I am an amateur Philosopher and Theologian working my way through University ultimately towards a Ph.D. in Theology, and my dream is to obtain another in Philosophy. Currently I am pursuing an honors bachelor’s degree in Theological Studies and a major in Philosophy, with a thesis topic: “God’s Relationship to Time From the Perspective of Analytic Theology.” I attend Concordia University in Montréal Québec, Canada. The views I express on this blog are my own personal views and do not in any way reflect the opinions of Concordia University. I am also president of the Theological Studies Undergraduate Student Association (TSUSA) at Concordia.

In the interest of filling out my autobiographical picture a little more, I could add that I am a convert to the Catholic Church after a long and arduous intellectual journey, and one of the interests which always lurks in the background of everything I do is apologetics. Though I began to inquire philosophically from within an Evangelical Christian environment, I became fascinated, for a time, with the religion of Islam and nearly became a Muslim. I didn’t, however, precisely because I felt that Christianity had a better purchase on the claim to be true than did Islam. My looking into the religion of Islam, however, forced me to seriously look into the origins of Christianity as well, and this is where my fascination for both the writings of the Church Fathers, as well as textual criticism, came from. For a time I acted the missionary towards my Muslim friends, while also being actively involved in evangelical churches, communities and activities. Eventually, however, I began to ponder more profound and challenging questions concerning whether my religious beliefs were epistemically justified, whether I was able to be objective about my beliefs, whether I could share those beliefs evangelically in ‘good faith’ if I were not myself entirely convinced of them, and so on. It was in seriously engaging Atheism as an intellectually live option, and asking whether I ought to believe it, along with seeking out both intelligent Atheistic and Theistic interlocutors, among other things, that I familiarized myself with the philosophical issues relevant to the debate over Theism. It was also in familiarizing myself with arguments for the truth of Theism that I cultivated in myself a strong conviction about Theism’s truth. Moreover, in conjunction with this developed philosophical conviction, I also developed a very strong theological and religious conviction that Catholicism was true. Though I had philosophical reasons for taking Catholicism seriously, my conviction that Catholicism is true was a holistic conviction; I became compelled of Catholicism given religious experience, prayer, theological reflection, theological research (particularly into the ante-Nicene fathers, along with Catholic apologetics), philosophical and epistemological reflection, emotional intuition, along with a plausibility appraisal of Catholicism given the truth of Theism.

37 Responses to About

  1. nedmyers says:

    out of curiosity, is there a specific reason that you became catholic? I have studied and reflected much, though probably not as much as you, and I have developed my own views, which are a combination of several denominations. I don’t really feel the need to nail myself down to a denomination, and I was wondering about your thoughts on the matter.

    Also, I keep getting in debates about this, so I will ask your opinion. I am prone to argue that we are supposed to be selfish. We have to be wise what we are selfish about, such as selfish about loving God or selfish about loving others. We are inherently selfish. God made us that way. God is selfish, if He wasn’t, the whole universe would collapse because He is metaphorically the center of it. I don’t know how clearly I expressed that notion, but I would appreciate your thoughts on that matter as well.

    I love your comments on that atheist blog. I pray that some people who read the site catch a glimpse of God in the midst of all of the negativity.

    • I am always tempted to quote G.K. Chesterton when asked this question: “The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.

      In one sense I would have to say that the reason I became a Catholic was because I was intellectually and ultimately convicted that it is true. There was a time when I would probably have described myself as having approximately your position, including with the note about selfishness – that was especially informed by evolutionary psychology. I think the conclusion you draw, that God must be selfish, is a brilliant conclusion which would be true on the unitarian assumption, but consider how creation looks on the postulate of something relevantly similar to trinitarianism; God pours himself out in Kenosis from the Father, to the Son and the Spirit, and from either back to both (I refer to the doctrine of processions of the persons of the Trinity, according to which the Father is the efficient fountainhead of the Trinity, the Son is equivalent to the word spoken in love, and the Holy Spirit is literally the equivalent of the Love between Father and Son, etc – See Aquinas in the Contra Errores Graecorum). If the divine life of God is fundamentally not selfish but humble, and if the act of creation is one of Kenosis rather than selfishness, then one comes to a rather different cosmic ideal, along with (I hope) a different anthropology. I also think there may be a philosophical problem with thinking that God created the world for selfish reasons if he is all-sufficient, and I’ve proposed to unitarians before (such as my Muslim friends) that such a thing is simply not possible.

      If I had to point to a single reason why I am a Catholic, I would say it is because it is the only way that Christian orthodoxy can exist formally. My language is precise here – what I mean by formal is that orthodoxy can exist as something presented to mankind in the world he encounters, and not just in the personal religious experience. John Calvin suggested that the way Protestantism can satisfy this need for a ‘formal’ orthodoxy is by postulating that everyone who reads the Bible honestly would be led by the Spirit to the very same conclusions on all the essential teachings of Christianity. Now, not only does that not technically satisfy what I mean by formal orthodoxy (since orthodoxy on that model is only accidentally ‘formal’ and first of all ‘material’) but it is also completely circular. For instance, if I were to ask how Calvin knew that the tradition of the Canon of Scriptures was correct, he would say it was by the Holy Spirit’s inner witness. However, that means that for the majority of Christianity, according to most Protestants, there are another 7 books Catholics still have which were included in all the western Bibles until Protestantism came along, which were not inspired. Moreover, I’ve encountered protestants who prayed about it and, according to them, had God reveal to them that none of what St. Paul wrote is inspired, but only the Gospels and remaining epistles. Protestantism is not only circular, but notice it is circular precisely because it doesn’t accept the classical and orthodox teaching about what the Church really is, as an infallible organism providing formal orthodoxy to mankind. The difference between the Catholic religious epistemology and the Protestant one is striking – Catholics give a ‘spiral’ apologetic starting with Christ, moving to the Church, and then to the Bible, whereas Protestants give a ‘bundle’ apologetic, as though once you accept that Jesus rose again from the dead and was who he said he was, one should accept the Bible (for what reason exactly?). The doctrine of the Church is not only the missing piece without which Christianity looks like it stands without justification as a collage of dogmas with no clear FORMAL foundation, but it is also, as I discovered in my studies, the doctrine of the Church insisted upon from Apostolic times, from those who learnt Christianity immediately from the Apostles and onwards. Check out my post “the Catholic Church of the Fathers” to see more of my studies in this area.

  2. Neelansh itkan says:

    Honest and Clear. Well by observing your posts, you don’t seem to be an amateur philosopher.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for your kindness, but I assure you I am indeed an amateur philosopher. I wouldn’t feel comfortable being compared to any real professional philosopher. Give me a few years to graduate from being an eager undergraduate, and then you can call me a ‘real’ philosopher.

  3. nedmyers says:

    I am really appreciating this. That being said, here come a few more questions. I guess what I am really getting at for the denomination thing is how much does it matter? I read the Bible, I pray, I do my best to live my life/ get out of the way and let God lead me in a way that will bring glory to God, and I keep trying to learn more truth about God because I love Him. I have several friends who are strong in the faith that I basically live with, and I grow more through living with fellow believers than I do at church (the building) and church-led activities. Is my existence with my fellow believers a type of church? I currently view a church as a a place where I am more likely to find other people that follow Christ than normal. Are the roots of Protestantism and Catholicism that different? If my mission in life is to follow God, does it matter if I do it under the name of Protestant or Catholic?

