Miracles, Probability, and Induction.

This post is a continuation of a discussion of Miracles here and here.


As Dr. Anderson summarizes the issue of induction:

“More generally, what reason do we have to believe that our conclusions about observed instances may be extended (even with probability) to include unobserved instances? The same basic question is most frequently framed in temporal terms: What reason do we have to think that we can draw reliable conclusions about future (unobserved) instances on the basis of past (observed) instances?

Hume’s conclusion was that, regrettably, we have no good reason to think that such inductive inferences are justified. The problem of induction, then, is the problem of answering Hume by giving good reasons for thinking that the ‘inductive principle’ (i.e. the principle that future unobserved instances will resemble past observed instances) is true.

The need for such an answer is immeasurable, since the majority of scientific research is based on inductive reasoning — not to mention most of our everyday inferences about what to expect in the world.”[http://www.ccir.ed.ac.uk/~jad/induction.html]


The problem for Descartes, Hume and Kant was the problem of certainty. That is, what could be known with certainty? Descartes, the rationalist, argued that his own awareness of his consciousness could be known as a certain belief. Hume, the empiricist, questioned whether or not we have direct sense data of God, the self, and cause and effect. Since we don’t have this direct awareness, Hume questioned how we could know of these things. Kant, the rational-empiricist, claimed that the mind structures our sense data based upon categories of the mind. But they were all concerned with what we can know with certainty.

So, to quote Hume, for instance, as saying we cannot ultimately justify induction, means that we have no certainty that the future will resemble the past. According to Hume, to ultimately justify my belief in induction is to prove with certainty that the rules of probability (and or induction) can be ultimately trusted, and I cannot do this. But the point that misses my critics is that theists cannot do this either.

Theists will conclude that if I cannot ultimately (and certainly) justify my belief in induction, that somehow they win their case when I say it’s improbable that miracles have occurred, for I’m basing my belief upon induction and probabilities for which I have no ultimate justification.

I don’t see how this follows. I claim that certainty is well nigh impossible to achieve for any of us. It may well be that this universe is completely and utterly chaotic, not just on the micro level, but also on the macro level. We just may not have enough evidence to the contrary to state otherwise.

There may, in the end, be no probability calculus to apply to life. But so what? In my whole life that’s what I have experienced during every waking moment of my life (assuming for the moment I haven’t been in one very long dream). I punch a key and the letter appears on the computer screen multiple times every time I get up to the computer.

But maybe my memory fails me? Maybe I’m dreaming? So?

Let’s say that I have a completely chaotic memory and/or I’m dreaming. In this particular dream of mine induction still applies, and my memory is all I have to go on—I can do nothing other.

And it appears that my memory is correct and my dream gets me through my dream world (if it really is a dream). It gets me by….

Again, neither Hume nor I said miracles are impossible. But based upon my memory and based upon my life (whether dreaming or not) miracles don’t happen as a regular occurrence in a cause and effect world run by the principles of induction and probability.

What Anderson and others are asking me to do is to forgo all of my experience—all of it—and believe instead, that miracles can and do happen.

Earlier I said that theists do not have a justification for believing in the principle of induction. They don’t, just like me, although unlike me, they claim they do. Why do they claim this? Because they claim God provides for them a basis for believing in induction. But where is their certainty when it comes to the Triune everlasting barbaric God of the Bible who sent a son to be a man and atoned for our sins, will come again and punish the unbeliever in an everlasting hell? For them to justify the principle of induction they must justify their God. And if the standard is the same one that Hume was seeking, then they must show that their God certainly exists. But they obviously cannot do this. For if this were possible, why don’t more people believe in their God?

This only thing we have is probabilities, even if what one considers to be a probability is person related. They think it’s probable that their God exists and that he does miracles, even though none of them have ever seen a man born blind who was instantaneously healed, or a dead man who arose from the grave, or an amputee whose limb was restored before their very eyes. I think, on the contrary, that it’s probably true that there have been no miracles in our world, based upon what we have all experienced—all of us—believer and unbeliever alike.

So it should no longer be a question of whether I can ultimately (and certainly) justify induction, since Christians cannot ultimately (and certainly) justify their God. The question is whether or not we should believe contrary to all of our known experiences throughout our entire lives irregardless of whether our memories are faulty, or whether nature is completely chaotic, or whether or not we’re dreaming right now. I say it isn’t reasonable to believe in miracles from what I have experienced and know. That's all I can say.

