Faith vs Reason & the Role of Imagination in God Belief

Believers argue faith is a means of acquiring knowledge. Non-believers maintain that the source of knowledge springs from evidence. Which position makes sense? I attempt to answer in the following brief essay.



Faith and reason are incompatible. There is no room in reason for faith, and there is no room in faith for reason. (1) They are diametrically opposed. Reason is the faculty by which man identifies and integrates the material provided by or ultimately provided by his senses. Its method is called logic, which is the art of non-contradictory identification. "Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions," wrote Ayn Rand in "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World"; she continued: "thus raising man's knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification." She defined: "Reason is the perception of reality, and rests on a single axiom: the Law of Identity. - "Philosophy: Who Needs It" p.62. Reasoning is validated by observing that knowledge is derived from conceptions and that conceptions, in turn, are derived from perception. Actual measurable concrete observed existents related by valid logic lead to objective recognition of the facts of reality .

Mysticism, however, is the acceptance of allegations without evidence, against one's own reasoning, often despite the presence of evidence to the contrary. Its method is called faith, which is a short-circuit and abrogation of the mind. It is the numbing of one's own perception of existence and ultimately the rejection of one's own right to live. "Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation," or any form of "just knowing." Mysticism is the claim to the perception of some other reality—other than the one in which we live—whose definition is only that it is not natural, it is supernatural, and is to be perceived by some form of unnatural or supernatural means." - Rand, (ibid p.62)

If evidence is available to support a claim, then a validating appeal to reason alleviates need for faith, then there is no need to dispense with the requirement of evidence in order to accept the claim as true. Exclusively, if there is no evidence in support of a claim and acceptance of the claim as justified knowledge is desired, then only by dismissing the requirement for evidential support, and accepting the claim in spite of the lack of evidence by "faith" can the claim be accorded truth status. Essentially, the process of believing by "faith" is a method of self-deceit. The Christian depends on a mystical epistemology of "faith". However, the Christian would, if there were evidence to support her claim that 'god exists', have no need to appeal to faith. She could appeal to reason, and since reason is a method based on perceptually ascertaining reality, her knowledge would be validated. Faith would then necessarily be a fallacy.

In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." What is meant by "substance of things hoped for"? What is meant by "evidence of things not seen"?

Can such a thing as 'substance' originating from hopes actually exist? Only if consciousness can create, modify, or manipulate reality. But that is impossible, for consciousness is merely an awareness of existence. "If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something." - Ayn Rand via Galt's speech in "For The New Intellectual" p.124

Rand's great insight that frees the minds of Humanity from the tyranny of Christianity, and indeed all religion, is that "Existence exists". Instantiated existing things cannot be 'created', for nothing comes from nothing; something cannot come from nothing. Conservation of Mass-Energy is fixed reality. Matter and energy may change form, but new matter does not suddenly appear from nothing as is predicated by Christianity. Living beings are manufactured by nature, using components, in the form of molecules, which already exist; our bodies put us together. That is why we eat regularly. Our bodies use nutrients consumed to foster the development of our tissues. Our bodies are not created. A pregnant woman is referred to as "eating for two" when she takes her meals. The nutrients she consumes are used both for her body, and for the body growing and being manufactured within her. No organism that ever lived, is living, or ever will live was, is, or will be created. Judging by that, the notion of 'hope' springing forth into 'substance' makes no sense.

Regarding ' faith as evidence of things not seen'? If something cannot be detected by sensory perception or instrumentation, then in what sense is evidence present? Information provided by our senses or instrumentation is necessary to claim that we have evidence. It may be objected that various phenomena that cannot be detected by the senses may still be admitted as evidence. In such cases, it is argued that the phenomena at question is inferred by other means and that employing logic and the Law of Causality empowers the reasoning mind to inductively infer modally following conclusions. I contest the contrary, that immaterial entities that cannot be detected by the senses or instruments exist, by noting that reasoning is based in the perception of reality. Mental constructs, objects of thought, with no corresponding reference to reality cannot be conceptualized. The nature of conceptual knowledge requires the knowing mind, the subject of thought, to generalize from shared attributes and traits an encompassing definition to supply meaning that can be used as the concept. Inductively inferring from pure rationalism or imagination circumvents the process of concept formation. The inability to conceptualize undetectable phenomena is fatal to the notion that inductive inference can justify acceptance of what can only be described as "the imaginary" as evidence. Those who disregard the necessity of using concepts in knowledge do so by committing an epistemological reversal. They give priority to their own consciousness as the subjects of thought while disregarding reality that entails the priority of objective existence. Information about existence is perceptually acquired. Assigning the subject of thought priority over objective sensory perceptions of actual existence is called subjectivism. Doing so in regards to metaphysical ontology, is referred to as metaphysical subjectivism and is the basis of all religion and superstition.

Is this what Hebrews 11:1 meant by 'evidence of things not seen'? Did the writer of Hebrews mean things that can be evidenced by appeals to our other senses or instrumentation? Or, did he mean imaginative thinking? I speculate to the later. But no amount of wishing will accomplish anything for anybody. In order to reach any kind of goal in reality, human beings must use their innate reasoning ability and do work in actual existence.

To assert the contrary, that faith is superior to reason, is to presuppose, by faith, a vast array of propositions. Circular special pleading and gross question begging may operate to sooth the emotional needs of the religious acolyte, but in so doing they commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. "First identified by Ayn Rand, it is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends." - Leonard Peikoff "editor's footnote to Ayn Rand's "Philosophical Detection," - "Philosophy : Who Needs It". p.22 The advocate of faith over reason steals the conceptions of reality and causality while denying the genetic roots of existence. This they do to assert the primacy of their fantasy of a ruling consciousness. Thus faith is a method whereby Christian believers are able to deceive themselves.

What is the nature of god-belief. Is it distinguishable from imagination? Can the god believer describe a method whereby another person may reliably distinguish any difference between what they believe god to be and what they imagine as god? (2) Indeed, what is the difference between belief and imagination? Belief is defined as "any cognitive content held as true - a vague idea in which some confidence is placed - confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof ." Imagining is defined as "to form a mental image of something not actually present to the senses". From these, it is readily apparent that imagination plays the dominant role in god belief.

Invisible magic beings existing in other realms and communicating with people is surely just as vague an idea as it is an idea not susceptible to rigorous proof. God is defined, as an infinite, personal being that interacts with humans and nature, that is transcendent, omnipresent, supernatural, and immaterial. To be a personal being is to be finite, yet God is defined as infinite. To be transcendent is to be non-spatial, lacking dimensions or location and non-temporal, lacking duration. To be omnipresent is to be everywhere, but to be transcendent is to be nowhere. Supernatural means the negation of all that is natural and thus to not be part of nature and to lack any ability to interact with nature; it is to be other than matter, energy or fields. But God is defined as a being interactive with nature and thus must be matter, energy or fields. Special Relativity informs humanity that E=MC^2 and thus matter and energy are equated in proportion to C^2. Immaterial means to be other than material, other than matter or energy. By virtue of self-contradiction, God is certainly vague. God then is defined as a vague contradiction that has no location, no dimensions, no duration, no ability to interact with nature, no mass, and no energy. This is the ontological equivalent of nothingness.

Placing confidence in and assigning truth status to the ontological equivalent of nothingness as a personal being of infinite scope is the ultimate act of accepting something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. Entirely such an action must take place by forming a mental image of something not actually present to the senses since there is nothing in nature that indicates that such beings as gods might exist or from which a concept of "god" may be formed. From these considerations, it is readily apparent that god belief stems from the subjective imagination.
(1) Anton Thron, Tindrbox Files: 22. Reason vs. Faith? Rights vs. Religion?
(2) Dawson Bethrick, Incinerating Presuppositionalism blog, My Chat with a Presuppositionalist

Postscript: The writings of Anton Thorn at "Objectivist Atheology" (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/Thorn2.html) and Dawson Bethrick at ""Incinerating Presuppositionalism" blog" (http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com) have been of great assistence to me in understanding the value and advantage of Objectivism. For whatever it may be worth, I strongly recommend their blogs and essays. The material in this essay is largely drawn on my understanding of their work. I thank them for their efforts, and acknowledge that by standing on their foundations, I am able to present a better quality of writing and ideas than I would be able to by my own reasoning.

32 comments:

Robert_B said...

Dawson Bethrick over at the Incinerating Presuppositionalism blog
has written a great essay on the faith verses reason topic Stolen Concepts and Intellectual Parasitism

Jennifer said...

Are you saying faith is synonomous with mysticism?

Jesse Weaver said...

Faith in a God discoverable only through non-repeatable subjective mental perceptions certainly is mysticism.

Eric said...

Excellent post. Atheists would do well to familiarize themselves with Ayn Rand's Objectivism (theists would too for that matter). I'm always baffled by the hostility that so many "rational" atheists display when Rand's name comes up. Kudos to you for introducing her ideas on this great site.

Carbon Based said...

I'm always baffled by the hostility that so many "rational" atheists display when Rand's name comes up.
I think that is because Rand is also associated with laize-faire economics and a consevative view point.

you don't have to accept ALL of a persons philosophic thought, for some of their thoughts to be valid.

I agree with Rands objectivism views but not her views on economics.

GordonBlood said...

Eric the reason most atheists reject Rand is because she is a philosopher worth rejection. Plain and simple. Her methods were flawed, overly simplistic and rediculously biased (nevermind disgusting, especially if you realize the deeper implications of her thought). Ironically though, I agree that if faith truly were as simplistic and non-evidential as Robert ala Rand would have it seem than I would dismiss it. However, one is hard pressed to find many theologians outside of perhaps certain strains of Calvinism that advocate such an approach. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rand is how she stands as a very strange bridge between atheistic libertarianism and Christian libertarianism, I understand she is quite popular amongst many "conservative" Christians in some respects.

bart willruth said...

Gordonblood,

Your cavalier dismissal of Rand leads me to think that you have never read "Introduction to Objectivise Epistemology." I would strongly suggest that you do so, and spend some time wrestling with her presentation of the foundations of thought, that is, the three axiomatic principles of Existence, Identity, and Consciousness.

You will quickly find that as these axiomatic principles are formalized as propositions, you will have to accept their validity (even implicitly or without awareness) in order to deny them or to argue against them. These principles are devestating to faith, supernaturalism, mysticism, and irrational premises.

If there is interest to have these axiomatic principles elucidated, I would be happy to do it.

A few comments were made about Rand's economic ideas being conservative and therefore a bit abominable. This blog isn't the place to debate this, but it should be noted that political and economic theory is derivative of the foundational philosophical pursuits of metaphysics and epistemology. As such, Rand's dealings with those foundational concepts should be the basis of these discussions, not the derivative branches of philosophy: morality, politics, and aesthetics. I would however note that Rand was not a conservative. Rather, she was a radical capitalist which meant that she valued individual freedom over coercive political structures such as monarchy, socialism (or collectivism in any form), or the rule of the majority.

Robert did an excellent job of presenting the incompatibility of faith and reason. Why not state your disagreements with the arguments as presented and the reasons thereof rather than throwing rocks at Ayn Rand as though this might reduce the force of his words.

Bart Willruth

Bruce said...

Robert_b, you seem to have a strong faith in reason. What is the basis for this faith?

And where is your evidence for the thesis that "faith and reason are incompatible"?

Logossfera said...

I'm an atheist and I am a man of faith. I believe without evidence in the truthfullness of nature, that I'm not part of a complex computer game, a deceitfull matrix or the dream of another counsciousness. I don't see why atheists have a hard time they take the leap of faith (they make only one, unlike the theists though). Probably they haven't questioned enough their own epistemology.
I think this is a reason why atheists have dificulties argumenting with christians. Because they are not aware of the untestable/unverifiably premise that lies at the base of their own epistemology they start their argument from a point that is not agreed by the theist. Starting for accepted premises is a must for any argumentation. Only then you can build your case for your theory.

For example before getting to scientific evidence to support evolution an atheist should agree on the truthfullness of nature. Of course if you get there it means you adopt a naturalistic philosophy and not a supernaturalistic one, an evidence-based philosophy not an authoritarian one.

lee said...

Bruce: "And where is your evidence for the thesis that "faith and reason are incompatible"?"

Logic is not something that man has invented but rather, something that he discovered. Just like Christopher Columbus, did not invent America but discovered something that was already there.
To have faith one must possess some degree of logic. For example, for scripture to be coherent logic must be employed.
The apostle paul at Mars Hill, reasoned with the Athenian philosophers and used an ancient form of argumentation known as reductio ad absurdum.

The reason I do not consider faith and reason compatible is because, today there are apologist who use classical apologetics to attempt to demonstrate why christianity is a viable and not illogical proposition. However at some point in the argument the apologist usually pulls a bait and switch tactic where he leads you to the precipice of mystery and then requires that you take the leap. He starts out using a classical apologetic strategy and then at some point presents his presuppositional argument.

Since christian apologist haven't given, to date, conclusive evidence using classical apologetics for the existence of god, or arguments from nature, I personally have concluded that faith and reason are incompatible. Whenever faith and reason will lead you to the same conclusion I will then consider them chapters of the same story, but not until then.

Josh Lanning said...

I believe in God dare I say because I choose to. I have been one in the past except that which is taught to me at a young age but have for the past couple years raised my own questions. But I still choose to believe. Could be because the values and ideals of christianity could be my own ideals. Some will say that ideals are merely imagitive lies that one tell themselves they can reach.

All people are people of faith first of all. You don't believe in God...that's a belief and if belief is to be synonomous with imagination and not fact than, not only is god-belief imaginative but so is no god-belief.

Very interesting though.

Could it be that people imagine up a god in order to make through the everyday life? Is god a scapegoat?

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

First I'd like to say that the article was and is very interesting, and also Gordonblood, I agree with you assessment of Rand 100%.

Robert_b~ "Faith and reason are incompatible. There is no room in reason for faith, and there is no room in faith for reason."

[I believe that this entire premise is a false dichotomy. Faith is compatible to reason according to scripture:

1 Pet. 3:15 ~ “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”

There can be no dialogue or answers given unless there is a reasonable basis for discussion. That reasonable basis is the experience of man and mankind. The premise as set up indicates that faith and reason are two polarizations or extremist views of reality and that is a false premise]

Robert_b~ "Mysticism, however, is the acceptance of allegations without evidence, against one's own reasoning, often despite the presence of evidence to the contrary."

[Obviously there is a misunderstanding of the difference between mysticism and faith. Mysticism is the belief that knowledge of God or ultimate reality is attainable through immediate intuition or insight. Faith is a system of belief about God based in reason, objectivity and plausibility. Further religious faith, although it may have some mystical elements, is not exclusively given to those mystical elements.

Faith is not limited to belief in God or deity. Now to show the inaccuracy of the blanket statements regarding this, I propose that we all use faith everyday. We use faith when we start our cars we exercise the faith that the door will open properly, the key will turn the ignition, the correct electrical and mechanical instances will occur and our cars will respond accordingly. We exercise faith when we go to the store to shop for what we need, faith that the store has acquired the material we need and that the material has been shipped and is available for our purpose. The only difference here is that the faith we exercise is in what we can physically see or think that we can naturally comprehend. So far as God the rationality is concerned, the supernaturalist fares much better than the MN who believes in a closed continuum and thereby rejects all supernatural claims without regard to evidence or even MN laws in many cases when it comes to proving their naturalist point. Whereas biblical believers have a reasonable basis for their faith, consider all evidences and makes appropriate judgements based on all evidence. Any “short circuiting” as the reader ascribes to faith believes is the property of the extreme MN who denies any such evidence that does not coordinate with his/her presuppositional thinking.]

Robert_b~ "In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." What is meant by "substance of things hoped for"? What is meant by "evidence of things not seen"?"

[Glad you asked, so that there can be a more clear and accurate picture given here. First biblical faith (pistis) encapulates 3 elements Knowledge, Agreement and Trust. Thtrought scripture we observe these three elements in tandem defining Biblical faith. The first part of Heb. 11:1 "substance of things hoped for" "Substance" is best placed in the persepective of "assurance" (See NASB and NIV) the object of that assurance for the Christian is in God stems out of (knowledge, Agreement and Trust) and more specifically in this case HIS promises. In the Greek word used for "substance" is Hypostasis- which means an insured impression or mental realizing. The second part "Evidence" the Greek word (elegchos) means conviction or proof by which something is tested. More to the point it refers to the conviction of what is not seen, by the proof of HIS demonstration or what he has done in the world. One such basis for this understanding or conviction is the resurrection of Christ which was recorded on this wise in

Acts 1:3 ~ "To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:"

"Proofs" are only necessary for reasoned conversation. Contrary to the construct of the article, biblical Faith is not a metaphysical construct. This is another fallacy of the aritcle.

Although I will give the writer this, many Christians teach a metaphysical concept of faith in modern times. However, those concepts have not generally been accepted outside of Word Of Faith Circles and others saying that they are Christians who adhere to more metaphysical teachings on faith, but these are not biblical concepts and are not taught in the Bible.]

Robert_b~ "Rand's great insight that frees the minds of Humanity from the tyranny of Christianity, and indeed all religion, is that "Existence exists"."

[Ayn Rand taught moral relativism and functionalism which basically teaches that that self-awareness and conscienciousness equals personhood. As a practical example, she would say that because an infant is not self-aware an infant is not a person. This leads her to say and suggest what she does. The bible teaches that in the beginning there was God, however all material exists from what was not seen or known. There is a big difference here if the object is to say that God cannot exist because he had no conscience awareness of himself.]

