Continuing on the theme of faith, as it’s always best to do so as exhaustively as possible, I’ve again enjoyed an exchange of ideas with the writer and staunch atheist Allallt! They however, much like Alex and Maritza, have an alien definition of faith which doesn’t appear to be applicable to who I would point to as the most excellent examples of the Christian faith in action. This would mean they have avoided where the real arguments lay in favour of roasting paper tigers. So, let’s examine Allallt’s definition of faith by way of their glossary: “pretending to know things you don’t know.” Being perfectly blunt, the Mark Twainian definition of faith isn’t at all sophisticated, actually it’s an awful failure if we’re assuming here that Allallt made an honest attempt at interacting with the case for Christianity (or any faith in candour). Albeit many casual believers for all faiths do pay lip service to the above definition, it’s merely done so to protect the believing person from having to answer uncomfortable questions about their faith. Meanwhile however on planet reality, believers in tune with what the Bible teaches can point to faith as it’s properly defined. Though rather than simply taking my word for how unsuccessful an effort the above definition is, join me as I share faith with Allallt (first a small portion of an article of theirs):
What follows is 10 questions aimed at theists, along with an explanation as to why the questions are meaningful. The questions are sincere, as they have been the stumbling blocks to many a conversation about religion. What is contained in the explanations that follow the questions is not meant to limit a theist’s response, and anywhere you think I may be offering a limited number of options for your answer, that is not my point; these are not meant to be produced as multiple choice questions. They are open and you are free to answer anything. Nothing is intended as a ‘gotcha’ question. . .
4. How should I know when to implement faith, and when to implement reason?
I assume, for the most part, reason and critical thinking guides you when you take yourself or your children to a practitioner to be healed of an ailment. In general, you are sceptical of homeopathy and people who claim marijuana, echinacea and white wine vinegar are the cures to all conditions. In general, you visit a doctor who you trust will implement a scientific system. The trust is not unfounded, either. You are aware of a system that keeps doctors to a standard, else you will have an opportunity for recourse. And it is good that you do this: getting this wrong could have very immediate and negative consequences. . .
And yet, when it comes to questions of religion and defences for God’s existence, one ends up resting heavily on faith at a critical point in the argument. How do you know it is reasonable to implement faith at this point, instead of enquiring further? (for more questions read here).
To paraphrase “I’m writing a sincere question,” Allallt insists, “We’re stumbling over the topic,” insofar as faith is concerned. Even more interestingly, they ask why aren’t people inquiring further, as if to say inquiry into God has been stopped merely by the very natural inclination to believe in God no longer being denied. “Why aren’t you withholding your faith?” they’re asking, as they’re already withholding theirs. My reply begins by sharing with who sometimes appears a sincerely misled questioner an honest answer from the historic method: “4. How should I know when to implement faith, and when to implement reason?”
By writing “reason and critical thinking” ordinarily guides decision making, you’re implying irrationality and unanalysed processes inform or are workaday in people who believe in God while in the act of belief in God, meaning the faulty assumptions of many modern atheists are being written into the question before it’s ever been asked. The famous question “Have you stopped beating your wife lately?” comes irresistibly to mind (a yes or no answer to that question, please!) The question supposes reason as the opposite of faith, yet that’s factually incorrect, rather the opposite of reason would be irrationality, as for belief, distrust would be it’s opposite.
Faith, as I can confess to being played out in my life, is something which is a natural occurrence insofar as people allow themselves to be led by the available evidence. Whereas when I speak to people about God in London, and they’re inclined to find an escape route (I normally corner them beforehand), that’s simply a hardening of the heart, something deserving of being called distrust. If after having everything they assume to be true (e.g Religious people are stupid, Jesus didn’t exist) cast into doubt by a conversation with myself or a JW or somebody else, it’s then their sovereign choice to either accept how they’ve just had their arguments flustered, meaning there’s more to the opposite viewpoint than they’d have believed earlier, or it’s their free choice to go into denial mode, to continue to scoff and enjoy the company of scoffers as opposed to giving into “blind faith”, which is of course not blind, but an occurrence of reason (even “founded” upon reason).
