Friday, March 14, 2008

Why I Am a Christian

For Carmen’s sake, here is a reworked version of a comment that appeared at the end of my last post:

If you compare the Bible with the myths of ancient Israel's neighbors, the differences are striking. Read Enuma Elish alongside Genesis 1; both describe creation in similar mytho-symbolic language, but the former is ridiculously elaborate and implies theological propositions that simply cannot be maintained, while the latter is simple and profound. Or read Gilgamesh alongside the biblical historical books; both include miracle stories, but while the first is dramatically exaggerated--turning its hero (the first king of Babylon) into a superhuman--the latter seem to go out of their way to emphasize the ordinariness of their heroes.

Though important, biblical miracle stories are surprisingly few and far between, compared to most ancient “histories” (including early non-biblical Jewish and Christian works). Further, the fact that so many embarrassing stories are retained in which central Jewish figures explicitly violate Jewish law, gives us good ground for placing higher epistemic value on these histories than those others.

There are problems with the text, to be sure (which is why I do not subscribe to plenary verbal inspiration), but they are too often exaggerated. Most supposed “contradictions” evaporate with a modicum of scrutiny, and few of those that remain have any impact on the central themes of the Bible.

The remarkable thing is not that there are scattered tensions, historical inaccuracies or exaggerations and unfalsifiable myths--the Bible was written in the language of the ancient world, after all--but that these diverse books, written over the course of at least 1000 years, present such a consistent and engaging historical and theological message at all. The Koran was written over a handful of decades by one man and can’t even get its theology, morality or history straight.

But all of that is window dressing. I don’t trust the Bible because its historical claims are beyond dispute (they aren’t) or because it contains no apparent errors (it does); I trust it because its consistent teachings about human nature and what it takes to live in community, the kind of world that we live in, the kind of God we have access to, and much more, are logically coherent and continually confirmed by my daily experience.

When the Bible says humanity is inherently prone to sin I don’t have to accept that on faith, I can see it for myself every day (it’s the modern claim that “humanity is basically good” that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny). When the Bible says there is healing and freedom in Christ, I don’t have to accept that blindly, I have experienced it myself and know many others who have as well. Ultimately, I trust this book above all others because I find that the harder I work to live in line with its teachings, the better a person I become and the more of God I experience. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for the Bible.

And what of the other religions? I have no reason to deny that they also express a great many truths as well, and I am happy to affirm them when they do. I don’t see any particular reason to claim that only Christians have ever experienced real miracles or revelation, even if not all such claims can be trusted. I don’t even have any a priori reason to deny that other gods exist or that my God has spoken to others (though since I trust the Bible, I must affirm that any such “gods” are secondary beings).

But I also see many aspects of the history and theology of other religions (and sometimes, other Christians) that are not consistent with my experience, or are down right incoherent (some of which I mentioned in a previous comment). Thus, I have no problem at all rejecting such claims where I see them. I don’t embrace “my particular brand” of Christianity because I think everyone else is wrong, but because it is as close to right as I have yet discovered.

But most importantly, I embrace Christianity over all other religions because the central claim of Christianity--God on a cross--makes all other religious claims pale in comparison. If the creator of the universe truly did take human form and die to bring us life, then nothing else could possibly be more important.

Some might object that such a claim is unfalsifiable and therefore meaningless, but that is where I must part ways with them. God on a cross might be unfalsifiable, but it is not meaningless. Rather, it is the most meaningful thing that has ever happened. In his definitive study on the subject, The Crucified God, J├╝rgen Moltmann insists that the cross is the beginning and end of all Christian theology, yet itself resists all interpretation: The cross is how I know that God is good, how I know what true humanity is, how I know what it means to live fully, how I know that the universe has not yet arrived at its eschatological goal, and how I know that one day it will. Some of these truths are open to a degree of falsification, others are not, but I have found that reality as a whole makes the most sense when viewed from the vantage point of the cross. That is why I am a Christian.

As someone once put it: “I believe in the cross as I believe in the sun; not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.”

13 comments:

Carmen Andres said...

