Friday, April 14, 2006

Getting Back on Track

This post is part of an ongoing dialog between my friend Ernie and me about the validity of Christian belief.

Where does nature end and the supernatural begin? In "Naturalism" and "Mysticism" Are Dead Ernie argues that the opposite of naturalism is mysticism, and further that one can conceive of a sort of naturalism where there is still room for theism. In particular, the uncertainties and other features associated with quantum mechanics may allow for both consciousness and choice, and that these same or similear features might be invoked to describe how God and other "supernatural" entities might exist within a naturalistic framework.

Now, the subject of naturalism was brought up because Ernie wanted me to advance a theory to compete with his theory of Christianity (see A Theory, Not a Law toward the bottom), and I replied in Wait, Er, Check Please? that if I had to choose something to advance, I would choose naturalism. I also questioned trying to contrast theories about ultimate reality, preferring observable reality instead, and that has lead to this tangent on various kinds of universes and so on. While these are interesting ideas, I think we are getting afield from where we ought to be focusing.

Is it possible that God, Satan, angels and demons are in some sense "natural" because they interact with us through some as yet unknown processes? Sure. If that means that naturalism and theism are not fundamentally incompatible, that presents no problem to me. Regardless, it remains my premise that there is insufficient reason to believe that a god of any sort exists, and especially not the god of Christianity. If you want another "ism" to describe this point of view, I would suggest "skepticism". However, skepticism cannot be viewed as a theory with explanatory power that could be contrasted with Ernie's theism.

Again, where does that leave us? Well, I still wonder about how Ernie can believe in Christianity on philosophical grounds without also including historical considerations (if that is in fact an accurate description of Ernie's position). I can develop my eight arguments that I listed way back in Claim Check: Introduction. Ernie could offer some evidence or other reasons to believe. Also, way back in EEE Is Not a Shoe Size, I offered four topics, one of which Ernie rejected because we have no agreed-upon ethical framework, but the other three are, I believe, still possibilities.

All told, these are topics I have suggested for further discussion:

  1. The Bible is (is not) an honest and reliable document.
  2. Social good is (is not) evidence for the truth of Christianity.
  3. Christianity is (is not) best explained as a solely human construction.
  4. My eight assertions (which overlap with the first three items in this list
  5. Philosophical vs. historical considerations
  6. Whatever Ernie would like to advance as evidence for Christianity

What is your preference, Ernie?

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