faith

This tag is associated with 17 posts

Really Recommended Posts 11/02/12

Snowy Owl Post edition of Really Recommended Posts. Why snowy owl? Because it is snowing outside here. This week, I feature a whole range of posts. Yes, they are diverse. Yes, they are awesome. Read them all. Let me know what you think. Share with friends.

Stop Teaching Young Christians About Their Faith– say what!? Yes, you read that right. Stop teaching about faith. Challenge them to more than rote memorization. Check out this fantastic post.

Young Earth Creationism and the intensity of volcanism– Is there a curve of decreasing volcanic activity that supports old earth creationism? The Geochristian investigates.

You Say the Bible Advocates Slavery?– Erik Manning shares some insight into a common ad hominem attack against Christians and the Bible. Does the Bible actually advocate slavery? What kind of morality is that? I highly recommend this post.

A short, humorous video in which William Lane Craig discusses the multiverse.

Mandy Patinkin: 25 Years After ‘The Princess Bride,’ He’s Not Tired Of That Line– No, this is not really related to apologetics. But it is about “The Princess Bride“- one of the best movies of all time, in my humble (correct) opinion. This article is phemomenal, by the way. Very well worth the read if you liked the movie. If you didn’t….. well, let’s just say I’m wary of your taste in movies! (I jest… mostly!).

Four Myths About the Crusades– The Crusades are a hot-button topic. They are used as an easy way to bash Christians. What actually happened? What can history teach us about the Crusades? Check out this post to find some thought-provoking answers.

Biden on Abortion– The VP Debate ended with a question about abortion. I largely think both VP Candidates failed to answer consistently, though Paul Ryan’s answer was slightly better. Biden’s answer was patently absurd. Check out Nick Peters’ response to Biden’s incoherence on the topic of abortion.

 

“The Dark Knight Rises”- A Christian Reflection

The epic tale begun with Batman Begins and continued with The Dark Knight comes to a fruition in The Dark Knight RisesBatman has always been my favorite hero (I say hero and not superhero because he has no superpowers), and I couldn’t wait to see the  finale to the trilogy I had been awaiting for some time. It didn’t disappoint. Herein, I reflect from my Christian background on the many themes in the movie.

Here’s the last warning: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE. BIG ONES.

I’m going to eschew giving a plot summary because what I want to contribute to the conversation is a discussion on the themes. If you don’t feel like bothering with the movie, it would be good to at least know about the plot before reading this post. Check here for a brief summary.

Faith

Throughout the movie I kept noticing faith as a major theme. There were those who had maintained faith in a lie: Harvey Dent. Batman had taken the fall for him in The Dark Knight in order to provide Gotham with a needed hero. This faith was misplaced, and Jim Gordon, the police commissioner of Gotham City, almost destroyed himself keeping it inside himself. He said, at one point, “I knew Harvey Dent. I was his friend. And it will be a very long time before someone… Inspires us the way he did. I believed in Harvey Dent.” Yet the whole time Gordon knew he was speaking a lie. He believed in Dent, but he no longer believes in him.

Batman placed his faith in  Catwoman/Selina Kyle. He firmly believed that there was more to her than the anger she continually expressed. This interplay was made more interesting by the interaction between Batman’s and Catwoman’s alter egos, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Selina Kyle, who seemed generally upset with all the rich and famous in Gotham and the decadence found therein–told the rich billionaire Bruce Wayne, “You think this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” More on the interaction between the two later.

Alfred put his trust in Bruce Wayne. He strongly wanted Wayne to have a satisfying, fulfilling life, and throughout the film he worried that Batman would destroy Wayne. When push came to shove, Alfred was willing to leave Wayne in order to try to save him. Again, more on this later.

Finally, there were those who had faith in Batman. Batman, to them, was more than just a hero, he was a symbol of hope and justice.