    I suppose that is the big question for now, and I want to hear your answer to that and reflect before I ask more.

    • Sure. My answer to that would be rather simple: one should be a Catholic for the same reason one should be a Christian at all: for the love of Christ. Allow me to elaborate. Consider a non-Christian religious person who says exactly what you have just said – how would you respond to them? Hopefully you would not say that God cannot save anybody who isn’t formally a Christian, since that would be quite wrong. However, in the person of Jesus Christ a person can come to know in a radically different way who the “unknown God” is. In a sense, Christianity is God’s gift to the world – it is his special revelation of himself. Now, if Catholics are right (and its worth considering whether Catholics are right) then the Catholic Church is itself part of that gift which protestants have left behind, deeming it at best unnecessary. In the Catholic Church we have the Eucharist – the truest presence of Christ in this world. The Grace of the Sacraments, the fullness of the Truth, the complete and whole gift of God to the world is available in this one Church which is the Body of Christ, his Bride. If Catholics are right, then protestants who have decided to be ‘Christians’ without the sacraments look to Catholics much like protestants who have decided to be ‘Christians’ without the Bible look – one has to wonder why on earth anyone in love with Christ would throw away such a gift. Fundamentally, the reason for being Catholic is that in the Catholic Church one comes to encounter Christ in a radically different way than one can encounter him outside the Catholic Church.

      Now, quickly, I think there is something perhaps lurking in the background of your question which I’d like to address. The question may be something like this: Is there such a thing as Christian Particularism? Well, Christian Particularism can only be true if Christianity has something like what we can call a ‘substantial form’ (I’m making odd use of the term, but its useful). However, Christianity on Protestantism is formally plastic, since there are no doctrines which are essential by reason of Christianity’s nature, rather than considered essential by accident. For instance, consider that for the first 1500 years of Christianity, the doctrine of a ‘Catholic’ Church (a vision of ecclesiology shared by all Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and in short ALL apostolic communions) was considered absolutely essential to Christianity, only to be discarded in the reformation. Moreover, from the time of the reformation, other essential doctrines, such as the perpetual virginity and sinlessness of Mary (something Luther, Calvin, Zwingli etc believed in strongly) has been dismissed as unnecessary. Consider then the essential doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist – consider the doctrine of the canon of Scripture closed by ecumenical councils which was discarded when protestants deemed some books too problematic – consider the doctrine of the Trinity, which united Pentecostals, among other protestants don’t accept – the list goes on. In fact, if you ask any three protestants for a list of all the essential core doctrines of Christianity, you will likely get overlap, but you will also have some lists longer than others, and some lists which conflict with mutually exclusive ‘essential’ doctrines. If you ask all protestants, you find that there is hardly any single doctrine held in common across all 23,000 sects. Now, I don’t say this polemically, but simply to make a very important point: Protestantism has no principle which allows for formal orthodoxy, and therefore Christianity does not formally exist if Protestantism is true. Christianity cannot be conceived of as ‘orthodox’, but merely as a means of personal contact with God through Jesus Christ. However, part of the religious instinct itself, and that which the theological notion of the ‘purity of heart’ includes implicitly, is a love of truth and a love of orthodoxy.

      In short, then, that is my answer. First, Christianity doesn’t exist formally (and therefore orthodoxy doesn’t exist formally) unless there is something like the Catholic Church. Moreover, people become Catholic (or should become Catholic) for the same reason they would become Christian – because they are madly in love with Jesus Christ, and wish to find him in the most real and full way possible. Catholics believe that this happens in the Catholic Church. Whether Catholics are right is a matter worthy of dispute, but it seems to me that it is clear ‘why’ Catholics would be adamant about being Catholic – for the same reason other Christians are adamant about being Christian.

      As a final thought, perhaps you would enjoy listening to Dr. Peter Kreeft in a lecture he gave to Catholics about ‘Ecumenism’. You used to be able to find it on his website http://www.peterkreeft.com but I think it is no longer available there. However, it is available on iTunes on his podcast; simply go to the itunes store and in the search bar type in exactly the following: “www.peterkreeft.com” and you will find it (episode 25, it should be). Enjoy.

  4. nedmyers says:

    alright. I think I understand everything you are saying. I now have three areas of question (two off of our discussion and another one that I just thought of).

    One. I still don’t see how God wouldn’t be selfish. At no point would he do something he didn’t want to do. Jesus didn’t want to be crucified, but He wanted something more. Yes, what He wanted was for our benefit, but He loved us, and it was for His benefit too. It allowed God to be with us again. Did God need to be with us? No, but he wanted to. For all I know, we could be a little science project of God’s that He is really into, but that wouldn’t change anything. We all want to be happy. I think God made us that way. I think sin comes into play when our desires are corrupted, but I think it was God’s intent that we all want to be happy and that we should be happy. I am curious to hear your thoughts on those statements.

    Two. Does church have to be formal? What is church? In Acts, people lived in fellowship with one another and grew daily. I have been there. That feels a lot more like church than any formal institution I have been in. I still think we should be baptized and take communion (and even if I did give you the other sacraments), that leaves the other 99.7% of my life where I want to follow God and it won’t matter if I call it catholicism, protestantism, or zoomba if I am truly seeking the Lord’s will for everything I do. Actually, does it matter what I call the other .3%? I understand that my theological beliefs are reflected in my actions, so it is important to constantly seek to improve them, but I think that large institutions usually overcomplicate things. I agree with the Catholic church on most matters. I agree with Protestant churches on most matters. I disagree with both of them on some matters, most of which I see as rather trivial in the big picture. I always try to agree with God. I pray daily that God would guide me, and I do my best to follow Him. I don’t know what you mean by a “formal Christian.” I would say that God has saved anybody that has repented in his heart and accepts Jesus as Lord, whether he/she did it all on his/her own or God used a pastor/priest/random guy to help that person to Him. I think that God isn’t all that formal Himself. He is all about getting messy, going right into the muck to work with us/for us. I try to give Him formal respect because He deserves it, but I think every scenario has its own nuances, and I don’t know how much formal orthodoxy I could accept. I believe that God is good. I believe that God is all-powerful. I believe that I need to follow Him to have any hope at all. I believe Christ died so that humans, who are fallen, can be reconciled to Him. I trust God that He has everything under control. Beyond that, I don’t know that I could make many more all-encompassing statements about God that don’t say basically the same things I just said or compromise my search for truth(I will say I probably missed a couple things). If any of that came across as defensive, I did not mean it to. I am just trying to put down what I believe so that you can better understand and respond to my questions.

    Three. I kind of mentioned this in the first paragraph. I have played with the idea in my head that everything everyone does is an attempt to draw near to God. They may be awful and corrupted attempts, but they are attempts nonetheless. Let us say that everything good comes from God. All humans have longings and desires for good things. You may disagree with that, but think about it. Sex is a good thing. Rape is a corrupted desire for sex and love. That doesn’t make it anything less than atrocious, but I think that it does show that everything humans do is an innate attempt to get to the good things in life, which reflect God, and therefore, they are attempting to get to God. Your thoughts please.

