The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Sword to the Heart (Full 3rd Edition+links to Sections)

Chapter 10 – “SIF/n-SIF vs. ??”

Series 119 – theism and atheism?

So far I have been presenting (and arguing) as though the Independent Fact has two most cogent options: sentient and non-sentient (i.e. theistic and atheistic); but some people throughout history have tried to consider the IF to be both sentient and non-sentient; early Stoics: the IF is Reason, but this Reason doesn’t actively do anything; late 18th through early 20th century vitalists: the IF actively does things, and even has purposes of a sort, but is mindless and isn’t rational per se (or not yet anyway); ‘It really can think, but it really has no purposes and does not initiate action.’ ‘It really cannot think, but it really has purposes and does initiate action.’; either version of this concept is necessarily self-contradictory when referring to properties of final reality at the primary level; what can comparing and contrasting these claims can tell me about how we, as humans, perceive ‘sentience’?

Series 120: theism or atheism

One way to combine the SIF & n-SIF positions: the IF is a Mind, but it has no plans and does not initiate events; another way: he IF is not a Mind, but it has plans (or ‘purposes’) and initiates events (or ‘strives’); the first proposition offers an explanation for the apparent intelligibility of the universe; clearly affirms objective (if static) truths; reality is somewhat similar to us, as persons, foundationally; the purposeless and activeless Mind won’t bother us personally in any way; I can pay attention to it as a Mind when I want to, and when I feel like it; it is convenient to me; the second proposition offers living, purposeful action instead of a ‘cold, unfeeling’ mechanistic Nature; self-ordering must be in Nature’s character, so Nature must be up to something progressive (or ‘good’), if not for me exactly then for my descendants; I and Nature am alive; I can look back to see Nature bringing about–me!; but I needn’t worry about this purposeful Nature bothering me; its purposes are too simple, and are beneath my notice; I can pay attention to it as a Life when I want to, and when I feel like it; it is convenient to me; these two propositions obviously throw a sop to my own pride; The Divine either isn’t smart enough to understand its own plans, or despite being ‘rational’ it doesn’t have plans; atheism: there is no point in saying that the IF has Reason if It does not initiate purposeful actions, does not think, and is only blind, unconscious, automatic; theism: there is no point in saying the IF does not have Reason if It initiates actions, has purposes, plans; I will eventually be required to decide, if I can, whether the IF is sentient (as an action initiator that can, among other things, actively judge the coherency of linked propositions), or non-sentient (a blind, automatic, non-purposive mechanism that initiates no actions but very effectively reacts and counterreacts); the middle-grounder might reply that she was ‘only being metaphorical’ when she said the IF has Reason, or has ‘purposes’; she means something reductive–she means the reality is less, not more, than her description implied; also note this can only lead to a n-SIF proposition if it is followed through consistently–the middle-ground proponents could turn out to be atheists (of some sort) after all (not really middle-grounders); on the other hand, I don’t think reductionism is a very good example of what it means to speak ‘metaphorically’; removing some misconceptions about metaphor will help some people deal with claims about ‘religion’; so, to the topic of metaphor next.

Chapter 11 – “‘On’ Metaphor”

