I love this stuff. 🙂 Here’s my response to his post.
I was happy to read your definitions of your god. These are very common attributes of a god used by theists and all I was asking for.
I know you had asked me to define God, and you thanked me for defining God, however, I wasn’t defining God. My argument rests on the fact that defining God is in fact a logical impossibility. To define means to describe exactly the meaning or scope of something, to make out the boundaries of something – a task which is impossible with an infinite being.
Your second sentence here is more correct – I identified attributes of God. But this goes into the larger point I was trying to make: the theist doesn’t identify God and then come to believe, the theist is in a process of discovering God. But more on that later.
The heart of the point you were making seemed to be here (and correct me if I missed the actual main point):
If these are part of your definition of your god I’m not sure how you square one other attribute you used to define your god.
How do you claim all those other attributes? This is a huge problem I run into with theists often. This is similar to the square circle an all powerful god is unable to accomplish. It’s a major contradiction. You can’t claim on one hand god is all loving and on the other hand claim god is unfathomable.
If I understand you correctly, the problem here would rest on the definition of “unfathomable”. A quick search on Google shows the following definition: “incapable of being fully explored or understood.” This is the sense in which I am using the word.
It is not that God can’t be discovered – He can and He invites us to discover Him – it is that the depths of God will never be fully comprehended or understood.
I think a parallel could be man’s exploration in space (which I alluded to in my previous post). The size of the universe is quite unfathomable by the human mind. We can explore the universe, we can learn a surprising amount about the universe from our tiny spec of a planet, but despite all of this we will never, as a human race, be able to fully explore and know the Universe, all of its stars, all of its planets, all of its mysteries, all of its idiosyncrasies, and all of its incredible beauty (can you imagine a waterfall on some distant planet in a solar system located in a galaxy cluster that we have not even discovered? I’m sure it exists, but will we ever experience it?). It is unfathomable in its nature.
You mentioned that theists often share similar attributes and qualities of God – these are the attributes that we have come to know and experience as God has revealed them to us, but as any person who is on the journey to discover God more fully will tell you, these attributes merely gloss over the reality that is found once you invest in discovering God.
Moving on to the next point…
I thought your present story was poor. You claimed there was a present in the physical world and instructed your son to test that claim by reaching in and finding the present. One could demonstrate it. Test it. Falsify it. Define it. It was not faith which is what you were attempting to demonstrate. You demonstrated the opposite of faith. Your son was not using faith. He trusted in you because you’re his parent, however, he then tested your claim.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to read this portion of your post, because this is almost exactly what I was trying to describe! Most analogies fail at some point – I just hope they hold up long enough to make the main point.
In the example of the present, faith was present in my son when he listened to his parents and agreed to look in the bag. His only reason for looking in the bag was in response to our calling him to do so. His faith was rewarded with confirmation of that faith in the present.
Faith isn’t a perpetual suspension of skepticism – it is taking that first step, which is usually only in response to that faint call from God, and then asking God to reveal Himself to us. If there was no response from God, pursing him would be an aimless pursuit and without purpose. But if you ask most theists who are genuine in their search to discover God you’ll find that they talk about having a purposeful life, a life with direction. This is because God does respond – He doesn’t ask us to live lives entirely blind.
In the example I gave, my son’s faith was rewarded with the tangible evidence of the present. This is where the analogy breaks down. In the theist life, our faith – our first steps – are rewarded with a response from God which often is quite personal, but absolutely unmistakable. And that response is usually accompanied by a stronger calling from God to go deeper.
We need good reasons for the things we believe because our beliefs inform our actions and our actions effect ourselves and others. If faith isn’t why you believe in your god please correct me. You hinted at evidence of your god. Why didn’t you share that? I value evidence. I’m guessing you’ve shared your evidence with other atheists before. If so, why not this time? Is it rejected as evidence?
I love the first line of that quoted paragraph. “We need good reasons for the things we believe because our beliefs inform our actions and our actions effect ourselves and others.”
So often faith is equivocated with blindness or without reasons, but the opposite is quite true. Faith isn’t blindness – faith creates vision.
In my last post I linked over to a blog post from a former atheist who became Catholic. I hope that you read it, but if you didn’t, I’ll pull this extremely relevant paragraph from what she wrote:
The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the world made sense to me; the more human history made sense to me; the more I started to make sense to me. The picture of human life that I’d formed based on science alone now seemed incomplete. I still believed everything I’d learned through the lens of science, but I now saw a whole other dimension to the world around me. It was like the difference between looking at a picture of a double-fudge chocolate cake and having one in front of me to smell, touch, and taste: everything I knew before was still there, but I was now experiencing it in a much more intense and vivid way.
Contrary to your guess, I have not shared specific evidence with other atheists. Sure, there is the realization that evidence I present will be turned away as explainable or merely subjective. But more importantly, we don’t come to know God by means of evidence first. Rather, our belief in God is confirmed by God with evidence.
St. Augustine said it best when he said “Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand”
I know that for most atheists this won’t be sufficient – most atheists see only one way of knowing reality and discard any other approach. This is why in engaging atheists like yourself on Twitter I have no agenda of converting or convincing – I know that I can’t cause that, it requires a response from you. I certainly hope that you and others will respond to that call to look inside the bag, because the evidence you are looking for is there, but you need to believe the call is worth following first.
You closed with additional questions which, if you don’t mind, I’ll pass on for now as they feel like good topics to discuss in their own context in an orderly manner. For this post I wanted to focus on faith – not being blind – and on the notion that the atheist looking for evidence to believe will never find it, but that the person who begins from a standpoint of belief, the evidence is unmistakable.