    Four. I came up with another one as I was writing the other three. How important do you think all of this philosophizing is? I don’t mean this to be offensive, I just wonder. After this small amount of thinking and writing, my soul desires to just live. I know it is important to an extent. I think that is to the extent that it effects how we live. But do we get to a point where we can think so hypothetical and get so caught up in trying to be theologically correct that we miss something. In the time that it took me to write this, I could have bonded more with the people around me. I could have read a book that I feel quite confident would have some information in it that I would be able to use later. I could have gone to sleep. I could have played tetris. That last one was kind of a joke, and I think I am working towards my own answer for this one (tell me your opinion): Everything has its own time. God wanted me to write this (because I did), maybe so the people I would have been with could reflect themselves or do another part of His will. He probably wanted me to ask these questions, just as He probably wanted you to read them. But sometimes I do feel like I waste my time thinking about theological things that don’t especially matter when I could/should be spending my time loving other people and really living life. I think this is reflected in that I am less argumentative than I used to be and just enjoy myself more.

    That got really long. I really do appreciate your time and energy. I am going to play some tetris now and have a lot of fun doing it.

    • I apologize that this comes so late – I’ve been extremely busy with school work and I only noticed this a while after you had posted it. I welcome your comments as always, though if possible I think if they veer too far from what is appropriate in an ‘about’ page, I may just make a post on something like ‘God’s Selfishness’ and we could continue the discussion there. For now, I’ll answer your points in turn, hopefully to some satisfaction.

      In your first point you bring up again the issue of God’s being selfish. I don’t know if you’re familiar at all with the principle of double-effect in ethics, but in any case it seems to me that the moral value of an action is not in its result but in its intention. Thus, it seems to me that one can have different intentions – some primary, and some which are completely peripheral. Perhaps, for instance, giving somebody else a present, or apologizing for doing something wrong does in fact bring some benefit to me personally, but that may not be at all what I had in mind when I apologized or gave somebody else a present. Similarly, God may not do anything which he could possibly regret, nor do anything against his nature (which is the only way I can interpret him doing something other than what he wills), but I don’t think that means that his intentions stem from any view to him-self (if I can put it like that provisionally, keeping in mind that God is three persons on the Catholic account of him).

      St. Benedict had divided proper Love into four stages which the Monk must aim to go through from the first (where we all start) to the last. His outline is something to the effect of what follows:
      1. Love yourself for your sake
      2. Love God for your sake
      3. Love God for God’s sake
      4. Love yourself for God’s sake

      This complete change in the orientation of one’s actions is, on the Christian view of man, ultimately an imitation of God in three persons. When man only loves himself, tends to himself, cares for himself, for the sake of God, then although the results may be the same as the actions of a man who loves himself for his own sake, the moral value of every single action aimed towards that end is radically different.

      Finally, if we are going to use the word selfish in such a sense that even God is ‘selfish’ then in one sense the word begins to say so much that it doesn’t say anything at all. Generally that isn’t what we mean by saying selfish – some action shouldn’t qualify as selfish if it is pleasing to the subject, but rather if the subject undertook the action for the end (telos) of the pleasure. In relation, then, to God’s coming to us in the person of Christ – if true it implies that God came to us not for his peace of mind, not to satisfy a ‘want’ of his, but rather he did it literally ‘for us’. Our peace and joy were the ends towards which his actions were aimed.

      Concerning Formal Christianity or Formal orthodoxy, what I and Calvin and others mean by saying ‘Formal’ here is, without over-complicating it with philosophical vocabulary, just that ‘Christianity exists as a set of doctrines apart from what any Christian claims to believe – it exists objectively in the world, and it is possible for man to encounter Christianity in the world’. Therefore, if a Christian believes that the trinity is false, one could plausibly respond to them that ‘Christianity actually includes the Trinity as a doctrine’ without being dismissive of them. The whole problem is in demonstrating that Christianity actually entails or includes x,y, or z. Did Christ leave his Church without the resources to tell the difference between his teachings and that which is in conflict with the truth? The Catholic conviction is that Christ promised to ‘lead us into all truth’ and ‘never let the gates of hell prevail against the Church’. It is that conviction which explains the confidence Catholics have in the various ecumenical councils – we aren’t being confident in our own bishops because we think they were really smart (though something could be said about that, since many of them were), but rather we are confident because of Christ’s promise to lead the whole Church into the Truth. Thus we believe in the Episcopal Charism, that the Church as an ecclesiastical body (qua ecclesiastical body) is infallible, because she is guided always by the Holy Spirit who is her soul.

      Thus, before one is able to say “well, I agree with the Catholic Church on some things, but disagree on others,” one has to take seriously the Catholic Church’s radical claim to just ‘be’ formal Christianity. If the Catholic Church is correct about herself, and if her confidence in Christ is not misplaced or misunderstood, then in the Catholic Church’s teachings Christ himself is speaking to the world – still leading her into all truth.

      You say: “In Acts, people lived in fellowship with one another and grew daily. I have been there. That feels a lot more like church than any formal institution I have been in.”
      One of the interesting things I found out which, at first, came as a surprise to me, was that the early Church was Catholic and worshiped in a particularly Catholic way. I had always assumed that the early primitive Church was simple, and didn’t have all the accoutrements of a later evolved Medieval Church, with all its bells and whistles. I thought that worship in the early Church was a matter of getting together among believers, in their own homes, and just singing some songs or having potluck meals together. What surprised me is that when I went back and did a little research into the earliest documents which record how the Christians celebrated Christ, I found that their form of worship was extremely liturgically informed. They had set prayers, and a ‘president’ (the Bishop ‘presi-ding’) they had the Eucharist which they were adamant about, readings from scriptures or else at least prayers and psalms from Scriptures, concluding rites, the works. Granted, it must have looked simpler than the later medieval church, but the point is that the worship of the early Church just ‘was’ the Mass. I was shocked and scandalized by this until I realized just how Jewish the Mass is – how its parts have so many similarities to the ancient Jewish liturgical rites that it remains always recognizably Jewish, though transformed. Of course, that is what we should have expected – that the early Christian way of worshiping God would have been rooted in the Jewish way of worshiping God. What is special about this way of worshiping? Well, apart from the peripheral benefits of being able to understand things like the book of revelation (since the whole book is organized, section by section, to run in step with the Mass – which is why Catholics have considerably less trouble interpreting it and why Catholics don’t argue over its meaning nearly as often as protestants – or at least that is one reason), there is the most fundamental reason: that in this particular Liturgy, which Jesus gave us at the Last Supper, Christ himself comes to us ‘really’ ‘actually’ substantially’ – in every single possible way he is present in that Liturgy in a way which is radically different from how he can be found elsewhere. The early Church celebrated this Liturgy with joy, calling it ‘Eucharist’ (literally “thanksgiving”) because in it they found Jesus Christ. That is the whole reason for being Catholic – one is not Catholic because they like the current state of affairs in the Church better than outside the Church – one is Catholic because they are convicted that in her we find him.

      You say: ” I have played with the idea in my head that everything everyone does is an attempt to draw near to God. They may be awful and corrupted attempts, but they are attempts nonetheless. Let us say that everything good comes from God. All humans have longings and desires for good things. You may disagree with that, but think about it. Sex is a good thing. Rape is a corrupted desire for sex and love. That doesn’t make it anything less than atrocious, but I think that it does show that everything humans do is an innate attempt to get to the good things in life, which reflect God, and therefore, they are attempting to get to God.”