An example of faith founded upon rational inquiry would be found in a message I originally intended to post in an earlier topic of yours, nevertheless, let’s move along with the tide of posts so as to not disturb the flow of discussion. Insofar as I have found, reason and evidence are to later adult converts into Christianity an essential happening before their conversion experience, that is unless they’re converting so to get married (e.g female converts to Islam) or trying to grease the wheels and get their kid into the “right” school (upper middle-class parents, for example).
An example of the sorts of rational inquiry which would go towards naturally producing faith in the sincere believer would be being introduced to the historical nature of the New Testament. Or in different, more technical language, it’s how an event’s historicity is determined which would work towards causing faith in the soon to be believing person. In terms of ascertaining an event’s historicity (or lack thereof) modern scholarship employs several criteria whereby they can critically deconstruct a text, whether or not an event conforms to the various criteria would determine how accurately the manuscript’s original autographer (or the newly exposed interloper) caught (or corrupted) the particular record of the event.
The criteria are of course applied equally to treasured religious manuscripts and non-religious material, which includes utilizing such benchmarks as dissimilarity, congruence, early attestation, multiple attestation, embarrassment, not to forget traces of first century Palestinian milieu (a less applicable criteria insofar as world literature is concerned, albeit excellent insofar as the Gospels are concerned). Biblical scholar Richard Bauckham in their Jesus and the Eyewitnesses book would be an excellent example of how criteria is employed and history properly defined.
With regards to my claim, one made very recently, which loosely explained how Jesus’ baptism had been confirmed as an authentic event in the life of history’s greatest rabbi, my fault was only in that in citing embarrassment (embarrassment and only embarrassment) as an example of criteria by which Jesus’ baptism as Christ might be confirmed, I’d been overly modest. Rather the materials which report Jesus’ baptism conform to such criteria as: dissimilarity, congruence, early attestation, multiple attestation and embarrassment.
Furthermore, to meet the famous baptism event and class it as it is (meaning an event in history), isn’t to commit the historian to anything readers in the infidel community would be offended by, they’re not by coming to a historic consensus attempting to supplant anything with the miraculous (Heaven forbid I hear atheists cry), rather it’s the encounter of the baptized Jesus and their in those days contemporary John which is being confirmed “in the natural” so to speak, with which we’re finally able to either withhold some degree of faith in the event, or if we’re reasonable people, will be (even for time) naturally inclined to give ground, admitting the truth of the event in some wise. It’s that continued accumulation of evidence in favour of a thing which either wins over an unbeliever, softening their views toward Christian belief in time, or it’ll have the opposite effect, transforming the hard-hearted listener into a raving clown even your everyday atheist has a hard time keeping company with, they of course become this thing to their own hurt.
When some commentator, one whose name escapes me as of this moment, explained Martin Luther played John the Baptised to Adolf Hitler, our initial reaction may be to either become offended, or perhaps make it known that the point is factually in error, though the comment isn’t meant to be understood in the factually sense, rather it’s supposed to be relational, with which we would be less reactionary (indeed less deluded) to tackle their statement in vein of how it’s being presented. By knowing the claim is about how their lives related to one another we’re more easily primed to explain the depth of ignorance behind the claim. In a similar fashion, atheists who would rather be better than their gormless peers in the infidel community ought to take heed of the word faith, how the facts of faith arise and what the actual antithesis of faith truly is.
On an aside note, question 8, don’t do this to yourselves again guys, not to yourselves or anybody else, 🙂 even the use of “innovative” and “original” are awfully subjective in the mouths of the questioner, for which they refuse to define what’s being included either way. Not to mention being answered many times, so much so that “theological statements” and “promises” must be banned by atheists as a form of answer because it keeps undoing the silly question.
Allallt replies by several points, only one of which really touched upon the subject of faith. This attempt used the widely debunked extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence catchphrase: Well, a little housekeeping first. This post was written 3 months ago (and there’s another 3 months of posts scheduled posts, coming out every Wednesday!). The positive of this is that is doesn’t tend to spread conversation too thinly when I have the idea for 2 or three posts on the same day (as has happened before), because they still get posted a week apart. The bad side of this is that posts aren’t rescheduled in terms of context, and I can’t offer a quick turn around on posts that come out of comments sections. (I even think there’s one more for xPrae coming.)
That said, when I wrote question 8, months ago, I had moral messages or scientific facts in mind. So far as I can tell, the Bible is composed of an understanding of nature that already existed and moral messages that had already been authored. I see from the other thread that Zande is happy to cast a wider net, including story tropes and narratives. I’m not sure what benefit that serves, but I don’t think the question as I intended it (as I see that it’s a little ambiguous, especially in context) has been answered.
