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9/11/2017 4:43 pm  #11

Re: Why is Christianity true?

RomanJoe wrote:

@ Johannes
I'm wondering, though, why assume that #3 is even an option? Could it not be the case that God exists, that he sustains the world in being, but he just never reveals himself to mankind in the stark way most religions claim he does? 

I understand that you are wondering whether #3 is a historical fact, not whether it is an option. Because God clearly did have an option not to reveal Himself directly to mankind, if He had decided not to raise men to participation in the divine life. Moreover, from the viewpoint of a hypothetical classical theist living e.g. in 1000 BC without awareness of the existence of the people of Israel, there had not been any direct revelation by God to mankind that he was aware of.

Now in 2017 AD, there are four possible instances of past divine Revelation that are compatible with classical theism: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahá'í. In addition, there is the hypothetical possibility that all four are just human inventions.

In order to evaluate the options, the main criteria are, first of all, the presence of miracles and the reliability of the historical and documentary testimony thereof, and secondly the fulfillment of prophecies, which is part of a broader feature that I call "logical consistency with accepted previous Revelation". Let's apply these criteria to the above options.

Starting with Judaism, there is no historical evidence for the miracles narrated in the Old Testament. To note, I am not a biblical minimalist, based on a most-plausible interpretation of historical evidence, starting with the inscription "the land of the Shasu of Yhw" at the temple at Soleb, Nubia, built by Amenhotep III (1391–1353 BC), where Shasu refers to Semitic-speaking cattle nomads on the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev and southern Transjordan, and which supports a faith-driven Exodus event before 1400 BC, and following with the inscription "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not" on the Merneptah Stele at Karnak, Thebes, referring to the campaigns of Merneptah (1213-1203 BC), which implies a seminomadic or rural status for 'Israel' at that time. Also, recent excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the first early Judean city (per the absence of pig bones) to be dated by 14C, support the factual existence of the kingdom of David in late XI-early X centuries BC. Of course, none of the above is evidence of divine intervention or of divine inspiration of the Old Testament, so that, in the absence of Christianity, I do not see enough motives of credibility in Judaism alone.

Moving on to Islam, and referring to a possible motive of credibility mentioned in a recent thread, the literary quality of a book, no matter how outstanding, is no evidence of divine Revelation. Moreover, even if that quality were unachievable by a human intellect lacking literary studies, it could have been the result of assistance by a non-divine above-human intellect with the purpose of preventing people from believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which the Quran explicitely denies in several passages. Adding to this the absence of miracles, I do not see any evidence of divine Revelation. This also discards Bahá'í, which claims no miracles of its own and presupposes Islam.

In contrast to the above, IMV the motives of credibility for Christianity are solid, so that the remaining choice is between Christianity and no divine Revelation in history at all.

Last edited by Johannes (9/11/2017 4:48 pm)


9/11/2017 4:47 pm  #12

Re: Why is Christianity true?

Camoden wrote:

What triggered your skepticism of the resurrection? I feel like remembering you were convinced it was at least probable.

My epistemic bias. I have, for the most part, always been Christian. I fear that the only reason I find the arguments for the Resurrection convincing is, in part, due to the particular lense I'm viewing them through. Plus, I've been toying with idea of cognitive dissonance and whether or not it could explain the Resurrection appearances.

     Thread Starter

9/13/2017 10:36 pm  #13

Re: Why is Christianity true?

RomanJoe wrote:


I suppose skepticism is the wrong word. Perhaps resigned classical theism is more fitting--that is, the belief that there is a divinely simple First Cause of the universe but that this First Cause hasn't explicitly revealed himself in any particular religion. My primary issue is that, regardless of the evidence, I haven't come to true conviction in Christianity because I have, for most of my life, been Christian and have, perhaps, engaged in confirmation bias, slanted research. How can I trust my own justification for the credibility of Christianity when I have, from the beginning, calIed myself one? Have I not presumed my faith? My second issue is revelation in general--why should I suppose God has revealed himself in the clear and distinct ways most religions claim  he has?

Also, I haven't read any of those authors, but they sound interesting and it's perhaps what I need to read right now. 

I'm not sure the Aristotelian position, but some classical theist (and related) positions, like Platonism, see the world as a reflection of God, and man as a microcosm that mirrors or reflects the macrocosm of creation (and, therefore, God). This implies the truth of God's existence is in some sense written into the cosmos and ourselves, including our faculties. Platonists and related views see the cosmos as a hierarchy of being, in which each level reflects that above it, and which can be transparent, as it were, to our intellects, so we can look through them towards God, their origin. Creation is a theophany, in a sense. Corbin spoke of all the world as an icon:

The transcendental unity of Being (wahdat al-wojud) is inseparable from the multiplicity of the existents it causes to be. To see in each existent the one Being which causes it to be, to see in each luminous thing the light that reveals it, is the very notion of theophanic form (mazhar elahi) and is precisely that which promotes the Image to an icon, redeeming it from its degradation as an idol. Idolatry, on the contrary, is seeing the object as if it were itself the light that reveals it and makes it visible; it closes off access to anything beyond. Confounding an existent thing, even an Ens supremum, with the absolute Being that makes it be closes off access in the same way; it confounds the icon with the idol. But when promoted to the rank of icon, the Image opens the way itself to what lies beyond it, toward what it symbolizes with. The distinction that we make, thanks to the Greek, between "idol" and "icon" has no exact equivalent in the Persian lexicon, but it certainly has an equivalent concept. The Image raised to the rank of icon is the Image invested with its theophanic function (mazhariya). Then the whole universe of theophanic forms becomes one immense iconostasis (in the liturgy of the Eastern Christian church, the division supporting the icons and forming an intermediate space, a barzakh, "in-between" the naos [or inner part of the temple] and the Holy of Holies, or sanctuary).​

​There are differing perspectives, but the Platonist will tend to see ritual, myth, and sacrament as important partly because they allow one to break free of idols and see creation, or parts of it, as an icon. There are particular arrangements and particular symbols that are particularly effective in drawing us to God, and they aren't always discursive, philosophical argument. The liturgy or a literal icon, for example, may do more for our spiritual development than any amount of philosophical argument and dialectic. In this sense, for the Platonic classical theist at least, it is not surprising God is a sense revealed through religion and that religious tradition is important, though this leaves many details, such as which faith(s) is the true or best one, to be worked out. Those authors I mentioned have different solutions to these questions, with Corbin opting for a individualistic, imaginal mysticism, in which everyone (at least who is a mystic) has their own revelation, in a sense, and Guenon for Traditionalism. I'm not sure what Eliade believed, but he is a great authority on the transformative power of myths, rites, and symbols. But I don't think, for my kind of classical theism at least, a detached, rationalistic deism is an option. 


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