      Sex is not only a ‘good thing’, but it is more than that – I think some Catholic theologians get it right when they say that Sex is fundamentally a prayer. Indeed, one might construe almost all our actions as being part of a prayer which we are, even now, in the midst of composing. I am just not as sure as you seem to be that we aren’t able to pray that God-be-gone. Every action aims towards some perceived good, however confused, but the radical nature of sin is that the good perceived is found in an object which is intended as a ‘sign’ of the good which it reflects, rather than the good which it reflects. It is deeply mysterious how man, or angels, could have sinned to this end, but the possibility must be there for the choice to the contrary to be of any value (or even to really exist as a choice). I am committed to the claim that man can and does genuinely reject God in his heart.

      Philosophy, literally ‘Philo Sophia’ means the love of wisdom. So long as we aren’t merely arguing (which some people find to be an enriching recreational pass time, while others think they have better ways to waste their time) I think philosophy is extremely useful. So long as we keep our ‘end’ in view, which is ultimately the Summum Bonum (the greatest good – which is recognized to be God himself), then philosophy is an avenue to finding God. Having said that, one needs to be attentive to the Spirit and use discernment – perhaps professionally engaging in the world of philosophy is the vocation of some, and not of others. If you think, for instance, that playing tetris will be a healthier way to pray than doing philosophy (which may at times be true btw), then more power to you. However, if you are asking me personally how useful I find philosophy – Very. Without philosophy I can safely say I would not be a Christian, let alone the kind of Christian I am (a philosophical one).

      I know that this response was both long in coming as well as literally long as it comes, but I hope I was able to satisfactorily answer your questions.

      God bless.

  5. Aqua-Man says:

    So refreshing to see Christians working together to find answers.

    You have great questions, and Tyler is the best person I know to ask about this stuff.

    It’s in part thanks to him that I am where I am with my faith today.

  6. Wayne says:

    Both of you are stroking the same delusional ego. Projection and cultural meme and not even at its finest. If either of you had any other programing, your dogma would be reflecting that memetic set with all the perimeters you have applied to this one. Aren’t you both so lucky that “god” allowed you to be born into western culture and its historical story rather than say Bagladesh and destined for eternal damnation based on your “truth” that you are so proud to pontificate. You are so special. Special by birthright. Sounds like a loving creater or am I missing something here?

    Why is it so hard to just say I don’t know? Ego of course. The same ego self that you think your going to take to the ” other side “. A fear of death and not being is the shits isn’t it. We invent all kinds of Scenarios to avoid that unpleasantness . Grow up and join the rest of us in the present and give yourself a chance to actually live this life instead of spending all your efforts projecting and masturbating with the choir.

  7. Hello Wayne.
    I get the impression you may be upset at some perceived arrogance on my part, about which, if it exists in me, I can’t do much other than apologize. However, since what you seem to object to is not any of my arguments or my work, I would invite you to peruse around and think about what I have to say, for whatever it’s worth. You’re always welcome to respond and criticize anything and everything you read on the blog, and I will always at least try to get back to you as soon as I can. If you have any difficulties you’d like to discuss in general then I welcome those as well.


  8. Wayne says:

    I apologize for my tone and spelling error of your creater(sic) . My stumbling across your blog was like peeping into an arena I have long ago dismissed and for what appears to me at least for obvious reasons. I have no desire to debate your scholarship nor your motivations for embracing your linguistic abstractions. To each his own.
    It was like wanting so save an intelligent fellow traveler from slowly boiling in the pot and never knowing he was already cooked. The Fall? Really? Personal loving maker? Come now. Salvation? This is all an anachronistic meme that postmodern skeptics will demand the dogma be justified and even proven based on science ( another dogmatic entity) not contrived myth. Have you really read this book with objective neutrality? One historical reference and then nothing else? Inerrancy? Really none of this stuff you want to dismiss or throw out of canoco

  9. Wayne says:

    Sorry, hit my I pad too quickly….
    Canonical mix? Did gods personality change over time? Did he just grow up in the new testament and adjust his attitude or are there all kinds of new meanings the apologists have conjured up to make it all work? Christianity is of course not the only dogma that won’t make it into the new lexicon without adjustment. It’s had to adjust many times in the past to survive but this time the pace has been accelerating and the replacement in this information age is harder to pull off.
    You need not replay to this post for my sake. I don’t need it. You are welcome to delete it all if you wish as I don’t want this to be about picking a fight and I don’t want to disrupt your flow of others participating in your dialogue.
    What does it really mean to be honest and with yourself especially ?
    I think you are good person. I have doubt about that.

    • Dear Wayne,
      You are an odd fellow aren’t you? I feel as though it’s my turn to want to rescue you from some prejudices and some palpable misunderstandings. I don’t know if it is worth reminding you (perhaps informing you) that though I was raised in the main as a Baptist evangelical, I did come to take Islam very seriously and considered conversion. What stopped me was seeing Christianity in that new light: insofar as it compares to Islam. In the absence of Christianity, Islam looks persuasive, and it is only by contrasting the two that I came, for what it’s worth, to think Christianity had a much better purchase on truth. Later, again, I came very close to becoming an Atheist insofar as I began to be persuaded that the best way of making sense of the world involved no appeal to the theological/religious content of my Christian faith, which I had found so intellectually satisfying when I was younger. It was in throwing myself into the world of rational debate and thinking through my beliefs as carefully as I could that I, much to my surprise, became a Catholic. Of course that entails that I am committed to the claim (and proudly defend the claim) that Catholicism is true, and that as a worldview it provides the best way of making sense of the world around us. I would like to think, after all that, that I have thought through my perspective with considerable scrutiny to not be dismissed out of hand as an ideologue. I may be wrong, but I am at least not naive.

      In view of that autobiographical makeup, I’d like to make an audacious suggestion: I propose to you that Christianity is true, and I am more than ready and willing to argue my way there if you are willing to lend me an ear.

      By way of preamble, I would like to sweep away the debris under which, I suspect, some very bad arguments may be hiding under the surface of your comments. There is, for instance, this curious western supposition (and I wonder if you share it) that Christianity is basically on a par with all other world religions, and additionally not on a par with our modern scientistic worldview speculations today. This is an assumption I would like to call into question – what justification can there be for it? In fact, on the contrary, I have found that Christianity looks curiously exactly like what we would expect a religion to look like if it were true. Recall that Christianity is the only religion to have faced the full brunt of enlightenment criticism for a few hundred years, and has come out looking better than enlightenment rationalism by the very standards proposed by the age of reason! As a philosophy, I find Christianity to stand head and shoulders above all other philosophical/metaphysical postulates (including one of it’s contenders: Naturalism). Moreover, consider how Christianity has remained one of the most well recognized intellectually live options in academia today, not least in philosophy departments where its content is often directly relevant. Considering the renaissance of Christianity in philosophy departments (and especially philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, etc) which we are witnessing today, and considering the Christian worldview articulated by it’s most able defenders, it seems to me that one has to take seriously the question of whether Christianity is true. It is inescapable for any intellectually honest person in philosophy today, or even perhaps (one would hope) in academia today. This is where I would begin setting the stage for any arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview: I would ask that we set naked prejudice against it aside and apply critical thinking in assessing its worth. I submit to you that if we do that, we will find, however surprisingly, that Christianity seems to be true, or at very least remains one of the most intellectually viable options on the intellectual market today, as it has been for two thousand years.