Robert_b~ "The nature of conceptual knowledge requires the knowing mind, the subject of thought, to generalize from shared attributes and traits an encompassing definition to supply meaning that can be used as the concept."

[Thus the author recaps one of the three principles of MN as set forth by Ernst Troeltsch. The principle of Causality (cause and effect as outlined in this article), The principle of Analogy and the principle of Criticism. More specifically every event or effect must be understood as having a cause. Now the take is that an unaware material being is a contradiction and I agree, however God is a fully aware, immaterial being. There is therefore no contradiction]

Robert_b~ "Assigning the subject of thought priority over objective sensory perceptions of actual existence is called subjectivism. Doing so in regards to metaphysical ontology, is referred to as metaphysical subjectivism and is the basis of all religion and superstition."

[Very important here that the author states that metaphysical subjectivism is the basis for all religion and superstition. This is not true as demonstrated in the Christian world-view. Fist the bible is not superstition. Secondly, the facts contained are rooted within objectifiable truth so the class categorization that the author makes are inaccurate in these instances.]

Robert_b~ "The advocate of faith over reason steals the conceptions of reality and causality while denying the genetic roots of existence. This they do to assert the primacy of their fantasy of a ruling consciousness. Thus faith is a method whereby Christian believers are able to deceive themselves."

[The Naturalism combined with evolutionary theory is what seems to be at work. It is a much greater leap of faith to assume abiogenesis which has never been observed and the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the archaeological record will ever produce a “go-between” so far as humans and animals are concerned. Which one is deceitful? I believe naturalism whose end is defined based on “perception” or relativism]

Robert_b~ "Imagining is defined as "to form a mental image of something not actually present to the senses". From these, it is readily apparent that imagination plays the dominant role in god belief."

[The MN does not weigh the abilities of the human spirit in the equation. The human spirit or soul is not taken into consideration by the naturalist.The longing for God is a result of the act of the soul : Ps. 42: 1-2 ~ “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Mental imagery has little or nothing to do with the equation and is not essential for faith in God. This is similar to how “panting” and “thirsting” (after God) can be suppressed by man and is not essential for genetic processes to take place and occur.]

Robert_b~ " Invisible magic beings existing in other realms and communicating with people is surely just as vague an idea as it is an idea not susceptible to rigorous proof."

[If there are “magic beings” communication with people as you suggest, then one should follow the evidential trail where it will lead instead of creating a presupposition that there cannot be such “magic beings” I would ask the radical MN believer, “If MN is a truly scientific methodology, why discount claims without looking at and honestly weighing the evidence without an antisupernatural presuppositional bias?]

Robert_b~ "God is defined, as an infinite, personal being that interacts with humans and nature, that is transcendent, omnipresent, supernatural, and immaterial. To be a personal being is to be finite, yet God is defined as infinite."

[To be a personal being is to be involved with creation. A “force” is impersonal. God is not a force.]

Robert_b~ "Supernatural means the negation of all that is natural and thus to not be part of nature and to lack any ability to interact with nature; it is to be other than matter, energy or fields."

[The anti-supernaturalist believes that we live in a closed continuum that cannot be "invaded" by the supernatural and in this case God. I propose that we do not live in a closed continuum and that these is ample evidence levied down through history to confirm such. As a Christian I believe the evidence for supernatural intervention of the God of the bible down through history is superior in both quality, quantity and accuracy]

Robert_b~ "From these considerations, it is readily apparent that god belief stems from the subjective imagination."

[God does not stem from the mind or imagination. Faith does not equal imagination or "wishful thinking" as it seems that the author suggests. As demonstrated we all use faith daily as it pertains to natural things from the simple to the most complex. Further, we exercise elements of faith in one another under certain circumstances. The point is that even in material things and beings faith to a degree is exercised. Additionally, we also transfer faith to immaterial concepts such as law, capitalism and democratic processes where no particular individual is known to control all aspects of the system. I propose that to not have the ability to exercise faith is a "short-circuit and abrogation of both the mind"” and in from this perspective, spirit. When concepts of objective rationalism are placed besides God and faith, both God and faith outweighs it both on the basis of moral value, essentialness to humanity and practical application. Biblical faith is not for only the individuals self as Ms. Rand was only concerned, but for all of humanity]

From a solidly Christian perspective, those are my thoughts but the article was thought provoking.

Bahnsen Burner said...

I had some thoughts in response to Harvey Burnett's comments.

Burnett: “There can be no dialogue or answers given unless there is a reasonable basis for discussion. That reasonable basis is the experience of man and mankind. The premise as set up indicates that faith and reason are two polarizations or extremist views of reality and that is a false premise.”

Faith is associated with worldviews based on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, while reason is squarely seated on the primacy of existence metaphysics. They are polar opposites because their metaphysical bases are polar opposites. No this-worldly epistemology is going to give a thinker knowledge of something that contradicts this world. Reason is what the apostle Paul explicitly condemns as “wisdom of this world” in I Corinthians. This is no accident: he does so because he knows that reason will not validate his god-belief claims. It can’t because of the metaphysical antithesis I’ve identified.

Robert_b~ "Mysticism, however, is the acceptance of allegations without evidence, against one's own reasoning, often despite the presence of evidence to the contrary."

Burnett: ”Obviously there is a misunderstanding of the difference between mysticism and faith.”

Yes, mystics misunderstand the nature of their cognitive palsy all the time. This would not be a first.

Burnett: “Mysticism is the belief that knowledge of God or ultimate reality is attainable through immediate intuition or insight.”

Someone who is a mystic according to the definition which Robert provided above, would probably prefer to think that what he calls “knowledge of God or ultimate reality” is something that is “attainable through immediate intuition or insight,” both rather vague and unhelpful terms which Burnett does not define or explain. And of course, someone who has confused his imagination with knowledge of reality will likely experience what he calls knowledge as a product of some “immediate intuition or insight.”

Burnett: ”Faith is a system of belief about God based in reason, objectivity and plausibility.”

Even the bible nowhere characterizes faith in this manner. The meaning of faith seems to vary throughout the bible (it is conspicuously scarce in the Old Testament by comparison with the New). But it nowhere associates faith with reason, objectivity or plausibility. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. How is Abraham’s wife giving birth to a son when she is in her 90’s at all plausible? Faith is only needed when things are implausible, and the bible explicitly models this (see for instance the examples of faith in Hebrews 11 – they are all instances of action taken in the face of implausibility). And as I pointed out above, faith is associated with worldviews based on the primacy of consciousness, i.e., on the basis of metaphysical subjectivism (where the subject is thought to hold metaphysical primacy over its objects, such as the Christian god is supposed to do according to biblical teachings).

Burnett: “Further religious faith, although it may have some mystical elements, is not exclusively given to those mystical elements.”

This again is vague and unhelpful.

Burnett: ”Faith is not limited to belief in God or deity.”

Of course not. Faith is the handmaiden of imagination misconstrued as reality. It could be about anything the imagination fabricates. But notice that the closest that Burnett comes to defining ‘faith’ clearly makes “belief about God” its chief concern.

“Now to show the inaccuracy of the blanket statements regarding this, I propose that we all use faith everyday.

“We use faith when we start our cars we exercise the faith that the door will open properly, the key will turn the ignition, the correct electrical and mechanical instances will occur and our cars will respond accordingly.”

Actually, this is an example of chosen action guided by reason. It bears no relevant similarity to the expectation that a barren woman in her 90s, for example, will give birth to a baby boy.

Burnett: “We exercise faith when we go to the store to shop for what we need, faith that the store has acquired the material we need and that the material has been shipped and is available for our purpose.”

Again, this would be an example of chosen action guided by reason. It has nothing to do with the kind of believing one is supposed to have when he expects an invisible magic being to cure his mother of cancer, turn water into wine, enable people to walk on unfrozen water, or step through the pearly gates of a magic kingdom beyond the grave.

Burnett: “The only difference here is that the faith we exercise is in what we can physically see or think that we can naturally comprehend.”

This is a fundamental difference. Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the inputs of our senses. It uses concepts to do this, concepts which are ultimately formed on the basis of perceptual input. The examples Burnett gave above are all examples of relying on reason thus understood. If faith is belief, Bahnsen showed us that faith is belief without understanding, the inescapable conclusion of Bahnsen’s own statements on the subject, as I have shown here. According to the bible itself (cf. Heb. 11:1) is the element of hope. In rational inference from perceptual input, one’s hopes are irrelevant. I can hope that I get a raise, but these hopes are irrelevant with what I’ll see on my paycheck next Friday. Contrary to reason, faith is hope in the imaginary.

Burnett: “So far as God the rationality is concerned, the supernaturalist fares much better than the MN who believes in a closed continuum and thereby rejects all supernatural claims without regard to evidence or even MN laws in many cases when it comes to proving their naturalist point.

Burnett: “Whereas biblical believers have a reasonable basis for their faith,”

Not if “Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding... faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 88) Also, not if “faith is the substance of things hoped for...” (Heb. 11:1). Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason.

Burnett: “consider all evidences and makes appropriate judgements based on all evidence.”

Even the bible does not say this about faith.

Burnett: “Any “short circuiting” as the reader ascribes to faith believes is the property of the extreme MN who denies any such evidence that does not coordinate with his/her presuppositional thinking.”

Specifically, what “evidence” do you think “the extreme MN” is denying?

Robert_b~ "In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." What is meant by "substance of things hoped for"? What is meant by "evidence of things not seen"?"

Burnett: “Glad you asked, so that there can be a more clear and accurate picture given here. First biblical faith (pistis) encapulates 3 elements Knowledge, Agreement and Trust.”

Where does the bible say this? My bible clearly associates faith with hope (see Hebrews 11:1). Hope and knowledge are quite different from each other.

Burnett: “Thtrought scripture we observe these three elements in tandem defining Biblical faith. The first part of Heb. 11:1 "substance of things hoped for" "Substance" is best placed in the persepective of "assurance" (See NASB and NIV) the object of that assurance for the Christian is in God stems out of (knowledge, Agreement and Trust)”

Notice how Burnett seeks to exploit the ambiguity of the word “substance” in Heb. 11:1 to shoehorn the three elements he wants to claim on behalf of faith – elements which the verse nowhere lists, but nowhere explains the role that hope has in faith, even though hope is explicitly identified in that same verse. Clearly Burnett is trying to distance himself from what the bible does say so that he can interpret it according to what it does not say. It’s just more “that’s what it says, but that’s not what it means.” If what the bible actually says is of value, he wouldn’t have to do this.

Burnett: “and more specifically in this case HIS promises.”

You mean, promises like these?

Mt. 7:7-8 states: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

Mt. 18:19 states: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."

Mt. 21:22 states: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."

Jn. 14:13-14 states: "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

Jn. 15:7 states: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."

Jn. 16:23-24 states: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."

Burnett: “In the Greek word used for "substance" is Hypostasis- which means an insured impression or mental realizing.”

This puts “substance” as the bible intends it to mean right in the same camp as imagination. And Hebrews 11:1’s explicit association of faith with hope leads to the inescapable conclusion that the basis of faith is not reason, as Burnett has affirmed (but failed to validate), but hope itself, which is the distinguishing qualifier of the “substance” that is faith according to the passage in question.

Robert_b~ "Rand's great insight that frees the minds of Humanity from the tyranny of Christianity, and indeed all religion, is that "Existence exists"."

Burnett: ”Ayn Rand taught moral relativism and functionalism which basically teaches that that self-awareness and conscienciousness equals personhood.”

What is meant here by “moral relativism and functionalism,” and where did Rand teach these things? I see that Burnett offers no quotes to substantiate his characterization of Rand’s view. Similarly with the view that “self-awareness and conscienciousness equals personhood.” [sic] It’s apparent from statements like this that Burnett has no firsthand familiarity with Rand’s writings.

Burnett: ”As a practical example, she would say that because an infant is not self-aware an infant is not a person.”

Where did Rand say this? Quotes please.

Burnett: ”This leads her to say and suggest what she does.”

Which Burnett never gives us, because he never quotes where Rand says what he attributes to her. This is typical of Rand’s detractors.

Robert_b~ "Assigning the subject of thought priority over objective sensory perceptions of actual existence is called subjectivism. Doing so in regards to metaphysical ontology, is referred to as metaphysical subjectivism and is the basis of all religion and superstition."

Burnett: “Very important here that the author states that metaphysical subjectivism is the basis for all religion and superstition. This is not true as demonstrated in the Christian world-view. Fist the bible is not superstition. Secondly, the facts contained are rooted within objectifiable truth so the class categorization that the author makes are inaccurate in these instances.”

The point that Christianity assumes metaphysical subjectivism does not depend on whether the bible is superstition. Since Christianity affirms the metaphysical primacy of the subject in the person of its god, it undeniably affirms metaphysical subjectivism. See Theism and Metaphysical Subjectivism for starters.

Robert_b~ "The advocate of faith over reason steals the conceptions of reality and causality while denying the genetic roots of existence. This they do to assert the primacy of their fantasy of a ruling consciousness. Thus faith is a method whereby Christian believers are able to deceive themselves."

Burnett: “The Naturalism combined with evolutionary theory is what seems to be at work. It is a much greater leap of faith to assume abiogenesis which has never been observed and the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the archaeological record will ever produce a “go-between” so far as humans and animals are concerned.”

Notice now how Burnett himself uses the word ‘faith’ to distinguish a mode of believing that, by his own description, could not be rational or compatible with reason. According to his own usage here, faith is associated with embracing a position which has no evidential security. But his whole approach to theories of abiogenesis is problematic. Simply because abiogenesis “has never been observed” is sufficient to rule out reasonable inferences from what has been observed that it could not have taken place? Burnett himself wasn’t around when abiogenesis is hypothesized to have occurred, so how can he say it didn’t happen? It must be borne in mind that biological organisms contain the same elements (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, various metals, etc.) that are found in the natural, non-biological environment. Biological organisms are not alien to the earth on which they are found. As for so-called “transitional” fossils, I suggest we consult biologists and paleontologists rather than people who have sacrificed their minds to an invisible magic being if we want some real intelligence on the matter.

Burnett: “Which one is deceitful? I believe naturalism whose end is defined based on “perception” or relativism”

Burnett will have to explain specifically what he was trying to say here.

Robert_b~ "Imagining is defined as "to form a mental image of something not actually present to the senses". From these, it is readily apparent that imagination plays the dominant role in god belief."

Burnett: “The MN does not weigh the abilities of the human spirit in the equation.”

Actually, he may very well have done precisely this, if by “human spirit” one generally means the human mind and its various talents and proclivities. Many human individuals have a habit of confusing the imaginary with the real, such as when they read a storybook filled with all kinds of bizarre accounts and insist its stories are authentically historical. The MN would only be wise to take into account the fact that human beings are capable of imagining and also that they are capable of blurring the distinction between what they imagine and what is actually real. Deliberately clouding one’s judgments about the world and human character by saturating his worldview with the influence of such storybooks will only result in conceptions of the world that are at best suspicious. The MN, if he’s worth his salt, understands this and refrains from making the same kind of mistake that is fatal to cognition.

Burnett: “The longing for God is a result of the act of the soul : Ps. 42: 1-2 ~ “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Mental imagery has little or nothing to do with the equation and is not essential for faith in God.”

If it’s the case that mental imagery has nothing to do with Christian god-belief, why is the bible chock full of mental imagery, from Genesis chapter 1 to Revelation chapter 22? The bible provides a feast of mental imagery, and Christians are constantly telling us that it is the sole authority for living on earth. Now here Burnett is essentially telling us that the bible “is not essential for faith in God,” and yet the bible is supposed to be the record of “special revelation” from that god to man. He even refers to the bible in trying to make his own point!

Robert_b~ " Invisible magic beings existing in other realms and communicating with people is surely just as vague an idea as it is an idea not susceptible to rigorous proof."

Burnett: “If there are “magic beings” communication with people as you suggest, then one should follow the evidential trail where it will lead instead of creating a presupposition that there cannot be such “magic beings””

First of all, Robert is not the one who is suggesting that invisible magic beings are actually communicating with people. But notice how Burnett’s proposal here is epistemologically backwards. If the goal is to determine whether or not there are any invisible magic beings, the presumption that they do in fact exist should not be our starting point. Nor does one’s operating presupposition need to be “that there cannot be such ‘magic beings’” (see my link below). As for examining evidence, I’m all for it. If Burnett thinks there is legitimate evidence for the invisible magic beings of his choice, let him trot it out and I’m happy to examine it to see where it leads.

Burnett: “I would ask the radical MN believer, “If MN is a truly scientific methodology, why discount claims without looking at and honestly weighing the evidence without an antisupernatural presuppositional bias?”

Because human beings are free to imagine things, they will always be able to imaging invisible magic beings “back of” everything we observe in the world. Nothing will keep someone who wants to imagine that “higher powers” inhabit a realm beyond this one. Because of this, we need a methodology which will reliably filter out what is imaginary and prevent it from contaminating what is factual. But this does not mean that the MN needs to proceed on the basis of some unjustifiable “antisupernatural presuppositional bias.” I have already given the case for supernaturalism a thorough examination; see here. So no one can accuse me of such bias. Consider someone who comes along and scolds you for adopting a methodology which proceeds on the basis of an anti-irrational presuppositional bias. He resents the fact that you do not give the irrational a “fair hearing.” He’ll always be able to accuse of this so long as you resist adopting his position, because your methodology, because it is rational, will always appear this way to him. What Burnett gives us here is precisely no different.

