Dialogue Concerning God’s Existence

Rural-World-Famous-Painting-WallpaperIJane: What is red?
John: It is a concept.
Jane: What are concepts?
John: They are the constituents of complete thoughts.
Jane: If concepts are constituents of complete thoughts, where do they exist?
John: They exist in our minds, of cause.
Jane: Are there eternal concepts?
John: What do you mean by eternal concepts?
Jane: I mean concepts that are independent of our minds for their existence.
John: Do you mean concepts that are true even if there was no contingent rational being?
Jane: Yes, John. Example could you say that 2 = 2 or the law of non-contradiction is an eternal concept?
John: Yes, I believe so.
Jane: So, if there are eternal concepts, would you agree that there is at least one eternal mind?
John: Mmh!
Jane: If there exist eternal concepts, and concepts are the constituents of complete thoughts, are we not rational to believe that there is transcendental mind?
John: I am persuaded to think it is rational, Jane.
Jane: Well John, monotheists would call this transcendental or eternal mind, “God”.

Those in doubt about any of Jane’s assumptions (e.g. conceptual realism & Platonism) may take her main conclusion conditionally. Is Jane’s argument for existence of God as an eternal mind persuasive? It depends on whether or not you share her assumptions. For those who do not, it is not a persuasive case. Why present such a dialogue then if it persuades only those who share Jane’s assumptions. My aim is not so much to persuade all, mostly atheists, to reconsider their position on the existence of transcendental mind. I do not believe in transcendental mind because of such arguments. My aim is to show that belief in God, a transcendental mind, can be rationally justified. Monotheists can (and do) have rational reasons to believe in such a being.

Armchair Proof of Existence of God

Socrates Death IDoes a being that is God1 exist? Before we can disagree on whether or not a being that is God exists, we need to agree on what a being that is God is. There cannot be any disagreement unless there is an agreement on what is that is disputed.

What is a being that is God? A being that is God is a being that there could not be other than that which nothing greater nor equal could be conceived2. Such a being, if exists, must exhibit maximal perfection. Therefore, a being that is God, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s insightful words, is a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed).

My first premise in my attempt to answer the dispute of whether or not a being that is God exists, is thus:

(1) If a being-that-is-God exists then that being-that-is-God could not be other than that which nothing greater (or equal) could be conceived.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109) argued that, if there was such a being then it is absurd to hold that such a being exists in our thoughts alone but not also in reality. According to Anselm, both atheists and theists can agree with (1) (Anselm 2009). Atheists would argue that such a being exists in our minds alone. Theists, however, would argue that such a being exists both in our minds and in reality. Continue reading

Naturalness of Theism

Brain WPI believe you have a mind of your own. I believe a bottle of water can only spinning in one direction at any give time. I believe a bottle of water cannot be full and empty at the same time. I believe that an unsupported bottle of water falls. These beliefs I hold implicitly without cognitive reflection. These beliefs spontaneously develop without special cultural indoctrination. They are maturational natural1 beliefs. Are universal religious2 ideas also maturational natural beliefs?

Preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science of religion suggests our answer to this question is yes. Beliefs about the nature and existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife, moral realism &c., are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs (Bering 2006). Jesse Bering, representing many cognitive scientists, argued that “belief is a ‘cognitive default’ and that, all else being equal, in any given cultural context religious beliefs are driven into expression by a universal, evolved, core set of psychological intuitions present in all normal human brains”(Bering 2010: 167)

Our cognitive faculties have naturally evolved to hold particular mental predispositions. We enter our first day of life with a natural implanted universal cognitive, motivation and perceptual biases. These biases predispose us to foster native instinctive and implicit beliefs of supernatural3. These biases, thus, aid us to effortlessly hold supernatural beliefs. Continue reading

Review: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch

IVPWe often and unconsciously read our contemporary understanding of words and ideas into the Pentateuch. Who is to blame? The past is a foreign territory. Ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment of the patriarchal period overwhelmingly finds its location outside our contemporary mindset.

