For purposes of this discussion, I would like to propose the following three assumptions:
1. That there is a God (to those who are fully convinced that there is no God, I would respectfully ask that this discussion not be for debating that issue).
2. That God is inscrutable (therefore man, on his own, cannot know God).
3. That God has revealed himself to man (therefore, if man chooses to cut himself off from God's revelation of himself, man cannot know God).
Assuming these 3 assumptions are true, in what way or ways do you think God has revealed himself to man? And, in the final analysis, how do they answer life's greatest question ... Who is God?
To start from where you seem to start, you would have to pick up the Bible just like any other book & do your damnedest to find out what its author meant to say.
I have no problem with this. Interpret it all you want. You can probably figure out what the author meant to say. My point is, there is no way to know if it actually tells you anything about God - not based on the assumptions required for this discussion. You would need additional assumptions before you could consider anything in the bible (or anywhere else) to be knowledge of God.
Even if we assume that the bible is an actual revelation by God, there is still no way to know if it is true - God could be deceiving us. You would need additional assumptions about the nature of God (that he would not deceive - something he himself does in the bible…), in order to use revelation (and again, only after you've dealt with determining which are real revelation, and which are false).
Liam, I think your entire problem has to do with a dictionary. It's common, hell, it happened to me today. I'll help you along, if it's all the same to you. All you need is to look up the word revelation.
Herb was talking about it, considering the possibility the God is the author of a revelation. It's his third assumption, if you want you should check with the list... -- For you to redefine revelation as partial revelation, or deceptious revelation, or some such contraption, that means you are lying to him when you say that you are considering, if only for argument's sake, the possibility of which he spake.
For you to redefine revelation as partial revelation, or deceptious revelation, or some such contraption, that means you are lying to him when you say that you are considering, if only for argument's sake, the possibility of which he spake.
Titus - the you are making your own assumptions about the nature of God and revelation. There is nothing in the definition of revelation that requires it to be complete or honest. Just previously secret and unknown. And since god is by Herb's own definition, inscrutable, we cannot know if he is being complete and honest with us. We can interpret whatever we will from what is provided, but we have no way of knowing the nature of god, to know if it is trustworthy.
I'm disappointed that you do not see this fundamental flaw in your own approach.
And again - this does not address the untestable nature of the hundreds of thousands of recorded "revelations" to know which of them are actually God's revelation to man.
Liam, for shame. I was explaining with due reference Herb's statement as it pertained to your objections. I do not presume to know his thoughts farther than this - so it would be unjust for you to be able to bring your accusations merely on the strength of my explanation. He might not share my opinion. It is also unjust to bring your accusations against me, because you have not asked / received my opinion.
The way you use the term revelation is also unjust. Herb was referring to revelation in the sense in which Christians refer to it. - If you have any reason to doubt that, then you ought to ask him. You use the word in the sense in which you might find it in the NYT. This may be well & good for the common sense of that term, but certainly not for the special sense, the term of art, known to anyone who knows anything about Christian theology.
I am willing to consider your objections to revelation; it is a highly irregular phenomenon & it is always obvious in such cases that one's experience & one's interpretation of one's experience may vary. I am not willing, however, to let you off the hook when you play with a man who asked a series of questions in earnest. You need not consider the possibility he discusses, you need not agree it exists, but you have no right to pretend that that possibility is not what he says it is. That is dishonest. But if you think you could prove that your objections to the phenomenon could refute the possibility of revelation, that is something that interests me greatly. Surely, we should start however with the best formulation of those objections of which you think you are capable, or of which you think I am capable of understanding-
Careful, Liam. You came dangerously close to an accidental epiphany.
I think you only make three plain arguments, or beginnings of arguments here, but they're scattered. Now, let me reformulate & let me know whether I've understood you correctly.
1. No alleged revelation happened simultaneously everywhere.
2. The many claims to revelation contradict each other. (If they are different, they must contradict each other implicitly, so this reduces to saying: There are several alleged revelations.)
3. Alleged revelations are not particularly persuasive to you or someone whose authority you accept, who apparently has disproved some such allegations, & who entitles you to talk of 'mere myth.' This leads me to think you mean to say you know science has disproven myth.
I think there is merit to these objections, but I think there are various ways of disposing of them. One is to say that contradictory opinions emerge on every subject of interest to human beings, so that you should start thinking again by realizing we always already have opinions & move from opinion to knowledge, but only if in the first place we realize why mere opinions are not satisfactory, to say nothing of further, more difficult conditions. Another is to say that the difficulty or obscurity of a question - Quid sit deus? - cannot dissuade any but the incompetent, because any consideration of the subject will speak its great importance to anyone who wants to understand mankind. -- It is known to anyone who studies these matters that although the laws change from time to time in any city, & different cities have different laws also, human beings are only human in cities, cities always must have laws, & the origin of the laws is always obscure, but obviously connected to that question about God.
My good man, you might consider again that Declaration which the Founders thought justified the birth of the nation, & which the great Washington ordered to be read to his troops as soon as it reached him. That rather brief document, aside from the complaints, includes several references to God, in fact, it suggests that the powers of gov't somehow resemble the powers of God. God first appears in the context of legislation, then as executive, & returns in the end as the judiciary. The fourth, final reference to God is to providence, without which apparently it were useless to pledge life, fortune, & sacred honor. -- Or again, consider Lincoln's Second Inaugural, where the providence of God is the only way that great president could teach the nation he led through Civil War & awful destruction about its fundamental political predicament.
It seems to me Americans are neither very pious nor very theoretic as a race; it probably makes little difference to them what Lincoln taught or why he counted the years of his race from the Declaration, not some other moment - the Constitution maybe, or the beginning or the end of the war against Britain? But the laws at their origin rely on God. Forgetting this seems inevitable, but I would not make it an object of pride.