18 comments:

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the link to the article and the thought-provoking comment. Here's a brief response for your consideration.

> For them to justify the principle of induction they must justify their God. And if the standard is the same one that Hume was seeking, then they must show that their God certainly exists.

In this context, God is the one entity upon whom any inductive assumption must rest. Because He is always the same, it is reasonable to expect that His creation also enjoys a certain consistency, contingent upon His will for it.

The problem is, if I posit God as the source of inductive consistency, then I can’t use inductive consistency to justify His existence because I’ve appealed to God to prove Himself and my argument becomes circular (although virtuously so). To “show that God exists” without induction, I would have to recuse myself from logical grounds altogether. On what grounds can I argue, John, to fulfill your request?

By contrast, the atheist position runs full tilt into an immovable brick wall. Inductive assumptions are very useful pragmatically, but there is ultimately no good reason to accept them because there is (based on the atheist’s a priori assumption) no real, non-contingent ground for truth. In this milieu, even if I were to supply a perfectly good proof of God, you would have no reason to assume that the conditions underlying my proof would persist!

It seems to me you have locked yourself in a truth-proof box and thrown away the key.

> But they obviously cannot [show God exists]. For if this were possible, why don’t more people believe in their God?

Hmmm, I was under the impression that most people do believe in God. (And since when are reasonable arguments best determined democratically?)

> What Anderson and others are asking me to do is to forgo all of my experience—all of it—and believe instead, that miracles can and do happen.

Yes, that’s pretty much what Jesus asks, too. In fact it was in those places where unbelief held sway that Jesus was either unwilling or even unable (!) to perform His miracles.

What if the reason you have never witnessed a miracle is simply because you steadfastly refuse to believe they can happen? Plain evidence of a spectacular miracle stares back at you from the mirror--but you choose not to believe it. Why should God choose to show you any more?

Bruce said...

Plain evidence of a spectacular miracle stares back at you from the mirror--but you choose not to believe it. Why should God choose to show you any more?

A miracle ceases to be a miracle when we can explain how it works. Everyone knows that the stork doesn't deliver babies. Most school kids get a basic lesson in the workings of reproduction before high school.

God obviously needs to show us a true miracle because you see, he gave us the ability to logic and reason about our world and all the evidence points to his non-existence. Why would he play such a dirty trick? Either he doesn't exist or he is one sadistic son of a bitch.

Daniel said...

Kaff
Yes, that’s pretty much what Jesus asks, too. In fact it was in those places where unbelief held sway that Jesus was either unwilling or even unable (!) to perform His miracles.

Hmmm, no Jesus never asked that. Jesus condemned the Pharisees that wanted to see miracles, but Jesus was apparently a real miracle-machine at times, healing (depending on which gospel you read) "many" or "all" who were brought to him. So, if the Pharisees had followed Jesus around, all this crap about "sign of Noah, and that's it!!" would have been rendered absurd.

God isn't a respecter of persons, but I have to believe all of this stuff based on dusty scrolls of uncertain origins, while the people standing there got to see limbs regrow, scales fall off, paralytics walk, dead men rise, etc.?

Nah, that god is a biased prick. If I'm wrong, it certainly wasn't because I was in the same situation as those people, and chose wrongly. Sorry Kaff, but there's just no comparison to first-hand miracle viewing and "taking it on faith".

Simon said...

I can prove that Jesus didn't exist, 110%.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Bruce,

If you think a high-school understanding of intercourse is enough to explain life as we know it, well, all I can say is you have a very low view of the mysteries of biology.

> God obviously needs to show us a true miracle because you see, he gave us the ability to logic and reason about our world and all the evidence points to his non-existence.

Let me get this right. Your argument goes something like this.

A) God gave us logic.
B) All logical evidence points to the non-existence of God.
C) Therefore God is obligated to supply miracles to demonstrate His existence.
D) If God's existence is not demonstrated, he does not exist.

There are a number of problems with this argument. One is that there is no logical evidence that points to God's non-existence so proposition B is patently false. Another is the unwarranted assumption that God is obligated to reveal himself. God might exist but simply chose not to disclose himself.

But the real problem in your argument is that if God were to supply a miracle authenticating his existence you might simply choose not to believe or accept it. For example, regarding the miracle of the emergence of life on this planet (abiogenesis), you will prefer to put your faith instead in a scientific explanation even though none exists. Or, if you receive a witness of God's miraculous activity you will simply discredit the messenger.