      What say you to my invitation to this experiment (the experiment of considering in an intellectually rigorous, open and honest way whether the claims of Christianity are true)? Its an open invitation, and it’s up to you to decide whether to take me up on it, whenever you’d like, and if ever you dare. I leave it to you.


      “I think you are good person. I have doubt about that.”
      I think you should Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

  10. Hello,
    Just came across your blog today. Interesting stuff!
    You say in comments above,

    If I had to point to a single reason why I am a Catholic, I would say it is because it is the only way that Christian orthodoxy can exist formally.

    The subsequent discussion focuses on Catholicism vs Protestantism. But I’m curious whether, and if so why, you explicitly chose the Western Catholic church over the Eastern Orthodox church.

    • Great question. The Eastern Orthodox Church obviously did present itself as an option which I had to take seriously. One of my baptist friends in Australia converted to Eastern Orthodoxy at the same time as I converted to Roman Catholicism, and for many of the same reasons. I had also encountered some very sharp and charitable Eastern Orthodox apologists on my journey towards Catholicism, before I was actually ‘Catholic’ yet. I recognized that becoming Eastern Orthodox would certainly be less controversial, if only because protestants do not have the same prejudices against it as they do against Roman Catholicism (probably because they know even less about it). I also found that the liturgy in the Eastern Orthodox Church was beautiful, and the extent to which the Eastern Orthodox esteems ‘Catholic/catholic’ tradition was very attractive, since I had already fallen in love with the Church Fathers through my studies. In some ways, therefore, Eastern Orthodoxy appeared even more attractive than Roman Catholicism. However, because I was interested in the truth, and because I was interested in how it could be possible for Orthodoxy to be manifested formally, it seemed to me that the Eastern Orthodox model of Hierarchy/Ecclesiology was dissatisfying in a few ways. First, to my surprise, I found that it departed from tradition, even the tradition as found in the Greek Fathers, concerning the Papacy. From St. John Chrysostom to St. Augustine, from Pope Gregory the great to St. Cyprian, from Irenaeus to Tertullian, and on and on the list goes. Take an honest survey of the Fathers and you will find an irreducible sense that the Petrine bishopric is really the ecclesiastical center of the Church – and not because it just happened to be, but because it was identified with Peter himself. That was the key – Christ had founded the Church that way.

      In addition, in studying the reformation and counter or ‘Catholic’ reformation, I came to better understand the doctrine of the Papacy itself, and I came to see it as deeply, indissolubly, rooted in the Scriptures. Moreover, I was influenced by reading through St. Vincent of Lerins’ commonitory. As brilliant as his work on ‘Catholicity’ was, he left open one question he should have addressed. He had explained that if two bishops in the Church disagree, and schism should occur, then we should prefer the soundness of the majority to one obstinate member of the body. However, if the Church should split into two over some controversy, we should have recourse to the Fathers who have delivered to us a tradition which cannot contain any stain of heresy. Now, although what convinced me was in large part taking an honest hard look at the Fathers, with both Eastern and Western interpretations of them in mind, there remains another more profound open question at this point. Namely, what if the Fathers themselves should prove inconclusive on the issue? As I thought about Hierarchy more seriously, I also began to sympathize with some of my Coptic Orthodox friends who were adamantly not Eastern Orthodox, but represent a form of Oriental orthodoxy. As I dove into Church history more deeply I found that this notion that there are really only two apostolic Churches (Churches with an impressive claim to be the fullness of ‘Catholic’ communion), was actually artificial. There are a great number of autocephalous churches which are legitimately apostolic, some larger, some smaller, the largest being the Eastern Orthodox communion. However, the Eastern Orthodox communion has nothing in principle to distinguish itself from these others in kind (if being the biggest is a good argument, then Roman Catholicism wins anyways) – it just happens to be larger, but its Ecclesiology is the same. Without a sharp Hierarchy, by which I mean something like a pyramid scheme (to put it crudely), there just is no way to ensure that one is in the ‘right’ Church, since without something like a bishop in whose communion ‘Catholicity’ is grounded all schisms present an impossible predicament for any loyal son of the Church wishing to be in full communion with Christ.
      Following this I also found, to my surprise, that for all the criticisms offered against the Latin Church by Eastern Orthodox and Oriental orthodox (et al) ecumenical interlocutors, the Western Church seemed not only more faithful to some of the key traditions (like the Filioque, which is found in Fathers Eastern and Western way before the schism), but also seemed to present itself with harder sayings, each of which I found to be true, and at least more plausible than not. For instance, the idea of purgatory, or the inerrancy of the scriptures, or the Church’s teachings against contraception, etc. I saw my Eastern Orthodox friends time and again shying away from these issues saying that they were not really essential, and indeed, if they were, then the Eastern Orthodox Church would speak on it. Moreover, curiously, the Eastern Orthodox Christians who I knew were in the habit of saying that the seven ecumenical councils common to East and West were all the Church needed – these were sufficient in all ways for the living out of the faith. How, though, could the Church not address issues like those which arose after these councils, which are essential for Christian living, such as on sexual ethics? Even if the resources are in the seven ecumenical councils for solving those issues, can anyone other than the most brilliant theologian really discern that much from them? What about the laity? Moreover, there are significant issues on which Eastern Orthodox bishops are in sharp disagreement – things which Eastern Orthodox Christians often admit they wished they had some authoritative way to settle.
      As I studied ecumenical councils more closely, I realized along the way that one of the essential features of an ‘ecumenical’ council is that it is ratified by the bishop of Rome. There are examples in the Church before the so-called split of 1054, in which, for example, the majority of Bishops gathered at a council which was called by them and by the emperor ‘ecumenical’, but at which the Pope was not present, and which later the Pope, standing in the minority of the Church, overturned with such force that NO apostolic Church still calls this council ‘ecumenical’, even though the majority of the Bishops in the one Catholic Church were calling it ‘ecumenical’ a generation earlier (This was the council of Hieria). I realized that there was an intimate connection between a council’s being recognized as ecumenical, and its being ratified as such by the Pope. The clearest example may be at Chalcedon. Pope Pius XII, incidentally one of my favorite popes, wrote an encyclical just on how the proceedings of the council of Chalcedon reflected the Church’s convictions about the papacy at that time (which is worth reading). Moreover, though Eastern Orthodox theologians provide different apologetic reasons for why the Eastern Orthodox Church cannot call an ecumenical council anymore, they all agree that the Eastern Orthodox Church CANNOT call such a council. There is something which they are presently missing, and without which an ecumenical council is impossible (Catholics think this is the Pope).
      All of these reasons converged, for me, in such a way that it convinced me that the Papacy is an essential part of the Church as Christ intended her to be.
      I hope that goes some way towards answering your question.

      • Yes it does, thank you. I’d be interested to engage with you on some of these points. 🙂

      • You are most welcome to, anytime. Though, if I may say so, I noticed that you say on your blog that you are a Roman Catholic, and that your thinking is greatly informed by feminist theology. I wonder if I can be so bold as to ask you: are you faithfully Catholic? What I mean by faithfully here is do you give, in addition to the assent of faith, your religious assent to all those propositions which the Church formally teaches?
        You are always welcome back, and feel free to post on anything you find interesting. God bless.

