Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Strange Kind Of "Christian"

From time to time, as one interacts with all sorts of people online, one is bound to come across people who are interesting by virtue of the way in which they characterize themselves with diametrically contrasting labels; they are curious specimens to observe by virtue of the manner in which they espouse radically conflicting ideologies.

Consider this guy who offers this:

I'm a christian by religion but an agnostic by belief. This simply means I avidly believe nothing can be known about the existence of God. This is not to say he doesnt exist; sure his signatures are everywhere; but no man can tell conclusively and confidently who he is, where he is, his ways, how he looks and so many more things religion has tried failingly to claim to know. Since you have a glimpse of how I reason, you can therefore independently deduce where my message is coming from and who my intended audiences are.

My question -- Could homo sapiens be the only existence in the universe?. only God knows how many planets we have, it was 9 when I was in secondary school, now they are in hundreds. Could there be other intelligence, superior or inferior to humans doesnt really matters, in one or two of this planets? If so, there acts and feats might look 'godly' to us as ours might look 'godly' to inferior intelligence like insects, viruses etc. If so also, then religion and its empire will shake and crumble as their school of thought will be made superficial and incoherent. Cicero in ' De Natura Deorum, I, 16' said "Popular theology is a massive inconsistency derived from ignorance. The gods only exist because nature herself has imprinted a conception of them on the minds of men". I believe we humans are not alone in this universe. I believe God is bigger for any man to imagine and not interested in all our religious trivialities which religion used to veil our power of reasoning. William James in 'The Varieties of Religious experience,(1902)' emphatically said 'The God whom sciences recognizes must be a God of universal law exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals'.

This is not intended for an argument but for an academic and educating debate. I humbly stand to be corrected or enlightened. May the Grand Architect of the Universe bless us all.

There are glaring factual errors in this but perhaps the most striking thing about his submission is a fundamental ignorance of basic Christian worldview (despite labeling himself as one). From reading this, it is manifestly clear that this fellow is no Christian at all. My only guess is that he might have been raised in a somewhat  Christian environment, or that he might have been exposed to a very shallow or rudimentary Christian education. Unfortunately, there are thousands like him who are simply nominal Christians—they have not studied their bibles in any depth as to say they are conversant with the written word, neither have they bothered to read up on the great scholastic and philosophical trappings of the Christian faith that have been developed, powerfully debated and handed down through the centuries.

First of all, there is simply no way anybody can be a "Christian" and an "Agnostic" at the same time.  It is a contradiction in terms especially when you realize that both labels mark out a position with reference to the question of whether God exists.  Even with the shabbiest  thinking, one can immediately spot the incongruity that presents itself when he begins by saying that nothing can be known about God and at the same time claiming to know that this God he proposes exists and that his signatures are evident throughout creation! We have to start by clarifying a few things apparently. A "Theist" (ie a Christian in this case) makes a knowledge claim just like the "Atheist" on the question of whether God exists or not. The Theist states his knowledge or belief by giving assent to the proposition "God exists". Like the Theist, the Atheist also makes a knowledge claim and express a belief that "God does not exist". In other words, the Atheist asserts that the proposition "God exists" is false. As a result, both groups have a burden of proof to shoulder  and must dutifully accept and discharge this burden if they expect rational people to be swayed by their conviction or belief. They must present evidence that rationally and intelligibly argues for the truth of their respective positions on the God question. As anyone might have noticed, it has become fashionable for today's New Atheists (in all their ironical evangelistic fervor) to deny that they do in fact shoulder any burden of proof on the question. 

So what about 'Agnostics'?

Unlike the theist and the atheist who are making claims to the knowledge of whether God exists or not, the Agnostic is on the fence with regards to the God question. The Agnostic is the one confessing ignorance or nescience on the matter—for him,  a God may or may not exist; he just claims to not know or to be unable to tell one way or the other. This is the true default position and the one who does not shoulder any burden of proof on the matter. As the debate on the existence of God has raged for centuries, it is the Agnostic who can claim that perhaps it may not be possible for this issue to ever be conclusively proved or disproved—for if we remember, the Agnostic is not intellectually committed to either side of the God question. 

As human beings freely interact however , even those who are Agnostic on the question of whether God exists or not will come in contact with arguments for or against the existence of God. At that juncture, they'll be forced to make a decision whether God exists or not. My experience is that usually if one side argues effectively on this question, they can and will engender serious reflection in a true agnostic. At the end of such careful considerations, they may or may not be persuaded to jump to one side of the theological divide. However, if such persons are ever to maintain the cloak of nescient or agnostic neutrality, they dare not attempt to argue for the supposed truth or falsity of one side or the other seeing as they have chosen to remain ideologically uncommitted. Any deviation from  this, and I assure you that you have spotted a theist (or at least a deist) or an atheist erroneously pleading agnosticism on a matter for which they have perhaps, without their knowledge, chosen sides.

