One debate, many responses: Response #3 (Paul)
In "By" (Die Burger, Saturday June 27) prof Amie van Wyk, a theologian, published an article titled "Three debates, many questions".
Response by Paul.
1 "The third debate is being carried out between atheism and Christian faith. Personally I view this debate as meaningful, if it is carried out responsibly."
Interesting that you see your obvious debate being with atheism. You could join Atheists in debate against other religions, but as you have already placed other religions in a box called 'obviously erroneous human endeavor' your obvious opponent is atheism which is not as easily dismissed. I'm sure you can appreciate that to us, christianity falls into the same box with all the other rather obvious fallacies.
2 "It sets the stage for both atheists and Christians to re-state their arguments clearly in terms of how sensible [meaningful? "sinvolheid"] and feasible [defendable? "houdbaarheid"] their points of view and assumptions are."
3 "Amongst others it is about the question of the relationship between faith and knowledge/science."
4 "For the atheist there is no relationship. The more the science, the less the faith; more faith, less science. Such a (rationalistic) approach excludes faith and science from each other. To believe in God is not scientific and is an expression of a primitive or superstitious belief."
5 "In contrast, the Christian faith accepts it that faith and science are not competing, but are complementary world views. The God that makes himself known in nature (and science) is the same God that reveals himself in the scriptures of Christ."
I'm sure there will be no real debate if christians were scientifically honest and admit to having faith and facing up to the fact that they are most probably wrong. We know most of the christian assumptions to be very unlikely. Christians tend to be aggressively sure that they are right. If you believe something that is not supported by evidence then that is faith, wishful thinking, stubbornness, stupidity or prideful ignorance. Science it would then rightly seem is an endeavor to eliminate faith in as much as it is an attempt to understand the universe in it's entirety based on evidence.
This debate should also investigate the relationship between faith and spirituality. You seem to suggest that atheists (as cold rationalists) shuns spirituality along with faith. While this might be the view of some atheists there are also a great number who enjoys the benefits of meditation and other spiritual practices.
6 "Another question atheism raises is: How can an omnipotent and good God of love allow (or dispense) ["toelaat (of beskik)"] so much pain and suffering? And: how can such a God allow (or dispense) ["toelaat (of beskik)"] that people are lost forever? These are deep, engaging ["ingrypende"] questions to which no cheap answers ought to be given."
7 "The Christian faith still answers this with reference to God's promise of caring proximity ["sorgsame nabyheid"] and his love in Christ for a broken world, as well as man's personal responsibility. Regarding those who never hear the scriptures, theology makes no comment."
How would the world be different if you were to imagine that there really is no god. How would the world be different if you imagine the existence of an omnipotent benevolent loving god.
8 "But the Christian faith also asks important questions of atheism. The first is about the origin of the universe: Where does it all come from? What (or who) existed before the big bang? Don't we (yet) know, or did everything come into existence by chance?"
This is not really a question you should be asking atheism. This is a plain scientific question and you can get very good answers from cosmology. Atheists generally accept the standard accepted scientific explanation. To suggest that maybe science does not have an answer to some of your questions does not make a religious answer (like 'god kickstarted the big bang') any more valid. That is a dangerous slippery slope and one that will force your god further back once a scientific answer is given for your chosen boundary question.
9 "But if everything came about "by chance", then this event is a rather unreliable instance. You don't know what it is, can't address it, and also don't know where it leads."
Unreliable, except that by us being here we know it did, in fact, happen.
10 "I immediately have to point out that this argument cannot be held as evidence for God's existence. It merely serves to argue that it is more meaningful to believe in God as the origin of everything than in that everything came into existence by chance."
Meaning lies in the mind of the interpreter. To argue that because we have no satisfactory evidence for theories about what happened before the big bang it is somehow more meaningful to fall back to a branze-age creator is rather childish. There are number of much better options.
11 "Another question: what is the destination of the universe? Here, too, the same questions are valid. If the future of the universe is open and can go in any direction, then humans are leading a hopeless and meaningless existence. Life of earth is then a freak."