One thing viewers should note is that the use of “faith” in The Dark Knight Rises is not some kind of hack definition. It doesn’t mean “belief in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary” or “belief in something you know ain’t true.” Instead, faith in the movie is faith in–a trusting faith based on evidence. Those who believed in Harvey Dent were mistaken, but that wasn’t due to evidence, it was active deception. Batman’s faith in Selina Kyle was firmly based on his ability to read her character. Others’ faith in Batman was based upon either a personal knowledge of the secret (Gordon) or knowledge of his actions as Batman (John Blake, others). It is very similar to the faith of the Christian, which is based upon knowledge.

Rise

The most obvious theme in the movie was that of “arising.” Bruce Wayne had to overcome his doubts, fears, and become something greater. Yet he had to rely on others to build this journey. The knowledge of his fellow prisoners in ‘the pit’–a prison into which people were thrown, but could climb out. Only one had ever managed it, however, and that was Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, who had subsequently saved Bane. Ironically, then, the rise of his enemies forced the Dark Knight to meet their challenge. He had to transcend his limits and become that which Gotham needed in order to save it.

Yet Batman/Wayne wasn’t the only one who rose in the movie. Selina Kyle also experienced a major transition. As a character, she was initially powerfully motivated by anger and a desire to escape. She was portrayed as being very frustrated and angry with the social imbalance of the world and determined to not only try to balance it–in her favor, of course–but also to punish those who made it so imbalanced. When Batman returns to Gotham after his exile by Bane, he confronts Selina. He points out that the storm she predicted earlier has hit, and it doesn’t seem like it was what she wanted. Still, however, she seems determined to be in it all for herself. Yet ultimately she comes back to fight with the Dark Knight against the evil powers that are trying to destroy Gotham. In the end, she does manage to rise, with the guidance and help of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

John Blake–the incorruptible cop–also rose. It is revealed shortly before the film’s end that he is Robin–and that he is about to take up the cowl of Batman, to become the symbol for Gotham. Here, I sensed a feeling of fulfillment. We encourage others to walk in our shoes and left them up when they are down. Without Batman, Blake would not have survived. Yet he goes on to [presumably] become the next Batman, to save others.

Corruption

The world is not all sunshine and daisies. The world is full of corruption and sin. Interestingly, The Dark Knight Rises has much less corruption on the part of the police force than the previous movies. The turn was a noticeable, perceptible shift. As far as the plot goes, I wonder if any of that was due to the “Dent Act” which effectively ended organized crime in Gotham. Despite the relative “cleanness” of the police force, however, there was plenty of corruption to go around. Once Bane overthrows the city, there are “people’s courts” where “justice” is dole out on those already deemed guilty. The prisons are ripped open due to the lie [Harvey Dent] that many were imprisoned by. One wonders, how much of this is justice? Is any of what Bane says true?

Furthermore, it is a powerful reminder of the human condition. Given the chance to rule themselves, Gotham erupted into violence and brutality. It is little wonder that this should happen, given a Christian worldview, because all are sinful and need grace. All deserve justice.

Justice and Freedom

Is there justice? Was Batman just in continuing his adventures as the Caped Crusader? Is violence ever a justifiable means to an end?

Within Christianity there is a long history–traceable to Augustine, at least–of the concept of a “Just War.”  There will be much debate over whether the actions of someone like Batman could be justified. Is it ever permissible to take justice into one’s own hands? I leave the question open.

Yet more important questions loom. What is justice? Who is to determine it?

One wonders what worldview could plug these holes that continue to open as human nature is probed by director Christopher Nolan throughout the Batman Trilogy. From the irrational desire to cause fear and anarchy of Scarecrow to the anarchist nihilism of the Joker to the over-reactive retribution of Bane, Nolan has exposed viewers to the depths of human freedom. What price, freedom? Bane tells Gotham he has set them free, yet he has truly imprisoned them by their own nature. What occurs is a vivid portrayal of human nature and destruction.

Christian Threads- Redemption and Cleansing

I can’t help but think of Bruce Wayne’s ascension from the pit to the chants of “rise” without thinking of the Christian faith. We sinners are in our own pits of sin. Yet just as Wayne we have a very real lifeline. Yes, Bruce Wayne shunned the physical lifeline, but he clung to an idea: he clung to faith. Similarly, the Christian shuns the physical realm and is saved by faith. Rise.

