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Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    I don't see how it is a contradiction. Sure, it could be a contradiction is the common monotheist sense, but monotheism is not the only definition of the divine. I can point to Hinduism as an example which has a completely different definition of "god" means.

    I believe the sociological definition of a cult is a religious movement in which has novel religious beliefs, with a high degree of tension with the surrounding society. However, that's not how the term is used.

    As well, the traditional use of the term "cult" in Christianity, from what I'm reading in Wikipedia, is one that is akin to heresy; in such a context, it's not really an appropriate term to use today given the pejorative use of cult. Such would be an equivocation fallacy; Roman Catholicism and Mormonism are accused of cults in this sense, taking advantage of the other definition of the word cult. Same with Shi'a Islam.

    Cult is a loaded term, which is why sociologicalists use NRMs (New Religious Movements) instead. This isn't really political correctness; cult has become a word that has no well defined meaning and is associated with something that is inherintly bad. The fact that there can be well-defined meanings of cult is irrelevant, as a word gets its meaning in how it is used.
     
  2. aneeshm

    aneeshm Chieftain

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    Here's a nice chain of questions which my knowledge of Hindu philosophy suggested to me (in what way it was suggested would take too long to explain, so I'd skip that right now, unless you want to know more):

    What is the exceptional thing in a Prophet (I refer to the Prophetic tradition of the Jews, the Old Testament, and of its culmination in Jesus)?

    Is the nature of his consciousness "different" from others? Is he "created" different, somehow something more than just human?

    If not (that is, if there is no difference between a Prophet and an ordinary man except that the Prophet is "chosen"), then why is a particular soul chosen for Prophethood? Is it (the choosing) random?

    If it is random, isn't that just plain unfair (that some souls get a "Hotline to Heaven", whereas others have to be content with receiving orders from the guy with the phone)? Isn't it unfair to everyone else that they have to rely on faith, whereas the Prophets have (personal) proof?

    Isn't it ironic that the only people who don't actually need faith, that same faith which is praised to the skies by the message these same people bring, who are completely convinced of the existence and attributes of God because of personal experience, are the Prophets themselves? They are given the "rational" proof of God, thus negating the necessity of faith, but they expect everyone else to take everything they say on faith.

    Would God choose the faithless as his Messengers? Would God create a system in which his Messengers have to be without faith (as in - the belief without proof bit) due to the nature of the Prophetic tradition itself?

    Would Yahweh/Jehovah/Allah create a system where only his "chosen" people would have the privilege of proof (and thus be without need of faith), and all others would have to be content with faith not just in God but also in his messengers, without the "special" knowledge that those messengers are privy to? Is that not unfair to every other created soul?
     
  3. Murky

    Murky Chieftain

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    Do modern scholars sometimes become disillusioned to the religion by unraveling the true history of it?
     
  4. Veritass

    Veritass Chieftain

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    Perhaps #7 is incorrect: perhaps such a world does exist, but it doesn't happen to be this one. #4 seems to imply that God would only want such a world, but what if God would create this possibility plus many others?
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Lots of interesting questions!

    That is indeed a possible response to the problem of evil, but it is essentially accepting that the argument works. That is, it is to accept that in fact you can't have a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect while suffering also exists. Now "omnipotent" has been defined in various ways, but the standard definition is that an omnipotent being is one that can do anything that can be done; that is, one that can bring about any logically possible situation.

    Some people have gone beyond this and suggested that God can do even the logically impossible. Descartes is normally attributed with this belief, and sometimes Peter Damien is, though wrongly in my opinion.

    Now in more recent years some theologians have gone the other way and suggested that God can't do absolutely anything after all. He's the most powerful being in the universe, but he doesn't possess power so great that we can't imagine a more powerful one. This view is associated with Process Theology, a movement that was terribly in vogue in the 1970s but is much less so now. On that view, God exists inside time (literally, as a process, rather than as an entity) and has limited power and knowledge. This idea is supposed to be more in keeping with the Bible, especially the Old Testament, where God seems to change his mind, not know certain things, suffer, etc. Charles Hartshorne was probably the most well-known theologian of this group. The problem, of course, is that it's hard to see what's so divine about this sort of God. Anselm of Canterbury defined God as "that than which no greater can be conceived", but it seems easy to imagine a greater being than Hartshorne's God - such as Aquinas' God.