But perhaps you do not mean your laws as an American. Perhaps you mean the laws more broadly. They have always been intermingled with the gods of the city. So it was in the Greece of which we know from philosophers & poets. So also in the Palestine of which we know from the Bible. So were the ancient cities; later cities have been no different. Why should the revelation of God be a source of many conflicts? Precisely because religion & politics share the same roots & the humanity of the human beings depends on it. Men are too attached to their own good & the survival of their way of life ever to accept enlightenment. You talk of a clear revelation as if that meant anything except turning all mankind spontaneously into perfect beings. For how could mankind learn the truth of God without becoming saintly, angelic, without error? It is this idealism, which desires, explicitly or implicitly, that men were turned into angels that stands in your way, methinks...
The only modern cities that were founded explicitly on the destruction of religion - consider turning Notre Dame de Paris into a Temple of Reason - were founded on the proposition that virtue is acquired through terror, whether in France or Russia or elsewhere. The modern revolution in England was much mitigated by the lack of atheism. The American revolution, the founding of the exemplary regime of the modern political science, was even less connected to atheism than the English. -- In short, the only examples of non-religious laws are horror; if others could be conceived, man has not yet seen them. It would take a man of such an abstract mind that the history of mankind means nothing to him in order to ignore the obvious connection between religion & politics.
I think the political question & the psyschological question are connected. All politics is based on an understanding of psychology, which is pre-political. Classical political philosophy looked at the psychology of religion; modern political philosophy looked at the psychology of the individual, conceived in a state of nature. In both cases, this established the origins of the city & hence the reliable motive forces in the life of the city, as well as the dangerous.
I do not think America has ever - or, likely, will ever - turn into something like the modern revolutionary tyrannies. - The spirit of American laws is connected powerfully with the Christian beliefs of her citizens. The laws are not derived from the Old Testament. But an American's awareness of morality is usually rooted in the Old Testament. If this morality dwindles, the country must surely crumble. Witness Lincoln in his first debate with Douglas (Ottawa Speech): 'In this & like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes & decisions possible or impossible to be executed.'
The best way to say that the political question & the psychological question are connected is Madison's, from Federalist #51: 'Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.'
The possibility that angels rule over men was known to the ancients as the golden age. The poets & philosophers could not but note that there can be no poets & philosophers in the golden age. If God or science provide infinite powers to man, man loses his humanity; perhaps he would be divine, but there is room for doubt. But he would never have to think again; there would be nothing left to think of, in fact, just stuff to do with his awesome power.
Infinite power is the purpose of science, as it was originally established. You would have to be crazy not to tell, if you looked around. The countries most affected by scientific gadgets, habits, & opinions have the greatest comfort & safety, not to mention long lifespans, medicine, & the best protection against other threats, natural or otherwise.
Hence the 'If God or science provide infinite powers to man' above. It's not that they have, as yet; it's not that it's forthcoming, it may not even be possible. So far as I can tell, it's what people desire.
As for why God would be expected to provide man with infinite powers, it's because otherwise an angelic nature is powerless. Men do want God to make them & existence itself neverendingly good...
'Divine man' is a very old saying, sometimes used to describe what power does to a man; then again, the possibility that man might use his reason to control nature & mortality is also very, very old.
Tell me, when all moral issues have been resolved by God or by science for mankind, what is left to do? There is no more serious knowledge to be sought. Everyone would end up living under the rules enforced spontaneously by that kind of revelation, or by the way science provides for people. What one man would know, all men would. There could be no differences left between the good & the evil. What would man create? Why?
Revelation is the sort of thing you find in the Bible. It is by no means clear, & it adds the burden of authority. Without it, I do not think any political society is possible. But we'll get back to that.
Now, as to politics, utopia, & human purposes. I think we need to start somewhere serious. I think this is a good start: Politics is about justice fundamentally. To do justice is to create the just city. Whether it is the city of God or the scientific city is one of our questions. When once you find out what the just city really means, whether it's possible to make or not, then you can have a sense of what human beings can achieve. This seems like the best way to elucidate the problem of utopianism. The fact that the just city may be beyond human powers does not make human life meaningless, it just means there are limits to human powers. Not all cities which are not the just city are hell on earth. The just city would be heaven on earth, if it can be done. I know of no classical source, however, that suggests it could be done. Modern sources, however, exist. We may talk them over betimes.
Now, a word about Sisyphean pursuits. I think infinite wealth or infinite power are such pursuits. It does not seem possible to get those things & trying to get them requires unreasonable sacrifices. Of course, the pursuit of limited wealth or power may be reasonable. Fundamentally, you must ask yourself whether you are always chasing things for the sake of further things, or there are any things which are good in themselves. The former are fundamentally means; the latter are fundamentally ends. Chasing wealth is only useful in certain circumstances, because wealth is only useful in certain circumstances, & then as a means to an end. Trying to understand the revelation of God is a good of a different kind: It is good in itself, not as a means to some further end, it is in fact the guide to the good life. A limited understanding of the highest things is still worth more than anything else, except a complete understanding of the highest things. If I understand the hope that comes with studying & obeying revelation, it has to do with the possibility of this complete understanding of the highest things. The Bibles likens it to saving one's soul.
For me #2 and #3 proves that the bible is not THE SOURCE. For #2 to be correct, God and his intentions are not known, so to then say that the bible is the only way that God could have revealed himself is to say then that you do know God. So while the bible might be how you got closer to god, it is not the only way God has revealed himself and it is not the only way anyone can get closer to God.
I am God. Disprove me.