There is the notion of a “clean slate.” Selina Kyle is primarily motivated by her desire to have such a clean slate. She wants to start over. Batman offers it as a tantalizing price to pay for her help in the final battle. Yet in the end, Selina comes back and redeems herself more than was required by the Bat. At the end of the movie, however, it is revealed that both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have managed to use the “clean slate.” They have started afresh. Again, a Christian allegory or overlay could be applied here. We are all sinners in search of a clean slate, yet we cannot provide it for ourselves. While have no nearly-magical technology to give us a clean slate, we do have salvation by grace through faith. And that, my friends, is something worth considering.

Finally, Wayne’s “rise” coincides with the need I described earlier. The fact that enemies had arisen meant that Batman had to also rise to the challenge. Christians know that once sin came into the world, the only way to cure it would be for God to come into the flesh to save us. Such is poignantly portrayed when Jim Gordon talked to John Blake. Gordon talks about the evils of Gotham and describes how Batman transcends the filth, but he “puts his hands into the filth [with us]” [I believe he says filth, but I have a suspicion it may have been muck–correct me if I’m wrong here]. Wayne, though having no obligation to these people, still loves Gotham, and he is willing to condescend to get his hands dirty–to put his hands into the filthy muck and dirty them in order to save it. Is it an allegory? It certainly works as one. Jesus is God incarnate. A God who loved His creatures so much that He was willing to become one of them–to put his hands into the filth and reach down to save us. Just as Batman did what was necessary to save while also dealing justice, Christ did what was necessary in order to save humanity from its own sin. The Son Rises.

Links

Check out more of my reflections on movies. If you liked The Dark Knight Rises, check out my look at The Avengers.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Existential Reasons for Belief in God” by Clifford Williams

Clifford Williams’ Existential Reasons for Belief in God (hereafter ERBG) is one of the most unique philosophy of religion books this reader has experienced. Rather than engaging in systematic arguments for the existence of God based upon sensory experience or philosophical reflection on the cosmos, Williams focuses on the subject of his subtitle: A Defense of Desires & Emotions for Faith.

Williams argues that “Christians need a conception of faith that is at least as much need-based as reason-based” (13). By uniting these into one concept Christians can help acquire and sustain faith (13). Need has been too often cast aside or ridiculed when it comes to faith (12).

After these introductory remarks, Williams jumps into detailed argument on the topic. Throughout the work he focuses on the concept that “people acquire their faith partly because they feel that it meets… existential needs and partly because they think that it makes sense or is true” (17, emphasis his). He begins his argument by surveying various types of needs people have (20ff). In chapter 3, Williams presents an existential argument for believing in God:

1. We need [various things like cosmic security, meaning, awe, delight in goodness, etc.]

2. Faith in God justifies these needs.

3. Therefore, we are justified in having faith in God. (32)

Clearly, this is not the typical argument for the existence of God. It’s not an argument for God’s existence at all. Williams recognizes this fact and argues that there is a distinction between evidential and existential reasons for belief. “In evidential justification for believing in God, one believes in God because of what one takes to be good evidence for doing so ” (41). By contrast, “The existential argument… says that faith in God is justified solely because it satisfies certain needs” (41). The argument, therefore, is not to show God exists, but to show that one can rationally believe in God.

Williams argues that such existential justification is permissible for a number of reasons. First, it helps clarify what nature is–it is not merely a faith based on aspects of reality but is instead a faith which is aimed at meeting certain needs (41). Second, people use existential reasoning in other instances–for example when they need to eat, they know that they are justified in going to meet that need (41).

Objections to this reasoning will, of course, be raised. The first objection is that “the existential argument does not guarantee truth” (61). With this objection, one sees the distinction between evidential and existential arguments becoming very clear. Williams returns to the food analogy. The existential argument there would be “1. Humans get hungry; 2. Eating food assuages hunger; 3. Therefore, eating food is justified” (63). Here the argument is not to establish the existence of food but rather to establish that eating food is justified (63). Similarly, with the existential argument for God, the argument is to establish the justification for believing in God (63-64). The argument presupposes, to some extent, the existence of God, and justifies that very belief (64).

