A Visual Apologia

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Bonhoeffer’s Solution to The Problem of Pain

BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer saw and experienced the unmistakable face of pain and suffering during the reign of Nazism in Germany. During his time at Berlin-Tegel Bonhoeffer exchanged letters and wrote notes that are now known as Letters and Papers from Prison. It is in these letters and notes Bonhoeffer explored the problem of pain and suffering. His address of human suffering does not flow from a philosophical armchair reflection as a passive observer but rather that of a deeply moved spectator. It is for that reason we do not find any  classical defenses such as of John Hick’s Soul-making theodicy and Alvin Plantinga’s freewill-defense in his writings.

Bonhoeffer’s solution to the problem of pain and suffering, to which I concisely introduced, was crafted  during his solitary confinement ward at Berlin-Tegel Military Detention Center where Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Tegel was the place where he spent his last eighteen months. He was executed on April 9th 1945.

What can Christianity offer in times of prevailing evil? God, in Christianity, according Bonhoeffer, is not deus ex machine, a being that mechanical appears to solve our insoluble problems. He is not a being that we evoke as an explanation of unexplainable due to our epistemic limitation. He is not a being that we call upon to offer us strength in are powerless and weakness moments. No. If Christian God was such a being, then He is no longer needed in the world that is “coming of age”. We are beginning to finally solve our problems. Such a God is “pushed further away and thus is ever on the retreat” (Bonhoeffer 2010: 408-9) Continue reading

Dissecting ‘One God Less’ Meme

One Less God: Australian University Atheists“I contend we are both atheists,” signed Stephen F. Roberts, “I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Roberts is believed1 to be the person who crystallized and popularized this increasing reechoed sound bite when he began signing his online post with it in 1995.

Richard Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain reechoed this sound bite. Dawkins contended that:

[M]odern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. (Dawkins 2004, 150)

Paraphrasing Socrates, let us examine this sound bite together, and see whether it is a real sound advice or a mere wind-egg. (Plat. Theaet. 151e). Contrary to Daniel C. Dennett (2006, 210), this is not “some sound advice”  offered by Dawkins but a mere wind-egg because it confuses the conceptions of God with the concept of God. Continue reading

Nathan Pratt: My Journey to Atheism

Journey

Something I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that this post is going to be very honest. It’s a brief history of my religious upbringing, my crisis of faith and the final pushes to search for truth. Nothing I’ll say in this post is said out of anger or malice. It’s an honest portrayal of the extreme difficulty of leaving something you’d held to be truth for almost 30 years. I imagine that some of the topics and points will offend, but please read to the end.

One of the more frustrating things to come out of leaving religion is that so many theists think I haven’t thought this out. That I’m just going through a phase. I’d be willing to wager that I’ve gone much farther in my pursuit of truth than about any believer out there. I’ve put a staggering amount of time into this journey. So when people wave it away as I’m simply misunderstanding or I just need to hear the right words or verses it’s extremely insulting.

I hope that even if we never see eye to eye you’ll see how difficult this journey had been and how extremely hard I tried to make belief work. Here we go….

– My History –

I was raised inside a Southern Baptist family. My home church was Sunnyside Baptist in Hobart, IN. Both of my parents came from pretty terrible childhoods and they viewed religion and god as the thing that saved them. I don’t blame them for wanting that for me.

Being baptists things were pretty legalistic growing up. This is the bible and its truth can’t be debated. It is what it is. Continue reading

2013 Hole On Top of A Tree

Tree“You must climb to the top and then you’ll see a hole” said an old Witch to the matching Soldier in H. C. Andersen tale The Tinder Box. As the matching soldier I climbed to the top of With All I Am blog tree, grown in 2013,  and see a beautiful hole that my blog readers have made in my journey to explore, learn, share the little I know about God, through philosophy and theology.

There are many wonderful and awesome bloggers I found well engaging and greatly thankful for their constructive criticisms, inspiring comments, and corrections. Here I chose only three who challenged me to explore foreign territories and constantly gave me reasons to keep thinking, writing, and sharing with the motto, “when love comes first, our disagreements follow at their proper place”.

Crystal M. Trulove, the most true, loving, and remarkable person, there are no words to capture the impact and ceaseless echoes of your words in my own journey. Your posts masterfully joined together sentences in a way that pour whispers of delight, and thankfulness, flowing with harmonious symphony that brings your reader to feel, hear and smell your photographs as the journey with you. Thank you Crystal for our friendship. I am looking forward for our coffee and cupcakes time together.

With All I Am – Tanzanian Prayson Daniel takes his theology studies seriously and passionately. In fact, it is his own ceaseless searching for his path in faith that led him to these studies. He immerses himself in academic studies of Christianity, as well as history of Christianity, and modern applications of theological perspectives. Prayson is constant, earnest, loving, open, and humble. He and I share a lot of love, even though I am atheist and he is devout. He is helping my defensive and angry heart to learn about the better parts of Christianity, and is not trying to convert me

Crystal M. Trulove

Portland, OR

Robert Nielsen, a fiercely gifted economical and political thinker, I treasure our discourses and friendship. Though we hold two different worldviews, and thus disagree in many issues, we are united in hope of understanding each other. Thank you Robert for contributing two guest posts: “ Why I Am Not A Christian” and “The Problem with Forgiveness”.