Secondly, I did not assume that religion ultimately rests of faith. Even people who claim they have “reasonable faith” admit to resting on faith ultimately, if you drill the conversation down far enough. (And it happens at a point well before solipsism.) People who don’t attest to faith at bottom are people like Silence of Mind, who claims it’s all science and in the few years he has been commenting here has never given a peer-reviewed article or comprehensible account of how. EquippedCat, in this thread, who is a Christian, pulled SoM up on that. You may argue I’ve only ever encountered people unable to defend their religion without resting on faith, but that a full rational defence is available. To that I say two things: that’s not how religion is being practised or defended; and that doesn’t mean I’m making an unsupported statement when I say religion rests on faith for people. That is my experience of people willing to defend religion. (I even had a JW come to my door and then say “don’t talk to me about science, I’m an old lady”. Am I supposed to believe she had a rational defence up her sleeve, but just didn’t like the cut of my jib?)
I also didn’t say, and will not say, that religious people are stupid. Some are (SoM comes to mind), but so are some atheists. Some are articulate and intelligent, praise I readily extend to you (and Francis Collins and many others — it would just be gushing to start listing them). But that doesn’t mean their intellect is being applied consistently to their religion and other domains (including their criticism of other religions).
Lastly, there is an ‘ordinary claim/extraordinary claim’ evidence deficit to consider. It’s not just the fact that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (a claim made very ambiguous by the pedestrian nature of, say, the evidence for gravitational waves) but that the extraordinary claims are the ones for which there is no evidence and accepting them, because the ordinary claims can be defended, appears to be faith.
A contribution was next added by a writer simply named Paul, who accused Allallt of a weighty charge, dishonesty: Cool beans! I’m not the only one who recognized the plurium interrogationum!
Allallt then attempted to untangle my original message, as they’re sometimes trying, though in many cases they’re unsuccessful: I’ve gone through at some length to try to avoid the idea there is some trickery here. I’ve given an explanation as to why I think questions are important to the discussion and written that nothing is meant to close down a question; I’m not trying to make then multiple choice questions.
That said, there are standards as to what counts as an answer. Yours, Paul, largely, do not.
And, I think think Oldschool is even alluding to the accusation of plurium interrogationum. He’s accusing me of suggesting religious people are stupid, which I did not say. He’s accusing me of saying religious people are not rational, which I did not say. But not of asking too many questions. Perhaps I’m being accused of hiding a presupposition, but that is not plurium interrogationum, and if Oldschool is making that accusation it’s been tip-toed around to the point it’s hard to see. If anything, I’d ask Oldschool again to explain more clearly why he rejects the premise of the question.
In reality, Paul was correct, or as my first reply plainly explained “the faulty assumptions of many modern atheists are being written into the question before it’s ever been asked,” though nobody had properly defined what it meant to define a word by use of a complicated presupposition masked by a seemingly honest question. With which I began to do so: To explain, I’m saying you have presuppositions of the definition and operations of faith built into the question which believers do not share. You then ask the question as if your ideas are shared by yourself and the theist, which they’re not. So, to ask a theist the sort of question you have asked wouldn’t be appropriate, you’re not interacting with faith faith, but a caricature. It’s like me asking a homosexual how they’re coping with their ongoing medical condition, it’s an accusation of mental illness as much as it is a question.
To briefly make another point, the definition of plurium interrogationum, insofar as I’ve found it, reads like so:
A complex question, trick question, multiple question or plurium interrogationum (Latin, “of many questions”) is a question that has a presupposition that is complex. The presupposition is a proposition that is presumed to be acceptable to the respondent when the question is asked.
The portion which reads “The presupposition is a proposition that is presumed to be acceptable to the respondent when the question is asked.” does appear to be what question four does, as it’s containing a complex presupposition assumed true on the believer’s behalf. Although I’m not personally saying this was done in a malicious or calculated way, in that it’s not a “trick question” as the name suggests, and for me to say it was would be speculative. I’d sooner speculate as to it being more of a mental hiccup on the part of the questioner if the above definition rightly describes the question.