Another interesting implication of the distinction between existential and evidential reasons for belief is that they can be combined to form a cumulative type of argument for the existence of God. Williams presents such an argument, which combines these types of reasoning:

1. We [have various existential needs.]

2. The best explanation for the presence of these needs in humans is that there is a God who has put them into humans.

3. Faith in God satisfies these needs.

4. Therefore, we are justified in believing there is a God in whom we can have faith. (67)

But, it may be objected, this argument justifies belief in any type of God! Consider someone who wants to believe in “Tyrant George” because they need humans to be tortured. They could be justified in believing in such a deity based upon their in-built needs. Williams frankly admits that this objection has its merit. The existential argument should be combined with reason (88). But he also takes issue with the “need” to torture. He delimits criteria which define “needs.” These criteria are:

1. Needs must be felt by many others… most people, if not all.

2. Needs must endure…

3. Needs must be significant…

4. Needs must be part of a constellation of connected needs, each of which meets the other criteria…

5. Needs must be felt strongly (89).

Why, however, should we believe these criteria? Williams argues that these criteria are independently verified and that they have been found useful in a number of settings, including psychology, courtrooms, and in assessment of unusual phenomena (90).

A third objection notes that not everyone feels existential needs. Williams challenges this notion and argues that most people will be aware of having the various needs he has outlined (119). Finally, it may be objected that we can satisfy these needs without faith. Williams counters by presenting a various tests wherein subjects may find temporary satisfaction in varied cases but their ultimate needs are not met (133ff).

Williams also surveys various thinkers–from Pascal to William James to Freud–and what they had to say about needs. He offers critiques of several theories while advancing his own.

There are those who may be thinking this is, so far, an entirely fideist account. Williams begs to differ and provides several reasons for why faith and emotion can work with the mind and reason to bring about a satisfactory, fulfilling faith (chapter 8). He concludes by showing various ways needs can draw us toward and away from God. Ultimately, “We humans find ourselves with certain deep and abiding needs… We need meaning… We need to kneel, so we kneel” (183).

One interesting thing to note throughout the book is that Williams continually underscores his points with excerpts written by people who have had various existential needs met by faith. These illustrations are also used to show various objections or difficulties people have when their needs aren’t met. They give ERBG a unique feel to it–one that is more intimate than most philosophy works. They’re also useful in that they give readers a concrete example for his argument.

Those coming from a very evidentialist view of apologetics and philosophy will have difficulties with this book, as this reader can attest to. It’s hard to admit that needs and emotions have their place in a rational world, but Williams does an excellent job focusing the reader on this fact. Too often, the focus is only upon a  posteriori arguments based upon the world as opposed to those based upon the human condition. Williams adequately defends existential reasons for belief, and–perhaps most importantly–presented them in a way to which evidentialists can relate and understand. He acknowledged difficulties in the argument and responded to many key objections. Hopefully, Williams has reopened an avenue for philosophers of religion to explore. Too long have they ignored the usefulness of existential reasoning.

Source:

Clifford Williams, Existential Reasons for Belief in God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2011).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Reading “Miracle of Theism” by J.L. Mackie: Introduction

This post will serve as a base for links to the rest of the chapters as I read them:

Chapter 1

One reader of my blog recently challenged me to take on the heady atheists. Rather than focusing on the kind of basic fallacies found in various atheistic objections to belief, he suggested I should devote some of my philosophical energy to rebutting the claims of atheists who should actually be taken seriously. I took the advice to heart, acquired copies of J.L. Mackie’s Miracle of Theism and Graham Oppy’s Arguing About Gods. I’ve started reading Mackie’s book. I will be posting thoughts as I continue to read through it, and tie it into an extended critique of his arguments. For today, I’ll discuss only the introduction.

