Many of the lame “Arguments for God’s Existence” defy the Biblical Doctrine of God’s Transcendence!

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 Arguments for God’s Existence: Compromising God’s Transcendence!

I am not entirely opposed to arguments supporting the existence of God. But honesty requires candor when dealing with an Internet littered with so many poor arguments for God’s existence.

The very worst of such arguments try to claim “scientific proof” of God, which, in addition to the many obvious scientific problems with such claims, usually involves denying a fundamental doctrine of Biblical Christianity: the transcendence of God! If God is truly transcendent–and not a matter-energy entity of our universe–then how could the scientific method possibly study and explain God? Indeed, the moment a scientist succeeded in doing so, that scientists would have not only demolished the Doctrine of Divine Transcendence, but redefined “God” entirely!

Lots of Christians fall into these same errors: They come up with arguments that sound “sciencey” because they use scientific terms (though not necessarily properly) and deal with scientific concepts (ditto), and draw conclusions that “sound” science-related. But, at best, they have proposed philosophical hypotheses, not scientific ones. Of course, this is quite easy to do when the non-scientist doesn’t understand what science is and how it operates! That is why so much of what they propose is untestable and they never say how their “theory” could potentially be falsified.

Stephen Meyer is one of the worst offenders who comes to mind. He is a philosopher (though his own academic peers pay little attention to him because he is not known for impressive philosophy publications) who thinks he understands science–but nobody within the academy thinks he does. I have a paleontologist friend who can barely stand Meyer’s bungling of basic anatomy, taxonomy, and you-name-it. Nobody is surprised that Meyer has to publish his “science” [sarcasm intended!] books through Harper-Collins. Science publishers won’t touch his nonsense.

{ShawnTheAtheist raised an issue so important that my original comment in reply was edited to produce this blog article. Thank you, Shawn, and welcome to the Bible.and.Science.Forum.}

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Many of the lame “Arguments for God’s Existence” defy the Biblical Doctrine of God’s Transcendence!

  1. shawntheatheist

    Hey thanks. The problem that many atheists have with a transcendent God (defined as “(of God) existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.”) is that Christians claim that God interacts with the material universe all the time. There is no evidence that anything in the universe (that we can see) could not happen in the universe as it is. This is not to say that a God could not be holding it all together and we just assume that it is another physical law. There is just no reason for us the believe that this is the case. Nothing seems off. I hope you understand what I am saying.

    Many Christians that I have debated with say, “You are here. Isn’t that proof?” No. There are very plausible theories as to how this could happen, whether you choose to believe them or not. Now, if it came to pass that “There is NO way that we should possibly be here.” Then that is at least possible evidence for a God (for which I would seriously consider).

    This leads to, as you said, using philosophical arguments for scientific questions (worrying more about why than how). I hope this sheds a little bit of light on at least my personal perspective. Anyone can get a hold of me any time through my blog if you want my opinion. I will be polite so long as you are.

    Cheers!

    • Christians claim that God interacts with the material universe all the time. Yes, many Christians do. Again and again I point out to them that the Bible describes God as “intervening” relatively rarely–which makes those interventions more significant. At least, that is the point with miracles in the Bible. They usually have a special significance of a “new era” or something changing, such as “the Kingdom of God has come” and the beginnings of the Church in reaching new people groups, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Christians who truly know their Bibles understand the timeline of the Bible and how the “silence” of God for long periods is a major issue for God’s people as described in the Bible.

      Of course, I like to point out that if Christians truly believe God is omniscient and omnipotent, they should think the Creator capable of “designing” the universe with laws of physics functioning in such a manner that the universe functions just as the Creator intended without that Creator needing to constantly tweak, repair, and supervise as if he didn’t get it right at the time of “construction”. Indeed, that is why I chide Young Earth Creationists for their puny deity. Which is more impressive: the deity of “Special Creation” who must constantly fix and guide a universe which he didn’t get right the first time? Or the kind of deity who is such a skilled and wise engineer that he knows how to “design” a universe that continues to function exactly as the creator wanted it to do, all without requiring constant “nursing along” so it doesn’t go completely awry? Most Young Earth Creationists have never considered just how limited and clumsy their “special creation deity” appears to everybody but them.

      Indeed, one of the objectives of the Bible.and.Science.Forum is to remind everyone that Young Earth Creationists and Fundamentalist Christians in general are often at odds (theologically and otherwise) with both Christians and non-Christians. The have some clout in America because of their numbers but they are still a minority of Americans and in an international perspective, a definite minority of Christians.