  11. Seraphim says:

    Have you addressed any of the following questions on your blog?:

    1. If God is a personal God, why doesn’t he reveal himself in a way more recognizable to those who seek him?

    2. How do I have free will if God already knows whether I am in heaven or hell?

    3. If God is unchanging, how is Christ, who changes, God?

    • Good question, I’m not sure if I have blogged directly about these issues, probably because I found satisfactory answers to them years ago and they don’t often come up. However, I’ll be happy to revisit them here.

      1. This question is one which raises the problem of evil in an epistemological sense. However, I think the answer has to be given along the following lines: first, it isn’t clear that if God revealed himself with any more forceful clarity than he already has that as many people would come to love him as will in our actual world. Remember that God is, on the Christian view, not as interested in people believing that he exists, merely adding an additional piece of furniture to their ontology (I think Dr. Craig once used that wording, or something close to it). Rather, God wants people to freely love him, not out of some selfish motivation on God’s part, but because God created us for love, and all our experiences of love merely intimate his nature as Trinity (this is why we who have inherited Christian idioms in the west often say things like ‘I am falling in love’ instead of ‘I have the property of loving such-and-so, because we enter into love by participation). This is also why God cannot, in Christian Theology, ever fall in love with us. He can no more fall in love than the ocean can get wet. God is Love, not just metaphorically, but ontologically.

      Coming back to your question with this vision of God and the end (Telos) of creation in mind, one can see that it might be that in a world where God is more evident to the introspective sense, fewer people would come to love him. In fact, I am inclined to believe that fewer people would be inclined to believe in him, since if we could make God evident to ourselves in the same way we could turn on a television we would have good reason to believe that God is merely an idea in the mind, however forcefully that idea suggests its own reality to us, and not an actual transcendent interactive personal agency.

      However, I will also say this: I think that the evidence which exists objectively (that is, the evidence which goes beyond the merely introspective immediate experience) is strong enough that an honest and intellectually well exercised person has a very good chance of developing a justified belief that God exists, regardless of how they might feel about that. Also, finally, I will say with philosophers like Plantinga, and perhaps with others like Fr. Copleston, that one’s belief in God, if it is formed correctly is a properly basic belief, and is also one which the mystic in the midst of mystical experience (the height of prayer) is presented with; they are presented with the presence of God in such a way and to such an extent as to make it psychologically impossible, in such moments, to doubt that God exists.

      In sum, I think that God has made himself sufficiently evident, and God knows that if he were to make himself more evident than he already has, then fewer people would come to love him and accept his love for us.

      2. This one is rather easy. The answer is that knowledge has no causal relation with its own objects. We can illustrate this with some pretty simple thought experiments. First, suppose I know now that yesterday you had coffee at 9:00 AM (I don’t actually know this, but let’s just imagine I did). Does my knowledge of that fact do anything to contribute to its truth? No, clearly not. Similarly, if you know, because you traveled in a time machine to three years from now, that I will marry some wonderful woman I have yet to meet, does your knowledge of that future state of affairs cause its truth? No, clearly not. So, similarly, God’s knowledge of what we will do can be a knowledge of what we will freely choose to do, and his knowledge does not play any causal role in determining what we will do.

      I think the problem here is that people naturally presume, without necessarily having even looked into philosophy of time, a presentist ontology. That is, they presume that there is an objective fact about ‘now-ness’, that things are real in the present, but that the future is open and does not already exist. Such people often don’t realize how difficult it is to believe this, and yet believe that future tense propositions have truth values. For instance, suppose we take the proposition “one day I will finish reading all of my books” or “one day I will have a child” or propositions like that. If I ask, are they true, or are they false, and you answer by saying you don’t know, notice that your not knowing has nothing to do with whether they are in fact true or in fact false. Those propositions, whether or not we know whether they are true, have a truth value. However, they don’t just inherit a truth value by reason of what comes to pass in the future, rather they have a truth value right now. Our knowledge plays no causal role in the truth of propositions, positive or negative. If all this is so, then I think we should recognize that from God’s perspective outside of time God can see the whole of the history of the world, which for us is divided into past, present and future. God knows the future, including what I will freely choose, but he no more determines it by knowing it than he determines the past, including what I have freely chosen, by knowing it.

      3. Here, Christians recognize that Christ has two natures, a divine nature, and a human nature. Christ, insofar as his divine nature is concerned, is immutable and unchangeable. Christ, insofar as his human nature is concerned, is changeable. This seems to me a completely adequate answer. In Theological lingo this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, and it was declared at the council of Chalcedon in 451.

      Well, I hope that’s a help. Feel free to peruse the blog and contribute further comments to your hearts content.

      • eastwestintermountainwest says:

        Thank you for your answers to my questions. I found your responses to 2 and 3 superb.
        I must admit that I asked my questions from a somewhat difficult position. Over the past few days I encountered tragedy, and on top of that was rejected from every philosophy program to which I applied. It is amazing what our emotions can do to our faith in trying times.
        I have been an inquirer in RCIA for three years now, and plan on becoming a catechumen this summer when classes begin again, but I find myself in an interesting position where I doubt my own abilities to reason and gain knowledge. Thus I fear that, rather than actually believing that the Catholic Church true, I want so badly to believe in it that I am forcing things. Did you have such an experience in your conversion process?

  12. You are most welcome. Although my experience of coming to Catholicism was not anything like what you describe, I am well acquainted with pain and I have developed, with time and experience, an awareness of how pain can and does affect our faith. I used to think that emotions needed to be entirely repressed in order for clear thinking to lead to truth, and that is in part what guided my path ultimately leading into the bosom of the Catholic Church. However, I came to realize with time, even as I was entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, that it stands to reason if God created us that we need to use all our capacities, including taking seriously both our reasoning and our spiritual sense. Of course personal sensibilities mislead us, but then so does the use of reason unchecked (as any survey of philosophers will show, hardly any two agree on even most things, and those that do are usually related as students to teachers). In fact, I once came to believe, earlier in my journey, that it was my moral responsibility to abstain from praying, in the name of looking for the truth. I came to realize that to be unbiased I would also have to abstain from sinning, and in the end that proved impossible. All that to say I have struggled with the tension of emotion, reason, and their relationship to faith.

    Here’s my advice to you. I think there is a healthy part of all of us which wants to believe in a worldview in which we can find grounds for Hope, and it is actually existentially absurd to adopt a worldview which doesn’t make sense on a deathbed. At the same time, we need to use our reason to the best of our ability, (and I think we need to do so with the disposition of love). In my experience, Catholicism has been found to be not only consonant with reason, but also elaborates the findings of reason, and integrates reason and faith with such synergy that it becomes difficult to draw the line between them. I also think Catholicism makes existential sense. I think that if you continue to look into the faith with an open mind and an open heart, both your mind and your heart will lead you directly to Christ, and into the Catholic Church.

    None of us need to be a Thomas Aquinas in order to have a justified belief in the truth of the Christian faith, the fullness and whole of which is propounded in the teaching office and Tradition of the Catholic Church. I think we can have a properly basic belief thanks to the witness of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that we can have a justified belief in the reality of the past or the existence of other minds, (i.e., without having any evidence for them or arguments for them, but having our immediate experience of them, and realizing that they serve as basic beliefs which allow us to make sense of the world), so also we can have such a belief in God, and come to believe in the basic truths of the Christian faith, including belief in an infallible magisterium. I therefore think that you should couple reasoning, along with your emotions, with prayer. Pray not to be convinced of truths that you aren’t sure of, but rather pray that God guide you in your journey to the truth, whatever it may be.