Regards,
Dawson

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

What's Up Burner? Let's have at it shall we?

Burner~ "Faith is associated with worldviews based on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, while reason is squarely seated on the primacy of existence metaphysics."

[Totally disagree with the premise and that’s why my info seems new to you. As I have demonstrated “faith” has many cross-categorical distinctions and is not used for one function in particular even in the bible. Example, what is used to come to God is described as faith, (pistis) What one uses to “believe” can be described as faith (pisteuo) such as in Mk. 1:15 and what one lives out or believes as a Christian can also be described as faith. (pistis)

Further (Let the reader read my prior comments) individuals exercise faith (belief and expectation) every day in other people and material objects. You reduce that to “chosen action guided by reason” I say “faith” because all elements of faith are present. Those elements are knowledge, trust, and assurance. But your desire is to separate faith from reason allows you to render and unreasonable argument such as you do, and demands that you separate faith from knowledge at all costs. Biblical faith was never devoid of knowledge, but the biblical demand is not that the believer know “all” before following or believing. That is why in every instance the elements of trust and assurance are present.]

Burner~ "Actually, this is an example of chosen action guided by reason. It bears no relevant similarity to the expectation that a barren woman in her 90s, for example, will give birth to a baby boy."

[This is what you misunderstand, Sara didn’t necessarily “believe” either. The product was not a product of her imagination, but a product of a physical union in which a supernatural God allowed a phallus and a womb to function normally. The continuum was not closed to God’s supernatural intervention. By the principal of analogy we witness similar things today. My wife and I are examples, and TWO children later both us and the Dr. knows that a supernatural intervention took place. We know that intervening power was God. That had nothing to do with imagination or metaphysical reality, it had everything to do with trust and assurance.

You are centering your conversation on a specific type of faith that entails belief in God in general. Your basic argument is that in order to believe in God that faith emanates from one’s imagination. In essence you have reduced faith to a "wishful fantasy" I restate that faith has nothing to do with imagination or wishful fantasies, but everything to do with trust, reason and assurance that is rooted human experience and that it is not some metaphysical construct as you claim.

Without teaching a lesson here, faith in the NT has 2 forms a noun form that I reference as (pistis) and a verb form (pisteuo) The verb which works in conjunction with the noun always entails the trust and belief that I referenced in my earlier post. Since you don’t mind quoting sciptures you’ll be familiar with this,

Hab. 2:4 ~ “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

This was the center of Paul’s teaching on faith in the NT. The word “faith” here (‘Emuwnah) comes from (‘Emuwn) which means trusting, fidelity and steadfastness. This has nothing to do with imagination or metaphysical reality but everything to do with reason and living reasonably. Bible faith was NEVER a metaphysical concept. Further, the words that were born of faith were not based on imagination or metaphysical reality. Remember this:

2 Pet.1:21 “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Where did the word come from? God of course but not by the “will” (human desire which includes imagination of men) Who spoke however? MEN spoke as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost” This was not dictation, this was not men’s imagination. This was God speaking through human faculty which includes reason. To suggest that faith in any form is devoid of reason is a ridiculous argument, but I’ll give you this, that your argument would fly in some circles of world religion (even Christianity) BUT your suggestion is certainly not what the bible teaches no matter how you try to twist it to do so]

Burner~ "Paul explicitly condemns as “wisdom of this world” in I Corinthians. This is no accident: he does so because he knows that reason will not validate his god-belief claims. It can’t because of the metaphysical antithesis I’ve identified."

[Paul says this in 1 Cor. 2:4-5 ~ “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Wisdom here both times is (sophia) which is used to indicate the wisdom which belongs to men or earthly knowledge.
-Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995. The "wisdom of men" knowledge is given by some mystery or gnosis.

And once again faith (Pistis) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it - Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

Simply put Paul was saying that the Christian confidence and assurance in Christ is not shaped by those who don’t know Christ. Restated, "One cannot lead where one does not go and one cannot teach what one does not know"- (public domain)

Either way, the only way to reach that conclusion as Paul did is not through mysticism but through and by reason and a reasonable understanding. Paul’s words had nothing to do with mysticism, or metaphysical reality.]

Burner~ " Even the bible nowhere characterizes faith in this manner. The meaning of faith seems to vary throughout the bible (it is conspicuously scarce in the Old Testament by comparison with the New)"

[Faith is offered in the OT as conceptualizations as we would expect from God who was
completing and building the revelation to man that would culminate in HIS son. Although
there is no noun for faith in the OT there are 2 root forms (verbs) of faith in the OT 1-
Ma’al Unfaithful, 2-’Aman- which passes through at least 7 verb forms in the OT . Only
The THIRD form was rendered with the Greek word for faith in the NT This carries the
idea of steadfastness or strong standing or to trust a person or to believe a statement.

Faith in the OT uses phrases such as “fear of God” , “trust” and “obedience”. All of these
concepts were and are based on reason, nothing metaphysical here,

I could go further but
I’ll simply restate that from all evidence of both the use of the word and actual practice as
demonstrated by the characters themselves there is nothing mystical or unreasonable about the application of faith in the bible.]

Burner~ "Not if “Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding... faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 88) Also, not if “faith is the substance of things hoped for...” (Heb. 11:1). Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason."

[Another of the faulty rationalizations you make here is that “hope” is more a less a form
of “wishful thinking” also. The real definition of biblical hope is merely a future
expectation which is a result of the current confidence and historical performance. Hope
is very similar to the analogy principle of MN (if I were to make a comparison) What
God has done before he’s able to do again and it becomes our expectation that he will.
It’s really that simple. Once again no mysticism or metaphysical problems here based on a very rational understanding of both scripture and God.]

Burner~ " Notice now how Burnett himself uses the word ‘faith’ to distinguish a mode of believing that, by his own description, could not be rational or compatible with reason. According to his own usage here, faith is associated with embracing a position which has no evidential security."

[Notice how I can speak allegorically and you don’t notice it. All this proves is that you
are willing to make a point at any cost. I realize what I said, but do you?]

Burner~ "Actually, he may very well have done precisely this, if by “human spirit” one generally means the human mind and its various talents and proclivities."

[The talents and proclivities of the mind are not in question or what I’m referring to. In
the antisupernaturalist world you can’t relate because you don’t acknowledge the
supernatural or even the part of your identity that is immaterial. In fact you do, but you
credit it to naturalism, but it is spirit not flesh. This is why and how you miss the point.]

Burner~ "If it’s the case that mental imagery has nothing to do with Christian god-belief, why is the bible chock full of mental imagery, from Genesis chapter 1 to Revelation chapter 22?"

[The bible is a written narrative written to describe as any good piece of literature should
be, the bible is the final authority for all Christian faith and practice and therefore essential. It also contains history
but that has nothing to do with the argument. The distinction you make is not essential
except to try to make a nonessential point.]

In short, I believe that at least this topic allows an individual to see what the bible really teaches about faith and what some of the more common misconceptions regarding faith is. Faith is not some blind leap into an endless chasim and the bible mode and method of faith is not imaginary in any way.

Ooh, so far ias rand is concerned. I'm on point. I didn't quote her I only affirmed what her position affirms in general and what she would affirm. It's not on point and I don't want to argue her.

Thanks, I won't labor on the point enough good info has been dispensed on both sides of the argument. I will await a response even if I don't respond to it.

C-Ya round the way Burner and Robert.

Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "Faith is associated with worldviews based on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, while reason is squarely seated on the primacy of existence metaphysics."

Burnett: “Totally disagree with the premise and that’s why my info seems new to you.”

What specifically do you disagree with? Are you saying that faith is not associated with the primacy of consciousness, or that reason is not associated with the primacy of existence? Where's your argument challenging what I wrote above?

Burnett: “As I have demonstrated “faith” has many cross-categorical distinctions and is not used for one function in particular even in the bible.”

I spoke to this. You did not “demonstrate,” you simply asserted, and I corrected you. When the bible comes closest to offering a definition of the notion of faith (see Hebrews 11:1), it clearly associates faith with hoping. None of your examples took this into account. On the contrary, your examples were examples of mundane inferential operations which involve identification and integration of perceptual input. That is not what the bible describes as ‘faith’. Quite opposite to this, the bible is explicit in contrasting faith with sense-based epistemologies, such as when the apostle Paul says things like “we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). In the gospels, where faith is used with any definite meaning, it clearly assumes the primacy of consciousness since it is associated with acquiring or exercising mental control over reality. When Peter, for instance, falters in his attempts to walk on water with Jesus, Jesus scolds him for not having enough faith (see Mt. 14). Clearly faith is not merely “belief” as many Christians like to tell us. It has various meanings throughout the bible, but never simply “belief” and never does it state that it consists of knowledge or reason. To make this kind of claim is to admit that you do not know what either knowledge or reason is, and also shows how little you understand the teachings of your own religion.

Burnett: “Example, what is used to come to God is described as faith, (pistis)”

Yes, and that involves both hoping and imagination, as I explain on my blog. It is not merely belief; if the usage of faith in a particular context involves belief, it is always belief plus something else, something never specified, something always left unidentified, and this is no accident. To identify it would be to give away the game. Consider the experience which Canon Michael Cole describes when he claimed to have an encounter with Jesus. It’s very telling. Because faith involves hoping in the imaginary, relying on it always has the potential to lead one to experiencing a waking fantasy.

Burnett: “Further (Let the reader read my prior comments) individuals exercise faith (belief and expectation) every day in other people and material objects.”

As I pointed out, the examples you gave involve reasonable inferences from the facts that are perceptually available to the individual involved. Turning the ignition key of a car with the intention of starting its engine is not an act of faith. Acting on the instruction to put your only son on an altar and prepare to slaughter him to please an invisible magic being is an act of faith. Do you see the difference? I’m guessing not.

Burnett: “You reduce that to “chosen action guided by reason” I say “faith” because all elements of faith are present.”

I spoke to this as well. None of the “elements of faith” that you identified are identified as elements belonging to or characterizing faith in the bible. Those elements were “Knowledge, Agreement and Trust.” I pointed out in my last comment that the bible nowhere lists these as elements of faith, and you, Burnett, have not shown where it does list them as elements of faith. Meanwhile, I pointed out that when the bible does come closest to offering a definition of ‘faith’, it explicitly associates it with hoping. If you do not understand the difference between hoping and knowledge, I don’t know how we’re going to have a fruitful discussion. As I explained on my blog, religious faith exploits the believer’s failure to distinguish between the imaginary and the actual, and it seems that you are a fine specimen of this.

Burnett: “Those elements are knowledge, trust, and assurance.”

See how they’ve changed slightly; before they were “Knowledge, Agreement and Trust.” And still, Burnett, you do not cite any passage in the bible which supports your association of these categories with faith. And clearly you leave out hope, which the bible does explicitly link to faith (see again Hebrews 11:1). You seem to have jettisoned the bible as your guide. Why is that?

Burnett: “But your desire is to separate faith from reason allows you to render and unreasonable argument such as you do, and demands that you separate faith from knowledge at all costs.”

“... at all costs...”? On the contrary, I’m just going by what the bible itself says. It seems, in fact, that it is you who are trying to accomplish something “at all costs,” namely disassociate faith with hoping and with the clearly and uncontestably subjective elements that are present in the exercise of faith as characterized in the gospels (as I pointed out above). You insist that faith is associated with “Knowledge, Agreement and Trust” (or now it’s “knowledge, trust, and assurance”), but nowhere cite the bible to support this, either explicitly or by reasonable implication. You leave out what the bible does say, and insert in its place something that the bible does not say. You clearly need to abandon the bible in order to deploy your attempts to assimilate reason and knowledge.

Burnett: “Biblical faith was never devoid of knowledge,”

This is misleading. If you review the models of exemplary faith given in Hebrews 11, you’ll find that the believers who are held up as models of faith acted in the absence of knowledge of key relevant factors which made their acts of faith heroic. See for example Hebrews 11:7-8 which praises both Noah and Abraham for their acts of faith, actions taken in the absence of knowledge of what exactly they were doing or why:

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Burnett: “but the biblical demand is not that the believer know “all” before following or believing.”

Indeed, the believer is expected to act precisely where he is ignorant, as the above examples (and others from Hebrews 11) demonstrate.

Burnett: “That is why in every instance the elements of trust and assurance are present.”

In other words, faith is needed precisely when knowledge is absent. This completely blows Burnett’s association of faith with knowledge out of the water.


I wrote: "Actually, this is an example of chosen action guided by reason. It bears no relevant similarity to the expectation that a barren woman in her 90s, for example, will give birth to a baby boy."

Burnett: “This is what you misunderstand, Sara didn’t necessarily “believe” either.”

Of course! That is precisely what I understand. Faith is not actually belief; this is a Christian revision in order to euphemize faith. “It’s just belief,” they tell us, and examples from the bible clearly tell us otherwise. It is not my misunderstanding in operation here, Burnett, it is yours. I nowhere indicated that Sara believed she would have a son. She acted on the hope that it would be the case. And as we have seen, faith is hoping in the imaginary. Moreover, I raised the example of Sara giving birth to a child when she was in her 90s to point out how silly it is to say things like “”Faith is a system of belief about God based in reason, objectivity and plausibility” (Burnett, 6-23-08). Is it “plausible” that a woman in her 90s who has been explicitly characterized as barren would give birth to a son? Obviously not. Faith is needed when one puts his hopes in something completely implausible.

Burnett: “The product was not a product of her imagination, but a product of a physical union in which a supernatural God allowed a phallus and a womb to function normally.”

I have news for you, Burnett: a 90-year-old womb and a 100-year-old “phallus” are not “function[ing] normally” if together they produce a child. That’s not “normal” in any book. You drop context in order to neutralize acts of faith. That’s fine by me if you want to go that route, but it makes you look desperate to dissociate your position from what the bible says and commits you to silly positions at the same time.

Burnett: “The continuum was not closed to God’s supernatural intervention. By the principal of analogy we witness similar things today. My wife and I are examples, and TWO children later both us and the Dr. knows that a supernatural intervention took place. We know that intervening power was God. That had nothing to do with imagination or metaphysical reality, it had everything to do with trust and assurance.”

The outcome may in fact be real, but your attribution of its causality to an invisible magic being is a good example of hoping in the imaginary – i.e., faith. On the premise that some invisible magic being took an interest in your earthly affairs, how did you come to determine that it was the god of the bible (a god from whose verbal revelation you are constantly distancing yourself in order to make your points), and not, say, Ahura Mazda, Horus, Geusha, Blarko, or any of the other personalities in the supernatural pantheon?

Burnett: “You are centering your conversation on a specific type of faith that entails belief in God in general.”

Not belief, but hope, as Hebrews 11:1 explicitly states. Again, you seem unwilling to factor in what the bible itself says. If I, a non-believer, can take factor in what the bible says, why can’t you?

Burnett: “Your basic argument is that in order to believe in God that faith emanates from one’s imagination.”

Not exactly. My point is that faith involves hope in the imaginary. I’ve already illustrated this on my blog. I invite you to read it.

Burnett: “In essence you have reduced faith to a "wishful fantasy"”

Not “reduced,” I’ve simply pointed this out and have defended my points in support of this identification. In your haste to deny my thesis, you demonstrate that you need to distance yourself from what the bible does say and insert in its place things that the bible does not say.

Burnett: “I restate that faith has nothing to do with imagination or wishful fantasies, but everything to do with trust, reason and assurance that is rooted human experience and that it is not some metaphysical construct as you claim.”

Yes, I’m aware of your bald denials by now. Indeed, it’s precisely what I expect from people who base their worldviews on hopes in the imaginary, and in that case you’re right on schedule, Harvey Burnett.

I will review the remainder of your comments later.

Regards,
Dawson

lee said...

I don't know if this is of any help in this discussion or not, but Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has defined fideism in terms that seems to perhaps shed some light on this subject.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism/

lee said...

I don't know if this is of any help in this discussion or not, but Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has defined fideism in terms that seems to perhaps shed some light on this subject.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism/

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Burner~ "Indeed, it’s precisely what I expect from people who base their worldviews on hopes in the imaginary, and in that case you’re right on schedule, Harvey Burnett."

[Ditto Burner....Except it goes like this

"Indeed, it’s precisely what I expect from and upstanding anti-Christ advocate such as yourself, and in that case you’re right on schedule, Burner."

Peace My friend!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Thanks Lee and I'll look up the info on Tertullian in greater depth, but I did have some Clement Of Alexandria and Origen info to share briefly. They seemed to view it just as I've stated in prior posts:

"We say then that faith must not be inert and alone. rather it should be accompanied with investigation. For I do not say that we are not to inquire at all" (Clement Of Alexandria- C.195, E. 2.446)

"Trusting is more than faith. For when one has believed the Son of God is our Teacher, he trusts that his teaching is true." (Clement Of Alexandria- C.195 E, 2.464)

"Faith so to speak is comprehensive knowledge of the essentials. And knowledge is the strong and sure demonstration of what is received by faith. It is built upon faith by the Lord's teaching." (Origen- c.195, E, 2.541)

Evidently Origen thought and taught the bible message of faith on similar graounds and basis,

"Who enters a voyage, contracts a marriage, becomes the father of children, or sows seed into the ground-without believing that better things will result from doing so?...If the hope and belief of a better future is the support of life in every uncertain enterprise,...why should not this faith be rationally accepted by him who believes on better grounds...in the existence of a God who was the Creator of all things." (c.248,E. 4.401)

Faith and reason have always been taught as compatible and further nowhere does the bible intimate that faith is a mystical process or a metaphysical process. The belief in God does not require a removal of reason. In fact the opposite is true, belief in God entails a greater capacity to reason than those who only place confidence in materialism and naturalistic processes.