I found a few areas of agreement. Mackie noted that a cumulative case would not point to certainty, but could overcome objections to individual arguments. I agree with him here. I tend to favor a “cumulative case” type of argument, though I think that some theistic arguments could easily stand on their own to prove general aspects of theism (like a first cause).

I find a bit of difficulty with Mackie’s rather dismissive attitude towards faith (p. 4-6). As tends to be the case when faith is discussed by non-theists, he just brought up arguments which he believes shows that reason must be the basis for belief, and then moved on. But I’m not totally convinced that faith can be tossed aside as it is so often. First, I think of Plantinga’s proper function account and I think that while it is ultimately based on reason, it allows for one to be justified in belief through faith. Second, I’m not persuaded that faith cannot work as a kind of reason or discovery of reality. Faith, as it were, seems to account for many of our beliefs (other minds, for example?). So I think while I tend to be an evidentialist when it comes to these things, I am skeptical of a simple dismissal of faith. If anyone could help me with these points, I’d appreciate it.

Mackie discussed the possibility of naturalistic explanations of religion. I’m continually perplexed by the pervasiveness of this idea.Why should the origin of a belief undermine its truth? This would only work if the origin would serve to discredit the belief itself (as in Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism).

And I’ve been similarly unconvinced when it comes to others who argue that an account of how religious came to be would undermine the belief. I know Plantinga gives the idea more credit than I: in Warranted Christian Belief, I think, I recall him arguing extensively against naturalistic accounts. But I don’t see them as much of a threat, and I admit I groaned a bit when Mackie started going in that direction. It always seems like the kind of “hidden weapon” atheists have: “We have an evolutionary account of religion!” Of course whether that is true or not, I don’t see it as very persuasive.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Life Dialogue: The Interaction of Science and Faith

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

While I’ve explored some of the major perspectives of this debate within Christianity, one element I’ve left untouched is the different approaches people take on the interaction between science and faith.

This interaction can be seen in (at least) four ways:

1) Faith and Science are both accurate and support each other in a mutually beneficial relationship–this view, interestingly enough, is advocated by all sides of the dialogue I’ve explored before: intelligent design, old and young earth creationism, and theistic evolution

2) Faith and Science discuss completely different realms, and as such are both accurate, but independent and non-overlapping–this is often referred to as the “Independence” theory or “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” (check out this post for an interesting exploration of this possibility)

3) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Faith–this view is often advocated by those who feel uncomfortable with scientific discoveries they may feel challenge Christianity and Scripture

4) Faith and Science are at odds, and we should favor Science– this view is often favored by those who believe their religion must “keep up” with current science

Now, it seems to me that 1) should be the favored position by those interested in the interaction between science and faith.

First, 4) seems unacceptable because it endorses giving up truths of Scripture or belief as scientific discoveries emerge. This also means that faith must change as science does. This is not an attack on science; rather, it acknowledges that science can and does often change to correct theories, etc. Take the following hypothetical situation: science advocated some position z which seemed to be in confrontation with doctrine y, but then later science found that z was untenable–instead, it was x which was more likely, and x served as scientific affirmation of y. This convoluted scenario seems problematic for those who endorse 4), for they would give up y at first, but then would they take y as true again once x was advocated?

3) seems equally unacceptable because the opposite scenario would work to show potential absurdities in such a view. On this view, take the following example: science takes position z which serves to support the doctrinal position y, but then new discoveries are made which show that x is really the case, which goes against y. The scientist, however, can run multiple tests that demonstrate beyond a doubt that x is indeed the case. It doesn’t seem to me to be intellectually honest to say that x is not the case. Doctrine y would need to be evaluated Biblically and evaluated to see if it really fit the picture, not only that, but x and z would have to be evaluated Biblically.

2) seems to fare little better. Clearly there are places that science and faith will overlap, as has been demonstrated in this series of posts on the Life Dialogue. It seems as though the advocate of 2) would have to argue that any apparent overlap between science and faith is really just that: apparent. It seems to overlap but in reality it does not. However, the advocate of 2) could simply advance the argument that perhaps these positions do overlap in a sense, but the overlap doesn’t matter, as they are investigating different parts of reality. Faith explores the metaphysical aspects of a situation, x, while science explores the empirical aspects.

