Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How do we get there?

My second-to-last post had some interesting responses by ALV, Mikearoni, and Craig. Some avacado kid got on there and posted junk. I may block his next comments. Anyway, I wanted to pose what I think is an interesting problem.

Logic demands that a supreme being of some sort exists, or at least a Prime Mover. I think I've explained the syllogism before, but just in case, here it is:

- No event occurs without at least one cause.
- The first event occurred (perhaps the creation of the universe or of God?) without a cause.
> There must be some causeless event that defies the normal limits of logic.

The causeless event I refer to as the "Prime Mover," but many people refer to it as "God." So I want to know: by what method can we determine which Prime Mover of the dozens proffered by various religions is the true Prime Mover? I'm not asking which Prime Mover you think is the correct one, but how you think people should decide.


Craig Pankratz said...

I believe God must reveal Himself to us or we cannot know Him. He revealed Himself anciently to Prophets, and I believe He continues to reveal Himself modernly.

But I do not believe that logic will reveal Him. Logic is valuable and can be a great tool in our search to know God. In fact, I believe our faith must be a reasoned faith. We should read God's words contained in the scriptures and ponder them. We should consider whether the scriptures are divinely inspired. And we should meditate on what the scriptures teach us about God.

Still, every chain of logic comes short of revealing the true nature of God. And that's unsettling, especially when you consider eternal life is to know God. (See John 17:3).

But the Bible contains a formula, available to everyone, through which we can know God, His nature, and His attributes: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and abraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5).

I do not believe this passage means that we are simply to ask. Rather, I believe we are to study it out in our minds and listen to our hearts. Then we need to kneel down, perhaps for the first time, and ask God to make Himself known to us. And when our prayer is done, we must listen for His answer.

But when we get off our knees, our search to know God has not ended: It has simply begun. We must continue steadfastly, feasting on God's words and LIVING them.

Jesus gave a promise during His ministry when the Jews marvelled at His doctrine. They apparently wondered whether what Jesus was teaching was true. And Jesus gave them the ultimate litmus test: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17).

If we want to know whether it's God's will to love our neighbors, we need to love our neighbors. If we want to know whether giving tithes or alms is God's will, we need to give tithes and alms. If we want to know whether living a chaste life is God's will, we need to live a chaste life.

And by so living, we need to stop and analyse our lives (another wonderful use for logic), whether what we're doing is bringing us "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance." (Galatians 5:22). For these feelings are the means through which God reveals to us that what we are doing is His will.

So it is by prayer and by doing that know the nature of God. It is by this process of praying and doing that God has revealed Himself to me, not through strong winds, earthquakes, or fires, but through a "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:11-12)confirming to me who He is and His nature.

And that is how ALL may know God.

avacadojer said...

So are you saying that the method by which we determine which god is God is just to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into any given religion and test it against our conscience?

Anonymous said...

Mikearoni here,

clearly, Pankratz' answer is of the "i know it's true by my experience" variety. In SOuthern Baptist Parlance, we might quote the old hymn, "you ask me how I know He lives, he Lives within my heart." nevertheless, this is ultimately a faith position and should be so acknowledged at the outset. Also, it has elements of finding what you want to find. a self-fulfilling self-prophecy. Needless to say, I have a problem with it as a way to determine which god is God.

Ultimately, in answer to Jeremy's question, my opinion is that it is impossible for us to determine which god is God (nice use of capital letters, BTW). Each group comes at its own view from its own view, and ultimately finds a way to justify its own view. Pankratz provides us with a perfect example. That is why, I guess, we should respect each view, since there really isn't a way to make the determination. Just pick one that works for you and go with it, I guess.. But I do think we should analyze which view we choose against the dictates of logic and experience, and common knowledge. Too many times believers from various faiths tout the mystery of God and their own personal experience as "evidence" that their God is the true one without really analyzing the claims of their faith group in light of logic, history, science, etc.

I think logically, it is difficult to perceive all that we see as mere happenstance, and so I do believe in a first cause, but I cannot conceive of a way to determine which God is the true God. Addressing several possible ways in turn:

1. Experience: this is basically what Pankratz is propounding. I think it is dangerous to take this approach because it runs too close to the "finding what you are looking for" problem.

2. Logic. The problem with logic is that presumably, if there is some sort of supreme being, he/she might do things that are outside the boundaries of human perception/understanding/logic.

3. Science. Again, closely related to logic, and not really designed to answer the question.

4. human history. some belief systems have waned and even disappeared. Perhaps those were such demonstrably false views of reality that no one could believe in them anymore. Or maybe the truth was lost?

Anway, that's all I can think of and my response is now probably longer than the original post and so probably no one will read it, but thank you for the opportunity to express myself. I think the question is a good one. Unfortunately, I also think it is ultimately a futile one that runs smack into the old conundrum of faith.

