Thursday, June 16, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #91 - Debunking Christianity: Talbott's Anticipated Objection to the Rawlsian "Veil of Ignorance" Scenario

John Loftus has recently been commenting on Thomas Talbott 's critiques of John Loftus' The Outsider's Test for Faith approach against religious faith.  I have found this particular post demonstrably ignorant and wrong. I have made comments in red. Lofuts claims to have once been a Christian and if that is the case how can he get so much wrong about the Bible says. It doesn't matter if you think the Bible is true if you don't understand what it says.

This post anticipates what Thomas Talbott might say to my suggestion that he should get behind the Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance.

Good. Because Loftus is  ignorant about what the Bible says. 

Let's say Talbott replies that given an omniscient God he cannot fathom how God might reveal himself while behind the Veil of Ignorance, so the thought experiment is inapplicable. If he does, like I've seen other believers do, then we'll see his delusion most demonstrably. For we must be able to know enough about God's ways in order for us to believe that he knows what is best. Get it? If God's ways are so far above us that it appears his ways are not best, then it is counter-productive to give us a progressive revelation in which we cannot see that his ways are best. It would be akin to God planting false evidence to deceive us about the age of the universe, which was claimed by some Christians when science had shown the universe is much older than the genealogies in Genesis allowed (another delusional tactic in the face of hard cold evidence to the contrary).

The Bible clearly says that the reason we cannot gain enough knowledge of God's ways in order to believe what that He knows best is because that isn't the way God has put this together.

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”- Acts 17:22-31

The Passage is saying that God put each one of us in the best possible situation  and circumstances to best find him. So why is that people like Loftus miss out in finding him? Loftus is saying that it's not possible to trust God if you don't know Him. I agree. How do we get to know who God is? We understand God by the Gospel.

 5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.- Romans 10:5-17

God has chosen to reveal himself through preaching His good news about how he has chosen to reconcile us to himself. If you reject his method there is no other and no where does the Bible say that we all see it and recognize it. Of course its counter-intuitive. If it wasn't, it would have required Jesus to come and die. 

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
   shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
   they do not know what makes them stumble.  - Proverb 4:18-19

The "wicked" are each and every one of us.

Let me say it forthrightly: If this is the best that God can do then he is stupid and unworthy of worship because he does not have a minimal understanding of what it takes for us to believe in him, even though he supposedly created us. Does he not know who we are as human beings enough to know that by revealing himself in ways that are indistinguishable from not revealing himself at all that we cannot believe? Such a God therefore is ignorant, not omniscient.

When God reveals himself it is indistinguishable from not knowing Him. If you don't recognize that God exists, a possible explanation that Loftus ignores is that if you don't see the evidence that God has revealed to you that you have missed the evidence. The Bible says that without God, we are unable to understand the revelation on our own. It's not that you come into this world neutral, and "up-for-grabs" and destined for heaven or hell based on the decisions you make. We are all going to hell until we submit to our maker and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.- Romans 8:5-8
If you are unable to submit to the will of God, how do you expect to understand what the will is unless he infuses you with his spirit.? We cannot. But God promises to do exactly that. This is what it means to "born-again" not that you speak in tongues or roll under pew or cry out of every orifice, or jump around and dance all over the church or even a warm and tingling feeling.

19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. - Ezekiel 11:19,20

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 36:26

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.- John 3:3-21

So, either we can judge how God should reveal himself behind the Veil of Ignorance or we can't. If we can, then reasonable people should conclude as I do that this so-called progressive revelation does not come from a good omniscient God. If we can't, then the same conclusion follows.

No, we can't judge how God chooses to reveal himself to us. We don't do that when we talk to each other. Do you expect every person you meet to tell you every minute detail of their life and in the way you want them to do it?  Why would you think you can hold God to that standard? That isn't reasonable. If you are a parent, does your children have the right to demand you give them all the information they want in the way they want it at the time they want it? I don't think so. They don't even know what they need to ask. Why do you think you are in any better or higher position than a two year-old relative to God?  It's because of that Omniscience that God knows what to reveal, to whom to reveal it, and when to reveal it. Faith is trust based in a relationship with God - not pretending to know know something  or someone you don't know.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” - John 4:21-24
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:
   “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
   and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,

 26 and,
   “In the very place where it was said to them,
   ‘You are not my people,’
   there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” - Romans 9:19-26
As a man, it can be definitely difficult sometimes to accept just what we and who God is. He's not beholden to us. We are beholden to Him. He is worthy of worship and we are not. He made us we didn't make him or and we didn't make ourselves. Failing to realize this is why people fail to recognize the revelation of God to us.

Debunking Christianity: Talbott's Anticipated Objection to the Rawlsian "Veil of Ignorance" Scenario
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