So why do I prefer 1)? I take for granted that faith explains reality. The claim, for example, that “God exists” seems to me not only obvious, but demonstrably true. Science also explains reality. Thus, as I accept that both science and faith explain reality, I believe that they must operate in a mutually beneficial way: where one has nothing specific to say, the other takes over, where they both have things to say, the interplay will occur. But I see no reason to deny aspects of faith for science or vice versa. Thus, it seems to me that the Christian doesn’t need to deny science, but neither should he/she deny aspects of her faith.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

True Christianity: A Brief Discussion

People today are often confused about what it means to be Christian. Often, when one tries to claim that someone who calls oneself a Christian and does not believe in things that are Christian, they are confronted with people saying this is some kind of fallacy (specifically the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, as I was accused of in a previous debate).

The question then stands, is there a definition of what it means to be Christian? Are there people that claim to be Christian and are not, or can anyone claim to be a Christian regardless of their beliefs about, say, the Trinity or the divinity of Christ?

Yes, there is a clear definition of what it means to be Christian, and, apart from these beliefs there is no salvation. The early church defined Christian belief through three “Ecumenical Creeds.” These creeds explicitly state what the Christian belief is, and that apart from this faith there is no salvation. These creeds outline the one Holy Catholic faith (note that Catholic doesn’t only refer to Roman Catholics, but rather to the Catholic Church, the eternal “City of God”), and apart from this faith there is no salvation and no Christianity.

I’ve been listening to a number of debates that I downloaded and a few of them featured John Dominic Crossan (the founder of the misnamed “Jesus Seminar”) verses various conservative Christians. Crossan denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, he seems to deny in some ways Christ’s deity, he rejects Christianity as the only way, etc. He claims to be Christian. Can we say that he is not Christian? Absolutely. In denying the bodily resurrection, he denies the One True Faith found in the Creeds of the Catholic Faith. There is no fallacy in rejecting that people like this are not Christians, for there is a clear definition of what it means to be a Christian. If one does not believe in the One Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coequal and coeternal, one is not a Christian. This applies for every statement of belief within the creeds. If one rejects any part of these creeds, they are not Catholic in belief. The Athanasian Creed concludes: “This is the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.”

This is the teaching of the One True Church, this is the teaching of Scripture (which does not contain the Creeds, but from which the Creeds were directly derived), this is the truth.

The creeds are found below:

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever.

Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being. For each person — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — is distinct, but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit.

The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite.

In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet they are not three who are almighty, but there is one who is almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.

For just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually to be God and Lord, so the true Christian faith forbids us to speak of three Gods or three Lords. The Father is neither made not created, nor begotten of anyone. The Son is neither made nor created, but is begotten of the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And within this Trinity none comes before or after; none is greater or inferior, but all three persons are coequal and coeternal, so that in every way, as stated before, all three persons are to be worshiped as one God and one God worshiped as three persons. Whoever wishes to be saved must have this conviction of the Trinity.

It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took on human flesh. Now this is the true Christian faith: We believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and Man. He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man, with rational soul and human flesh, equal to the Father, as to his deity, less than the Father, as to his humanity; and though he is both God and Man, Christ is not two persons but one, one, not by changing the deity into flesh, but by taking the humanity into God; one, indeed, not by mixture of the natures, but by unity in one person.

For just as the reasonable soul and flesh are one human being, so God and man are one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, and from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people will rise again with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into everlasting fire.

This is the true Christian Faith. Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.

Counter-Counter-Apologetics 1: Redeeming Pascal’s Wager

When I first started to get into apologetics, one of the first sites I stumbled upon was Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics site.

