May we be among those who lament

A loud voice rang in my ears: ‘Here they come, those appointed to punish the city, each carrying his weapon of destruction.’ I saw six men approaching from the road that leads to the upper gate which faces north, each carrying a battle-club, and among them one was dressed in linen, with a writer’s pen and ink at his waist; they advanced until they stood by the bronze altar. The glory of the God of Israel had risen from above the cherubim where it rested, and had come to the terrace of the temple. He called to the man dressed in linen, with pen and ink at his waist. ‘Go through the city of Jerusalem,’ said the LORD, ‘and mark with a cross the foreheads of those who groan and lament over all the abominations practised there.’ To the others I heard him say, ‘Follow him through the city and deal out death; show no pity; spare no one. Kill and destroy men old and young, girls, little children, and women, but touch no one who bears the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders in front of the temple. ‘Defile the temple,’ he said, ‘and fill the courts with dead bodies; then go out and spread death in the city.’

While the killing went on, I was left alone, and I threw myself on the ground, crying out, ‘Lord GOD, are you going to destroy all the Israelites who are left, in this outpouring of your anger on Jerusalem?’ He answered, ‘The iniquity of Israel and Judah is very great indeed; the land is full of bloodshed, the city is filled with injustice. They are saying, “The LORD has forsaken the land and does not see.” But I shall show no pity, nor spare them; I shall make their conduct recoil on their own heads.’ When the man dressed in linen, with pen and ink at his waist, returned he reported: ‘I have carried out your orders.’

Ezekiel 9.

I just thought it was a marvelous bit of writing.

Why doesn’t God make his existence self-evident?

Someone recently argued that if God exists, he should make himself self-evident.

But very few things that people take for granted are self-evident. Even my existence as a human being is not self-evident to my readers, but only deduced based on premises that they take for granted, i.e. that only a human being could type the kinds of things that I am typing in this post. Nevertheless my existence as a human being is obvious to you; you don’t waste time doubting it.

Perhaps by “self-evident” my interlocutor meant that God should appear before us in physical form, as we appear to each other. When another living person is physically present, that person’s existence is self-evident to us — assuming we’re not skeptical of our own senses. The problem is that God is not a physical being. Therefore, if a physical being appeared before us claiming to be God, it still would not be self-evident that he was God. It still would require a chain of reasoning, and probably some kind of physical proof such as miracles, to arrive at the conclusion that the physical being standing before us is the non-physical, non-contingent being who is the cause of all that exists.

In short, there is no way that a non-physical being can make his existence self-evident to beings like us, who are dependent on their physical senses for knowledge. It’s impossible even in theory.

What this illustration also shows is the necessity of faith in the Christian religion (and some others as well). A lot of people imagine that God appearing in physical form, performing miracles and proclaiming himself to be God would be conclusive, that there would be no room for doubt. But there are a couple of problems with this.

First, that’s what Jesus did: He was God appearing in physical form, performing miracles, and proclaiming himself to be God. Yet many if not most people still didn’t believe in him.

Second, the fact that a being appearing in physical form performed physical miracles and wonders, still would not constitute proof that he is the non-physical, non-contingent, omniscient and omnipotent being who is the cause of all that exists. It might be obvious that he is some kind of a supernatural being, but it still would require faith on our parts to believe that he possessed all of the aforementioned attributes. After all, how could you possibly prove such things?

How could I know that this being claiming to be all-powerful, really is all-powerful? He may demonstrate beyond a doubt, by performing various feats, that he is powerful. But there is an infinite gulf between “powerful” and “all-powerful”. Similarly, how could I know whether this being claiming to be God is really omniscient? He may be able to answer any question I have, but that doesn’t prove he can answer any question whatever. And how would I know that his answers were correct? The only answers we could verify are those to which we already know the answers.

Believing these things would require taking his word for it. Or in other words, faith. Faith would be required to believe in God, even were he to appear before us in the form of a burning bush, or a man with the power to make the lame walk and the blind see.

[This was modified from a comment I posted on another blog.]

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An argument for God’s existence

I guess this is basically the argument from efficient causes, but rephrased in a way that occurred to me in the context of a discussion. Feel free to offer corrections:

If everything is caused, then there is nothing left to be the cause. But if there were no cause, then there would be no effects and therefore nothing would exist. Therefore, there must be two classes of things: On the one hand, that which is caused, and on the other, that which is uncaused. But everything in the universe is caused and therefore goes in the first category. What’s left goes in the second. What exactly is in the second category? Whatever it is, it’s not anything physical or it would be part of the universe. So we’re left with an immaterial, uncaused being who caused the existence of everything in the universe.