"The cross is how I know that God is good, how I know what true humanity is, how I know what it means to live fully, how I know that the universe has not yet arrived at its eschatological goal, and how I know that one day it will. Some of these truths are open to a degree of falsification, others are not, but I have found that reality as a whole makes the most sense when viewed from the vantage point of the cross. That is why I am a Christian."

there is so much i like in this piece, the above being one of them. i love how you move the Bible from a religious book to a one that reflects reality - a reality created, infused and breathed by God. one of my turning points with scripture was realizing it wasn't an instruction or rule book but a collection of thousands of years reflecting and revealing how life works. it has become instead a book of the utmost wisdom and reality.

but more than that, i love how you allow it all to point where it must and does: Jesus, God come to and with us. an oh-so-good God. a God who loves beyond comprehension. amen.

thank you.

Ken Brown said...

You're much too kind, but thank you.

I agree that everything changes when you shift your perception of the Bible from a collection of True propositions, to a story--sometimes dark and meandering, but shot through with grace and beauty and pointing to Christ.

Despite what some claim, this is not a book that demands we accept its every detail unquestioningly (just read the psalms!). We are expected to struggle with it, even object to it, but ultimately to let it transform us.

N. Adam said...

When the Bible says humanity is inherently prone to sin I don’t have to accept that on faith, I can see it for myself every day (it’s the modern claim that “humanity is basically good” that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny).

Some anthropologists estimate that as many as one of every for men, in states of tribal communities, were killed by the hands of other men. Fossils of tribal men with bones dented with instruments sharp or broken with instruments blunt are abundant. This, to me, is a persuasive argument of man's inherent evil, that, left to his devises, killing seem a natural consequence. (As an aside: people often point to the many atrocities of the twentieth century as proof as how low man can go. If the death rates of tribal man were applied to that period, we would be talking about the deaths of billions, not millions.)

Be that as it may, modern humans seem to have a more evolved sense of what is right or wrong, right up until the point people start appealing to The Bible. Is it sinful for a father beat his child with a rod or kill homosexuals or keep slaves? In the abstract anyone modern person would say yes, but The Bible clearly says different. The problem for me does not come when people view sinful acts without Biblical context, but when they view sinful acts from within. Would you agree? (Why do I anticipate an appeal to literal interpretation?)

But most importantly, I embrace Christianity over all other religions because the central claim of Christianity--God on a cross--makes all other religious claims pale in comparison. If the creator of the universe truly did take human form and die to bring us life, then nothing else could possibly be more important.

Forget about whether or not the claim is meaningless or unfalsifiable for the moment; it does not even make sense internally.

The universe is very big. Each star is hundreds of times bigger than the Earth and hundreds of light years apart. Each galaxy has dozens of billions of stars and the universe contains hundreds of billions of galaxies. For the creator of the universe to provide the framework for all these things to be true yet concern himself with the affairs of a single species on a single planet in a single galaxy speaks more of how highly we think of ourselves than any omnipotence God supposedly owns, wouldn't you say?

Question: Where you raised as a Christian? Because if you were this article could have been several paragraphs shorter.

Ken Brown said...

N. Adam,
It is a simple fact that different ages recognize different forms of evil more easily than others. Modern people, with the advantage of hindsight and long distance communication, are more likely to recognize the evil of killing members of a rival group than pre-moderns were. On the other hand, we do a rather worse job of respecting authority than previous ages, and we don't seem to be any better at solving injustice, to name just a few examples. The Bible, being the product of a previous age, maintains the cultural and moral blindspots of its era, two of the worst being slavery and genocide. As far as we recognize those terrible evils and the biblical authors (generally) did not, we have made genuine moral progress, and only a fool would claim the old way preferable.

But the truth is that such things occupy a much smaller, and non-central, portion of the Bible than the critics would have you believe, and are in fact called into question by other (much more central) passages. We could discuss specific examples if you want, but that will require a long and drawn-out discussion. For now, let me simply note that when Jesus himself summarized scripture, he didn't emphasize anything about slavery or genocide, but rather commanded: "in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, this sums up the law and the prophets."

And don't forget that the moral influence of Christianity itself played no small role in lifting the Western world out of the very barbarism of our ancestors (as, for instance, when Christians were among the most outspoken critics of British and American slavery), so even in critiquing the Bible's worse portions, we are doing so from the vantage point that Christianity has itself, in part, provided (which is not to deny that other factors, such as globalization, have also played important roles in raising our moral sense; as I said, we have a chronological advantage over our ancestors in the form of centuries of recorded history).

Forget about whether or not the claim [God on a cross] is meaningless or unfalsifiable for the moment; it does not even make sense internally.

The universe is very big....