[With All I Am] A religious blog that I greatly enjoy arguing with. Probably the most intellectual and well thought out theist blog I know

Robert Nielsen

Ireland

John Zander, a brilliantly aspiring and genuinely honest critic, I salute your character and the work you put in in “Of course what you say is true, but we should not say it publically”, it is classical. Thank you John for your constantly constructive criticism, which are often full of gentleness and valued inputs.

Representatively, thank you Steven Dunn, N.P. Sala, Richard L. Rice, R. L. Culpeper, Keyle Hendricks, Tazein Mirzasaad, JD Blom, Noel, LeRoy, Mark Shields, Joseph Richardson, Patricia Pledger, and many anonymous and alias bloggers. This list is unending and I must have not included many other equally wonderful readers. Feel forgot? Drop me a complain or(and) a smile on the comment box.

If you have encouraging words, suggestions for 2014, or constructive criticism about With All I Am, do leave a comment or mail me at withalliamgod[at]gmail[dot]com. Thank you all for a wonderful 2013.

Sensus Divinitatis

Raffaelo

“Is there any human being who has not entered on the first day of his life with an idea of that Great Head?” rhetorically inquired Arnobius of Sicca. Arnobius further inquired: “In whom has it not been implanted by nature, on whom has it not been impressed, aye, stamped almost in his mother’s womb even, in whom is there not a native instinct, that He is King and Lord, the ruler of all things that be?”(Aga. Hea. 33)

Arnobius echoed the idea that could be traced back to Cicero(Cic. Leg. I. 8) and beyond that human have an implanted knowledge of God(s) which when left to its natural function tends to direct them to acknowledge the existence of God(s).  This innate knowledge, which is also called the sense of divinity, is for Tertullian of Carthage, “the crowning guilt of men, that they will not recognize One, of whom they cannot possibly be ignorant”(1 Apo 17)

Even though God is ineffable and incomprehensible, John of Damascus resounded a similar understanding that “God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God’s existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature.”(De Fide Orth. 1.1) The denial of the existence of God emerges from human’s fallen nature (1.3)

Noting John of Damascus’ work, Thomas Aquinas also argued that “[t]o know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature, inasmuch as God is man’s beatitude.”(Sum. The. 1.2.1.1). A richer development of this view is found in the works of  John Calvin. Calvin contended,

That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service. (Inst. 1.3.1)

Calvin went further,

All men of sound judgment will therefore hold, that a sense of Deity is indelibly engraven on the human heart. And that this belief is naturally engendered in all, and thoroughly fixed as it were in our very bones, is strikingly attested by the contumacy of the wicked, who, though they struggle furiously, are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God. (1.3.3)

The reason that there never has been any society on earth that did not hold to kinds of beliefs in deities[and I will add life after physical death], according to Calvin, is due to the fact that sensus divinitatis is naturally inscribed on every human’s heart.

Cognitive science of religion is bringing in more reasons and evidence, for the first time as far as I understand, showing that it is true that humans are endowed with cognitive faculties that naturally stimulate sensus divinitatis. (Atran 2002, Bering 2002, Bloom 2007, Kelemen 2007 )

Further Readings

Atran, Scott (2002) In Gods We Trust. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bering, Jesse (2002) “Intuitive Conceptions of Dead Agents’ Minds: The Natural Foundations of Afterlife Beliefs as Phenomological Boundary.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 2:263–308.

Bloom, Paul (2007) “Religion Is Natural.” Developmental Science 10: 147–151.

Kelemen, Deborah (2007) “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists?’ Reasoning about Purpose and Design in Nature.” Psychological Science 15:295–301.

Paintings: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino(Header) + Victor Mottez(Cover)

Why Relativism Won’t Do

Socrates Death IIn the dialogue between Socrates and Theaetetus, as recorded by Plato, Theaetetus is presented as holding the opinion of Protagoras. Theaetetus explained to Socrates that “he who knows anything perceives that which he knows, and, as it appears at present, knowledge is nothing else than perception.”( Plat. Theaet. 151e)

Protagoras, according to Socrates, said “that man is ‘the measure of all things, of the existence of the things that are and the non-existence of the things that are not.’”(Theaet. 152a) Socrates interpreted Protagoras to mean that “individual things are for me such as they appear to me, and for you in turn such as they appear to you – you and I being ‘man’”(ibid).  Socrates presented peritropê case against that opinion in 159a-171e.

Some doctrines of relativism hold that what we mean by saying proposition p is true is that p is true for an individual i who believes p. When I assert something like: “it is true that that grass is green”, what I mean is that, “it is true that that grass is green for me”.

Following that chain of reasoning, all truth, we are led to believe, is relative to its believer in a given context. A proposition is not “truth” in and by itself, but only “truth for” its believer.

Now, like Socrates would have said, “come now, let us examine [this] utterance together, and see whether it is a real offspring or a mere wind-egg.” (151e) I think this form of relativism is a mere wind-egg. When I say to you that p is true, I am expected to give reasons why I think p is true or why I think you should also think that p is true. But if I say to you, p is true for me, I would not be surprised if your answer is: “good on ya’ Prayson, that is good for you, so what?”

If we reduce truth to truth for an individual, including a relativist holding such view, then the proposition “all truth are relative” is also true for its believer (i.e. a relativist holding such a view). If that is true, we can simply answer that relativist with, “good on ya’ that is good for you, so what?” If she wishes us to also believe that it is true that truth is relative not only for her but also for us, then she would have peritropê her own case against herself.


Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 12 translated by Harold N. Fowler. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.