This site’s mission statement is “Iron Chariots is intended to provide information on apologetics and counter-apologetics. We’ll be collecting common arguments and providing responses, information and resources to help counter the glut of misinformation and poor arguments which masquerade as “evidence” for religious claims. ”

Note especially the scare quotes they use around evidence. This is a tactic atheists are very prone to using. Anything they disagree with, they put quotes around to make it look less true. Atheists are “right.” See? Fun, isn’t it? Does it do anything of value? No.

Anyway, it was sort of disturbing to see that there are those who are trying any means necessary to get around theism. I left the site a little scared, wondering if Christian Apologetics was all it is said to be. Well it is. After much more studying and forgetting completely about this site, I stumbled back upon it the other day, and decided to see what the anti-theists are saying about apologetics. Not much of value, in my opinion. And because I feel like it, I’m going to start countering their counter apologetics in a series of posts that will happen randomly interspersed with my others. These posts won’t just include arguments from this site, but will also include things like my counter for the “Argument from Atheism” (AKA “One Step Further Argument”).

This article will focus on Pascal’s Wager. Before I proceed, I should note that I absolutely do not think Pascal’s Wager is a good tool for witnessing, nor is it all that great as an argument. But it is, I think valid, and while it should not be used as a reason to believe, it does provide what, in logic, is called a dilemma for the atheists.

Pascal’s Wager is essentially as follows: God exists or He does not exist. If He does exist, there is infinite reward for believing in Him, but infinite loss for not believing in Him. If He does not exist, there is nothing to lose. “Nothing to lose, everything to gain,” is often the summing-up of this dilemma.

Iron Chariots accurately, in my opinion, points out that there isn’t nothing to lose by disbelieving. If there is no God then,

“For one thing, if you go through life believing a lie, that is a bad thing in itself. Besides that, there is more to being a believer than just saying “Okay, I believe now” and getting on with your life. Serious believers spend a lot of their time in church, and contribute a lot of money as well. There’s a reason why some towns have very affluent looking buildings for churches, and why large and elaborate cathedrals are possible: they’re funded by folks who donate a tenth of their income throughout their lives to tithing. This is surely quite a waste if the object of worship isn’t real.”

The article then goes on a rant about property taxes, persecution, etc., things which will not be discussed here because, frankly, I find these arguments ineffably dull, though I may be forced to talk about them in the future.

So yes, I concede that there is a reward for not believing if there is no God. They also accurately show that there can be finite rewards for believing in God even if He doesn’t exist, because of psychological benefits, society, etc. Unfortunately, they plug these positives into a table of good life vs. bad life instead of actually in Pascal’s Wager. So I’ll just do the work for them.

Pascal’s Wager
God Exists |      God Doesn’t Exist
Belief           ∞ +            |     Finite +
Disbelief    |  ∞ –          |      Finite +

Okay so the table isn’t working so well. I think it can be figured out. Anyway, the main argument is that there is after all, a reward for not believing if there is no God. The problem is that even if that reward outweighs the finite reward of believing in a non-existant God, that still must be weighed against the infinite negative of not believing if there is a God. The argument that there is a reward for not believing, so it is logical to not believe breaks down when you weigh the infinite negative of disbelief if God exists verses the finite positive of disbelief if God does not.

There is one final point I’d like to make. That is, that the same site continues to argue that another problem is which god to believe in. I’d like to counter that by saying that isn’t the point of Pascal’s Wager. Belief in a god is better than belief in no god, because the probability for infinite reward still increases (in that it will be 1/however many gods to choose from) verses the probability for infinite negative (which would be certain if there is a God). So Pascal’s Wager still stands. I grant that the probability increase would be very low, so some may then argue that it’s not worth giving up the finite reward of not believing in a god. The response could then be that there is still a granted finite reward in believing in a god if god doesn’t exist, and any increase in probability for infinite gain verses infinite loss would outweigh the any loss of finite reward that could be gained from disbelief. In other words, the increased probability plus the finite reward of believing in a god would outweigh the definite probability of infinite negative if there is a God combined with the finite reward of not believing in a God.

Sorry for the drawn out post, but I wanted to respond thoroughly. There is more I’d like to say, but that’s where I’ll end for now.

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