    Well, Leibniz wasn't ancient, in fact, but modern. He only lived seventy years and it's true that they are still editing and publishing his works, because he wrote such a staggeringly vast amount and left most of it unpublished or unfinished. But your question is really asking what the purpose of scholarship is. On the one hand I think knowledge is worth pursuing for its own sake. It's worth asking what Leibniz thought about certain things because that is, in itself, truth that is worth uncovering. And on the other, of course, Leibniz was an astonishingly clever person who generally had something worth saying on most matters, so it is worth knowing what it was. To be honest, in his case I think he did seem to spout wisdom far more quickly than anyone else could take it in (perhaps one reason why he wasn't very personally popular!).

    Really, though, the purpose of establishing what figures of the past said and thought isn't the intrinsic worth of their views - it's because that's how we understand history and piece it together. Now you could ask why that's worthwhile, but that takes us into a different field altogether.

    The early church certainly didn't think it was a problem that the Septuagint was written in Greek. They thought that God inspired the translators, rather than the authors of the texts they were translating. There was a legend that seventy scholars worked on the translation, each one completely independently. When their work was compared, they had, amazingly, all produced exactly the same translation - proving that they were miraculously inspired. (The name "Septuagint" comes from the belief that there were seventy translators.)

    I believe that the deuterocanonical books do exist in Hebrew and Aramaic. However, as I said before, they were not part of the Jewish canon established at Jamnia, which is why Luther and co left them out of their canon. Although it's worth pointing out that Luther determined his canon theologically as well as historically. He thought that any book that contradicted his doctrine of salvation by faith alone should not be in the Bible. So he left out James.

    I think that a cult is defined as a religious group where people are encouraged (or even forced) to abandon their old lives and never see their families or friends again. Highly charismatic leadership and a personality cult are often involved in this. So the early church would not come under that sort of category.

    It's hard for me to answer this as I don't believe in any of it! From an Old Testament point of view, though, a prophet is someone who speaks the will of God. Note that a prophet needn't necessarily speak the truth. For example, Jonah told the people of Nineveh that Nineveh would be destroyed, but it wasn't. And according to 1 Kings 22, God can actually make his prophets lie. The problem you raise of why God would reveal himself to some people but not to others is really part of the problem of grace, which is one of the biggest problems in the history of Christian theology. Why does God save some people and not others? (Of course, many Christians have believed that God saves everyone, but they are historically in a minority.) You can say that God isn't obliged to save anyone (or reveal himself to anyone), so if he does save some people but not others he's going beyond the call of duty and it's unfair to complain that he doesn't do more. I think that's a poor response, because if God is perfectly good you'd think he would save everyone or reveal himself to everyone regardless of what is obliged to do. In the end it all comes down to ineffability.

    I have no doubt that they do! But church history isn't all bad, you know. Religion has done lots of good as well as bad, and an awful lot of it isn't well known since it's so fashionable these days to criticise organised religion mercilessly.

    Good point! All right then, we can simply rephrase the argument:

    (1) If God exists, God can bring about any logically possible situation.
    (2) A situation where there exists no world where free creatures do anything other than good deeds is logically possible.
    (3) If God exists, God can bring it about that no world exists where free creatures do anything other than good deeds. (From 1 and 2.)
    (4) If God exists, God does not want a world where free creatures do anything other than good deeds.
    (5) If God wants to bring about a situation, and he can bring it about, he does bring it about.
    (6) If God exists, a world does not exist where free creatures do anything other than good deeds. (From 3, 4, and 5.)
    (7) Such a world does exist.
    (8) God does not exist. (From 6 and 7.)
     
  6. aneeshm

    aneeshm Chieftain

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    Another question: if we are made in the image of God, is out consciousness also made in God's image? Because that is the essence of his power, and if our consciousness is also the same as his, then we also have the power to create souls.
     
  7. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    What about mine? :)
     
  8. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Indeed, I am aware that the 3 conditions of evil, God's omnipotence, and God's omnibenevolence present a logical contradiction. At least according to any definition of "omnipotence" that fits that description, I don't believe in an omnipotent God.
     
  9. PrincepsAmerica

    PrincepsAmerica Nothingness made flesh

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    The premise of a world where free beings do only good deeds does not seem logically possible. He's saying that God could create a world where creatures always freely chose to do his will?
     