Thanks.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Lee, Burner & Robert_b

Now I must admit that I've learned something here. As I said Lee I took your info and read it. I found this,

"The reformers held that the human intellect had been corrupted by humanity's fall from grace, and that consequently the truth of Christianity could be apprehended only by faith. Protestant theologians from Luther and Calvin to Karl Barth have thus affirmed the priority of faith not only to “works” but also to natural theology."

Now I'm not an Evangelical (Reformed Believer) but I am aware of the tenets of Reformed Theology (which I do have problems with), but this particular caveat got by me.

It seems that Evangelical Theology would hold to some of your primary assertions regarding "reason" based on their view of Total Depravity. I certainly don't hold to their concept or its interpretation and further don't believe that it's scriptural.

So in essence, I think that's why we're missing each other in convo. In my view of scripture both in studies and teachings I hold more to natural theology.

To me I clearly see "reason" and "rationale" for and because of my faith and I believe that is clearly evidenced in the Bible as I have stated.

With that said, I would like to see a "die hard" Evangelical argue against your position however. I really am interested in seeing what they would have to counter your statements against "reasoned faith". In my opinion, (And I will admit if I'm wrong)it would be very hard for them to do successfully.

Thanks fellas...Y'u see...all my faith and even I am given to reason...Well that must be just a figment of my imagination-LOL!

Later

lee said...

Harvey,

I have studied both Arminian (semi-pelagian) and Calvinism ( Augustinian) systems and am amused at how really similar they are.

Both side traditionally agree that there is a necessary condition, supplied by God, before anyone has the ability to come to faith. For the Calvinist / total depravity group, irresistible grace and for the Arminian side, prevenient grace. But be clear both sides agree that No man can come to christ, unless God does something first that enables him to come. If you believe that you require no assistance, that man has the ability in and of himself you have now embraced full-blown pelagianism.

Here is where it is amusing; both sides believe that anyone who has a desire to come to Christ can come to christ. ( "Whosoever will, come.") where they disagree is WHY those who come; come. For Arminians its freewill; for Calvinist its God's choice.

In the final analysis though, there is not one person saved in Arminianism that is not saved in Calvinism and vice-versa. Arminians say that in Calvinism, God is not fair and yet, in Arminianism millions if not billions of people never hear the gospel and therefore die in their sins, never acceptng the ransom, atonement, whichever christology you embrace.
In Arminianism God provides an opportunity for some to be saved, in Calvinism God insures that some are saved.

Historically both sides have embraced the doctrine of the fall. The fall has rendered all men incapable of faith according to traditional biblical orthodoxy.

The song "amazing grace" states, "tis faith hath brought me safe thus far and faith will lead me home."

The instrumental cause of my faith was reason, and the death blow to my faith was reason.

Maybe the words should go, "tis reason that brought me safe thus far, and reason will lead me home."

Bahnsen Burner said...

Burnett: “Without teaching a lesson here, faith in the NT has 2 forms a noun form that I reference as (pistis) and a verb form (pisteuo) The verb which works in conjunction with the noun always entails the trust and belief that I referenced in my earlier post. Since you don’t mind quoting sciptures you’ll be familiar with this,

Hab. 2:4 ~ “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

The use of ‘faith’ in the context of slogans like this is fairly benign, and is not the same concept implied in other uses of the same word as we find in the New Testament. The word ‘faith’ in Hab. 2:4 and similar instances (including those using cognates of ‘faith’, such as “faithful”) essentially signifies consistency of personal character or commitment. It does not signify mere belief, even in these examples. And moreover, it does not denote the quasi-epistemological faculty which Christians tend to have in mind when they refer to faith as some kind of medium through which religious "knowledge" is acquired. Again, as I stated before, if faith involves belief (and it doesn't always), it is always belief plus something else, something unspecified, something the believer dare not identify for fear of giving away the game.

Burnett: “This was the center of Paul’s teaching on faith in the NT.”

I would not contest the point that Paul expected those who number themselves among the faithful to be committed to the teachings of the religion, i.e., to be "faithful." But this is not quite what is meant when, for instance, Jesus scolds Peter for not having enough faith to walk on water (cf. Mt. 14) or the many examples of heroic acts of faith given in Hebrews 11. Faith is not just a synonym for belief in the New Testament. When, for instance, Paul makes statements like "your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Rom. 1:8), he's not talking about their "belief" per se, but their commitment, their dedication, their devotion, and the actions they have taken reflecting their commitment, as examples to be held up before others. Keep in mind also that, according to the gospels, faith is something that observers can see in a person (cf. Mk. 2:5; Lk. 5:20). Beliefs are not something we see; typically speaking I cannot look at a person and know from merely this that he believes in a god or that it will rain tomorrow.

Burnett: “The word “faith” here (‘Emuwnah) comes from (‘Emuwn) which means trusting, fidelity and steadfastness.”

Right, in other words, essentially a type of commitment. This is just one of the many meanings faith takes on in the bible. It is not the type of faith that we’ve been discussing to this point of course. Notice how the meaning of faith tends to be blurry throughout much of the bible. In one context it means one thing, in another it means something else, and only obscurely related at best. In some cases, it seems to be a power or ability that the believer is expected to possess and/or manifest (it can move mountains according to Mt. 17:20). In the bible's loose play with meanings and ambiguities, faith is one of those words whose implicit, emotion-triggering connotations is intended to distract the mind from seeking precise meaning and settle the believer into the desired mood. Another keyword used in this manner is "grace." Believers dare not put too fine a definition to these notions, because that will cause the devotional program to breakdown, and the believer will begin "leaning to his own understanding," explicitly prohibited in Proverbs 3:7, and once he begins to do this he becomes a candidate for apostacy.

Burnett: “This has nothing to do with imagination or metaphysical reality but everything to do with reason and living reasonably.”

The problem here that Burnett overlooks is that the object of commitment is not specified; even Burnett has insisted that faith need not center on the Christian of god. So it cannot be said that faith as understood in such passages “has... everything to do with reason and living reasonably.” This is a stretch that is wholly untenable. At best, we would have to review each instance of said faith so-conceived on a case by case basis to determine if in fact reason and living reasonably are involved. One should not assume that simply because one invokes "faith" that reason is the operative standard. But again, this is not the New Testament’s use of faith that has been to this point at issue, so it's essentially irrelevant.

Burnett: “Bible faith was NEVER a metaphysical concept.”

I agree. But as with any concept, even anti-concepts like ‘faith’, it has metaphysical implications with respect to the subject-object relationship. I have already touched on this above, but I see that you have not brought any actual challenge to this (you just said that you “disagree”).

Burnett: “Further, the words that were born of faith were not based on imagination or metaphysical reality.”

Again, we’d have to look at the specifics. If one claims to have faith in Horus, are you saying that his imagination is not involved? When one says that he has faith that his god will cure his mother of cancer, is his imagination not involved? Is he not imagining that some invisible magic being is going to intervene on otherwise mundane affairs and alter their present course? When one says "God will make a way," is he not similarly imagining that some imperceptible spirit-consciousness is going to do something?

Burnett: “Remember this: 2 Pet.1:21 “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Where did the word come from? God of course but not by the “will” (human desire which includes imagination of men) Who spoke however? MEN spoke as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost” This was not dictation, this was not men’s imagination. This was God speaking through human faculty which includes reason."

That human beings have the faculty of reason is not under dispute. The claim that an invisible magic being was "speaking through human faculty which includes reason" does not make either the content of what was alleged to have been so spoken reasonable, or the claim itself reasonable. Besides, this misses the point. You claim that it "was God speaking through human faculty," but how can I grasp this without imagining it? It is told to us in the form of a story, and it is our imagination which operates when we read it. It's just like when we read a Harry Potter story. When the story has Harry riding around on a broomstick, we imagine this little boy flying on a broomstick. We imagine what the story tells us to imagine. This gives the reader an inventory of images, and in the case of religious experience this inventory of images is the currency which informs its attending convictions, providing them with "substance" that makes them seem real and bankable as the object of hope. In the end, however, it's just the believer's imagination that has taken off on a flight of fantasy.

Burnett: "To suggest that faith in any form is devoid of reason is a ridiculous argument,"

Perhaps we have differing conceptions of reason. I have already stated what I mean by reason. Time and time again Burnett has attempted to couple faith with reason and/or knowledge such that they possess an integral association with one another. The bible nowhere affirms this, and I don't find Burnett producing any passages supporting such a thesis. But let's consider this: if it is the case that faith is always in alignment with reason, what does the faith part do, what's it for, what does it accomplish and how does it work? Why would it even be needed? And when Geisler and Turek title their book "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist," are they really saying, as Burnett's debating points would imply, that they're simply too unreasonable to be atheists, and this is why they're Christians?

Burnett: "but I’ll give you this, that your argument would fly in some circles of world religion (even Christianity)"

This is quite a concession. It admits something we all know, namely that there is anything but uniformity on even basic matters among the crowd who like to consider themselves among "God's chosen." But we would have to ask why my "argument would fly in some circles" of Christianity in the first place if in fact it is as wrong as Burnett says it is. For just after this he states emphatically:

"BUT your suggestion is certainly not what the bible teaches no matter how you try to twist it to do so."

So even though the bible, when it comes closest to offering a definition of 'faith' (in Hebrews 11:1) and in that definition explicitly associates faith with hope, this is not what the bible teaches? And it does teach (even though Burnett has not cited any statement from the bible to support this) that faith involves reason and knowledge? I see.

I wrote: "Paul explicitly condemns as 'wisdom of this world' in I Corinthians. This is no accident: he does so because he knows that reason will not validate his god-belief claims. It can't because of the metaphysical antithesis I've identified."

Burnett: "Paul says this in 1 Cor. 2:4-5 ~ “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Wisdom here both times is (sophia) which is used to indicate the wisdom which belongs to men or earthly knowledge. -Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995."

Right - "earthly knowledge" - i.e., knowledge acquired through this-worldly means, namely reason. This only supports my point (and Robert's as well).

Burnett: "The "wisdom of men" knowledge is given by some mystery or gnosis."

It's interesting that you would say this. In I Tim. 3:8-9, the apostle Paul suggests that faith has a mysterious nature to it:

"Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."

So is faith, then, the "wisdom of men" that the same writer condemns in I Corinthians?

Now what I had in mind when I wrote the above is the notion of "the wisdom of the world" (which I stated explicitly), which I would say describes reason quite well. In I Cor. 1:20 the apostle Paul asks: "hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" The obvious implication of the surrounding context is that this is an affirmation phrased in the form of a question. The reason why reason is condemned here by Paul is because reason enables a thinker to operate his mind autonomously. An individual who can reason effectively does not need a pastor or church to make sure his thinking doesn't go outside the bounds of the group. Someone who thinks for himself, does so regardless of who disapproves. And believers have made themselves quite well known for disapproving of how human beings think.

Burnett: "And once again faith (Pistis) conviction of the truth of anything, belief;"

Even if we construe faith in this manner (which ignores the element of hope which Hebrews 11:1 explicitly associates with faith), it says nothing about the means by which said "conviction of the truth of anything" is acquired or validated. Without attendance to this concern (and I don't find any in the bible; when I point this out to believers they typically retort that the bible is not a philosophy book), the conviction so denoted could at best only be of the *alleged* truth of whatever statement is in mind. We cannot claim by default that just any content of mind is true or rational, especially simply because one applies the word 'faith' to it or calls it a conviction. We need to be more careful than this.


Burnett: "in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it - Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995."

Again, if Hebrews 11:1 is accurate, then this really isn't talking about faith, because faith according to Hebrews 11:1 is associated with hope, and this says nothing about hope. That is, unless, it is understood that "God and divine things" are "things hoped for," in which case, we would have to ask by what means the believer supposedly has awareness of such things. Since "God" is supposed to be invisible (cf. I Tim. 1:17), it cannot be by means of perception that one can have awareness of it. If the believer claims to have awareness of his god, can he identify the means by which he allegedly has this awareness, and can he explain how it can be reliably distinguished from his imagination?

Burnett: "Simply put Paul was saying that the Christian confidence and assurance in Christ is not shaped by those who don’t know Christ. Restated, "One cannot lead where one does not go and one cannot teach what one does not know"- (public domain)"

And how does one come to the knowledge of Christ if not through the storybook of the bible? And if he gains knowledge of Christ by reading the storybook of the bible, how does one deny the fact that his imagination is exercised in picturing the events that are described in the bible? When you read about Jesus coming to the gates of the city, do you not imagine a man in desert garb and a big city walls with a big gate and guards and other variables as part of the story you're reading?

Burnett: "Either way, the only way to reach that conclusion as Paul did is not through mysticism but through and by reason and a reasonable understanding."

What inputs provided his reasoning with content, by what means did he have awareness of those inputs, and how specifically did he arrive at the conclusion in question?

Burnett: "Paul’s words had nothing to do with mysticism, or metaphysical reality."

Well, I would agree that they have no objective reference to reality. But whether or not they had anything to do with mysticism depends on how one defines the concept. Robert already spoke to this in his post.

Burnett had said: "Burnett: ”Faith is a system of belief about God based in reason, objectivity and plausibility.”

Burner~ " Even the bible nowhere characterizes faith in this manner. The meaning of faith seems to vary throughout the bible (it is conspicuously scarce in the Old Testament by comparison with the New). But it nowhere associates faith with reason, objectivity or plausibility."

Burnett: "Faith is offered in the OT as conceptualizations as we would expect from God who was completing and building the revelation to man that would culminate in HIS son."

This does not substantiate the claim that biblical faith is associated with reason, objectivity or plausibility. Besides, what one might expect from an invisible magic being will vary from person to person, precisely because individual imaginations vary from person to person. The history of theology, with all its major divisions, disputes, conflicts, splinters, offshoots, nuances, etc., is a direct result of this.

Burnett: "Although there is no noun for faith in the OT there are 2 root forms (verbs) of faith in the OT 1-Ma’al Unfaithful, 2-’Aman- which passes through at least 7 verb forms in the OT ."

All this may be true of the lexico-semantic basis for foreign language translations, but it does not substantiate the claim that biblical faith is associated with reason, objectivity or plausibility.

Burnett: "Only The THIRD form was rendered with the Greek word for faith in the NT This carries the idea of steadfastness or strong standing or to trust a person or to believe a statement."

"Steadfastness or strong standing or to trust a person or to believe a statement" are not synonyms for either reason, objectivity or plausibility.

Burnett: "Faith in the OT uses phrases such as “fear of God” , “trust” and “obedience”. All of these concepts were and are based on reason, nothing metaphysical here,"

How are these things "based on reason"? Burnett insists that they are, but he nowhere explains this. Is "fear of Blarko" similiarly "based on reason"? Why suppose this?

I wrote: "Not if “Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding... faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 88) Also, not if “faith is the substance of things hoped for...” (Heb. 11:1). Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason."

Burnett: "Another of the faulty rationalizations you make here is that “hope” is more a less a form
of “wishful thinking” also. The real definition of biblical hope is merely a future
expectation which is a result of the current confidence and historical performance."

Hope is not merely another synomym for expectation. We can expect something to be the case without hoping it, and we can hope for something and not really expect it. For instance, I can expect that tomorrow is going to be a troublesome day at work, but I certainly do not hope for this. Similarly, I can hope that tomorrow is a smooth, problem-free day, but given what I know from what's happened this week so far, I expect it won't be what I hope it to be. The bible uses the word 'hope', not 'expectation'. The two are different concepts. Hoping certainly has more in common with wishing than expectation does. Hope involves a degree of emotional investment that expectation may or may not have. At any rate, what we hope for is irrelevant to what is actually the case, and therefore not serviceable as an arbiter in knowledge, reason, trust or plausibility.

I wrote: "Actually, he may very well have done precisely this, if by 'human spirit' one generally means the human mind and its various talents and proclivities."

Burnett: "The talents and proclivities of the mind are not in question or what I’m referring to."

In the statement you had made, you referred specifically to "the abilities of the human spirit." If the talents and proclivities, or operations, or what have you, of the human mind, are not what you were referring to, then what abilities specifically did you have in mind when you accused the MN of failing to "weigh the abilities of the human spirit in the equation"? I pointed out that, if you have the human mind in view here, then it very well may be the case that the MN has taken its abilities into account in his assessment of claims about "the supernatural." For generally speaking the human mind does in fact have the ability to imagine, and many human beings (including but not exclusively Christians) have demonstrated that at least they have the ability to confuse what they imagine with what is real.

Burnett: "In the antisupernaturalist world you can’t relate because you don’t acknowledge the supernatural or even the part of your identity that is immaterial. In fact you do, but you credit it to naturalism, but it is spirit not flesh. This is why and how you miss the point."