Is the value of a thing to be judged by its size? Jupiter is far, far bigger than the entire human race combined, but surely no sentient being who came to our solar system (creator or otherwise) would consider the former to be of greater value than the latter. Size would be no object at all to an infinite being, and if God did indeed create the universe with the intention of it including sentient beings who could know and love God and each other, what difference does it make how rare or tiny those beings might be in comparison to the whole? (If we are rare, for that matter. Nothing in Christian theology requires that humanity is the only race in the universe, nor that we are the only ones God loves.) Nor are modern critics the first to have recognized humanity’s apparent unimportance:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

As for whether I was raised in a Christian home, I was, and truly that is relevant to why I am a Christian today, but surely that doesn't disqualify my other reasons for being one. I was raised to believe the earth is round as well, but if I were to explain to someone why I believe it is round today, I certainly wouldn't bother mentioning "because my parents believed it to be true." I disagree with my parents on many things that I was taught to believe (including politics), surely you are not implying that the fact that I still agree with them on Christianity makes that belief illegitimate?

N. Adam said...

For now, let me simply note that when Jesus himself summarized scripture, he didn't emphasize anything about slavery or genocide, but rather commanded: "in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, this sums up the law and the prophets." And don't forget that the moral influence of Christianity itself played no small role in lifting the Western world out of the very barbarism of our ancestors (as, for instance, when Christians were among the most outspoken critics of British and American slavery), so even in critiquing the Bible's worse portions, we are doing so from the vantage point that Christianity has itself, in part, provided (which is not to deny that other factors, such as globalization, have also played important roles in raising our moral sense; as I said, we have a chronological advantage over our ancestors in the form of centuries of recorded history).

Addressing the second point first, with respect to American slavery, Christianity simply played too much of role in reinforcing slavery to absolve it of the role it played in rooting it out. Why should you expect credit for calling the fire department if you set my house aflame?

With respect to Jesus and slavery, the fact that he never took an opportunity to condemn it directly does not speak highly of a supposed divine prophet. I mean, perhaps if Jesus were simply a stand-up guy for his time, I could overlook his tacit approval of slavery the same way I could overlook the less admirable traits of Thomas Jefferson. Shouldn't you expect higher standards of Jesus?

With respect to the point that my critique is rooted in a foundation that Christianity has had a hand in laying, I would add that modern moral values owe just as much, if not more, to the Enlightenment. Anyway, that certain Christian values inform my worldview (such as the Golden Rule) only further makes my case: with regard to slavery, Christianity doesn't even hold up to Christian standards.

Is the value of a thing to be judged by its size? Jupiter is far, far bigger than the entire human race combined, but surely no sentient being who came to our solar system (creator or otherwise) would consider the former to be of greater value than the latter. Size would be no object at all to an infinite being, and if God did indeed create the universe with the intention of it including sentient beings who could know and love God and each other, what difference does it make how rare or tiny those beings might be in comparison to the whole?

Let's deal with one unfalsifiable claim at time. I'll assume, for the sake of argument, that God is the creator of the universe but, in so doing, I will not also entertain the notion that he is an "infinite being" (whatever that means). We can't have a conversation if you're going to make circular arguments.

As for whether I was raised in a Christian home, I was, and truly that is relevant to why I am a Christian today, but surely that doesn't disqualify my other reasons for being one.

Certainly not. You just so happened to be brought up in the one faith that "makes all other religious claims pale in comparison." Seriously now, you made it sound as though you were choosing Christianity when in fact it was chosen for you.

Ken Brown said...

With respect to Jesus and slavery, the fact that he never took an opportunity to condemn it directly does not speak highly of a supposed divine prophet. I mean, perhaps if Jesus were simply a stand-up guy for his time, I could overlook his tacit approval of slavery the same way I could overlook the less admirable traits of Thomas Jefferson. Shouldn't you expect higher standards of Jesus?

Christianity claims that Jesus was fully a man as well as being fully God, and as a man, he was not omniscient (for instance, compare Matt. 24:36). Moreover, he lived in first century Palestine, where slavery was very different than our modern ideas of the institution. Jewish slavery was, ideally anyway, a form of bond-service. A person facing economic hardship pledged their service for a set number of years in exchange for food and shelter. It was far from an ideal system, but it was (in theory, if not in practice) freely chosen, and not the same category of evil that we think of when we consider slavery. Attacking that system does not seem to have been among his priorities, but he certainly never condoned it and his consistent teachings that "whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do to me" ought to be clear enough to anyone paying attention that the abuse and cruel submission of one’s fellow human beings is out of the question.