      I hadn’t intended to delve into so many topics with this comment but Shawn’s perspective and comments opens up a lot of interesting topics. And I wanted to thank you for your participation. If you ever have a question or would like a comment on your latest blog post on your page, feel free to email me at Bible.and.Science.Forum at the Gmail.com domain–because that is most like to notify me in a timely way. My blog participation anywhere will be intermittent and unpredictable due to various projects.
      I also ask them this related question: Which is more impressive: a deity who specially creates “fixed kinds” that are doomed to die off if their environments change significantly OR a creator who creates laws of physics which bring about evolutionary processes which continually adapt life to changing environments and produce the enormous diversity we observe today? They like to craft illustrations involving Boeing 747s and automobiles, so I ask them which engineer is more impressive: one who designs one model at a time and designs assembly lines which faithfully reproduce that model until it is no longer practical or needed OR an engineer who designs cars and assembling lines which continually modify themselves to remain practical and what is needed while driving environments and user demands change.

      (c) 2014. Professor Tertius & The Bible.and.Science.Forum
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    • JustJustin

      I don’t know about other Christians, but I believe that gravity is the hand of God. No one knows what gravity is, but it definitely holds the universe together. It is not matter, nor is it transcendent, but it stills interacts with and holds the universe together.

      • Welcome, JustJustin. Could you elaborate on what you mean by the “hand of God”? People have used that phrase “hand of God” in many ways. Some of said that the sun represents “the hand of God” because it powers all life and all climate—and that heat supports every chemical reaction on earth because without that heat, the planet would be only slightly above absolute zero.

        If gravity is “the hand of God”, isn’t ALL ENERGY “the hand of God”?

        Physicists used to speak in terms of matter and energy and then E=mc^2 made everything into the mass-energy that is the universe. So help us to understand more of your thinking: why do you separate out gravity from other types of energy?

        Obviously, there are four fundamental forces in the universe: electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the weak force, and the strong force. So, JustJustin, are you suggesting that ALL FOUR forces are “the hand of God” or just gravity?

        Of course, anyone who accepts the Biblical concept of God being a spirit would deny the ancient notion of God having physical body parts and therefore ACTUAL hands. So if one is saying that gravity is how God acts upon matter, it is also obvious that electromagnetic forces (including light) act upon matter, as does the weak force and the strong force.

        So you have me very curious as to why you have singled out only gravity.

        • JustJustin

          By hand of God I mean that God holds the universe together through gravity, and he is precise too. If the Earth were any much closer to the sun we would burn, and if it were any much farther we would freeze. Also, the Bible says several scientific concepts about the Earth involved with gravity hundreds if not thousands of years before scientists discovered them. In Isaiah 40:22 the Bible states that the Earth is circular: “He [God] sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth.” Isaiah was written around 750 – 500 AD. This was roughly 200 – 550 years before scientists came up with the Hellenistic (not to be misread as Heliocentric) theory which is when the Earth was first suggested to be spherical. However, not everyone believed it until later. Most people until the time of Columbus believed that the Earth was flat, and that if you sailed far enough you’d run into ice or fall off. But in the modern era, we know for sure that it is a fact that the Earth is round, but the Bible was the first to suggest that. Also, Gravity is what causes the Earth to be round, and the writers of the Bible would’ve had to have known that since there was no evidence at the time that the Earth was round or why. And if this isn’t convincing enough, Job 26:7, which is speculated to be the oldest book of the Bible and was most likely written in the time of Mesopotamia says “He [God] spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.” This states that there is nothing holding the Earth up but God, who suspends it over nothing. This was proven true by science (except for the God part) thousands of years later, after many civilizations believed it was help up by columns, pillars, or gods with incredible strength. However, science now shows us that the Earth is held up by gravity, which suspends it over nothing as it flies around the Earth. The verses say God is what causes the Earth to be round and suspend over nothing, and science says that gravity does. This is why I believe they are both referring to the same thing.

          I singled out gravity because it was the most dominant example of how things that we cannot see can interact with the universe. And similarly to God, no one really knows what gravity is. We have a name for both God and gravity, a classification (spirit/force), and we know what they do, but we don’t know what exactly they really are. They are both unable to be seen and have been a mystery to many people. So God is most similar to gravity, and that’s why I used it, however I will also try to explain the other forces.