For one, I've already linked to an article in which I weigh the case for "the supernatural." One of the many findings I made in that piece is that belief in the supernatural is attended by the failure to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary. Anyone can imagine something that is "supernatural." If your god is not real, for instance, what would keep someone from imagining that it is real and hoping it really exists? Obviously nothing, if his character is disposed to faking reality, as the bible teaches its readers to do. Also, when you speak of "the part of your identity that is immaterial," it needs to be clarified what exactly you're talking about. Are you speaking of human consciousness here? If so, you're speaking of something which clearly has a physical basis, as any scientist worth his salt can tell you. The fact that consciousness is biological is simply not contestable. Christians are uncomfortable with this, and hope that their consciousness will survive their death and be transported to some magic kingdom beyond the grave. This is all a fantasy, Burnett. I know you want it to be true, but wanting it to be true will not make it true.

I wrote: "If it's the case that mental imagery has nothing to do with Christian god-belief, why is the bible chock full of mental imagery, from Genesis chapter 1 to Revelation chapter 22?"

Burnett: "The bible is a written narrative written to describe as any good piece of literature should be, the bible is the final authority for all Christian faith and practice and therefore essential."

This does not speak to my question. In fact, it only confirms that mental imagery is needed to inform "the final authority for all Christian faith." It is, as you yourself state, "essential" for this.

Burnett: "It also contains history but that has nothing to do with the argument."

It contains a lot of stories which believers take to be historical. Imagine if I took Harry Potter to be historical. If I accept the basic premise that the Christian does in his acceptance of bible stories as history (namely the premise of metaphysical subjectivism), I could just as easily suppose that Harry Potter or other fictional accounts are in fact historical.

Burnett: "The distinction you make is not essential except to try to make a nonessential point."

Then why don't you have a solid answer for it? If it really were the case that mental imagery has nothing to do with Christian god-belief, I would not expect to find its primary source to be comprised with story after story after story informing its content. Notice how heavily preachers and pastors rely on using imagery-rich examples to make their point. Even Jesus is depicted (in imagery-rich passages) as encapsulating his folksy wisdom of the day in the form of parables. Commentators have typically held that this form was preferred because it aids memory. But why does it aid memory? Because it uses imagery. The imagery inspires the imagination, and in "coming closer to the Lord" the believer invests more and more in what he imagines, and his imagination serves as a fake environment which is used as a substitute for the real world in which he actually lives.

Burnett: "In short, I believe that at least this topic allows an individual to see what the bible really teaches about faith and what some of the more common misconceptions regarding faith is. Faith is not some blind leap into an endless chasim and the bible mode and method of faith is not imaginary in any way."

More denials and protests, but no actual substance to inform an alternative point. As I have pointed out several times, the bible itself links faith with hope, and yet Burnett has not dealt with this aspect of faith at all. He doesn't dare touch it. Nor does he explain exactly how faith works, if in fact it is what he says it is. Both of these points would be necessary for him to even come close to challenging my points.

Burnett: "Ooh, so far ias rand is concerned. I'm on point. I didn't quote her I only affirmed what her position affirms in general and what she would affirm. It's not on point and I don't want to argue her."

What's clear is that you've attributed certain positions and statements to Rand, and yet have failed to substantiate your characterization of her views by documenting anything she did say along the lines of your charges. You have attempted to put words into her mouth and have defaulted on supporting them. But still you insist that what you have said about Rand is "on point." This strikes me as a product not only of ignorance on your part (which is not bad in itself), but also of dishonesty.

Regards,
Dawson

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Lee~ You make some good observation about the salvation. The concepts of regeneration and salvation exist out of the fact that humanity currently does not have the ability to assess the actual power and weight of sin when it entered a sinless creation.

It can be debated all that anyone wants but many of the gross human behaviors that we witness in society are only the symptom or residue of sin. Sometimes is shows up in a highly detectible and observable manner through psychopathic behavior or other things naturalists call human behavior or “short-circuits” but unless God had addressed this for humanity neither of us have any idea of how “low” humanity could actually go. But the historical mass murders and things of the like are an example of the potential.

Now to touch on this for a minute, just because I don’t know how God will reconcile the living and the dead doesn’t make him lees credible. It just make me human. I’m not omniscient and I don’t have a requirement to know all details before participating. PRACTICAL example: I have a number of friends that work for a major world, wide corporation. Some of then have 20 to 30 years in and will retire. None of them know the full details of the companies world wide operations. It would be the height of irrationality and plain stupid for any of them to quit the company and leave their retirement benefits simply because they don’t fully understand the function of the company. That is silly. But yet tat is the same rationale that you guys offer for leaving God. When I read thing like I see on this site at times, it amazes me that people that “SAY” they are so rational and given to “reason” are yet so irrational and unreasonable when it comes to God and understanding him. That’s amazing.

Burner ~ you offer nothing more than, simply put, you just don’t agree with what I say because you don’t want to.

Your interpretation of Heb. 11:1 is totally erroneous and as demonstrated we don’t apply faith in everday life as you absurdly suggest.

Look, I’ve given you the formal answer to your question about what the “wisdom of men” means. You persist against evidence and reason in saying that phrase was talking about “reason”…as I stated you are wrong. It has nothing to do with reason. It has everything to do with vain philosophies of men such as the ones you offer which are highly unreasonable and not practical….If I may paraphrase a few scriptures for you so to hopefully pierce some of your brain and spiritual fog, it would go something like this,

1 Cor. 3:18 ~ “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”

Paraphrase ~ Get real and don’t be silly. If any of you philosophical teachers that think you have an answer for everything, want to really learn something real, forget the approach you’re currently using because it’s a futile effort. The philosophies you implore make you feel smart but they only seek to define your own knowledge and do not allow you to discover or learn anything about God. God already knows the philosophical thoughts of humanity and they offer no value to true understanding and only make you feel better about what you don’t know.

Once again, this has nothing to do with reason it has everything to do with preconceived and contrived philosophical notions about God such as you have.

Let’s look at another one:
1 Cor. 2:4-7 ~ “4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 6Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”
Paraphrase ~ When I preached the message to you it wasn’t dressed up all fancy in a bunch of modern and popular philosophical thoughts or sanitized to make it appealing, but you obviously saw, heard and experienced for yourself, God in operation. This happened so that you would know that this message is not inferior to anything commonly heard among those who think they really know something. What I am communicating it takes a mature understanding to grasp, and what the philosophers of the world want you to believe offers no value, and eventually their words will fade away like everything else invented and created by men. But what we are teaching you is directed by God himself, not just made up to fit the day or current arguments, but was in place before the world was created for our benefit.

How about a final one:

1 Cor. 1:17- 23 ~ “8For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”

Paraphrase: Preaching about salvation as a result of an instrument of death like the cross is totally rejected and thought to be a silly notion to those who reject it. You-know what God said in the Old Testament, “Just when they thought they could define ME with their categorizations of who I am, I will totally confuse them by displaying another aspect of myself that they had never known. Where is the philosopher? Where is the form critic? Where are those who offer these great sounding philosophical arguments? Don’t they sound silly with their man centered concepts of God? When God communicated HIS council to the world, the world responded with it’s own brand of philosophies and proved they didn’t listen to a thing HE said, so God used something as simple and plain as teaching and affirming the life, death burial and resurrection of Christ as a method to bring salvation to those that would hear. The Jews, want to se another great miracle, the Greeks talk endlessly and sound as if they have something to say. But what we’re talking about creates problems because the Jews don’t understand it and the Greeks think it’s beneath their educational capacities to believe something that simple.

NONE of these verses ask the Christian to relieve themselves of reasoning capacities. The message ask Christians to take a good look at what’s going on and what philosophers such as you are actually saying.

Your argument is BOGUS and is not remotely factually relevant in any case.

I believe you like to just read your writing, because you say some of the silliest things like this:

Burner~ “And how does one come to the knowledge of Christ if not through the storybook of the bible?”

What the heck is that? . We need a book to have faith? Just look at the record,

Before there was a bible (NT)

The Lame, walked, lepors were healed, blind eyes were opened etc. There was no mental imagery given as a precursor for any of it other the promise of scope of the Messiah which many people that received didn’t believe prior to the time that they were healed or delivered.

Before there was a bible (NT)

The thief on the cross had a rational conversation and received the promise of Jesus and placed his “faith” confidence in what Jesus said…Non visualization aid necessary.

Before there was a bible (NT)

3000 people responded to the PREACING of Peter, repented and joined the first NT church.

Before there was a Bible (NT)

Stephen preached so convincingly, because of his faith (assurance) that he was stoned, killed because of hit.

Before there was a Bible (NT)

Cornelius who had probably met Jesus while living heard the word of Peter preaching and received the Holy Ghost (spiritual empowerment) from God.

Before there was a Bible (NT)

12 men who had not even heard of Jesus received the word at the mouth of Paul, believed it (FAITH) identified themselves with it through the outward display of baptism and received the Holy ghost according to the promise of God they received.

I could go on, but in no case do we see imagination, visualization or any metaphysical technique used, sought or implored by any NT Christian in response to the message they received.

The Preaching of the message is what inspires faith. As I clearly and biblically stated, Faith consists of assurance, trust, knowledge, belief…all of them…everything I’ve said up until this point that’s what it is. That assurance, confidence and trust does not bypass the faculty of the mind but IS NOT constructed in the mind as you suggest. Christina know who they trust, know what they have assurance in, and are fully and cognitively aware of the reasons we exercise our confidence.

Look Burner, I’ve answered all of your questions and you’ve only PHILOSOPHIZED in response. You don’t like the answers but too bad…get over it…

The article and your philosophical teachings, no matter what words you use to dress them up are…stink like garbage in the city dump….Get over it… that’s my opinion and it’ll be ok…you’re yet entitled to your opinion no matter how silly it may be for all the reasons I’ve named and them some. Just know this that faith is not devoid of reason. I’ll conclude with what I started this with:

I Pet. 3:15 ~ “15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

The word logos was used to indicate a word or understanding that comes from and through the thinking capacities or abilities that men have. The word “reason” in this scripture is not to render an EXCUSE…The “reason” as described is a well THOUGHT OUT response explaining the future expectation that Christians have. As Christians we live out our faith DAILY, all you can ask in response is why…

That’s the way it should be.

You’ve offered nothing but nonsense up to his point. I used to work in the car business. When we got o the point where we realized that we couldn’t close the deal we called for a TO as a last effort. I think you need a TO right about now.

Good day Burner!

Noel Cookman said...

I think the proper way to say it is that believers say that revelation (not the generic, multi-meaning word "faith) is a way (not necessarily the only way) to attain knowledge. "A discovered fact is as sacred as a revealed truth" said A. Custance.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Burnett: “you offer nothing more than, simply put, you just don’t agree with what I say because you don’t want to.”

Then obviously you’re not reading very carefully. I suspect you’re projecting quite recklessly as well.

Burnett: “Your interpretation of Heb. 11:1 is totally erroneous”

Actually, I didn’t “interpret” Hebrews 11:1, per se, not in this conversation anyway. I simply pointed out that Hebrews 11:1 links faith to hoping. I’ve had to point this out because you’ve been so eager to sidestep it in your attempts to disinterpret it.

Now for those who want to characterize ‘faith’ as simply another word for belief or believing, need to explain something. In James 2:19 we read: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Here the bible explicitly affirm that “the devils” (which are supposed to be evil, adversarial supernatural spirits) also “believe” that the Christian god is real. Would the Christian say that the devils therefore also have faith in that same god? I’m betting not. As I pointed out before, if faith involves belief, it is not restricted only to faith, but involves something else, something unstated. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that this something else is hope. I don’t know why a believer would shy away from acknowledging this, especially when it is so plainly written, and then go and cite 1 Peter 3:15 which talks about the “hope” that is in the believer.

Now, consider: do you see how the statement in James 2:19 prompts the believer to imagine things about these evil supernatural spirits? For the believer, what he imagines is taken for reality, because his imagining is taken to be valid, and it is taken to be valid because it is inspired by what he reads in the bible.

Burnett: “and as demonstrated we don’t apply faith in everday life as you absurdly suggest.”

It was not I who suggested that we apply faith in everyday life; this was your claim. You did this simply to make faith seem more mundane and common to human nature, which is a telling motive. At any rate, I agree that at least some people do not apply faith in their everyday life. If one guides his life, choices and actions by reason, he has no need for faith.

Burnett: "Look, I’ve given you the formal answer to your question about what the “wisdom of men” means. You persist against evidence and reason in saying that phrase was talking about “reason”…as I stated you are wrong. It has nothing to do with reason. It has everything to do with vain philosophies of men such as the ones you offer which are highly unreasonable and not practical…."

If "wisdom of men" has to do with philosophies like the one I advocate, then clearly the apostle Paul is talking about what I mean by reason, for my philosophy is the philosophy of reason. You say that my philosophy is "highly unreasonable and not practical." This is coming from an adult who believes in invisible magic beings. Where's your analysis of my philosophy or your argument showing that my philosophy is unreasonable? You've given no argument here. You do not even demonstrate any authentic understanding of my philosophy. Indeed, the statements you made about Rand only tell me that you don't know what you're talking about, and you've not recovered yourself from this.

Burnett gave his own interpretation of three passages from I Cor. (3:18; 2:4-7; 1:17-23) and concluded: “NONE of these verses ask the Christian to relieve themselves of reasoning capacities.”

They don’t “ask the Christian” to renounce reason, they require this. Surrendering reason is an integral part of the believer’s payment for admission into Christianity. They require this because they require the believer is expected to accept Paul’s premises on faith rather than on the basis of evidence or proof. Throughout the bible, particularly in the New Testament, it is understood that something bad is going to happen to a person if he doesn’t believe everything that it says and abide by it come hell or high water. It uses fear, not reason, to put the believer’s mind and conscience under psychological duress, and offers empty hopes to validate that fear, a fear whose basis is imagination. It’s a blatant instance of the ad baculum fallacy, a fact that is painfully difficult for the insider to acknowledge, but obvious to those on the outside. Fear of invisible magic beings and an eternity of torturous suffering – all things that the believer is lead to imagine as the gospel message is pounded over and over into his mind until he submits – is the operative currency of bible-believing. And when he does submit, he’ll find that it’s never enough as he’s lead on a wild goose chase through the mind-game of the bible’s devotional program. Kudos to those who were at one time caught in the fishermen’s nets and later got out.

Burnett: "The message ask Christians to take a good look at what’s going on and what philosophers such as you are actually saying."

If only Christians did take a good look at what I'm saying... Unfortunately they don't. Instead, they condemn it without considering it, because it comes from “the world,” and “the world” is bad, because it has been taken over by “Satan,” and Satan is an evil magic being.

Burnett: "Your argument is BOGUS and is not remotely factually relevant in any case."

My "argument" is simply that the bible aligns faith with hope (Hebrews 11:1 does this), and points out that the basis of reason is the primacy of existence principle, which means that one’s hopes has nothing to do with the reasoning process. Have you ever heard or used the statement “wishing doesn’t make it so”? Why do you think this statement is true? Or, do you really think that wishing makes it so? The believer ascribes supernatural powers to consciousness, powers which elevate it above its objects such that its objects conform to its dictates, just as we find throughout the bible attributed to its god. By contrast, reason is not founded either on wishing or on hopes (like biblical faith is). Its basis is perceptual input and its method is conceptual integration. The bible nowhere characterizes faith as operating on these bases; indeed its authors seem not to have even understood the reasoning process in any explicit, self-conscious manner. Where precisely is my argument "bogus"? To show that it is bogus you would have to challenge one of its premises. For instance, you would have to dissociate faith with hope. But this would entail an outright rejection of Hebrews 11:1. Or, you would have to say that the basis of reason is the primacy of consciousness view of reality. But to argue this would be utterly self-defeating. I'm guessing that you probably do not really understand my argument because you are completely unfamiliar with my philosophy. But that would only mean that when you call my philosophy "highly unreasonable and not practical," you're speaking from ignorance rather than from knowledge. I also suspect that you won’t seriously investigate the issues I’m talking about because they’re from the “evil world,” and by virtue of this origin they are, in your mind, summarily condemnable. But that just means you have a very difficult time thinking outside your fantasy. It is in fact a cognitive disability, then, which is behind such assessments as you give here.

Burnett: "I believe you like to just read your writing, because you say some of the silliest things like this:"

Quoting me: “And how does one come to the knowledge of Christ if not through the storybook of the bible?”

Burnett responds: "What the heck is that? . We need a book to have faith? Just look at the record,"

Notice that Burnett answers my question by appealing to a long list of citations from the storybook of the bible. To make his case that people learn about his Jesus by some means other than reading a storybook, he points to examples that we only know about from the storybook itself. This is unhelpful to his case and only confirms my case: Harvey Burnett came to his knowledge of Christ by reading about Christ in a storybook.

[snip NT references]

Burnett: "I could go on, but in no case do we see imagination, visualization or any metaphysical technique used, sought or implored by any NT Christian in response to the message they received."

Here Burnett completely misses the point while presenting himself as an example of the very problem in question. He seems to have the impression that the bible needs to portray its characters as explicitly appealing to imagination for my argument to hold. That's not the case, however. Believers themselves, like Burnett and millions of other Christians, demonstrate time and time and time again that they have no alternative but to rely on their own imaginations in their "walk with Christ." Confirming this conclusion is not only Harvey Burnett's appeal to the contents of the sacred storybook, but also his failure to identify the means by which he has awareness of his god (if his god were imaginary, he would not be able to identify any legitimate means of having awareness of the object he calls "God"). Nor does he articulate the chain of inference by which one can objectively and reliably conclude that his god is real.

Burnett: "The Preaching of the message is what inspires faith."