Now, what about the man above who claims to be an Agnostic Christian? We have seen that it is patently nonsensical to call oneself a Christian—i.e a follower of Christ and his teachings—and at the same time plead that one does not know and cannot say whether a God exists or not (which is what an Agnostic is). From reading his musings, it seems to me that he believes in a creator God who is far-removed from creation and virtually incomprehensible to his human subjects—assuming of course that the God he has thus conceived should in fact be credited with the creation of human life. This places him fairly and squarely in the camp of DEISM. This bloke is no Agnostic; he is in fact a Deist. 

Having thus established that this fellow is no Christian,  I suppose one is no longer at pains to understand why this Deist is propping up his supposedly respectable belief in a God who has stubbornly withheld himself from his creation, on Cicerone Epicurean theology. Nevertheless one is forced to ask:  If God is, as he suggests from reading Cicero's "On the Nature of the Gods", merely the product of human imagination or conception— if God is no more than Nature's imprint upon human consciousness and thus devoid of any external or non-mental ontological reality, how does that not invalidate the Deist's conception of God or at the very least render that Deist God highly inert or effete? Yes, granted that the Deist God is proposed to be meticulously tucked behind a cloak of unfathomable mystery and thus unknown or unknowable to human beings, is it not plain to see that this conception of God does not even possess the admittedly negligible Cicerone ontological value and worth of a God that is merely imprinted on the mind?

This is no small objection to the Deistic God or the "God of the Philosophers" or "The God of the Scientists" as it turns out. If this fellow's God is ontologically equivalent to and indistinguishable from "universal laws of science", we are left with something not only non-sentient and contingent but also causally effete! Unlike the God of Classical Theism, this Deistic God would hopelessly possess an indeterminate nature defined or circumscribed by the ever-changing human understanding of these scientific universal laws. The obvious truth of course remains that even the said laws on their own cannot account for contingent reality as they are only expressions or statements or observations about what obtains in the universe. This gentleman has shot himself in the foot without realizing that he has done so for in his mind, he is merely attacking the popular or mainstream Christian conception of God. Little does he realize that in buying the Epicurean characterization of the divine, he had tacitly robbed even his decidedly deistic God of real power and significance.

At any rate, one must grapple with the question he raised. He asked, "Is Homo Sapiens the only existence in the Universe?" Once again, I suspect he meant to ask whether human beings on earth are the only sentient creatures in the universe. If one were to answer the question he posed as it was worded, the answer becomes a quick and unambiguously certain "NO". Of course, human beings are not the only existing things in the universe. The question or proposition is manifestly absurd.  However, if as he goes on to elaborate, the question is whether human beings are the only sentient life-forms in the universe, one can forgive him for thinking that religions or religious philosophies preclude strong independent musings on that subject. 

The bible, it must be emphasized, is not a science textbook. Secondly, one must realize that the bible is a gathering or collection of documents written with a central message that addresses Man, his role on this earth/in this life, his transgression and Fall, and finally what Man must do to reconcile himself to his creator. Inasmuch as the bible teaches or expresses God's mind on a multitude of things especially as they concern us on this pale blue dot, there are many other issues or subjects of legitimate human inquiry on which the bible is reliably silent—not because the Christian God lacked adequate knowledge of these but that such enquiries, doubtlessly impressive to us though they may be, are nonetheless irrelevant to his grand plan for our salvation and reconciliation. We are nevertheless free to use science and pursue complex physical issues with a mind to uncovering more about the fingerprints of the creator of the cosmos and perhaps the mechanisms by which he created or sustains all in being. 

One of such pursuits will be the issue of whether something akin to human life and intelligence exists anywhere on the countless billions of planets in the universe (certainly orders of magnitude  more than the 9 or the hundreds that this guy imagines there may be) and of which we clearly have no way of finding out. It is an open question, and as I have written here, it is very reasonable to surmise that sentient or intelligent life-forms might exist somewhere out in the sheer incomprehensibly vast expanse of the universe. Indeed, if the bible is any guide, one may see that the bible does not suggest that human beings on earth are the only intelligent entities in existence for it speaks clearly and unambiguously of spiritual beings that do possess higher intelligence than humans! I contend that this realization is sufficient to make the Christian intellectually curious about the possibility of life on other planets but at the same time equipped to handle a futuristic scenario where these speculations become facts.

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