          Electromagnetic force works very similarly to gravity, as in it is a force that deals with attraction from one object to another. And this can be proven by Colossians 1:17, “He [God] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This verse is hinting at the idea that “the hand of God” that literally holds the everything in universe together through attractive forces. His “hand” that I mentioned is a mix of gravitational energy for larger objects and electromagnetic energy for smaller ones. Also, to address weak and strong energies, they are simple balancing forces. Without weakness there would be no strength, because in order to be strong there has to be someone weaker than you, and vice versa. This is God creating a barrier between strong and weak so they can’t mix and become a single force of everyone being the same level of strong and weak.

          These same statements could all be said without using God as a cause for them as well. However, I do believe that God creates these forces or that the forces are a part of him. This is only a theory, but I haven’t heard any other theories that explain what these forces are. Plus the Bible accurately states gravitational and astronomical facts before they were even discovered. I believe the Bible because of both this, and the comparison of the probability of a creator making the universe versus it being made by chance. The probability of the universe aligning into a perfect system is unthinkable compared to the probability of someone creating it. It is more likely for a sculptor to craft a perfect statue than for him to drop it off a roof and all the right the pieces break off to form a perfect statue.

          Please, if you feel like I said something inaccurate or have evidence to prove me wrong say so. I would love to get into a friendly debate and possibly have my viewpoints changed if I am proven wrong.

  2. TomS

    Immanuel Kant, in his “Critique of Pure Reason” pointed out something like this, “Thus the proof could at most establish a highest architect of the world, who would always be limited by the suitability of the material in which he works, but not a creator of the world…” [his emphasis] (page A627/B655; Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge 1998)

    • TomS: In addition to thanking you for that helpful quotation from Kant, I wanted to commend you on the outstanding examples you provided on the Sensuous Curmudgeon blog to help explain “The Dark Ages” and why historians no longer use the term. When I was still teaching, I always tried to utilize as many illustrations, analogies, etymologies, and you-name-it as I could to help students retain lesson points and terminology and understand the why? of all sorts of things. So even in retirement, I still greatly appreciate all the insights and helps anyone can bring to the table because such examples continue to impact my writings.

      Your examples of a dark horse (as in a dark horse candidate) and darkest Africa also frustrate me because I don’t know why I didn’t think of using those illustrations years ago! So your post on that topic not only helped explain the origins of the now obsolete term “the Dark Ages”, it gave readers memorable examples that will help them retain the knowledge. The Sensuous Curmudgeon blog is both entertaining and educational on its own, but one often sees comments under the blogs which are equally insightful and educational.

      I hope that this Bible.and.Science.Forum webpage will be able to draw an ever-growing audience of helpful commenters of similar intelligence and insight. The next time I’m asked or prompted to explain “the Dark Ages”, I will certainly employ your excellent illustrations of important, secondary definition of dark.

  3. 1) Of course, most people, whether Christian or not, fail to understand the nature of proofs: If what they had was truly a proof, there would be no debate. Proofs are compelling and beyond dispute among those who are honest and skilled in logic. Obviously, proofs are step by step processes, each supported by an already established, clearly stated reason why that step is being added to the description.

    2) To those Christians who claim that God intervenes constantly in the world–whether they call them miracles or not–they need only read the Bible. Miracles are quite rare in the Bible, being restricted to a very few brief periods of the scripture timeline. Of course, those periods get the most empasis by Bible readers: Moses career during the Exodus, somewhat with Joshua and the Conquest of Canaan, Elijah/Elisha years, three year ministry of Jesus, and Apostles in the early short (but for a limited time.) Yes, there are a few instances outside of those, but clearly the “interventions” by God are rare.

    Of course, many Christians get around this by redefining “miracles”. They will say, “A newborn baby is a miracle.” A true miracle, of course, is an event or phenomenon which cannot be explained by natural processes. (Of course, this creates the ambiguity of “explained YET”. We can’t tell the difference between a “miracle” and an unknown natural process or advanced technology.)

  4. TomS, that is a great quotation from Kant. As you know, most of the Christians who think they have compelling proofs have no knowledge of the philosophy or the nature of proofs. So they don’t know the history and have no ability to self-critique their own proofs.

    Of course, that is a major problem of many, no matter what the issue. Many lack the experience (and therefore the ability) in playing Devil’s Advocate to their own ideas. (And within YECdom and many fundamentalist circles, to do so is considered unacceptable if not dangerous.)

  5. {I needed a place to proofread my tags, so I added this comment for the Sensuous Curmudgeon blog here.}

    Realthog tried, but failed so miserably yet honorably. But I do applaud the attempt.

    In fact, I’ll even return the favor and review Realthog’s errors, one by one:

    >Prof. Tertius wrote: “What geologic strata(s)”
    Realthog wrote:
    Ahem, to one so prone to vaunting his academic qualifications: …

    I enjoy pedantry when it has a purpose–but dishonesty? Not so much.