  10. Heretic_Cata

    Heretic_Cata We're gonna live forever

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    An urgent situation requires your atention. :D

    The Fig Tree Enigma

    The next day..., Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." ... In the morning..., they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter ... said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree ... has withered!"
    -- Mark 11:12-14, 20-21 (NIV)

    Is it about Jesus' fig killing personality or is it a metaphore refering to the Temple like AlCosta says ? :)
     
  11. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    There's more than one variant of that story, too.

    Yes, easily. It's logically possible that someone with Free Will would only choose to do the correct thing, it's just unlikely. In theory, an infinite number of such people could be created, too. But they weren't the only ones created. So we're left with a dilemma: one of our assumptions is wrong. Either everything that everyone does is 'good' or God does not exist as described.
     
  12. EdwardTking

    EdwardTking Chieftain

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    This involves certain assumptions about the meaning of the
    word 'good' and ignores conflicts between priorities.

    Now I take the view that 'good' can only exist as a complement
    to 'not good'; in so much as 'warmer' can only co-exist with 'colder'.

    Therefore your point (2) ' situation where there exists no world where free creatures do anything other than good deeds is logically possible' is not possible, not even for God.

    Now for a free creature to do good, it must have a meaningful choice between doing 'good' or 'not good'; and from time to time the creature or resolution of the quantum uncertainty etc. will result in 'not good'.

    However this conflicts with your point (4) 'If God exists, God does not want a world where free creatures do anything other than good deeds.'


    God had a choice when it came to creating the world:

    (i) permit the choice of good or evil e.g. as on Earth; OR
    (ii) forbid the choice of good or evil e.g. as on Heaven.

    While Heaven may be eternal, we have more scope on Earth.


    Likewise God had a choice when it came to running the world

    (i) prevent disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanos etc in which case his unchallenged creatures would have less obstacles to overcome and thereby opportunities to develop; OR

    (ii) permit disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanos etc in which case challenged creatures would have plenty of obstacles to overcome and thereby opportunities to develop ...Internet...Reality TV..

    and I think we live in a world reflecting God's choice (ii).

    What does God want? (a) A safe world free from evil or (b) an interesting world where evil and bad things happen. Applying the anthoprofic principle'; I'd say God wanted (b).

    Perhaps God tried (a) elsewhere and was bored.
     
  13. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Perhaps He/She/It/They tired it elsewhere and preferred the results, but couldn't fix earth . . .
     
  14. EdwardTking

    EdwardTking Chieftain

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    Largely yes.

    And if we have a sense of humour, that implies God has!


    They are called 'babies' and their absurd production method
    supports my 'God has a sense of humour' theory.
     
  15. Mise

    Mise isle of lucy

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    I've been thinking about this a lot. I think the problem is with our perceptions of what "free will" actually means.

    My body can do certain things, but it is limited in the things that it can do. I can never do something that I am incapable of doing. This may seem like a truism, but there is a very subtle point that I'm trying to make. In the same way, I can never think something that I am incapable of thinking. Therefore, there may exist things that I can never think. My "free will" is therefore limited to the things that I can think. It is perfectly possible for me to imagine a world in which I cannot think of evil things.

    An example would be trying to imagine what a 4 dimensional object would look like. You just can't do it, because we are limited to linking of objects in three dimensions. The abstract concept of a 4-D object still exists (in both Maths and Physics), in the same way that the abstract concept of evil would still exist (to God), but our ability to think it would not.
     
  16. Veritass

    Veritass Chieftain

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    The argument that God could/would/did create a world of free-thinking people that only do good works begs the question of:

    Why would God create a world at all?

    If God could create any of these worlds, why would God?
     
  17. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    You do know that is not what "begging the question" is, correct? In your context, say "raises the question".
     
  18. Veritass

    Veritass Chieftain

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    Uh, yeah, uh, what I mean is it "..begs me to ask the question..."
    Yeah, that's the ticket.
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Damn, answered them all and then lost the post. Forgive me if these seem too short since I'm typing them again.

    Theologians have often argued over the meaning of being created in God's "image and likeness". It's often been taken to refer to rationality, the defining characteristic of human beings in the Aristotelian tradition. Sometimes it has been taken to refer to some kind of moral sense. Gregory of Nyssa argued that it means our ability to act morally, which means that we are responsible for developing the image of God in us by actually acting in a moral way.

    I'm not sure why you say that having a consciousness similar to God's would give us God's powers, as that doesn't seem clear to me at all.

    I don't think there's a logical contradiction. God could have reasons for permitting evil that we don't know about. But it seems to me unlikely, that's all.