You have rigged the rules of the game to prevent God from witnessing himself to you. So you should not be surprised that God abstains from playing it.

Bruce said...

there is no logical evidence that points to God's non-existence so proposition B is patently false.

For the one millionth and one time, "the burdent of proof is on the theist"

Another is the unwarranted assumption that God is obligated to reveal himself. God might exist but simply chose not to disclose himself.

Like I said, we've got all these people fighting and killing each other in the name of their god and the real God is up there just laughing his ass off.

if God were to supply a miracle authenticating his existence you might simply choose not to believe or accept it.

Well, I'm assuming he can do more than cheap parlor tricks, so I might be tempted to believe if he were to magically give an amputee his leg back or maybe stop the next hurricane Katrina in its tracks.

Or, if you receive a witness of God's miraculous activity you will simply discredit the messenger.

We generally prefer to treat people who think they are talking to imaginary beings with medication nowadays.

You have rigged the rules of the game to prevent God from witnessing himself to you.

Au Contraire, you have rigged the rules so that you can continue to believe regardless of what reality is trying to tell you. I hear this over and over again, "We can't measure God with our puny little scientific methods" or "God works in mysterious ways" or "Who are we to question the ways of God". Basically, God gets credit for all the good things that happen in life (e.g. God answered my prayers or God is watching over me) but when something bad happens it is "Part of God's mysterious plan". You see, you have rigged the rules so that no matter what happens here on earth, God comes out ahead. It's like battered wife syndrome. He can beat the hell out of you and you still thank him for it.

Kaffinator said...

Hello Danny,

> Hmmm, no Jesus never asked that.

I don’t know about yours, but in my Bible, Jesus does very much demand that his followers accept miraculous possibilities. For example, when he invited Peter to walk on the water with him, and Peter began to sink, Jesus chastised him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

An even more powerful example comes after Jesus’ crucifixion. The disciples started hearing reports of his resurrection but in Mark 16:11 and 13, “they refused to believe it […] they did not believe them either”. When Jesus finally appeared to them, he did not praise them for their skepticism but “reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart” (v14). In John’s description of the same event, Jesus states this teaching outright, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

> So, if the Pharisees had followed Jesus around, all this crap about "sign of Noah, and that's it!!" would have been rendered absurd.

No record indicates that the Pharisees denied Jesus’ ability to heal. But they wanted more. Much like the atheist who knows very well the extreme mathematical improbability of life, yet still claims to crave for a sign that God exists.

> God isn't a respecter of persons, but I have to believe all of this stuff based on dusty scrolls of uncertain origins, while the people standing there got to see limbs regrow, scales fall off, paralytics walk, dead men rise, etc.?

Danny, I really want you to understand this. Where unbelief reigned, Jesus could do little or no healing. (See Matt 13:58, Mark 6:5-6.) You seem to want miraculous healing to come in the context of an unbeliever seeking evidence for the existence of God. But Jesus never indulged this, rather, he condemned it. Instead we see that Jesus always healed in a context where faith in God was already present to the degree that Jesus did not even attribute the healing miracle to himself, but to the faith of the individual healed (Matthew 9:22, Luke 7:50, Luke 17:19, and elsewhere).

Kaffinator said...

Hi Bruce.

> For the one millionth and one time, "the burdent of proof is on the theist"

Actually, the burden of proof is upon the individual advancing an argument. You claimed “all the evidence points to his non-existence”. Show me this evidence, or abandon your claim.

> Well, I'm assuming he can do more than cheap parlor tricks, so I might be tempted to believe if he were to magically give an amputee his leg back or maybe stop the next hurricane Katrina in its tracks.

If I get word that God is preparing to do a magic show in order to convince unbelievers, I will let you know, Bruce. For now you will have to make do with Copperfield et al.

> We generally prefer to treat people who think they are talking to imaginary beings with medication nowadays.

So, it is your perspective that all people who pray to God should be medicated. (With the dosage determined by atheists I suppose.) Let’s hear it, how many other atheists here agree with Bruce?

Bruce said...

You claimed “all the evidence points to his non-existence”. Show me this evidence, or abandon your claim.