Ignoring the topic of a possible trick question, Allallt goes on into asking more about the question of faith: I’ve tried reading your initial comment, where you attempt to define faith in a different way. I’ve not been able to draw from that anything meaningful. Could you attempt it again.
Oldschoolcontemporary: By meaningful do you mean to write “something which differentiates one definition of faith from the other”? Because by your definition of faith, you then proceed to explains faith’s opposite number, even explaining “In general, you visit a doctor who you trust will implement a scientific system. The trust is not unfounded, either.” Which would again imply faith as an unfounded act of volition. My example of how a yet unconvinced person could have faith brought about as a consequence of their rational faculties would mean the faith to which I’m referring isn’t “unfounded”, rather it would be nurtured and increase by way of the evidence, meaning totally founded, even founded upon reason and evidence.
Is it fair to say Paul rightly identified hidden assumptions not shared by the believers reading which have been built into your question?
Perhaps assuming there’s no possible alternative to their understanding of faith, Allallt again ignores my question about their presuppositions made on the believer’s behalf: So, how does ‘founded faith’ differ from other rational enquiry? That’s the meaningful bit I can’t see. You seem to be talking about faith as evidence based reasoning, which I would say is not faith at all. But you still use the word. Because it seems what you’re saying is that you don’t implement faith at all. Which is a fine answer, but you are still using the word “faith”.
Oldschoolcontemporary: Reasoning is the process (not faith), whereas faith/trust/confidence would be the substance of said process barring an individual actively withholding their trust. Faith is [synonymous] with trust. That’s why if you were to ask anybody “When do you implement trust?” they’d either reply “When I’m feeling safe” (as in no axe murderers please), or they’d reply “Trust isn’t implemented, it’s just something which occurs naturally.” Faith likewise is naturally occurring based upon various circumstances (freedom of the will included). The above circumstances in which an individual would encounter historic methods of verification would be faith affirming, with which they now have an assurance of something (namely that Jesus’ was baptized) without outright proof. Confidence would also be an excellent substitute. “O ye of little faith” isn’t to say “Why aren’t you pretending to know things you don’t know?” (your definition in the glossary), rather it’s to say “You’re an individual who withholds confidence when you ought not to.”
Replying to Paul I’d decided to offer a commonplace example of the kind of tactic (consciously or unconsciously) used by Allallt in the above: Man, Paul, you’re some kind of word wizard, thank goodness I have a search engine to look these terms up! I actually came across an example of “plurium interrogationum” the day before yesterday, a co-worker jokingly asked me to hand over my money, to which I replied “You’re assuming I have money when you ask that question.” Nonetheless, my faith is yet to be disturbed by question number four.
The above question appears to have simply been an exercise in self delusion (that or dishonesty), even a fig leaf failing badly to hide an array of assumptions and false beliefs believed true by the atheist upon the believer’s behalf. It’s the village atheist stuff (albeit highly complex to untangle). Nevertheless, the gospel of John closes with this message to the reader: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Once more miracles, in addition to the documentation of the miraculous, the Christian community claimed, have been told of so that the reader might have sure confidence in the finished work of the cross. That’s belief properly grounded in the evidence. Similarly by way of Romans: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” The Apostle Paul wrote nature itself is one portion of the evidence for the existence of God.
“Blind belief,” being the continued definition which atheists use for faith only goes to show how much maturing they have yet to do. In fact, having a faulty concept of faith would also taint a person’s views on salvation, justification, judgement, almost everything. They become incapable of interacting with any message about the Christian worldview without first superimposing their strange definitions upon the other person. The person who holds to such an unthoughtful definition of faith has tricked only him or herself into fighting shadows. They’re boxing the believer’s shadow because to actually look at a real person is far too frightening. Faith, as it’s been thoroughly demonstrated, turns out to be the exact opposite of what angry young men in the infidel community would prefer.
Ironically, for an atheist to continue to clasp onto their failed definition of faith in light of having no strong evidence (though perhaps anecdotes) in support of it, would be the kind of thinking they claim to find so unattractive, namely pretending to know things they do not know (blind belief!)
John F. Haught bookends our conversation by explaining the atheist’s dilemma excellently: ‘Even one white crow is enough to show that not all crows are black, so surely the existence of countless believers who reject the New atheists’ simplistic definition of faith is enough to place in question the applicability of their critique to a significant section of religious population.’
― T. C. M