Conversation: Jonathan Sacks and Richard Dawkins

Here’s the best argument for religion I have ever seen/heard, made by one of the best religious thinkers of our time. There is a lot that Christians can learn from the Jews in terms of the way we actually practice religion.

He says this at the end of the video:

In the end of the day, the first lesson any philosophy student ever learns is, facts are one thing and values are another. When all the facts are in, the question of value still remains. And we will never get that from Science, which is brilliant at establishing fact but cannot ordain values. And therefore for that, we have to look ultimately, I think, at the ultimate itself: God Himself. Or at the very least, if you don’t believe, at least accept the wisdom that has been honed and refined through three and a half thousand years, and has brought freedom, dignity and hope to the world.

Psalm 34:8
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.

Evolutionary Epistemology: “Survival of the Fittest”

The environment (which comprises other species) is constantly testing the “truth” of a species, and if they fail to survive, then they have failed the test. New genetic mutations means new species are gradually produced, which is what makes it possible for “evolution” to take place.

The same principle works in epistemology. In order for knowledge to evolve, we must continually generate new ideas, then consciously test them against the existing body (environment) of knowledge. Sometimes, new ideas can be so powerful that they can even radically change the existing body of knowledge. As far as we can tell, “Survival of the Fittest” is an undeniable mechanism through which everything (even abstract ideas) evolves.

People who deny evolution in nature, are also denying evolution in the sphere of knowledge.

This sort of “evolutionary” epistemology was famously addressed by Karl Popper, who successfully explained how the Scientific Method tends to improve our knowledge of the natural world. The epistemological framework is called Critical Rationalism.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-evolutionary/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_rationalism

Epistemology: without it, your beliefs are as good as sh*t.

People who have no awareness of their own reasoning process have no right to act like their own reasoning process somehow produces better beliefs than others’.

This is why people who pretend to even give a sh*t about truth, and yet know sh*t about epistemology, are pitiful as sh*t.

Likewise, people who pretend to even give a sh*t about theology (or so-called Christian truth), and yet know sh*t about philosophy/epistemology/hermeneutics, are pitiful as sh*t.

Such people, instead of trying to decide sh*t for themselves, should just give up their sh*t and let the professionals decide what sh*t they should believe in.

But then again, the professionals themselves believe in all kinds of sh*t. I guess we’re all sh*t out of luck then.

(The strong language understates the severity of the problem.)

Trinity is an illogical theological inference, not a “revelation”

The following question was posed:

IF God reveals Himself as Trinitarian through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and you reject that revelation because you insist that that revelation is illogical according to your small limited brain, is this logical or wise?

To set the “Trinity” record straight:

1. There is one true God (virtually incontrovertible biblical claim)
2. God is our Father (language consistently used in scripture)
3. Jesus is God (theological inference made by ignoring the fact that Jesus being said to act on God’s behalf does not logically equate him with God)
4. Spirit is God (another theological inference, even though in the bible it actually says “God is spirit”)
5. Doctrine of Trinity (One God in three God-Personas)

Trinitarians believe in three God-Personas. No legitimate Trinitarian would deny that (unless they want to play more language games). But they also claim to believe in one God comprising the three God-Personas. No sane Trinitarian would deny this either (no language games, please).

And yet, Trinitarians obstinately assert that each individual God-Persona is also “God” in his own right. Now we have a problem of what the word “God” even refers to. Because if each God-persona is “God” IN HIS OWN RIGHT, i.e. ALL BY HIMSELF, then if we logically add up the three God-personas, then 1 TIMES 3 EQUALS 3.

To justify their own illogical doctrine, they insist that it is God’s revelation. But the truth is that they are doing this simply to protect their own “sub-doctrines” that Jesus is God (#3) and Spirit is God (#4).

In my view, Trinitarians are free to play their word games. I don’t really care.

What I do care about though, is biblical interpretation. Statements #3 and #4 are in fact theological inferences that MANY theologians (though outnumbered by the Trinitarians) have explicitly stated to be false. In other words, there are many Christian theologians who understand that #3 and #4 are theological inferences that they are themselves unable to make (i.e. logically not possible).

I challenge anyone to claim that #3 and #4 are direct “revelations” revealed to us without our use of reason. Read the entire bible, and see if you can honestly tell me that the bible incontrovertibly makes the claims of #3 and #4.

Show me that you get #3 and #4 from the bible without using reason, i.e. WITHOUT USING YOUR SMALL BRAIN, and I will forever hold my peace. Or better yet, try reading or listening to anything, and show me that you can get meaning out of what you just read or listened to WITHOUT USING YOUR SMALL BRAIN.

Amen.

Divine Revelation

  • Matthew 16:13-17
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
  • 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[a] the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

Realise that in Peter’s own perspective, he figured out on his own that Jesus was the Messiah. Then, having heard Peter’s declaration, Jesus could confidently say that it was God who revealed it to him, because Jesus knows that what Peter said is true.

If Peter actually heard “God’s voice” directly/personally, then Jesus would not have needed to say that.

The logic works this way: first, we obtain knowledge (i.e. recognise the truth) through our own reasoning process. Then, when it turns out that we were right, we give God the glory for blessing us with the wisdom/knowledge/understanding to do so, by saying that it was God who revealed it to us.

Nobody actually hears “God’s voice” directly, because this is simply not the way God works. People who claim to have heard God’s voice directly telling them something, are either delusional or hallucinating (or both).

  • Deuteronomy 8:17-18
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.