The fact that people have justified all manner of atrocities in the name of Christianity (American slavery being one) does not change the fact that the rejection of that institution represents a more faithful reading of the central claims of the Bible than the self-serving interpretations of slave-holders. "Enlightenment", too, has been used to justify some pretty horrific activities (like the French Revolution), so it's no use pointing fingers.

Let's deal with one unfalsifiable claim at time. I'll assume, for the sake of argument, that God is the creator of the universe but, in so doing, I will not also entertain the notion that he is an "infinite being" (whatever that means). We can't have a conversation if you're going to make circular arguments.

Now you're just changing the subject when your objection ("the universe is big!") didn't pan out. But I’ll bite: The attributes of God are not distinct claims; they are logically tied together. If God is indeed the creator of all else that exists, then by definition he is infinite (that is, "not finite"). God, if God exists, can have no beginning, because logically, "from nothing, nothing comes." That is, something must have always existed or else nothing would ever have existed. In the past, Atheists insisted that the universe itself could fulfill that role, but the discoveries of entropy and the Big Bang burst that bubble, so now they are left with a theory no less speculative than God: an eternal multiverse that just so happens to spit out universes like ours. Yeah that's falsifiable.

You just so happened to be brought up in the one faith that "makes all other religious claims pale in comparison." Seriously now, you made it sound as though you were choosing Christianity when in fact it was chosen for you.

The fact that my parents also believe in Christianity in no way proves that I did not choose it myself. I have had plenty of opportunities to choose otherwise, and my beliefs have changed in countless ways in my life, but these beliefs have only been strengthened by my continued experience.

I'm curious, do you doubt the authenticity of those raised by atheists who remain atheists themselves, or do only converts (whether to or from religion) have the right to claim reasons for their beliefs?

Still, I like your phrasing, for in fact Christiany was chosen for me, not by my parents but by my God. Or, as C.S. Lewis described his own adult conversion from atheism in Suprized by Joy:

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted for even a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired no to meet.... In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all Engand. I did not see then what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation." (pg. 229)

N. Adam said...

Christianity claims that Jesus was fully a man as well as being fully God, and as a man, he was not omniscient (for instance, compare Matt. 24:36). Moreover, he lived in first century Palestine, where slavery was very different than our modern ideas of the institution. Jewish slavery was, ideally anyway, a form of bond-service. A person facing economic hardship pledged their service for a set number of years in exchange for food and shelter. It was far from an ideal system, but it was (in theory, if not in practice) freely chosen, and not the same category of evil that we think of when we consider slavery. Attacking that system does not seem to have been among his priorities, but he certainly never condoned it and his consistent teachings that "whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do to me" ought to be clear enough to anyone paying attention that the abuse and cruel submission of one’s fellow human beings is out of the question.

That Jesus was fully man and fully God, omniscient and ignorant, does not help your case. Firstly, to a practical person like me, being fully man and fully God are too contradictory ideas to begin with. Secondly, for apologists like yourself, it makes just a little too convenient to trumpet the divinity of Christ when his moral insites are correct (the sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule) then turnaround and appeal to his humanity when his does something like condemn slavery. Thirdly, you do not need to be omniscient to know that slavery is unimpeachably evil in any context.

Now you're just changing the subject when your objection ("the universe is big!") didn't pan out. But I’ll bite: The attributes of God are not distinct claims; they are logically tied together. If God is indeed the creator of all else that exists, then by definition he is infinite (that is, "not finite"). God, if God exists, can have no beginning, because logically, "from nothing, nothing comes." That is, something must have always existed or else nothing would ever have existed. In the past, Atheists insisted that the universe itself could fulfill that role, but the discoveries of entropy and the Big Bang burst that bubble, so now they are left with a theory no less speculative than God: an eternal multiverse that just so happens to spit out universes like ours. Yeah that's falsifiable.

As evident by the fact that I was not doing one and I do not accept the other, you neither know of my position pertaining to the multiverse hypothesis nor my motive in "changing the subject." Moving on.

God is infinite. How do we know? Because, by definition, God cannot have a beginning or end. Circular. Prove that your premise that God is infinite without invoking your conclusion ("by definition") and we can debate that point.

The fact that my parents also believe in Christianity in no way proves that I did not choose it myself. I have had plenty of opportunities to choose otherwise, and my beliefs have changed in countless ways in my life, but these beliefs have only been strengthened by my continued experience.