Series 121: thought and imagination

Appeal to reductive metaphors for resolving contradictions; reductive metaphors sacrifice anything like the apparent meaning of the term or phrase thus ‘metaphorized’; still, if it’s done fairly and the implications aren’t shuffled around for convenience, real progress can be made in hashing out implications; some examples of use and abuse of reductive metaphorization; reduction is also not the most common way we use metaphor; very commonly, we use metaphor to stand for (or ‘mean’) more, not less, than what imagery implies; thought is distinct from the imagination that accompanies it; sometimes that’s true without metaphor, too; an example without metaphor: epic music score playing in my head when I write apologetics; an example with metaphor: imagining spatial relations of Earth and Sun to each other; the imagery isn’t accurate, and cannot possibly be accurate; but orbital calculations don’t necessarily require the imagery to be fully (or even largely) accurate; only needs sufficient adequacy, not total accuracy; if I cannot express topic with total accuracy even to myself, how much less so can I express it to other persons; anyone who talks about things that cannot be sensory perceived, must inevitably talk as if sensory perceived; we cannot even receive (much less convey) a fully accurate sensory impression of relationship between things that can be perceived–much less things that cannot be perceived; this applies to everything in our experience; some examples based on appearance of a book; we cannot detect all the facts simultaneously and fully, nor even keep them all properly in our minds at once as abstract concepts; whether or not we know the extent to which we are being inaccurate, we still have to use extremely inaccurate sensory descriptions when communicating ideas to ourselves and to other people; other examples–a book can at least be partially perceived, but quantum physics particles cannot; one step further: understanding how inaccurate the words ‘understand’ and ‘one step further’ are to the mental events being currently expressed!; we never really see or hear or smell or taste or feel things in their completeness, but we must speak for convenience as if we do; we have no other way of communicating; not grounds for a complete philosophy of subjectivity or relativity–that would be self-refuting; neither can perfectly objective thought or perception be achieved (except perhaps by God, if the Independent Fact is God); God’s knowledge and expressions may be perfectly ‘literal’ (speaking creation into existence?); but even God cannot communicate to not-God entities with perfect literalness; communication must be what we can relate to, or no communication will occur at all; to insist otherwise would require that we be God’s equal in actuality, ability and independence; God’s metaphorical expressions will be fully adequate for whatever purposes He has in mind; then again, we might ought to be careful about concluding what purposes He has in mind.

Series 122: an unwanted level of religious complexity?

Shouldn’t scriptures be a ‘straight-up straight-out’ reading at all points?; but if Christian scriptures are at all historically reliable accounts, then they show us Jesus rarely giving a ‘literal’ answer to any question; the information he communicated to his followers was not always what they thought he was telling them; Jesus expects them to work it out themselves; if I insist that God would not tell anything other than the pure ‘literal’ truth which could not be added to in understanding, I would be implicitly denying the divinity of Jesus–because that is not the way he worked; nor is this helped by going back to the OT, where prophets are full of metaphorical imagery that is usually far from being super-literal; it helps though to remember, in how we ourselves do (and must) use language, metaphor usually means more not less than it appears to say; metaphors are shorthand ways of adequately (although somewhat inaccurately) expressing our ideas; a single expression or perception may easily be misleading–multiple perceptions or expressions of the same event or object usually provide us with a better composite ‘picture’ of what we are trying to think or say; presenting analogies as arguments, though, is a conclusion-killing gaffe; and not always easy to tell the difference; but the difference itself illustrates the point: metaphors are about something else–usually something more than the metaphor (by itself) implies; we must be careful not to automatically toss away every attendant proposition if a false image is mistaken for a true one; thought may be mainly sound even when the false images accompanying it are mistaken by the thinker for true ones; even if I mistake my mental images when doing orbital calcs, for being more accurate than they are, that doesn’t mean the results of my orbital calcs are false; Lewis uses the example of a girl who believes that the poison in lye is “horrid red things”; she has mistaken an imaginary mental association for reality, but she’s still entirely correct about it being poisonous!; nor did her belief about its toxicity ever rest on the mistaken mental imagery; the Ascension as a religious example; Ascension imagery gets across many salient points about a claim much ‘larger’ (and far more technical) than the imagery by itself would imply; wouldn’t even be surprising if God did allow witnesses to actually see that imagery–something they can understand but which allows expansion of detail for fuller understandings of the event; a 1st-century Palestinian sandal in geosynchronous orbit over Israel is not necessarily the kind of evidence to be expected if the story is true; leads to the question of evidence of supernatural activity.

Chapter 12 – “Supernature and Evidence”