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (2002), edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, provides immensely wealth of information in  form of comprehensively finely written articles to familiarize us with this foreign territory. This dictionary creates a solid bridge between our modern worldview and that of the patriarchal period of ancient Near Eastern. It assembled leading Old Testament scholars, such as Peter Enns, Richard S. Hess, John H. Walton, John E. Hartley and Victor H. Matthews, just to mention the few, whose articles drag the past into the present. This dictionary will help you start reading the Pentateuch for what its worth.

This monumental work plays well as a referential tool to biblical scholars, graduates, clergy and laypersons who are interested in understanding Old Testament’s literature and form criticism, background information, archaeology, ancient Near Eastern worldviews, and so on, mostly in relationship to the first five books. Like any dictionary, this resource is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It’s meant to be used as a referential goldmine to guide you into the unfamiliar territories of the Pentateuch.

Few of my personal favorite articles are E. C. Lucas’ Cosmology and J. H. Walton’s Creation. These two articles helped me comprehend the cognitive understanding of ancient Near Eastern cosmogony. Swimming in our contemporary salty and bloody waters of confusing ideas concerning the opening chapters of Genesis, exploring how ancient Near Eastern Jews would have understood the creation story of Genesis 1-3 is quite refreshing. Continue reading

Investigating God’s Existence from Innate Desires

FoetusI am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.

David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive  when he wrote,

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)

I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued, Continue reading

Rethinking Nielsen’s World Without God

CritiqueImagine for a second that there is no God. Imagine God is dead. What would we expect our world to look like if God did not exist? Based on this idea a brilliant, young Irish economist by the name of Robert Nielsen has presented an interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive case in his article World Without God. Nielsen states that this argument in the foundation for his atheism. I hope to test his case below:

I could say many things about Nielsen’s article,  but I would like to focus exclusively on his main argument which is as follows¹:

1. a. If God existed & control the world, then our world would exhibit features A.

    b. If God existed & control the world, then our world would not exhibit features B.

2. a. Our world does not exhibit features A.

    b. Our world does exhibit features B

Nielsen defends premises 1 and 2 as follows: If God controls our world then we would expect our world to exhibit certain features A. These features include those of a perfect world. He argues, “its fair to assume that it would be perfect (assuming God can do anything and loves us).” A perfect world is that  without hunger, without fear, without diseases or disasters. In short it would be the world without pain and suffering. This is not enough for Nielsen. God must also be self-evident, not hidden from His creatures, thus creating no possibility of religious confusion. Our world needs to be a paradise, or something close. Continue reading

Hadrian of Rome: A Pre-Reformed Pope?

Pope Paul IIIPope Hadrian of Rome & Augustinian Predestination Soteriology

During the reign of Pope Hadrian of Rome (772-795) the Church in Spain was going through internal and extremely fascinating controversies. One of the controversies concentrated on what was the proper way of understanding God’s divine choice and predestination. Two major traditions crossed swords. Those who held the Augustinian predestination soteriology led by Elipandus of Toledo and those who rejected it led by Migetius. The clanks and clangs of their swords reached Pope Hadrian of Rome.

In a nutshell Augustinian predestination soteriology stressed the sovereignty of God in electing in Christ Jesus some fallen humans who are in bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34) and hostile towards God (Ro. 8:7) to receive his mercy and compassion while passing over other equally fallen humans to receive his righteous justice (Ro. 9-11). Those whom God the Father elected are given to His Son and they are kept to the end of time (Jn. 6) We, the Church, choose Christ because He chose us first (Jn. 15:16, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:3-11). Faith is thus not the cause of our election but its effect (Jn. 10:26-28). Augustine expounded:

Let us, then, understand the calling by which they become the chosen, not those who are chosen because they believed, but those who are chosen in order that they may believe. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16). For, if they were chosen because they believed, they would, of course, have first chosen Him by believing in Him in order that they might merit to be chosen.(PS 17.34)

Elsewhere Augustine wrote: Continue reading