Yah, you're right, I should have said that "lack of any evidence at all for a god leads a reasonable person to assume that he doesn't exist since the burden of proof is on the person who asserts God's existence". Sometimes I just like to use shortcuts because I get tired of having to explain the same thing over and over again to Christians who want to try and shift the burden of proof back on to the atheist.

If I get word that God is preparing to do a magic show in order to convince unbelievers, I will let you know, Bruce. For now you will have to make do with Copperfield et al.

That's funny kaff, but it is also extremely sad. I'll repeat one more time, the real God must be one sadistic SOB, sitting up there in his throne just enjoying all the fighting and killing we humans have done throughout history and continue to do today in His name. Remember, "unbelievers" aren't just atheists, they are all those people who believe in the wrong god(s) as well. Why is it that they all think they are just as right as you? Why won't the real God have the decency to let us all in on his secret?

So, it is your perspective that all people who pray to God should be medicated.

No, just the ones who hear God talking back to them. The others just need to be honest with themselves and stop hiding from reality.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Bruce,

> "lack of any evidence at all for a god leads a reasonable person to assume that he doesn't exist since the burden of proof is on the person who asserts God's existence".

There are a variety of proofs that demonstrate God’s existence but you choose not to accept them. Others do. You cannot simply claim victory because of your claim to be “a reasonable person” (i.e. more reasonable than all theists). You need to "show your work" or you offer nothing but polemics.

> Sometimes I just like to use shortcuts because I get tired of having to explain the same thing over and over again to Christians who want to try and shift the burden of proof back on to the atheist.

When an atheist makes claims, it is reasonable to expect him to back them up or retract them. You have done the honorable thing and retracted your claim. Do you have a new one to advance?

> I'll repeat one more time, the real God must be one sadistic SOB, sitting up there in his throne just enjoying all the fighting and killing we humans have done throughout history and continue to do today in His name.

This is so far away from the Christian notion of a God who is truly grieved by sin and intends to do something about it, that you clearly have either spent very little time studying our claims. I hope that someday you will undertake this study with the seriousness they deserve.

> Why won't the real God have the decency to let us all in on his secret?

He does, to all who have ears to hear. Are you ready to listen to Him?

> No, just [medicate] the ones who hear God talking back to them. The others just need to be honest with themselves and stop hiding from reality.

Thanks for the advice. Of course nobody here has shown me how I am hiding from reality so the usefulness of your advice is somewhat limited.

DagoodS said...

Kaffinator: You seem to want miraculous healing to come in the context of an unbeliever seeking evidence for the existence of God. But Jesus never indulged this, rather, he condemned it.

This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:11

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. John 2:23

This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2

Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." John 4:2

Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. John 6:2

Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." John 6:14

But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." John 12:37-40.

Kaffinator, if one wanders out of the synoptics, Jesus performed miracles and signs all the time for the unbelievers. He most certainly did not condemn it. I was a little surprised you took the longer ending of Mark. So, do you hold that as a true believer in Jesus, you can perform the acts required of Mark 16:17-18? Specifically, you should be able to heal. That is the sign for those who follow and believe, correct? A “sign” for whom? Other believers and non-believers would be able to see these signs equally, regardless for whichever group.

It wouldn’t be God putting on the “magic show.” It would be you. In fact, you should be surpassing Jesus, right? "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12.

Bruce said...

You need to "show your work" or you offer nothing but polemics.

For the one millionth and second time, the burden of proof lies with you. The default position is atheism, unless of course you are willing to concede that my God created your God (and my God is pissed that you are worshipping the wrong one). You can continue to try and shift that burden all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that atheists do not need to prove that any god doesn't exist.

But please, indulge us. I'd love to hear all of your proofs as to why all the other gods out there that humans have believed in and still continue to believe in don't exist. Be careful when using the Bible as proof though, because we all know that the Bible was put here on earth by some other god in order to distract you and test your faith.

This is so far away from the Christian notion of a God who is truly grieved by sin and intends to do something about it

We are all waiting ... how many years has it been now? What is he waiting for, the stars to line up properly? Maybe he wants to make a big entrance and is waiting for just the right time? How many more people need to suffer and die to appease his ego?

nobody here has shown me how I am hiding from reality

It goes without saying.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Dagwood,

The position I am defending is that Jesus did not use miracles to “cure” someone of unbelief. He offered signs that were profitable to believers, but it is clear that they were of no use to “unbelievers”. In John 6 for example, the same people who gave lip service in John 6:14 are the ones that departed from Him in droves when he did not indulge their request for a manna-from-heaven type miracle.