Series 123: evidence and the burden of proof

Incidents and claims should be taken on a case-by-case basis, and filtered through an already developed philosophical position; the claim of Jesus’ Ascension as an example; even if God does exist as the supernaturally transcendent Sentient Independent Fact, this doesn’t automatically rule out other explanations than the ‘orthodox’ one; but it does open (or leave open) the possibility of such an explanation being true; to be strengthened or refuted on further grounds and evidence; the burden of proof; historical claims and the burden of proof; usually in favor of the purported historian; but exception when the historical claim would impinge on whatever fundamental reality we believe to be true; reasonable scepticism even if we are wrong about philosophy; Christians no different, and usually no less sceptical, than anyone else, for exactly this reason; doesn’t necessarily indicate sinful obstinacy–for Christian or for non-Christian; it might be prudent loyalty to the truth, in principle (even if the believer is wrong about belief); all who assert an idea should be prepared to shoulder burden of proof; intruders into the lives of opponents should not see a refusal to sortie out onto intruder’s ground as tacit or explicit surrender; but what type of evidence is appropriate for shouldering burden of proof; I would not necessarily believe I was seeing the Devil if ‘the Devil’ appeared in front of me, and I do already believe he exists (and can do things like appear in front of people); plenty of other explanations for appearance are possible; at the same time, if he exists and can operate, those explanations might also be how he chooses to appear; but I would need more than mere appearance, even to believe the Devil was actually appearing in front of me, much moreso that the Devil exists at all; a factor of supernatural operation which sometimes escapes sceptics who demand hard proof: the character of the proposed event might easily dictate that some kinds of ‘natural’ explanations could similarly be proposed to explain the event–even if the event truly was supernatural in character; assuming for sake of illustration I can create a cloud in the sky by supernatural power; what could a naturalist fairly accept as evidence or principle for reasonably agreeing the cloud was created by supernatural power; no obligation to accept any evidence or argument if he has already concluded for naturalism against supernaturalism; the event might suggest he re-evaluate his prior rationales; if rationales still solid, then still rational to reject evidence; even if prior rationales discovered to be faulty, still might not be positive rationale in favor of supernatural explanation for cloud; what if naturalist (Chase) is compared with supernaturalist (Reed) in regard to assessing my claim concerning that cloud.

Series 124 – a sieve of curious similarities

It might be supposed that Reed (a supernaturalist) will have a radically different set of possible evaluations of my claim that I just created a cloud by supernatural power, compared to Chase (a philosophical naturalist); but a close check of reasonable evaluations by each person in various circumstances, shows that their sets of evaluation aren’t much different from each other; that includes when the testimony of witnesses of various kinds, is factored into the ‘sieve’ of reasonable responses; the importance of evaluating personal experience; the importance of inferential verification by relation beyond one’s self; the importance of ‘attesting signs’ in the history of religions; some hypothetical limits to the frequency and type of attesting signs; a (hypothetical!) way of drawing an inference by comparing data with those hypothetical limits; but, of course, what if ‘attesting signs’ are what are being considered for acceptance or rejection themselves; leads back to the goal for this chapter: regardless of what I may be currently sceptical of, and putting myself back into the place of someone sceptical of what I believe, what kind of evidence would I accept as grounds for changing my mind to belief instead?

Series 125: from reasonable scepticism to reasonable belief.

presuming (and checking that) I am not in the middle of some strong emotional pull toward some belief; responsible evaluation of one’s own beliefs; God might provide emotional push toward a belief; but even that may (and will) be regarded as evidence for inferring what to believe, if I am acting responsibly about my beliefs; but responsibly, what would I consider to be the most reliable evidence (and procedure) for exclusively rejecting one belief and accepting another; even if I am a ‘sceptic’ about an idea, I am not sitting in a positivistic vacuum; I already have some ‘position’ about the idea, even to acknowledge the idea as something to think about; it must be evidence I actually have access to, and that I can clearly detect that I have access to; it must be evidence that is clearly distinctive without question-begging; ideally it should be evidence from which a solid and functionally exclusive deductive argument can be developed; the argument deduced from this evidence must be valid; fair guidelines for an apologist (of whatever belief, religious or non-religious or anti-religious) to work within.

Chapter 13 (Series 126): The Leveled Playing-Field

This whole chapter is, in a way, one big summary. So it seems redundant to summarize the summary. :mrgreen: Better to just read it, or skip along to Series 200, since this is the finale to Series 100.

I have finally gotten around (despite inexcusable laziness) to uploading the full SttH as a pdf file, and attaching it near the top of the first comment of each of the index pages (including this one.)

Credit should go to our member “biblicist” who reminded me I hadn’t done so yet. :slight_smile:

(But more credit to God, of course! :smiley: )