As I pointed out earlier, preachers typically rely very heavily on the imagery of the bible to frame their message. The preacher wants his hearers to be inspired all right. And what inspires faith if not imagination? The believer imagines that there is a god "back of" everything he observes in the world. It is within the fake environment of his imagination that the believer falls prey to the hope/fear complex that is vital to the biblical devotional program, for it is in his imagination that his god comes “alive”. The believer imagines that this god "became flesh"; he imagines that it was born as a human baby from a virginal woman in first century Palestine; he imagines that this baby grew into an adult and was baptized on the banks of the River Jordan; he imagines that this person performed miracles, feeding thousands from just a few fish and loaves of bread, turning water into wine, walking on water, curing the blind by spitting into their eyes, raising dead people, etc. The believer then imagines that this same person was crucified, died on a cross outside Jerusalem, sealed in a tomb and three days (or fewer) later was resurrected back to life again. The believer imagines that this person now resides on "the right hand of God," seated in the magic kingdom and looking down on all the people of the world, observing their choices and actions and judging their souls. The believer then imagines that his god is looking out for him, taking care of him, protecting him from evil supernatural spirits which infest the realm in which he exists. He imagines that it is in his god that he lives and moves and has his being. What inspires the believer to imagine these things? The stories in the bible of course. Imagining these stories and pretending that they are real is the substance of what the believer calls "spirituality." Its method is faith: hoping and also fearing that what one imagines is actually true when he knows it is not (for even believers will tell us that “wishing doesn’t make it so”). When all this is pointed out to the believer, he is angered, and yet not allowing himself to fully feel the anger (because it's "sin"). His resentment builds and builds and desperately seeks and outlet that can never satisfy; he can hardly contain it and lashes out at those who point it out to him. .

Burnett: "As I clearly and biblically stated, Faith consists of assurance, trust, knowledge, belief…all of them…everything I’ve said up until this point that’s what it is."

And as I've pointed out so many times already, the bible tells us that faith is informed by hoping, and yet Burnett consistently fails to integrate this fact in the understanding of faith that he wants to promulgate. The trust and belief that Burnett mentions here only come after the initial downpayment of hope in the imaginary has been deposited. He confuses the effect with the cause.

Burnett: "That assurance, confidence and trust does not bypass the faculty of the mind but IS NOT constructed in the mind as you suggest."

Actually the religious view short-circuits the mind by faking its nature. It leads believers to think that they can know something without having to perform the objective, epistemological processes necessary for acquiring and validating knowledge. This is why they are repeatedly told what to believe on a weekly basis, from their impressional youth on up.

I’m glad these aren’t my problems.

Regards,
Dawson

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

[I would like to say first that I made a mistake in my last post by saying,

“Burnett: “and as demonstrated we don’t apply faith in everday life as you absurdly suggest.”

I meant to say HOPE. Hope is simply a future expectation and I’ll thoroughly explain that because you seemed to have missed my point.

Faith is a daily walk. The Christian lives “by faith” meaning that we are guided by our beliefs daily. I also contend that this is based on reason and cognition and is not done out of imaginary imagery in any way. I’ll explain this

Let me clear up a few things first.]

Burner ~ “Actually, I didn’t “interpret” Hebrews 11:1, per se, not in this conversation anyway. I simply pointed out that Hebrews 11:1 links faith to hoping. I’ve had to point this out because you’ve been so eager to sidestep it in your attempts to disinterpret it.”

[So that the reader will have an understanding, I will render the correct understanding of NT faith again especially as it pertains to Heb. 11:1 to reveal the confusion of the article and your ongoing confusion. You say that

1- Faith is a derivative of hope
2- Hope is more or less “wishful thinking” built by mental imagery.
3- The Heb. 11:1 was really describing hope

Lets look at Heb. 11:1. It says

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

I have set forth that “substance” (Greek- Hupostasis)- meaning assurance which includes knowledge and trust

I have set forth that “hoped for” (Greek- Elpizo from Elpis) meaning my/our future expectation

I have set forth that “evidence” (Greek- Elegchos from Elegcho) meaning conviction

You have denied my claims primarily basing your understanding of biblical words on modern English and further simply say that faith is a metaphysical subjective world view that comes from hope and hope is equivalent to “wishful thinking” and therefore is not given to reason.]

Exa.1~ Burner~ “My "argument" is simply that the bible aligns faith with hope (Hebrews 11:1 does this), and points out that the basis of reason is the primacy of existence principle, which means that one’s hopes has nothing to do with the reasoning process.”

Exa. 2 ~Burner~ “The bible uses the word 'hope', not 'expectation'. The two are different concepts. Hoping certainly has more in common with wishing than expectation does.”

Exa. 3 ~ Burner ~ “Again, if Hebrews 11:1 is accurate, then this really isn't talking about faith, because faith according to Hebrews 11:1 is associated with hope, and this says nothing about hope.

Exa. 4 ~ Burner~ “Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason." Since "God" is supposed to be invisible (cf. I Tim. 1:17), it cannot be by means of perception that one can have awareness of it.”

[Heb. 11:1 clearly is speaking of faith. A a minimum you say they are associated. Let’s look at how they are accurately associated if so. A few interpretations and translations of this verse to determine accuracy.

Burnett Paraphrase – “Now faith is the assurance of future expectations, the confidence of what is not seen”

Let’s see some of the more commonly used translations:

RSV & NAS ~ “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of what is not seen”

NIV~ “Now faith is being sure of what is hoped for and certain of things not seen”

In the scripture faith is preceded by “Now” and rendered as “Now faith”. In simple terms faith deals with the current. Hope, as I have insisted, and as construction of the language confirms, deals with the future or expectation.

Further, the understanding is simple if the object is to be honest with the passage in any way. Faith has the primacy within the sentence.

Faith is the assurance (substance) and conviction (evidence) of a things hoped for (future expectation) These elements, substance and conviction describe faith NOT the other way around as you insist. Faith is the assurance and confidence of what one expects in the future. Contrary to your claim, faith sets the framework for hope.

Your misunderstanding of hope:]

Exa 5.Burner~ “The bible uses the word 'hope', not 'expectation'. The two are different concepts. Hoping certainly has more in common with wishing than expectation does.”

[The term “hoped for” is a Greek word Elpizo from Elpis which means anticipation, expectation or confidence. By contrast, the biblical word for “wish” was Euchomai. This verb was always used in conjunction with prayer and used to describe the particular element of blessing or prayer bestowed upon someone and was not used to describe the prayer itself. There is no biblical equivalent for our concept of “hope” as in the sentence, “I hope it rains tomorrow” or “I hope I get a million dollars one day” especially when there is no clouds in the sky, no rain in the forecast and the person has no job or means of income.

I simply submit that your assertion that hope “has more in common with wishing” is wrong and does not accurately describe what the Bible describes. The evidence is not favor your argument.

“confidence of things not seen”:

As evidenced from your presentation you take this portion of Heb. 11:1 to the metaphysical extreme as a reinforcement of the “imaginary” portion of your premise to make your point. This portion is often construed as pertaining to angles or spirit beings. This actually refers to what we physically do not see presently and carries no mystical meaning in context. This basically means that faith is the conviction of what I can’t yet observe.

Examples:

A home builder clears a plot of land. Nothing exists but his blueprints. Wouldn’t we expect the builder to have confidence that the home will be there for us to see if he follows the plan? Although the home is not seen yet other than in the blueprints, we have a future expectation.

An auto part manufacturer receives a piece of steel. Wouldn’t we expect the part manufacturer to have confidence in the fact that the correct part will exist if he follows the design plan?

I John 3: 3~ “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Christians purify themselves because we have a future expectation or hope. We do not “wonder” and are not in “doubt” as to what will be but we are confident of what the results will be.

1 Cor. 13:12 ~ "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."


How Is the Christian Assured and how does he/she “know”?

Although you use it to affirm your erroneous concept of metaphysical subjectivism, this is one of the better observations you make:]

Exa. 6~ Burner~ “Even if we construe faith in this manner (which ignores the element of hope which Hebrews 11:1 explicitly associates with faith), it says nothing about the means by which said "conviction of the truth of anything" is acquired or validated. Without attendance to this concern (and I don't find any in the bible; when I point this out to believers they typically retort that the bible is not a philosophy book)”

Exa. 7~ Burner~ “That is, unless, it is understood that "God and divine things" are "things hoped for," in which case, we would have to ask by what means the believer supposedly has awareness of such things.”

Exa. 8~ Burner~ “Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason." Since "God" is supposed to be invisible (cf. I Tim. 1:17), it cannot be by means of perception that one can have awareness of it. If the believer claims to have awareness of his god, can he identify the means by which he allegedly has this awareness, and can he explain how it can be reliably distinguished from his imagination?”

[This is where I cross paths with the MN crowd. I found this to respond best at what I’ve been trying to communicate:

“The Judeo-Christian worldview has an interesting twist in its content--the historical dimension. It says that the Ultimate Agent did something inside our non-ultimate history: that this Agent did something at a historical crucifixion, out of love and compassion for humans, which 'something' opens the way up for a relationship with Him; and that this relationship is desired by the Agent and is very profitable, satisfying, and beneficial for humans. ~ [Courtesy Christian-Thinktank.com]

[In other words, God has taken the initiative to reveal himself because this is an open, not closed, continuum. God has left a trail of evidences which cannot be simply overlooked or redefined. These evidences have been noted and documented both by them who have believed and those who were not believers.

Although we have a spiritual element or perceptions that naturalism and MN does not account for we ultimately “know” is by looking at the evidence. However everyone doesn’t start at that place and unfortunately some never make it to that place. Those are polemic issues and not an issue of hidden evidences.

About that spiritual element and our ability to “perceive”

As I contend MN does not account for the spiritual element or perceptions. This is easily observed when:

An individual walks into a room and determines that people have been discussing them…

Enters an empty room and feels that someone is there, only to find that someone is…

Looks across a crowded room and finds someone staring or looking at them because they “felt” someone looking…

These are spiritual perceptions that are not merely natural functions that each one of us have whether Christian or non-Christian. These perceptions are NOT faith, however they can assist and individual (depending upon their stage in journey) come to faith. This element can be turned off or denied through presuppositional bias against the supernatural but as you say, “denial doesn’t make it go away” it yet exists.

You claim is that faith is a product of hope (wishful thinking) and imagination, and is metaphysically subjective. The article claims that faith is incompatible with reason. That is the primary point and distinction.]

Exa. 9.~ Burner~ “We imagine what the story tells us to imagine. This gives the reader an inventory of images, and in the case of religious experience this inventory of images is the currency which informs its attending convictions, providing them with "substance" that makes them seem real and bankable as the object of hope. In the end, however, it's just the believer's imagination that has taken off on a flight of fantasy.”

Exa. 10~ Burner~ “And as I've pointed out so many times already, the bible tells us that faith is informed by hoping, and yet Burnett consistently fails to integrate this fact in the understanding of faith that he wants to promulgate. The trust and belief that Burnett mentions here only come after the initial down payment of hope in the imaginary has been deposited.”

I claim and have demonstrated that biblical faith consists of assurance, knowledge and trust and is not born or produced of metaphysical reality. I further claim that faith is rooted in reason. I will also say this that saving faith occurs under many circumstances. Some cognitive, some despairing, some emotionally high, some from fear, etc. But faith does not simply “stand still” The Christian grows in faith.

To distinguish some differences I note that it appears that we both agree that there are two kinds of faith identified. 1- faith, as in the general Christian faith and 2- faith that is a result of belief that leads to what Christians call personal salvation.

I claim that Christian faith is both reasoned and cognitive. I offer the following information in support:

-"Faith" or "belief" is an attitude of holistic, personal commitment toward the truthfulness of a cognitive position;
-A "cognitive position" has arguments/evidence for its truthfulness and against its truthfulness.
-This commitment to the 'position' is based on an simple evaluation of these pro's and con's relative to the position. If the arguments FOR the position "seem" stronger than the arguments AGAINST the position, then one has 'some level of obligation' to make a commitment to the position (i.e., accept it as being true, believing in its factuality). There is a different (in epistemology) between 'adequate evidence' to believe something (which makes it ethical to believe a certain position, but does not obligate one to do so), and 'compelling evidence' (which makes it un-ethical to NOT believe a position). [Courtesy Christian-thinktank.com]

As I have stated faith is cognitive and is based on an individual making a conscience decision, an exercising reason both in saving faith and in the faith life in general. Contrary to what you say Christianity is not some subversion of the mind.


You said faith is the opposite of reason. You introduced an author who says this:

Exa. 11 ~ Burner~ "Not if “Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding... faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 88)

Exa. 12~ “You also said. “Also, not if “faith is the substance of things hoped for...” (Heb. 11:1). Obviously, the basis of faith according to the bible is hope, not reason.”
Since I already put this one down I’ll deal with you and your author’s understanding of understanding vs. knowledge that I said is an element of all faith.

I thought that was interesting because you didn’t catch what your author actually said or you did catch it but hoped (as most anti-Christ advocates do) that noone was able to catch it, Your author said, “faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.”

For the record, knowledge and understanding are two different things.

“Knowledge”- 1- Understanding gained by actual experience, 2-Range of information. 3- Clear perception of truth, 4- Something learned and kept in the mind, 5-Acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art or technique. [Mirriam-Websters Dictionary and Thesaurus 2006 pg. 599]

“Understanding” – 1- To grasp the meaning of, comprehend, 2- to have thorough technical acquaintance with or expertise in, 3-to have reason to believe, 4- Interpret, 5- to have a sympathetic attitude, 6- To accept as settled, 7-To believe or infer something to be the case. [Mirriam-Websters Dictionary and Thesaurus 2006 pg. 1124]

I simply stated that faith and reason are compatible and includes the elements of knowledge, assurance and trust. The elements of cognition as specified in the bible include spatial awareness, choice and class distinctions, conversational awareness all elements of the decision making including hearing, listening and responding. Faith is cognitive not imaginary or developed from imagination.

To you, what is reason? Is reason cognition? Is cognition fully understanding a thing, (no matter what it is) before you proceed in faith or what you call “chosen action guided by reason”? You only said that in order to remove yourself from any spiritual connotations. For the record, “a rose is a rose by any other name it smells just as sweet.”

You and your author say that faith is “precondition to proper understanding” That statement is patently false and is unsupported by any evidence.

You also said “faith precedes knowledgeable understanding” I believe that statement is correct in certain instances or if the situation dictates it.

I’ve contended from the beginning, that one does not have to “know it all” or “understand” before faith can be exercised and that faith works together with reason and includes, knowledge, assurance and trust as demonstrated by the examples within the biblical narrative, the use of the language, and the discovery that knowledge is cognitive process and as exercised in the Christian worldview is based on reason.


You have filled your dialogue with a number of things that are not on point and that I will not debate in this thread, but as you have made wrong assessments, I’ll make the correct ones.

Examples:

Rand’s arguments: I, as others, have stated simply say that Rand’s writings offer bad ideas when carried out to there conclusions. Her whole “selfish” and self worship stance are disingenuous to society and add no positive dimension to this discussion. We are not debating her other than I make observations that can easily be confirmed.

Mysticism: You have consistently said that the bible is a “magic book” which cannot be substantiated, as there are no “spells” or incantations cited, The “mystery” in the bible did not mean mysticism, it meant that it was “unknown” to certain individuals or people. There was no element of mysticism.

Folklore: Folksy, which was R. Bultmann’s baby and the love of many form critics until the last 3 to 4 decades when interdisciplinary studies debunked most of his false assumptions about both oral history, oral tradition, and genre of the biblical literature.

Confusion between faith and knowledge: You offer the James passage where satan is said to “believe” and tremble. The context is clearly that satan “knows” and is fearful as a result of his knowledge. In other words the “faith” or knowledge that satan exercises is not equivalent in any manner with the “saving faith” or the “Christian faith” in general.

Exa. 13~ Burner~ “. The believer then imagines that his god is looking out for him, taking care of him, protecting him from evil supernatural spirits which infest the realm in which he exists. He imagines that it is in his god that he lives and moves and has his being. What inspires the believer to imagine these things? The stories in the bible of course. Imagining these stories and pretending that they are real is the substance of what the believer calls "spirituality." Its method is faith: hoping and also fearing that what one imagines is actually true when he knows it is not (for even believers will tell us that “wishing doesn’t make it so”).

[Mental Imagery: Your “folksy” concepts have led you to emphasize that the bible was filled with “mental imagery” and that the mental imagery shapes belief. I have demonstrated that before a Bible existed people were exercising faith, and following Christ at the word and evidence of history and the resurrection. You further say:]

Exa. 14~ Burner~ “Harvey Burnett came to his knowledge of Christ by reading about Christ in a storybook”

Although this is supposedly and ad-homonim to reduce my credibility, it is also a false and inaccurate statement. I came to faith COGNITIVELY before I read the bible. I’ve increased my faith through further research and cognition since.

I’ll conclude with this a portion of your final tirade which shows your emotion as it pertains to the bible and biblical truth. I will first say that I’m sorry that you were messed up this bad:

Exa. 15~ Burner~ “When all this is pointed out to the believer, he is angered, and yet not allowing himself to fully feel the anger (because it's "sin"). His resentment builds and builds and desperately seeks and outlet that can never satisfy; he can hardly contain it and lashes out at those who point it out to him.”

[Unfortunately you misunderstand again, the Bible actually says, Eph. 4:26 ~ “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” Anger does not make one sin. Holding it and resentment will lead to it.]