I apologize for referencing Mark 16 if that is a stumbling block for you. If you like, refer instead to Matthew 28:17 which covers essentially the same ground.

And if you are interpreting the “works” of John 14:12 to refer specifically to visible miracles, and then expecting these “magic tricks” will convince unbelievers to see the truth, then you are interpreting this passage in a very different fashion than have 2000 years of Christians, and in a way that is inconsistent with the rest of scripture.

Hi Bruce,

> For the one millionth and second time, the burden of proof lies with you. The default position is atheism.

By what right do you claim atheism as “the default position”? It is in fact a position in the vast minority for all humans past and present.

> But please, indulge us.

My response on this thread was toward John Loftus on the problem of induction, showing that the theist position is superior. If you’d care to respond to that, please do. Otherwise let’s not derail this thread any further.

> We are all waiting ... how many years has it been now? What is he waiting for, the stars to line up properly? Maybe he wants to make a big entrance and is waiting for just the right time? How many more people need to suffer and die to appease his ego?

It never ceases to amaze me how the “dusty scrolls” of yesteryear so neatly answer today’s arguments. In this case, 2 Peter 3:9 supplies your answer. God is not waiting for the stars to align. Bruce, he is waiting…for you. It is his compassionate desire that you turn and believe, rather than that you you perish in unbelief. So he stays his hand. For this, you call him cruel.

> It goes without saying [that you are hiding from reality]

In one breath you demand proofs of everything I say, but in the next you insist on making unsubstantiated, abusive statements. I hope you realize this does not strengthen your position, Bruce.

Daniel said...

Kaff,

You originally said:
JFW: What Anderson and others are asking me to do is to forgo all of my experience—all of it—and believe instead, that miracles can and do happen.

Kaff: Yes, that’s pretty much what Jesus asks, too.

To which I replied...basically, that Jesus did not ask people to forgo experience and believe, but instead to "follow" and experience the miracles. If Jesus asked people to follow himself for around 2000 years with no evidence [in the way of miracles] produced, the Jesus story would be a dull one, indeed, with little or no followers. That is what your Jesus asks of you. And me, supposedly. Of these people, though, Jesus starts pullin' all kinds of neat parlor tricks outta the divine hat, and thus asks them for very little "faith" and instead just to watch and go, "ooooohh, aaaaaaaahhh."

Really listen to how ridiculous it is for someone walking on water to suddenly "doubt"...and for you to pretend this is somehow analogous to something people experience with God today.

Danny, I really want you to understand this. Where unbelief reigned, Jesus could do little or no healing. (See Matt 13:58, Mark 6:5-6.)
DagoodS did a good job of refuting this idea, and it flies in the face of your notion of a sovereign god.

And, if God's power limited by our belief that it exists, then, Ha! I would agree. A God who does not exist depends desperately on our ability to provide him with space for existence. People willing to forgo natural investigation and explanation will create brand new gods and forces...and they do on a regular basis. Fideism knows no "true god", only belief in whatever requires it.

This is so far away from the Christian notion of a God who is truly grieved by sin and intends to do something about it
I think Bruce's point is well-taken, and exemplified in your choice of wording: "intends". As in, when his heavenly arse gets sore of sitting, and the 26,000 children starving to death every day finally annoy him with their futile prayers.

[Bruce]> Why won't the real God have the decency to let us all in on his secret?
He does, to all who have ears to hear. Are you ready to listen to Him?
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the hiddeness of god? I am a moderator on Babinski's forum, and posted this little essay on the problem. One of the most serious flaws in this question you posed is -- why are those who are wholeheartedly convinced they are speaking with and hearing from your god really wailing to the thin air? [Muslims, etc] These people not only want to know God, they already think that they do and call you the "lost one"

The position I am defending is that Jesus did not use miracles to “cure” someone of unbelief.
Funny, isn't it, that the truly only unforgiveable sin is unbelief? I mean, so long as you believe, any sin is forgivable [obviously, belief precludes Mark 3:28-9]. I'm sorry, but if I saw some dude raising people from the dead and regrowing limbs, I wouldn't care if he took a "day off" and begged off a few miracles...I would realize, "huh, whatta hell do ya know, this guy must be summ special!?!?"