Destination of the universe is also a question better asked of cosmology. The implication that the universe is not deterministic and therefore human life is hopeless and meaningless is somewhat morbid. Once again meaning is what you make of it. If you define meaning as outlasting planet earth, then humans still have quite a bit of hope left. I don't see how having a universe that will pop out of existence in some billions of years make the life of a Nelson Mandela meaningless.
Life on earth might be a freak event. On the other hand life may be rather abundant in the galaxy and the universe.
12 "The Christian faith argues that God, with his creation, is on a path of renewal and completion."
When you say creation are you referring to the creation of the world in Genesis 1 or the completely different creation in Genesis 2 or do you mean the universe as we through science understand it. Interestingly it may not be too much to expect this omnipotent god to just get it right and completed (and seeing that it is good) from the start.
13 "The third question follows from this: If God does not exist, what then is the meaning of life? Or is life meaningless and absurd (as existentialists argue)? As the Greek philosopher Menander said, "Let us eat and drink (and be merry) because tomorrow we die." Is pleasure (hedonism) the meaning of life? Or is serving the kingdom of God – in its widest dimensions – the meaning of life?"
Why should there be some grand meaning. On the other hand, there can be many worthwhile meanings. How about the meaning is to outlive the solar system. Or peace. Or to combine human knowledge and technology and maybe someday create a omnipotent omniscient super google, capable of creating whole planets complete with life in 6 days. Meaning is not something that needs to be inherent to the universe; it is something projected on the world around us by our own minds.
14 "A fourth question concerns ethics. Where does atheism get its ethical code? How is good and evil discriminated, and where do norms and values come from? Assume that I somehow discover what is good and evil – where do I get the will-power and motivation to do the good thing?"
Common sense. We know that many animals have ethics, and morals. Ethics and morals are obvious mechanisms to evolve in societies. Jesus was not being original when he suggested the golden rule to his followers. Or when he told them to turn the other cheek, to love their neighbours and to help those in trouble, like his example of the good Samaritan.
The obvious question here i think is where do christians get there morals from? Luckily not the bible – especially not the old testament. People with Bible-based ethics and morals are those who kill doctors for performing abortions. And someone with bible-based morals would not engage atheists in friendly debate, rather they would do what scripture dictates and have to stone the atheists on sight.
15 "The last question: why does the atheist choose mankind's reason as the highest authority (rationalism), and also that the only way of knowing is that all knowledge should necessarily be verifiable (positivism)?"
Why do christians choose bronze-aged myths and limited world view as somehow superior to a modern rational, evidence based world view.
16 "Do these two models present feasible answers to life's deepest questions? Have they ever succeeded in solving humankind's problems meaningfully? Isn't this a case of working with a very reduced view of mankind (and a closed world view)?"
Yes, there is no reason to think that there is anything about being human or alive that science cannot or will not be able to understand. As for solving humankind's problems: off course – this cannot be a serious question. Human lifespan and quality is now much greater than ever before – this is not due to anything other than reasonable humans solving mankind's greatest problems by evidence based rational enquiry.
17 "Isn't post-modernism, with its search for spirituality and constant reminder of the provisional nature of human knowledge, providing powerful criticism of cold rationalism (and hence atheism)?"
It is amazing what christians will call powerful criticism of atheism when it is slightly lenient to the idea of a god. Postmodernism is rather meaningless as a critique as Noam Chomsky pointed out it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. As soon as you venture into the 'post rational' you have to assume and acknowledge that you are most probably wrong.
18 "The Christian faith avails itself of another vast source of knowledge: the revelation of God, in nature and in the Bible, but also in Jesus Christ as God's greatest, last and highest self-revelation."
Nature can be understood most completely by means of scientific study. The Bible can be made to justify anything, and generally the god it advertises is rather vulgar, small-minded and even evil. At least compared to the impression from the same book of satan.
19 "If He falls away, the whole edifice of the Christian faith collapses like a house of cards."
And there's not very much known about him at all. Most of what is said about him is plainly false. Godspeed. Catch you on the flip side.
nothing more to see. please move along.