By your own admission, the fact that you were brought Christian is a big part of the reason why you are a Christian. Yet in your article "Why I am Christian," the fact that you were brought up Christian is no where to be found. This does not prove, to any degree of absolution, that you did not choose it for yourself, but I think it was influential reason then you gave it credit for in your article.

I'm curious, do you doubt the authenticity of those raised by atheists who remain atheists themselves, or do only converts (whether to or from religion) have the right to claim reasons for their beliefs?

Well, it's not about doubting their authenticity, it is about owning up to reasons they are the way they are. If an atheist who grew up in an atheist house failed to mention that fact in his article "Why I am an Atheist" then I wouldn't object to someone exposing that fact.

Ken Brown said...

it [is] just a little too convenient to trumpet the divinity of Christ when his moral insights are correct (the sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule) then turnaround and appeal to his humanity when his does something like [condone] slavery.

But Jesus did not condone slavery, at least not explicitly; you are arguing from silence. My point was that, as a human being who lived where he did, it is not impossible that slavery did not strike him with the moral force that modern slavery rightly does us. Or perhaps it did so strike him and the Gospel writers didn't bother telling us about it (the Bible, after all, tells of only a tiny sampling of Jesus' life). The truth is, we don't know what Jesus thought of slavery, but if you are going to assume anything about his view, you should abstract from his many clear statements about how people should treat one another (as those I’ve quoted), and those leave no room for oppression of any kind, slavery included.

As evident by the fact that I was not doing one and I do not accept the other, you neither know of my position pertaining to the multiverse hypothesis nor my motive in "changing the subject." Moving on.

You are right. My comment was out of line and I apologize.

God is infinite. How do we know?

We can't know. Like I said on the other thread, we have no direct access to ultimate reality; all we can do is compare potential systems for internal consistency and correspondence to the world. But the fact that anything at all exists means that something is infinite and eternal, and that something created our universe (either as an unconscious "natural" outworking of eternal processes, or as a conscious act). There are only two choices in the matter: An eternal universe (or multiverse) of some kind, or an eternal God (or, I suppose, an eternal universe which evolved an extremely powerful being who then created our universe; but that seems a little redundant). You can’t prove either alternative, but you can take each of them in turn and see which makes sense of more of reality.

Additionally, while they fall short of proof, there are also strong philosophical arguments for the attributes of God, see for instance The Ontological Argument (though, personally, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of that particular argument. Its logic is surprisingly compelling, but it seems too easy, kind of like defining God into existence).

Yet in your article "Why I am Christian," the fact that you were brought up Christian is no where to be found.

Granted, and perhaps it should have been, but recall that this "article" was really just a reworked version of a comment I made at the end of a long conversation, much like this one. It was not intended to be a full explanation of all the reasons I am a Christian; I was merely briefly highlighting a few of those that seem to me compelling. I wasn't hiding anything, but when you suggested that, if I was raised a Christian, "this article could have been several paragraphs shorter," you implied that the reasons I did give are ruled out by the fact that I was raised Christian. It was that implication I was challenging.

In any case, thanks for continuing the conversation, and for your thoughtful and respectful responses. Since my second child is due in three days, if I suddenly disappear, please don’t take it personally! :)

N. Adam said...

The truth is, we don't know what Jesus thought of slavery, but if you are going to assume anything about his view, you should abstract from his many clear statements about how people should treat one another (as those I’ve quoted), and those leave no room for oppression of any kind, slavery included.

Again, if Jesus were fully human, you could peddle (in the positive sense of the word) the argument that he was only going along with the times (though Jesus, in fact, did not simply go along with his times and that is what makes him a role model). But you do not stop there, you go on to say that he is, paradoxically, fully God and there is where his lack of a stand against slavery becomes unimpressive.

There are only two choices in the matter: An eternal universe (or multiverse) of some kind, or an eternal God (or, I suppose, an eternal universe which evolved an extremely powerful being who then created our universe; but that seems a little redundant). You can’t prove either alternative, but you can take each of them in turn and see which makes sense of more of reality.

The problem with circular arguments is that you can install as many choices as you want so long as you make them self-sustaining. There are not two choice in the matter; there are many. I could, for instance, claim that the universe is just an emulated reality inside a supercomputer or that you are a comatose god and I am just another character in your decades-long dream or I could say that God created the universe and then died or that two Gods (or three or four) created the universe. These propositions, respective of pure logic, make just as much sense as the multiverse or an eternal God. Each is subject to infinite regress and neither is the least bit helpful in making any more sense of reality. Even from practical and moral standpoints, whether or not God is an infinite being should influence the faithful orders of magnitute less than the idea that he was the creator of the universe.