    Certainly it's logically possible. Bear in mind that "logically possible" means simply that it could have been the case, not that it could really happen under the conditions that actually obtain. For example, it is physically impossible for me to fly, but still logically possible (the laws of physics could have been different, or there could be a miracle). Things that are logically impossible are things like a Euclidean triangle whose angles do not add up to 180 degrees, or a thing existing and not existing at the same time. These are things that actually imply an internal contradiction, as it were.

    So it is perfectly logically possible for a free creature freely to perform a good act. In fact most people would think this actually happens quite often. So it is equally logically possible for a free creature always freely to perform good acts. I can imagine a free creature that behaves that way, a sort of uber-saint. In fact most Christians believe that Jesus always performed only good acts, and that he did so freely. So a world in which everyone behaved like that seems just as logically possible. Again, I can imagine such a world.

    I'd say it's not meant to be a metaphor but it's clearly meant to symbolise God's displeasure with the Jews at their rejection of Jesus. The author of Mark would probably have expected his readers to believe that the story was literally true but also to understand the symbolism. Ancient authors, especially religious ones, didn't think in terms of "metaphor" quite as we do.

    By the way, don't use the NIV. It's a terrible translation made by fundamentalists with the agenda of making the Bible seem to support their views.

    I don't see why. Certainly, to say that object X is "warmer" requires the existence of an object Y that is "colder", but this is because "warmer" is a relative term that makes sense only in the face of a relatum (that is, something that the thing is related to). But "being 15 degrees C" or whatever is clearly not a relative term, and it could be true of something even if that thing were the only object in existence. Now you're claiming that "good" is like "warmer", but I don't see why. "Better" is like "warmer" but not "good".

    We could always define the term (for the purposes of this argument) to avoid this problem anyway. For example, a good act is one that causes no suffering, or which is in accordance with God's wishes. It seems clear to me that the performance of acts like these does not necessitate the performance of acts which are not like these.

    I agree with the first part but not the second. Having the choice to do X doesn't mean you ever will do X. I have the choice right now to murder my flatmates but I choose not to, and I trust that I always will. Bear in mind that we're talking about logical possibilities here, not what is humanly predictable. God shouldn't be thwarted by quantum uncertainties. He's not uncertain of anything!

    This is basically the Irenaean theodicy. Irenaeus of Lyon was a second-century theology who suggested that God created a world of suffering to help human beings grow up morally, in effect. Origen set out the theory more clearly about fifty years later. This sort of theodicy has been quite popular over the past few decades. But I'm not convinced by it. As I said before, God should not need means to his ends. If he wants something to be the case, he just says "Fiat" and it's done. But if God needs to create a world of suffering and challenge in order to produce morally significant creatures (or whatever the end result is supposed to be) then he's using means to achieve his ends. Why can't God snap his fingers and bring about the existence of morally significant creatures (or whatever) without having to put them through all this struggle first? If he can't, he doesn't seem to be omnipotent. If he can, then the question why remains unanswered.

    Clearly, if God does exist, then he preferred b. Given that I'd definitely prefer a, I conclude that God probably doesn't exist.

    There are two main definitions of free will that are commonly used, but they are often confused. Here's something I wrote recently about it:

    Ah, ineffability again. Presumably it's better to have a world than not!

    Sorry, missed this the first time around. Interesting question! I suppose we can't second-guess God, almost by definition. This is why nothing can ever be definitive evidence against God's existence, because God could always have some ineffable reason to want that piece of evidence to exist. However, I think that if God existed then there would be a lot less suffering and a lot more happiness. So if I were transported to a reality where God exists, that's what I'd expect to see.

    "Begging the question" means to assume the thing you're trying to prove - ie a logical error. But it is often used wrongly these days to mean simply raising a question.
     
  20. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    Thanks for your replies, Plot. :)

    Re: omnipotence and why one should worship a being that is merely stronger and smarter than oneself, I suppose the Romans had the answer: do ut des. IOW, because it pays. Nobody seems to have a problem with this idea wrt pagan cults, so shouldn't it be accepted for non-omnipotent interpretations of the monotheistic god? I'd certainly think it more compatible with the OT than what the omni-everything god of conventional theology is.

    Oh, and regarding "cult", the word comes from Lat. cultus, from colere "grow, cultivate". In the religious sense it basically means "worship", a sense still perserved when we speak of the cult of Apollo at Delphi, or whatever.
     
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