    Not once on this blog page have I “vaunted” my “academic qualifications.” To “vaunt” such would require posting a specific degree, faculty title, type of terminal degree (Ph.D., D.Phil., Th.D., D.D., etc.) or even names of chairs, post-doc position, or perhaps professional scholar designations (e.g. XYZ Distinguished Scholar).

    In fact, I’ve not even mentioned any of my degrees nor the departments or institutions which granted them. The “Professor Tertius” nomen is a pseudonym and any and all of the other information which would be necessary evidence of “academic qualifications” is even missing from my blog and Facebook pages because to include them would make it easier for a vengeful YECist hitman to identify me. (To call myself a “linguist” is not an academic qualification by any means. It identifies the type of work that I do.)

    So much like an overreaching “creation scientist”, your bold assertion fails for lack of evidence.

    Now, let’s review the following:

    RealHog wrote:
    “stratum, singular; strata, plural”

    1) I enjoyed this one, because I was probably teaching Latin before you were born. But you have achieved copy-and-paste most competently.

    2) The Latin 2nd Declension neuter nouns which have spawned various -um/-a English derivations are experiencing a not-so-surprising shift in English language spelling, largely due to the decline in Classical Studies training and the realization that English is not a Romance language and is under no obligation to continue following countless Latin rules which were applied by anal retentive grammarians for no good reason. [And that one is a great topic for another day!]

    3) You’ve no doubt already noticed this shift underway with the word “agenda”. Of course, agenda is a collective plural as is. That is, it implies plurality even while singular because it is a list of items/topics to be discussed or performed. (Of course, in Latin, it is agendum /-a , as one would expect and one even occasionally sees the Latin singular in English sentences.) But even though “agendas” has become acceptable to many publishers, when I was young, in some venues there was still an insistence on “agenda” for both singular and plural. Occasionally one would even see “agendae” or similar attempt to preserve an air of strict classical training.

    4) So just as agendum/agenda has given way to agenda/agendas, stratum/strata of Latin is most likely headed for strata/stratas, especially as American English becomes more “international” through the rising number of non-native speakers of English in our society in general and in academia and the publishing world more specifically.

    5) But… most of all I was both surprised and humored that you ignored or missed the specific context of my remarks!

    Not only was I writing in an informal context where colloquialisms and their conventions are common, I specifically drafted the list of questions for Young Earth Creationists!

    Do you seriously think that the average YEC understands stratum versus strata?

    I used to use “stratum” and the reply would be, “What’s a stratum? Is that a typo?” (Creationists are not renowned for their facility with science terminology.) Now I suppose I could replace the suitable colloquialism that I used, strata(s) [which nobody ever confused or questioned], with the Latin pedant’s preference, stratum/strata, but the purpose of all writing, especially in a situation where one only has one chance to pose the question, is clear communication— and while my prior use of “stratum/strata” often created unnecessary distraction, strata/stratas, has never been a problem with even the dullest of YECer, especially if I included the qualifier, “geologic”.

    If you were questioning a former Latin professor about geologic stratum and strata, I would side with you. But Ken Ham & Co. tend to be averse to all sorts of knowledge from the academy, not just science. Moreover, I have many years of experience living among the YECers and speaking their language. So I have reasonable fluency in YEC-ese and most of its dialects. And as the old saying goes, “When in Roma, do as the Romani do.” Oh… that didn’t sound so good, did it?! See the problem with pleasing the Classicists? (My Latin was impeccable but the new version only makes complete sense in the context of what we just discussed.)

    That said… I enjoyed your attempted correction. But, I did wonder about one thing: Did you consider at all whether it was wise to try to correct a linguist on such a trivial English spelling convention? Did you truly think it likely that I would be unaware of stratum/strata?

    Whatever your answer, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I always told my students to challenge me in the written word all they wished. (But with class time, it depended on their competence and my mood at the time.)

    Now, to be honest about it, I actually had another underlying ulterior motive (and agenda!) for matching your pedantry with my own. What I just explained in terms of particular class of English nouns and how their usage and conventions can change significantly in one man’s lifetime should be a lesson to those, even within the academy, who fail to make allowances for the kinds of changes in the Hebrew language which common sense would expect in the span of centuries represented by the Old Testament! (The span becomes even longer when we think about the oral traditions and proto-languages that preceded the texts of the Tanakh.) All languages are “living organisms”, constantly evolving, and regularly challenging us. Especially the ancient ones.

    So all linguistics must be humble as well as careful. (And no linguist is more humble and careful than I!)

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