A Discussion with a Theist

A Discussion with a Theist

This discussion was the result of a modal ontological argument being shared in a group. After I objected to the argument, a theist wanted to know why I believed in Christianity as opposed to another philosophical system. What follows is the discussion that ensued. It was a very civil discussion.

Me:

I’m a Christian, and this argument is nonsense (its weakness is that modal logic is nonsense).

Theist: 

if you want to run any of the better christian arguments by me i’d be interested in what you think are good reasons to believe. i’ll present honest critiques without attack as well. i do want to hear what you think supports theism from your perspective.

honestly, as a theist… i don’t think i ever really had strong support… it was just what i was told and taught my whole life.

Me: 

The only way God can be known is through special revelation. Though the works of nature point to his existence, they cannot demonstrate which god it is. I find the cosmological and teleological arguments to be compelling because the conclusion that is drawn from them are in agreement with what Christians already know from scripture. I also find Gary Habermas’ inductive argument that infers Jesus’ resurrection from the 12 agreed upon ‘facts’ by new testament scholars to be compelling. I’m not going to hash out the arguments in detail because they have already been given elsewhere.

I favor arguing from special revelation through scripture. If you start anywhere else, you will never be able to prove Christianity because the methods that start elsewhere (empiricism, rationalism, irrationalism, etc) all lead to epistemological skepticism which would make any argument fruitless.

Theist: 

“The only way God can be known is through special revelation.”

you can insert ANY being you want into that as well.. its not a useful stance to the point that i’d expect one could hear the same argument from those in asylums that are talking about superman, fairies, etc.

“I find the cosmological and teleological arguments to be compelling because the conclusion that is drawn from them are in agreement with what Christians already know from scripture.”

that isn’t why the arguments should be convincing though… they should be sound, based in facts. the problem is that those arguments are often very flawed, in each of their iterations.

“I also find Gary Habermas’ inductive argument that infers Jesus’ resurrection from the 12 agreed upon ‘facts’ by new testament scholars to be compelling.”

not sure what his arguments are, but based on what i know of authorship… im not even sure jesus was real.

thank you for answering honestly though. i appreciate it. you take care, im off to a friends house for tonight, but if you respond ill be sure to catch up

Me: 

Sure. Anyone can choose their starting point. All of the philosophers in the history of philosophy chose their first principle. We, however, must start somewhere. If we don’t start somewhere, we certainly can’t validly infer conclusions because no premises would proceed it. The other choice is that we attempt to demonstrate every proposition we believe, but that would also fall into epistemological skepticism.

Quite simply, if someone refuses to grant my first principle for the sake of argument, I will reject theirs. Insofar as usefulness goes, I weigh starting points by their effectiveness in dealing with philosophical problems. Now,as for superman, fairies, etc, I’m not sure what such a philosophical system would look like but I doubt anything you could construct would allow you to avoid epistemological skepticism.

Persuasion and soundness of arguments are two different categories. The premises of the arguments in question can be shown to be sound by the testimony of scripture. Empirical evidence would just be an added bonus (but would not demonstrate the premises or the conclusions of the arguments). This is because empiricism cannot demonstrate any proposition to be true.

I have investigated the claims of skeptics of Jesus’ existence. I find them to be dubious. I am no fan of Bart Ehrman, but even he agrees that the position is silly. Of course, if you are approaching this epistemologically, you can’t be sure of anything if you go by the historical method. I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘sure.’

No problem. I can’t guarantee you that I will respond, but I may if I find the time and feel up to typing a lot. Have fun at your friend’s house.

Theist:

when your argument is just as valid as other mythologies, its a strong indication to not believe it though. at least not with that foundation.

on what solid foundation… i can’t really be sure. all these scholars seem to be sure earlier documents existed than we’ve got any indication of. regardless im about 50/50 on whether the man was real, but regarding the claims around him… so little support as to border on what i stated earlier, nonsensical.

Me:

You need to look at this from an epistemological standpoint. Christianity is a system of philosophy just like all other philosophies. First principles are not confined to philosophical systems that some might consider ‘religious,’ it is the same for any other philosophical system, including variations of atheism. This is why I advocate looking at how well a first principle deals with philosophical problems. Christianity is by far the most rigorous philosophical system I have come across.

I also want you to take notice of your statement, “when your argument is just as valid as OTHER mythologies.” You are already assuming that Christianity is not true before properly engaging it. In essence, you are rejecting Christianity only because you are dogmatically against it. You were complaining earlier about me dogmatically holding to the truth of scripture, but you are doing the very same thing when engaging my philosophical system.

We have four Gospels that fall within the realm of acceptable range from the date the events happened and the dates the Gospels were written. I presume that you are in doubt mostly because you are not sure about Christ’s miracles and deity. These propositions are demonstrable through the special revelation given to us from scripture. I have also found that skeptics of miracles really have no reason to reject miracles besides them simply not believing them (of course, this is not something that would rebut miracles and Jesus’s deity)