Craig Pankratz said...

I'm saying that we need to study the different religions and put them to a test. And our consciences are good indicators of Truth: For example, a religion promoting immorality or dishonesty would shock my conscience, and I would discount it from the outset. But testing it against our conscience isn't enough: God must reveal the truth of His nature to us, or we cannot know it.

And I'm not saying we need to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into a religion to discover which god is God. We can test the foundations of each religion.

I admit my formula is not my own, and it is the means by which I invited hundreds to discover whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly Christ's Church. But I don't know how well it would work with other faiths.

The LDS Church is unique because it claims to have additional guidance, inspiration, and scripture. With the LDS Church, there are actually things to test.

Let me illustrate (forgive the length and the proselytizing tone to it. You can delete this entire comment if you feel it's too controversial):

Within the LDS Church we have the Book of Mormon, and if it's true, then the nature of God ceases to be a mystery. (And we can stop looking to see how we can know the nature of God.)

Imagine a circle with an arrow spindle. The arrow can point to any number of conceptions of God. Let's consider the pivot upon which the arrow spins is the Bible. (Admittedly, using the Bible as the pivot point excludes several concepts of diety, but I'm assuming your readers accept the Bible).

From the Bible, dozens, if not hundreds, of conceptions of diety have emerged. And the arrow can spin and stop on any of them. But the Book of Mormon provides a second anchor for the arrow. With just one more anchor, the arrow can no longer spin.

But to actually know whether the Book of Mormon is the second anchor pointing to God's true nature, people have to test it in the way I described in my previous comment.

And there is an additional benefit to the Book of Mormon: It is completely dependent on the Bible. It can't exist as a pivot point, only as an anchor.

But if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus Christ is the Son of God, was resurrected and has a tangible body of flesh and bone in the express image of His Father, is perfectly just and merciful, is longsuffering, is patient, is kind, is forgiving, is the perfect teacher, is involved in our lives, and I could go on.

avacadojer said...

Mikearoni--you've offered only criticisms and no solutions, which, in effect, is very similar to Craig's solution: stick yourself into a situation and test it against your conscience.

I'm waiting to see if anybody else comments before giving my own views.

Craig Pankratz said...

One last thing, and I'll shut up.

Isn't the heart of science, and to an extent logic, the proposal of hypotheses, the creation of experiments to test the hypotheses, the collection of data from the experiments, and then using the data to determine whether the hypotheses are correct?

That process is also the heart of what I suggest to discover to true nature of God.

And Mikeroni, I have a few questions: Have you ever tasted salt? I'm sure you have, so could you describe to me the taste of salt without using "salt" or any of its derivations?

You can't! But that doesn't mean we can't understand the true nature of salt.

I'm not trying to be juvenile, it's just that some things can't be explained: They must be experienced.

All I'm saying is that to know the True God, you have to taste Spiritual Salt.

Anonymous said...

mikearoni here

Sorry Avocado, actually I avoided giving an answer because I don't think there is one. I thought I had made that clear, which is why I focused mainly on criticisms of other people's possible answers.

on an additional note, I could add a lot of criticism of Pankratz' response, but the circularity of his logic should be obvious, and so that is all that needs to be said.

Once again, thanks for posing an interesting, and significant question. If only it had an answer.

Craig Pankratz said...


I'm not trying to pick a fight with you. And you can criticize my comments all you want. Please forgive me if you took anything in my prior comment as an attack. It wasn't.

And I never claimed I was trying to convince you with logic. I'm not a logician. I haven't studied it like Jeremy, and I don't think it's the end-all-be-all of solutions. We can use logic to convince ourselves of anything, true or not.

I believe Truth must come from a source independent of our fallable selves. And I'm only trying to share how I have truly come to know who God is and that all can know Him. And the way too know Him is so simple, we often overlook it because of its simplicity: Live according to the scriptures.

I sincerely believe the commandments contained in the scriptures are attributes of Diety. And as we live the commandments, we become like God. That old saying, "if you want to know someone, walk a mile in his shoes," is true. The times I have felt closest to God are the times when I have been doing my best to live according to the scriptures.

And the perfect example of One who lived the commandments perfectly is Jesus Christ. If we want to know what God is like, we need look no farther than the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Then we need to emulate Him: Serve as He served, love as He loved, pray as He prayed, and obey as He obeyed.

It works. It may be circular, but there are millions who are doing it. And every one will attest that they know God.

Craig Pankratz said...

And with that Jeremy, I think I'll just stir controversy up on my own blog. I'll still participate in yours, but if there's another topic like this, I definitely will just refer you to my blog for my answer.

Besides, my responses are way too long to be comments.

And yes, Mikeroni, you are more than welcome to read AND comment on my blog. Please do!


Anonymous said...

What about Pascal's Wager? Do any of you think of that?