Exa. 16~ Burner~ “Actually the religious view short-circuits the mind by faking its nature. It leads believers to think that they can know something without having to perform the objective, epistemological processes necessary for acquiring and validating knowledge. This is why they are repeatedly told what to believe on a weekly basis, from their impressional youth on up.”

[ No the Christian responds to his faith by seeking fellowship with others and COGNITIVE learning as directed by scripture. Heb. 10:24 ~ “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” In other words FAITH and REASON are compatible.]

The initial observation was that faith and reason are incompatible. I have demonstrated otherwise.

This is done so that the reader won't be further duped and confused by your obtuse and erroneous rants against Christianity. Thank you.

Done!

Bahnsen Burner said...

Burner ~ “Actually, I didn’t “interpret” Hebrews 11:1, per se, not in this conversation anyway. I simply pointed out that Hebrews 11:1 links faith to hoping. I’ve had to point this out because you’ve been so eager to sidestep it in your attempts to disinterpret it.”

Burnett: “So that the reader will have an understanding, I will render the correct understanding of NT faith again especially as it pertains to Heb. 11:1 to reveal the confusion of the article and your ongoing confusion. You say that

1- Faith is a derivative of hope
2- Hope is more or less “wishful thinking” built by mental imagery.
3- The Heb. 11:1 was really describing hope”

I did not say these things. Rather, it’s more like the following:

1. Hebrews 11:1 links faith to hoping (it does this explicitly)
2. Hope has more in common to wishing than it does to expecting (I explained this already; besides, Hebrews 11:1 does not say “expectation,” it says “hope”)
3. By linking faith with hoping, Hebrews 11:1 removes all doubt about the faith-reason antithesis, since hoping has nothing to do with the reasoning process of the human mind.

In connection with point 2 above, I’m reminded of John Frame’s telling admission in his book Apologetics to the Glory of God:

"a person with a wish to be fulfilled is often on the road to belief." (p. 37)

Burnett quoted Hebews 11:1 for us: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

Burnett: “I have set forth that “substance” (Greek- Hupostasis)- meaning assurance which includes knowledge and trust”

So faith involves trust in what one hopes for (as opposed to what one discovers and validates by means of reason). You’re making my points for me. Thank you.

Burnett: “I have set forth that “hoped for” (Greek- Elpizo from Elpis) meaning my/our future expectation”

And I’ve already corrected this. Expectation and hope are two different things; Hebrews 11:1 uses the word ‘hope’, not ‘expectation’. We can expect something to be the case without hoping that it will be the case, and we can hope that something is the case without expecting that it actually will be. This only underscores the fact that the two are not interchangeable, as Burnett seems to think. Burnett wants to replace Hebrews 11:1’s use of “hope” with “expect” in order to dissociate faith from the obvious connotations that hope elicits. This is a blatant move to tone down the overt and unmistakable subjectivism of faith.

Burnett: “I have set forth that “evidence” (Greek- Elegchos from Elegcho) meaning conviction”

This does not speak against any of my points.

Burnett: “You have denied my claims primarily basing your understanding of biblical words on modern English”

This is a common tactic used by apologists, and only signifies that the apologist invoking it is on the ropes. It’s like saying “your criticisms are invalid because you assume the words that the bible use have meanings that you understand.” It simply doesn’t fly. Our English-translation bibles were not poorly translated. But Burnett essentially wants to say that “hope” does not mean “hope.” This is actually an example of Device 3 (logocide) at work.

Burnett: “and further simply say that faith is a metaphysical subjective world view that comes from hope and hope is equivalent to “wishful thinking” and therefore is not given to reason.”

Hope is not reason, this much is clear. Whether Burnett wants to acknowledge this or not is ultimately up to Burnett. I have pointed out that hopes are irrelevant to reason, for reason has to do with identifying and integrating the facts we gather through our awareness of the world, and hopes have no bearing on the identify of those facts or on the process by which we identify and integrate those facts into the sum of our knowledge. But Burnett does not care about incidental details like this. Like any mystic, facts can be wished away as contingent variables that ultimately have no relevance to larger concerns, like “spirituality” or lifelong efforts to please an invisible magic being that he worships in the fake environment of his imagination.

Burnett: “Heb. 11:1 clearly is speaking of faith.”

Yes, it is. It’s also clearly speaking about hope, too. It links faith with hope.

Burnett: “A a minimum you say they are associated.”

Not I. Hebrews 11:1 says this. I’m simply pointing this out.

Burnett: “Let’s look at how they are accurately associated if so.”

If we go by Hebrews 11:1 to tell us what the bible means by faith, there’s no “if so” here. Its association of faith with hope is explicit and unmistakable. But this doesn’t sit well with Burnett, because he knows this is fatally detrimental to the view that faith is compatible with reason.

Burnett: “A few interpretations and translations of this verse to determine accuracy.”

Burnett then gives his own newfangled translation of Hebrews 11:1, one which he pulls out of his back pocket expressly for its salient expedience in evading the overt subjectivism signified by a proper translation.

Burnett’s translation of Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of future expectations, the confidence of what is not seen”

Notice how he takes the liberty of swapping out “hoped for” which appears in every other translation, with “future expectations.” I have already spoken to the interchangeability of hope and expectation that Burnett illicitly presumes. He has not dealt with my points, nor does he give any reason why we should prefer his translation of Hebrews 11:1 over those produced by Greek-language experts who carefully made sure that their English version corresponded as accurately as possible with the Greek NT.

Burnett then quoted some other translations of Hebrews 11:1. Notice how none of them swap out ‘hope’ in preference for ‘expectation’ as he has done in his own maverick translation of the same passage:

RSV & NAS ~ “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of what is not seen”

NIV~ “Now faith is being sure of what is hoped for and certain of things not seen”

Look at a couple others:

NLT: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

CEV: “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.”

Every English translation that I know of, with the sole exception of the Burnett version, link faith with hoping. If non-believers took the liberty of retranslating the bible in order to make it conform more expediently with their criticisms of the Christian worldview, how well would this go over with defenders of the faith like Burnett?

Burnett: “In the scripture faith is preceded by “Now” and rendered as “Now faith”.”

Yes, but let’s be careful not to base our understanding of biblical words on modern English ;)

Burnett: “In simple terms faith deals with the current. Hope, as I have insisted, and as construction of the language confirms, deals with the future or expectation.”

It may of course have to deal with the future, but it is not simply an expected future. It is a desired future, a future one hopes for, not simply expects. The believer is prompted over and over throughout the NT to wish for “God’s plan” – particularly as it is promised to vindicate believers and their plight as such – to “come to pass.” Expecting that it will is of little relevance once one’s hopes are set on it and his imagination takes primacy over anything that an objective process would validate.

Burnett: “Further, the understanding is simple if the object is to be honest with the passage in any way. Faith has the primacy within the sentence.”

If one is going to be honest about what Hebrews 11:1 says faith is, he is not going to try to revise it to say something it does not say, as Burnett has attempted to do several times now. Notice not only how I am only going by what Hebrews 11:1 does say, but also that Burnett needs to retranslate Hebrews 11:1 in order to soften its subjectivist implications.

Burnett: “As evidenced from your presentation you take this portion of Heb. 11:1 to the metaphysical extreme as a reinforcement of the “imaginary” portion of your premise to make your point.”

I’m not sure what Burnett means by “metaphysical extreme” here, but it’s clear to me that what we hope for has no bearing on the identify of the objects we perceive in the world or on the cognitive process by which we identify and integrate what we perceive into the sum of our knowledge. In other words, what we hope for (cf. Hebrews 11:1) and what we “expect” in the future (Burnett), are irrelevant to reason. This is the case because of the primacy of existence: things are what they are independent of consciousness. If I hope that Geusha subdues invisible evil spirits that I imagine in my midst and rescues my soul upon my death, this is irrelevant to what things in the world really are and what will actually happen, as well as to the epistemological method by which I can securely discover what things in the world really and what will actually happen. If I command Mt. Hood to cast itself into the Pacific Ocean and expect that it will do so on my command, does reason recalibrate itself so that I can reliably suppose that this will happen? Obviously not. Our hopes (and Burnett’s burning expectations) are irrelevant to reason. Faith is the preference for what one hopes for (or in Burnett’s newfangled translation, one’s future expectations) over reason, thus seating faith squarely on the primacy of consciousness view of reality and giving the primacy of existence principle the snub. This is why thinkers have historically pointed out that faith and reason are at odds with each other.

Burnett: “This actually refers to what we physically do not see presently”

If one does not “physically” see the alleged objects in question (e.g., gods, angels, devils, demons and other spooks), then is Burnett suggesting that there is some other mode of “seeing” by which one can have direct awareness of these things? Believers very typically try to pass themselves off as having some divinely endowed faculty by which they do have awareness of things that are said to be “supernatural” as part of being a “new creature in Christ” (cf. II Cor. 5:17). It’s often interesting to compare what one believer says to what another says in this respect, for, in my experience, they never agree unless they’re together and able to coordinate their claims according to the fiction they share with one another. But here’s the rub for people like Burnett: if they claim that they do have such a faculty, and claim to be able to “see” these alleged objects in a manner distinct from “physically” seeing (i.e., by using one’s eyes), how does he distinguish this alleged mode of awareness from his imagination?

As I have asked theists on numerous occasions before, what would keep a person from positing the existence of something which we would need some additional mode of awareness which we do not have? Even if we had 150 different sense modalities (as opposed to the five which we do have), one could easily come along and assert the existence of something for which we’d need some 151st sense modality to perceive, a modality which we would be lacking. The theist asserts the existence of a god, angels, demons, devils, supernatural realms (e.g., heaven, hell, etc.) and other things that we do not perceive. He says that they are real. He does not explain how he has awareness of them, beyond pointing to “revelation” (which is ultimately euphemistic for taking seriously the contents of a storybook). Nor does he explain how we can reliably distinguish between these things he calls “supernatural” and what he may in fact only be imagining. Burnett is no different here. He’s just another imaginer who has placed his hopes in the fake environment of a fiction he shares with other believers, and who expects us to take that fake environment seriously, just as he does, even though he gives us no good reason to suppose it is not imaginary.

Burnett: “...and carries no mystical meaning in context.”

Of course, this depends on what we mean by “mystical.” By the definition of ‘mystical’ that my worldview teaches, it is surely very mystical.

Burnett: “This basically means that faith is the conviction of what I can’t yet observe.”

Statements like this are too ambiguous for their own good. On this reading, I could construe faith as follows: I do not observe Hank, a garbage man in the Bronx, and yet Hank has the conviction that if his boss does not give him a raise by the end of the day, he’s going to pull out a revolver and blow him away. Because the above explication of faith is so open-ended, it could easily refer to this conviction of Hank, because I cannot observe Hank. What makes definitions like this (such as we find in Hebrews 11:1), is that it attempts to define without an understanding of essentials. It attempts to make whether or not something has been observed essential to distinguishing the thing being defined. But why would this be essential to the nature of something? There’s only one explanation why: it is attempting to keep the believer off balance. If he’s observed something, then it’s not of faith (cf. Romans 8:24). In other words, if he has direct awareness of a thing, such that he can observe it, it cannot be of faith. Contrast this with reason, which recognizes the essentialness of our capacity to observe things firsthand to our ability to discover and validate knowledge about reality. Again, faith and reason are found antithetical. Nothing Burnett gives us gives good cause to doubt this analysis.

I’ll have to close for now as I have some things to take care of. I’ll review the rest of Burnett’s comments later, and if I have any more comments to make in response to them, they’ll have to wait.

Regards,
Dawson

Bruce said...

I don't really follow the arguments about hope vs expectation in Heb 11:1.

NIV: “Now faith is being sure of what is hoped for and certain of things not seen”.

IMHO this verse certainly links faith to hoping. BUT it is not a direct link.

Faith isn't the hoping, and the verse never says it is. Faith is "being sure", and being "certain" of the things that are hoped for.

The real question here is why faith makes Christians certain that the things Christians hope for will happen.

The original argument about faith and reason seems absurd to me. It presents faith and reason as diametrically opposed to each other - and yet with very little to back up this assertion.

There seems to be no realization that faith can rest on a layer of reason, as it does for most believers. That layer of reason may not entirely justify the Christian's beliefs, but that's why we need faith - to bridge the gap between what we can reason and what we believe.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Here are some more thoughts in response to Burnett's last reply to me.

Burnett quoted I John 3: 3: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Burnett reacted to this, saying: “Christians purify themselves because we have a future expectation or hope.”

It’s interesting that a Christian would affirm that he purifies himself, when elsewhere in the bible we read that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). I would think that a more biblically consistent position would be that Christ purifies the believer. I John 3:3 is another of those verses whose effect is to keep the believer internally confused and off balance as to what his responsibility is in the Christian devotional program. On Burnett’s reading, this verse openly applies to non-Christians as well, if in fact it is to be taken as a truth principle. If I “have a future expectation” (such as that I will go grocery shopping tomorrow, my wife will receive the printing paper that she ordered on the web last night, or that my boss will return to work from his vacation on Tuesday, etc.), then I’m “purifying” myself. How exactly does this work? Don’t ask, just believe it. Expecting something to take place somehow purifies the person who does the expecting. No explanation is given as to how expecting something to happen will purify a person. In fact, it makes much more sense if we understand I John 3:3 as speaking in code, refraining to say what is really expected to take place in the psychology of the believer. The “hope” referred to here actually has in mind the believer’s emotional investment in the imaginary realm of the shared fiction of Christian belief. This is corroborated by statements inserted into Jesus’ mouth in the gospels. In Mt. 6:21 Jesus is made to say that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and that believers should “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mt. 6:20). The believer, under the fear of a most dreadful but entirely imaginary alternative, invests his hopes in an equally imaginary realm that he is expected to believe exists on the other side of the boundary, which is itself equally imaginary.

Burnett: “We do not “wonder” and are not in “doubt” as to what will be but we are confident of what the results will be.”

When expected outcomes are wholly informed by the context provided by the fake environment of one’s imagination, of course he’s not going to admit to wondering about it. He does have doubts, but he suppresses them, trying to hide his worry over persisting doubts from himself, typically by distracting himself with other matters (which are strategically put into place by the devotional program). When those outcomes never materialize, the devotional program provides plenty of avenues for rationalizing this. But at that point, he’s not trying to convince anyone but himself.

Burnett quoted the “Christian Thinktank”: “The Judeo-Christian worldview has an interesting twist in its content--the historical dimension. It says that the Ultimate Agent did something inside our non-ultimate history: that this Agent did something at a historical crucifixion, out of love and compassion for humans, which 'something' opens the way up for a relationship with Him; and that this relationship is desired by the Agent and is very profitable, satisfying, and beneficial for humans. ~ [Courtesy Christian-Thinktank.com]

In response to this, Burnett summarized: “In other words, God has taken the initiative to reveal himself because this is an open, not closed, continuum. God has left a trail of evidences which cannot be simply overlooked or redefined. These evidences have been noted and documented both by them who have believed and those who were not believers.”

Burnett seems oblivious to the fact that one could make these kinds of statements about any imaginary being, which puts his own god on equal footing with such things as Ahura Mazda, Allah, Geusha, Blarko, Horus, Moleculo the Nismitt, etc. Just as Burnett believes about his own god, the Geusha-believer believes that Geusha “has left a trail of evidences which cannot be simply overlooked or redefined.” And just as Burnett would likely condemn the Geusha-believer for being deluded or mislead by false doctrine, the Geusha-believer condemns Burnett and his ilk for being deluded and mislead by false doctrine. Any thing construed as “evidence” for the Christian god can just as easily be construed as evidence for any invisible magic being one dreams up. The Geusha-believer could point to things written by non-Geusha-believers and say “Look, even non-Geusha-believers attest to this evidence!” In the end, we have in both an appeal to the imaginary mistaken as reality.

Burnett: “Although we have a spiritual element or perceptions that naturalism and MN does not account for”

I’d like to see Burnett develop this point. How does he know that “naturalism and MN does [sic] not account for” what he considers to be “a spiritual element or perceptions”? He may find that the “account for” these things is staring him in the face: it’s called imagination. I doubt even Burnett would contest the fact that human beings have the ability to imagine things that are not real. And given this ability, and also given the fact that most worldviews in the intellectual marketplace of history have consistently defaulted on the issue of metaphysical primacy, it is no stretch whatsoever to suppose that many people have erred in their cognition by mistaking what they imagine for what is actual. We find this in Christianity all over the place. And the explanation is quite straightforward, requiring us nowhere to assert the existence of something that cannot be verified, and accessible to virtually any adult thinker who is honest to his nature as a human being. So why suppose that “naturalism and MN” cannot “account for” what the religionist takes as “spirituality”?

Burnett: “we ultimately “know” is by looking at the evidence.”

I’d like to see what Burnett considers as “evidence” of his god’s existence, and how exactly this evidence points to his god (not only as opposed to some other imaginary being, but also to just serving as evidence of itself and nothing “supernatural” whatsoever).

Burnett: “However everyone doesn’t start at that place and unfortunately some never make it to that place.”

Burnett makes it sound as if one could find his god at the end of an inference made from facts discovered in the world. If he thinks this, I’d really like to see a blow-by-blow of how this supposedly works.

Burnett: “Those are polemic issues and not an issue of hidden evidences.”

I’m not sure what Burnett meant here, but I’d look forward to his elaboration.