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The scariest words in the English language*

Agellius:

The following is reblogged from Yard Sale of the Mind. I suspect the same thing goes for government (and insurance) involvement in healthcare: When the government starts chipping in money, it benefits people, but not always the people intended. Also, prices go up.

* “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” – Ronald Reagan

Originally posted on Yard Sale of the Mind:

One problem among us voters is that we have difficult time grasping the concept that we can’t vote for what we’d like to have happen, but instead vote merely for people and measures that may or may not achieve what we’d like to have happen. We don’t get to vote for peace, for example – we just get to vote for people who’s idea of peace might be the Arab Spring and helping Iran get nuclear weapons, alienating allies and emboldening enemies. We don’t get to vote for jobs – we just get to vote for people whose fundamental economic theories are mid-19th century adolescent revenge fantasies dressed up like philosophy for Halloween – trick and treat, where the treat is everything you’ve got and the trick is burning down your village.

This muddle is exacerbated by the often not-so-subtle Marxism that has replaced thought in all of academia and much…

View original 2,860 more words

Facts About Religion: If purpose comes from above, where does God get his purpose from?

The blog Facts About Religion asks, if we’re dependent on God for our purpose, then who gives God purpose?

But the contention of Christians and other theists is not that “no one can invent his own purpose” or that “every being must receive his purpose from a being above him”. The contention is that God, being the origin of all that exists, is the only one that can give meaning and purpose to our life.

The basis for this contention is that we are contingent beings. This means that we can either exist or not exist, and that we are dependent for our existence on things outside ourselves. Not even an atheist can deny this.

Since we don’t even receive our existence from ourselves, it stands to reason that we can’t get the reason for our existence from ourselves.

God’s case is entirely different from our own. Since he is the origin of all things, he must exist, and does not depend for his existence on anything outside himself. It stands to reason therefore that he is not dependent for the reason for his existence on anything outside himself.

Something good to remember

I don’t always agree with Hilary White, but I often admire and appreciate her insights. The following is her response to someone who had expressed strong bitterness towards (what I agree was) the post-Vatican II catastrophe in the Church. It’s something I had not thought of and I find it brilliantly expressed as well as darkly encouraging:

[A]cknowledging the unimaginable losses the collapse of the Church has caused, there is something good to remember here. In the past people had the Faith handed to them, and it cost them little or nothing to accept and keep it. They were often given little instruction past that which is given to children. People followed the Faith because it was what their parents did, or because all their neighbourhood was Catholic or their friends or businesses were. I know nuns who said that the exodus from the convents really happened because they had been given no intellectual formation in the Faith either in their homes or schools or the novitiate. It was mainly about how to walk and hold your hands so you looked like a holy nun. She had been a Carmelite, and she said they were told they were not allowed to read Teresa, for fear it would give them airs.

The Asteroid wiped all that away, and the people who had received the Faith so easily dropped it just as easily. What you get for nothing is not valued, even if it is pearls.

And now the Faith is still there and can still be found, but it is no longer easy. The result of the post-Conciliar catastrophe has been as our friend above said, but it has also created a race of Catholic guerilla fighters of which we are the second and third generation, and who are now going to be called upon to carry the fight forward. The ferocity with which they have acquired and kept the Faith is going to be required by everyone.

There is no more cheap grace to be had for tuppence in all the shops. Now if you want to know what is true, you have to go looking for it, develop your mind and knowledge and exercise your intellect and will, which faculties had become nearly atrophied in the immediate pre-conciliar period. Now just getting to know what you need to know to be a merely practising Catholic requires almost heroic effort of will and powers of investigation, as well as taking the trouble to learn to tell the truth from the sweet lies nearly all the parishes and priests are peddling. Heroism has, essentially, become our baseline.

And then you have to exercise those muscles of will to hold on to it as the World turns on you like a horde of screaming savages. In a situation like this one, the people who know and hold to the Faith are the Charles Atlas of the Catholic world. And it is going to be true very soon that they are going to require all that strength to stand up to what is coming at us.

Excerpted from Hilary White, “The Fantasy of Bitterness“, Orwell’s Picnic (blog), April 9, 2015.

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