    That’s the best advice I can give, and for what it’s worth, I will be praying for you as well. God bless.

    • You said “I found your responses to 2 and 3 superb.” It bothers me a little that my first answer was apparently wide of the mark, so perhaps I’ll take another go at it. Perhaps what you were asking was not a general question, but more specifically why God is not more evident to you. This is always a tricky question for any of us when we find ourselves in times of despair and can’t seem to ‘find God’. The Church Fathers warn us that there may be many reasons why we cannot hear the voice of God, for instance because of a spiritual wax build-up. We need to grow into a relationship with God, and to seek him constantly, and until we attain the full beatific vision we will only see as through a glass darkly.

      However, perhaps there are other reasons why God does not decide to make himself more evident to us. For instance, perhaps he has some greater good in mind. Let’s imagine that the presence of God is evident in the same way that the ticking of a clock is evident. Eventually, when you are always in an environment where a clock is ticking, you naturally move it into the background and its presence is not registered consciously. I have had the odd experience before of looking at a clock as it was ticking, not able to hear the tick, until eventually I realized that the sound had been in the background so long that I had forgotten how to focus on it. It could be that God’s presence is, in the same way, evident to you already in such a way that he has moved to the background – you can’t see the forest for the trees. If that were the case, then perhaps the reason God doesn’t go out of his way to appear to you ‘where’ you are looking for him is that he wants you to find his presence in the deepest part of you, so that instead of ‘meeting’ God like you meet a stranger, or finding God like you find a lost buried treasure, you might be able to find him and realize all at once that, somehow, you’ve known all along that he knows and loves you. As St. Augustine has said, “God is closer to me than I am to myself.”

      Moreover, perhaps God knows that it would be better for you to go through this period of spiritual blindness, than it would be for you to find him immediately. Notice, as C.S. Lewis once wrote in the Screwtape letters:
      “Sooner or later He [God] withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.”

      Perhaps God is calling you to go through this period of dryness, and to continue to search for him regardless of the fact that you are not receiving any immediate satisfaction by finding him quickly. Perhaps, just perhaps, God has plans for you which you can hardly understand, and they require that you go through this period of earnestly seeking God, without as of yet having found him. Perhaps God knows what your life would look like if he revealed himself clearly to you now, and knows that it is better in the long term if he waits, and continues cooing to you.

      Well, that’s my second shot at answering the question, and I hope it helped a bit more than the former attempt. God bless.

  13. HERB says:


    • Hello Herb.

      First, might I recommend using full sentences (‘sentences’ plural), since if you don’t what you say is more difficult for me to interpret. Second, in case you aren’t aware, typing everything in capital letters indicates that you are yelling, but that’s somewhat rude, and there’s no need for it here.

      Now, nobody here is a naive modernist, including me. So I am well aware that, try as I might, I’m not ever going to be entirely objective, and neither are you. You are welcome to present any arguments or evidence you think might convince me otherwise, and unless you’re particularly rude I will always allow you to comment on my blog. However, I think the allegations you just made (or which were at least insinuated) are unfair and naive. Christianity has not been ‘at the heart of so much evil’ (whatever that means), and nor is there any evil at the heart of Christianity. Now, perhaps you’d like to give me some examples of what you have in mind so we can talk about those? I ask, though, that you remain civil and calm. You’re always welcome here on the blog to register your thoughts and/or reservations about anything you want in the comments.

  14. What are your thoughts about Thomas Payne’s Age of Reason? It is a book that shook me to the core, but I have not found any works really responding to the ideas that it advances. Do you know of anyone who has systematically responded to it?

    • I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I don’t even know anyone who thinks that Tomas Paine is even worth responding to systematically. 😛

      Do you have any objection in mind in particular from Paine, or any concern given any argument found in his “Age of Reason”?

      • It seems that everyone is dismissive about it, meanwhile he systematically attacks the concept of revealed religion and then clear cuts the Biblical forest by pointing out apparent contradictions within.

        How about his “Revelation is Hearsay” argument?

      • So that I don’t take up time attacking what I presume the argument is, or how it goes, would you mind reproducing it as best you can, presenting it in its most powerful form?

      • That is a lot of pressure. Essentially, his argument is that all “revelations” are revelation only to the first person. The rest of us are left having to trust the person relating the things that he or she was told or experienced. Especially when we are dealing with older religions and traditions (like Islam or Christianity) we are then left to a chain of people to trust or not trust as to whether certain things were indeed said, performed, or experienced by a third party.

      • If that’s his argument then it’s just atrocious. Let me offer some brief responses off the top of my head.

        First, one can have good reasons for thinking that some revelation has occurred not by taking it on the basis of testimony, but by taking it on the basis of a conditional probability assessment. For instance, one may find that the probability that the resurrection of Jesus occurred on the objective historical evidence is very high (surprisingly, this is actually the case, and it is the case using only those few facts agreed upon by those skeptical historians whose method stripped away most of the supposedly historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth). However, the probability that God acted in a revelatory way in Jesus of Nazareth, on the probability that Jesus of Nazareth rose again from the dead, is very very high. Suppose one had such an argument – then wouldn’t belief in some revelation be caused by a careful first-person assessment of the facts?

        Perhaps we can go about it otherwise as well. Perhaps one can say that given the arguments in Natural Theology, the probability of God’s existence is (even if not certain) very very high, something in the order of 0.98. Now we go on to ask what the probability is that God has revealed himself, given that God exists. Perhaps that’s high as well, or at least high enough to legitimize exploring. Following this, by posing one conditional probability after another, one can reproduce their reasoning in conditional statements, such as if X then Y, and if Y then C, and if C then R, and then posit X (with a high probability). Since each of the premises are more plausible than their negations, one will have a good argument for R (where R stands for ‘revelation’). Again, maybe no such line of reasoning is open to us (I claim that it is, but it doesn’t matter, for the moment, whether or not in fact we have such arguments, but only that we could have such arguments).

        Suppose further that I take revelation on testimony. The problem with this, in the case of revelation, is supposed to be Hume’s problem that it is always more likely (more probable) that the person giving you the testimony is lying or mistaken than that a miracle has occurred (leave aside for the moment the question whether revelation has to be miraculous, let’s just assume that x is a revelation only if x is miraculous). However, Hume’s argument is an abject failure according to modern probability theory. The axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is flatly false, since one can justify extraordinary claims on the basis of ordinary evidence the presence of which make it very probable that the extraordinary claim is correct. In other words, so long as the conditional probability holds such that the probability of the extraordinary claim, given the ordinary evidence, is extremely high, the extraordinary claim is justified in the basis of the ordinary evidence. That is how probability theorists resolve the lottery paradox (even if it is extraordinarily unlikely that you would win, you may not need evidence beyond matching numbers on a lottery ticket to justify your belief that you won, or else all lottery winners have been epistemically irresponsible). Thus, suppose you believe that Christianity is true on the basis of testimony, and that testimony makes it the case that Christianity is very probably true; wouldn’t you then have a justified belief in revelation? You clearly would.