I would still have lots of questions for the guy to answer [why are you here, where did you come from, etc] but I sure as hell wouldn't head home. In this way, the miracles would lend credence to the answers he would give, and I would believe because of the signs, which is clearly why many believed in the gospels. If someone just rambles on about being special but can't demonstrate it, even the Bible seems to make it clear that person would not have been the son of god.

Unbelief is a default state: Rom 9:30, Rom 10:1-3,14-7

Let’s hear it, how many other atheists here agree with Bruce?
I don't think you are crazy, and you don't sound stupid. I think you are ignoring fundamental problems with your position, but choosing, for whatever reasons, to believe in spite of them.

DagoodS said...

Hey, Kaffinator. At least I got you out of the synoptics, eh?

John 1:50 Jesus points out that performing a miracle is what made Nathaniel believe. If that isn’t “curing” unbelief with a Miracle, what is?

John 2:23 “many saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Do you understand what “signs” mean to a First Century Palestinian? Miracles! Do you know what the signs were to be? Demonstration of Miraculous powers.

Who were the signs for if not for “curing” unbelievers?

I see I gave a wrong cite. (Sorry.) John 4:48 Jesus says, “unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe.” And then it proceeds to perform a miracle. Pretty clear correlation. Jesus was giving all kinds of signs that were turning non-believers into believers. How can that be “of no use”?

Mark 16:9-20 is no stumbling block for me. I avoid it, of course, since Biblical scholars, both conservative and liberal, do not hold it to be original. If I refer to it, I find most Christians I debate say, “That is not in the original.” For you to use it, when talking about signs and miracles, opens up vs. 17-18 which most Christians avoid.

Oh, and Mark 16:14 takes place in Jerusalem, and Matthew 28:17 takes place in Galilee. It most certainly does not cover the same ground. Are you saying some doubted when in Galilee (assuming that was first) and then later more doubted? What was making Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance make his closest associates doubt so much?

If John 14:12 does not refer to miracles, what is it referring to? Careful, Read vs. 11 right before it.

Kaffinator, we have come a long ways from Jesus “condemning” performing healing miracles to demonstrate the existence of God.

You are still left with the problem that Mark 16 and John 14 require you to demonstrate faith/belief by signs. Most specifically healing.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Danny,

> Jesus did not ask people to forgo experience and believe, but instead to "follow" and experience the miracles.

Except that you also forget that Jesus emphasized the high cost of following him. He asked his immediate disciples to give up careers, family, safety, security, and possessions. He warned against those who did not first “count the cost” (Luke 14:28).

I’m not trying to say that the disciples perfectly understood what they were getting into when Jesus called them, or that their faith was perfect. Obviously they didn’t and it wasn’t. But they each had enough faith in Jesus to take that first step. It’s the same thing that Jesus requires in us today, the faith of a mustard seed.

Since Jesus called me into his flock several years ago, I have experienced God’s power in a number of ways. I can’t claim to have walked on water or restored an amputee’s limb, but to me, the experiences I have had are no less impactful.

> And, if God's power limited by our belief that it exists, then, Ha! I would agree.

One of the overriding messages of the New Testament is that faith in God preceeds the most abundant of his gifts. Since faith itself is a gift from God, I don’t see how his sovereignty is impugned in any way, simply because he exercises choice in where and how to impart his gifts of grace.

> One of the most serious flaws in this question you posed is -- why are those who are wholeheartedly convinced they are speaking with and hearing from your god really wailing to the thin air? [Muslims, etc]

I know of no principle in Christian theology that would prohibit God from working in the life of a Muslim or a Hindu or anyone else. How you think this is germane to the existence of the Christian God I cannot tell.

> when his heavenly arse gets sore of sitting, and the 26,000 children starving to death every day finally annoy him with their futile prayers.

I just read that for every 100 live births in New York City that there are 75 unborn children murdered. If you want to demand immediate justice, pray that God would wipe New York City from the map. Or, pray that he withholds a just punishment long enough to reach people with the news of Christ’s free gift of redemption. But please don’t pretend that God doesn’t care about evil in the world.

> Unbelief is a default state: Rom 9:30, Rom 10:1-3,14-7

I’m not sure how you gathered this from those passages. Romans, in chapter 1, that asserts that all people are born with an innate knowledge of God’s existence, being “evident within them” (v19) but is “suppressed” (v18). If we have a default state, Romans consistently teaches that it is active resistance to God.

> I think you are ignoring fundamental problems with your position, but choosing, for whatever reasons, to believe in spite of them.

