but nonsense, no.

  24. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63267 ) :

    // It’s not nonsense. Rather a specific language of social science that seeks explainations
    on its own terms. //

    Sanctify it by calling it “social science” if you like, but to me it’s nonsense. And I’d give it not even a first thought were it not that many maleducated young had risen to power and were both making it the law of various lands and very successfully proselytizing millions of sheep.

    • David Smith says:

      ignatius, I apologize if that sounded like an ad hominem reply. It was not intended that way. I realize that an idea or a system can be perfectly respectable in the abstract – academically, hypothetically, intellectually – at the same time that thoughtful and conscientious people would strongly object to its being forced upon or indoctrinated into a person or an entire society.

  25. ignatius says:

    ” I apologize if that sounded like an ad hominem reply.”
    I finally looked up “ad hominem”….My google translator gives it as ‘gooseberry’ ! Never mind, David, I didn’t take it personally at all.

    I must have been through nearly all of the ‘isms’ by now, mostly to look ‘cool’ at university or to try and impress the girls. I do admire the human attempt at coherence though if it is well thought out and moral in aim. I liked Albert Camus for example. In the end though systems based on propositions about the nature of man do seem to fail and reveal a kind of pathos, standing there amid the ruins, dejected yet still defiant.

  26. galerimo says:

    Great topic and great too the contributions that expand it further.

    Turning to your reflection this morning, where you remark

    “others might argue that what we call spirituality is simply an outcome of genetics“

    I would venture to ask, isn’t everything an outcome of genetics?

    God can only be for us, and we “for” God.

    Our whole progression in evolutionary living is a preparation for divine incarnation and now evolving toward human deification.

    Every fibre of our being has a God hole in it just continually increasing in capacity for fulfilment day in and day out.

    And I was reading how we all have a lot of “fibre”

    The moon is only about 250,000 miles away, and all our individual DNA would stretch to it AND back alomst 1500 times. That’s a lot of fibre!

    We have always had conceptual problems with Jesus being fully human and too often resort to some image of a divine nature forced into a man-sized miniature with a big God in the sky pulling his strings- to put it crudely!

    No. God made an amazing reality in our humanity – naturally endowed with the capacity to receive the divine in every way once he became one of us and gifted us with Salvation (my preference for “redemption”)

    And if by spirituality you mean the manner in which we choose to engage with what is ultimate for us in life, then of course it is a matter of genetics just as much as any other activity of our sacred humanity so richly endowed as it is through God’s ever evolving grace.

    Panentheism is a very useful concept too, in this regard. It suggests the possibility of a loving encounter with God in everything – including in that superabundance of our genetic codes.

    – and no doubt in every ray of this beautiful morning sunshine!

  27. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63348 ) :

    // would venture to ask, isn’t everything an outcome of genetics? //

    Sounds like predestination.

    https://www.target.com/p/predestination-blu-ray/-/A-17012431#lnk=sametab

  28. ignatius says:

    Here’s something from Wikipedia think:

    “The God gene hypothesis proposes that human spirituality is influenced by heredity and that a specific gene, called vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2), predisposes humans towards spiritual or mystic experiences.”
    I think there probably is a predisposition towards spirituality..most likely Abraham had one otherwise he may well have stayed at home and when Samuel heard the voice of the Lord calling he might just ass well turned over in bed and carried on snoring.
    Here’s a good link:
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/19/do-your-genes-determine-your-entire-life

    “our genes only set down what might be described as a field of possibilities. These set limits on what we are to become – so whatever our upbringings, most of us will tend towards introversion or extroversion, jollity or sobriety, facility with words or numbers. But this is far from the claim that we become is essentially written in our genes. Rather, various options are pencilled in, and our life experiences determine which get inked.” (from the link above)

    • FZM says:

      There is an interesting recent theory that one reason behind the growth of atheism is the accumulation of maladaptive mutations in the genome as a result of the fading of Darwinian selective pressure on human populations since the Industrial revolution. This derives from the idea that collective worship of a moral God or divine law giver is an evolutionary adaptation that I mentioned earlier in the thread.

      Some of the implications of this are relatively challenging or spicy if evolution is seen as a kind of straightforward linear progression. The prediction is that mutational load in will continue to increase until humans, especially in developed countries, are no longer capable of maintaining an advanced civilisation of the level we have today. The decline would then cause the gradual re-emergence of Darwinian selection in the human population.

      • ignatius says:

        FMZ says: //This derives from the idea that collective worship of a moral God or divine law giver is an evolutionary adaptation that I mentioned earlier in the thread.//
        Fascinating thought. The implication being, of course, that right living begets right living. A kind of genetic insurance policy to ensure that the ‘righteous’, do indeed ‘live by faith’ What an interesting proposal….probably not one to pursue too far in case the possibility of ‘divine fiat- by genetics enforced’ should emerge from from the shadowy depths, smiling shyly as it comes.

  29. David Smith says:

    A simple thought related to ignatius ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63351 ) and FZM ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/03/30/does-god-exist-3/#comment-63356 ).

    It seems to me that the modern mind is unhealthily attuned to cause, as opposed to reality – that is, to mechanism and theory as opposed to life as it is lived in the flesh by real people. I suppose that’s due to acculturation and formal education.

  30. galerimo says:

    The great Teilhard de Chardin SJ, scientist, paleontologist and theologian, certainly embraced a Darwinian outlook.

    On a macro level he could see the overall movement of consciousness emerging through matter, tending towards an Omega point of Christ consciousness as realisation for the human species.

    All too often at an individual micro level, with its genomic juices for making all sorts of weird and wonderful choices, we can frustrate but also enhance our own place in the unfolding of this shared reality.

    No doubts here when addressing “Does God Exist”

    I like it when he says, “by virtue of the creation and still more of the incarnation nothing here below is profane to those who know how to see.” (Le Milieu Divin, 38)

    – and, (on this rare occasion!), with a scarcity of polysyllabic words of which King James himself could be proud!

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