So, if only for my amusement, could you respond to my "universe is big" argument without invoking God as an infinite being? Suppose that God is "only" the creator of the universe and lived long enough after the event to impregnate Mary and embody Christ. Do you really believe that this is the best way for the creator of the universe to absolve humanity, let alone concern himself with the affairs of man in the first place?

I wasn't hiding anything, but when you suggested that, if I was raised a Christian, "this article could have been several paragraphs shorter," you implied that the reasons I did give are ruled out by the fact that I was raised Christian.

All this time I thought I was applying a Socratic method.

In any case, thanks for continuing the conversation, and for your thoughtful and respectful responses. Since my second child is due in three days, if I suddenly disappear, please don’t take it personally! :)

You are welcome, congrats, and I won't.

Ken Brown said...

Again, if Jesus were fully human, you could peddle (in the positive sense of the word) the argument that he was only going along with the times (though Jesus, in fact, did not simply go along with his times and that is what makes him a role model). But you do not stop there, you go on to say that he is, paradoxically, fully God and there is where his lack of a stand against slavery becomes unimpressive.

Unimpressive, perhaps, but it's still a relatively weak argument from silence.

The problem with circular arguments is that you can install as many choices as you want so long as you make them self-sustaining. There are not two choice in the matter; there are many. I could, for instance, claim that the universe is just an emulated reality inside a supercomputer or that you are a comatose god and I am just another character in your decades-long dream or I could say that God created the universe and then died or that two Gods (or three or four) created the universe. These propositions, respective of pure logic, make just as much sense as the multiverse or an eternal God.

These are not, in fact, alternatives but merely possible variations on the two I gave. Regardless of how many additional "layers" you want to posit for reality, it remains true that something has always existed, and that something is either conscious or unconscious. There is no other option. Whether I am that eternal reality (and severely ignorant of it), or the multiverse is, or Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, all such possibilities fall into those same two categories.

So, if only for my amusement, could you respond to my "universe is big" argument without invoking God as an infinite being? Suppose that God is "only" the creator of the universe and lived long enough after the event to impregnate Mary and embody Christ. Do you really believe that this is the best way for the creator of the universe to absolve humanity, let alone concern himself with the affairs of man in the first place?

Why should I try and defend a position I do not hold? But yes, I do indeed believe that God dying as a man is the best and only answer to humanity's evil. This is an extension of my belief that self-sacrifice is in general the only answer to evil. Only humility and the denial of self for the other can extinguish, rather than merely extending, the problem of evil. I've written on aspects of that subject on many occasions, but this post in particular gets at what I mean.

N. Adam said...

Unimpressive, perhaps, but it's still a relatively weak argument from silence.

Not if Jesus was godly. Again, if Jesus were just some guy I would not have a problem. Only when you go the next step and say that he is God do expectations tend to rise.

Regardless of how many additional "layers" you want to posit for reality, it remains true that something has always existed, and that something is either conscious or unconscious.

Firstly, you posited the initial additional layer when you posited that the creator of the universe was omnipotent. Secondly, if you define "something" as an entity with three spatial dimensions then on what basis do you say that it has always existed? If our perception of time--like our perception of space--started with the Big Bang then what does it even mean to say that there was anything before?

I will get to the other bit later.

N. Adam said...

I do indeed believe that God dying as a man is the best and only answer to humanity's evil.

With respect to God dying as man being the only answer to humanity's evil: If God is omnipotent, as you claim, then nothing should prevent him from providing an infinite number of means to reach the same end. With respect to God dying as man being the best answer to humanity's evil: why not just modify the universe such that it no longer allows for human evil?

Ken Brown said...

With respect to God dying as man being the only answer to humanity's evil: If God is omnipotent, as you claim, then nothing should prevent him from providing an infinite number of means to reach the same end.

I'm not sure what you are proposing here. If you mean inclusivism (the idea that a person might come to God apart from Christianity), you'll find I'm sympathetic, but see these two posts for some cautions.

With respect to God dying as man being the best answer to humanity's evil: why not just modify the universe such that it no longer allows for human evil?

Because such would rule out human choice, and where there is no choice, there is no love (see this post).

Now, speaking of love... if I don't shut down this computer soon I may lose my wife's! ;)