        Moreover, appealing to ‘reformed epistemology’ may be helpful here. There may be some things that I believe in a properly basic way, such that I don’t need arguments or evidence to justify them at all. Suppose we take for example the belief in the reality of the past, the existence of other minds, the broad reliability of our cognitive faculties and so on. We can’t produce any good arguments for these things, and yet nevertheless we are justified in maintaining them in the absence of defeaters for them (a defeater being something like a belief ‘on’ which the belief in question is extremely unlikely – this is just basic conditional probability again). Perhaps this is the way we believe in Christianity, or at least in God’s existence. Moreover, suppose that we have a properly basic belief in testimony, such that if x is received by testimony, and there is no defeater for x (i.e., no good reason to think x is false), then x can be believed in a properly basic way. The belief in x doesn’t need evidence or argument in order to justify it. Perhaps Christianity is this kind of belief, at least for some people, and in the absence of a defeater perhaps somebody is justified in believing it.

        Also, alternatively, we can appeal to a coherentist epistemology, and claim that if some world view which includes ‘revelation’ is maximally coherent, or at least more coherent than any other world view on offer, then it is justified. Moreover, we can make the weaker claim that if it is even ‘coherent’ it can be epistemically justified by any coherentists standards.

        Perhaps we can also give an argument from authority, such as: there are more human beings now and/or in the past who believe or believed R than any alternative to R, and so R seems to be a ‘default’ position. But that may put Christianity at, or at least very near, R. Moreover, suppose one does the same with the most intelligent thinkers in the history of the world – one will also find Christianity up there.

        Christianity, whatever else it is, has something extremely compelling about it. Human beings in various ages, in various settings and with various philosophical backgrounds have been astonished at Christianity; they found Christianity to be a pleasant surprise. That helps to explain it’s success as a religion which is truly multi-cultural (more than any other), and so on.

        Now you may be thinking that these arguments are ad hoc, and perhaps even if I’m right that it ‘would’ be the case that if we had such a good reason to believe in Christianity then we would have a justified belief in it, we don’t ‘in fact’ have such reasons available to us. However, first, I claim that we DO (shocking as that seems to the modernist temperament of those like Thomas Paine) have such arguments, and second, more importantly, Paine’s claim that anyone who ‘did’ believe in revelation ‘would’ have to believe it on the basis of testimony which would not be justificatory is demonstrably false for the simple reason that the conditional ‘if-then’ statement he makes is directly refuted by my ‘if-then’ conditional examples. So, I’ve given just a sprinkling of sketches for arguments which can very plausibly justify belief in revelation. Do you see now why nobody takes Paine seriously – the discussion has moved so far beyond his platitudes that he isn’t worth addressing in the literature of religious epistemology, philosophy of religion, or even epistemology more generally.

  15. Lukas op de Beke says:

    My well-intentioned but lost friend, if reason is truly what you pursue then how on earth can you talk seriously about something (I am referring of course to “God”) that neither is a “tautological” truth in itself like logic or mathematics or something that can be empirically tested, i.e. falsified, refuted?

    Or, in the words of the great David Hume who said in 1748 already: “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.”

    I strongly advise you to read more about logical-positivism and Popper’s falsification theory, also Richard Dawkins’ ” the God delusion” is an interesting read. You seem to me a smart man, but intelligence is not enough, you have to be courageous as well to accept a fundamental re-establishment of your thoughts.

    Good luck.

    • Hello there Lukas,

      I can’t help but be amused at how naive people can be when they become too comfortable with their own prejudices. What makes you think I haven’t read Popper, much less Hume? For an amusing reductio of both Hume and Positivism read my posts: https://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/humes-book-burning-argument/

      If you take me seriously, you’ll see that I have already undergone a massive renovation of my whole belief set, from the most fundamental to the most mundane of my beliefs. Remember that I was attracted, for a time, to something like Hume’s naturalism. I sincerely think that upon closer inspection we can all find, as I did, that reason points in another direction. Theism is, after all, the established consensus among analytic philosophers who specialize in philosophy of religion (upwards of 70% of them now are Theists, and I expect that number to keep rising as philosophy of religion keeps getting refined by the analytic approach). That, in my submission, is not an accident. In my own intellectual exploration I have found that we not only have good arguments for the existence of God (arguments some of which I find very compelling) but that we have better arguments for the existence of God than we have for almost any other thesis in all of metaphysics, from the reality of the past, to the existence of other (contingent) minds, to the existence of substances (predicate bearers which aren’t merely sets). I find it astonishing that so few people believe in God, but not that so many (analytic) philosophers of religion do.

      While I appreciate your reading recommendations, they also both amuse and trouble me. Suggesting that I read Hume and Popper is just cute – especially since you’re talking to a philosophy major. Suggesting that I read Dawkins is horrifying – not only because you presume I haven’t, but because (what is much much worse) you seem to think I should. Richard Dawkins is anything but a systematic and analytic thinker. From his promotion of rhetoric over dialogue, to his confused attacks on modal logic, from his naive scientific realism, to his naive and clumsy arguments against philosophy (which are, of course, unconsciously philosophical, and unconsciously very bad). He is a popularizer, and a popular one at that, but he is, with good cause, laughed out of all circles among analytic philosophers. Some serious philosophers have attempted to engage with him in published literature, and he has simply declined to either admit his error or defend himself. Even Alvin Plantinga decided he wanted to debate him, and William Lane Craig gave up on debating him because he is so evasive and reluctant. Show me a single point Dawkins has ever made which carries any weight in the ivory tower, rather than in the vulgar corridors of the internet ‘infidel’ communities.

      Now, perhaps because I’m a hopeless optimist, or maybe just because I am very stupid after all, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you either aren’t merely another crazed new atheist jumping on the ridiculous bandwagon Dawkins has invited everyone aboard, or else you can emancipate yourself from that foolishness if only you were properly reasoned with. I’m willing to give dialogue with you a shot, if you think you’re up to doing exactly what you invited me to do: rethink your beliefs taking reason as a guide. You may also (in your case) have to make a conscious effort to revise your ‘plausibility filter’ as Randal Rauser calls it. Ask yourself what arguments there are for Theism (take a rough inventory of them). What arguments are there against? What reasons are there to think Theism implausible? Are any of these ‘reasons’ any good? What reasons are there to think Theism plausible? Are any of these any good? I submit to you this challenge: answer me these questions and be open to having a real, genuine and hopefully respectful dialogue with me about them.

      Either way, please-please extricate yourself as much as possible from the intellectual black-hole of the new atheism. It will make you both a better person, and more than likely a better atheist.


  16. Disciple says:

    Welcome home! I’m a convert from Protestsntism, new age, yoga ohilosophy and Buddhism, to keep the list short. 😉 Am enjoying your blog. May the Lord continue to bless your journey. Peace be with you!

  17. Mark says:

    please Mr. Tyler would you give me your email. I’m working in a Christian organization in the Middle east (which i will send you more details by email). I’m responsible for an Arabic speaking Apologetics website, and would like to take your permission to translate your article titled “Arguments for Libertarian Free Will _ Third Millennial Templar” into Arabic to publish it on our website.
    Looking forward to hear from you.
    May Our Lord use your work for His Glory.

  18. Mark says:

    please Mr. Tyler would you give me your email. I’m working in a Christian organization in the Middle east (which i will send you more details by email). I’m responsible for an Arabic speaking Apologetics website, and would like to take your permission to translate your article titled “Arguments for Libertarian Free Will _ Third Millennial Templar” into Arabic to publish it on our website.
    Looking forward to hear from you.
    May Our Lord use your work for His Glory.

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