Philosophy Fridays: Is Believing God Acted, Without Evidence, Justified?

philosophy

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and offer a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll follow up a previous question with answering this question: “Can you be justified in believing God acted in history if you lack evidence or even an argument for the best inference of the evidence?”

Why would we need either arguments or evidence to be justified in believing that God worked in history? People don’t usually function like that.

Currently I believe that I am typing on this keyboard but I don’t believe that it’s really you dreaming of me typing. I don’t have evidence for that belief, nor do I have a good argument: I just believe I’m doing it. This belief could prove to be unsubstantiated (if I’m really plugged into the Matrix) but on what grounds am I currently not justified in holding the belief?

That’s now, but what about three days ago? I truly believe that I bathed. I don’t have a formed picture in my mind of the event. My current stench is evidence to the contrary. Checking the water bill proves nothing. Asking for early rising eyewitness accounts is unhelpful. Am I therefore unjustified in believing that I bathed?

Let’s not belabor the point: we don’t need evidence or an argument to be justified in most of our beliefs. Why would the bar suddenly rise when it comes to God?

Enter the slogan “extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence” which doesn’t make sense on several levels.

First: “extraordinary” is arbitrarily defined. If I bathed only once every three years, but my wife bathed twice a day, wouldn’t me bathing be extraordinary? And at what point is bathing becoming “ordinary”? After bathing every 2 years? Every month?

Second: it’s a moving goal post. After all, some things that at one point might have been extraordinary are now ordinary. Believing in future smartphones in 1982 suddenly becomes a justified belief in 2001 when technology changes?

Third: it forces us to ignore any event. As William Lane Craig said, imagine that I buy a lotto ticket and actually hit the jackpot…am I unjustified in my belief that I actually hit the jackpot because the only bit of evidence I have (ie: the winning ticket) isn’t extraordinary enough? Maybe the winning ticket and the random numbers stated on the screen aren’t enough. Maybe I need to also get struck by lighting. But even getting struck by lightning is less extraordinary than hitting the lotto.

Fourth: what’s extraordinary for God? Imagine God says “I’m going to raise a dead man” then proceeds to do it. Sure the dead don’t normally rise, but how is God doing what he said he would do an extraordinary thing? And if it is the case that he said he would do it back then, can’t I now be justified in believing he acted in history as he said he would?

If James the Baker always tells the truth tells me that yesterday he made me a cake am I not justified in believing him? He’s never made me a cake before. There seems to be no good reason for a cake. And there’s not even evidence that he made me the cake. But I know James and he’s a truth teller and baking is within his sphere of ability. Can’t my belief be justified simply on account of who James is and what he does?

If we substitute James for a necessary maximal being who is The Good, doesn’t that in itself justify beliefs of (at least) God’s activity in history (without saying anything more about what he said)?

So, to the opening post, am I justified in believing God acted in history even if I lack evidence or an argument? Of course I am. That doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence. It just means that I don’t need it to believe it.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Philosophy Fridays: The God-Man?

philosophy

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble away on some idea and maybe even interact with it. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it’s Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Is Jesus’ divinity incompatible with his humanity?” in under 700 words. Heh.

To get there, we probably have to figure out what is the stuff that is perceived to be incompatible. People come up with stupid ideas of what is essential (like erring) but that wouldn’t do. You have to get to the stuff without which you wouldn’t have either a human or a God.

First, what attributes are essential for a being to be the ultimate God? Well, he would have to be a necessary being, eternal (without a beginning or ending), have self-existence (not contingent on other beings), be all powerful, all knowing, not restricted by space, completely free, and I’d also say all-good.

A human on the other hand is a weird bag. You can surely say they’re contingent, but that’s on the basis of being creature. No single human is essentially necessary and, since they have a starting point, they are not eternal (even if they can live on into eternity). But how does that differentiate them from any other creature like a dog or an angel? Really doesn’t. So we need to come up with a definition of a human that ties up their physical creaturleiness and their differentiation from physical creatures. Well, unlike all other animals, humans can reason, judge, and decide. So maybe we can define humans as rational animals.

Jesus would then be something that is both divine and a rational animal. But how does that work?

Well, maybe he is 2/3rds human and 1/3rd God so that he’s a rational animal with God’s soul/mind. But that’s problematic since it implies that God was only 2/3rds committed to saving the human race: he came to save the rational animal part but not the soul/mind.

Or maybe Jesus was really a composite of two beings: one who is God and the other who is Jesus. But then that’s problematic because it has Jesus incapable of doing the things God needed done and it has God not doing the things God said he would do. More so, in both cases, the Bible seems to insist that Christ is fully God (the fullness of the Godhead) and fully man (bodily).

What if we suggest that God became human but what he did first was (1) set aside his divine attributes or (2) muted his divine attributes?  But that’s a serious problem. If (2) that means that God’s essential attributes can be dimmed and God still remains God; if (1) that means God can set aside essential attributes and still remain God: both meaning that those attributes weren’t essential to God being God. But beyond that, how is it possible for God to set aside or mute the divine attribute of eternity, aseity, or necessity?  That would make zero sense.

So maybe something else is going on. What if God already has some of the essential attributes of humans as an essential part of his divine attributes? If that was the case, then God taking on a human nature wouldn’t result in setting aside anything but adding something he didn’t have before, and wasn’t essential to Him. Maybe “rationality” is already an essential attribute of God so all he’s doing is taking on that animal-aspect so that he remains fully God, fully human, but on account that he already had what is essential to humans within him. Jesus Christ would then be one person with two natures that operate as one because the human rationality is originally God’s rationality.

If that was the case, it would mean that humans are humans on account of being made according to the mold, as it were. God becoming human and remaining God is amazing but not incompatible (double negative?): it makes sense.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,