Burnett: “About that spiritual element and our ability to “perceive””

Yes, what about these?

Burnett: “As I contend MN does not account for the spiritual element or perceptions.”

See above. If Burnett thinks he “perceives” his god, I’d like to know how this supposedly works. What faculty does he possess which gives him awareness of his god? How does he distinguish it from his imagination? In what form does this mode of awareness give him that awareness? Burnett nowhere elaborates on these points.

Burnett: “This is easily observed when: An individual walks into a room and determines that people have been discussing them…”

People can discuss all kinds of things. They can even discuss fictions. So? Surely Burnett would agree that we need a way to distinguish between fiction and fact, wouldn’t he?

Burnett: “Enters an empty room and feels that someone is there, only to find that someone is…”

This is vague and circumstantial. Was the room that the individual entered actually empty? Empty exactly of what? I’ve been in a lot of rooms, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room that is completely empty. Even rooms in a vacant house have air in it. Was it a case of simple err? Was a person in that room but initially the individual entering it did not see that person? Or, was it a “feeling” such as Van Til tells us about in his autobiographical account of his conversion to Christianity, in which he clearly imagined that a fearsome person was present when in fact no one was there? (See Van Til’s Why I Believe in God.)

Burnett: “Looks across a crowded room and finds someone staring or looking at them because they “felt” someone looking…”

And this is supposed to be “evidence” of the supernatural? Burnett acts as if such “feelings” as he describes are infallible indicators of what he himself may in fact be imagining to be the case.

Burnett: “These are spiritual perceptions that are not merely natural functions that each one of us have whether Christian or non-Christian.”

Without more information, the examples which Burnett describes appear to be cases where an individual perceives actually existing things, but identifies it as something supernatural, or attributes the causality to his perceiving it or his understanding of what it is to some supernatural source. I’ve seen this kind of thing a lot myself. Many people want to believe in “the supernatural,” and are eager to find “evidence” in their experience of the world that somehow validates their subjective presumption that “the supernatural” is real. Before I became a Christian in 1991, I was heavily involved in tarot. The parallels to both experiences are hard to miss. The involvement of imagination in both pursuits is incontestable.

Burnett: “These perceptions are NOT faith,”

Indeed, perception has nothing to do with faith. Perception is the autonomic integration of sensations. We perceive long before we are capable of hoping or imagining anything, so clearly perceiving is much more fundamental to human cognition than anything as abstract as identifying a thing as indicative of another realm. But what would keep a person inclined to grant validity to the notion of “the supernatural” from imagining that what he has perceived somehow counts as evidence of “the supernatural”? Burnett does not say.

Burnett: “however they can assist and individual (depending upon their stage in journey) come to faith.”

In other words, if the potential believer is advanced enough in adducing what he perceives as evidence for the fake environment of his imagination, he may very well be correct in interpreting his perceptions in this manner. Of course, Burnett builds a caveat into the mix here. If the individual construes his perceptual experience as evidence for Geusha (a non-Christian deity), then obviously he’s on the wrong path or trying to draw conclusions prematurely. Either way, Burnett is covered here, given his parenthetical release clause.

I wrote, quoting Greg Bahnsen: "Not if “Faith is the precondition of a proper understanding... faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 88)

Burnett: “For the record, knowledge and understanding are two different things.”

Even if this is the case, it doesn’t seem to matter since Bahnsen insists that “faith precedes knowledgeable understanding.” In dong so, he very much seems to be putting faith before both knowledge and understanding.

[Skip Burnett’s irrelevant citation of non-philosophical definitions of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’.]

Burnett: “I simply stated that faith and reason are compatible and includes the elements of knowledge, assurance and trust.”

If faith is essentially belief (as Burnett has claimed on several occasions in this thread), and it comes before knowledgeable understanding, as Bahnsen (a notable Christian apologist hailed for his expertise) claims, then, logically, faith is an act of believing something before one has knowledgeable understanding of what it is he is believing. That’s the only way to read this, given these premises. And this is surely not compatible with reason. If one thinks this is compatible with reason, he doesn’t understand what reason is.

Burnett: “The elements of cognition as specified in the bible include spatial awareness, choice and class distinctions, conversational awareness all elements of the decision making including hearing, listening and responding.”

I’d like to see where the bible lays out this information about cognition. Remember that the bible is a compilation of writings by numerous authors whose lives were hundreds of years apart. Each writer demonstrates different degrees of understanding and also different viewpoints on the same matter. (The meaning of faith in the New Testament is just one example of this problem.) I have a very intimate knowledge of the NT especially, and I find nothing in there which speaks directly to the nature of cognition, and what can be construed about human cognition in the NT occurs when it is condemning man (such as “the wisdom of men” and “the wisdom of the world,” which the apostle Paul obviously scorned). The bible nowhere gives the impression that we can conclude its “truths” through cognitive interaction with the world about us. If we could do this, the bible itself would ultimately be unnecessary. Its “truths” are dependent on narratives and events which the reader is expected to accept as historical. How does the Christian know that Noah got his instructions to build an ark from a supernatural source? He read it in a storybook. How does he know that Jesus taught in parables and performed miracles? He read it in a storybook. Knowledge which can be acquired and validated by means of reason does not apply. Why believe that a man was resurrected back to life after being dead for a couple days, especially when firsthand evidence tells us that when an organism expires, it remains expired? Well, the believer read that this happened in a storybook, and on that basis, why care what we discover about biological organisms through the application of reason?

Burnett: “Faith is cognitive not imaginary or developed from imagination.”

On the contrary, faith is non-cognitive; it foregoes the use of reason as I have explained above. Faith is the believer’s license to ignore the evidence of his senses as the primary input informing knowledge of reality in preference for imaginative content, inspired by stories he reads in a book to which he confers a sacred status, as if that imaginative content were not simply true, but also of primary importance to anything he does perceive in the world.

Burnett: “You and your author say that faith is “precondition to proper understanding” That statement is patently false and is unsupported by any evidence.”

So Burnett disagrees with Bahnsen. Here’s another instance of believer vs. believer. Which one’s right? One makes a statement, the other says his “statement is patently false and is unsupported by any evidence,” and yet he offers no good evidence to suppose that statement is false or unsupported.

Burnett: “You have filled your dialogue with a number of things that are not on point and that I will not debate in this thread, but as you have made wrong assessments, I’ll make the correct ones.”

Okay, let’s look at them.

Burnett: “Rand’s arguments: I, as others, have stated simply say that Rand’s writings offer bad ideas when carried out to there conclusions.”

Can you give an example of what you consider to be a “bad idea” of Rand’s, and explain why it’s “bad”? Perhaps the following was meant to be an example:

Burnett: “Her whole “selfish” and self worship stance are disingenuous to society”

They are? How? Which society? Society of what, if not a society of individuals? Apparently you think the group is more important than the individual, is that the case? Or, do you have something else in mind? Why would it matter to you if someone is selfish? Now, it seems that the Christian could not suppose that there is anything morally objectionable to selfishness per se, since he worships a being which is absolutely selfish. Christians simply don’t like it when human beings are selfish, and yet why are Christians so eager to be their god’s good side, if not so that they can enjoy something and not experience something unpleasant? Christians who condemn selfishness are in fact being utterly hypocritical. But one thing that such critics of Rand miss is that Rand did not advocate merely selfishness, but rational selfishness. Her detractors typically miss this part, which is often brushed aside as an incidental nuance. It shows what kind of regard they have for rationality.

Burnett: “and add no positive dimension to this discussion.”

Well, I’d agree that you’ve not added anything positive to this portion of our discussion at least. Your criticisms of Rand are vague, undeveloped and probably woefully misinformed. We’ll know better on this last part if you decide to produce something resembling an argument.

Burnett: “We are not debating her other than I make observations that can easily be confirmed.”

Well, if your observations are easily confirmed, then why don’t you try? Hopefully it’s just more than simply that you disagree with Rand. Religionists throughout history have disparaged selfishness primarily because they want people predisposed to sacrificing themselves to others. Burnett, as a religionist, apparently disparages selfishness. But why? His only explanation so far seems to be that selfishness is “disingenuous to society,” though it’s not clear what that means, nor is it clear why he thinks this is the case. I live and work side by side with other selfish human beings everywhere I go; they tend to their own affairs while I tend to mine. The apostle Paul exhorted to his readers: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). Of course, I do not follow this teaching, and I’m glad my neighbors don’t as well. The last thing I’d want is for someone else to come over and try to manage my bank book, my bills, my mortgage, my daughter’s well-being, my wife’s needs, my needs, etc. And of course, I have no interest whatsoever in going over to my neighbor and trying to manage his business. I neither sacrifice myself to others, nor seek to gain from the sacrifices of others. This is what Rand meant by selfishness. It is this, then, that Burnett seems to think is “disingenuous to society.” He would prefer that my neighbor barge into my home and try to manage my affairs and that I barge into my neighbor’s home and try to manage his. No thanks. I want no part of the “great society” that Burnett must have in mind.

Burnett: “Mysticism: You have consistently said that the bible is a “magic book””

I nowhere used the expression “magic book” – I checked, and don’t see any place where I called the bible this. It’s not my style, nor is it my view that the bible is a “magic book.” It’s a book of fiction like so many others – e.g., Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, etc. I don’t think the bible is magical. On the contrary, its stories involve invisible beings which possess magical abilities. There’s a difference. It’s a storybook claiming to come from a magical source.

Burnett: “which cannot be substantiated as there are no “spells” or incantations cited,”

A storybook does not need to affirm spells or incantations in order for its fictions to involve magical beings. But the bible does have plenty to offer in this regard. Spells and incantations are essentially verbal forms of communing with magical sources. If prayer does not fit this category, nothing does. Prayer is the believer’s attempt to commune with an invisible magic being. It’s a one-sided dialogue, as any dialogue with an imaginary friend can only be.

Burnett: “The “mystery” in the bible did not mean mysticism, it meant that it was “unknown” to certain individuals or people. There was no element of mysticism.”

The bible is wholly mystical in its content. Belief in the supernatural is a species of mysticism, and belief in the supernatural is integral to the content of the bible.

In probing the question of whether faith and believe are essentially the same thing, I quoted James James 2:19 which states: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” I then asked:

Would the Christian say that the devils therefore also have faith in that same god? I’m betting not.

Burnett: “Confusion between faith and knowledge: You offer the James passage where satan is said to “believe” and tremble. The context is clearly that satan “knows” and is fearful as a result of his knowledge. In other words the “faith” or knowledge that satan exercises is not equivalent in any manner with the “saving faith” or the “Christian faith” in general.”

Notice how Burnett’s answer brings out another duplicity in the notion of faith. He clearly aligns the devils’ belief mentioned in James with faith, but then hastens to distinguish this type of faith from “the ‘saving faith’ or the ‘Christian faith’ in general.” As I had pointed out before, treating faith as interchangeable with belief is not biblical. If faith involves belief, it is always going to be belief plus something else, something unspecified, something we’re all supposed to just know, in the context of the meaning of faith that is distinctive for the believer. At work here is Device 3. As Cohen points out, there are

“two strategies of logocide in operation, the first working by burdening the words with a profusion of abstruse meanings and the second, by phasing out the unwanted words – those with implications deleterious to mind-control – and letting them disappear. In both of these the words are deflated, their value in articulate speech reduced. (The Mind of the Bible-Believer, p. 204)

Logocide allows the believer to play loose with the meanings of key words in order to allow for contradictory positions in his worldview. Cohen goes on to show how the Christian notion of “grace” is a prime example of this (cf. pp. 204-205).


I wrote: “The believer then imagines that his god is looking out for him, taking care of him, protecting him from evil supernatural spirits which infest the realm in which he exists. He imagines that it is in his god that he lives and moves and has his being. What inspires the believer to imagine these things? The stories in the bible of course. Imagining these stories and pretending that they are real is the substance of what the believer calls "spirituality." Its method is faith: hoping and also fearing that what one imagines is actually true when he knows it is not (for even believers will tell us that “wishing doesn’t make it so”).”

Burnett: “Mental Imagery: Your “folksy” concepts have led you to emphasize that the bible was filled with “mental imagery” and that the mental imagery shapes belief. I have demonstrated that before a Bible existed people were exercising faith, and following Christ at the word and evidence of history and the resurrection.”

This misses the point. Reading the bible is not a precondition to being able to imagine. The authors of the documents which eventually made their way into the biblical canon were, just as we are today, also capable of imagining things, and – if their worldview did not teach them the fundamentals of distinguishing between what they imagine and what is real (where does the bible attend to this issue?) – were also capable of confusing what they imagine with what is real. They failed to separate the imaginary from the real (and their stories attest to this), and so do believers today. It’s a generational continuity here.

I wrote: “Harvey Burnett came to his knowledge of Christ by reading about Christ in a storybook”

Burnett: “Although this is supposedly and ad-homonim to reduce my credibility, it is also a false and inaccurate statement. I came to faith COGNITIVELY before I read the bible. I’ve increased my faith through further research and cognition since.”

The issue in question is not whether Burnett came to faith before or after the bible. I’m not surprised that he granted faith legitimacy before he took the bible seriously. What I said above is that he came to his knowledge of Christ by reading about Christ in a storybook. If Burnett thinks he learned about the Christ of the NT apart from reading the sacred storybook, he needs to explain this. Otherwise, my point stands. And no, this is no ad hominem. I’m simply pointing out a fact, one which Burnett has not shown to be incorrect.

In the end, Burnett makes no progress in disagregating faith from hoping, in identifying how the content of his faith can be reliably distinguished from something he may merely be imagining, or in making the case that faith and reason are compatible. I have given some brief reasons to conclude that reason and faith are not only incompatible, but antithetical to one another. Indeed, like other Christians, Burnett gives us no reason to suppose that his god is any less fictitious than a child's imaginary friend.

Regards,
Dawson

Matt said...

To those atheists who have the intellectual honesty to recognize and admit that atheism is an a priori axiom rather than a learned conclusion from fact, I say bravo! Atheism posits a negative and, by definition, unprovable assertion. You cannot prove a negative, e.g., prove that there is no such thing as a 3-legged mammal. The only way such an assertion can be repeatably and objectively verified would be to know precisely and exactly how many mammals there were on the planet and that all of them have a number of legs greater than or less than 3.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Matt wrote: "Atheism posits a negative and, by definition, unprovable assertion. You cannot prove a negative,..."

Matt is wrong. Please see

Link

Four does not equal five. This is a negative statement. The definitions of four and five are known and are different.

If the definitions of four and five are different, then four does not equal five.

The definitions of four and five are different.

By Modus Ponens, then four does not equal five, and the negative statement in question is proven true.

Arguments of this sort will not work for "God", however, because "God" is not defined or definable. No proposed attribute or collection of attributes of "God" can be shown to be part of material existence or not self or mutually contradictory, and because of that there is no evidence for "God", nor can there be. This means that "God" cannot be disproved because it cannot be proven real by evidentiary means. However, since "God" is a rather silly fantasy not subject to logic, reason, or rational inquiry, and because we can know with absolute certainty that existence is subject to understanding by logic, reason, and rational inquiry. We can disprove the allegation of existence for "God".

Allegations of "God" implicitly assert "God" exists.

If those allegations were true, then "God" would be real.

If "God" were real, it would be understandable as is existence.

"God" is not subject to logic, reason, or rational inquiry.

Therefore, by Modus Ponens, allegations that "God" exists are false. Therefore, "God" is not real.

Just as we can easily show four does not equal five, we can also easily show "God" is not real.

Best Regards and Wishes. Have a nice day.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Matt: “To those atheists who have the intellectual honesty to recognize and admit that atheism is an a priori axiom rather than a learned conclusion from fact, I say bravo!”

Actually, what such “admissions” as you describe here require is not honesty, but confusion. Atheism is nothing more than the absence of god-belief. I’ve never met an atheist who holds that his starting point (cf. axiom) is atheism. At any rate, in my case, my atheism is not a primary, but a consequence of both my honesty and my commitment to reason. To object to my atheism is to object to both honesty and reason.

Matt: “Atheism posits a negative and, by definition, unprovable assertion.”

This is false. Atheism is not a *position*. Rather, it is a negation. It tells us what a person does not believe; it does not tell us what he does believe. Also, one does not need to “prove atheism.” If an individual has no god-belief, he has no god-belief, flat and simple. The concept ‘atheism’ simply denotes this fact about that individual. It is conceptually equivalent to “non-theist.”

Matt: “You cannot prove a negative, e.g., prove that there is no such thing as a 3-legged mammal.”

Some years ago a neighbor of mine had a 3-legged dog. Dogs are mammals. Why suppose that there is no such thing as a 3-legged mammal? The notion of a 3-legged mammal does not contradict any known facts.

But consider the notion of a square circle. Do you believe that square circles exist? Well, neither do I. Do we need to “prove” that square circles do not exist? I don’t think so. The very idea is internally contradictory, and pointing this out is sufficient to discredit the claim that square circles do exist. So we don’t need to “prove” that they don’t exist by combing all of the universe making sure there aren’t any hiding some place in a manner similar to the Orkin man making sure all the termites have been eradicated from your house.

Similarly with the notion of “God”: the very idea of “God” is internally self-contradictory, as I explain here. But I’m guessing that theists will remain emotionally committed to their god-belief in spite of the insurmountable problems which plague it from its very roots.

Besides, there’s no such thing as a burden to prove that the non-existent does not exist.

Regards,
Dawson