If those fundamental problems loomed large enough to cause doubt, perhaps I would. I’m no stranger to doubt, I was a non-believer for most of my adult life.

Hi Daniel,

Gosh I hope I’m not a prisoner to the Synoptics! :-)

Just so I understand your position, what is the specific miracle that made Nathaniel believe? Additionally it seems Nathaniel was already seeking the messiah (i.e. had faith that he would come).

As for John 2:23, what do you make of verses 24-25? I require more study here but it is almost as if Jesus has doubts about the testimony of those whose faith came as a result of his signs.

> For you to use it, when talking about signs and miracles, opens up vs. 17-18 which most Christians avoid.

I neglected to note this, and I should have. Please accept my apologies. For now let’s say I side with the other Christians in questioning the veracity of that passage.

> Oh, and Mark 16:14 takes place in Jerusalem, and Matthew 28:17 takes place in Galilee. It most certainly does not cover the same ground.

The location is unimportant to the point I was making. Both passages refer to the degree of doubt held by the apostles. Matthew 28 lacks Jesus’ rebuke for this lack of faith but do you really need me to help you find passages in which Jesus bemoans someone’s lack of faith?

> If John 14:12 does not refer to miracles, what is it referring to? Careful, Read vs. 11 right before it.

Commentaries on this passage include the later miraculous works of the apostles as well as the conversion of thousands through their preaching as works which exceeded those that Jesus accomplished.

> Kaffinator, we have come a long ways from Jesus “condemning” performing healing miracles to demonstrate the existence of God.

I’m not sure that we have. Mark 8:12, “Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation’” (cf. Luke 11:29 and Matthew 16:4 which add “except the sign of Jonah”). But all gospels portray Jesus as a miracle-worker, if so, how could he say that? I believe what is meant here is that people were seeking irrefutable proof-positive that Jesus was the Messiah. They would believe only when he fulfilled every last expectation, something Jesus had no intention of doing at that time.

> You are still left with the problem that Mark 16 and John 14 require you to demonstrate faith/belief by signs. Most specifically healing.

Let me study issue more closely before responding. I can’t promise I will get back to you on this thread concerning this premise but I promise that I will investigate it.

Bruce said...

By what right do you claim atheism as “the default position”? It is in fact a position in the vast minority for all humans past and present.

Appealing to tradition is a logical fallacy. It does not make it any more true if one person believes in it or one billion people believe in it.

And I would claim that atheism is the default position for you as well with respect to all other gods out there except your own. It has to be this way. If you had to prove that all other gods did not exist in order to justify your own belief, then you would never be able to believe in your own god because it would be impossible to disprove all the others just as you would claim it is impossible for atheists to disprove your own. Basically, we are both atheists by default, except that you choose to believe in one more than me.

God is not waiting for the stars to align. Bruce, he is waiting…for you. It is his compassionate desire that you turn and believe, rather than that you you perish in unbelief. So he stays his hand. For this, you call him cruel.

I hereby give God permission to make an example out of me , sacrifice me in whatever way he sees fit, if it will allow him to rescue the rest of the world from all the suffering and pain inflicted by religious infighting. I'm willing to make that sacrifice. That's just the type of guy I am.

In one breath you demand proofs of everything I say, but in the next you insist on making unsubstantiated, abusive statements.

You're right. I apologize. I'll try not to let it happen again. I was having a little fun at your expense. It just gets frustrating saying the same thing over and over, so I was trying to break the monotony. But you are quite right, we do demand proof before we believe something that is not self evident.

Daniel said...

Kaff,

Re Romans 1 versus the verses that I quoted, Romans 1, nor common sense, claims that people are born with a knowledge of the gospel [that Jesus is/was the Messiah]. This is what I was emphasizing, since this is what is supposedly required to be saved.

In that sense, an "unbeliever" is anyone who doesn't believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and if you claim that all humans are born with that knowledge, I guess I will just leave your bald assertion alone and move on.

Of course, I don't agree with Romans 1: people who were ignorant of the laws of nature ascribed agency to everything, but today, we have no intellectual reason to ascribe agency to a universe bounded by matter and energy, which cannot be created nor destroyed. However, my point is, in the reference I was making, Romans makes clear that the Gentiles weren't looking for a Messiah, but God revealed the Messiah to them [via signs and wonders] which was germane to our topic.